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6th December 2008

Saturday the 6th of December was scheduled to be the last major North Weald Flying Group fly out of 2008 and amazingly the TAFs were pretty good. The day started well with a blue sky but typically a slight haze with the low winter sun. The destination was originally planned to be Goodwood, but a call the previous day had revealed it to be waterlogged. Goodwood were accepting aircraft but to avoid the possible danger of getting bogged down and the newly clean and polished FG and FC ending up like tanks from the Somme, we changed destination to Bembridge and its hard runway.

With numerous last minute changes, a rapidly re-arranged running order had Nick Allum and Malcolm Jarvis with friend and PPL student Dave Knott in G-FG. Paul Weeks and Stefan Atrill were crewing G-FC, Pete McDonald with Barrie North were in G-MM, and Paul Bazire together with budding CPL Ian Kempster were using Kieron Boosts Archer G-VB. Bob Chapman with son Ben also joined us in Bobs lovely glass cockpit 172 G-RJCC.
With take offs around 11.00 it was a straightforward routing down towards the QE2 bridge before onto Tunbridge Wells and around the south of the Gatwick Zone. Farnborough Radar were quite busy but it didn’t take long to get our squawk and a FIS. Passing Lakeside and Bluewater with long lines of cars, we were extremely happy to be flying and not in the traffic queues for Christmas shopping! South of the Thames, cloud began to appear and increased the further south we went. As the cloud-base was around 1,400ft to 1,600ft with slightly poor visibility beneath, the crews in FC, VB and CC all decided to climb and sit on top in bright sunshine surfing the cloud tops at around 2300ft, brilliant.

The cloud quickly broke up as we headed down towards Shoreham and then it was a very picturesque flight past the south coast towns. Crossing Selsey Bill, we headed over the Solent direct to join for Bembridge’s runway 30, which sits just inland from cliffs and has a great approach from over the sea. As we watched the shipping pass below, it appeared from the radio that most of the GA traffic in the south of England were either already at Bembridge or on their way in as well as gliding taking place from the parallel grass runway. Hearing most of the landing traffic being requested to expedite vacating the runway we could see Paul and Stefan on final in FC well ahead of us in VB. With Paul obligingly completing his back track in record time to avoid us going around we met up in the clubhouse for lunch. Soon after we had a text saying that Pete and Barrie in MM had found the conditions below the cloud around Sevenoaks a bit too claggy and had returned to North Weald.

G-FG was the last to land with Nick, Malcolm and Dave. They were also told to expedite vacating the runway. After completing a 180 turn on the runway Nick saw another aircraft on final. Trying to comply with the request and do the decent thing he exited the runway onto the grass before the hard intersection as he done on a previous visit. Now here’s the lesson, don’t be rushed into anything you are not totally happy with. If you are correctly occupying the runway after landing let the other aircraft go around, a C172 doesn’t make a good tractor however much you try. FG’s nose wheel promptly ploughed a furrow across the grass and sunk into the waterlogged ground, fortunately with the prop still well clear. With the aircraft just off the runway at least the airfield could stay open. With a bit of help from the airfield ground staff it was soon extracted with no damage and the guys joined us for lunch. This is a real problem at this time of year and can potentially cause a lot of damage, as well as being rather embarrassing. Watch out for closed sections and follow the flight guide for the correct taxiways.

Basically the same routes were taken back, but ‘VBs’ crew decided to make the most of the good weather and after clearing Shoreham dropped to low level off the coast and followed the winter sun drenched chalk cliffs past Seaford towards Beachy Head. Passing below cliff top height a waggle of the wings acknowledged the walkers waving to us from above. All very spectacular and good fun. In hindsight maybe they were ‘jumpers’ just waving at us to get out of the way……… Sorry! All back into North Weald safely by mid afternoon as the sun began to set after a very good day with surprisingly kind weather and a fitting end to the season. Thanks as always to those that took part.

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Contact us

North Weald Flying Group operate out of the Squadron at North Weald Airfield.

The airfield is 10 miles south of Stansted and can be seen from the M11. Follow signs from the A414 and on entrance to the field, follow the perimeter track all the way around the field until you arrive at the distinctive Squadron building.

phone: 01992522090