Saturday, 19 June 2010

Castle Kennedy

The day after the Air Cadets' visit to Bedlands Gate, I flew from there on to Castle Kennedy, located close to Stranraer in the Mull of Galloway. Lord Stair, on whose land Castle Kennedy is situated is an aviation aficionado and airfield is a delight to fly into. Bedlands Gate is on land owned by Lord Lonsdale, so I had the somewhat unusual pleasure of flying from one Lord's estate to another!

The weather was brilliant and I was joined in the flyin by friends in various aircraft from Carlisle airport and a flotilla of girocopters from Kirkbride. Aircraft from Ireland, from as far south as Manchester and from all over Scotland made for a thoroughly enjoyable day's flying.

Castle Kennedy is one of the few relatively local airfields that I had never flown into before. I shall certainly be visiting again soon.

Post updated and published 02-Oct-2010

Friday, 18 June 2010

Air cadets

One of my spare time activities is instructing the Penrith Squadron Air Cadets in electronics and aviation related subjects. As might be expected there is quite a lot of interest in G-JONL amongst the cadets and so it was only natural that I should let them have a look around.

Rather than have the entire squadron travelling up to Kirkbride, it was agreed that I would fly into Bedlands Gate, which is just a few miles south of Penrith. Fortunately it was a nice evening and all the youngsters were able to have a good look around, sit inside it and generally find out more about how a small aircraft is built.

JONL stayed at Bedlands Gate overnight, as it is only a couple of miles away from my home. A friend gave me a lift back home that evening and the following morning I hiked back to the airfield and flew directly to Castle Kennedy... on which trip, more anon.

Photo credit: Jim Hardman

Post updated and published 01-Oct-2010

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A visit to Bedlands Gate

Even though I am unlikely to get hangarage space at Bedlands Gate, it is the nearest airstrip to home and as such it ought to be flown into.

The strip isn't especially difficult but it does require some care, as the approaches are not entirely clear and the runways are quite short and bounded by dry stone walls. I decided that I ought to visit by car first and walk the runways to better understand what I would be encountering on the fly-in.

Bedlands Gate has three runways, oriented 13/31, 15/33 and 17/35. 15/33 is the longest at about 400m, plus an 80m extension over rather rough ground at the north west end. The approach to 33 is a little tricky, as there are buildings and a road crossing close to the threshold. The approach to 15 is similarly awkward, with falling ground to the threshold. So landing at Bedlands Gate needs a bit of thinking about.

Firstly, I walked each runway in turn, noting the approach characteristics and runway surfaces as I went. Final approach to 33 requires a bit of a dive for the ground after clearing the obstacles on short final and this means that it's quite difficult to use the first 50m or so or runway. At about 150m there is a definite hump, which has the ability to launch one skyward again if still travelling at flying speed. Other than that there is nothing much to worry about!

My survey completed, I drove up to Kirkbride (45 minutes), fuelled JONL and took off for the short (20 minutes!) trip back to Bedlands Gate. With runway 33 in use, I decided to give the buildings on short final a wide vertical berth and also kept a little fast, with the realisation that the first approach may result in a go-around. In the event, I touched down just before the aforementioned hump, which promptly sent me a few feet skywards again but by now my speed had decayed enough to make a good landing ahead, stopping well before the extension section.

The return trip, 45 minutes later was uneventful save to say that it was interesting doing a performance take off on grass and noting that I was airborne less than half way along the runway (yep, that hump again!), confirming that the Sportcruiser is, indeed, a pretty good short stripping aircraft.

It was good to get my local strip in the log!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Which airfield?

Cumbria is a lumpy place, containing, as it does, the vast majority of England's highest mountains and large areas of rolling country, the result of extensive glaciation. As a consequence there are relatively few places where it is possible to build an airstrip, even one of the modest dimensions required by a Sportcruiser.

During the build and test flying stage, it made sense to be at an airfield with a decent length runway and that meant either Carlisle or Kirkbride, both 37 miles or so away from my home. Carlisle doesn't really cater for kit builders and hangarage is scarce and expensive, so I have been based at Kirkbride since last October.

There are, however nearer strips with an entirely adequate 400m or so of grass.

Bedlands Gate is a mere 2 miles away from home and offers three runways of between 250m and 450m. The photograph shows the main runway, 33/13. Bedlands Gate is a high elevation strip at 1000ft AMSL, with lovely views over the Eden Valley and beyond. Unfortunately it has very limited hangarage space and there is no way, for now at least, of getting G-JONL under cover there. Whilst that may be acceptable during the summer, the winter in such an exposed location would be altogether unacceptable. Sadly it seems unlikely that space will become available any time soon.

Glassonby is a little further away, the other side of Penrith, but it is still a lot closer than Kirkbride. 450m and 350m runways are very adequate and it is a somewhat more sheltered spot. But once again there is no hangarage space, although the prospect of availability some time in the next few months does seem better. I'm on the waiting list.

So it looks like I will be staying at Kirkbride and putting up with a 90 minute/70+ mile round trip each time I want to go flying. Disappointing, but manageable.

Friday, 11 June 2010

LAA Project News

A few weeks ago I was pleased to be asked to provide an article for the LAA Project News section of the Association's monthly magazine, LIGHT AVIATION. I penned a few words and sent off a few photographs, never expecting that much if any would be published.

Imagine my surprise and delight at seeing the complete article published in the June magazine!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Quo vadis?

G-JONL is completed and flying. Of course work is never done on any aeroplane and JONL will surely be no exception but the fact remains that this was intended to be a build Blog and, in essence, all the building is done.

So I need to work out what to do with this, my first ever proper Blog. I could stop now, on the basis that its job is done, or I could continue with the Blog and discuss my experiences, the happy times, and the vicissitudes, daring aerial exploits and hangar work on an ongoing basis.

My inclination is to keep the Blog going but I expect that it will be rather less frequently updated, if for no other reason than that there will be less to say. I know I have quite a lot of followers, most of whom are silent for most of the time, but I would be interested to know what you think.

Spreading my wings

I've been somewhat remiss in that I haven't updated this Blog much since I started flying G-JONL. Perhaps that is understandable - this was always intended to be a build Blog and now the building stage is completed there is much less to say on that score.

Anyway, I've certainly not been idle. So far I have just under twelve hours of solo flying under my belt in JONL and I've been gradually spreading my wings to further afield places in the process. The aircraft has now done a total of 17 trouble-free hours of flying and it won't be very long before the initial 25 hour engine service is due.

Last week I went to visit my old flying pal Mike, who has recently moved down to Shropshire. His nearest airfield is Sleap, which is near to Shrewsbury and it was about a 90 minute flight each way - the longest so far. It was a lovely day, so I elected to route directly over the Lake District at 4500ft, intending to then transit through Liverpool's controlled airspace via the Liverpool Airport overhead, then directly on to Sleap.

In the end, I was given the more usual (but not quite so convenient) routing via the LPL NDB, which involved heading a few miles further east. It's slightly strange that Liverpool ATC prefers that routing, for it take you a few miles to the east of the airfield, at quite low level, right through the approach/climb out path. Anyway, that's what I got, so that's what I flew.

At the airport I met Mike, who took the pictures you see here (thanks Mike!). After some lunch went for a short bimble around the locality, out to Oswestry and other points west before returning to Sleap. During lunch, what appeared to be another Sportcruiser, EI-MIR landed and parked next to JONL. Curious, we wandered over to discover that it was not in fact a Sportcruiser but a Roko Aero NG4 - also a Czech aircraft and clearly with a similar pedigree. Later I met her owner and we had a good chat about the two aircraft. The Roko certainly looks like a very nice aircraft.

Eventually it was time to return to Kirkbride and this time I was unable to get any transit at all through Liverpool's airspace due to traffic loading and had to route via Wallasey Head. I think that is the first time I have ever been refused a transit through Liverpool's controlled airspace. Wallasey is pleasant enough though and it gave me an excuse to route up the coast, which is always enjoyable.

So by degrees I am extending my range and before long it will be time to head off to some Scottish islands and perhaps even down south. Not now though - the weather is appalling... winter has temporarily reasserted itself.