Spring is here again: Let’s go Flying!

Looking through my logbook, I did a heap of land aways last year.   Of my target farm strips I managed to tick off almost all of the ones I wanted to get in the log for the season, though Nayland still eludes me, but perhaps this season.

With Storm Dorris out of the way and spring officially here, hopefully the weather will begin to take a turn for the bright side, so I thought it’d be good to take a look back at some of the places I landed in 2016 and some I really hope to do in 2017.

Keyston Farm

Keyston Farm Downwind

Keyston Farm Downwind

I’ve now been here about 3 times, it’s the only farm strip I land at with some regularity.   It’s easy to find, it’s got a nice slope that will keep you focused but not challenge you so it feels like hard work – and it has a pub just down the end of the track, so upon landing there’s something to do even if nobody is about.   That pub also means there’s a real risk that on a nice day, someone else will be joining the circuit when you want to.  There’s no ground radio, so get on the safety com frequency and make sure you give clear calls of your position.

My biggest memory about the most recent visit?   Being about 30 seconds from getting overhead, to hear someone else coming from the opposite direction was about 45 seconds from joining overhead!   Safety com can save your life, we had a bit of a mid-air “make up your own official phraseology season of who would do what” and agreed between us that I’d orbit east of the runway, while he repositioned for wind and landed.  Once down I’d then join the circuit to land.

It worked a treat, my landing wasn’t the best I’ve ever done, the airspeed was just a bit high with a thump on the back wheels as it touched down but it was stopped in ~250m  in time to park it up.  Actually I was thankful someone had landed before me, being a lovely hot day the place was slammed and I was the 4th plane to land.  You could hardly move for planes – parking was a 3 person job to get the Cessna 172 squeezed in.

The guy who’d landed before me absolutely trounced me in flying hours experience, yet just flew as a hobby (I can only dream of having the time and cash to get anywhere near what he was flying regularly!), still him and his wife were lovely people and they bought me a drink for payback of orbiting while they landed.   As this land away was actually done on my lunch break, I didn’t have time to stick around and walked back to the plane with my coke on a lovely summers afternoon.


This is a strip that’s 6ft BELOW mean sea level, just up near Ely.

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

G-HERC (Golf Hotel Echo Romeo Charlie)

One pretty lazy, sunny Sunday late afternoon (4:30pm), I took G-HERC up there.  It’s a great strip, really quite long and flat – absolutely no problems to land at.  Except if you miss the runway (~16m wide) you’ll either land on a big ditch/mound that is parallel to the runway, or you’re in the river.   But seriously you’d have to be trying or be fighting a crosswind to have any such problems.

I stupidly forgot to bring my camera, so there’s no pictures – I guess I’ll have to go back there! 🙂

Being a sunday afternoon there was nobody about, so upon landing I enjoyed the sunshine, had a break, had a kitkat 😛  and then jumped in the plane for the ~10-15 minute flight back to Cambridge.

I’ll go back, but to be honest, it’s flat and there’s not masses of challenge here, it’s probably easier to land then Cambridge Grass 23 if I’m honest (it’s also longer these days).

Hundon Farm

All I can say about this place is, it’s BRILLIANT.

Hundon Farm

Hundon Farm

I found it by complete fluke actually, a group of us were flying back from the Isle of Wight, a friend was in the left seat so I was just doing a bit of “farm strip spotting” when nearing home I stumble on this place.   I scribbled a circle down on my chart of roughly where I thought we were, then when we got back on the ground I went searching through the books and internet etc. to try and figure out exactly where we’d been and which grass strip it might be.

Landed Safely Hundon Farm

Landed Safely

A few weeks later I’d figured it out and thanks to the trusty Lockyears Farm Strip guide (a fantastic book, essential buy).   Got the phone number for the owner and a few calls later had permission to land.

It’s about 4-5 miles east of Haverhill, actually really easy to find thanks to the single wind turbine (you can see it in the picture above).  In the summer the surrounding crops make it really stand out.

Super flat, big bush things on the approach cut away for landing, no too short.

I really liked flying here and the landing was one of my best, especially considering I took a friend.   If you fly farm strips with me you’re privileged because I don’t like taking people unless I know they can handle seeing trees and very short bits of grass coming fast up to meet them!  It’s a runway, trust me, I’m a pilot… 🙂

If you get a chance, go fly here, I’m excited just thinking about the possibility of flying back to this farm in the summer time.

Stones Farm

Wanted to land here since 2015, possibly before, but the few chances it came up back then something or other always got in the way.   I came close once, but it hand been raining in the weekends running up to it and the owner rightly didn’t want me planting a 172S on his strip and churning up what was left of the runway etc.

Stones Farm ~800ft

Stones Farm ~800ft

A few more calls, like all farms, you always seem to call the mobile phone number you find for PPR with no idea if it really is going to be the land owner you think it will take you to – then inevitably their wife answers and that always makes me more “hmmm this is going to sound bonkers, but……I’m calling about PPR for….??”   I shouldn’t be though, it’s almost always got me through to the right person and “I’m a pilot” will get you out of any awkward situation, even if they don’t own the place “Oh really, wow…” that sort of thing.   Worth the £12,000 training costs all on its own 😛

G-MEGS @ Stones Farm

G-MEGS @ Stones Farm

Just south (~4 miles) of Sudbury, this is quite an easy place to find – look for the Power Pylons and you’ll be all good.

The approach is really cool as well, I have a thing for flying final approaches that bring you past houses.   Obviously I do everything I can to avoid annoying them, but it’s always more mind focusing if there’s houses on finals.

My noise abatement must have been ok though because even the owner didn’t realise I’d landed.   Having joined overhead, I was quite pleased about that.

"Elf" and Safety Warning

“Elf” and Safety Warning

It was a great chat over some coffee, talking about flying without Skydemon and GPS (though he seemed quite a fan).  His flying in France and all sorts of amazing places, fantastic stuff, I can only aspire to such good flying times.

The take off run isn’t too challenging either, though to keep the neighbours sweet you taxi down to the end of the runway, spin it round and then full throttle it (which is a ton of fun!).   Do your checks, then check them again before you start taxing because this sort of thing is how you forget your flaps are fully down and that would be BAD!   A Cessna 172S takes off in mega short distances if done right with 10 degree of flaps.   But try the same thing with 30 degrees of flaps and it’s like trying to get the Titanic to fly!  I’m not joking, it will buuuuurn through runway without getting even 40 knots of airspeed.

Where to in 2017 then???

I’m currently looking into Exning, but I can’t convince myself it’s still there or not, would welcome any info about that (it’s in Lockyears but that’s where the info becomes sketchy and Google Maps doesn’t seem to show anything airstrip like).

West Horndon, looks absolutely brilliant so that’s on the cards for sure.

Blooms Farm, now I know where this is, I know it’s in the 2017 AFE, VFR flight guide, but I’m not yet convinced if the place didn’t go up for sale recently.   So I’ll have to make a phone call some point soon to find out.

I also really want to go back to Holmbeck Farm, this is probably my favourite little Farm Strip anywhere in East Anglia, it is just a mega little place with fantastic owners and people supporting it.

So that’s what I’m planning to do…… How about you?  Any land aways on the horizon?

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