As any parent will know, the school summer holidays can be a difficult balancing act. My husband and I both work – myself full-time, my husband part-time, and obviously our son needs to be kept entertained during the long five week break. Somehow, in spite of this I’ve managed to keep some video content coming through on the channel and even got a bit of flying in too.
My son is now fairly acclimatised to the aeroplane, and can manage two hours in the aircraft without too many difficulties, as long as you pay careful attention to his food and liquid intake beforehand. We carry a plentiful supply of sick bags, cleaning wipes and a bottle. While my husband has a stronger stomach and bladder, he has always suffered from nerves in the PA28. Some of this is deep-rooted, some related to a couple of emergencies we had to deal with a couple of years ago, but his nerves have been holding us back from going on long family trips together. It had always been my dream that we would go touring together as a family in our little aeroplane.
In spite of the obvious nerves though, I managed to persuade James to come on a longer flight over to Jersey in August. We’d worked up to it slowly, with a couple of shorter flights, and I’d taken my son over the channel to Le Touquet, so I knew he could cope with a water crossing, and the associated life jacket. James had crossed some water with me to Sandown earlier in the year. Although a direct routing to Jersey over the sea from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg was substantially quicker, we decided upon the longer flight, crossing the channel Lydd – Le Touquet, and routing along the French coast. This probably added about an hour to the outbound flight, but psychologically, for James’ first sea crossing, remaining within gliding distance was important.
James made out he was petrified throughout, but this pretence was soon shattered when he started nodding off en-route as we sailed past Caen. The conditions were very calm, the flight was stress-free, and although there was low cloud over northern France, we could see land and staying in VMC was easy. Clearance through controlled airspace en route was a breeze as expected, and landing at Jersey was a doddle too, apart from some patches of low cloud that I had to remain 1500m/1000ft from as we approached the island.
We had a lovely long weekend in Jersey. My son particularly liked exploring the War Tunnels, James and I enjoyed the long walk along the seafront at Saint Helier. The weather throughout the weekend was perfect, but the day of our return was forecast to be more complicated.
It was clear from a day or so before our planned return that it was going to be an IFR flight. There was low cloud forecast at Jersey in the morning, turning to fog/mist by lunchtime, while in England, low cloud followed by gusty winds was on the cards. I studied the forecasts carefully, and I could see that I could depart Jersey at 0800 local time into a thin layer of OVC010, cross the channel in practically VMC conditions, and then land IFR in England. This presented a few issues…. firstly, I’d have to stay within UK airspace, because of my restricted instrument rating. This would mean that I’d have to fly direct to the Isle of Wight over the longer water crossing. Secondly, I wouldn’t be able to land at my base in Redhill because it doesn’t have instrument approach procedures. The Biggin Hill airshow shut down the nearest alternative, so I opted to fly to Lydd, with Southend as my first alternative.
For the first time while flying IFR, I was given a standard instrument departure from Jersey, which was absolutely fine, and the GNS 430w handled that perfectly. Once airborne, we were released from the SID and given a direct routing to ORTAC at the FIR boundary. This neatly routed us past Guernsey and Sark, and then Alderney. While the land was covered in a thin layer of low cloud, over the sea it was clear, and surprisingly, James found the sea crossing very relaxing, and he fell asleep again!
It was IMC at Lydd as predicted, and my analysis of the forecasts, and carefully timed departure meant that the wind-speeds hadn’t reached their peak when we arrived, and so while the approach was a little bumpy, it was no bother. I could see the attitude indicator swinging all over the place as I navigated the final approach track in cloud, but James and my son seemed oblivious. After landing, they took the bus and train back home, while I sat out the storm. I returned the aircraft later in the day after conditions at Redhill improved. I did have to depart Lydd in low IMC though.
Both these flights were recorded, and will make for an interesting couple of films. What was really satisfying was seeing James settle into both flights, and even though conditions were somewhat challenging on the return leg, he came away actually enjoying the journey. We agreed that we’d go touring again soon.
Coming soon: My hardest flight ever
In my next video, I face my hardest flight ever. There’s unintentional VFR into IMC, I get stopped by high cloud over The Alps, and then my Ipad navigation app crashes. It was cloud like this at 10,000ft that was blocking my path.
The video comes out for general release on YouTube on 7 September, if you can’t wait until next week, you can watch it now, ad-free by signing up for an Early Bird subscribtion. It costs £3.50/ $5.00 per month, and you can cancel at any time. All of my paid subscriptions, come with access to bonus videos too. Right now there’s a full unedited video of my departure from Pula, Croatia, a video about a near-miss I had in May, and an aborted flight due to a rough-running engine.
Fly safely my friends.