Updated: Sep 20, 2021
Tucked up for the night at Glenforsa (Ian Macbeth)
In this issue :
Shaw's Report - our Chairman Ian's encouragement to try 'grown-up airports with full ATC'.
Coming up at Club Night - Talk of Barton City Airport; there was no Club meeting in August.
Achievements - Congratulations due.
The Not-so-Lonely Sky - Daniel Langton on his excellent Flex-cursion to the W. Isles.
Mulling Going Skye-wards – the Movie - Ian Macbeth treats us to his perspectives
Mulling it over - A Debrief - Ian Macbeth on the wisdom of 'check and check again'.
Martin and the Mountains - Martin Cawson on a flying 'mountain-bound' course.
The Chronicles of Nynja - the first chapter of Nick's adventure.
Faffed and Fogged - the last Club FAF of the year was not without its trials and tribulations.
LAITest on the LLR - Local Airspace Infringement Team alert on the need to squawk.
Arclid to Arclid - Ian Macbeth reminds us of our much missed Arclid Airfield.
Note the dates at the end of Cheshire Flyer; these are updated every issue. Alderney Fly-In for October announced.
Wow, CF E-Zine continues to go from strength to strength. Just when you thought it can’t get any better, it does!
There are some great articles to feast your eyes on which document a fantastic summer of flying and seal our enviable position as THE most active flying club in the UK.
Following a minor delay due to some initially challenging weather, FAF3 proceeded without too much drama and rewarded us with five days of superb flying criss-crossing the UK where we ended up at Exeter on the glorious south coast.
Despite Exeter being a proper airport for ‘grown-ups’ with ‘full ATC and everything’, it’s very easy to navigate and land at. Easier and safer than many busy GA airfields, as ATC tell you where and when to go, both in the air and on the ground. That said, it’s not without its failings in that our priority in the aircraft pecking order is one below amoeba. Despite seemingly little activity we were left holding to depart for over 40 minutes – a new holding world record I think?
I was about to give ATC my best Michael Cain ‘Battle of Britain’ impression:
“The engine's overheating and so am I. Either we stand down or blow up. Now which do you want?”
To which the reply would probably have been “G-ID, Stand down - low life…”
However, just in the nick of time they confirmed “G-ID, line up 08” and we were finally off to our next destination - Sandown.
All these delays meant that we missed out on what looked like a very nice Sandown pizza lunch due to having to be back at Barton in time for the 16:00 curfew – which we achieved with minutes to spare. See I can be on time for some things!
On the assumption you will read this before the Sunday evening cut-off – remember to get your results in for the Alphabet Airfield Challenge. We have been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had to the challenge and the ingenuity some of our members used to try to achieve maximum points. We’ve got a very special prize to give away but, more than that, it is very useful as a club to see where members are flying to and give others ideas for future airfields to visit.
Finally, this Monday we are joined by Nick Duriez, Airport Director at Manchester Barton. Nick is going to tell us a little about Barton’s history and its future, as well as deliver an idiot’s guide to landing there. If you’ve ever felt intimidated by landing at Barton, this is one evening not to miss.
Looking forward to seeing you all at our regular time slot of 7:45 in the virtual zoom bar on Monday.
Ian Shaw 😎
Club Night Next - September 20th
We are hoping to hear from Nick Duriez of City Airport, Barton. He is the airport Director, and I think also an AFISO, and will be talking to us about various aspects of Barton as per Ian's note above.
Well done to Craig Fairman who passed his GST on 27th August, 2021
and to Daniel Langton who went solo in 3-axis on 8th September, 2021
Many Congratulations all.
The Not-so-Lonely Sky: A Flexible Fly-out to the Scottish Isles
Daniel Langton describes his joys and terrors on the trip
When the suggestion was recently raised within Cheshire Flyers of a flexwing fly-out to the Scottish Isles, via the Lake District, I immediately started ransacking my bookshelf for appropriate advice and guidance. Water crossings and island hopping off the West of Scotland would be a new experience for me, and I was relieved to find that there was a literary precedent for such a challenge - a chapter entitled ‘Landfall on a Pinpoint’ in Francis Chichester’s autobiography The Lonely Sea and the Sky (1964). The experience of someone who had landed a Gypsy Moth at Norfolk Island in the middle of the Tasman Sea during his 1500 mile flight from New Zealand to Australia, and who had navigated there by taking bearings from the sun, could come in handy when attempting the four mile crossing from the mainland to Bute. I soon discovered that all I needed was a sextant, some floats for the plane, and a total disregard of my life in the face of impossible odds.
Chichester had found it to be a lonely sky, but I was delighted to be accompanied by three other planes in loose formation, including two GT-450 flexwings like my own, flown by Ian and Steve, and a Eurofox, piloted by Milton, who was permitted to come because, although his wings were too rigid, his plane was red like ours.
I confess to a certain degree of nervousness when it comes to flying over water. Prior to this excursion to the Scottish islands, I had made only one oceanic voyage, over the Great Sea of Morecambe Bay, and for that crossing I had ensured my altitude had given me a gliding range of 712 miles in the event of engine failure. Frankly, the very idea of a series of flights for which it would be good airmanship to wear a life jacket concerned me. But the fantastic prospect of such a fly-out won me over, and I remembered Chichester’s philosophical approach to confronting the unknown: "Bah!” I thought, feeling savage, “Don’t be weak! You’re just not used to it.”
And so it was that I found myself kicking my tyres in the early morning light at Hawksview airfield in Cheshire, watching as Ian and Steve flew in for our first rendezvous.
After comparing plotted routes, agreeing call-signs, and admiring our matching red flight suits, we set off on the bladder-breaking leg to Kirkbride, where we planned to meet Milton. This first stage was mostly spent failing to keep each other in sight and forgetting each other’s call signs as we made our way north cruising at 70 mph in thermic conditions and against a headwind. Upon arrival, we landed one after the other in quick succession, so much so that we had to hold on the runway for each other, and then taxied off for refuelling. This was in fact the first time I’d taken my plane to a fuel pump, rather than fill up with jerry cans, and I was delighted that the occasion was documented by a kind stranger who took a Polaroid photo of us that appeared to locate our trip firmly in the 1970s.
From Kirkbride we flew up and through the narrow corridor north of Prestwick to the coast, where the controller cheerfully reminded us that there would be gunnery activities up to 6000ft. As the sea came into view, I took a deep breath, scanned my instruments and listened carefully to the hum of the engine, made sure I could reach the life-jacket release, girded my loins (for the life jacket was chafing), and set my face westwards. I began the crossing nervously, scanning for boats to ditch beside for the moment when the engine realised it was over water. I could see Ian and Steve far below me, and as the minutes passed, no-one fell out of the sky. Slowly, I began to relax. It was as Chichester put it: All my miserable anxieties and worries dropped away, and I was thrilled through and through… Ahead stretched the ocean, sparkling under the eye of the sun: no sport could touch this, it was worth almost any price. I seemed to expand with vitality and power and zest.
By the time we had circled and landed at Bute, I was in full zest. There is something inherently exciting about conducting a circuit almost entirely over water and we were delighted to discover that Control ‘C’ was a postbox. This quiet, peaceful little island airfield officially heralded the beginning of our tour of the Western Scottish Isles, and we congratulated ourselves on having won the lottery of aviation life, in being able to conduct the tour in flexwings. We were experiencing the unmediated splendour of the rocky outcrops, beaches, and azure blues of the waters just as God had intended - from an open cockpit rather than a glass bubble - and we felt only pity for those who flew with a stick and rudder, rather than soared with the wing.
Having heard that Oban could not guarantee fuel that afternoon, we decided to head straight for the legendary Glenforsa, regarded by many as the most beautiful airfield in the British Isles. We followed a channel into Mull’s interior and wordlessly inched our way through a deep and majestic mountain valley on approach, before alighting on a neatly kept grass runway along the shore. Milton was waiting for us and told us that the wind direction had become favourable only shortly before. Although we camped under the sails of our planes, the log cabin hotel soon became a home away from home, with hot showers, cooked breakfasts featuring heavenly potato cakes, and freshly caught fish for dinner.
The next day we flew north to Plockton, playfully exploring every shoreline and inlet en route, keeping a sharp look out for whales, dolphins and seals, and admiring the way the clouds spilled over the cliffs on Skye. Later, we decided to hop over to Coll and Tiree. This ‘landfall on a point' would take us more than eight miles over water, and I watched the blue glide-range circle on SkyDemon very carefully as I made my calculations. As I turned away from land and out to sea, the nervous tension was just as Chichester had expressed it: I had a feeling of complete isolation and solitariness… I looped, and did a few stalls for the same reason that a dog barks at something which scares him. Milton flew on ahead and disappeared, while Steve and I flew at what felt to be an excruciatingly slow speed as the old world fell away behind us and a new world moved towards us. I could readily empathise with the Gypsy Moth pilot whose recollections of his approach to Norfolk Island had been: Where was the island? Had I, after all, miscalculated?.. Time seemed to go so slowly that I had to stare hard at the clock to convince myself that it had not stopped. Chichester, of course, had attached floats to his plane, and so in my mind he had considerably less to worry about than we, but I was prepared to recognise that his efforts, too, had required some courage. Upon reaching Coll, we marvelled at the different blues of the coastal waters, and the paradisiacal beaches. Milton informed us that he’d spoken to the controller at Tiree, who had warned him: “We have a wee scheduled plane flying to Glasgow soon going in your direction - ye don’t want to get in the way of that!” We circumnavigated the larger island of Tiree before Steve and I landed on the goose-poop-laden runway on Coll. And then it was a carefree return crossing and back to Glenforsa.
The plan for the final day had been to make our way south through the isles - I had been particularly interested to fly over Iona, with its fabled religious history - and we had meticulously planned for a variety of alternative routes depending on weather. Shortly after take-off, however, we discovered that the low clouds forecast were worse than feared and a thick, white carpet of cloud had indeed cut off our route south. All that was left to us was a hazy pathway east, and so we set off, glancing behind us to ensure a safe passage back if necessary, and looking for chances to head south. It was a nervous leg over vast mountain ranges in which I searched futilely for a golf course to emergency-land in. At one point I drifted too close to Milton’s Eurofox and experienced prop wash for the first time, although I did not realise it then. I found myself turning my head right and being puzzled to see the ground directly in front of me. Even as I contemplated my end, I thought of the episode when the Gypsy Moth had survived rough skies:
[W]ith a whizz the seaplane was suddenly hurled downwards at the lagoon. Cameras, sextant, protractors, pencils, charts, everything flurried around my head like a whirl of leaves. Only the safety belt held me in the seat as I clutched frantically at the control stick and instrument board.
Milton's views - flexwing in sight
The turbulence was over as quickly as it had begun, and after collecting my wits and my sextant, we flew on, breaking radio silence only to comment on whether we thought the scotch mist and clouds were thinning or not. We did not find a route south until after we’d passed Glasgow airspace, when we could make our way over the thermal-strewn hills down to Strathaven, where we were to meet up with Ian. There we refuelled and chatted with Colin Mackinnon, whose house beside the runway had featured on Grand Designs. There was also a robot lawnmower patiently making its way around the taxiway and hunting for carelessly discarded flexwing helmets and flight-suits to chew on.
Next, Milton, Steve and I headed for Troutbeck airfield near Keswick in the Lake District. This is a small rounded hill in a basin surrounded by hills with sheep grazing on the runway. Upon arrival, we had to buzz the short strip three times to de-flock it and needed to brake hard at the brow of the hill before we were safely down, but I’ve never enjoyed a landing more. As we parked up, the sheep appeared completely unperturbed and even content to have had dinner and a show. And then it was the final leg back to Cheshire, which we had to rush a little to avoid nightfall, and which was characterised by that quiet feeling of sadness that the day’s flying was coming to an end. It had been an excellent expedition - and yet almost immediately, we found ourselves thinking about the next fly-out. Perhaps this strange sense of restlessness is what Chichester had been thinking about when he wrote: I had not then discovered that the joy of living comes from action, from making the attempt, from the effort, not from success. In any case, I called my wife upon arrival to let her know that our odyssey over hostile mountains, mysterious islands, mist-shrouded lakes and tempestuous seas had been safely completed, and she could stop worrying. “Good,” she said. "Could you pick up some milk on the way home?"
Mulling Going Skye-wards – the Movie
Ian Macbeth treats us to his perspectives in prose with moving illustrations
Ah, the Western Isles. They are as spectacular a place as you will find anywhere in the world; it’s just that the whisky is better. They’re right on our doorstep, and only one thing separates us flyers from them: the weather.
There are three rules that apply when flying to the Western Isles.
The weather must be perfect
The flight must be in a flexwing
The weather must be perfect.
All three rules are quite similar, especially 1 and 3, simply because it’s not worth making the trip unless you get the best of all flying treats when you arrive.
On 22nd July I threw a comment into the group chat about organising a flex-cursion sometime this year, the guiding principles being rules 1 and 3 because of all the many factors that stand in the way of an exceptional flyout, the weather is the only one that you have no control over. All the others can be tricky - but, unlike the weather, they can usually be influenced by you.
So, when a late-summer high-pressure system decided to make a 5-day stop-over in the UK starting on Wednesday 25th August, the stage was set. Pass-outs were secured, business meetings were cancelled (“family reasons”, you understand), bags were packed and the word went out. I was delighted that Steve and then Daniel decided to jump in, followed last-minute by Milton who joined us abeam Lancaster. I think at least one of our party joined in because he thought it was Ian Shaw who had proposed the fly-out, and only found out too late. Apologies for the identity theft, Ian, but you may have swung that decision!
Cutting right to the end: when I got back home I was floating and grinning. This was the most exhilarating, spectacular, three days of flying I have experienced (in 530 hours as P1). Our language does not have the superlatives. We are lucky to live around Cheshire getting to fly over such gorgeous local countryside. But the Western Isles and the Highlands are something else.
Recipe: take a still-young 1024 hPa weather system, combine with still air, cloudless skies, and amazing visibility. Then add the serenity, imposing majesty, remoteness and other-worldliness of the west coast of Scotland. Mix well by soaring through it all in a flexwing microlight and, before you know it, you’re lifted out of this world and adrift on another planet. What an outrageous privilege.
Daniel has written a fantastic account of our capers, so I refer you to that. Since words fail me, perhaps some videos can help.
Our escapade starts with a rendezvous at Hawksview. From there, a flight over the Lakes to Kirkbride for a top-up and an empty. Arriving at Kirkbride, we were all a little dizzy at what we’d just flown through, a stunning warm-up:
We left Kirkbride for Glenforsa, dropping in to the quaint and welcoming airstrip at Bute. A simple honesty box is the Control Centre “C”, but there are no landing fees for Bute this year as their finances are in surplus! How nice is that?
This video takes us from there to Mull, with awesome late-afternoon scenery over the coast and still waters. Even more awesome past the Dùn da Ghaoithe peak and down the glen to Glenforsa Airfield.
The next day had a hiccup of a start (see debrief). We planned to trot up to Plockton, 1 hour up the coast. I hoped to go the extra mile or two further north to Red Point, but sadly time was against me.
Red Point is special. A vast swathe of red-sand beach with a backdrop of high sand-dunes. One of the UK’s best kept secrets. Every year in my tweens and teens we would take an 8-hour drive from Helensburgh to spend two weeks at Red Point. My Grandad had one of two small caravans nestling in those dunes. Amazing times were spent there. I know every midge personally. And I wanted to go and say hi to them.
Those weeks in the 70’s had a soundtrack, all played through a tinny cassette player; mostly very annoying stuff, like my sister’s “Joseph and the Amazing…(etc)” or Mum’s “Seekers” tapes. They didn’t want to hear Deep Purple or 10CC or my charts recordings (I’ll give them that one). But one tune sticks, and that was from Dad’s “World of your Hundred Best Tunes” tape. It was the Hebrides Overture - “Fingal’s Cave” - by Mendelssohn, which we listened to looking out to the Isle of Skye through the caravan window (“far away” [Father Ted ref]).
Back to the present. From Plockton I had to split away from the other chaps and make my way back to Glasgow via Glenforsa. “Fingal’s Cave” (which is on Staffa, just off the coast of Mull) had to be the soundtrack for this one. Nothing like a bit of nostalgia.
(By the way, don’t ever go to Red Point. And don’t tell anyone about it. It’s a secret).
Mulling it over - A Debrief
Ian Macbeth advises us to be always aware that we can get it wrong still
The awesome Mull trip is over, and there were two or three things that brought me back down to earth with a bump, figuratively speaking. Tips worth sharing with fellow flyers. And an excuse for some more truly awful headline puns.
Getting Tanked Up
On phoning for PPR at Oban, we learned that they had no fuel (a situation that had fixed itself by the time Milton flew in there). We decided to make a bee-line for Glenforsa in the hope that we could top up there. Brendan (the hotel owner) was exceptionally accommodating, including lending his car (“if you bend it you’re buying it”) and jerry cans to fetch local E5 from down the road*. There are many reasons why Glenforsa is the best airfield in the country. This is one of them.
Another is the size of Allison and Brendan’s nips. (People, please, I’m referring to the whisky). To put you in the picture, while we were eating dinner, Allison came over and asked “is one of you Ian Macbeth?”. (“Affirm”). She produced two fat fingers of Lagavulin, and it was a big glass:
My would-be ballast for this trip, who couldn’t make it, was Mark Turner - a semi-relapsed Cheshire Flyer. The thoughtful soul had phoned through to the hotel asking them to hand-deliver to me a late birthday present of a double Islay malt. A generous measure, and I slept well under the stars that night.
* While we were there Brendan took a call from the local garage, asking if our aircraft could use E10. Clearly the aircraft refuelling takings are a significant factor in the garage’s business planning!
Taking the Hiss
An hour of Thursday’s flying was stolen from us (and generously given over by the other guys) because my pre-flight checks revealed a loss of 1L of coolant. This was concerning. I knew I had a slightly leaky radiator cap, but this was a lot of water.
A quick call to Andrew Beveridge (who lovingly maintains my engine) was reassuring. Not a gasket problem (the oil was clean). The water was escaping elsewhere. He suggested running the engine up to hot and seeing if we could detect the escape. The sharp-eared Mr Speake detected steam escaping from the radiator cap.
Andrew suggested continuing the fly-out, but running as cool as possible (no radiator jackets).
This worked. As we know, water evaporates at 100°C at sea level. At high pressure, it boils at a higher temperature. And even higher still with 50:50 coolant mix. So normally the pressurised cap ensures everything stays pressurised and liquid. I had a lower ratio mix and low pressure because the radiator cap was leaking. So my coolant was boiling off and escaping. Lowering the temperature to around 100°C ensured my coolant stayed liquid, and on the return journey I lost less than half a cupful.
Handy postscript: Milton relayed a top tip from a mate of his: Don’t spend £80 on the official Rotax rad cap. It’s “identical” to the Triumph 600cc sprint series 1.2BAR cap, part number T2108005 costing £10. 😉
Right Up Your mBars
On the way home I met up with pals in Glasgow, and took one for a jolly round Lanark and back, a local flight from Strathaven. (He has since started flying lessons!).
Confession time: I only went and did it again: I busted airspace. I drifted 200ft up into the Scottish TMA at 4500ft near Strathaven and received the electronic tap on the shoulder from the CAA about a week later.
I knew I had done it because SkyDemon alerted me. (And Glasgow knew I had done it because my Trig transponder told them!). So, what went wrong?
The previous day I set QFE on landing at Strathaven (high, at 850ft AMSL). Overnight the pressure rose by 2hPa, or 50ft-ish drop in height. During my pre-flight checks the next day, a glance at the altimeter appeared to show QNH-plus-a-bit. I “fixed” it by dialling back 100ft to 850ft. Unfortunately, I had in fact just set it to -150ft, meaning that during the flight I was indicating 1000ft too low. And up into the TMA I went.
Lessons learnt: (1) Always cross-check with moving map when flying. (2) Check altimeter reads correct local QNH pressure as well as setting the big pointy hand. (3) Don’t just go through a familiar ritual check – you’ll only see what you expect to see. Instead break the loop with unusual location-specific checks, like deliberately making mention of the height of the airfield to your passenger to enforce a double-take.
Thankfully no commercial traffic was affected on the day, all is forgiven and I’m no longer on the naughty step.
Martin Cawson describes his mountain flying course out of RAF Valley
Having recently purchased a new EuroFox tail dragger I was given the opportunity to experience some of its capabilities in the mountains of North Wales. A group of EuroFox owners were invited to RAF Valley on Anglesey to join Wing Commander Chris Pote (who gave a talk to CFs on his expedition to New Zealand in his EuroFox).
I was keen to join the weekend event since I felt that I had had a ‘near death experience’ in my earlier years of flying near Conway on the way to Caernarfon. The extreme turbulence I encountered had been due to rotor coming off the mountains with a 25 knot south easterly wind. I was also keen to bag a “V” for the alphabet challenge and to experience flying into Valley.
The weekend started with a detailed briefing on mountain flying which ran through the theory of how air flows through mountains and how that changes as the wind strength increases. We then applied this theory using a three-dimensional model of the mountains to predict what the wind would be doing and to help formulate our low-level route through the mountains – understanding where there may be updrafts and downdrafts etc. We then covered the basics of mountain flying which incorporated items such as aircraft performance in relation to the environment, issues with visualization and the tricks that mountains can play on perception. Finally we ran through the basics of aircraft positioning in valleys and how to cross mountain ridges.
After which we all took off for a couple of sorties into the mountains and into a short hillside strip for afternoon tea.
First sortie route (note wind, METARs and NOTAMS not from day of flying).
Heading for the pass between the Glyders and Tryfan.
The Google Earth view of the SkyDemon track – incredible how detailed the view is.
Low level flying up a valley with no escape route above but wide enough for a 180 turn.
Flying up a dead-end valley and executing a 180 turn – escape route would have been to climb on the left in the updraft or carry straight on and climb over the ridge.
Short strip on the side of a hill on the Llyn Peninsula. Landing uphill with a tail wind with take-off downhill. Go-around challenging once committed due to a hill ahead.
Stopping for afternoon tea at the short strip.
All safely back to Valley for a de-brief, BBQ on the beach and overnight accommodation in the Officers Mess. No worries regarding hanger rash !!!!!
For me a few key takeaways from the weekend were: