Time: 9:30 - 10:25 (8:30 - 9:25 GMT) & 12:15 - 12:55 (11:15 - 11:55 GMT)
Aircraft: EuroFOX - G-UFOX
Spitfire Mk26B at Enstone
I got an e-mail from my friend Dave telling us that there was an event on at Enstone this weekend to watch the first official flight of a brand new Mk26B spitfire. OK, it isn't a real Spitfire - it is a 90% scale one, but at least that is closer than the original MK26 that was 80%. But still they are impressive looking bit of kit.
However, I wasn't too sure about going - apart from juggling my current abundant work commitments, the wind was forecast to be 10 gusting 20 knots on a full crosswind for Enstone - not my idea of fun. So it wasn't until the Friday night when the forecast winds had dropped a little to safe levels, that I was sure I was going. I am also on my own this weekend and due to the above uncertainties, hadn't arranged a guest - never mind.
Turned up at Popham at 8ish (early for me) and met Dave and Caz who were going in Barry's plane, Kel and Pete who were going in G-DAMS - a SkyRanger Ninja they have recently completed. Once we got a plan, I had to prep the plane and then set off after the others.
My route took me north to Welford disused airfield, then up to Grove and then crossing the Brize Zone via Farmoor Reservoir - good RT practice. There are a lot of thermals around today and also quite bumpy - particularly when you get up near the clouds, so I elected to fly lower, which was more comfortable. When clear of Brize, I then changed to Enstone frequency for a join - they seemed quite busy. They have a weird setup with two parallel runways - a hard runway and a grass one just to the north of it. These two runways are run by two completely different associations, but I chose the grass runway as it was the one run by the flying club associated with the Spitfires and also it is only £5 landing fee (compared to £10).
I joined overhead and attempted to navigate a circuit avoiding any houses as virtually everywhere is marked as a no-fly zone. On final approach you can see that the grass runway is intersected by two hard branches of the main runway - so it is green / black / green / black / green - I aimed for the middle green bit with a reasonable landing in the crosswind. I came off the runway and then asked on the radio where to find parking for the Spitfire event. Sadly the radio is run by the other club and he directed me to continue and then there would be a path to the right. I was a little doubtful, but thought maybe I had to go round the hangar in front - nothing there. I called again saying that I was now at the Eastern end of the runway - he asked if I was the SuperCub - negative I replied, a EuroFOX. I had to backtrack to the far other end! I found the others aircraft parked on a patch of longish grass that could really do with being cut.
Quite a few people have attended and there is a big queue for the tea and bacon butties. Indeed, one of the cooks said something like "these non-stop bacon rolls are about to stop!". Still, the refreshments were appreciated. Then we had a chance to look around the new plane and also some in build. I understand that they wish to construct a whole squadron there. It is an impressive plane and despite being slightly smaller than the original, it only really showed in the wheels that look too small.
Eventually, it is wheeled out and fuelled. Everyone is shifted out the way before they start the engine - there is then a palpable groan of disappointment as it sounds far too tame. After warmup, it is taxied out to the runway and soon it is off. The pilot flies some demonstration manoeuvres and basically show off - just as he should. It is clearly not the first flight, but the first official flight, but what can you expect. In the air, with the throttle open the engine sounds way better. It isn't the proper noise of a Merlin, but if you had never heard one, you would say that this sounds great.
Very impressive. Jealous.
When that fun was over, it was time to go back home, basically the reverse of the outbound journey. Another new airfield in my logbook.
Ian was to be joining me later, sometime after 3 o'clock, so I left the plane out on the line. The insects are back in force and many have died on the front of the plane. Walking back to the clubhouse, I heard a couple of kids asking if they could go to see a plane, so I offered that they could sit in mine for a while - seemed to please them, although as usual, their mothers seemed more enthused.
After Ian arrived, we put some fuel in and set off to Yatesbury with him at the helm. It seems to have calmed down a bit now, but still has some bumpy regions. Half way along Ian decides to have some fun with manoeuvres, rather than just vanilla flying to the destination. Then down to a good landing on 28.
At Yatesbury we are met by Tony who makes us some tea. We have a bit of a chat, he admires the EuroFOX and we admire the new weird shaped hangar he is building. When it is time to go, I give Ian the choice - I am quite happy to be pilot or passenger for the homebound journey, so he elects to keep the left seat.
On the way home I ask if I can have a go from the right seat. It is interesting hooning around and flying with my right hand again. I am dive-bombing the sheep a bit, where I can see there are no buildings etc. to keep on the right side of the 500' rule. The only thing I did wrong was once I turned the throttle the wrong way momentarily. All good practice. I the handed her back and we continued back to Popham.
Lots of insects to wash off!
I have also fitted the second bracket fairing to the hangar. There are a pair of U-bolt brackets, which can catch on the top edge of the material of the door, when you are opening or closing it (with a particular wind direction). I have printed a fairing that clips over it onto the tube, so should (hopefully) stop that happening again.
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