Night Fly Out 3

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February 3, 2012

The intrepid night flyers of the NWFG have had a pretty good winter really and we were very fortunate to finish off our night flying programme on Friday the 3rd February with an excellent trip to Coventry, just before the snow arrived in earnest. OP Nighties 3  had been delayed by one week due to some unpredictable weather the week before. We had a gathering of four aircraft and ten participants for the this trip. The stop at Coventry was to include an early dinner at the excellent DC6 Diner that we visited on the fly out back in September 2011 before we recovered back to Andrewsfield.

 

The TAFs were pretty good although the temperature was going sub zero pretty quickly and the viz was likely to be 7000m to CAVOK sometime during the early evening. Pretty ‘grand’ given the time of year. With the necessary vehicle positioning completed during the afternoon the guys gathered at North Weald in the now rather bitter cold conditions to carry out their checks. The sun started to disappear below the horizon in a beautiful red glow and as the clock ticked towards official night at 17.22 a line of nav lights began to appear along the taxiway in the rapidly increasing darkness. One by one the aircraft taxied slowly out to the 02 hold, the crews looking to get airborne as late as possible to maximise the actual night time logged. As the aircraft lined up in turn the strobes split the darkness with their pulsating flashes making pools of intense light on the runway as the aircraft accelerated away and climbed into the darkening sky.

The guys routing direct to Coventry turned left and FG with Malcolm Jarvis, Vrai Stacey and Bill Rice as a first time night passenger disappeared west out towards Bovingdon. Jonathan Senior, Simon Pimblett together with passenger Gordon Horscraft headed west and made a quick call to Luton to try and get a clearance through the Luton zone and overhead the airport.  This worked out well and they headed off towards Luton followed by Stewart Braddon and James Chan in FS who were granted the same clearance. Having got a night landing in at Andrewsfield and picked up Kieran we blasted off (figuratively speaking) for Coventry. Routing through TMZ1 to Haverhill and then out west towards Northampton, the Cambridge approach controller was quite surprised that we were actually up there at that time of night.

 

After clearing the TMZ the route was simplicity itself, out towards the Daventry (DTY) VOR and then NW towards Coventry taking in the great views through the clear air. The crews of FG, FS and KA later all reporting that the biggest issue was finding the airport amongst the cities surrounding lights. However having found it they were treated to that great large airport view of the runway and approach lights on final. With the three aircraft in and parked on the western apron the crews rapidly headed off for the DC6 diner in the freezing air. Kieran and I were now about 20 minutes behind the others and this was extended a little more as I had decided to take advantage of Coventrys ILS and was involved in the full direct entry procedural ILS from the Daventry VOR. A bit involved and a little out of the way but excellent practice, well worthwhile when it all works out and one looks up at 500ft to see the illuminated runway exactly where it should be! Having had a satisfying instrument fix so to speak we taxied onto the western apron and parked next to the other aircraft under the bright floodlights. 

Due to time we had to be let ‘landside’ by one of the very helpful airport staff and walked through the deserted GA building. No landing fees as there was nobody to collect them but no doubt a bill will be winging its way in the post. Arriving in the warmth of the DC6 Diner was very welcome and Kieran and I joined the other guys for a very nice if slightly rushed dinner. I covered the DC6 Diner in detail on the write up of our previous Coventry trip last year. It’s very nice and well worth a stop at the same time as visiting the ‘Airbase’ aircraft collection. An unusual setting, good food well priced.

http://www.airbasecoventry.com/diner.html

With some stuffed a lot more than others we headed back to the aircraft which were now showing early signs of the frost to come. Ensuring the wings were ice free we all mounted up for the return leg to Andrewsfield.

A listen to the ATIS, a look at the Pooleys for the departure routing info and we were all starting at more or less the same time. ATC sent us off to various holding points and eventually we all in turn climbed out into the night sky turning left from R23 back towards Daventry, being careful to avoid the 1500ft section of Birminghams airspace. The return leg was pretty clear but a slight haze was starting to develop as we headed East. The OAT gauge was reading -10 at 2500ft so I’m pleased the heater was working properly. FS was ahead of us in FC and we were both going to try and get a Stansted Zone crossing Barkway to Andrewsfield from Essex Radar. We got our squawks and were told to continue direct to BKY. Approaching BKY it obviously became too difficult. Although we were offered a ‘possible’ crossing from the Puckeridge VRP via the 04 threshold if Stansted tower could see us visually we decided rather than go out of the way given the time but to politely decline and route north again via TMZ1 and Haverhill although FS did get a short cut routing through the zone but staying north of Thaxted. Within a few minutes flight time of Haverhill Andrewsfields runway lights were visible in the surrounding darkness. The last aircraft was back on the rather bumpy frozen ground at 21.20 which was a bit later than planned and the time was getting on by the time the aircraft were wrapped up for the night. We are getting pretty good at working around the aircraft in the dark now though.

With everything sorted it was into Bill and Malcolms cars for the drive back to North Weald, with yet another very successful sortie under the belt. I won’t go into the recovery as it turned a bit weary with unforecast low cloud and rather poor viz. Needless to say though the boys got through it with the help of some fat boys breakfasts and all the aircraft were recovered shortly before the weather changed in earnest and N Weald closed due to the snow. Alas that’s it for night flying this winter. However this winter has been exceptional, two practice nights and three night fly outs being completed with very little disruption to the plans through weather.

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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.

email: paul.bazire54@gmail.com
phone: 01992522090