Wye Valley local flight

Sunday evening 17th May 2009

I’d spent the afternoon tinkering with Red Sparrow and changed the spark plugs as part of the 10 hour checks, so decided to go for a short flight to double check all was working properly.

I checked CBLX over and then taxied and departed off runway 31 at 1815 hours into a pleasant blue sky with little cloud and lightish wind from the NE. Climbing up to a couple of thousand feet I levelled out and did my “FREDAH” checks;

  • Fuel – yep plenty, 35 litres and not going far
  • Radio - yep on and tuned to safetycom, volume up, decided to change to listen to Cardiff Radar for any other local traffic
  • Engine – yep all temperatures and pressure normal and engine sounding and feeling ok so my spark plug change seemed to have no ill effects
  • Direction – South towards the Severn Bridges, not heading for any airspace I should’nt be, know where I am, not heading for anywhere I’d be not clear of cloud or in sight of the surface and thus comforming to Visual Flight Rules.
  • Altitude – I’d already set airfield elevation of 130Ft on the altimeter whilst on the ground so already on QNH pressure setting, currently showing 2000ft ASL
  • Height - reading giving me plenty of height above nearest high ground and putting me about 1500ft above the ground I was over.

checks complete…

Well, I had only planned about 15 mins local but it was nicer than I’d expected and I set off down to the bridges, then having done that thought I’d bimble up the Wye Valley from Chepstow. Incidentally the Wye valley forms part of the Welsh/English border.

I flew past the Chepstow Race Course and up the river. It really is spectacular from the air with great big majestic sweeping horseshoe bends. Its like someone took a tea spoon and carved out the river course in a land made of soft ice cream. The banks are heavily tree covered in places, a very lush green landscape with the dark shiny river at the bottom of the steap narrow valley sides.

“Always plan for a surprise excercise in landing without an engine” – good advice, so with that in mind I flew a course along the river at a height just high enough over the valley sides to glide safely onto high ground whenever there were no safe emergency landing grounds in the valley base. 

Soon I was overhead the Tintern Abbey ruins …

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which are quite spectacular from 1500 ft nestling on the side of the river just downstream of a complete 270 bend.

Despite the temptation to fool myself I was in a Hawk Trainer jet and dive into the valley and skim the river at 100ft, I restrained myself and contented made a few orbits over the scenery training my head mounted bullet camera on the scenery below. (video clips to follow maybe, still to be reviewed!)

Time was marching on and I continued a little further up stream before heading off NW towards Raglan to have a quick look at the castle before returning to Kemeys.

The wind at 2000ft had picked up a lot as I got back to Kemeys Commander and it was blowing from the NE.  I had to crab in on finals before descending below the high ground to the right which took me out of the wind and allowed me to straighten up.  At Kemeys there can be a little kick of wind from the right as you’re about to flare due to a break in the tree line on the high ground (I suspect) and sure enough I got the kick at a bad moment. The result of a quick correction sent me several feet to the side of the runway over the long grass and I was down to about 10feet, nope not enough height to correct my line before flaring, runway length dissapearing fast – decision - Go Around, so full power on, climb out, bit annoying when so nearly landed, but always take the safe option if any doubt at all !  Second time was much better, I flared and did a greaser of a landing.

Back on the ground it was nice and warm still and I flipped my visor up to let the air blow in, all the smells of the country wafting in, and taxied up to the ramp.

Twenty minutes later “Red Sparrow ” was in the barn and wrapped up for the night. Another nice early evening flight with a mental note to carry on up over Momouth and to Symonds Yat and a hedge maze nearby.

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