A few weeks ago, after one of my IR(R) lessons, I met my friend Bartosz at the airfield. He said he had G-BAHF booked all afternoon and was planning to do some flying, so I asked him if I could just ride along.
We chose Shobdon as our destination, and he would let me fly the return leg to build up some hours for my IR(R) rating.
Wellesbourne to Shobdon
I was only a passenger on this flight, so there’s not much to report. Bartosz is a very good pilot, and although I tried to help him here and there, I mostly just enjoyed the flight and the views.
There are some things I’ve learned about being a pilot-passenger though, and I will eventually write a blog post about it. Just so much: it isn’t as easy as one might think!
Shobdon to Wellesbourne
We arrived a bit late in Shobdon, and so we didn’t have time for a coffee or other amenities, and so we departed almost as soon as we arrived. This time it was my turn to fly though, and so I gave the plane a quick check before we hopped in.
I contacted the tower and asked for departure instructions, and shortly after we were bouncing back along the long grass taxiway for power checks and the holding point before the runway. The holding point was very close to the runway and we were told to wait until a glider has landed, which turned out to land just over our heads. It felt like we could touch it with our hands if we stretched them out the window!
A minute later we were told to ‘take off at our discretion’, and I set full power for take-off. Once we were airborne and only a few feet high I could hear the stall warner, and I remember that from earlier flights in HF too. I guess it’s just working too hard to get up to speed with the tiny 140hp engine. I flew a 180hp Archer II earlier this more, and with all the oomph of that engine it was much easier to have a nose-up attitude during the climb. The stall warner kept coming back, and I had to repeatedly lower the nose for a shallower climb. Soon a high enough airspeed was reached though, and we climbed away towards the east.
Shortly after leaving the Shobdon ATZ I contacted Birmingham Radar for a traffic service. The visibility wasn’t the best that day and so I thought traffic service would beat a basic service in terms of situational awareness.
The radar controller informed us about traffic in lower altitudes several times (around 500ft), and only once have we spotted a helicopter flying below us. Closer to our level were about 3 aircraft in total, and we haven’t see a single one of them!
One of the aircraft was actually converging with our path, and initially reported 10 miles away to the north, heading in a southerly direction. I acknowledged and said we were looking, but we couldn’t see it. The controller called it out again, at 6 miles, then 4, then 2 miles away, still converging. I decided to climb from 2,700ft to at least 3,200ft for some vertical separation, as both of us still couldn’t see the other aircraft!
We’ve passed it without incident, probably a few hundred feet above them, and from there we headed straight back to Wellesbourne.
We contacted Wellesbourne when we were about 5 miles west of Stratford and requested airfield information. The active runway was still runway 18 RH, just like when we departed. After an uneventful overhead join we landed happily back home at EGBW.
This was a spontaneous trip to a nearby airfield, only about 30 minutes of flight time away. It was very enjoyable to be a pilot-passenger, although it wasn’t easy as I always wanted to do things in the cockpit to help the PIC, which could of course lead to confusion. As a general rule I shouldn’t do anything except when the pilot asks me for a favour!
Asking for traffic service on the way back was a good idea! The controller made me aware of several aircraft in the vicinity that I just couldn’t see due to the bad visibility. It still nags me today that I haven’t seen the converging aircraft on our level, and thanks to the controller I performed a climb of several hundred feet for separation. I only wonder how many aircraft pass by on a day like this without knowledge on a basic service?
Flight Time: 0:55h
Total Flight Time: 6:15h