Ab Initio 51: “Frozen Forumites”

In which I attend another “Take a Student Flying” fly-in with the usual suspects from the Flyer Magazine Forum, and am impressed by the detours people will make to fetch a Leia!

First Flyer Forum Student Fly-In of the year and the weather was far from springlike. An icy crosswind was howling more or less straight across the runway and I must admit I harboured a doubt or two that my lift for the day, would in fact make it in.

This adventurous soul was SteveH, and Pembrey was a long way from being en route from his home airfield of Gloucester, to the fly-in location of Wellesbourne Mountford. I say this every time I go to one of these events but the generosity of the attendees never ceases to amaze me.

No one from the club had flown yet today, so the landing attracted keen interest from the ground. Everyone eyeing up the windsock themselves in the hopes of getting airborne.

Steve already had one stude on board, identified as Alan-who’s-AlphaWhiskey-on-the-forum, in one of the convoluted introduction Internet screen-names always generate! (For myself I usually have to explain at least once where the break comes in leiafee…)

The cloudbase was not that conducive to striking out over the mountains so the planned route was more or less along the coast, round the back of Cardiff’s control zone, and then up the Severn, back past Steve and Alan’s starting point then on to Wellesbourne.

Once established in the cruise Steve let me fly, and I bobbed up and down for a while trying to get the hang of where to put the nose to stay level. This always seems to take a while in any different aeroplane. Steve flies an Arrow and it seemed to me when level to have a rather higher nose attitude than the Tomahawk’s I’m used to. Everytime my concentration drifted, so did we–downwards–as I subconsciously tried to restore that ‘picture’.

As we approached Cardiff’s zone we kept a keen eye out for the windfarm we knew was just north the zone boundary so we could make sure to route around it.

“Cardiff Airport” is being a bit flexible with the truth actually–it’s so far west of Cardiff that most of the city itself is outside the zone altogether.

In any case, with Cardiff (both airport and city) out of the way, we turned and headed north east, past Newport and Upfield Farm, which with its white concrete runway, stuck out clearly, and picked up the Severn.

From here it was a straight run past easy landmarks. A number of these were disused airfields. Honeybourne was easy to spot. Another ex-RAF, though still in use, airfield, Long Marston, was also very conspicuous, though Alston we never saw. It’s something several people discussed in the café later, the symbol on the chart often doesn’t give you much of a clue. The same little “unlicensed airfield” circle could be a grass strip or a massive ex-military place!

When we arrived at Wellesbourne and Steve resumed control, it was clear the wind was still what is euphemistically termed “sporting”. We weren’t quite watching the runway out of the side window on final, but it seemed like it!

I recognised a number of forumite aeroplanes as we parked and climbed out for a bracing (another euphemism!) walk across the field to the café, where there was much rubbing of hands and shedding of jackets.

Some faces I already knew, others I enjoyed putting names to, or in lots of cases refreshing my memory, as I have no head for names and faces.

Not the speediest kid in the class, I’ve been a student for a bit over two years now and I’ve been to a few fly-ins in that time. Enough that there was a certain amount of chatter about previous ones. “The Bollocking at Old Buck”, and “How we went to Poland on the Wrong Day. (And bumped into the yellow Firefly anyway)” to start with.

The food was worth waiting for, which was just as well as it was a long one! The café seemed to be doing a thriving trade even without the influx from Flyer.

After we’d eaten we went to have a poke around the small on-site museum, which had been opened out of season especially for us. It was nicely done, making use of the underground “Battle HQ” for the base, and including a couple of restored cockpits to clamber up to and have a look around.

Too soon as always, people started to disperse and there was soon a small queue forming at the hold. We headed back to the aeroplane to join it, the chilly wind made all the colder by the addition of the propwash from several starting aeroplanes. (2Ds, the only one with a nice warm hot air blower attached to his aeroplane, had already left).

The trip home was enlivened by an unfortunate air trafficer vectoring some equally unfortunate soul all over the sky, before suddenly apologising for “leading him a merry dance”. Something to do with a weekend-only airway. Nice to know that even the great voices out in the ether get muddled sometimes. Makes me feel far better about my stumbling r/t!

Back at Pembrey the wind had dropped a little, though the turbulence of the trees was still lively.

I watched Steve and Alan off, then dawdled around the club in a happy sort of end-of-flying-day haze. The wind dropped a bit more and swung round to be almost on the centreline, so much so that it was deemed suitable for one of the local students to be sent first solo. His grin when he landed was visible all the way from the clubhouse before he even got out of the aeroplane and I watched with a broad grin myself, the memory of my own solo still vivid.

Good stuff, this flying.

Steve’s account of the same trip is on his Flying Diary

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