Great to get the tailwheel re tied and nip up post fuelling for some first circuits at the wonderfully friendly Priory Farm
Just how many times can you look at a gauge in flight …. and not over worry …
After about the 100th time of looking at the guages … then looking out to the North, East, West and .. through the little rear view mirror I mounted, South … I can still confirm ALL I can see is sea .. lots of sea .. as far as the eye can see !
The ground speed has hovered around 50 but has dipped more times than it has risen ..
And so the long planned flight of my home built Sherwood Ranger, following a house relocation, begins … the planned ‘safer’ passage through France or Jersey, Caen, Deauville, Abbeville, Le Touquet, Headcorn, Earls Colne, Priory Farm-Tibenham .. abandoned due to Covid heavy lockdown in France means it’s the North route …
Many weeks of planning and then re planning and then waiting for what looked like a predictable calm or southerly wind and packing and re packing the aircraft to see JUST what I could practically carry had finally come down to the Sunday in June … leaving early to get ahead of the planned rise in breeze later that morning..
With the one piece immersion suit over the top of my 5 layers I was somewhat of a Michelein man trying to squeeze into the small rear cockpit of the Sherwood … then having a life jacket it was certainly going to be cosy.
The normal planning paperwork and advance email to each of my (new route) destinations had elicited very positive responses from Sandown… Booker and Duxford but I had not realised that Alderney would still be in effective Covid lockdown and so would need a “critical worker exemption” form signed off by Guernsey Government .. even to stay airside and fuel up.
Also, it became known that Alderney had NO AvGas as no one was vsiting and so I would have to source the fuel myself. This meant a late rejig to buy a new 10L fuel can .. get the Jersey based ATF fuels to fill this for me and then strap this into the front cockpit.
After numerous repacks i settled on a roll bag flat in the front ..but ratchet strapped down to make sure my feet weren’t impeded on the rudderbars which are either side of the front seat with the now heavy Jerry can ratcheted to that .. all double strapped for security.
I then had to work out where to put the wing jury struts as I wouldn’t be able to fold the wings back at the new home base without … I ended up settling on an external mount against the 4 cabane struts .. again with double cross over securing using cable ties plus a lateral cable tie to prevent any vertical movement. Worked a treat with zero movement in the entire 4 hours 58 min flight !
The first leg to Alderney was uneventful but spent most of the time thinking about the next leg if I’m honest. Rolling out onto 09 Finals at Alderney you come in over the cliffs and somewhat biazarrley given the almost zero traffic into there .. I had the Aurigny Dornier up my tail ! … rounding out just before the runway bump and then turning off to the grass intersection to park clear and remove the Jerry can and fuel up. Took about a cupful short of the 10L .. so nicely worked out. (Note .. The Light Aircraft Company now produce a fantastic aero shaped alloy dump tank that fits on top of cabane struts). Take off and straight onto Jersey Director for the long crossing. Had a few challenges trying to donate the now empty fuel can on Alderney … used a total of ONCE ! But crash crew took it in the end as it had a dribble of fuel in so was classed as a ‘hazard’ 😊
I had conducted a proving flight test of the radios at first permit time but hadn’t gone over the allotted 20 mile suggested range check… now, at between 2,000’ and 3,000’ I was getting excellent 2 way with Jersey way past 50N on the s all panel mounted Trigs.
As expected … you become super sensitive to noises …vibrations .. movements .. and, with all that water around you long to see some sign of life .. the projected flight time cross channel was going to be around 1 hour 30 … and I’ve flown enough times over the Channel to know it can be 4kts each end and around 30 in the middle ! I had set myself a midway point (DOMUT) which was 39 miles from Alderney and 30 from Sandown .. the idea being .. if it took me disproportionally longer to get to DOMUT than I’d estimated .. then I would have a hard turn point to GO BACK with reserves
The problem with any (very draggy) biplane is that any degree of headwind makes a BIG impact on ground speed … Jersey Director asked if I wanted higher than the allotted 2,000’ and I didn’t want to incur more fuel burn climbing but decided to accept his offer of 3,000’ as it did indeed give me around 5mph more GS .. it also helped me switch to Bournemouth even tho Jersey was still crystal clear to 15 miles N of Ortac.
After what seems like an eternity of water as far as the eye could see a glimmer of darker shades ahead indicated the outline of the Isle of Wight hills.
The sight of land was a great relief albeit it arrived much much slower than a PA28 ! … called early and planned the overhead join from the South to a busy Sandown circuit .. never been in before but descended dead side and downwind to tail a Cessna in … arrived a little quickly over the threshold to a bouncy bouncy landing ..FIRST on grass in SWAB !
Taxied in and was marshalled to a neat line up of parked aircraft instead of the pumps … not worth another startup .. so just shut down and pulled her on to the pumps.
After filling and packing away the immersion suit I felt somewhat lighter ! It was time to pre check the approach details for Booker .. fold the paper neatly under my crutch so it didn’t blow away and then up and away routing around Portsmouth …
Been into Booker a few times in PA28 and 32s but never in a biplane .. the sun was getting pretty hot now as I flared over the tarmac .. elected that as I was still put off by my previous bouncy Sandown touchdown ..
Really friendly welcome as parked in the pumps to fill .. then airborne again .. post pre check of Duxford plate and route
Duxford was always going to be a grass landing … flew in from the West and joined downwind left hand for the westerly landing .. around the village with a Dragon Rapide joinIng behind for the hard runway … over the M11 fairly low and slipped it down onto the grass …. Vacate right to park to the East … just about to shutdown when the kind lady in the tower said that the B17 parked tail on to me ..about 5 aircraft away .. was about to do an engine run … would I like to move further East ..I said if he starts up I will be about 5 miles further East !!
Nice chance to chill and visit the loo for the first time since leaving Jersey at 08:15 .. and also Tea and scone ! Very English !
After a freshen up … and fuel up .. it was time to climb aboard .. start up and take off West .. turn and head up towards Lakenheath and Priory Farm Tibenham for the final leg.
Called up about 15 miles out .. a blind call .. but got a response .. nothing known to affect and also prob 19 in use … great .. as I def didn’t want to make a fool of myself on first arrival
We then had a bit of interesting confusion .. my callsign AB got slightly misheard as HB and I then heard that HB was going to join overhead …I elected to orbit and wait ….before making a fly by approach then to land …
so .. hilariously … I was orbiting awaiting MYSELF to land .. so that I could make an approach to land ha ha 😂
Down and safe
Flying the Sherwood over to the U.K. had been in the planning stages for many weeks … just waiting for a good weather window …
one element was a pre-planned air to air sequence with two great colleagues … Dale Curtin from flying and Alan Moss from ATC
We had spent some time pre planning the sequences using PowerPoint to show possible angles and heights and headings and pre planned “loss of contact-sight” actions .. and Alan had kindly a advised of a dedicated frequency to use. It turned out ATC were monitoring the frequency as they contacted Dale before we rejoined the circuit.
We planned to take off separately … formation take off is only the stuff of Red Arrows … then formate over the South East training area … loose at first ..until we were comfortable the closer up
Wind was not too bad although it was a bit choppy in the receding cloud base .. the thick fog having receded at 10
We had planned that Dale would lead all comms and I would basically fly .. as advised … repeating back any pre planned turns … we used LEFT and RIGHT words and also directional headings .. ie head EAST for the next 2 mins … this meant that Dale effectively had a relatively fixed ‘target’ …. Leaving Alan to direct Dale above below behind ….
Dale initially had problems getting slow enough … which we had discussed on the ground .. so we already had planned that flaps would be down in the Robin …. And also discussed and walked through the potential for stalls in tighter turns whilst trying to keep the camera on station It worked a treat …
Once we were comfortable distances could be reduced and we could organise and position so that we got the desired aircraft angle as well as background content
Once we were out to the offshore islands we could try to position to get some of the more nose on shots .. involving Dale and Alan passing straight and level and then me pulling up and across behind before the curvature of the Robin canopy blocked the shot.
pulling the Sherwood up was always going to present a flattish bottom to the wash behind the Robin so we didn’t do any too close but still got reasonable wash effect from the Robin with its flaps down