2010 was the seventh year of Fly-UK - over 100 adventurers took part in 70 aircraft.
Day One - Friday 18th June
We meet at Old Sarum airfield
Around 30 aircraft arrived at Old Sarum who did us proud with a great barbecue last night with chilli or burgers and a bacon and sausage bap for breakfast. A little rain overnight was passed by morning so didn't upset the campers.
Everyone enjoyed meeting up at the start of this trip. Old friendships were renewed and new ones made.
The group heading east and northwards chose the west coast route to avoid the strong northerly winds on the east coast while the rest of us set off for the southwest. The group I'm in went to Halwell near Totness where the local club turned out to help us refuel from the garage. Then we ran down to Roche which is between Bodmin and St Austel. Weather over Lands End is low cloud at 500 feet and we waited for it to improve - without any joy, so we will have to give that a miss. So much for my hopes of a half day on Scilly. No doubt others will make that stop later in the week.
We took an enjoyable flight along the coast, past all of the beaches of Cornwall and Devon to Eaglescott, near Barnstaple in time for the evening meal. Sue who runs the cafe there put on a chilli for us. We were then taken down to the local pub for the evening. Fortunately we made it to Eaglescott in time for the evening meal then it was down to the local pub for the evening. We were grateful for the lift as it wasn't so local at about 7 miles, so it was a taxi back.
Sunday morning and bacon rolls were cooked up for us. With full fuel we headed directly for Pembrey in south Wales - 30 miles across the Bristol Channel at up to 10,000ft in case of an engine problem. Then a long glide dow. On the other side.
Pembrey were very helpful and we were fortunate that a fellow microlighter arrived for a flight and ran for petrol for us all. From there to Haverfordwest where there is a very good chip cafe. Just a brief stop and we set off northeards for a low pass over a favourite field at Puncheston then on past Aberystwyth to Llanbedr an old military base on the coast. Phoning ahead to Mona we were told that the security guards would lock us up if the caught up with us, so we turned round and left hurriedly!
Mona gave us a very warm welcome. They had a barbecue prepared for us and had petrol brought to the field. These are, of course, the two most important aspects of the trip. We had a brief rest and then left for Ince Blundell which is just north of Liverpool. We tracked along the North Wales coast where the air was so calm that we could fly hands off. At Ince we were given a lift to the pub, but after having had food at almost every stop I decided just to have the lemon sorbet ice cream!
Leaving Ince we headed up the coast, past Southport pier, the Blackpool sea front with the tower and fun fair and over Morecombe bay to the Lake District. One of our group had contacted the military controller at Warton who had agreed to route us through the lakes. Unfortunately on the day he could provide no assurance that the military jets would be advised of our presence, so regretfully we took the safer option and followed the coastal route.
This was a route that I had not flown before so it was not a complete disappointment! Between the coast and the hills we had an enjoyable day. I was flying with aircraft which had a superior turn of speed so they tried to fly more slowly, while I kept going as fast as practical without undue use of fuel. Gradually they disappeared into the distance!
The first stop was Wee Marky's farm strip. This is located at Carlops, near Penicuik, 10 miles or so south of Edinburgh. The strip was cut through a field of crops, though my farming experience was not enough to tell whether it was grain or just hay!!!
Mark kindly provided us with a barbecue of Aberdeen Angus beef burgers. Excellent! After a fuel run for those that needed it (I didn't on this occasion) we set off in groups for Dundee. I left with a couple of Kwik microlights. Now these are (as the name suggests) rather faster than my Shadow, but as I had agreed to call on behalf of the flight when we passed through controlled airspace, they had to stick with me. They did this admirably, and as I called Edinburgh they let us through their controlled airspace. Firstly they gave clearance for us to approach but not cross the runway in use, then when the incoming airbus had landed beneath us we were allowed across the runway. Two other passenger jets were lining up for take off at that time!
From Edinburgh we went north eastwards to Dundee where they were very helpful. A Marshall was appointed to indicate where we were to park, using table tennis bats! We refuelled and visited the cafe then as time was passing we quickly departed for Longside Airfield, just west of Peterhead.
The Buchan Aero Club were excellent. They put on a cracking barbecue for us. Sausages, burgers, salads etc, complete with beer and other drinks. What a smashing welcome. The club is based in the far north east of that part of Scotland, and well off the beaten track. A place not to be missed though. A very friendly club.
We have just spent the evening taking turns with their shower and relaxing in their club house. The local press have been in touch and want to meet up for interviews. This is the largest number of aircraft to be at Longside since Mustangs and Spitfires flew out of here in World War Two.
It's past midnight and plans have been made for tomorrow which will no doubt change in the morning!
11.30 and still at Longside waiting for the low cloud to lift. Blue sky just spotted and everyone is getting excited!
The forecast is for worsening weather and so, regretfully the trip to Orkney and Shetland is off. The next stop will be in the west of Scotland as we run south looking for a good spot to sit out the incoming front for a day. Some have chosen Dornoch, others prefer Bute. No final plans yet.
It's noon and the cloud is lifting. A group of us intending to fly to Knockbain Farm at Dingwall, so I must keep this short or I will be on my own!
Arrived 2.30. While I was there I saw 16 flexwings and my Shadow - where did all the other fixed wing aircraft go? Stopped for lunch and now wondering where we should choose to get caught by the weather. The consensus is that we head for Carlops - where we stopped briefly yesterday - because we can get fuel tonight ready for an early get away tomorrow. Weather permitting!
Plans always change and we left for the west coast instead!
Yesterday's trip across from Knockbain was fun, flying down the glen past Achnasheen. Not many satisfactory landing sites, but more than there is on the Great Glen route. The majority had elected to follow the Great Glen and a night stop at Glenforsa on the Isle of Mull.
Last night four of us made it to Plockton where there is a lovely airfield and a glorious small town with a beautiful view. We have decided that this is our preferred location to be stuck for a day. We visited the Plockton Hotel for a meal of local venison and took a stroll on the beach.
Today the aircraft are parked in the hangar and we are enjoying elevenses on the apron with crab and caviar crackers!
It's now almost noon. The wind is blowing strongly and it's clear that we will have another night here.
What a delightful spot to be stuck in! Back to the Plockton Hotel for an evening meal!
This morning the winds are still too strong so we will not be leaving here for some hours.
Yesterday Terry Thomas came across from Skye and we collected fuel from Kyle of Lochalsh and visited the supermarket for provisions. So this morning it's pancakes and strawberry jam for breakfast.
Puma helicopter from Inverness operated by a Norwegian crew landed here to pick up fuel. It has just completed an overhaul and they have to do a further 5 hours before their checks are complete when they set off on a 5 day flight to Nigeria. We have 2 days to get to Cambridge!
We're planning for a flight later today So after the usual discussions a decision was finally made to fly to Tiree, passing over Skye, Eigg, Muck and Coll on the way. We had hoped to land at Coll but the wind was too fierce and at 90° to the runway.
A group of about 20 school children from Johnston near Glasgow were being shown round the Tiree airfield so they were really chuffed when we let them look over our aircraft. Questions ranged from 'What is this thing at the back?' (the propellor), to 'How long does it take to clean it?'
From Tiree to Bute, where we met up with a couple of other aircraft that had spent a day in Glenforsa then we all thought it would be a good idea to visit Andreas on the Isle of Man. There was just time to complete the trip before the end of the flying day - 30 minutes after sunset. So we set off, passing Ailsa Craig on the way.
No tea tonight; just some nuts, a crunch bar and several small whiskeys. Now it's time for bed!
Twelve aircraft here last night on the airfield at Andreas.
The Andreas airfield is tarmac and very stoney as it has been deteriorating for many years. There is a strip in the middle which is in good condition - the rest is stones and grass tufts. However there is a good club house with showers even!
This morning we begged a ride into town for fuel from a chauffeur who was waiting for a helicopter from Ireland. We were then able to prepare for our flight back to England, but it was almost 4pm before we took off for the English coast.
The flight across the Irish sea was interesting. My radio had stopped working and so Sandra flew with me in case I needed support on the way. Of course I arrived over St Bees Head without incident and we flew inland to Keswick and a low level flight in formation down the lakes. I believe that there were 9 aircraft in the formation so it must have looked impressive from the ground! I was near the front and couldn't see the entire group behind me. From the lakes we passed over Morecambe Bay which we crossed only feet above the sands. Then into St Michaels airfield near Blackpool.
We had a great welcome there from the club. They have a new club house which is worth a visit. Tea coffee and snacks were available. I was grateful to a club member who sold me his supply of 20 litres of Mogas mixture for my 2 stroke engine. Then on across the pennines avoiding the Leeds Bradford airspace and onto Beverley in East Yorkshire. Along the way we passed over Skipton, York and Harrogate. A glider was being launched from Rufforth as we passed overhead their zone. We also passed Elvington where Richard Hammond made news in a dragster stunt.
Arriving in Beverley a fabulous meal was prepared by Peter, a club member. He returned the next day to provide a choice of breakfast dishes for us. Certainly a heroic effort and fully appreciated by everyone.
And today is the final day for Fly-UK.
We left Beverley soon after 2pm (our group of pilots were never early starters!) and headed out to the coast which we followed to Spurn Point. Then across the Humber, past the two forts built to protect the town during the second world war, and southwards at low level along the beaches of Mablethorpe and St Leonards on Sea, to Skegness where we stopped for an ice cream. Although the wind was down the runway it was really strong and created some severe turbulence on the approach. Some of our group decided it was better not to land. They didn't get an ice cream!
From there we crossed the Wash only a few feet above the sands. The tide was out and we saw seals on the sand. Norfolk was fairly featureless and navigation more difficult. I think we all relied on our GPSs here - or maybe we just followed the person in front!
Finally we arrived at our destination of Sutton Meadows at around 6.15pm, while a round of the national microlight championships were in progress. We were soon able to land after the runway was cleared and about 8 Microlights arrived together.
With the comps over the club provided a barbecue meal with dessert. A band struck up and the beer tent opened. It was a good opportunity to tell stories of our flights during this past week - some of which may even have been true!! A firework display brought the evening to a close.
Everyone had enjoyed the trip despite some aircraft damage in Scotland and there are already suggestions being made for next year's event.