NOTE: This is a very(!) long post with a large number of images.
Last Wednesday I flew myself and my father down to Bembridge Airport on the Isle of Wight. We explored a fair bit of the Island and stayed overnight on Wednesday, before flying back late Thursday afternoon. This was my second flight to the Isle of Wight; I flew down there last summer in a C-150 Aerobat (G-PHUN) with my mother, however that was a much shorter visit and we returned the same day.
Our aircraft for this journey would be a lovely Piper PA-28R-180 Cherokee Arrow, G-AVYT. I was recently checked out to fly this aircraft only a few weeks before; posessing retractable undercarriage and a variable pitch propeller, the Arrow is a "complex" aircraft requires differences training before one can fly it. I had originally planned to fly down in a C-172N (G-ROLY), but having flown the arrow, I knew which aircraft I'd prefer to take!
Shown below are some photos of G-AVYT I took on the day I was checked out to fly it (a few weeks prior to our Bembridge flight):
Flying the Arrow down to Bembridge had several advantages, the most significant of which was an increase in speed. Cruising at 130 KIAS, the Arrow almost managed to shave a good hour off the overall time that it would have taken in the 172; this increase in speed pretty much exactly offset the increased operational cost of the Arrow (£155/hr).
However, given that the Arrow is faster, and heavier, it needs a fair bit of a longer takeoff roll that the C172, and as such, G-AVYT is based at Gamston Airport in Retford rather than my usual home airfield, Netherthorpe. As a side note, I have actually started to base most of my flying from Gamston.
The first leg of our journey consisted of a flight from Gamston to Enstone airfield in Oxfordshire, which I usually use as a refuelling point en-route to Bembridge. The leg was flown under IFR at 4,000ft, routing outbound from the GAM VOR and via the EME NDB and DTY VOR.
As the photographs below will soon show, most of the flight was conducted in IMC, making use of my newly-gained IR®, or restricted instrument rating, qualification.
Adorned in high vis jackets, we proceeded to conduct the pre-flight inspection of G-AVYT.
Final photo before Dad got into the aircraft (I apologise for the somewhat creepy posture!):
With everything checked, and power and pre-takeoff checks complete, we lined up with Runway 21 at EGNE. Noise abatement procedures dictated that we had to backtrack to the very end of the runway before takeoff:
Initial climbout, takeoff time was 1010 BST.
Interestingly, since my father did not have his own headset, Gamston provided him with a Lightspeed Zulu headset which is actually better than mine!!!
Upon reaching 4,000ft, we were just about on top of the clouds and the sunlight glare was quite overwhelming. Ray-bans were then adorned necessarily.
Beautiful view above the clouds outside:
Back in total IMC again:
Not sure what he was trying to do with this photograph:
Adjusting DME frequency. Around this time we had also entered East Midlands controlled airspace, after having been given clearance for an IFR transit at 4,000ft.
Overhead the EME NDB (note ADF needle pointing behind), now tracking inbound towards the DTY VOR on the 357 radial:
A beautiful view out the front, but still no sight of the ground:
G-AVYT has a single-axis autopilot with heading hold, which makes tracking easier!
A view of the throttle quadrant and engine gauges. Manifold pressure set to 24 inches of mercury, RPM set to 2400 RPM, and fuel flow leaned back to 9 gallons per hour (GPH).
Just north of the DTY VOR, the cloud began to break.
Now tracking the 219 radial outbound from the DTY VOR towards Enstone, I started our descent nice and early in order to establish a good visual reference around Enstone:
Barford St John disused aerodrome:
Levelled off at 2,000ft with about 10nm until EGTN:
Much cleared out the front at 2,000ft:
Turning to the right so that we can join Enstone from a more Northerly position for noise abatement and easy of flight:
Enstone dead ahead:
Gear down! Three green lights confirmed, and propeller set fully fine (max RPM) and mixture set fully rich for landing.
Final runway 26 at Enstone:
A very smooth landing if I do say so myself! Nice and straight too.
Engine shut down and parked next to the refuelling truck.
Aircraft vacated for a toilet break!
I instructed the refuelling agent to fill both tanks to the very full on both sides, as this fuel load was going to take us to Bembridge and then all the way back to Gamston.
There is something really mean looking about that tri-bladed prop...
Enstone was quite quiet, bar a few light aircraft:
Enstone Flying Club:
That crazy frog toy has not moved from our visit to Enstone last year; it's in the exact same position!
After the refuel, we got ready to get back into G-AVYT for the leg down to Bembridge. It was at this point I noticed we had a slightly flat tire on our Port side. Compressor at hand, the problem was quickly rectified.
A few last photos before we departed for Bembridge!
Getting into the Arrow:
Ready for engine start.
The start was not as smooth as I had hoped since I introduced a little too much fuel into the intake manifold given the (reasonably) hot conditions. Being fuel injected and with an electric fuel pump, the start procedure for the Arrow is a little more complex than in a basic Cessna. It depends upon the pilot advancing the mixture to full rich as soon as the engine fires; I did so a little too early, and hence it coughed and spluttered a little. Still getting used to the quirks of the Arrow!
Our next leg saw us routing via the IFR waypoints KENET and NIGIT, intercepting the 177 radial outbound from the CPT VOR before reaching NIGIT. Altitude was again 4,000ft.
Climbing out of Enstone:
Climbing through 3,300ft:
At some point we overflew RAF Brize Norton, I thought we had gotten a photo, but clearly not!
Established in the cruise:
Heading further south, the sea was now visible:
Isle of Wight!
Downwind for runway 30 at EGHJ, with Bembridge town in sight:
Base leg. We were the only traffic in the circuit.
Final runway 30:
Touchdown runway 30!
Slowing down. We actually used a fair bit of runway at EGHJ.
Backtracking runway 30 for parking.
Not sure about the QFE Bembridge Radio gave us, it was more than 150ft off!!!
Parked up and secured for an overnight stay, we left G-AVYT:
Britten-Norman buildings at Bembridge:
View along runway 30 EGHJ:
G-AVYT visible, third from right:
Having called our taxi for our 1PM lunch at The Beach Hut cafe, we waited outside the Propeller Inn:
Really quite a beautiful day:
After lunch, swimming in the sea was a must. We walked along the coast, looking for a suitable spot.
A few photos from the Lifeboat Station at Bembridge:
After a good trip around Bembridge, we called a taxi to take us to the Somerton Lodge Hotel in Shanklin. The taxi price was very steep at £17!!!
Our evening meal consisted of an Indian at the Purple Mango Restaurant in Shanklin.
Nice water feature they have at the Purple Mango:
After our meal, we had a walk around Shanklin. It really is quite a beautiful little town with plenty of cobbled streets and thatched cottages.
We then retired back to the hotel.
The Ebola Virus outbreak was, and still is, dominating the news:
We then retreated to bed.
A view of our room from the next morning:
Not wanting to be robbed by another taxi, we decided to negociate the public transport system and get a bus back to Bembridge. On the way, we got off at Sandown and had a look around.
Sandown was interesting. The beach itself and the town were very nice, but there were some parts which seemed very run down.
Following his excellent performance as in-flight photographer, Dad was aptly promoted to chief baggage handler.
This was one of the more run down parts of Sandown:
Holiday apartments at Sandown:
As we waited for our next bus to Bembridge, I took some photos of some more thatched cottages (they seem to be very keen on these down here!!!).
Taking the bus back to Bembridge, we rode past the airport, where, to our relief, G-AVYT had visibly not disappeared overnight!
Back at the beach at Bembridge:
Dad back in the sea:
The actual lifeboat used by Bembridge sea rescue:
There were plenty of thunderstorms forecast for our return route, and so we were biding our time and aiming for a gap in the weather up north. BBC weather delivered to my iPad was relied upon.
Unfortunately this did not help:
Some final relaxation:
A beautiful array of Cirrus and Altocumulus clouds were visible:
Dad swimming again:
Having noticed a small gap in the weather, we headed back to Bembridge Airport at around 1530 BST. This "gap", however, was a mixed blessing. We would avoid thunderstorms at Gamston, but were likely to hit several around Oxfordshire and the Rugby/Daventry area.
Preflight inspection of G-AVYT before our return flight:
Our return route, clocking in at 166nm:
Having decided that G-AVYT did not require any extra oil, we jumped inside and departed on runway 30 at Bembridge.
Climbing out over Portsmouth with Spinnaker Tower visible.
View of engine gauges, gear lever and throttle quadrant:
After transiting the Solent CTA under IFR, that's when we first saw it. The black mass that was the forecast thunderstorm. There were infact several forecast for the area, however I had prepared.
We were now flying from KENET to Enstone, ready to intercept the 219 radial inbound towards the DTY VOR.
Still looking quite clear out to the east:
That small rectangular switch visible to the left of the engine gauges and directly above the starter rotary is the electric trim switch. This allows the aircraft's trim to be controlled by means of a rocker switch on the yoke (just like the Saitek yoke) as opposed to having to manually adjust the wheel.
The sheer scale of the Cumulonimbus cell was really starting to kick in here.
After reaching Enstone, I turned G-AVYT to intercept the 219 radial inbound to DTY. This is where the weather really took a turn for the worse, and Coventry radar warned us about a "significant thunderstorm that had just passed over".
We entered some Nimbostratus-like scud cloud that is characteristic of udnerneath and around a cumulonimbus cloud, and were back in total IMC, just as we had been the day before.
A few very small gaps:
Although quite turbulent, this first cumulonimbus cloud was not a cause for concern; we had only really skirted around the edge of it and certainly went nowhere near the centre where one could encounter dangerous updrafts/downdrafts.
After clearing the first cell, things got even blacer out front:
There was no avoiding this one! If things got too turbulent inside and danger was a possibility, we would have to divert.
After overfying the DTY VOR, we tracked northbound towards the EME NDB. This was where we most definitely entered the base of a cumulonimbus cloud. It is really quite a surreal experience; the whole cockpit turns dark, and after a brief period of silence, one can hear the rain pelting against the windshield. The auxiliary fuel pump was turned on as a precaution to ensure good fuel flow to the engine and all loose articles were secured.
I had to divert slightly to the right of track to avoid the centre of the CB; definitely a no-go zone. You can see this on the Nav 1 OBI:
After clearing the CB, things started to clear up as we approached East Midlands:
We were now only around 15-20 minutes away from Gamston. Center Parcs Nottinghamshire:
Still looking very grim out to the east, but Gamston looked good!
We then joined the cicuit at Gamston and landed on runway 21.
G-AVYT after engine shutdown:
The total amount of flying completed in total was 3.3 hours, which equated to around 3 hours and 20 minutes.
An absolutely fantastic experience all round and hopefully one I will be able to repeat in the future.