Thursday, 18 November 2010

Blackpool

A friend and I had a meeting to go to in Blackpool so although it's probably no quicker to fly, by the time the 'plane's been taken out of the hangar, fuelled and pre-flighted, we nonetheless decided that it would be fun to do so.

I've not been into Blackpool since my training days, although I've flown past it on numerous occasions. It had gained a bit of a reputation for being rather unfriendly and expensive for GA and, having no reason to go there other than to get it in the logbook, there seemed little point in doing so.

Now equipped with a reason to go there I set about finding out whether the rumours were still true. Well they're not! Blackpool is once again a GA friendly airport, with a separate apron and a very helpful flight briefing office dedicated to GA. There's no longer any need to go through the main terminal or mix with the big jets and their contents. The landing fee is reasonable for an airfield with just about every toy you could need, including ILS, radar and full ATC.

I don't need to go to Blackpool very often but I must say I was impressed with the new arrangements and will certainly fly there in future when the opportunity arises. Credit where credit is due - well done, Blackpool!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Flying Instructor

Once upon a time there was a flying instructor who, against all the odds, taught me to fly. The rest, as they say, is history: he went on to become a First Officer and is now flying 737s around the Gulf whilst I went on to build G-JONL.

Brian was back in the UK for a few days in November so it seemed like a good idea to get together for a meal and to catch up on each other's news. A thoroughly enjoyable evening was had at one of the excellent country pubs near to Carlisle Airport.

The following day was clear, cold and bright. Excellent weather for a bit of proper flying, so Brian and I assembled at Kirkbride in the late morning, intent on doing just that. Brian kindly permitted me to do the take off but by the time we were climbing through 1000ft it was clear that he was itching to take control. I didn't do any more flying that day!

We headed out over the Solway and on to Dumfries before setting course for Locherbie. This is Brian's old stomping ground and he was in his element. Soon we were making steep turns and all the other things that he doesn't get to do in a 737 with self loading freight! After a bit of that we headed off to Carlisle Airport for a spot of lunch, meeting up with several of his old buddies in the café. Considering that Brian had never flown JONL before he made an excellent landing (I have to say that, other wise he might hit me!).

All too soon it was time to head back to Kirkbride - a short 10 minute direct flight. It was a pleasure to be flying with Brian again and to discover that he hasn't lost his knack of flying little fun aeroplanes.

Photo credits: Brian Peacock 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Glassonby airfield

Glassonby is a small airfield to the north east of Penrith. It has two grass runways, 18/36 (450m) & 05/23 (350m) and is perched on top of a hill at 600ft ASL, in the foothills of the Pennines.

It was a pretty decent day today and the short trip from Kirkbride to Glassonby fitted in perfectly with the relatively short amount of time I had available to commit aviation. A freshening southerly wind meant that 18 was definitely the into wind runway, giving me 450m to play with - ample for the Sportcruiser.

Glassonby is quite hard to find! Even though I had the coordinates in my GPS, I didn't see the runway until I was almost on top of it. In the event, the runway was occupied... by a few hundred sheep... so a low approach and go around was called for. To my amazement all the sheep promptly vacated the runway! Well trained sheep indeed.

The second approach didn't work out either. I rather carelessly lost the airfield (again) and by the time I discovered where the runway was hiding it was too close to make a decent attempt at it. Go around number two.

This is ridiculous! I can't remember the last time I took three goes to make a landing. Er... actually I can - it was a windy day at Glenforsa a few years back. Anyway, whatever, the third approach was spot on and a decent landing followed, using less than half the runway length.

What a delightful airfield! The runways are in good nick, albeit a bit mucky due to aforementioned sheep. The views are superb and there is a lovely log cabin, where tea and coffee are freely available. There is no set landing fee - the book says that donations are welcome and I was more than happy to oblige.

Robin, the farmer who owns the airfield, flies a microlight from the field. He came up to meet me and showed me around the hangar. Sadly it's rather full of aircraft but he has promised me that he'll let me know as soon as a spot becomes available. I think I could very happily base myself at Glassonby!

With deteriorating weather it was time to head back to Kirkbride and a slightly tricky cross wind landing on runway 28, with a 10-12kt southerly. I shall certainly visit Glassonby again.