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19th June 2008

Thursday the 19th June was the day re-scheduled for the North Weald Fly Out Group’s trip to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. I say re-scheduled, in fact it had been postponed from June 2007 when the South West was being battered by very high winds and storms. The weather in the early part of our week was indicating further rain, low cloud and rain sweeping in from the Atlantic. So much for ‘flaming June’. As Thursday approached the bad weather fortunately moved quickly through overnight to leave quite a reasonable if somewhat breezy and gusty day with scattered cloud and excellent visibility. Probably the best that we were going to get.

This was to be a full house fly out, with all of the North Weald Flying Group’s aircraft being used together with the extras in the shape of an Archer G-VB crewed by Paul Bazire and Kieran Hardiman, and a Cherokee G-NS piloted by Alex Kenning and James Martin. Simon Plimblett and Tony Norman were taking the new C150 G-FA on her first fly out outing and the other participants were G-RB, Nick Allum and Ian Burrows. G-FC Stefan Atrill with Peter McDonald. G-FG, Darren Foss, Mark Green. G-KK, Julian Mitchell and Barry North accompanied in the back seat by Alex Hussein Khan and finally G-JN, Paul Weeks with Richard Wragg. Regular readers of the debriefs will notice a lot of new names and I would like to say a big welcome to all of those new members to the North Weald Flying Group who joined us for this, their first fly out. I hope you will join us on many more.

The day itself went extremely well. We were due into Yeovilton around 10.45 but with the stonking headwind from the west, it was going to be a bit tight. It was even mentioned that the C150 might be able to do a ‘Sea Harrier’ and hover whilst at full power with the wind right on the nose.

With a phone call to Yeovilton to put back the arrival time, G-FA was away first, trying to get a bit of ground covered before the others overhauled it. Climbing out from Runway 20 with the wind gusting strongly almost straight across the runway made for some entertaining viewing from the ground apparently.

Routing out west through the Luton/Heathrow corridor was, to say the least, a bit on the bumpy side but nice and bright. With no answer initially from the new Farnborough LARS on 132.8 we monitored Luton radar with a 0013 squawk until speaking to a rather droll and sarcastic Wycombe Tower controller – who was soon to be over worked – for their ATZ crossing before Benson and their MATZ. It was then a choice of Lyneham or Boscombe Radar for a FIS as we moved into the narrow gap between the Salisbury plain danger area and the Lyneham Zone. This route also involves passing over Keevil airfield where a lot of military parachuting takes place, so it is important to obtain a situation report from either of the above units.

Passing the various white chalk horses on the hillsides and Longleat House it was a direct routing across Devizes to Frome before turning SW towards Yeovilton. The wind began to ease and the cloud became more broken. Yeovilton Radar was extremely helpful and despite the perfect visibility offered radar vectors to all of our aircraft to assist in separation for landing. Approach, Tower and Ground made it all very straightforward.

G-VB was the first in and was efficiently marshalled onto the visiting aircraft stand followed over the next 10 minutes by all the other participants, apart from not unsurprisingly G-FA just in time to watch the first of numerous Royal Navy Lynx helicopters making an approach from the south. Even after the withdrawal and demise of the Sea Harriers there are still over 100 aircraft based at Yeovilton, mainly rotary, but also including Hawks and Jetstreams as well as the RN Historic Flight. The first wave of us were being taken by minibus over to the Fleet Air Arm Museum and had to hold near the threshold as G-FA finally made its approach. With the strong wind still blowing but this time straight down the runway Simon and Tony did a great helicopter impression and we estimated the landing roll to be about 50 meters!

With all safely in, it was lunch in the Swordfish restaurant before beginning our tour of the museum in our own groups. The Fleet Air Arm Museum is filled with many interesting and historic aircraft, from the first tentative steps from the beginning of naval aviation, to the present day. It perfectly demonstrates how placing aircraft on ships had such a dramatic effect that it changed the way the world’s Navies operated forever, as well as being able to project enormous firepower deep into enemy territory far from home. The museum is well worth a visit if you are in that part of the country.

We were also incredibly fortunate in being able to visit the RN Historic Flight hanger on our way back to the aircraft thanks to Simon Plimblett who had found himself speaking to the right person at the right time! This area is not for general viewing, and we were given an excellent and most informative tour of the flight by John Beatty the Historic Flight Manager and pilot. John is a regular visitor to North Weald and often flies the North Weald based Seafire. We were able to get up close and view the immaculately preserved Swordfish, Sea Fury, Sea Hawk and Chipmunk, all of which are kept in flying condition and displayed at air shows around the country.

Returning to our aircraft, it was a return by the reverse of our initial route in clear conditions but with a decent tail wind this time which made the return a lot quicker. Alex Kenning and James Martin taking a slight detour to get a good view and some pictures of Stonehenge just before the Summer Solstice. There was still a brisk crosswind on our return but all back with no dramas and another very successful fly out to a new location in the bag.

I would like to express a big thanks to Roger Bodnarchuk the Flight Planning Manager at RNAS Yeovilton for allowing us to fly into what is a very busy military airfield and for all his help in the planning and preparation for the visit. Also the time he spent looking after us on the day to ensure everything went smoothly, and to all the many other personnel involved.

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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