Time: 17:00 - 17:45 (GMT)
Aircraft: EuroFOX - G-UFOX
Sandown and Bolkow
Tom had booked the plane for Saturday afternoon (from 13:00 onwards), so I then booked it for Sunday. Unfortunately, Ian isn't available for Sunday, so he booked it for Saturday morning - I decided to join him. We decided to go to Sandown. Given the restricted time, we plan to go early (10:00), but I confess, I was a bit later getting to the airfield than I had planned. On the way in, I saw Jac and Colin preparing their plane - after a brief conversation, they choose to join us too. When I get to the hangar, I find Ian and Tom - Tom had intended to fly in the morning with his friend Graham in a club aircraft. Unfortunately, Graham fell off a stool that morning and hurt his ankle - this scuppered his plans of flying the C42 as it would be expensive for Tom to have flown it. I'm afraid with only two seats, he couldn't come with us (without hiring the C42).
Ian elects to take the outbound leg and fly down to the coast via the New Forest. It is quite windy today but mostly down the runway as we take off from 03. As we climb out, it is immediately evident that the visibility isn't wonderful. We circle into the overhead and debate waiting for Colin, but we can see he is still at the pumps and it might be a good idea to get underway to assess the conditions. It is truly weird - the METARs were all showing 9999 for the visibility, yet it looks really claggy - but very strangely you appear to be able to see quite far through the mist. Either way, our eyes are on stalks keeping a good lookout for other aircraft.
It's a little bumpy, but not bad and we are relatively low due to the height restrictions between the Southampton and Bournemouth zones. The wind is pushing us along with a groundspeed of between 90 and 100 knots. Once we get to the Solent at Hurst Castle we can gain a little height for the crossing. At the Needles we have a little fly-around for some pictures, before turning east along the coast. We spot another aircraft and wonder if it is Colin and Jac caught us up, but given the way they are pulling away from us, it can't be. As we arrive at Sandown, we see Colin descending in front of us - they caught up by going by a more direct route across the island. Joining overhead, we follow them around the circuit to runway 05. We have been instructed to land after the marker boards, 1/4 of the way along the runway, to avoid the boggy patch and we then use the northern taxiway to get to the parking.
In the cafe we have the obligatory bacon butties and tea - very pleasant.
At midday, we are having to leave to get back by 1pm for Tom. Ian give Tom a call and finds that he has left for the day, so in reality, we don't need to rush back for that, but we think we should go, as the clouds look like they may be thickening. Jac warms up a lot quicker than us and departs - they are planning to go back via the New Forest again, but I want to use the eastern route. I take off on 05 and carry on in a northerly direction. Yep - it's still claggy and I believe it is a bit worse. We cross the Solent at about 1800' and have a bit of a look at the Napoleonic forts as we go. Avoiding the parachute dropping zone (NOTAMed), even though I would be stunned if they were jumping today. Over to Hayling Island and then north up to Petersfield, following the railway, which takes us over the low point across the downs. It would have been nice to have climbed up above the clouds, but now there are no gaps, so it isn't possible. Again, it is safe, but we need to keep a damn good lookout. Then we turn left and head back over Ropley and on to Popham. Joining from the deadside, we land on 03 - not a greaser like last week, but OK.
After we had washed and put the plane to bed, we went over to see the Thruster T600 that Dave Greenly, Pete Masters and Dave Edgar are buying - it has just passed inspection for it's permit. Quite tempting to join them! In conversation, Dave offers me a ride in his Bolkow that he has just go out - I don't need asking twice. After doing the paperwork for our previous flight, I grab my headset and get myself installed in the Bolkow. It is a GA type aircraft and it is significantly more substantial, with an all-metal construction. When Dave starts the engine, it sounds somewhat agricultural - it isn't really, just that it is a large (7 litre) engine and runs much slower, being a direct drive, unlike our geared engines. However, for some reason, I cannot hear anything in my headset. Dave stop the engine and goes to fetch a different headset - unfortunately this is just the same. We fiddle with breakers and switches and anything we can see is related, but no joy. Eventually, we give up and agree we will just have to shout. At least the radio part is still working for Dave's side which is the important bit.
We head out and after checks we take off on 03. It seems like the angle of climb is quite low to what I am used to. We are actually getting 1000'/minute climb rate, but as we are doing 110 knots already, this makes the angle low. The other thing that is evident is that the visibility has deteriorated further.
We head up between Overton and Whitchurch and then Dave invites me to have a go. The controls are quite light and smooth and relatively positive. The general handling is somewhat different as the plane is so much heavier and therefore has so much more inertia. I can't really see the balance ball, but this isn't a big problem. I try increasing level of bank in turns. The engine throbs away at it's consistent rate - the variable pitch prop keeps it constant. There isn't the requirement to add power in turns. Despite the crap visibility, it is otherwise quite relaxed. After some handling around Whitchurch, I then head south down to Bullington Cross. I then ask Dave to show me some manoeuvres. Given our limited height, there isn't much we can do (we are also still shouting at each other). The tight turns are quite impressive, with a noticeable G-force felt.
But it isn't really a day for doing too much, so we head back and join downwind. I am pleased that Dave used the tight left base circuit, rather than a massive one that too many GA pilots seem to use. Landing is quite conventional apart from being significantly faster.
An interesting and enjoyable experience - thanks Dave.
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