Time: 12:55 - 13:30 (11:55 - 12:30 GMT) and 16:15 - 17:30 (15:15 - 15:30 GMT)
Aircraft: Ikarus C42 - G-CDRO
Milson, Lane Farm and Abergavenny
Another all day adventure for Ian and I - today we have taken the day off work to head for the Welsh borders. All the Olympic airspace restrictions have now started, so for a month or so, I don't think we will be heading east. We did have a backup plan of going to Lundy if the cloudbase wasn't good enough to get us safely over the Welsh hills, but on the day, it is a blue sky with that bright white orb that we haven't seen for so long. The first and last legs are quite long and the middle two quite short. But this means we get a fairly even division of flying time each.
After checkout and fuelling we are soon off - Ian is taking the first leg and takes off from 21. We head north west en route to Milson. At the M4 we have a small diversion to show Ian the crop circle I had seen on Saturday. Then round Swindon and over the lakes between Kemble and South Cerney. We then go past Gloucestershire Airport to the east and have a good lookout for any aircraft approaching on the ILS. Croft Farm is our turning point and is next to the disused Defford airfield, which used to have a HIRTA avoid area, which has gone now. Onwards, we find Milson quite easily, with a large hill behind it. We join overhead. Final approach is a slight offset to avoid the house near the threshold. There is a fair upslope for runway 35 and we have been advised that unless there is a southerly wind in excess of 10 knots we should always land uphill. Clee Hill looms large behind the runway which could be a bit daunting if a go-around was required. There are sheep in the field just to the left of the runway and just for a freak moment they align themselves in two straight lines - sadly I didn't get them with the camera, so you're never going to believe me.
At the end of the runway we are met by Chris, who is the owner and he points us to park near his impressive house. We are invited to join him on his patio, sign in and pay the insignificant £3 landing fee, whilst his wife kindly makes us some tea. We have a good chat whilst drinking tea and eating biscuits in the sunshine - fantastic. We are then shown around his hangers before it is finally time to leave. We have had an extremely warm welcome here.
A quick checkover and we are on our way. Due to the slope, it's best (by far) to depart downhill on 17 and for fun I decide to use the small turning circle at the top of the runway to use all the length - big mistake as it takes a lot of throttle to get up the hill. Good job the engine was still suitably warm. I take off and bear right to miss the avoid house and curve round on climbout for Ian to take some pictures. Then I resume the WSW course to Leominster and then past Woonton. From the Lane Farm website I have deduced that it is in a valley and this research makes it easier to find the airfield. I approach descending on the deadside for 24 and then crossing to the liveside, the hill is quite high making the downwind leg relatively low to the ground. However, on final I go-around because it just doesn't feel right. I'm not too sure if I have ballooned a bit. It seemed too fast, but the ASI was spot-on - maybe the close proximity of the trees near the threshold gave a false impression of speed. Who knows, but given choice I will always go around rather than risk a dodgy landing. Full throttle to climb up the hill for downwind and land on the next go.
We park up and are met by the airfield owner, John Bally. He is a very talented and respected glider pilot and currently lives in the farmhouse, but is currently building a new home right on the airfield. We have a good good chat and are shown around the shell of his new house and the stonework walls he is working on. Again, another very pleasant airfield owner, but I am a little conscious that we are keeping him from his work. We go and have a nose round his hanger and then have a picnic on the grass under the wings of our plane. Not missing being at work at all!
When it's time to leave, after a quick checkover, Ian takes off and we nearly have a bit of a "Bush Pilots" moment when a deer runs over the runway, but we are already plenty high enough. He climbs away to the south and we go down the valley past Talgarth and the huge hills to the left. At Llangorse Lake, we turn down the next valley towards Abergavenny. En route we go over the village where Ian's mum lives and we do an orbit over it. I don't know which house is hers, so I just blindly take some point-and-hope pictures so maybe one will get it. Then on to Abergavenny for an overhead join and land on 15. There is a bit of a rise half way along the runway - could make it difficult if you landed long in the other direction.
Abergavenny is home to Pioneer Aircraft and they are currently working on a 400 with some fuel pressure problems. It's interesting to see the naked Rotax 914 engine, which is basically like out 912 but with a turbo. We mention the Eurofox interest and they (quite rightly) try to sell us the P200 microlight version of their aircraft.
I'm taking the final long leg back home. We take off on 15 and head south west to Llandegfedd Reservoir and then turn towards the Severn estuary. Ian would like to take a picture of the Old Severn Bridge but this means technically going down the "wrong side", so I diverge left enough so that we are no longer following a "line feature", but still clear of the power station. We carry on over Leigh Delamere services, hen over Calne and towards Yatesbury. Here we have a bit more of a deviation to see some more crop circles.
Approaching Popham we hear on the radio that they are using runway 26 - I wonder why they have changed? John gives us an advisory QFE and as we get overhead we can see a silver plane planted on runway 21 - that'll be why then!. We join from the overhead and land, then put the plane away. We then trek down runway 21 to have a gawp at the stranded YAK18. It seems they forgot to put the wheels down - reminds me of when a YAK52 did the same thing at the same point on the runway (but different direction) when I was training - see here for details.
Big thanks to Chris and John for making us feel so welcome at their airfields.
** Just exceeded 200hrs P1
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