I had to navigate around freezing cloud tops on my return flight from Hawarden to Biggin Hill.
After a couple of nights away near Chester, my son and I set course back to Biggin Hill in Oscar Romeo. I’d planned the route to be reasonably direct, but this took it overhead military air traffic zones, restricted areas, controlled airspace and danger areas. By flying at FL50, this would keep me clear of most of this, while at the same time expediting my flight home. It would also keep me clear of instrument traffic on arrival to nearby aerodromes, and at the higher end of ‘areas of intense aerial activity’ around Shawbury and Oxford.
Compared to the outbound flight, the freezing level on the return leg was lower. This presented a problem when some towering cumulus cloud started to loom ahead. I dodged some of it by deviating from my planned track, but in the end I could avoid it no longer. I had to descend to lower and warmer air to make it through it. The Brize Norton LARS controller was especially fantastic, allowing me lower and lower as I tried to keep out of the icing conditions and turbulence. I eventually passed through Brize Norton’s class D controlled airspace with clearance.
The danger areas and restricted zones ahead weren’t so easy. Having descended to 2500ft, I had to climb again to hop over those.
We got a good view of Farnborough aerodrome through the clouds as we passed overhead at 3400ft. We were able to drop down through the scattered layer at this point and continue visually for a straight forward VFR landing at Biggin Hill.
You can see the gps flight track here.
Video: Dodging freezing cloud tops