A cancelled passenger meant an empty seat alongside Andy, another of the TOMS mob, and as I very seldom turn down flying, I pounced on it.
Andy fancied somewhere new and suggested Ireland so Waterford became the plan. Neither of us had been there before, and since my last sally across the Irish Sea was a last minute change of plan from France, with a pile of borrowed charts and flight guides, I left the outward-bound planning up to him!
Derek from the club lent us a PLB for the crossing of all that wet stuff and we made a timely get away almost spot on the 10AM claimed on the flight plan (which Andy had managed to submit through the shiny new AFPEX system that I’ve not got around to signing up for yet.)
Swansea opened the plan for us and Andy changed to London Info. It seemed we’d chosen a good day to fly west. The east and south of the country sounded like something of a maelstrom of microlights and light aircraft, all in the throes of recreating Bleirot’s flight across the channel on the hundredth anniversary of same.
I did not envy the London Info controllers at all. The frequency was packed and there was a certain amount of muppetry going on with several callers apparently having got airborne in glorious happy ignorance of the massive NOTAMed TRA surrounding the event!
Our route was a nice straight line, and Andy skirted the Haverfordwest ATZ and headed for St David’s to coast out.
London had a squawk ready for us to hand over to Shannon and sent us on our way with a “Fantastic” at Andy’s readback. Perhaps they were just glad we were going in the opposite direction and off their hands!
Andy’d mentioned that the morning had still been misty when he’d left for the airport, and the clouds had only lifted so far. It was clear over the water, but the Irish shore was identified more by the lowering bank of cloud than the coastline. A certain amount of dodging and diving was called for to remain VFR, but following the coast suited our destination reasonably well anyway.
We seemed to be almost alone in the sky. Both Shannon and Waterford were very keen to warn us about the solitary item of traffic, and we were informed we were number one to land, almost as soon as we entered Waterford’s zone!
We were both struck by how few and how small the built up areas were. Waterford itself looked hardly bigger than Carmarthen, and at home people would have laughed themselves silly at the idea of Carmarthen having a regional airport – even Swansea couldn’t sustain one.
But here we were, taxying up to park beside two extremely new and high tech fire engines and wander in to a neat, modern terminal.
The image broke down somewhat at the Security Checkpoint, where our details where carefully taken down – on a corner of a post-it note…
GA landings were dealt with at the information desk where we were also directed to a pilot’s briefing area where we could sort out the flight plan for the return trip (the old fashioned way this time – cribbing from Andy’s handout and getting the lady at the desk to fax it!)
Taxis into town were quoted at 20 Euro which seemed pricey so we dismissed the info-lady’s shocked, “It’s an hour’s walk!” and struck out on foot.
I should have known better after the Devon trip of course – people in airports (I thought I’d learned by now) never have a good estimate for walking distances and “an hour” was a rather optimistic guess. Nevertheless we saw a bit of the surrounding area, learned what a lot of support the local hurling team had, and realised how few pubs did food as well, outside of the town proper!
Waterford was a nice little market town – and once we did reach it, we were spoilt for choice for food. We found a nice place abeam a taxi rank (we did weaken on the way back!) and tucked into paninis and large cold drinks.
Back at the airport, we trooped once more through security –my hat set off the metal detector and prompted some waving of the scanner — and back out to the aeroplane.
We’d heard on the way in that people were calling to ask permission for engine start, but I utterly forgot that bit, then tried to listen to the ATIS with the volume turned all the way down and generally ruined any hope of sounding nice and professional…
Nobody called me on it though (maybe we were well enough hidden behind those new fire engines), and we were quickly given permission to taxy to the hold for our power checks and shortly after to line up.
A couple of other GA types arrived to prove we weren’t really the only ones here, but it was a short wait before we were cleared to take off.
Easy flight home along the coast, and the cloudbase had lifted a bit further by the time we reached the sea, and we were able to club nice and high and get well leaned back, resulting in a rather more efficient cruise than usual.
We coasted in around St David’s and looked down at Brawdy’s long runways, still in lovely condition.
Swansea had a bit of circuit traffic but nothing too frantic and I ran with my usual plan of heading for Three Cliffs and joining from there – it’s still my favourite landmark and handy for joining almost any variation of the circuit!
Downwind for 22 and a bit tight, I sort of skipped base leg in favour of one long turn to final, and nipped off at Alpha to clear the way for someone behind me.
We were in decent time for refuelling and I had the lazy job of sitting in and steering while Andy pushed TOMS back to the tiedowns.
Lovely day out, it still delights me that GA enables you to do silly things like “Ireland for lunch!”