The poster had been up on the cabin wall for a while and since my last fly-in attempt had been an utter wash-out and this one was on the doorstep it seemed like a must-do.
Been a while though since I’d flown anywhere ‘proper’ – and transponderless and armed only with a mildly unpredictable little handheld more or less plumbed into the aircraft, I wasn’t at all sure how ATC would take to us!
Suitably reassured by both friends in the flying and ATC line, along with a quick phone call to Aeros convinced me it wouldn’t be a problem, so I spent a bit of time re-acquainting myself with the VFR routes and procedures before plugging a route into the GPS and making some quick notes of frequencies.
With the vis forecast more or less flawless the navigation was unlikely to be an issue but Nick happily and rapidly ceded the outward-bound and more radio-heavy leg to me!
We arrived at the strip to find three of our fellow Old Park crew, John-Skyranger and the (later christened by Cardiff ATC) “Shadow Formation” had preceded us.
The wind was straight down the strip and down the hill so it was a downwind takeoff necessitating a few extra yards before getting up into a fair bit of rocking and rolling over the trees at the southern end which lasted until well over 1000′.
I took up a course towards Bridgend, torn between getting above the turbulence and knowing that Cardiff were bound to clear us in at “not above 1500”
Happily it smoothed our at 1300′ and very quickly it was time to change frequency. I tried the ATIS first but couldn’t hear a thing. Bit odd, but I could live without that I suppose. Over to Radar.
Hmm. Either I’m tremendously lucky – they must be busy, is this a lull? Or there’s something up.
I called without much confidence of being heard. They should in any case have had our details from the PPR so a simple “Golf Charlie Golf Oscar Victor” fell on the silence.
I called a second time a few minutes later but we were already beneath the 2000′ part of the airspace at Bridgend so I flew a southerly dogleg while I fiddled, swapping aerials and jiggling leads.
There’d been no one else around when we left, but Swansea had heard us fine a week or so ago, and the rest of Old Park a few days later, so what was up?
But then too, I hadn’t heard the other traffic either, apart from a brief flurry while swapping aerials.
So it’s us.
After a few more moments Nick pointed out there was the old ‘rubber duck’ aerial in the pocket and he flew for a few minutes while I fished it out.
Voices sprang instantly from the radio as I clicked it into place. Result.
I turned back on track and called up to be given a squawk, the published St Hilary clearance in, and the expected “not above 1500′”
I read this lot back, with the amendment “negative transponder” and a position report.
St Hillary is easy – you can’t miss it. Or rather you hope the vis is sufficiently good that you do have every chance of missing it! A VRP with a vertical extent of 1163′ when you’re cleared at 1500′ tends to focus the mind somewhat.
We were passed traffic closing from behind us and to our amusement heard him being asked if he was faster or slower.
As it was the rather plush VP propped C172 from Haverfordwest, Whiskey Romeo, I thought he did a rather good job of keeping the amusement out of his tone as he confirmed, “We do seem to be overtaking that traffic, yes!”
Very shortly we were passed over to the Tower frequency and I grabbed the ATIS before calling them, now that things were working again.
After confirming he had our details there was an odd interruption in comms during which we could hear ATC but they couldn’t hear us and were trying to get an aircraft we couldn’t hear to relay a message.
A few minutes later a radio check confirmed we were back in touch (though to my knowledge we’d changed nothing) and told to join downwind.
Upon doing so we were straight away told to take up a left hand hold at the end of the downwind leg. I rather mumbled my confirmation of that and wandered a bit finding a spot – the first one I chose seemed not far enough along on reflection and I kept drifting towards the runway and back out. Holds don’t take up much space in an X’Air – even the mildest angle of bank twirls you round apace, and the drift is ridiculous at the best of times! I could stand to practise that.
We were being held, we were told for “departing IFR traffic” – an airliner of some description which we could see tracking out. Somewhere close and joining was a GA formation on right base – I lost track of whether they were ahead or behind us, but in any case a second airliner was still on the taxiway when our hold was cancelled and we were cleared number one to land.
With all the runway and a stiffish northwesterly it seemed pointless doing anything other than a tight base leg if I didn’t want to be on final all afternoon so I turned promptly. I drifted down towards such a massive runway I fell for the optical illusion and tried to land 50 foot up, catching it with power at Nick’s urging from over the top of his iPhone while filming the endeavour.
The second airliner was still at the hold – goodness knows what the holidaymakers thought, waiting for the likes of us land before they could wing off on their way!
I thought I’d landed purposefully long but even so was taxying for ages before the next clanger of the day – mistaking the exit. Not sure I simply can’t count or need better glasses but ‘second exit’ and ‘taxiway Golf’ I just couldn’t square with each other.
ATC sounded only resigned, and I learned from the marshaller that I was the ninth aircraft of the day to make the same mistake – there were a number of “I did that” sheepish smiles in the cafe for certain!
Several of the other Old Park residents were waiting on the grass as I followed the marshaller in and John had captured some cracking pictures!
We headed up to the Cambrian Restaurant, which judging by the decor and stern warnings on the walls about “indivduals(sic) or groups who sit all day with masses of photographic and radio equipment, eating little and generally preventing seating access for those who wish to come and enjoy a meal” would probably prefer I didn’t call them “the caff” – or indeed correct the spelling of their notices and menu’s(sic).
But the coffee was good, and the company (even the bit of it that was sitting all day with masses of equipment) better and the food when we tried and failed to leave for the second time (it took us until the fourth attempt!) tasty enough.
Half of the south Wales flying population was there it seemed and every time we thought about leaving, someone would turn up and we’d settle back at a new table for more coffee and more chat.
Out on the balcony with some of the blokes who’d come over from Swansea I spotted an X’Air shaped silhouette on final. As it came closer it resolved into the blue and yellow of Gwyn’s aircraft and we stayed another “just a bit longer” to talk to him too!
Eventually Rhubarb started to look a little bit lonely out on the grass and it was time to go. Nick was flying home while I kibitzed about the radio and nav from the right hand seat until we were safely outside the airspace at which point it became silly season instantly
Nick wandered up over the hills, playing with a trick he’d learned or discovered with the trim for getting the aircraft set up just right for most efficient cruise and puzzling over the fact that in straight and level there’s a bit of rudder still needed to fly in balance. Maybe we need a rudder trim tab.
Then up to Drummau to have a squint at a tiny flexwing strip th; grvinsights=cda1f2d2bae5ef8489d spot!
Then home again with a glide approach into the strip from inside the wires (there’s been a murmur about noise from someone on the climbout).
Stuart, one of the Shadow contingent was still there and we chatted as we put the aircraft to bed.
All in all a cracking day out – busy busy and concentration needed but good fun to go somewhere busy and full radio again, it’s been a while!