Finally the day has come: I had CY booked for 4 hours on a Sunday and the weather turned out to be bloody gorgeous, which meant I could take Evie out to Nottingham for a coffee and a cake!
One of my challenges in 2017 is to fly to many new places. I decided to gradually increase the distance, and Nottingham was 60nm away. So that’s the new measuring stick. Another challenge was to familiarise with the PA-28 type of aircraft, and since this trip would involve flying through controlled airspace and landing away from home, I think I can officially declare this challenge as completed!
As far as preflight preparation goes, the weather all over the area was fantastic with a 3500ft cloud base and very light winds. The only odd thing was that East Midlands, which was the airport whose CTA I’d have to fly through, reported 1,600ft ceilings for the entire day in their morning forecast. This was cleared up when I called Nottingham for the PPR and they told me that the weather there was flawless. A short while later EMA has updated their forecast to 4,000ft bases, so it was time to go.
A quick preflight inspection of the aircraft and off we went!
Wellesbourne to Nottingham
The departure was quite straightforward: Wellesbourne informed us about the runway in use, which was 36 LH on 1023hPa QNH. Soon after climbing to 700ft we left the circuit and set cruise towards Gaydon. Gaydon serves as a great first landmark as it is easy to spot due to its size. From there we set course towards Leicester. I was familiar enough with the aircraft by now and the take-off went by without any noteworthy events.
After setting course to Leicester using the HAT mnemonic (Heading, Altitude, Time) I performed a quick FREDA check and changed frequency to Coventry radar for a basic service. From there on we’d be hopping from one landmark to the next. Visibility was great, and it was easy to spot them early.The first landmark would be Draycote Water, a water reservoir that provides drinking water for the nearby town of Rugby. Coventry asked me to report abeam Draycote Water, which I completely forgot to do. My apologies!
After passing Bruntingthorpe I called East Midlands radar for a zone transit, and they returned with a new transponder code. After identification I was cleared to enter their airspace not above 2,000ft all the way to Nottingham. I had to stay low to allow a RyanAir jet to pass above to land at East Midlands.
Once we were only a few miles south of Nottingham we were passed on to Nottingham radio for the arrival.
Nottingham radar gave me the necessary airfield information I needed to land. Active runway was 27 LH, and since we were arriving from the south I started my descent on the dead side of the circuit, no need to go overhead. Crossing the runway and turning left to downwind I performed all necessary landing checks, although I forgot to turn on the landing lights. For some reason this item was never part of my landing checks, but I gradually train my old brain to include it. Instead of the old ‘BUMFFICH’ that I use (for Brakes, Undercarriage, Mixture, Fuel, Flaps, Instruments, Carb Heat, Hatches&Harnesses) I added an ‘L’ at the end for landing lights. For a brief moment I was able to enjoy the view over Nottingham, which is larger than I thought, before turning base followed by final.
The final approach went smooth, and the wind was calm. To my surprise the landing was very gentle and right on the centreline, and we asked the tower where to taxi for parking.
After paying the £12 landing fee we set off for the well-deserved coffee & cake!
Nottingham to Wellesbourne
The cafe at Nottingham airport provided us with some fine service, and soon after finishing the cake we decided to get back up in the air and back to Wellesbourne. We have planned not to go through East Midlands airspace this time and instead fly a little further east along their outer edge. I updated the route in SkyDemon and checked out the aircraft before departure.
We had to taxi passed the cafe through a little gap between buildings to get to taxiway W, which was quite an interesting path to go to. At the holding point I did the usual power checks and when I tried to look down the final approach for traffic I found out that it’s quite obscured with hedges! I didn’t see any traffic coming in and I listened carefully to the radio for situational awareness, and then decided the take runway 09.
The tower gave us a warning to avoid skydiving activities in Langar, which lies only 6 miles east of Nottingham airport, so we turned south-east first until we were away from East Midland’s airspace, which was still above us starting at 2,500ft. From there we turned south.
The rest of the flight went very smooth. Abeam Leicester we turned on a south-westerly heading towards Bruntingthorpe again and contacted Coventry radar for a basic service. What I have overlooked a bit on the charts was a gliding site that we passed at a distance of 3 miles, and so the sudden appearance of gliders in our vicinity came as bit of a surprise! One of them actually appeared quite close to us on the right-hand side, which gave Evie a little fright and made her nervous for the remainder of the flight. None of us had an idea where that glider came from as we haven’t seen it before.
From there it went over Rugby and finally Wellesbourne.
As soon as we had Wellesbourne in sight we changed frequency again and asked for joining instructions. Runway in use was 36-LH, and since we were approaching the deadside again there was no need for the overhead at 2,000ft. We started our descent abeam Gaydon and arrived at 1,000ft just when we arrived over the runway. Three left turns later we were on a nicely established final approach to land, and the landing itself was just as smooth as the landing in Nottingham, if not better.
This must have been my best flight so far, and I think Evie has enjoyed it a lot (minus that glider encounter), and it gave me a great confidence boost! I hope my next land-away will be just as successful as this one.
There were not many faults to find on this trip, but a few minor things annoyed me anyway.
- I missed out one position report with Coventry radar. Now this is not a big thing, but since I read back the request I feel kinda guilty.
- I really must put those landing lights onto my landing checklist! They greatly increase your visibility in the circuit, when it’s urgently needed.
- The glider encounter: This is not a fault of either the glider or me, it was just a big surprise where that one has come from. I guess it just tells me to always keep my eyes peeled!
Flight Time: 1:35h (combined)
Total Flight Time: 4:30h