Time: 10:55 - 12:15 (GMT) and 15:05 - 15:40 (GMT)
Aircraft: Eurostar EV-97 - G-CERE
Husbands Bosworth, Fowlmere and Elstree
Another all day adventure for our usual 4-person team. For once the weather doesn't look too bad so I take my bike to the airfield. Despite my attempt to get there in good time, I have no idea what happened, but I failed. The plan was to go to Husbands Bosworth (near Rugby), Fowlmere (near Duxford) and Panshanger, but Ian and I have already been there, so we decide to go to Elstree instead - otherwise I wouldn't get any Alphabet Challenge points at all.
After checkout, I take off on 03 with Jac and head north to Hannington Mast. There is a cloud bank at Overton and I choose to go above it. It is nice, clear and smooth here and fortunately the cloud thins so I can drop down towards Wokingham to go below the LTMA airspace. However, the visibility isn't so good at these lower levels. Then north past Henley on to Aylesbury and here I can climb back up as it is getting cloudier, but abeam Milton Keynes the cloud gets so thick that I have to dive under it as I won't be able to see through it - the vis is poor. Then past Northampton, there are plenty of lakes to navigate by and we find the airfield. Husbands Bosworth is a gliding site and there are no overhead joins. I join downwind, but turning base we see a glider that was hanging around has decided to land - he rightly has priority, so I go-around. We spot another glider heading in to land, so I extend upwind to give them time to land. Heading downwind we have another go, but the second glider has landed and stopped blocking the runway. I elect to go around (again) at circuit height, despite the guy on the radio, who suggests that I could land over the top of them - I am not comfortable with this. On the third go round I get to land. We then have to wait on the south side of the runway for permission to cross over to the north side taxiway Once the glider on the winch launch is flung into the air, we are allowed to cross and head off to the parking area. Here we see a rather unusual Tiger Moth that has an enclosed cabin. We head into the clubhouse - they don't have any bacon, so we have some baps filled with roast chicken and stuffing - a lovely change.
Jac flies me in G-DV on the next leg to Fowlmere. The HB runway is quite long, so we don't need to bother backtracking past the winch point and we head to the south east. My route was to go via Grafham Water as this kept me away from the myriad of airfields along the route and gave good visual points. Jac's route is more direct and weaves in and out of the airfields. Visibility is still crap. As we get closer, we have to call Duxford as Fowlmere is so close to them - they are very helpful and even give us the Fowlmere QFE. We then change to the Fowlmere frequency and join downwind - this takes us just inside the Duxford ATZ. The final approach shows the airstrip to be quite wide, with a bit of an upslope. Even before touchdown I can tell that the runway is really smooth and the landing bears this out. We then head down the taxiway to the hangers - this taxiway looks large enough to land on. We park up, sign in and have a chat.
For the next leg it's all change and we are going on our separate ways - Colin and Jac to Panshanger and Ian and I to Elstree. The aircraft planning has carefully kept pilots flying the same aircraft. After check and warmup, we follow Colin down the taxiway, backtrack the runway and take-off in turn. My first stint was quite long and now this one is my short leg. We head south and under the Luton/Stansted airspace and it's a bit claggy. We watch the others drifting to the west on their route to Panshanger. We pass over Hertford and call Elstree before getting to Potters Bar. Elstree is a little unusual in that they only do straight-in approaches. After rounding Potters Bar we head West and call our position at the 4 miles / golf course VRP point. The airfield is conveniently just north of a lake, so is easy to spot. Then reporting again at 2 miles, by the tall tower block - it's strange reporting "at tall building". Then the final approach which I misjudge a little due to the perception from the upsloping runway - not a problem though with 3rd stage flap. After touch down, I do a backtrack and park up.
We then have surprising amount of trouble finding where to sign in. The building with the large "C" on it is easy and contains the control tower. On the west side of the building is a door that is locked and on the east side is a small vestibule with a signing book labeled "signing in for customs" - is that really us? There is also a sign saying to use the door on the other side of the building. We went back, but it was definitely locked. We went into the cafe and asked there - they said that we are supposed to go into the control tower. I hadn't wanted to barge into the tower, because these guys can be very busy, but the controller was very friendly, it was the right place to pay the landing fee and the signing in book we had seen was the right one. Best to check though. I went back to the cafe, where Ian was buying some us some tea.
Ian flies the final leg. We take off and then follow the exit route along the M1 up to Leavesden and the head west on the homebound journey. Around Beconsfield to avoid the Heathrow TMA and then over Marlow, between Wycombe and Waltham. At Henley we basically follow the reverse of the outbound route. Nearing the airfield, we hear Jac landing. She had been given an advisory QFE, but we believe that it may be a bit out compared to the QNH we have been using - so once Jac is down we ask her for a QFE and this is much more accurate/believable. We land on 26.
A lovely days flying and 1.5 points for the challenge (loads of points for the others).
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