White Waltham

It had been ages since I’d flown any day out type trips and since I had a fellow BeeGee groupie lined up to sharing the flying and thus costs I was keen to go somewhere new and didn’t much care where.

Mike suggested White Waltham to which I readily agreed.  I have been there before but never under my own steam as such, so it certainly ‘counted’ for the purposes of my desire to flying somewhere new.

I dawdled over charts on the floor (four folds away you know — in bandit country of the southeast…), but would up with a more or less straight line via the Old Severn Crossing, South of Swindon and North of Reading cutting straight through Lyneham’s (lack of at weekends) class D.

No hurry for an early start on a Sunday morning, so Mike pitched up to fetch me at around 10 and we had a cuppa before sorting the aeroplane out and setting off.  I was flying the outbound leg and the first thing I discovered was that the wind was nothing like as forecast, either on the ground or in the air.

Nevertheless we escaped with 10 without incident and the first leg was over familiar country and easy to work out a more realistic drift correction than on my bits of paper (Mike had an Aware in his pocket, but I’m contrary and actively enjoy doing it the old fashioned way.  I think it comes from spending all day staring at computers — the thought of getting in the aeroplane on my days off and staring at another leaves me cold.)

Swansea appeared to be feeling their oats more than usual, being oddly insistent (for an a/g unit) on getting at least a ‘roger’ for things like wind info.

On the plus side this sudden keenness did result in them arranging a completely unexpected handover to Cardiff for the first time I can ever remember.

In spite of the sunshine we clapped eyes on no one and heard anything other than commercial traffic.  Perhaps that’s why Cardiff themselves also seemed unusually interested in us.  We got a squawk and unasked for traffic information on apparently the only other light aircraft flying in South Wales, before an (actually unwanted) handover to Bristol.

Where it was bedlam — not helped by the fact the VOR I was fiddling with, planning to practise my tracking while I was at it, started shrieking with horrible interference the moment I changed comms frequency.

All the lack of aircraft making the most of the weather back home were out in force here!   From Bristol we went to Brize and then to Farnborough West (should, with hindsight have skipped Brize – they couldn’t wait to get rid of us.)

This is turning into an r/t moan, but only because they trip so far was over such familiar territory I have to amuse myself somehow!

The bridge was the point I started concentrating on the navigation, as opposed to floating  vaguely in the direction of England…

Badminton went past on schedule and I burbled a bit to Mike about landing there for the trials.  As we looked around it really was airfields in all directions.  I joked that any engine failure here would be ‘pick an airport’ rather than finding a field.

We passed over the southern edges of Swindon, getting rocked slighly by the thermals rising from the concrete and tarmac  and passed the Membury mast.  This really was straightforward for navigation!

The offending VOR which squealed like a pig every time I switched to it was CPT and we crossed it bang on track as we headed onto the northeast of Reading and the flooded gravel pits which White Waltham’s Pooley entry informed me was point Whiskey.

The slight haze we’d started the trip with had lifted and White Waltham was fairly easy to spot early.  Our first radio call revealed that the runway had changed since our phone call that morning, and was on an opposite direction circuit.

I wheeled round to get the airfield on my left, following my idiotproof approach to overhead joins of “keep the airfield on circuit side and fly round it until you see the proper runway!)

In this case the proper runway was 11 and the direction we were approaching from required almost a full 180 in the overhead before we could descend. All the while, bearing in mind it was joins at 1300 due to the eastern edge of the ATX being in the London TMA.

I rather overshoot the turn onto final, but was otherwise happy with the arrival, two sets of eyes watching for the noise abatement spots was a help.

Mike hopped out to settle the landing fee while I noted down tach times and extracted myself.

While planning the trip I’d mentioned it on Facebook with the result that we were joined by Paul S and assorted forumites for a leisurely lunch and a very pleasant wander round the hangars, as well as introducing BeeGee all round!

The southeast is a different world from west Wales — and the amount of money sloshing around to support so many lovely old and new and twirlybatic machines is astonishing.

Eventually it was time to return and we refuelled and trooped the length of the field to return to the runway threshold.

At which point the alternator packed up.  Again.

Some discussion later we decided we were really no better off here than Swansea, and set off home intending to go non-radio once we were underway.

It was really rather peaceful actually!  Mike was flying and I gazed out of the windows and idly kept half an eye on the navigation.

We flicked back on to Swansea radio as we approached only to discover that we and a few other still flying were in the doghouse for being out of hours…

Oh for a farmer’s field and an aeroplane with no sodding electrics!

Anyway, it had been too good a day out to fuss about.  So we’ll see if a bill follows the scolding, and wait to hear when we need to present ourselves at Bournemouth for a new alternator!

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