Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Mothers Day at Gloucester

Yesterday, Sunday March 14th, was Mothers' Day here in the UK.  With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to fly to the closest airfield to my parents' home and spend the day.  That airfield just happens to be Gloucester and as a result of its location and great facilities, I have visited numerous times.  There is very little in the way of controlled airspace en route once clear of the Liverpool zone so with blue skies and a few fluffy white clouds, it was easy enough to go VFR.

On takeoff from runway 27, we took a 90 degree left hand turn to leave the Liverpool zone at Chester.  Gloucester is pretty much a straight line south from there, so that's what we did.  For ease of navigation, the GPS was set up to give a track direct to Gloucester and as the mushroom of Manchester's controlled airspace rose above us, we climbed with the intention of getting over the broken cumulus clouds and into smoother air.  This could have been done completely in VMC, but with an IR it was easier just to pop through clouds in front of us rather than go around them.

Straight through the clouds

We eventually levelled out above the clouds at FL75 and sat there in the sunshine and smooth air looking through the gaps to the ground below.  The further south we went, the more broken the clouds became, until when it was time to descend at a leisurely 500fpm we didn't enter any clouds and remained in the sunshine.

Arriving at Gloucester was simplicity itself; on request we were given a right base join for their runway 27 and positioned for this, slowing down to a more sedate 100kts before we joined the last part of the circuit and made a comfortable descent to the runway, stopping in less than half the distance available.  I have visited plenty of times and knew that a landing on 27 would involve a backtrack to park so aimed not to use up too much runway.  As expected, we were given a backtrack to the fuel pumps and then to park up in front of the fire station.

We were collected from the terminal and whisked away for lunch with my parents.  A wonderful bacon roast had been prepared at the family home and we spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting away and looking at new photos - all the usual family things!

With an night qualification (and now IR) there was no rush to get back to Liverpool before it went dark as has so often been the case over the past few years.  The limiting factor this time was that Gloucester closes at 1800.  For an easy journey back, I filed IFR via TELBA (overhead Telford) at FL70 departing at 1745.  The plan worked perfectly, with the checks complete and brakes released within a couple of minutes of the planned time.  Clearance was exactly as filed and with a right turn on departure we headed for TELBA in the climb.  Gloucester closed just a few minutes later, and asked who we would like to contact next.  I changed over to London Information and was given their 1177 squawk.  As we were still outside controlled airspace, they negotiated with Liverpool to hand over at Shawbury so we set course for the SWB VOR.

Shortly before we got there, a new controller on shift at London Information handed me over and I was given a direct LPL entry into the Liverpool zone.  A gentle descent to duck under Manchester's mushroom of airspace and join at 2000' worked out very well.  Once in the zone, and now night-time, we were put under a radar control service and given vectors for the ILS to runway 27.  This initially involved a right turn to give us enough of a run-up so I'm not sure why we weren't asked to join the zone as usual at the WHI Whitegate NDB; I doubt the extra distance flown took more than a minute so it's hardly important.

Short final at Liverpool

After an accurately flown ILS (with the runway in sight all along, though I didn't look up!) and a smooth night landing we taxied back to the GA apron to find the handling staff there waiting to load the aircraft onto the tug and put her to bed in the hangar for the night.  They were perfectly happy for us to remain sat in the aircraft while they did this and I filled out the logs as we were pushed around.

I ended the day with the familiar satisfied feeling that flight causes in pilots and slept like a baby.  Roll on the next trip!

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