Due to low cloud, I flew an IFR departure from Biggin Hill. I landed at Wellesbourne, then picked up a friend for a tour of local landmarks.
This was the first time I’d actually benefited from having the restricted instrument rating IR(R). The morning’s low cloud was slow to clear, and so I was immediately in IMC after climbing out of Biggin Hill. It was fun navigating around the City and Heathrow CTA on instruments.
I navigated my way up using the BIG, BPK, BNN, BKY and DTY VOR beacons, breaking cloud before Daventry. The route wasn’t particularly direct because I chose to avoid a plethora of flying displays, balloon festivals, and gliding competitions that littered the more straightforward flight. The re-route only added about 10 minutes to the total flight time. The arrival into Wellesbourne was straightforward, only a slightly modified overhead join to avoid overflying the village.
I was visiting David Johns, who lives on a narrowboat nearby. He gave up work to navigate the waterways of Great Britain, and he wanted to see some of the local canal landmarks from the air. David has his own website and YouTube channel which are worth a visit.
After a short break at Wellesbourne, we took off and headed straight towards Birmingham controlled airspace. I’d emailed Birmingham ATC with my flight detail, because I was planning to spend quite a lot of time orbiting very close to their controlled airspace. They were kind enough to acknowledge my message, and said I could either call up for a service, or make use of their listening squawk.
After take off from Wellesbourne, I kept below 1500ft AMSL on the Birmingham QNH to stay below the CTA, and used the HON DME to watch my distance from the CTR. We then orbited Hatton Locks.
Next, we headed to Braunston – a village outside of controlled airspace, then routed north again to keep clear of the instrument arrivals into Coventry, before turning back towards the Birmingham CTA for my final location, Hawkesbury Junction. Here, I descended below 2000ft in case I drifted into the CTA. Again, the HON DME was used to check I didn’t enter the CTR. Throughout the flight, I tuned to Birmingham Radar, and used their listening squawk in case they wanted/needed to talk to me.
It was interesting to hear Birmingham talk to a pilot who’d infringed their controlled airspace vertically. Luckily they had been using the listening squawk, and so were quickly identified, and corrective action was initiated.
The staff at Wellesbourne were fantastic. I’d emailed in advance, asking if they’d mind us filming on the airfield, and if they could help David film me landing. The escorted him out to the runway threshold to get a good shot. The aerodrome was voted the no.1 light aviation aerodrome in the UK last year – no wonder.
The flight back to Biggin Hill was uneventful – just the reverse of my outbound trip. I was tired though! For the first time, I made use of India Zulu’s autopilot to keep me on track while I focussed on the lookout. The route back was VFR.