Where else would you want to be?
Photo taken passing Abersoch, looking towards St Tudwals Island.
In this issue :
Achievements - Congratulations due.
Strip Flying - CAA have updated their Safety Sense leaflet
What's 'Appening? - Club WhatsApp groups full of stuff
Popping to Popham - Garry Roberts on his rite of passage
More RBR Remembered - reproduced from 2002 Cheshire Flyers Newsletter
Fly-UK - an excuse to camp
Dan's that man - some flex photos to drool over
BMAA Open Series - test yourself in some flying and navigation competitions
Top Nav - Royal Institute of Navigation holding navigation competition, May 21-22, 28-29
Postman Pat eyes the future for remote deliveries - Dave Creedy on drones again
GASCO Flight Safety Extra - events you can attend - including 'Ditching Survival'
IMPORTANT! - Diary dates of the 'official' Club tours (FAFs) for 2022 (at end of e-zine). These are now also on the 'What's On' calendar on the website.
I’ve just read the daring tales (below) of the early Round Britain Race days (errrm I mean Rally) from Justin and Sam Bowen and the two Tims. Their accounts sent a few shivers and brought back some very happy and some not so happy (let’s say challenging) memories of competing in the RBR and other such BMAA competitions.
What struck me though, reading the stories, was that I couldn’t see myself intentionally flying in some of those conditions now. Granted, we all occasionally mis-read the weather; things can go a bit pear shaped but, if we’ve planned well enough in advance, there is usually an option or two to reposition to another airfield. I certainly can’t imagine putting the RV down in a farmer’s field to find out where I was, or indeed the Eurostar.
So, were pilots more courageous in those days, or just plain nuts? Back in the day, those tales were not uncommon or unusual – it’s just how it was and everyone got on with it. I was there, it all kind of worked and, generally, people lived to fly another day.
Moving forward 20 years or so I feel the climate has definitely changed. Improved safety culture and sharing of knowledge from organisations such as GASCO and the Cheshire Flyers, a massive crackdown on airspace infringements with fines, redefining of the microlight from a £5K rag and tube device to an £80k+ space shuttle, improved technology such as GPS tools, electronic conspicuity and weather forecasting, have all served to change the landscape and safety culture. No longer is microlighting the preserve of ‘Men in their Sheds’ and all the better for it.
Is there a point to my ramblings? Only that I don’t want newcomers to assume that our flyouts are anything like the experiences of the intrepid RBR aviators featured below. Our flyouts are all about having fun; yes, occasionally it will push you a little out of your comfort zone but hopefully in a good way that will stretch and enhance your abilities as a flyer. And, of course, you can learn from the experience of others to take you well beyond the boundaries of your local airfields.
Apologies next. The coveted Cheshire Flyers clothing range is almost ready to be ordered from our web site. A slight last minute technical hitch on the pricing means we can’t go live for another day or two, but rest assured it will be sorted this week.
Finally; I hate rules, regulations and all that, however our WhatsApp groups are growing (which is great) but, as more join our merry band I often get quizzed on what is acceptable to discuss and publish, particularly on the Cheshire Flyers Chat group. We need to have in mind what the original intention was; some of the chat meets that aim, some of it doesn’t. Obviously this is ‘your’ club and the communications need to serve the majority. The obvious solution is to publish a set of guidelines on content which I’ve taken an action to do. Please feel free to scrutinise, advise etc if you think I’ve got it all wrong. To follow…
Ian Shaw 😎
Club Night Report - April 25th, 2022
Whoop, whoop..... it was a well-attended meeting at the Market Tavern for April club night.
Thanks to Graham Fern especially, for his considerable efforts in putting together an enthralling and impressive presentation of aspects of military support helicopters and the training of air crew.
Graham, seen below in his twenties, rattled through a comprehensive insight into the training undergone by military helicopter air crew and the myriad of skills they develop in all sorts of deployment. Training is continuous and intense.
My takeaways: it's all in the training; essential teamwork; pilots are amazing but couldn't function without other air crew who organise practically everything else. The training is brutal and administered by sadists - especially the underwater emergency drills; an extreme amount of protective clothing has to be worn irrespective of temperatures. But it's also fantastic fun to be flying around 200 - 300 feet above the ground much of the time. The helicopters themselves are awesome bits of kit - especially the chinook. And there is huge variety in the nature of operations from military exercises, real conflicts, civilian assistance, emergency aid, transport of oversize loads and search and rescue. Demanding physically and mentally but ultimately satisfying.
Graham's title in today's RAF-speak was a Weapon System Operator. He got to travel the world, see good and bad, and it was hugely rewarding and adventurous. "The RAF training is an amazing set of lego bricks where they just build and build skills and knowledge over time, so much so you have no idea what you have achieved or done! Everything becomes normal. I never stopped learning in 14 years", Graham told us.
Did you ever winch down to the sea or a boat?
"Yep many times in the UK and Belize. We had to re-qualify as winch operator and winchman on what was called wets (sea), sits (situations, normally in the mountains or rugged terrain) and decks (boats). All the skills were perishable so our annual flight check to maintain flight status was a s........g nightmare (typically took a day in the air and a day on the ground).
To think about being 22 years old, with a 21 year old pilot, in charge of a £15 million helicopter; it scares me now, it didn't then 😂"
There was a good turnout for Graham's talk, which everyone very much enjoyed. I could literally hear it again it was so jam-packed with information. It was lovely to see lots of members of the club together in person, and beer was available (alongside alternative beverages of course).
Congratulations to Katie Willoughby - first solo 14th May 2022, and only 18 years old. Katie is currently doing her A levels and intends to join the RAF as soon as she can.
Well done Katie - onwards and upwards. 😀
and to Nathan Bialek who passed his GST on 15th May, 2022
Cheshire Flyers ‘NAV Competition’ – 2022
Reminding you about Cheshire Flyers ‘New Airfields Visited’ (NAV) Challenge; note the revision from in the last 5 years down to 'in the last 3 years' and the shortening of the competition length to 9 months (up to 1 December 2022).
The idea is to visit as many ‘New’ (to you) Airfields during the 9 months period as you can; a new airfield is defined as one that you haven’t visited in the last 3 years before the competition started.
The winner is the pilot who bags the highest number of ‘new’ airfields flown to or from, between 1st March 2022 and 1st December 2022.
Rules are as follows:
The challenge commences 1st March 2022 and closes 1st December, 2022.
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 3 years preceding the start date of the competition to count - ie. not during the period from 1/3/19 to 28/2/22.
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…
Please log your entries as you go. Use this link and enter the details of your new airfield visited. http://www.cheshireflyers.com/nav
As at 11 May- here is how the count of 'new' airfields visited is shaping up....
11 pilots have visited 58 new airfields between them. Remember it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts. It would be good to see more pilots submitting entries. Allegedly there are over 100 members of Cheshire Flyers!
But it's still early days... only May; more summer, FAFs etc. coming up; and there are six more months ahead of us until the competition ends, so plenty of opportunities to fly to some new (to you) fields. Enter your 'new' airfields even if you don't think you will actually win the competition; it's interesting to everyone if club members discover new airfields they can recommend. Ian mentioned putting together a Cheshire Flyers database of airfields visited, with pilot's remarks. It would be helpful to know where there are good airfields to fly to.
Here's an example: the two Ms (Martin and Milton) with tail dragger Eurofoxes, looking like they are in someone's garden; it's a beautiful strip with lake and garden ornaments - Wharf Farm. Not yet entered on the NAV list by the way you two!
An updated Safety Sense leaflet has been launched by CAA
Useful considerations for visiting 'new' airfields. 😁
Lots of great flying experience has gone on this month - a rite of passage for some Popham virgins and flexy flying into small strips. Good to see club members sharing their flying experiences and adventures so please carry on doing that but consider contributing to the club e-zine too. This will die if it doesn't have interesting material and it is the only medium for 'remembering' club history with any effectiveness.
Any of you readers that are not subscribed to the Cheshire Flyers club WhatsApp groups could be missing out on potential fly-outs (if they're posted) and some entertaining videos. There is increasingly too much material for me to lift into the e-zine - lots of good info on there (and some less so!). In future there will be no duplication of photographs or videos etc. (it takes too long to trawl WhatsApp for the nuggets and then to transfer each photo/link etc. to my desktop for the e-zine content) so please send me directly (not on the groups) some photos and snippets of news/adventures etc. This can still be WhatsApp but send to me rather than the CF group. Better still email. 😀
Popping to Popham
"Well that went South quickly", Garry Roberts tells of his trip to Popham in the sunshine
“Yes, that’s right I’ll see you at Longford airfield nice and early so we can set off; no, I will be there, 7am right?” I chunnered on to Nathan over the phone on the Friday night straight after the Top Gun talking.
As I woke at 6:30am a full hour’s drive away from Sleap where I store my plane. I realised the aspirational 7am start I had garbled out the night before was going to be far from the truth, although in fairness I was in the car and driving like a loony by 6:45am; the game wasn’t completely lost yet.
I was in the air, still not completely awake but some 3 thousand feet up and reading the clock: it was 8am. Nathan and Steve (the second in command), not completely losing faith, were meeting me en-route or “Up in the air” as it came across on the radio.
For all of those who have never been up in the air at the crack of dawn, it is a completely different experience. The air is still (if you are lucky) and, as the sun shines through, you can truly experience something magical that I would say nothing else on this earth can provide. You feel at one with the air and, with the help of the noise cancelling Bose headset, enjoy a privileged view of the planet; all of your worries dissipate; nothing else exists but that moment in time.
So that was it; I flew, enjoying the view, for around an hour and a bit with a head wind, at a reduced speed for quite some time, to allow Nathan and Steve to catch up in their super slick EV97. We picked up a hitch-hiking C42 around Cheltenham (Delta Victor as he will be known) and enjoyed a good threesome for a fair time, me and Delta Victor with an extremely pretty EV97 squeezed in between us. I’ll never forget that moment. 😊
Getting back on track, we had all decided to join in the proper way and, after talking to Popham Radio, a standard overhead 2000ft AAL descending to the 800ft circuit height, joining in downwind for 03 was on the books. I took the lead, Nathan and Steve followed (Delta Victor we had left some time back). A scene directly from the ‘Dam Busters’ then ensued as we joined into what must have been 5 or 8 in the circuit pattern. There must have been 30% of arrivals performing go-arounds that day. Literally there were microlights all over the place; the Radio operators did a cracking job. I had left a decent gap between myself and another random C42 ahead of me, when a Skyranger decided to appear from the side and cut in. This made my already difficult job of avoiding wake turbulence nigh on impossible, so for once in my life I decided to do the right thing, and give up flying. No; ‘course I didn’t. I decided to extend my Downwind leg and fly the “Alternative” approach which worked a treat.
Anyone that hasn’t landed in on 03 at Popham before should take heed of the following advice: there is a big tree that some Erbert has decided to plant at the end of the runway. Your choices are a) fly over the top and descend (side slip a bit normally) quickly in, or b) approach to the left of the tree and hang a bit of a right to get yourself back on centre-line. I adopted a hybrid model of indecisiveness, followed by trimming the top of it and somehow landing perfectly. Nathan and Steve opted for Plan B again swinging it in and landing it perfectly, a little further down the runway; they had evidently seen me and thought that was the better option.
Popham trade show was ace, lovely sunshine, great company (we met up with Mike and Rosie and made it a full on 'fivesome') and ice cream in abundance. We got to talk plane nonsense nearly continually and ponder over which £120k model of Gyrocopter we were all going to buy next week (think of those conversations you had as a kid at school about getting a van and going around the world and you’d be in the right ballpark). I read somewhere that there weren’t all that many trade stalls this year due to some other going on in Europe but to me it was a delightful time with plenty to do. We spent the day there until about 5pm, so we could miss the thermals and get back through the smooth evening air. I filled up at Popham with UL91 at £2.10 a litre as my plane seems to drink more than my old Geography teacher, and prepped ourselves for the nice flight back. I tuned the radio into 129.835 (the Microlight air-to-air frequency).
I should have guessed when I came out of my seat on the take-off that it wasn’t going to be one of those hands-off glorious moments but more of a “What did Braders say I should do when I get myself into this mess again?” I knew I had at least 1 ½ hours of this thrashing to take so I steadied myself into my seat and relaxed. Well, that’s what I wanted to do but the reality was I knew I had to get up higher to get out of the developed thermals while being reminded of my own mortality just about 10 times a minute, so I did what any human on this planet would do and breathed quickly while panicking.
The start of it going 'pear-shaped' Closing in 😯
This note goes out to Mike who is, in my eyes, such a good, calming, influence in the air. All of the time we were going through the challenges, Mike always gave a nice straight, easy, answer to all of our problems – no histrionics. His advice was all correct and the use of the radio to shout out to London Information for updates along the way helped not only myself but also Nathan and Steve. My wife Nickie had phoned me up to warn of some bad weather around Stoke way. Fortunately, during being bounced around, Mike had the presence of mind to consider all the routes on the way back and evidently had a better steady finger for getting the frequencies for places like Brize and then Shawbury, through which we diverted in order to avoid some pretty heavy rain south of Sleap.
So that’s it; have I learnt any valuable lessons from my experience of glorious sunshine and near-death weather? No, not really; the weather can turn while you’re up there, I always knew that. What I have confirmed is ‘up high’ isn’t always possible or the best thing, diverting isn’t for the weak and feeble, and your plane can outperform your mind. Give it a chance and it will take you up there and bring you back down perfectly safely. Oh, and if you can’t do any of those, take a Mike with you.
BMAA Wings Scheme - version 2.0
Cath Spence has been part of a BMAA team to update and add to the pilot skill improvement scheme instigated by the BMAA to enhance member pilots' flying abilities. There is a comprehensive booklet https://www.bmaa.org/files/2.0_Wings_Scheme_Booklet_-_MAY_2022.pdf explaining the tasks and awards, with a variety of skills to be honed and practised to get you to the various levels of achievement. Several Cheshire Flyers have already won some Wings by completing the required courses and goals.
Watch the intro' video if you're new to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjeA0dXPmXI
If you follow Facebook there are likely to be posts on the dedicated BMAA Wings page like the one below. Otherwise I am sure that the BMAA email newsletter, and MF will run updates and reminders. You can also find all the links on the dedicated BMAA webpage: https://www.bmaa.org/information-library/wings
More RBR Remembered
(reproduced from CFNL June 2002)
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
A first-timers account of the RBR from Justin and Sam Bowen
It all started at the last club meeting when Keith [Ingham] asked for any volunteers as a flying partner in the Round Britain Rally (RBR). I offered at the end, but he politely refused due to my size (I’m sure if I was a petite blonde he would have accepted).
Anyway, I still wanted to do the RBR so I recruited my wife Sam to be my flying partner, she apprehensively agreed. As the event drew closer, Sam started to get more nervous about the whole thing and I think she wished she hadn’t agreed to it.
Wednesday arrived and we attended the brief to find a lot of people planning their route and being very secretive about their intentions. That night at home I got the latest weather forecast and decided that the west coast of Scotland looked the best place to be for weather on the Thursday, so it was decided to head for Carlisle picking up the ground markers at the M6/M61 junction, Tarn Farm and Bleaze Farm before landing at Carlisle for lunch and fuel.
Thursday morning arrived and as we pulled up at Ashcroft, the cloud base looked very, very, low. But we still got the microlight and ourselves ready. By 8.30am things hadn’t improved so I rang Chris Copple at Barton who indicated that the cloud base there was about 800-1000ft and looked as if it might be breaking up. So, the decision was made to make our way to Barton. After take-off we touched cloud base at about 300ft, remembering John’s tuition on low level flying we zigzagged our way up the low-level corridor and by the time we got to Barton I’d managed to gain some height to about 700ft. We called Barton and asked for a straight in approached on 09, as I didn’t see any point in doing a standard overhead join at 700ft.
Once on the ground we took our position (last, due to late entry), topped up with fuel and were ready for the off. It’s all very exciting lining up waiting for your ten second count down from the marshal but by the time we got ours it was some 15 minutes later. Anyway, we were off down the runway with Sam waving franticly at some supporters that had come to see us off.
With the first ground marker ahead, it reminded me of the wacky racers with about 4 or 5 microlights all swarming around the M6/M61 junction. I felt sorry for the motorist below us. With that one in the bag, we now set course for Tarn Farm, we were soon there and right on track. A bit of a confidence booster for my navigation and Sam was quite enjoying it now looking out for them and taking the necessary photos. Once we had the next ground marker (Bleaze Farm) in the bag we headed for Carlisle. Arriving at approx. 12:30 at Carlisle we saw Keith and Brian refuelling and getting ready to set off on their next leg. We refuelled and had lunch before setting of for our timed gate at Gretna Green services. While having lunch we met a couple of guys in a KISS who were having radio trouble so we said that we’d radio in for them at the timed gate as they circled overhead before we set our course for Bute.
On route to Bute the scenery was great as we made our way across the Scottish Lowlands all the way until the island of Bute where there is a small grass deserted strip. The owner must have seen us fly over and came to greet us, indicating that we were the first people from the RBR that he’d seen land here. As we were talking the KISS came in making the owner even happier. As the KISS was low on fuel and couldn’t make it to Oban he took them to the petrol station some 8-10 miles away. While he was away a Blade 912S came in making it a hat trick for him. Eventually we said our good-byes and took off heading for Oban.
Half way on route fuel and time looked ok so we re-directed for Glenforsa on the Island of Mull. The scenery was now becoming breath-taking but in the back of your mind you knew that landing places were becoming much fewer and far between. But the trusty Pegasus took us there over the Firth of Lorn and around Mull to a gorgeous grass strip that overlooked the Sound of Mull. We soaked in the scenery for a while before taking off for Oban. The winds and thermal activity had died down now so flying was hands free near enough. But my fuel was getting low, with the gauge reading near zero, I reckoned we had enough for ½ - ¾ hours flying left so we decided to set a direct course for Oban across Loch Linnhe and Lismore Island. Landing at Oban was a bit exciting as it’s near some high ground but we got down safely and with only 5 litres of fuel remaining.
We parked up the microlight for the night along with the KISS, Blade 912S and another Pegasus and all headed for the hotel near the airfield for a great night of food, drink and banter in the hotel bar.
The next morning we were up and ready for the 8.00am start. The weather looked another glorious day but strong winds were forecast later on. We decided to try flying up to Broadford on the Isle of Skye before returning for fuel at Oban for the flight back to Carlisle for our overnight stop. Taking of from Oban up Loch Linnhe, there was a lot more cloud (2500ft) and it was much more turbulent. We carried on up Loch Linnhe to try and fly down a valley to find our way through the near 3000ft peaks all around us. But upon arriving at the valley mouth to see the steepness of the mountains and the tops in the clouds we decided it was not such a good idea to proceed so we did an about turn and made our way back to Oban. Things were starting to become livelier in the air as the stronger winds were obviously coming sooner than forecasted. Doing a powered approach (75mph) we landed safely at Oban.
Plan B was now in action, which was to follow the coast around to Prestwick for fuel and then follow the coast around to Carlisle. The 30 knot winds at 2000ft from the East- Southeast were now upon us as we left Oban as we were facing SE but tracking South. The turbulence caused by the rotor from the mountains was horrendous as we made our way around the coastline, Sam was becoming more and more quiet in the back as we were getting thrown about everywhere, I was getting worried about the structural integrity of the actual microlight as I could see the wing tips bouncing up and down. The last straw was when we must have been about a third of the way round just entering Loch Fyne, when we must have hit an enormous down draft/ pocket and we both came out of our seats for what seemed like an eternity, even my feet left the foot controls. Enough was enough, we decided to find a field and get out of this. We entered the RBR for enjoyment and this was now becoming scary. Anyway, finding a field away from the leeward slopes of the mountains was near impossible and with a couple of failed attempts and Sam now convinced we were never going to get down I decided to head back up the coast to a flattish valley that was more or less in line with the direction of the wind (less rotor). This didn’t take long with a 30-knot tail wind. We decided on a field with longish grass (best option) near a farmhouse that was flat and big enough for a powered approach. Coming around we were still getting thrown about and we missed the farmhouse chimney stack by about 20ft, with Sam saying I don’t think we’re going to make it and I was just about to put full power on and go around, when everything went smooth and it was a beauty of a touch down. With us now on terra firma, we parked the microlight and went knocking on the farmhouse door. They were very friendly and didn’t mind at all that we landed in their field; they even offered to move the cattle in the next field for us so we could take-off again later. But I think we’d had enough and knew the RBR was over for us both.
We found out later at the RBR presentation that the others had put down at Bute and didn’t get to Carlisle till late on Friday evening. They indicated that it was the worst conditions they’d ever flown in, and they’ve had years more experience than I have. But, all in all, while I was in the event I thoroughly enjoyed it and have gained a lot more experience and confidence in my microlight and what it can take. Plus it hasn’t put Sam off, as she wants to compete in next year’s RBR because if we had made it back to Ince on our current points we would have come 4th. (She’s very competitive, when not in life threatening positions).
I hope this has given you a great insight to my experience of the RBR and that it’s not all gung-ho, but you can take it at your own pace and experience and have fun and meet new people, but just don’t go to Scotland when high winds are forecast!!!
ARCLID OR BUST
Tim Philip’s account of his first attempt at the RBR.
Even before passing the GFT, I fancied the idea of the Round Britain Rally and the sense of adventure it presented. By March this year and with only 30 hours P1, it still seemed a good idea, and so with a newly acquired Radio Telephony license, I sent off an application form.
As the day of the rally got nearer the enormity of the challenge that is the Round Britain Rally started to sink in. I was starting to get nervous. Trips to Rufforth and Popham to gain experience of touring wider afield did a lot to give me confidence in my abilities but also served to instil a sense of caution as well. (I had to perform a forced landing on the way to Rufforth because I didn't switch tanks).
If the distances and the duration of the flying were not enough, my mounting anxiety was increased by the weather, which for the preceding weeks was distinctly unsettled. Surely the unsettled weather would stabilise soon? As the day approached it did seem to show slight signs of settling ... at least for a bit.
Wednesday (registration day) arrived and the morning forecast was fine with a warm front arriving from the East in the afternoon. I rigged the aircraft (maybe I should give it a name) and got away from Arclid by lunchtime before the warm front arrived. It was a good flight to Barton and I re-fuelled in plenty of time for the pre-rally briefing.
After the briefing we all prepared our flight plans for the following day. As I wasn't in the running for max points, I discounted the timed gate at Gretna Green (penalty 1000 points) and contented myself with a less ambitious tour, but what route should I take? I settled on a route which started on Thursday by crossing the Pennines via Crossland Moor to York then down the east side of the country with stops for points before the overnight stop at Leicester. On Friday, I intended to head south and take in as many stops as possible to end up at Old Sarum and then back up the west side to the finish on Saturday. That was the plan.
By now the warm front had arrived and the rain was steadily filling up the microlight (I must get a cover for travelling).
It rained all night and the weather forecast on Thursday morning was low cloud base, murk, murk and more murk, not much rain or wind just murk. If I'd had a flying lesson booked, it would have been cancelled! Leeds Bradford reported cloud base at 400ft but I was hoping that it would lift by 11:00 .... WRONG! The appointed hour arrived and I took off into the grey. I found Thelwall viaduct in the murk and photographed the compulsory ground marker at Stretton before heading back north to the motorway and an IFR flight along the M62 eastwards towards the high ground. This flight was a whole new experience in haze and heavy turbulence with viz. up to 3km in places, and some bright patches as the sun struggled to penetrate the murk. I battled on, keeping my eye out for the best emergency landing sites (I wonder if I really could have landed in that school playing field?) until the ground started to rise but the cloud base didn't. At 300' QFE, the ground to my right was higher than I was, and I was preparing to change lanes to overtake lorries. The view ahead was white down to the ground and I could no longer see the motorway. I executed a sharp 60-degree banked turn to right and headed back.
The return trip was much quicker and I almost missed the motorway turn off to Barton with both Barton Bridge and the airfield totally invisible. I joined the circuit and, even with the bar hard in, the kite wouldn't lose height. I was still at 200' QFE at the threshold, and had to go around. By 11:30 I was parked back at the West windsock for a bit of re-planning. The weather by now quite sunny although there was plenty of cloud at a variety of levels still about. All was not lost - after all, all I had to do was get to Leicester right. Surely I could manage that? So, the new flight plan was to h