Too good a day not to fly - Cycling Aviator

23rd Sept 2016

Yes I know I should have been cycling today having signed up for the London Revolution cycle event, and needing to start to train seriously. But it was a nigh on perfect flying day, and climbing in an aeroplane is so much less exhausting, so I did what I had planned to do last week before the claggy viz put the kibosh  on it and flew along the south coast to Corfe Castle in Dorset.

A quick transit through Southend airport's airspace and zone and onto Headcorn airfield in Kent to stick some fuel in, or that was the plan. Headcorn had to unexpectedly close it's runway due to a minor incident just as I was in the circuit to land. Rather than buzz around with half a dozen other aircraft waiting to be allowed in, I turned south and headed for my planned bacon roll stop, Sandown on the Isle of White, hoping they would have fuel when I got there. I had enough to get there, but having to then go somewhere else after would have been a tad sphincter tightening.

Not only did they have AVGAS but they have a new, uncharacteristically for airfields, self service card payment pump. Most grass runway type airfields operate a convoluted system that is reminiscent of a 1970's builders merchant. Landing fee paid and human fuel uplifted I set off for the nervy water crossing. The plane has no idea it is over water and there is no reason why it should encounter a problem over water as opposed to land, however, I am very aware of it and the possibility of ditching in the drink makes me a little nervous every time. Airspace restrictions above and Bournemouth airport's zone leave little option but a relatively low level flight across bay from The Needles over to Swanage.

Corfe Castle, Dorset

A couple of orbits of Corfe Castle, a place I remember visiting on a few occasions as a kid when we used to holiday in Swanage, and I headed home. One exposed water crossing was enough for one day so I went north of Bournemouth and cut through the narrow corridor between it and Southampton, which although over terraferma keeps you on your toes with a lot of traffic being compressed from above by restricted airspace, back down to the coast.

Palace House, Beaulieu

I seem to spend so much time between 1500 and 2500 feet with the many upper restrictions we have in the south east it made to a change to be able to get up to nearly 6000 feet once I was clear of Solent. It was wonderfully smooth up there where you can pretty much fly hands off. Unfortunately such luxuries are, like I say, quite rare in the south of England and sure enough once you head north from Brighton you have to get back down to around 2000 feet where, on days like today, the uneven heating of the land below make for some interesting, read lumpy, flying conditions.

Soon the rolling hills of Kent, some of which I'll be using pedal power to climb over next May, are replaced by the industrial areas along the Thames and Tilbury Docks, somewhere I loath when on the ground, seems fascinating from the air.

Tilbury Docks

A short flight from there has me back at base, and after over two hours in the air, ready to get out and dare I say it, walk around. A fine day's flying and I know I should have been cycling but, although not inviting, you can cycle in pretty much any weather. Today was a flying day.

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