Archive for August, 2015

Easton Maudit Farm: Finally!

Saturday, August 29th, 2015 | Permalink

G-UFCB: Parked at Easton Maudit

G-UFCB: Parked at Easton Maudit

Weather can stop you going anywhere, but Easton Maudit this year for me has been a unicorn.   Everything has got in the way of going here, I’ve wanted to land a Cessna here since the beginning of the farm strip flyable season, which for me this year was around March.

The first time was perfect blue sky, but a massive crosswind so I couldn’t even get off the ground at Cambridge.  The second was scuppered by politics, procedures and a lack of awareness on a third parties sake, which all resulted in the opportunity to land away in the height of summer being wiped out.

Third Times a charm……..well maybe not.

The third time was a problem right from the start, I’d planned to go to Rayne Hall Farm, but on the day I couldn’t get an answer from them for PPR.  So I alternated my plan to go to Easton Maudit – spoke to the owner and the aero club and all was good.

All good, until about an hour and half before scheduled to take off when I got a call from the club telling me one of the planes magnetos was playing up and they might have to cancel me 🙁

In situations like this, it tends to pay to just go down anyway and chat.   It might not fix anything,  but it sometimes opens other opportunities.

We could leave you the keys to lock up

Sure enough Charlie Bravo was broken and we wouldn’t be going anywhere in the afternoon 🙁   This wasn’t part of the plan, but I could at least go through a friends Nav planning.

The aero club, now down to 1 aircraft serviceable out of 4 😐  offered me the plane after their last lesson of the day, they’d give me the keys to the place and I could get signed out and pay up next day.

A quick phone call back to Easton Maudit to see if they’d still welcome me in at ~5:30-6pm (to a welcoming yes no problem), there was still hope to go flying.  Although my original passenger for this trip had to bail due to other commitments.

Cambridge to Easton Maudit

The Route

The Route

Generally the route is almost as easy as they come, pretty much a straight line, but as with many farm strips the catch with Easton Maudit is that it’s not on the chart.   So the last bit is basically a case of find Santa Pod Race Trace and then there should be a strip of grass 4nm to the south east, just past the village of Bozeat.

The theory is one thing, finding a strip of grass that is surrounded by fields isn’t always as easy as it sounds while traveling at 115 mph.

I’ve flown with my passenger before into several farms, so the pre-flight briefing was short and generally just a reminder of things like how the doors open/close (people tend to slam them closed like a car, if you don’t warn them) and some notes on sights and their locations (e.g. Santa Pod) so that they could help out – the more eyes the better and if passengers know what to be looking out for, they will hopefully feel a more essential part of the flight and enjoy the trip a lot more.

Santa Pod: Drag Strip

Santa Pod: Drag Strip

Lots of Landmarks to Santa Pod…..then no farm strip.

I don’t fly with GPS, I just use ‘a map and compass style of flying – the plane has a VOR and DME as a fall back and I’ve recently been spending some time playing with these to become more fluent because in 4 years of flying I’ve really only needed to use them 2-3 times (e.g. Revision for Skills Test and Skills Test).

After approx 2 minutes of flying east, it all just began to ‘feel wrong’, we should have seen the farm by now it’s only ~3.5 nautical miles from Santa Pod (which means you should almost be able to see it from the overhead of Santa Pod!), after 2 minutes of flying it’s either underneath you or you’ve missed it!

Don’t try and ‘Force the world to fit the map’

You’ll probably find yourself doing this when learning to fly.   It starts with you being just a few miles away from where you thought you were, perfectly recoverable at this point – you look at your map, you look out the window, something (a road, a railway line, a town) isn’t quite right.   Maybe you’ve already passed it, yeah that must be it, and that other landmark sort of fits this other thing on the map.  So you must be where you think you are…….and you keep flying, going from uncertain of position, to a soon to be lost position 🙁   Don’t force the world to fit, if everything outside doesn’t match the chart, it probably isn’t where you think it is.

The best tip I was ever given on my final skills test revision lesson (when the heading indicator was half-caged leading to a massive 10+ degree error) was:  Don’t be scared to turn around, go back to your absolutely certain of position landmark and start the leg again!!

That looks like a farm strip

In total it took us about 5 minutes to spin the plane round, get back to Santa Pod and then do the run to Easton Maudit again.   This time I talked the landmarks through out loud, south to north (left to right) grass strip, pylons around it, small town to its east (before we get to the strip), sometimes this just helps build the picture.

Easton Maudit Farm Strip

Easton Maudit Farm Strip

My passenger spotted it first, I’ve flown with them to farms before and they make a heck of a good observer for farms strips 🙂

Note the wind farms in the picture above, those things are 5nm away, that gives you some idea of how far you can see in an aeroplane and this is from only ~600ft.

Always fly a circuit at farm strips

You might have spoken to the owner on the phone, you might have looked it up on google earth, but my advice would still be to always fly a circuit.   It gives you time to have a good look at the runway, the obstacles, to assess the wind etc.

Even the circuit at a farm is to be flown with care, note the national grid pylons surrounding Easton Maudit (as if someone was trying to purposely line them up with the circuit!), you’d have to be pretty low to hit them, but food for thought for any go around etc.

Easton Maudit Final 50ft

Easton Maudit Final 50ft

Probably one of my favorite flying photo’s to date.   You can tell just from this picture, that my passenger is comfortable with my farm strip flying, a nervous passenger would be holding on to the seat around the time this photo was taken!  🙂

There was a crosswind of about 6-7 knots, but the wind was stable with no gusting.   You can deal with crosswind easy enough, its gusts that will make you work, so the final approach went smooth.

If you want to land accurately, the only method is Point and Power this keeps the point you want to land constant (keeping the nose pointing at it) and then uses power to maintain the airspeed as required.   This means you’re always going to land where you want to land because it’s held constant, then you just add or remove airspeed as required.   The generally taught PPL method is ok for learning, but it’s less precise and you won’t get the same consistency of touch down point and on farms, you have to be able to touch down in under 100m of the start of the runway typically, after that, go around you’ll run out of runway!

Chatting with the owner

What you get upon landing at a farm varies greatly, sometimes coffee and cake, sometimes there’s nobody there.  The owner of Easton Maudit had kindly driven out to greet us, we shut down and had a good aeroplane / aviation / tales and tribulations type of a chat, really enjoyable story swapping.

It was a nice warm summers evening, around 6:15pm, chatting about flying and aeroplanes.  Have I sold you on farm strip flying yet?  It’s brilliant….

But time flys when you’re having fun and all to soon we had to be making our excuses, Air Traffic Control / the airport, at Cambridge closes at 8pm and while I have a night rating, that’s not much use if the airport is closed!  😉

Returning to Cambridge

We’d landed into wind up a hill and as we found out when we touched down it was quite a bumpy runway.   Now a bit of a decision to make:

  • Take off into wind, but climbing a hill
  • Take off with a tail wind, but accelerating down a hill

The hill was pretty steep at the far end, so rather then try and climb that, I decided we’d go for the down hill.

Using as much runway as possible we gave a wave to the owner and then released the brakes, full power and away G-UFCB charged!!!!

It still took a while to get the airspeed to register, I had my abort point in my head and we weren’t there yet.   Finally 40 knots, 45 knots, 50knots, 52…..rotating!!

Easton Maudit Take Off

Easton Maudit Take Off

I think that picture is worth a thousand words, it’s the church in Easton Maudit village.

All well and time to point the plane east to head back home.

Bit of Fun over Grafham Water

It’s a massive land mark and so just for fun (I mean practice), I asked my passenger if he was ok with being involved in an ‘advanced turn’ (i.e. Greater than 30 degrees).   He was up for it, so rolling the plane over and adding a little power we did a 360 degree turn to the right overhead Grafham water – for the passenger in Cessna 172 this sort of is as close as it gets to basically being at 90 degrees, it sort of feels like it! and while aerobatic planes tend not to have doors – in a steep turn in a 172, you better hope the door is locked and your seat belt secure 😛

Landing at Cambridge

We got back to a very quiet airfield, my logbook says we were joining crosswind around 19:30 local time (30 minutes before the airport closed).  So Air Traffic were very friendly and happy to entertain the join requests etc.

Lining up for runway 23, it was a huge crosswind, it took quite a bit of effort to get the plane lined up with the runway but the approach itself all went really quite well.  Just a lot of focus on getting the plane down just right.

The plane touched down ok though and well before Charlie so I was happy enough with the landing, even if we did get a little screech off the tyres about 100m after landing – bit more ailerons into wind required, the suffice wind was going for it.   There is a crosswind runway at Cambridge, but it was closed so it was 23 or go somewhere else and it wasn’t so high that it was out of limits, just approaching them.

Safely back on the ground, just a matter of tying up the plane, returning the keys and for a very strange first time ever…….locking up the aero club! 🙂