Cath's 2006 trip report - A Bird's Eye View

It all started over a bacon sandwich at the local café, when a pilot friend of ours made a suggestion that I enter Fly-UK as a girly team. Not sure if it was a joke but I decided I must do it. Two problems - I needed a girl co pilot and an airplane as I don’t own an aircraft of my own. I mentioned it to my friend Ang who is learning flex-wing and she thought it was a great idea, so the next problem was an aircraft. I sometimes fly the demonstrator Skyranger from Flylight Airsports but it had been sold a few weeks before. However, three knights in shining armour came forward in the shape of Stewart Bond, Paul Dewhurst and Ben Ashman {ha ha} who bravely said we could borrow Flylight's competition machine. So we had the aircraft - now we just needed some pink T-shirts. For weeks ahead of the event we were scouring the charts, learning the airspace and choosing sensible water crossings. I also studied my Pooley’s RT book as I realised I would be forced to do zone transits and MATZ penetrations. {scary]


So Friday dawned; Ang and I drove from Huddersfield to Sywell to pick up the aircraft. As we arrived we found Paul doing a last minute oil change. He went through the super lightweight digital instrument panel with us, showing us how to change the QFE/QNH and monitor engine temperatures. We got to work filling the Skyranger with our camping gear, then decided some of it would have to go due to weight and room. (We ditched the hair dryer but kept the straightners!!) Finally we added the finishing touches - pink carpet, pink fluffy dice, teddies and feathered duck. Time to set off to Wolverhampton; Paul came out to wave the plane goodbye, unsure if he would ever see it again.

Our flight went well, taking about an hour in nice conditions and we had a good giggle on the way. Landed and put up my flowered 2 second tent. Ang’s partner Mark was already there - he had flown in from Huddersfield in his Blade - so there was nothing else for it but to go to the bar and sample some of the delicious food they had put on for us. Stayed in the bar till about midnight meeting all the other pilots, then decided a reasonable night’s sleep would be helpful.


The next day was beautifully sunny. After breakfast and a briefing by Tom Dawson, the organizer, a small group of us (Ang and me, Steve Ivell {Skyranger} Mark Chambers {Blade503} and Alistair Lea {Kiss 450) decided to fly back home to Huddersfield for cheap fuel from jerry cans instead of at Barton, the next organized stop. What a mistake! Not long after landing the wind turned 900 to the runway and picked up to about 20 mph. The Skyrangers would have been fine but the Blade and the Kiss 450 more than likely not. So we spent a very miserable night at home eating curry and trawling weather web sites to see what chance of reaching Ireland tomorrow.


We got up really early, reaching the airfield at 7.00am, determined to make something of the day. With bad weather forecast in Scotland, we hoped to get as far North as possible without actually getting stuck, so set off to Kirkbride. Ang did some fabulous navigation, ducking and diving through the hills as it got hazy the more North we went. 1 hour 40 minutes later we landed behind a gyrocopter with the flex-wing boys a few minutes behind us. Unfortunately at this point Steve got some bad news and had to return home.

We decided against Ireland due to wind and lowering cloud. Instead, with permission to transit Spadeadam danger zone as it was the weekend, we went East to Eshott. One hour later we were greeted by the famous Pat with her delicious lunches. After being fed and refuelled and with Pat’s recommendation we left for East Fortune. It was beautiful flying up the coast, past Bamburgh Castle and over Holy Island so I trimmed the Skyranger back to fly alongside the flex-wings.

Approaching East Fortune I was studying the runway orientation for landing. I had been warned that one of the runways here was quite short and had been practicing my short-field landings in preparation. As we came overhead, with Ang trying to explain the runway in use, I called to say I would use an into-wind grass strip. This received a nervous response from the controller as it was very short, but we hopped over a fence to a successful short field landing. A bunch of Quiks followed us in (we had left them at Eshott mending one of their planes that had had a little accident) - they all probably sensibly chose the longer out of wind grass runway.

We sat, watching some scary looking approaches from the Quiks, Mark and Alistair, then with tents up we got the chocolates out as we were all flown out. 240 miles over 3 legs for novices was enough. The Quiks had only done one leg that day so at 7.00pm pressed on for Dornoch - except for one chap, Mike [cool dude] Hawkins. The locals took us to a beautiful river-side pub where we spent the night eating steaks and drinking. Mike [cool dude] was subjected to our poor sense of Northern humour - we were crawling under the tables with laughter over some stories Al and Mark were coming out with. We took a taxi back to camp, keen on an early start next morning, but fearing we may have to turn South with increasingly bad weather in Scotland. Many thanks to Gordon and Jill at East Fortune who were brilliant, fetching everybody fuel and helping in every way they could. Jill’s pictures of the ‘girly plane’ are on her website


We awoke to increasing wind, confirming the weather theory, so rang Steve at Eshott for his weather report. A thunderstorm was heading our way, which had us running round tying the planes down behind a hanger for protection. Gordon and Jill came in on their day off to fetch fuel and make breakfast. Annoyingly we learnt that 29 aircraft had made Dornoch with 3 reaching Orkney. Well done you lot, we realised how much time we lost at Huddersfield and how little experience we had. We eventually plucked up the courage to return to Eshott and had a very rough flight that included a jet trainer playing target practice with us as the ‘chicken’.

Decided to come straight in on finals at Eshott, not bothering with the normal circuit - it wasn’t like there was anybody else silly enough to fly! The flex-wings came in 30 minutes later getting thrashed around like rag dolls. After de-rigging them we hitched a ride to the pub, followed by accommodation in the clubhouse.

[That day 40 knots winds prevented others from flying the Great Glen to Oban and two GT-450 Quiks had to land on the golf driving range at Dornoch due to crosswind on the runway!]


We all wanted to head South fairly quickly to avoid bad weather arriving from the West, so started early and visited Peterlee for fuel and bacon butties. Ang and I decided to hot-foot it from here faster than the boys and head straight back to Sywell as we know Sywell has showers. Unfortunately bad weather came and we had to put down at a small strip called Grassthorpe Grange. After a 2 hour wait we managed a low level excursion through drizzle and low cloud, 60 miles south to Sywell, where I could meet up with my partner Stewart and go to yet another pub for a hearty meal. The boys had only managed to get to Breighton so stayed the night there. Six luckier aircraft managed the crossing to Northern Ireland after a change in the weather. Other aircraft were scattered at airfields including Perth, Dornoch, Oban and even North Ronaldsay!


Wednesday dawned a little hazy, but by noon we thought we might get to Shobdon, so set off, but returned after 20 miles as visibility was awful. We tried again two hours later but diverted to Long Marston. After a chat with local instructor, Simon Baker, we headed West again, this time dodging the hills and making Shobdon where all the microlights were due to meet. (We had been put into two groups as some airfields would not have coped with the 55 aircraft that had registered.) Tom had excelled himself at Shobdon; there was a hog roast and a band which kept everybody entertained till the early hours.


Scheduled for Haverfordwest in Wales, we were asked to maintain our position at the runway hold, and were entertained by a low pass from a Hercules. What a wonderful sight.

Our flight to Haverfordwest started to get hazy so we decided to climb above the clouds to 7300 feet but with no cockpit heater in the lightweight competition machine we got a bit cold, so descended with our ears popping. Landed at Haverfordwest, where most of the gang came in, while others flew on to Eaglescott. We all did really good pre-flights here as we had a crossing next over the Bristol Channel. Ang and I decided on a 14 mile water crossing (Portcawl to Lynton) and since this was our first we went very quiet as we headed across the water, until we decided to sing a song to break the silence. (Good job we didn’t leave the ptt on!) Some decided on a much wider crossing being much braver than us. We opted to lie in the sun and eat cake at Eaglescott for a while, as we only had a short flight next to Bodmin. Some of the guys decided to take in Land’s End and even Lundy before Bodmin as the weather was so good it did seem a shame to land. Tom had organized a BBQ at Bodmin which was brilliant and everybody had a good time.


The next day was our flight into Land’s End which included a few zone transits. The controllers were certainly kept very busy with microlight formations coming in from all angles. We had an interesting approach as we were asked to stay at 3000 feet on right base over the sea to let the scheduled Islander pass beneath, then clearance to land from 3000ft put the final approach off for some people and ended in some go-arounds. The most adventurous of the group, Tom included, flew over to Scilly. Land’s End was lovely; we sat in the sun for an hour, with bacon butties and ice cream while watching the local aircraft before embarking on our long flight to Dunkeswell. We only saw about six of the Fly-UK planes here, some having gone straight to Sandown, but we were exhausted and so decided to chill for a while {slept in the sun} before putting on our life jackets for our 1 hour 30 minute final flight to Sandown. We were fortunate to have sunny weather all the way and an exceptionally beautiful flight round the Isle of Wight.

Ang, Mark, Alistair and I were complete novices in cross-country flying on this scale, but it was a fantastic week, pushing lots of boundaries - weather, distances etc. Many thanks to Tom Dawson for organizing the event. Thanks also to the many people that have helped us with fuel etc, and a huge well done to everyone that participated. (A special well done has to go to Andy Collinson who completed John O’Groats and Land’s End, having only passed his GFT in December)

We can thoroughly recommend the experience to everyone, and hope to be participating in FLY-UK 2007.

Cath Vickers and Ang Scott