Time: 09:40 - 10:50 (GMT)
Aircraft: EuroFOX - G-UFOX
Coventry - CFS Open Day
SkyDrive have lost the Rotax distributorship and a company called CFS Aero have now been appointed. I won't go into the rights and wrongs of this situation. Anyway, CFS have arranged an open day as an introduction of their company to the many people with an interest in Rotax aircraft engines. I was one of the people who got an invite. Greg had also organised a minibus to take people up to their site next to Coventry airport. However, I was attracted by the idea of flying up there. Coventry do not (normally) accept aircraft with an AUW of less than 500kg which is effectively a policy against microlights, but had agreed to allow them for the CFS fly-in. They have also issued special instruction and cancelled training etc. - as Ian says, it sounds like they are expecting the hordes of the great unwashed. Just got to hope for some reasonable weather.
For once, the weather is co-operating which is a treat for this time of year. The forecast looks OK, apart from being crosswind but hopefully that won't be too bad. We have been given a landing time slot of 11:03 - that's worryingly precise. But we did need a reasonably early one, to get to the 12:00 factory tour that we were booked on, which would then allow us sufficient time to get back. With the forecast headwind this means we needed to depart at 09:30 so I had to get up early and get myself to Popham (not my strong point). Ian arrives shortly after and we fuel and prepare the plane.
The wind isn't as strong as forecast, so less headwind and less crosswind too - someone must be smiling on us today. We can also take off from 03 which will reduce the amount of wear on the moist runways and taxiways. My route takes us past Newbury and up to Grove, where we can cross the Brize zone via Farmoor Reservoir, however the minimal clouds allows to to go right over the top of this zone. Ian contacts them anyway. Then up past Banbury towards the Draycote Water VRP which is the designated holding point. As instructed, I make a first contact call early, after listening to the ATIS. The only thing that is worrying me is that I can't quite resolve the timing - the GPS claims we should get there at the correct time, but my mental arithmetic and watch says otherwise. As we approach Draycote, I finally realise that the GPS predicted time uses the tablet's clock and not the (extremely accurate) GPS time, and my tablets clock is 10 minutes fast. Ah well, there is very little radio traffic so I make the call to say I was at the holding point and was instructed to immediately join left base. From this far out it wasn't easy to see the runway but I continued in the right direction until I could. The controller intelligently told me which turn-off to vacate on with my clearance to land, so that I could judge my touchdown point and minimise taxiing time on the runway. Reasonable landing and I turn off and head for the grass of the (oddly named) Eastern Aircraft Parking area (it's not at he east end). Can't see what they were worrying about - not that busy and all went smoothly. Parked next to a couple of other aircraft that had already arrived.
There was a security guard on hand to let us out of the back gate. He said that they would send a minibus to pick us up, but it was only 3/4 of a mile away, so we decided to walk in the crisp morning sunshine. We soon arrive at the factory and after signing-in, we are led to the turbine inspection room for some tea and biscuits. When we get to our tour time, we are introduced to the two owners, who freely admit that they bought the company to asset-strip it, but after seeing the potential and enthusiasm, decided to invest in it as a going concern. They do have some interesting restoration projects, such as a huge inline engine that they are converting for upright mounting (previously inverted) in a different aircraft. One criticism I did hear is that they have a lot of old equipment, but then they do specialise in classic engines and it would be wrong to take it out of context. We also met Greg, Shaun, Pete, Dave, Kaz, Kel, Paul and also Adrian, our build inspector for the EuroFOX.
They have obviously put a huge amount of effort into this launch and open day. We were then treated to some lunch which was considerably better than the "nibbles" that were advertised. However, we have to keep an eye on the time - got to be back by sundown, so we cadge a lift back to the airport. The security guard follows us along the service road to allow us through the gate.
Another checkover and then we are off, with Ian taking the return leg. With full ATC we need permission for everything. Once airborne we have to maintain our track up to 500' then turn onto 150 degrees up to 1000' then clear to the south on our way. We did debate an eastern route back, but decided for the reverse of the outbound. Once again, we go over the top of Brize..
As to how well CFS will cope with the distributorship - well, I guess the proof will be in the pudding, so we shall have to see. Their effort and stores are etc. is certainly a good omen. Would I have driven up, if the weather hadn't co-operated - I'm not sure. Great opportunity to get Coventry in the logbook and a good flight as well as the tour - can't be bad!
Sorry - I failed to take a single photo.
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