Compton Abbas and Popham

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25th April 2009

Saturday was to be the second attempt at Compton Abbas and Popham, having previously been postponed because of bad weather. Leading up the big day, and a week of near cloudless skies, however the forecast showed not unsurprisingly, a downturn for the weekend. With four fly out members cancelling at short notice due mainly to illness, and the TAFs predicting strong gusting winds, low cloud, heavy showers and at best CAVOK, the entire trip was close to being called off. However given the inaccuracy of the TAFs lately, we decided to press on with a quick rearrangement in seating, reduced us to just three aircraft from the original six planned.


The day dawned a little cloudy but the winds were far weaker than forecast. Having picked up the Archer ‘VB’ at High Cross Paul Bazire, daughter with boyfriend and Tony did the short hop around to North Weald to meet the rest of the participants. Clearly in Met Office speak, CAVOK now equates to in excess of sixty miles visibility, the Thames estuary beyond Southend and well into Kent being well defined in the clear air.

We met up with the crews of FG and FC and with the plan to divert to the closest airfields along the route should the poor viz and heavy rain appear, we departed for Compton Abbas. Although last off, VB quickly overhauled and passed the two C172s as we all headed out to Bovingdon over Wycombe and on towards Greenham Common. Then dropping south and then west below the Middle Wallop and Boscombe Down MATZ.

Slightly bumpy in places but with a good deal of sunshine streaming through the well broken white cumulus at around 3,000ft made for a very pleasant flight out over Berkshire and towards Hampshire and Dorset. Farnborough North and then West providing us with a good service as usual all the way down towards Middle Wallop. On reaching the limit of their cover, the operator informed us that Boscombe were closed and that Solent Radar weren’t interested in giving us a service…. nice!

Monitoring Boscombes frequency we routed along towards Salisbury in the beautiful clear air with the Isle of Wight clearly visible beyond Portsmouth and Southampton. With spring blooming it made for a wonderful green and bright yellow landscape as Hampshire gave way to the rolling hills of Dorset. Truly England at its best.


Compton has always been one of my favourites since first visiting several years ago and was one of the first destinations for the newly formed fly out group back in 2006. The airfield is quite difficult to see when approaching from the east sitting as it does on an 810 ft ridge surrounded on two sides by woods and steep hills on the others. A call at 10 miles revealed runway 26 in use and a surprisingly quiet, or should I say deserted circuit for a weekend.

With the benefit of previous visits it was easy to pick the airfield out for a straight in approach having wound in a massive 27 mb difference for the QFE. Reporting long final the radio was acknowledged ‘Caution wind 200 16 gusting 24’ That’s why it’s so quiet! The warning of windshear over the trees on short final with a southerly component in the airfield plate then tended to concentrate the mind somewhat. A bit bumpy on the approach but with loads of rudder and wing down over the trees VB made an acceptable arrival. FC was next in, again with a good landing given the conditions.

No pressure on Alan Vick in FG to follow suit with all of us standing on the ground watching. We watched as FG crabbed down the approach but it was clear as Alan came over the trees that the wind had picked up and FG was being badly bounced around and he correctly elected to go around. The next approach after the very wide RH circuit was also tricky but with no probs and well executed given the wind. Lunch was taken in the excellent cafe/restaurant. A wide range of dishes on offer, good value, excellent food, very nice airfield and with great view over the hills towards Shaftsbury. It reaffirmed itself as one of my favourite stops. If you haven’t been here, give it a go you won’t be disappointed.

Having stuffed our faces, it was off and with a required immediate right turn to climb out over the picturesque Melbury Hill and back east towards Popham and a first time visit for all of the crews except myself. I had chosen Popham for its interesting and slightly challenging offset final approach to 08. Alas with the wind, it was 21 in use and despite the wind straight down the runway the final approach resembled an Alton Towers ride! All in first time, tea in the nice clubhouse and a very reasonable £6 landing fee. We were joined later by my cousin David Rickwood who flew in from Gloucester in a Eurostar (G-CDNI) but we had to make a quick escape to get back to North Weald before it was shut for the air race.

VB and FG made it, but FC missed the slot by a minute or two and had to circle out to the west for some 15 minutes before the race director let them in during a lull in the take offs.

A well deserved drink for the crews with the rest of the afternoon spent watching other people fly aeroplanes…

A perfect day really.

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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