On Saturday a last minute post appeared on the Flyer forums from the person who runs Gloucestershire Staverton airport (Darren), stating that if anybody flew in the next day (which was forecast to be excellent weather wise), he’d do a discounted landing fee and was happy to do tower tours.
As such, I gave the aero club a ring first thing to see if they happened to have an aircraft available, which they did (this surprised me given the forecast etc, but I suppose in this Christmas – New Year period most people are wanting to relax at home), so I finished off the planning (I’d done some of it the previous evening on the off chance), and headed in.
Fortunately the aircraft I was to use (G-HERC) had been in the hangar overnight, so unlike the others there was no need to deice it etc (given the work my car required I had been expecting to have to do it). After getting it fuelled up (it should have been enough anyway, but you can never have too much fuel, so given it was just me and there were no W&B issues it was worth getting it filled up), I was fairly promptly away, and set course for my first turning point. I’d decided to route via the Daventry VOR, and then Banbury, as the straight line track would take me over / through various ATZs, whereas this route avoided them all, and only added a couple of minutes to the journey.
On route I spoke to Cranfield (as my track took me through the very end of their instrument approach), and then once in range got a traffic service from Brize Radar. After getting in touch with Gloucester (this is the airport’s callsign), it was clear there were a number of other aircraft arriving from various directions, but the controllers did a good job of keeping everybody informed of where all the traffic was and who was going to get where first. Indeed I became visual with the one joining ahead of me fairly early, and could follow him in to the overhead.
Gloucester has a number of runways, and the one in use today was the most into wind (22), but not the biggest (27) – this meant it was somewhat tricky to get myself in the right place as I kept subconciously trying to position for the ‘main’ runway and not the one I should have been. I ended up on quite a tight downwind leg, and at first when I turned base I thought I was probably going to end up too high and have to go around, however in the end it worked out quite nicely and was a pretty good landing. I was then given some nice clear directions and parking was with a marshaller, which was handy.
After enquiring at the desk inside I was told to sort the landing fee when I booked out to leave, so I headed to the restaurant (The Aviator), and found the other Flyer people. One ‘Aviator Burger’ later, it was decided to go and take up Darren’s offer of tower tours, so we headed back to the main building. There was a bit of ‘excitement’ while waiting to speak to the person on the desk (to ask them to call the tower), as the airport crash alarm went off. I know that most places have these, but I’ve never been around when one has gone off before – from a combination of watching out the window and listening to the radio traffic (there was a receiver behind the desk) it appears that an aircraft waiting to depart had experienced a small oil leak, onto a hot part of the engine which had produced a bit of smoke into the cockpit – nothing too serious in the end as they shut down and evacuated, and after the fire & rescue service had determined there was no ongoing fire they were towed back to the apron.
We then headed up to the VCR (visual control room) in the tower – the view was impressive, as was the kit they had. The controllers were all very friendly and explained how things worked etc. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay too long as I needed to depart to get back to Cambridge, but still a very interesting visit (I’ll have to see if I can do a similar visit at Cambridge at some point).
After paying the discounted landing fee and booking out, it was then out to the aircraft, a short taxi to the holding point, and away I went. I had to delay making my turn for a little while for noise abatement reasons (basically to avoid overflying the more sensitive areas), but then turned, initially parallel to, but abeam, my planned track, until I was safely clear of Gloucester’s ATZ at which point I regained the planned one.
The return journey was uneventful – some pretty nice sights to see, but sadly without any passengers to take photos I’ve nothing to post on here (I don’t want to take photos myself while flying, as it would take my attention away from look out etc). On arrival back at Cambridge I did a crosswind join for 23, and landed – I had the start of a balloon on landing, but not enough to warrant a go around, but definitely not as good a landing as at Gloucester.
After parking up, all that was left was the expensive bit (paying for a total of 2 hours 25 minutes of flying) – I think given how much it came to I’m going to have to give it a week or two before I go up again 🙁
All in all a very nice day out – days like today are definitely not to be missed, especially in the Winter when they don’t come around very often!
Tracks from the two flights below: