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12th March 2011

Goodwood was the new destination instead of the originally planned (Blackbushe & Biggin Hill) due to their expensive landing fees.

So Goodwood it was, one of the group’s favourite grass fields in the south of England. There are always interesting types there and the airfield, which apart from being surrounded by the old perimeter track which is now the world famous Goodwood motor racing circuit, also has a fascinating history of its own. The legendary legless fighter ace Douglas Bader (later Sir), flew his last mission on the 9th August 1941 in a Spitfire VA from Goodwood, which was then known as RAF Westhampnett. Bader became a prisoner of war and ended up in the infamous Colditz prison after numerous escape attempts. His life is well documented and was also made into the film ‘Reach for the Sky’, well worth a watch even in black and white.

Despite managing to achieve a night fly-out in January, the first day outing of 2011 to Lydd had been scuppered by bad weather. It was therefore with some surprise that I found the tafs on the 12th half reasonable. Driving towards High Cross to pick up the Archer VB there was almost a Spring like feel to the morning, with a very strange and unfamiliar sight in the sky which I was told later was indeed the sun. This had been sadly missing over the previous weeks.


So with the aircraft prep’d the crews were ready to fly. Myself and Paul Weeks in VB. Marcus Eich and Jonathan Senior were flying NUKA and Alan Vick was teamed up with new group member James Chan. Malcolm Jarvis joined Richard Rumbelow in FC whilst Nick Allum and Ian Burrows crewed MM. Simon Pimblett and Dan Nicolson were having a leisurely trip in FA, this made a full complement of NWFG aircraft which was nice to see.

The routing was basically out to the east and then turn south over the Thames and down towards Tunbridge Wells. The crews then took various routes towards Goodwood. Several of us decided to make the most of the trip and take in the south coast and Beachy Head in particular. The viz was a bit disappointing and was quite variable, probably dropping to around 5000m in a few places but pretty clear in others. Myself and Paul W took the opportunity once over the sea at Eastbourne to drop to low level and pass Beachy Head below the cliff height enjoying the great view and looking up at the waving walkers on the cliff tops. The air was very smooth over the sea and we continued at low level up the coast passing Brighton and speaking to Shoreham before we slipped around their ATZ and only climbed as we came back inland just before Bognor Regis.

Having established contact with Goodwood it was clear they were very busy and the NWFG aircraft arriving quite close together wasn’t helping. An overhead join it was going to be, ‘Report overhead, five ahead’ made the lookout all the more important especially in the now quite hazy conditions. This presented no problems for our intrepid aviators and soon all of our aircraft were either landing or on the approach to runway 14R with an 18kt wind straight down the slot.

We quickly re-grouped in the clubhouse and after paying the landing fee, joined the quite lengthy queue for lunch in the cafe. It’s nice to see a place so busy and the range of food offered is very good and quite reasonably priced. We were rather fortunate that it wasn’t too cold as we ended up sitting on the outside terrace overlooking the airfield. There was plenty of chat as always between the guys which was interrupted on several occasions by Harvards taking off with their loud distinctive prop note and a PT17 Stearman looking stunning as it climbed away.

Having been suitably refreshed, we headed back to the aircraft for the return to North Weald. Finding the correct way to the 14R hold wasn’t that easy with very few markings but a few tyre tracks in the damp grass to follow made it a bit easier. One aircraft, not one of ours – I would hasten to add – took off from the taxiway, when reprimanded by the tower the pilot pleaded that it was difficult to make out the runway markings (white pyramids). This resulted in the withering reply ‘Strange no one else has had a problem’. It’s funny how you can imagine an aircraft climbing away with its tail between its legs.

An uneventful trip back passing Arundal Castle and then along the South Downs which although usually a very picturesque route, wasn’t quiet as nice as usual due to the haze. However I always enjoy that route and it was a good one for the guys who hadn’t done it before, well worth going back on a clear summers day as is Goodwood.

With the Thames behind us we headed back into North Weald, a very enjoyable day had by all despite the less than perfect conditions. Let’s hope this is just a taster for some of the trips that are coming up in the forthcoming months of this year’s fly out programme.

Thanks as always to those that took part.

Paul Bazire

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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