Battle of Britain – Jersey Air Display – September 14th 2017

So … the week arrived … and in came the crap weather ! Loads of wind .. interspersed with rain and very squally showers

The pilot briefing pack had been sent off weeks before but could this all be a waste of time ..

Jersey Flying Control Committee (FCC) insist – quite rightly – that you MUST qualify flying on the Wednesday if you are to fly in the display on the Thursday

Wednesday awoke to 23 gusting 30+ wind !!

The committee, comprising 3 vastly experienced largely ex RAF pilots looked quite daunting BUT they turned out to be genuinely nice blokes … straight talking and to the point but very supportive and helpful to new rookies like me as well as seasoned display pilots alike. Mike Stanway – Gulf Tornado and HQ Air Safety Group, Phill O’Dell (Rolls Royce Chief Test pilot), Neil Airey… all Squadron Leaders

The briefing was delivered by Les Garside-Beattie (ex Group Captain) again to the point and friendly but you were left in no doubt about what was expected of you and others.

All were advised that the airport remained operational and open to civil air traffic throughout so take off, navigation to the holding areas and entry and exit from the display area were KEY and deviation from this would not be tolerated HOWEVER .. there was a clear message that with so many old, different, new aircraft around …if, as pilot, you had an emergency you were to take appropriate safety actions and ATC would do everything in the power to assist …

WEDENESDAY 13th – PRE TEST DAY

Winds were horrible… constant squalls most of the morning and in the squalls you got huge downpours associated with winds up to 32+ not always down the runway.

The briefing was held and Les showed the constantly updating test schedule for EVERY pilot. My little Sherwood (although due to display 2nd on display day) was going up and down the schedule along with Helping Wings (the PA28 due from the aero club). It turned out Les was trying to get us a slot time that avoided the worst weather which was hoped to settle later in the display slot session.

Eventually it settled at around 16:20 local. So a pensive afternoon of checking nd re-checking the aircraft a million times and watching the weather come through and the next front pile in behind it …

Eventually (albeit in the lee of the hanger) it seemed to calm a bit so I braved nosing her our to do an engine run .. be nice to get the block warm and make subsequent ‘ready state’ a little quicker if my slot came forward.

Eventually – slot time minus 30 came around so started up and sat warming up.

The wind hadn’t significantly eased and an instant forecast was 20 gusting 26 280-290′. I asked when the last gust was but they don’t hold that info.

Concerned about weather cocking as I taxied out I was using all the proper taxy techniques with full aileron into wind and full up elevator and amazingly with 21+ from the side I still managed to maintain directional stability .. good little ‘plane this !

ATC didn’t hold me too long but gave me clearance to RIGHT hand turn to NW corner for a full anticlockwise around the island to the display area. Tail up in about 2 seconds and airborne in about 6 ! and was then given LEFT turn and head for Corbiere … obviously the display area was currently clear .. I negotiated a direct (almost back on myself) to the area which saved  a lot of buffeting around …

There was a bit of low cloud, probably BKN around 800′ but this was going to be OK . Switch to display frequency and told to commence run in to the display area …

First run was around 700′ and then started a second run and pushed down to the 200′ display limit .. pass at 250′ and was then advised by Display ATC to maintain VFR limits … what ?! I queried this and was advised I had to maintain 500’ ? so I did as told wondering why I was being treated differently and all went well – some nice steep turns (using the wind to either hold it and slowly bank over or turn it into a whiz downwind). Recovering to the airfield after 10 mins (my allowed test slot time) to probably one of my best landings in 18 gust 24 ! If you are really on edge I’m sure you concentrate harder for all eventualities … def learning from an earlier post I made and getting the approach speed down vs leaving it above 60 on the round out … getting it nearer 50 or less on flare was just right.

One (of the several) nice things about the Jersey air display is that they hold a reception at the Governors House for all connected ..

THURSDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER – DISPLAY DAY

Thursday arrived and weather was pretty much just as bad – clearer and less rain squalls but still there and the wind had now swung slightly so we had somewhere between 260 and 300′ not great !

My slot time was number 2 behind the aero club 2 x PA28’s so agreed with James Evans (CFI who was a rock of common sense and calm words to be throughout) that I would start up when they did .. and aim to take off right behind them as it would take me longer to get to the display area.

This turned out to be the best plan … timing wise.

ATC finally cleared me to line up but was worried about the fact that the 2 PA28’s were long gone … and my headwind speed was going to give me around 20 GS in the bay !

I lined up behind a particularly pretty landing Beech Twin 18 … but it took an age to stop its roll and vacate so I couldn’t move … AND we had landing commercial at 6 miles !

ATC did a brilliant job – as always (Jo), of informing me that I would be required to be ready to roll as soon as … and also immediate Right turn after take off.

If you look at the video I think you would agree it could NOT have been any quicker .. rolling and then opening up – Tail off in 2 and lift off in 5 seconds and right angle wing over in less than 10 …. hey who needs Harriers !!

Some shots kindly sent by a local photographer on the front .. showing off the new tail colour scheme as well as battling 30+ winds !

Not all the weather segments that day were very friendly … but you could argue they were pretty awesome !

Timing for getting into the display area is pretty tight – the organisers run a very tight ‘ship’ ! I was late taking off due to the delayed clearing of the runway but the 30+ tailwind soon got me to the edge of the display area. Curving in over the Fort Regent (a large converted for t overlooking St Helier) and it all suddenly feels very real … display instructions said not below 800′ over the fort approach then, once passed, down to 200′ minimum

Coming in over the Raddison hotel and in front of the Grand Hotel I tried a little wing waggle to say ‘Hello’ … felt so slow with what was probably around 35 on the nose … but tried a fast (ish) first pass. The wind assisted first turn downwind was pretty much knife edge and proved to be quite useful to keep the aircraft nicely in the main display arena. Later on I heard feedback that not too many aircraft had flown the full length – ie not far enough West … the problem is with mine if that I’d flown full length I could have probably only done 2 passes in the time available due to the headwind !

As you can see from the video footage the turns got tighter and the sun shone ! Hey, what could be better. The Cloudy shot above – we had hefty isolated downfalls that morning – gave us a dramatic sky backdrop .. this hot was taken by a friend on the front and is now a lovely big 1m poster on the wall at home.

Having completed the display, on radio silence on the display frequency, you are allowed to talk and say ‘Vacating the display area’ – I think you are supposed to say 1 minute before as well – but I simply lost track of time in all the fun …

I called and display control said that the Dornier float plane behind me was running a couple of minutes late so could I extend … quick wing over and back into the display area for 2 more passes … one fast..ish and one very slow !

Then broke away and handed off from Display control to normal tower frequency (The airport is still operating a normal commercial schedule) .. slotted in and no holding and in for a blustery approach ….as you can see its quite choppy but settles down in ground effect and down … had been cleared to vacate at the end (like 1500m !) but opted to put down in the first few metres as I didn’t want to push my luck with a 1500m taxy back and weather cocking …

Pulled off behind a Flybe Embraer jet and parked up … phew ….

I will tell the wine bottle story in another post !!!!

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