Updated: Mar 28
At last.... RKID under blue skies and over blue seas.... Ian's not feeling blue at all.
In this issue :
Shaw's Report - Ian discusses weather to fly.
Achievements - Congratulations due.
Brass Monkey Plan B - John Bradbury sticks with tradition.
Duxford delivers - Sharon Cox delves into aviation history.
The Book of the Ethics of Biggles - Daniel discovers aviation aphorisms.
WhatsApp is Where It's At - a round-up of destinations on a Sunny Sunday.
An OtherTon of Full English - Steve Grimshaw enjoys a flex-wing fly-out.
Airborne Again - thanks to CF friends - Sue Beesley logs some flying hours gratefully.
Nostalgic Northerners - Capt. Braders reminisces.
IMPORTANT! - Make a diary note of the 'official' Club tours (FAFs) for 2022 (at end of e-zine).
At last, some decent weather to fly in. Seizing this rare opportunity, earlier today [Sunday 20/3] we flew along the Welsh valleys to Shobdon in lovely conditions.
There was quite a bit of advance comms on the WhatsApp Group. Lots of ideas on where we should go, some workable, some not? I can appreciate this might be daunting to newer flyers, especially if you like to get comfortable with the destination first, do a bit of research, plan your route, possibly look at the approach on google earth satellite image and, once your ducks are all aligned - commit to the trip.
Fat chance of all that happening if we don’t decide where to go until actually at the airfield – which is what happened today.
I’m not sure there is an easy answer to this one as, sometimes, that’s just how it is. However, and without doubt, the more chances you get to go flying to new and different airfields the more confident you will feel in your ability to take part in an impromptu flyout. The Sunny Sat Navs (1st Saturday of the month) are designed to give newer flyers a bit more notice on our intended destination in a ‘more’ supportive environment. They are deffo the ones to sign up to if you feel like gaining a little more confidence in your flyout journey.
The other interesting feature about today was the different takes on the weather. There is a plethora of weather information available to us nowadays and not always to our benefit as often it might conflict. So where do you draw the line and which do you pay attention to?
Many of us will have our own pet sources which have stood the test of time. Personally, I, take what some might consider a fairly simplistic view and rely on the met office public weather site and the official airfield METARS and TAFS in conjunction with Metforms F214 and F215. On the days when there is weather around, i.e. rainfall, I’ll also look at the Met Office UK observations map that will track the rainfall by satellite to see if it affects my route. There are of course many other sources including Windy, Simon Keeling; SkyDemon also offers a facility and, not forgetting - you could always forecast yourself. However, if I studied each meticulously and always took the worst case of all the forecasts - I might never fly again so I tend to focus on those I have confidence in.
Today was a good example in that Met Office public site were forecasting for the afternoon:
And the early morning regional METAR / TAFS were detailing something similar too:
Shobdon is kind of somewhere in the land mass between Caernarfon, Cardiff and East Midlands and these were all forecasting either CAVOK or greater than 10K viz. Generally, wind was from the East at around 11kt, so I was quite confident the conditions were good for us to go.
Remembering the old pilot’s sayings ‘It’s far better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than the other way around’ and ‘If in doubt there is no doubt’. It’s never a wrong decision to stay on the ground but it’s good to take a balanced view and focus on those forecasts you have confidence in - especially if others conflict.
Finally, club night is almost upon us and as I write we still don’t have confirmation that GASCO are presenting their safety evening tomorrow.
The plan ‘whatever the GASCO outcome’ is to meet at the ‘Market Tavern - Sandbach’ at 7:30 tomorrow evening – even if just for a meet-up and natter. This will be our first meet for a considerable time, quite an occasion and we are looking forward to seeing everyone together again.
Ian Shaw 😎
Club Night Report
Many thanks go to Graham Fern for a very slick and professional run through some useful elements within SkyDemon. I learned several things; I am sure others did too. I was too engrossed in what was being presented to make many notes. Graham kindly sent some notes as an aide memoire for the top tips.
Prior planning and preparation. Time spent on the ground pays dividend in the air. The objective is to set up SD as best as possible pre-flight to avoid too much touch time in the air. Have you tried using a touch screen in turbulence!!
Find your POH and, if a self-build, the HADS for W&B (BMAA web site) to gather all the aircraft data. Then dive into SD aircraft settings where you are looking primarily at setting the climb, cruise and decent etc.
Whilst in the settings go to the navigation settings.
Enable the approach tools and set your preferences.
Consider the glide range option to the ground but ensure your performance figures are right and then maybe put it to the test in the air.
Go through all the other options in here and set according to your setup.
Just remember what you put in is what you you’ll get back or garbage in = garbage out
In the planning phase:
Touch two fingers on the screen to enable a drag and drop ruler that gives you an instant idea of time, distance and ground speed.
Try tapping the airfield tab with no route selected and use the ‘find a destination’, this will populate the map flags based on your selection.
Long press on a point of interest on screen, select the name or lat & long and view the aerial photography. Fantastic for pre-flight map study for ground features in a satellite view.
Select an airfield and then choose Information; there’s an option for a 3D view (if you have Google Earth installed, again excellent pre-flight preparation. See your landing site in 3D before you fly!
If you pay for AFE or Pooleys then you can geo-reference the plate to the airfield before you fly and then once you approach the field with auto zoom on the plate will already be on the map, great after landing and taxiing around a more complex airfield.
Weather option in planning mode allows you to ‘near-time’ weather plan pre-flight
Once you have a route (line on a map), at the top of the map you’ll see a distance and time window, click on it and click around to configure your flight options including power and weight & balance etc.
Also, you can change the planned height for a leg by dragging the line up or down in the virtual radar to suit the weather, wind or airspace.
During your route planning you might plan to fly to multiple airfields, maybe tag the ones you plan to land at, this breaks the legs into sections for planning and printing off PLOGS and maps etc.
Once in flight and approaching an airfield you can select your runway and then approach type to suit, this gives you visual aids during the join. You can cancel an approach and change the approach runway and type.
Try swiping on the virtual radar for a scratch pad to jot down frequencies, runways or a QFE etc
You can now resize the virtual radar by swiping up/down on the left side of the radar screen.
You can tap on the instruments to display different information like height versus altitude etc.
James Gibbon has finished the GST, passed all the exams and done the XCs and applied for his licence, which has arrived. Congratulations James.
As Garry Roberts reminded us on WhatsApp, a super photo he took on a trip to Sandown, IOW, was placed equal second of all the entries for the Microlight Flying Magazine in the past year.
See MF for February 2022, for the summary of entries. Garry and Nickie have kindly sent an original for Cheshire Flyer. It's a stunning image and an excellent achievement - well done Garry.
Cheshire Flyers ‘NAV Competition’ – 2022
Reminding you about Cheshire Flyers ‘New Airfields Visited’ (NAV) Challenge.
The idea is to visit as many ‘New’ (to you) Airfields during a 12 months period as you can; a new airfield is defined as one that you haven’t visited in the last 5 years.
The winner is the pilot who bags the highest number of ‘new’ airfields flown to or from, between 1st March 2022 and 28th February 2023.
Rules are as follows:
The challenge commences 1st March 2022 and closes 28th February 2023.
The handling pilot (must be logged as P1 or PUT in their logbook) is credited with the airfield which can be utilised either from a ‘take off’ or ‘landing’. For sharers, one can fly in, the other can fly out, and both can claim. Full stop landings only, so no sneaky touch & go’s / swapping pilot mid runway.
The airfield must not have been visited by the handling pilot within the preceding 5 years to count.
The winner is that pilot who gains most New Airfields Visited (hence the catchy title NAV Competition)
The chairman’s decision is final – so it may well be possible to bribe your way to victory…
Brass Monkey Plan B
Captain Braders explains the Brass Monkey for February 2022
It’s several years since we last held a ‘Brass Monkey’. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a ‘Brass Monkey’ is our winter overnight fly-out, where traditionally we end-up weathered–in and have to get alternative transport home. An essential ingredient is an overnight (or at least dinner) at a country village pub with a log fire. This winter, our CEO (Chief Events Organiser) Mark Jealous (JM) organised this event for the weekend of 27/28th February at Llanbedr in North Wales.
An encouraging number of CF members signed up for this, each arranging accommodation at various Llanbedr hostelries. JM made arrangements at one of the village hotels (with the obligatory log fire) to cater for 20 of us for dinner. As with most, best-laid plans, the weather forecast leading up to the weekend looked a complete washout; this changed to little in the way of rain, but very strong, gusty, winds.
All seasoned flyers know that you have to remain flexible and be prepared to go where the weather looks best. I could see that lighter (but only slightly) winds, and potentially less turbulent conditions, could be found to the S/SE, so I suggested Duxford as an alternative. Having arranged accommodation a few crews decided to drive to Llanbedr, invoking the new concept of Drive-outs, successfully piloted for the February Sunny Sat-Nav, to Barton.
I decided that Duxford was the destination for me and anticipated several others also making the fly-out; however, on the day of departure, it transpired that Sharon and I were the only CF crew aiming to fly there. Nevertheless, what a brilliant trip it turned out to be. It was indeed windy, but aloft the air was smooth, and the huge open expanse of Duxford airfield gave little in the way of ground effect turbulence for our arrival.
We tied down on the grass adjacent to the control tower, took on fuel from the mobile bowser then hastened to the main visitors’ entrance to pay landing and overnight parking fees, which came to £31.50. This included entrance to the fantastic Imperial War Museum (IWM) for both pilot and passenger; visitors arriving by road pay £22.70 each (£45.40 for two), so a bargain if arriving by air.
The IWM is huge, covering all forms of aviation, from early box kites, military fast jets, airliners and lots in-between. We spent the majority of Saturday walking around the exhibits, yet there was still lots we had not seen. Fortunately, as we required access to airside the next day, this provided us with unrestricted entrance to continue our tour of the museum.
Ticking the first Brass Monkey requirement, Saturday evening was spent consuming beer and food at a lovely traditional village pub with the obligatory log fire. Looking at the deteriorating weather forecast for Sunday, giving strong and gusty winds, particularly up north, it became evident that the second Brass Monkey tradition of becoming stranded might prevail.
Sunday morning there was a brisk wind blowing directly across the runway. The Tower gave us permission to take-off on the grass directly into wind. From granting PPR to wishing us a safe onward flight, Duxford’s AFISO and staff were extremely helpful and accommodating. The flight back to Cheshire was again amazingly smooth up top; even the landing at DHF not too demanding.
I would thoroughly recommend flying to Duxford, but allow yourself an overnight to get the most out of it. I’m certainly up for another visit to this amazing venue as there is still lots left to see.
Sharon Cox delves into aviation exhibits at the Imperial War Museum collection
I am not a plane spotter; indeed, I have been heard to say "all planes look the same to me."
Of course, they don’t really; I can tell the difference between a fighter jet and a biplane, but I am not in any way good at identifying more subtle variations within aircraft types.
I am however, slowly, slowly, seeing the light. And that has nothing to do with watching Top Gun a lot of times. It's partly to do with visiting museums such as Duxford, the Vulcan at Wellesbourne, and the collection at Old Warden, with other Cheshire Flyers. These are places I would never have visited in my previous life – before flying. It’s seeing the hardware in real life and understanding more about the challenges of flying: those faced by the young pilots in the case of WW2, for example, or the bravery of the pioneering aviators and the test pilots of experimental aircraft technologies.
Duxford was an ’eye-opener’; there are so many aircraft there, both in absolute numbers and the huge variation in types. It is possible to see the evolution in commercial aircraft as well as military planes. In the American Hall for example, there is a complete B52 bomber on the floor and a Boeing Stearman hanging from the rafters (alongside more modern jet fighters). In other Hangars, there are Spitfires and Hurricanes, a replica of the Red Baron’s triplane, a Vulcan and a Victor, amongst lots of others. Plus, there are occasional ‘fly-pasts’ by the resident airworthy museum aircraft and of course a busy to-ing and fro-ing of visiting GA aircraft.
There is a Battle of Britain Hangar and they have preserved the ‘Ops Room’ where communications were had with the fighter aircraft engaging the Luftwaffe in the sky. Duxford was one of the locations of communications with the fighter squadrons. It was thought-provoking, not least with the sound-effects of pilots calling their kills or that they had been hit and were bailing out.
For me on this first visit, it was particularly poignant to read about the Cold War nuclear bombers and a story about an American guy who had to defuse a couple of nuclear missiles after flying accidents in the US – within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear disaster.
The current context with the invasion of Ukraine prompted more reflection on the hardware of war and the sacrifices made by so many people. It is sobering and scary – that there are Russian planes bombing Ukraine, on the edge of Europe right now. Something that few of us would have predicted we would see in our lifetime; we certainly would have hoped not to. It feels a bit like the world we know is teetering on the edge of a return to bleaker times; it is impossible to be anything other than completely dismayed by the sight of the payload of nuclear bombs that were flown around during the fifties and sixties.
All of which proves how important it is that we conserve these aircraft and never forget their place in our shared history.
The Book of the Ethics of Biggles
by Daniel Langton
Among the scholarly discoveries made this century, few have captured the popular imagination to the extent that The Book of the Ethics of Biggles has done. Found wrapped in an ancient windsock at Hawksview airfield in Cheshire, these fragments of hard-won knowledge handed down from generation to generation of fliers had long been thought lost. Following careful restoration over hundreds of hours, it is now possible to present a partial account of the wisdom of those who flew before us.
Modern scholars discount the traditional claim that the original author was James Bigglesworth of the Camel Squadron, and prefer to refer to the work as Pseudo-Biggles. With the exception of a few individuals working on the fringes who argue for the authorship of B-25 bombardier John ‘Catch-22’ Yossarian, it is now generally accepted that Pseudo-Biggles represents a compilation of texts from different times and places usually expressed in the medium of aphorisms and likely redacted by grounded pilots in the late twentieth century with nothing better to do with their time.
A dominant theme in much wisdom literature is a profound sense of human fragility and frailty in the face of a hostile and uncaring universe. Pseudo-Biggles is no exception and includes some of most heart-rending expressions of the Dark Night of the Soul one can find. Among the texts that reflect the deep paranoia that often attends flight is the earliest known reference to the golden rule: ‘Keep thy airspeed up lest the earth come from below to smite thee.’ A parallel text which can found in some variant manuscripts expresses this slightly differently: ‘Death is just nature’s way of telling you to watch your airspeed.’ And who among us does not recognise the profound truth in the haunting observation that ‘There are certain aircraft sounds that can only be heard when flying solo’?
It is clear that then, as now, much of the anxiety of aviation concerned landings and fuel calculations. Thus we have advice such as ‘You can land anywhere once,’ and ‘Always try to keep the number of your landings equal to the number of your take-offs.’ There is also a recognition that perfection in this regard is unattainable: ‘A good landing is one from which you can walk away. A great landing is one after which they can use the aeroplane again.’ With regard to fuel endurance there are warnings that ‘Any attempt to stretch fuel is guaranteed to increase head wind,’ and ‘The only time an aircraft has too much fuel on board is when it is on fire,’ and ‘Never pass up a chance to take on fuel or unload the bladder.’ It is worth noting that the well-known commandment ‘Never trust a fuel gauge’ has come down to us unchanged over time, and can be found in many languages.
It is striking how many of the texts wrestle with the inevitable confrontation with mortality faced by all those who would trespass upon the heavens. These range from the analytical (‘Flying isn’t dangerous. Crashing is what’s dangerous’) to the earnestly pragmatic (‘Fly the plane all the way into the crash’). In contrast to many other examples of wisdom literature, the skies are not a locus for redemption or divinity, but of danger. As it is said: ‘Stay out of clouds. The silver lining everyone keeps talking about might be another aircraft going in the opposite direction.’ And few of us have forgotten the ancient teaching of how to achieve a long life as an aviator: ‘There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots,’ usually misattributed to Anonymous.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, a fierce spirit of bravado tends to characterize many of the sayings. Classic examples include the claims that ‘A pilot is never lost - he is temporarily unfamiliar with his surroundings,’ and ‘I’m not perfect, but I’m a pilot and that’s almost the same thing.’ And it is difficult not to exalt with the author of the verse: ‘It’s not that all pilots are good-looking. It’s just that good-looking people seem more capable of flying airplanes.’ But Pseudo-Biggles contains multitudes, and one can find many different worldviews contained therein. For some, the life of the airborne is instinctive and natural (‘Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss’), while for others it is the culmination of a lifetime of striving after perfection (‘Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgment to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills’). On occasion, one must suspend one’s modern sensibilities and remember that the texts were written at a very different time and place. Examples might include the misogynistic assertion that ‘It’s not an emergency unless and until your moustache is on fire,’ the xenophobic advice that ‘East is least, West is best,’ or the ugly bigotry against ground dwellers in the claim that ‘Pilots take no special joy in walking.’
For much of the collection scholars continue to debate the provenance and contexts of much of the material, and argue for a number of distinct traditions. Evidence of a trinitarian school of thought include texts such as ‘There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are,’ and ‘Try not to run out of airspeed, altitude and ideas at the same time.’ Alongside this is evidence of an earlier tradition that emphasised a primitive form of dualism, reflected in texts such as ‘You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck,’ and ‘Fly the weather - don’t let the weather fly you,’ and ‘It’s always better to be down on the ground wishing you were up in the air than up in the air wishing you were down on the ground.’ There is also a suggestion of a mystical tradition, with several authorities suggesting that hallucinogenic substances were consumed in esoteric rituals to achieve an alternate state of consciousness. In support are verses such as ‘When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No-one has ever collided with the sky,’ and ‘Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges of it. The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.’ This would also explain references to animal totem spirits found in proverbs such as ‘Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.’
A number of scholars have identified the seeds of heresy in the recent discoveries, including the movement away from flying as an artform to that of an applied science, influenced by engineering. An example is the assertion ‘The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival.’ But such precision in thought is rare and much more representative is the kind of parable easily understood by the people rather than the priesthood, such as ‘It’s best to keep the pointed end going forward as much as possible.’
Even from this short survey, it should be apparent that the Book of the Ethics of Biggles represents one of the world’s great works of religious literature. As an inspiration for aviators it is unsurpassed, reminding each generation of its sacred duty: ‘The ultimate responsibility of the pilot is to fulfil the dreams of the countless millions of earthbound ancestors who could only stare skyward and wish.’
Daniel Langton is based at Hawksview airfield where much of the work of recovery continues. Convinced that a second volume of aviatic wisdom once existed, he has issued an open call for members of the piloting fraternity to bring forward any further fragments that might help with the future publication of a scholarly edition. Please send your favourite aviation aphorisms to firstname.lastname@example.org
WhatsApp is Where it's At
Sorry for duplicating WhatsApp posts - I won't make a habit of it. It seemed a shame not to celebrate lots of Cheshire Flyers outings over the first weekend in March.
Darren tried hard to drum up some takers for the Avro museum at Woodford, when the weather forecast for the Sunny Sat Nav was looking a bit breezy, but most Cheshire Flyers, who were able to choose, and were faced with soggy strips, opted to postpone flying until the following day.
The museum looks good though - worth a visit if you haven't been. Ray joined Darren and his son Jack to look around the aircraft and other exhibits.
Sunny Sunday (6th March) though, saw a plethora of posts of pictures taken by various flyers. It looks like aircraft flew in all directions from their home bases.
A pair of flex-wings flew to Otherton; Daniel snapped a sheepish Steve tucking into Full English
Matt in G-BWBI seen above Newborough Beach by an envious Editor.