2007 - The fourth year of Fly-UK - and over 40 aircraft registered for the event.
Just how many participated is not so clear. Over 20 aircraft were at the start and as usual, many others joined us along the way. Perhaps a total of 30 took part.
This year we were fortunate to have excellent weather for the first part of the week, but that was tempered by low cloud in Scotland and unflyable weather in some areas before the end of this event. Despite this many aircraft did reach both Land's End and John O'Groats. It was a shame that only 5 managed to fly into Sandown. But, on the Saturday, and ignoring the poor weather, a number of other Fly-UK pilots did arrive in time for the Wight Party - by ferry!
Friday night is the traditional start of the Round Britain Fly-In. This year we made Kemble the start airfield where most of the group joined up and enjoyed an evening in sunshine, while dining at the excellent AV8 Bistro and Restaurant.
On the Saturday morning we headed for the southwest. Visits were made to Eaglescott, Land's End and Bodmin with some visiting Scilly for an afternoon in the sun. The Saturday evening stop-over saw 26 aircraft at Swansea where Rod and Tracey made us very welcome with a barbecue and camping adjacent to the airfield.
By Sunday we were flying northwards. Some visited Caernarfon and overflew Snowdon, routed through Ince Blundell and over Scarfell Pike, while others took the more direct route via Welshpool and Barton. With everyone coming together again at Carlisle we were given a lift by the airfield staff to a local pub for the evening meal. After a pleasant entertaining evening which included a few glasses of wine or beer we all enjoyed the walk back to the airfield.
Monday saw us moving into Scotland - northwards to Oban with alternative routes taken to include Northern Ireland, Campbeltown and Gigha, or via Bute, Campbeltown and Islay. Paul Keegan at Oban looked after our fuel in his usual helpful way. Last year the airfield was under development but by this year it had newly surfaced runways, a new control tower and visitors' facilities beneath which were due to open soon. The airfield is to become a hub for flights to the Western Isles. The Council now runs the site and kindly gave us free landings to celebrate the occassion. As in previous years, we called in at the hotel at the end of the runway for our evening meal - a really handy venue which gives good service and excellent food.
By Tuesday the weather was changing. Flying up the Great Glen with cloud capping the hills on both sides was like flying through a tunnel. We passed Ben Nevis somewhere to the right of track and lost in the cloud and onwards towards Inverness. Some dropped into Knockbain Farm where David Lockett, the owner, helped with a fuel run. Meeting the remainder at Dornoch we shared a taxi to take us for fuel. With strong winds some of our team stayed for the night as planned, but six pilots decided to push north past John O'Groats to Orkney. Landing at Lamb Holm in strong winds it was a choice between the main runway or the short strip. Tom Sinclair, the owner, looked after us well and ran us to the pub and the B&B. With the weather closing in a few pilots had taken the opportunity to move south for a warm bed!
After a huge breakfast on the Wednesday morning we packed and left Orkney, but not before a trip round Scapa Flow and past the Old Man of Hoy. Then back via John O'Groats, overflying Dornoch and into Knockbain Farm for a second time. Another refuel and off to Insch. A warm welcome from Ken Wood, plus warm soup and a biscuit were appreciated, then on to East Fortune for the evening. Thanks to Jill and Gordon Douglas of East of Scotland Microlights for their hospitality, including a lift to the pub. (Apologies to the cat for the late supper). We camped on the airfield overnight.
On Thursday the weather was poor with low cloud. So it was 1pm before the last aircraft left to head for Eshott. It was clear that the weather was closing in, so it was a matter of meeting the incoming fronts as far south as possible. With overcast skies and a cloudbase of about 1000 feet over the coast and strong winds progress was difficult. However, by the evening we had 6 aircraft at Eshott, 4 at Carlisle, 5 at Northcoates, 1 at Yearby, 5 who had just made it to Lamb Holm, 2 at Fishburn and 1 at Strathaven.
So, on the Friday everyone was heading south as soon as the fronts cleared. Despite low cloud, three of the advance party got away from Nothcoates at about noon while another left at 1.30 by which time the weather had slightly improved, and the last one left at about 2pm when cloud base had lifted further. Aircraft further north were weathered in. Friday night at Sandown saw the first four aircraft arriving - three flex and one fixed wing. The last one landing at about 9.00 pm. Congratulations to them all. Several aircraft stuck in Dornoch, others at Eshott, and around the north.
On the Saturday morning the last of the 5 aircraft to reach Sandown arrived. Later in the day a number of other Fly-UK pilots arrived by ferry. The Wight Party was as good as ever and an opportunity to meet old friends. Even the weather started to improve! By the Sunday it was glorious! No hurry to go home.
Over the next few days pilots gradually made their way back from Scotland and the north of England - one intrepid aviator even took a commercial flight from Aberdeen to London so as to be at work on the Monday! During the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday a Flexwing was reported flying south from Inverness, stopping on the fairway at Buckie, Aberdeenshire golf course, waiting for a break in the clouds. Then on towards Fishburn, but landing a couple of miles short due to poor vis. Expecting to make the remainder of the journey home to Essex on the Sunday.
The following Thursday saw the last flexwing finally arriving home to Essex amid accolades for perseverence and endurance.