Some Past Club Events
: Solstice : Antarctica :
2011 : Round Britain Rally
Bodmin Fly Out - 2 Oct 2016
The Club took advantage of free landing vouchers and high pressure to hold an end-of-season fly out to Bodmin.
Six intrepid aviators took their magnificent flying machines to Old Warden, Bedfordshire, to see the Shuttleworth Collection vintage evening display. Steph even snapped the Avro Vulcan en route (quite a contrast to the Avro triplane of 50 years earlier).
Many thanks to Devon & Somerset Gliding Club for a friendly and well-organised group glider experience evening at North Hill. Who needs a Rotax??
Summer Solstice 'First Light' - 21 June 2014
Report by Bernard Bader
Geoffrey Wellam refers to his love of flying at first light in his compelling book of the same name; something I’d never actually done. First light for GA is half an hour before sunrise at the horizon, so I concocted a plan to do such a thing on the shortest day of the year, heading eastwards to Stonehenge, welcoming the birth of a reborn sun, the earth mother, as the ancients would have seen it.
I find beer to be a great enabler, an elixir that brings fertility to the imagination and confidence to commit. (This truth was driven home to me some while ago on cold night, in a cold barn eying the sorry wreck of an AX2000 bought during a wine frenzied attack on e-bay; its new forlorn owner standing next to me fishing for any signs of hope, that it may one day fly... ) And so it came to pass, well into a second pint of Cobra, at the DSMC Christmas Curry Night, that my little plan developed into a club affair with a camp-over the night before, a climb to 10,000 feet at Stonehenge, switch off engines for a bit of a glide back to Dunks for bacon butties and coffee.
I was not to know that we’d only gone and booked the best weather possible for our little outing. The earth mother was clearly looking forward to greeting her children.
Tents up, another curry, easy on the beer, back at 11pm for sleep. What sleep? Between the bailers bringing in silage up until midnight and my alarm giving it large at 3am there wasn’t much. Plan was to leave the ground bang on 04:30am and after a bit of faffing about and emptying the hanger for a poor soul who arrived at 4am only to find his machine planted at the back we pretty much made it. GCBLT leapt into the air before dawn, headlight on, 912 a blazing, my passenger Tom enjoying the ride.
What a beautiful morning!! Cool, smooth, peaceful, the entire gas layer belonging to us alone. So enchanted I didn’t have a clue where I was when I heard, “GCBLT this is Golf (something or other) requesting your position so I can join you.” It was Pete from Tracy Island. Perfect everything going to plan! … Then she appeared, crimson, veiled by earth and inversion at first, growing stronger every second, brighter, fuller, more powerful until I could look into her no longer. Soon we began the long climb to 10,000 feet. Tom’s knees found usefulness at leveraging my elbows against the control bar for the climb.
Below us the Henge, around them 37,000 people, above them, 8 microlighters. Best seats in the house!
Switched the engine off (and my landing light lest it should drain my starter battery) and glided peacefully for a while. Should have pushed the bar out to get the silence but didn’t think to. By now the earth was lit so we coasted down for a 500 feet cruise across the Wiltshire plains with long shadows creating lovely contrast for the camera clicking off behind me.
Back at Dunks before 7am and the parachuters were already throwing themselves out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane. So mellow was I, the request to give way to the parachute plane fell on compliant ears and a single orbit tucked us neatly behind. Back at base the bacon was already on the gas burners, us arriving just in time to save an intrepid DSMC’er from setting fire to everyone with my petrol primus (for the coffee)... “Stand aside I alone possess the operative skills required to command the hissing devil!”
The bacon and coffee was great but then to cap it all, and bless them both, a bottle of champagne appeared and was shared among all. The flight...Bold it was not, far it was not, high it was, blissful it was. To live a full life follow the bliss I say.
British Antarctic Microlight Expedition - 27 March 2013
Report by Tom Brearley
John Laity of 'Flying for Freedom' (F4F), supported by Staff Sargeant Matt Raasch-Sotinwa (and John's 12 year old son Tom, on the laptop) gave us a very engaging presentation on a suitably freezing March evening. John was instrumental in setting up F4F which has the aim of fostering rehabilitation of wounded ex-servicemen and women by teaching them to fly microlights, in partnership with charity Help for Heroes. As he said, the aim is literally to give them "something to get out of bed each day" while their mental and physical scars heal.
As if flying microlights wasn't enough, John explained that F4F's ambitious objective is to make a world first flight to the South Pole by microlight - something never before attempted by either able-bodied or disabled pilots. The attempt will be made by 8 disabled pilots led by experienced Antarctic hand Col. James Harris on the ground and by Richard Meredith-Hardy in the air.
John's presentation included a history of Antarctic aviation (from Capt Scott's 1902 balloon to the present), video clips of the pilots in training, and an insight into preparations for the Expedition, which will include 'winterising' several P&M PulsR aircraft, adapting them with disabled controls, and planning for the huge logistic challenge. Not only must the Expedition get all their kit and every drop of petrol to Antarctica, but because of the international protected status of the continent, they must also take everything back with them! Leaving rubbish is not an option. While the Expedition itself is still dependent on their fundrasing target being met, there is no doubt that they will be well organised and we wish them the very best of British.
In a first for the Club, the talk was co-hosted between us and the Devon Strut which proved highly successful, and we hope to repeat this in the summer with some joint fly-outs. Over £120 was generously raised on the night from the audience for F4F.
On-line donations can be made at www.bmycharity.com/flyingforfreedom with more details at www.fly2pole.com
Club AGM - 21 March 2012
Report by Tom Brearley
The Club AGM took place at Dunkeswell last Wednesday evening, attended by around 20 members. Many thanks to all those who came.
No doubt they were lured by the free buffet and the hugely entertaining talk we received from Bob Weston. We were engrossed as he recounted, with considerable understatement, his varied experiences flying helicopters - first for the Navy in the 1950s and '60s, then pioneering North Sea oil rigs in the '70s, followed by a stint above the jungles of Sumatra and a 12,000 mile ferry flight to Australia. Iced up rotors over the Iranian mountains had to be endured until they were able to climb out of cloud at 13,000 feet.
Only slightly less fascinating was the business of the evening --
Andy 'Journeyman Balladeer' Oliver stepped down as DSMC chairman after two years' sterling service in the role, and received a well deserved vote of thanks. His trips to France and Wales have really added another dimension to the club, and getting a big name speaker like Brian Milton down to Exeter was great work. Andy will now have more time to concentrate on his writing for Microlight Flyer.
Unfortunately no one volunteered to replace Andy as chair, which means it falls to me as Vice-Chairman to hold the reigns for the moment. I really should have seen that one coming.
The meeting was also evenly split on the issue of subscription fees for the coming year 2012/13. The merits of staying at £40 and dropping to £25 were debated. There was clearly appetite for the same type of club activities to be held over the next 12 months as in recent years, but a concern that the finances should not be compromised. The committee will get out their pocket calculators and communicate a decision on subs shortly in light of the anticipated program.
In the meantime if you would like to join the Churchillian 'few' on the committee, or would be willing to head up a specific event/project, please don't be shy. The success of the club this year will be largely down to the involvement of the members and we would love to hear from you.
Round Britain Rally - 21 - 23 July 2011
Although not a DSMC event, club members Ray Bowden and Tom Brearley took part in the "Round Britain Rally" in Tom's Thruster. A pictorial summary of their rally is on the website. Any resemblance to wacky races is purely coincidental.
Eddie & Lizzie Bishop in their Escapade, Maurice Bush in his Sportscruiser, Pete Rowe & Sam Voysey in their Quantum, Andy Barron in his Kiss, Andy Oliver in his GT450 and myself in my Thruster all took to the air for this year's DSMC trip to Wales.
Unfortunately, Bernard & Jean Bader who had planned to join us in their Blade had to drop out at Dunkeswell. Their engine declined to provide the required number of revs on the pre-flight check.
The trip had been postponed from the previous weekend due to high wind and low cloud. But we really lucked out with the weekend of 1/2 October which formed the tail-end of some glorious Indian Summer weather.
planes flew from their various airfields to meet up at Lane Farm, near
Hay-on-Wye, in the Brecon Beacons. We'd stopped here last year, so the
gently sloping wide grass strip was familiar to some. After
replenishing pilot and aircraft fuel levels we set course for
Aberporth. But not before owner John Bally had chased a couple of the
local deer off the runway with his quad bike!
Aberporth is often closed to GA traffic on weekdays as they test fly drones in the nearby danger areas. But John in the Tower could not have been more hospitable and cups of tea and plates of cake were pressed into our hands. He said he would welcome more GA traffic - so mark it on your map as 'friendly' (but also 'PPR' and note the new inland Notam-able danger areas which aren't yet shown on the charts).
Maurice and Andy O gave Alan and his 8 year old son Joe a taste of lightweight flying with a Sunday morning joy ride, while the rest of us gathered weather information and looked hopefully at the horizontal windsock.
Fortunately, Form 215 showed that conditions should improve further south once we escaped a weak frontal zone. And this proved spot on. Heading resolutely into the wind over a misty Pembrokeshire landscape of flat topped hills and stone walled fields, the long grey expanses of Pendine and Pembry Sands eventually came into view. I slipped back down through the inversion to do some low level sight seeing along the deserted beaches.Then around the craggy Gower Peninsula into Swansea Airfield where I was joined by the Bishops and Andy B.
The others, with better range or less need for chips, headed straight back to England direct.
Conditions were excellent for crossing the Bristol Channel back to Dunkeswell - a flight which served to remind me that while Wales really isn't that far away from Devon or Somerset, microlighting there is a bit like a mini trip abroad which makes it an excellent target for a flying visit. Thanks go to Andy O for arranging PPR at Aberporth and leading the trip.
No doubt the club will be back next year! Why not join us?
Mini Talks Evening - 18 May 2011
Report by Tom Brearley
Many thanks to the 5 speakers and 20 or so attentive listeners who turned out for the club's first Mini Talks Evening, at the Dunkeswell Air Centre last week. The event was put together as a result of feedback in the membership survey which indicated a demand for talks and club evenings. Importantly, the format prevented anyone wittering on too long and allowed regular beer breaks!
The five illustrated 'micro' talks were given on a good mix of subjects --
The intention was to provide a flavour of what members have been up to, educate, inform and generally whet the appetite for the summer's flying. From feedback on the night it sounds like it succeeded.
Brian Milton - 20 October 2010
Report by Tom Brearley
The Club was proud to kick off this year's season of winter talks by hosting legendary microlight adventurer and author Brian Milton. In a 'first' for us we opened the event up to the public by holding the talk in Exeter City Library which proved to be a great success.
At least 50 eager punters and club members were seated in the Music Room of the library when club chair, Andy 'Journeyman Balladeer' Oliver (no stranger to long trips himself), set the scene with a short illustrated introduction to microlighting and the activities of DSMC for the unitiated.
Brian then led us through his epic round the world flight in 1998, via a quick flashback to 1978 when he survived a (televised) fall from 250' after the wing of his powered hang-glider collapsed, throwing him into a ploughed field at Mere in Wiltshire. The accident left Brian with a lasting fear of heights - a handicap he frequently had to combat on the global flight.
After a couple of 'working up' flights to Spain, Germany and Corsica, Brian and his co-pilot Keith Reynolds took off in earnest from Brooklands in March 1998 having secured sponsorship from investment fund GT Global - and after turning down an invitation to race a Richard Branson sponsored team to be first around the world. The duo made swift progress across the Alps and into the Middle East where a 'short cut' through Syria led to interception by an inquisitive MiG21. Deciding that dinner as King Husein of Jordan's guests was prefereable to a night in a Syrian prison, they decided not to land and dashed for the Jordanian border.
Saudi Arabia was marked by endless cooling problems which even an engine change failed to cure. The solution was to cable tie the radiator to one of the undercarriage legs where it was out of the blanking caused by the saddle tanks. India was a bureauctratic nightmare while the Chinese just didn't know what to do with a private capitalist aircraft. In Japan Brian and Keith were heroes of the poor microlight pilots there, who are forced to operate within a pitiful 2.5 mile radius of their take off point and not above 500ft.
In Russia the flight came close to failure. Permission to cross Siberia took an eternity while the attentions of the local ladies took its toll on morale and Keith's commitment. When Keith's visa expired, he resolved to leave the expedition and leave Brian to carry on with a Russian navigator, which at least satisfied the authorities in Moscow. Across the Bering Straights things proved easier in the land of the free and Brian ploughed on solo through San Francisco and New York, unluckily losing his sponsor in the process when GT Global was taken over by another company.
With characteristic tenacity and not a little courage, Brian completed the dangerous flight across Greenland and the North Atlantic to Iceland and the Orkneys. On the last lap down to London an ever-swelling escort of microlight pilots provided moral support.
Brian told a good tale and his well-illustrated talk was warmly received. A thoroughly memorable club night.
Wiltshire's Wonderful Weekend of Wizardry, included an aerial white horse spotting challenge -- bonus marks awarded for crop circles.
Wales Trip - 25/26 September 2010
Report by Andy Oliver
Four aircraft participated in the Wales Trip, signing up for the 2 day version, rather than the single Sunday version. They were Ed and Lizzie Bishop (Escapade), Nick and Steph Tomes (C42), Andy Oliver (GT450) and Tom Brearley (Thruster TST). These were all crews who had cut their touring teeth in France in May. No doubt Bernie Bader and Ray Blatchford would have joined the group, had their aircraft been repaired! The pictures tell most of the story, but here are some facts.
All aircraft met up at Rosemarket Golf Course, near Pembroke, landing on the 14th fairway. Tom and Andy went via Swansea (in a slow 2hrs 10), due to strong head winds. At one stage forward progress was under 30mph. Bacon Butties (world class in quality and price) having been taken, the party departed for Lane Farm, near Hay-on-Wye. Tom went direct, while the three others flew low along Pendine Sands on a windy, sunny afternoon with a remarkable light reflected from the sand and sea. All flew up the 40 mile ridge that peaks with the Brecon Beacons, and ends near Talgarth. The sun remained and the wind died. All were in by 1730.
Great support from John Bally, owner, saw us with a can of fuel each and settled in the beamed and fire warmed Roast Ox Inn, Painscastle, by 1930. Crews were either in tents or the caravan by 2300. It was a cold night. It was a pity that the electric heater was only discovered as we tidied up the following morning.
And a beautiful morning it was. Not a cloud, but a wind 12-15 from the north. The Escapade and the C42 were away by 1030, heading for Snowdon, and then on into Caernarfon. The tail wind had them back home to their respective Devon hangers in 1hr 50mins. Judging by their emails, they had a wonderful day out.
The north wind caused the pair of Andy and Tom to head east to Shobden near Leominster, to feed the thirsty Thruster. Then, the wind now behind them, on to Berrow, near Gloucester. Andy’s 250th airfield was captured in a celebratory photo. The trip from there to Dunkeswell was magnificent. 20mph of wind pushed us down the Severn, over the bridges and round the coast in increasingly blue and cloudless skies.. At last, Andy got some value from his transponder, and was allowed to stay high along the coast by Bristol Control, keeping the wind and losing the turbulence suspected if one went through the 500ft gap between the M5 near Clevedon and the Class D 1500ft ceiling. Tom asked for permission also, and received it (saving himself the £1600 transponder, on this occasion.)
A wonderful weekend, with routes open for the fast and the slow, that might well be the final trip of the summer season 2010. All hands were raised for a repeat in 2011.
As Chairman, I encourage club members to speak with the participants. Hopefully their stories will encourage a larger turnout for the next trip.
Fittingly, the prize was a bottle of White Horse Whisky which was duly carried back to Dunkeswell in Pete's Quantum by the DSMC team for later consumption.
Other duties prevented me going to Sandown on the Saturday but John Anderson and I were able to go on the Sunday despite thoughts of the cold front threatening our return. On Saturday I went to Dunkeswell in order to rig and prepare Golf Papa so that we could make a reasonable start the next day and Chris Webb kindly put the aircraft in the hangar overnight so that I did not have to tie down. John and I departed Dunkeswell at 10.00 with a tail wind and fifty minutes latter we were refueling at Compton Abbas. Just after 11.30 we were on our way to the Isle of White with a basic service from Bournmouth via Stoney Cross and overhead Beaulieu.
This was my first visit to the famous Spamfield and I was a little surprised to find not very many aircraft there. That said, it was after all Sunday afternoon with a forecast of wind and showers so I expect most visitors had gone home. We enjoyed an excellent bacon and egg bap and cups of tea before a stroll to the petrol station at Morrison's to top up our reserve of fuel for the return journey. Our return was uneventful and we passed back through the "gap" with the helpful Bournmouth ATC providing the service. We arrived at Compton again to fill the fuel tank and to top off with more tea before the flight back to Dunks. Departure from Compton was a bit bumpy but otherwise we enjoyed a quiet flight.
Unfortunately, the cold front was then to take its toll. During the derigging process, the wind strengthened and despite the care taken, a gust weathercocked the a/c causing some damage to a skin and one of the lift struts. That said, the mechanical damage is minor and the repair process is underway. Up until then, John and I had enjoyed a great day out but this misfortune definitely took the icing off the cake. Now. what I will share with you is that this incident was probably avoidable if I had of screwed a tie down into the ground and attached the tail to it. Yes, hindsight and all but we learn about flying from that!
Eight intrepid DSMC members, in 6 aircraft, answered new chair Andy Oliver's call to undertake a petit raid to France over the May bank holiday weekend. In addition to Andy in GT450 G-GEMX, Eddie & Lizzie Bishop in Escapade G-CDIZ, Nick & Steph Tomes in C42 G-OVAL, Ray Blatchford in GT450 G-RAYB and Bernie Bader in Blade G-CBLT, I went along in my trusty Thruster G-MTNU. Here is 'NU's diary of the trip...
Thurs 27 May
Bernie and I decide that what Andy kindly calls the 'classic microlights' (for classic, read slow) would do well to make a head start before the planned rendez-vous at Lydd on Friday at 1400hrs. Accordingly Thursday evening sees us stowing lifejackets, wet wipes and other essential survival gear into the planes in preparation for what promises to be a nice leisurely evening flight up to Popham.
Unbelievably, when all is stowed I realise I have left my headset and radio in Exeter. The top speed of my MGB is probably reached in the dash back along the A30 to fetch them! Kindly Bernie waits for me and a rapid transit to Popham is then made, to touch down more or less near the official airfield closing time of 2000hrs.
Tents are hurredly pitched in Popham's back field before we repair to the Little Chef across the A303 for some much needed beer and sustenance.
The others, having better speed and fuel capability, will make the positioning flight direct from Devon to Lydd tomorrow.
Fri 28 May
The start of a long day is heralded for Bernie and I by some kind soul carrying out an engine test just feet from the tents at 6 in the morning. Thoroughly awake, we are able to buy petrol and get away in good time for Lydd. We route south of Gatwick in perfect conditions, turning onto heading 090° at Petersfield by the scarp of the south downs. Here we call Farnborough LARS and make our way for some 70 miles across Sussex and Kent over a landscape scattered with pretty villages and little woods at low level under the London TMA. With no GPS, I'm pleased to see the waypoints coming up exactly on the Thruster's nose - especially as I'm navigating with the half mil. chart for the first time, in practice for France where there are no quarter mils.
The spell of the long straight cross-country is broken by a windy landing at Lydd which the tower advises as 18 knots down the runway. Foolishly, I land on the numbers and have to taxi what seems like half a mile up the runway with 'NU twitching in the wind, eager to be airborne again. I carefully park into wind on the bare concrete apron and make sure the wheels are well chocked ('NU has no brakes).
Escaping the interminable terminal corridors we finally find our friends in the 'Biggles Restaurant' and are given a hearty welcome. Flight plans and customs forms are deftly completed and then it's back out to the apron to oversee refueling from Lydd's bowser. The driver seems only slightly surprised when I ask him to put the first half litre into a small bottle of two stroke oil so I can mix it up!
At 1400hrs we are ready to point ourselves at the Channel. As I struggle into my dry suit and lifejacket on the apron and then call 'Tower' for permission to hand start my little 503 on the grass, I'm conscious that I am probably not the sort of slick corporate customer Lydd (London Ashford International) aspires to....
We take off in our pairs with my Thruster following Bernie's Blade into the air after practically no ground roll at all. Wind is now given as 20 knots. With Andy and Ray showing us the way in their GT450s, we climb up to 5,000 feet as we coast out beside the desolate pebble expanse of the Dungeness peninsula, tipped with its nuclear power plant and circle of red restricted airspace.
The French coast isn't immediately visible so I entrust myself to Bernie's GPS for the crossing to Boulogne. After a bit of too-ing and fro-ing on the radio, Lille Information (who speak good English but can't hear us properly) decide we are not interesting and simply instruct us to remain clear of controlled airspace. As planned, the Blade and the Thruster turn south down the French coast once Boulogne is in sight, while the others take the more direct route inland under the puffy cumulus layer. The long empty sandy beaches are great to have under our wheels after almost 30 miles of sea! South of Le Touquet I catch up with Bernie and gesture him to descend and slow down, so we can enjoy the magnificent view of the deep blue Channel and warm up a bit. Soon the marshes at the mouth of the Somme come into view and we turn east up the river to locate Abbeville aerodrome.
After Andy has warned Abbeville on the radio that "des ULMs Britanniques" are on their way, nervous first calls of "Verticale" (overhead) and "Vent-arrière" (downwind) are offered up to listening French ears and we land in a moderate crosswind on the wide grass runway. What I had taken for a flock of large birds further down the strip turn out to be sheep, guarded by three sheepdogs and a rustic 'berger' wearing a high vis jacket! French charm already, and we've only just arrived!
As conditions are superb Andy suggests we press on to camp overnight at St Quentin, about 60 miles inland. Glad to have got the Channel and our first French landing out the way without incident, we enthusiastically agree.
The flight up the wide valley past Amiens, following the meandering course of the River Somme in the warm evening sunlight is wonderful, and although I am on the look out for shell holes, it seems almost impossible to believe that we are flying over one of the great First World War battlefields. The rolling wheat fields seem unscathed. But some reminders can be seen. At Villers Bretonneux I drop down to 1,000 feet to snap the large Australian cemetary and a few moments later we pass within a mile or two of the spot where Manfred von Richthofen, the famous Red Baron, was shot down in 1918. I also note that each village seems to have its own little cemetary of a dozen neat white crosses on the outskirts. But tonight the landscape we're flying over seems thoroughly healed; the shadow of the War not that long.
Like many all-grass strips, the airfield at St Quentin is almost invisible until you're within half a mile of it. On the ground the field is tranquil and, apart from a recenly-arrived Nick & Steph in the C42 and Eddie & Lizzie in their Escapade, practically deserted. Flying in France seems to be a pleasantly laid back affair! We make camp surrounded by birdsong and the smell of earth and cut grass, before piling into taxis which Eddie has wisely ordered. Our first dinner in France, at a little family-run restaurant near the Hotel de Ville, turns out to be excellent. Bernie even has snails!
Sat 29 May
The forecast is for rain in the afternoon so we decide to make a day trip to Laon, just 20 miles to the south-east, leaving the tents at St Quentin. The flying is over an unmistakably 'French' landscape of straight Roman roads, hedgeless strip fields and beautiful winding river valleys, interspersed with welcome windfarms and large woods to assist the passing aerial navigator.
Laon is another charming sleepy grass airfield, lying on the plain under a steep ridge on which the old town is perched, capped by a dramatic medieval cathedral. With the sort of overwhelming generosity which we're soon to recognise as typical of French pilots, the aeroclub guys offer to drive us all into centre ville in their cars. Our driver explains that the part of the town at the foot of the hill, by the railway station, was bombed by the Americans in 1942 with considerable loss of life. Fortunately, they missed the beautiful old town which we wander round before having lunch sitting outside at a cafe in front of the cathedral.
But there's no time for coffee! Whispy grey low clouds are gathering and before we've got off the bus on the way back to the airfield, rain is streaking the windows. We wait for a gap in the showers and then beat a hasty retreat to St Quentin.
There we celebrate Andy's birthday with tea, wine, beer and little French cakes bought sureptitiously by Eddie & Lizzie in Laon. Andy's age is only supplied on a 'need-to-know' basis. Another tremendously helpful French pilot, René, lets us use his homely yellow-painted cabin as our tea room. It has a little kitchen in one corner with onions hanging up and champagne flutes above the draining board. In the other corner is an enormous trophy marked "Tour de France ULM". We don't think he got that for coming second....
That evening Andy befriends the local 'Meteo Station' man, Fred, who drives us into town for a drink. A good friend to have when the forecast is looking iffy! Many French airfields are owned by the government and have a permanent Met presence - a real bonus for touring pilots. Fred Le Met seems rather like a lonely lighthouse keeper at his station and clearly welcomes some company. Although he went to university in Glasgow, his English is easily understood. A hearty aviators' dinner of meat fondue and raclette follows.
Sun 30 May
The forecast is for rain tomorrow and rising winds later today - an occluded front is coming in. We decide to put 'Plan B' into operation and head back toward the coast.
Tents are pulled down early in the morning and stowed, but Andy quite rightly delays our departure until the grey skies to the north-west have cleared. An excellent three course lunch is had in the Aéro-club while we wait. If only British airfields were like this!
The fresh headwind dictates that a direct track is taken and so we follow the autoroute at low level back towards Abbeville. Ground speed for the Thruster and the Blade is around 30 knots as we crawl past windfarms and are overtaken by 2CVs. Decision point for me is on passing Amiens airfield, where I can't ignore the fact that I have used exactly half my fuel to cover half the distance. Not much of a reserve there! I call Amiens in schoolboy French, and English, to say that I must land for fuel and, hearing nothing in response, peel off to join final for 30.
Bernie kindly follows me in, and we refuel in blustery conditions from his jerry can, at what proves to be yet another largely deserted French airfield.
On arrival at Abbeville we are greeted by Andy on the radio advising us that the wind is challenging. Turning overhead to check the sock, we bat downwind at what seems like a huge speed and then approach with plenty of power on. We both make uneventful landings diagonally across the wide grass strip, but are disappointed to hear that Ray's GT450 turned over on landing a few minutes before us. Fortunately Ray is fine, with only a bruised hand to show for the incident, but his trike is sitting forlornly in a corner of the hangar next to its broken wing.
Eddie & Lizzie also suffered stone damage to their prop on landing, which Eddie has repaired with some duct tape from his 'get you home' kit.
In view of the stiff headwind, it is agreed that the classic microlight contingent will stay at Abbeville overnight with Ray, while the faster machines cross back to Lydd or Headcorn before the expected front comes in.
Bernie, Ray and I wave the others off, and are just starting to pitch camp when an official looking figure in a black raincoat draws up in an old Renault. He speaks no English but I understand that he is a glider pilot at the club. With typical gallic generosity, he hands us his key card to allow us access to the club house overnight - provided we put the card in the letter box for him the next morning. Merci bien, monsieur! As he shows me round the building, he asks a few questions about flying and Ray's injury but mostly talks enigmatically about the pictures on the walls. Before leaving though he shows me his Gendarmerie badge, and then presents me with a T-shirt and Ray with a silk tie decorated with biplanes! Presumably the airfield had reported the accident to the local police and he had come to check everything was in order - but talk about an oblique approach; Columbo would be proud!
That evening Ray phones a UK contact, Alan, who agrees to drop everything and bring his 14 foot trailer all the way from Wales to Abbeville to recover him and the GT450 back to Blighty.
We get a taxi into Abbeville for a late dinner and then return to sleep on the club house floor. The others text us to say they are all safely arrived at Headcorn, which is good to hear.
Mon 31 May
Alan arrives at 6 o'clock in the morning in disgustingly cheerful spirits for a man who was on the Dover ferry at 0400! The GT450 is man-handled into the trailer and he and Ray set off on the return trip to the UK. Now that's what you call service!
During the day Bernie and I make two attempts to get away north, but are forced to turn back each time due to the low cloud. The first time we try inland to the east of Le Touquet. The second time up the coast. Le Touquet Tower offer us a transit of their zone, but the murk forces a quick U-turn over the estuary at Berck before the fingers of mist envelop us. My log book reads "Abbeville - Local" twice. We are starting to get to know the airfield pretty well and our 'goodbyes' carrying less and less conviction!
Having duly put the enigmatic Inspector Clouseau's key card in the letterbox before taking off, we have to revert to sleeping under canvas in the evening.
Andy calls to confirm that the others have made it safely back to Devon from Kent.
Tues 1 June
The occluded front moves slowly through and Bernie and I sit it out in the rain, eating French cheese.
In the evening we investigate the motel in the corner of the airfield and have a very acceptable meal. I'm tempted to book a room for the night and get a shower, but somehow manage to resist. The rain has stopped by the time we finish our meal.
Wed 2 June
The low cloud burns off by mid-morning and we leave Abbeville in good conditions, heading for a refuelling stop at St Omer. We refuel 'NU out of our jerry cans at the old Royal Flying Corps base and don our over-water kit for the flight back to Headcorn. My engine is hard to restart (still hot) and I feel distinctly overdressed hauling on the pull starter in an Ozee, dry suit and lifejacket in the warm sunshine. At last she fires and I line up for a quick get away on the cross-wind runway 27, with Bernie behind me in G-CBLT.
It takes a second for the words to register, but I turn round and see Bernie's yellow Blade cutting a wake through the top of a green wheat field before digging in and turning over. To my great relief Bernie is standing beside the plane waving as I make a low pass to check he's ok. I quickly put down at St Omer again, pull off my suit and run over to the tractor cutting the grass.
"Mon ami est atterris dans un champ - ne pas gravement blesé. ULM."
"Montez!" repies the tractor driver throwing away his gauloise, and we bounce at speed over the airfield and down a farm track. Bernie is completely unscathed and coolly assessing the damage, accompanied by monsieur the farmer, when we arrive.
The wing is hopelessly bent, the propeller smashed and the engine loose on its mounts. Bits of corn stick out from every nook and cranny.
I help Bernie derig the wing and then go to see whether our farmer friend is coming back with a trailer. I can't find the farmer, but I do find Philippe the microlight CFI at the airfield. His English is excellent and recovering trikes from crop seems to be all in an afternoon's work for him and his mate Gerard. With their expert help we push the trike out of the field and wedge the huge rolled-up wing into Philippe's little Renault Twingo.
"It's ok, it's a new car," he jokes as he moves the child seat to make room for 20 feet of dirty dacron. A tow rope is tied to 'LT and the strange convoy then recovers back to the airfield with Bernie sitting in the trike to steer while the wing pokes out of the open tailgate.
I cancel our flight plan with Philippe's help, while Bernie gets in touch with the insurers and the only man who might be able to help straight away - Alan! Unbelievably, Alan is willing to drive back to France again from Wales with the trailer. Outstanding. What his wife said I have no idea.
The Thruster finally climbs out for Engand at 1840 French time, waved off by Bernie at the side of the runway. Effective two-way communication is established with Lille and I hit Cap Gris Nez 'on the nose' for a perfect crossing to Folkestone at FL055. The view over the Channel under a bowl of deep blue with the sun sinking in the west is unbelievable. Shipping in the far distance seems to glitter and sparkle in the haze. To take my mind off the water below, I calculate my ground speed with the stopwatch and some laboured mental arithmatic. (47.5 knots against an air speed of 50. No problems with headwinds today.)
Kent is spread out beneath me in glorious evening sunshine and I can almost hear the Dambusters March rising softly in the background as I descend into Headcorn to land on my own shadow. A pint of Spitfire (what else) is called for in the airfield bar to celebrate, as I text Bernie and my parents to let them know I'm down safely.The tent gets a final outing as it's pitched under the wing for one more evening.
Thurs 3 June
The trip home north of Gatwick, via a refuelling stop at Popham, is easy flying. Visibility is terrific and a kind tailwind wafts me on my way.
As I taxi in at Dunkeswell, I'm met by Ray, Bernie and Alan who have arrived by road just 10 minutes earlier. A fitting end to a great, if slightly incident packed, 8 days of flying!
Huge thanks must go to Andy 'the Journeyman Balladeer' Oliver for conceiving the trip and leading it so ably - despite having such difficult material to work with. Thanks also to Bernie for being an ever-reliable wing man and to Eddie, Lizzie, Nick, Steph and Ray for being such great company. Alan must also get special mention for his outstanding services to microlighting!
Le tour aéronautique et gastronomique de DSMC en Picardie 2010.
(Left to right) Eddie & Lizzie, Tom, Andy, Steph & Nick, Bernie and Ray
Club AGM - 24 March 2010
Eighteen members (about a third of the club) braved a damp and foggy night for what was a very positive and engaged evening. Minutes of the meeting will be posted in the 'Club' section, plus emails will be circulated with details of the French Trip and a proposal to extend free membership to students, shortly.
Serious thanks were given to Bernard Bader, Mike Hawkins and Pete Bishop who stepped down from the committee this year after several years of invaluable service. The new Club Committee for 2010-11 is:-
Chair Andy Oliver
Treasurer Nick Tomes
Secretary Ray Bowden
Membership Secretary Colin Bishop
Safety Officer Jim Greenshields
Vice Chair/Web Tom Brearley
Fly Ins/Fly Outs These positions both vacant at present - if you fancy it make yourself known!
Since The Journeyman
and The Balladeer are still not speaking to each
other, having taken opposing positions regarding the “Goddin Amendment”
on BMAA participation for all syndicate members, Andy Oliver went solo
to a recent Devon & Somerset Microlight Club meeting.
Report by Tom Brearley:
Dunkeswell is only 5 miles from Exeter Airport's instrument approach. This fact was brought home to us by a very interesting visit to Exeter ATC when 12 club members spent 2 hours of a Saturday morning as guests of Exeter & Devon Airport Limited. Our visit was split between the visual control tower and the radar room beneath it.
Upstairs we timed it well as the duty controller was relieved a few minutes after our arrival and so was able to chat freely, while his colleague did an amazing job of effortlessly switching his attention between us and the circuit/approach traffic,
"So you'll see on the screen a primary contact has no altitude information --
"G-XX, negative, that's not final, you are on base. Make one left hand orbit for separation and call completed --
"secondary surveilance radar comes from the Eaglescott golfball actually --
"G-XX, traffic is a Dash 8 on 4 mile final. Report visual --
"and if they're not talking to us we have to keep a careful eye on the contact and route RAS traffic around it --
[G-XX forgets to call final] "G-XX, cleared to land!."
It was fascinating to match up traffic on the radar screen with what we could see outside, whether it was Cessna's in the circuit, Flybe Dash 8s on approach or the contrail of a 747 at 28,000ft en route for America. Surprisingly, the gliding site at North Hill could easily be seen from the tower, though not the gliders themselves. The guys confirmed that there are commercial traffic 'rush hours' thoughout the day: early morning around 6am when many flights depart, mid-morning around 11 when they come back, and similarly again around 4pm and 7pm.
Down in the half light of the radar room, 3 radar screens glow blue beneath a big illuminated McDonalds-style panel displaying all sorts of aeronautical information. There's a frequency guide, transponder codes, details of danger areas ('hot' or 'cold' today), weather infrmation, airfield information, the half mil. chart and probably quite a few other things I've forgotten including the price of chips. One screen was for frequency 119.05, one for 128.975 and one for training purposes. So if you're passed from one to the other your details will literally be passed from hand to hand! Interestingly, it was confirmed that 119.05 (for radar service south of Exeter) is only used during the summer when things are busier. In the winter 128.975 covers the whole of the Exeter area alone. Both frequencies are always monitored though.
I've often heard commercial traffic on Exeter Radar reporting their position by reference to mysterious waypoints. The guys helpfully confirmed that the majority of these are points within airways (usually where they step down or cross the coast) and are not marked on the usual charts. So GIBSO is near Bournemouth, BRIDPO is above Bridport, TOMPO is just west of Exeter, EXMOOR is at Minehead and BOLT HEAD - well you can guess that one. The ILS localiser to the immediate east of Exeter is known as EX (echo x-ray), and is marked on the chart as EX337.
Alarmingly, whilst we were there the screens/coms equipment suddenly went blank. Anxiously we looked round with guilty glances to see which numpty had kicked the plug! Fortunately, no DSMC member was to blame and the screens came back on line in a couple of seconds. We had witnessed a real live power cut, and the emergency generators had taken over! It's a testament to the kit they have at Exeter that I doubt any of the traffic receiving a service even noticed.
The clarity of the picture on the screens was incredible. Circuit traffic could easily be seen trundling round Dunkeswell, as could faint slow-moving gliders over North Hill. It was confirmed, to the relief of all, that microlights are usually fully visible provided we're above 2,000ft.
As for calling Exeter, the message was very much, "If in doubt, call!" - and calling is a must if crossing the extended 08/26 centreline within (say) 15 miles. Since most of us don't carry transponders it helps if we can make our first call over a feature which is marked on the controller's radar screen like a VRP, a large town or a regular airfeld. We watched one hapless Piper pilot come south from Dunkeswell for several miles before calling Exeter to say he was "5 miles north of your ILS approach."
"No you're not, mate," muttered the controller, "You're almost in it." A better bet for him would have been for him to have circled near Honiton and reported his position there.
If you lose contact with Exeter, maybe because you've flown out of range or go too low, we were advised to say so to the next LARS service we used. They will then let Exeter know that we were unable to sign off. Alternatively, a phone call from the destination airfield will be appreciated. No 'overdue' action will be taken for VFR traffic in this situation, but it 's a courtesy and puts the controllers' minds at rest. Altitude information is especially useful for the controllers if you're not transponding, since primary radar doesn't provide any height information.
Towards the end of our visit it was fascinating to watch a Flybe flight from Belfast being vectored round from Minehead, past Chard and onto the ILS approach for RWY 26. In the open Class G airpsace over Chard commercial traffic can be brought down as low as 3,000ft. The same applies for north Devon. Instrument approaches usually start at 2,600ft about 5-15 miles out. Food for thought!
Overall, a really useful visit, for which we are very grateful to Exeter Airport ATC. We have offered a reciprocal visit for the air traffickers to come flying with us. We'll have to see whether they take us up on that!
If you were not there, then you missed it. Twenty-three aircraft from unknown wastelands outside the circuit flew in and enjoyed the hospitality of the Devon & Somerset Microlight Club. Food was free to members and those flying in… man could they put it away! The Met Office came through for us with a sunny day and balmy breezes - an oasis in this year’s permanent cloud cover! Big attraction for the evening was the music. “Ladies and Gentlemen lets give it up for… Chard Remains" (band from Chard). What an atmospheric evening! The fog come down - well it was a cloud really; Dunkeswell is 850ft up and has an impossible love affair with the upper atmosphere. The band sent us on a roller coaster ride of folk, the Mighty Floyd (yes really), the Scissors, Irish music and countless others. If Whispering Bob Harris had been there he would have said, in his own whispery way, “An eclectic mix”.
High point for me came at about 23:11hrs. The beer forced me to leave for a zizz round the back of the PFA hanger (Still PFA as far as I’m concerned). The fog was dense, the night was black, the relief was euphoric - I’d left it far too long. Then standing there, still hanging onto himself, my ears were kissed by the distant strains of a violin's lament, echoing in night airs, caressed in that special surreal sound, only dense fog can create; sent me to another world man. I was transported… See what you missed!
Next day rain! The show was over; everyone had had a great time. Those camping awoke to wetness, a terrific bacon breakfast and discussions on how to get home. CFI Jim, the training school's expert weather eyeball, reckoned on the front passing and homeward journeys were safely made. We hope to do the same or similar next year, so if your machine can climb higher than 850ft, come and put her down at Dunkeswell, Devon & Somerset Microlight Club’s annual bash. It will only cost you the landing fee… and your soul.
Wing Farm Fly In
- 11 August 2007
The day started at 0730 - what a glorious morning. Not a cloud in the sky at Puddletown. After a quick breakfast ,set off for the "50 min" trip to Tracy Island. Not a chance! All the holiday grogs queuing on the A35. Arrived at the field about 0905. Both planes out and checked over (well done boys keep it up). Bev & Jeff left about 0920. We left about 10 mins later. We could see the mist hanging in the valleys before getting airborne, but up there at 2,000ft we could see this was going to be an interesting flight. A huge low level blob of cloud covered the whole of the Somerset levels stretching as far east and north as the eye could see. The only thing in our favour was the boundary which was at Crewkerne, and everywhere south was clear.
Ok then, let's follow the boundary east, and maybe have another breakfast at Henstridge! Bev radioed back and reported not a chance. By now we were snapping at his wake: well, we can always pop into Compton Abbas... But to our surprise a couple of miles short of Compton the cloud ended and we could see everywhere north and east. At £10 per landing at Compton we were glad that we could keep going .Called up Wing Farm on the Micro channel and Safetycom: no answer. About 7 mins to run we could see Wing but to our amazement 0 aircraft on the ground (apart from a couple of residents). Bev's landing was as good as mine (7 out of 10 I think) so no bragging here! A long wait ensued before the next aircraft landed about an hour later. Plenty of tea, but a bit slow on the grub front. But by now they were all arriving thick and fast. By 1300 hrs there must have been thirty odd planes. We were joined by Andy and Ben (C42) and Tom (Thruster). After a hot dog lunch we all decided to make a move: Bev went home (Jeff needed to get back, pass was running out), Andy, Ben, myself & Pete decided to return via Weston Zoyland (more tea). A good day out was had by all and a few more hrs in the log book.
Merryfield holds an open evening each year to promote the activities of the airfield and give the local public an insight into reason for all the helicopter flying activities. I went last year and it was a really good event with lots of helicopter displays. The Air Ambulance and police helicopters attend along with the local model aircraft club. The event is totally free and attracts a couple of thousand visitors.
As we fly past Merryfield with its huge runways I have often wondered if we could get permission to land there. When I saw the open evening in the local paper I remembered that one of my mates is friendly with the head of air traffic control at RNAS Yeovilton. So a couple of nights before the event I managed to get this chap's home number and gave him a call. He was a really nice chap (considering that I had just got him out of the bath!) His wife is also a traffic controller at Yeovilton and they both thought it would be a possibility for a couple of microlights to fly in for the event. I was asked to contact Merryfield tower direct and to speak to the event organiser. Again my request was met with approval and was asked if we could allow our planes to be used as a static display.
We were given a slot to arrive between 5.15 and 5.20pm and were most surprised when I said that we would call the tower for joining instructions etc when we were on our way. ( I think they thought we would arrive in some sort of converted supermarket trolley!)
So we departed Tracy Island at dead on 5pm for the five mile long haul to Merryfield. Bev took off first in his quantum with his passenger. Myself and Colin flipped a coin as to who was flying and who was radio man. I won and was radio man for the trip there and was going to fly back. We soon caught up Bev and met overhead Eagle Tavern to arrive together in our arrival time slot.
I had already told the Tower that G-TONN would be the lead plane on radio with Bev in G-BZOE non-radio but following and listening. At about 5 miles out I gave them a call and requested MATZ penetration and landing instructions. We were given MATZ penetration and permission to land along with the QFE and runway 09. I went back to them for the circuit direction and was told that we could do either. As we were approaching from the west we opted for a join on right base.
We gave a quick call that we were established on right base for 09 and was asked the usual to report final. Then they asked for Bev's call sign and to confirm he was with us. This I did and reported final 09 to land.
Whilst we were on final the Tower called Bev and asked for his position. I somehow knew there would be no reply! So after a couple of seconds I tried to put on a different voice and replied for him! Somehow I think we were sussed.
We both landed safely. Colin managed his usual 7/10 landing and we were asked to park up next to the Sea King! (Not something you get asked every day).
We parked up and got the Devon & Somerset Microlight Club banner out to fix to the plane. After a well earned cup of tea after that long flight the crowds started to arrive. There was plenty of interest in the microlights. Bev was mobbed by young children wanting to sit in and have a photo taken. It was a very busy couple of hours.
As we had tied the control bar back to sit behind the back rest we had numerous questions about how we actually fly the plane and the controls used. One chap looked at the passenger foot rests and said "Blimey! You must have long arms mate to reach them controls with your hands."
The helicopter pilots put on a fantastic display which lasted around 30 minutes and then the official display team hurled around a couple of smaller helicopters, missing each other by feet.
It was time to go so I telephoned the Tower on my mobile to ask if it was ok for us to leave. We were asked to push our planes away from the crowd before start up. The crowd seemed to be hanging around to see us depart so I thought that a long back track and a fast fly down the runway at top speed and low level would be in order. Colin (now radio man) asked for taxi instructions etc and we backtracked. We did backtrack rather a long way and was asked by the tower if we were intending to backtrack home! We took off and at top speed shot down the runway and on reaching the intersection we shot up at 1500 ft per min. Stuart Morling was in the crowd and later told us that the crowd clapped at that point!
It was a great evening and Merryfield was very pleased that we were able to come along. We did exchange numbers with Head of Public Liaison and have agreed to do the same next year. We have also been promised a trip in a Sea King as Merryfield will be using Tracy Island more often for their off-site training.
I have not had a reply to a request to fly into Yeovilton but there is always hope!
This event started life at a meeting in those dark winter evenings when all we seem to do is chat about flying. Pete and Colin Bishop were nominated as event coordinators for the newly revamped Devon & Somerset Microlight Club. Both Pete and Colin had their ideas about fly ins and fly outs that the club should organise during the forthcoming year. It was proposed that we host two events at Dunkeswell: one in the summer and one in the autumn. This was when the idea of the Jurassic Coast Fly In came into existence, featuring a flight along the coast from Lyme Regis to Lulworth Cove, and then back to Dunkeswell for an evening bash.
Jim Greenshields kindly allowed the club to use his premises for the event. A marquee was sourced and a gas barbeque loaned by Colin Bishop. All set! It was hoped that holding the event over a weekend would help provide a weather window for the coastal flight and allow people to have a drink on Saturday night.
The weekend dawned with poor viz and low cloud hanging over the coast but fortunately this was only local and cleared by lunch. By then the barbeque was churning out hot dogs and burgers, and visitors were arriving - some from as far afield as Shoreham in Sussex, and others from Newton Peverill in east Dorset. There was a good friendly atmosphere around with everyone being made welcome.
I was volunteered to round up those who wanted to make the trip out and we ended up with 8 planes - some carrying on to their respective home bases and one returning to Dunkeswell. As the predicted front was approaching from the west, and the skies were clouding over, we decided to leave sooner rather then later at 4:15pm.
I took the lead in Rans G-CBOS and with the other planes behind we headed off to Stockland radio mast, then proceeded to bimble down to Lyme Regis and along the Jurassic Coast. As we headed east the weather steadily improved until we were basking in glorious sunshine with unlimited visibility and blue skies above. Truly a wonderful day to be out flying.
I could hear the other planes calling in on 129.825 - some were down as far as Branscome looking at the Napoli cargo ship grounded since the winter months.
Colin Whitford in Skyranger G-MARO was experiencing radio trouble and he decided to head to Bridport as we flew past it, while I carried on, tracking to the North of the Bird Sanctuary near Abbotsbury, and being passed by a Eurostar and two Jab's flying low over Lyme Bay.
Weymouth Bay looked more like the Caribbean than Southern England!
A great day's flying in good company - roll on next year for a bigger and better Jurassic Coast Fly In.
Devon & Somerset