Night Flight

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8th February 2009

After no less than four cancellations due to bad weather, several group members finally managed to get the long awaited night flying trip off the ground on Friday the 8th February.
Due to the short notice and the disbelief by most potential participants that the weather would actually be good enough to go, this one was more of mini fly-out.

Paul Weeks with Greg Pendergrass and Paul Bazire
with daughter Suzie got together for the minor logistical nightmare of trying to organise night flying from North Weald that closes thirty minutes after sunset and has no lighting.

With the plan worked out of who was to get the aircraft over to Andrewsfield, who was going to drive us back at end of play, and how the aircraft were to be recovered the following day, we met up to depart from North Weald just after 16.30. A quick trip to Andrewsfield with the sun beginning to set behind us set the scene. Crystal clear still air, cloudless skies, light winds and not too cold, perfect.

The destination was to be Lydd who were open until 19.00. With the sun dipping below the horizon in a spectacular sunset worthy of the Caribbean, we lined up for departure at the start of ‘official night’ at the threshold of R27. Accelerating down between the unfamiliar runway lights and climbing out into the darkening sky caused a little ripple of excitement at this still new experience. Continuing a turning climb to depart overhead and routing down towards the DET VOR produced the most incredible view west towards the city with a fantastic range of deep blue, copper and red colours hanging over Canary Wharf. Crossing the Thames with the shipping traffic as points of light in the blackness gave way to the North Kent Coast. Detling and then onto towards LYD VOR saw the sky turn inky black and with a thin crescent moon just above the horizon produced a spectacular star filled canopy above us.

With Suzie taking advantage of the flight for some instrument practice with G-NS intercepting the localiser of Lydds R21 ILS at 3200 ft and 14 miles out we heard Greg and Paul inbound with G-FG and extra passenger Shane Mayo from the HFC. Several others were in the circuit and with the offset ILS leading us down towards the approach bars, PAPIs and runway lights it was a brilliant picture through the windshield.

Kissing the tarmac with the tyres, we vacated to the large GA apron and just had time to pay the landing fee, buy a bar of chocolate and return to the aircraft for a speedy departure before closure. Greg and Paul had found the runway lights a bit tricky to spot when approaching from the North but slotted into the circuit with no problems.

We routed back passing Southend to our right and began the decent into towards Andrewsfield. It’s very strange how the towns look so much closer together at night and Braintree soon appeared on the nose. Locating the airfield with its green flashing beacon was no problem and we were soon in the circuit at 700ft for runway 27. The lighting, although good enhances the relative shortness of Andrewsfields 800 metres grass compared to Lydds 1500 metres and it was nice to have the PAPIs show us the way down. A touch and go for practice, fumble around by torchlight for the kit and then into the Club House to be welcomed by CFI Carol Cooper for well deserved drink.

A great evening out and a really good experience. It was a pity that more of the fly-out group couldn’t join us. If you haven’t done it already give it a try. It will open up a whole new dimension to your flying. Andrewsfield offer night ratings on Tuesdays and Fridays during the winter months.

Many thanks to those involved in making it work and a big thank you to Dan Whittaker who went out of his way in G-JN to drop Greg and I at Andrewsfield on Saturday morning so that we could recover the aircraft back to NW.

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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