Video: Cloud surfing in Kent

Jon flying IFRThis is my first solo IFR flight after obtaining my UK restricted instrument rating.  I was keen to get the rating, so that there were more opportunities for me to fly in the UK, despite it’s pesky, rotten weather.  This flight illustrates just how the rating can be used to get the aircraft above the cloud, and fly safely in clear blue skies.

This was the first time I’d used Biggin Hill’s online booking system.  From January, the airport is making it mandatory to obtain prior permission for all flights by using their website.  The system is currently on trial.  I received my PPR clearance within minutes by email, and the system seemed to work very well.  It does however mean, that you can’t just turn up and fly, and I did feel the pressure to depart on time, in accordance with the slot I’d requested.  Having arrived at the airport late, because of road traffic, this meant I didn’t have time to rig the usual 3 cameras in the cockpit.  Instead that time was used preparing the aircraft, and familiarising myself with India Zulu’s new radio and intercom system.

I trained for my IR(R) at an uncontrolled airport, and so I was surprised to be given “ATC clearance” before departure – especially as I had planned for the whole flight to be conducted in class G uncontolled airspace, however this wasn’t too difficult to note and read back.  We were soon in the murky weather at 2400ft, and Southend Radar gave me a traffic service along the north Kent coastline.  I was navigating primarily using VOR beacons at Biggin Hill, Detling and Dover, with my Skydemon GPS app on my IPAD as added reassurance.

Flying above the cloudsJon landingWhen we passed the point at which the LTMA (london controlled airspace) lifted to 5500ft, we climbed above the cloud to reveal stunning blue skies, and smooth air.  On the way back, Southend helpfully notified Thames Radar of our intentions, who then gave us radar vectors onto Biggin Hill’s ILS (Instrument Landing System).  They didn’t specifically give me clearance to enter the Class D London City CTA (Controlled airspace) and so I confirmed this with them.


This was a really enjoyable flight, and a great confidence boost.  The flight has shown me that I need to concentrate on more accurate VOR tracking, as my course back to Biggin Hill from Dover shows a very wriggly line!

Please feel free to comment on the video.

Video: Cloud Surfing over north Kent