This year the weather was appalling with strong winds before the start and persistent rain on many days. Despite only 5 aircraft reaching the start we did have about 55 take part at some time during the week.
Day One - Friday 15th June
Destination Nottingham airport
Departed Plaistows at 1pm after fitting my ferry tank and waiting for a rather heavy shower to pass. Made good time to Nottingham with tailwinds of up to 30mph. Arrived 2.30 and found Colin had arrived at 9.30 after a one and a quarter hour flight from Essex. By the end of the flying day we had 5 aircraft of the 54 participants at the field. The rest could not get out due to the bad weather. The airfield was very welcoming and Mair's curry house gave us a grand selection of curries. Everyone was disappointed that the weather had prevented more arriving, but James Sandars flies from near Nottinham and drove in to join us, which helped our numbers for the evening. Plenty of rain overnight.
Woke early to find a dry morning with a good wind to dry the tent. Packed up and went for a coffee at the airfield cafe. Sat waiting for the weather to improve while watching the rainfall radar on the computer. Selected a full English breakfast. Had another coffee while watching more rain on the radar. eventually a gap came along and while some of us were not watching Keith in his Rans and Chris & Clare in the only flexwing, a Quik 912s slipped away to the North. More rain followed so we had another coffee. Missed lunch while watching the rainfall radar! Finally another gap appeared and we all got away to meet Keith, Chris & Clare at Netherthorpe. Another bumpy ride, so good to arrive. Just enjoying a lamb shank in the cafe. Staying here for the night.
Left Netherthorpe for Fishburn in improving weather. Arrived for a One of Beryl's renowned bacon butties. On the preflight check I noticed a crack in the exhaust. But where to get it fixed on a Sunday. A local pilot ran me into Hartlepool where a welder made an excellent job of it. Then on to Kirkbride. Here Col's friend did an excellent job by providing a fuel run for us all. Then on towards Newtownards in northern Ireland but with it being late in the day we dropped into Castle Kennedy for the night. The evening is not the best time to start a crossing of that length. We met several other aircraft who had arrived from Gloucestershire. Unfortunately Keith's aircraft had a charging problem so could not continue without spare parts being shipped in early next week.
Lord Stair's ghillie arrived to collect fuel for those that needed it and to collect the camping fee. Meanwhile the GAR forms which were filed yesterday but not used to cross into Ireland and were no longer valid this morning required a fresh set to be filed with the Special Branch for today's crossing. We then had to wait until they became active and departed at 10am for Newtownards. The crossing was made at about 3500 feet in fine weather with no cloud until we reached the further shore where it was about 1700 feet. We landed at Newtownards to a welcome from the Flying Club. That evening we tried out Hamels' pub in the town - had a pleasant evening then back to the airfield to camp overnight.
With our flight plans filed again first thing this morning we waited the required hour and departed for Southern Ireland at 9.45. Over Dundalk we arrived in Southern Ireland. First stop was the airfield at Athboy – named Ballyboy airfield, which caused some confusion amongst the pilots! This strip 20 miles north-west of Dublin was easy to find with the white side markers to the runway. It had short grass and was well kept with a great clubhouse including a bar! Not for us though as we refuelled from our cans and departed for Abbeyleix at midday. Abbeyleix is the home of the Midland Microlight Centre operated by Vincent Vaughan who I had met at the Flying Show last year and had given me considerable help in arranging the airfields in Ireland. The strip is located south-west of Dublin and is in a hollow so is not easy to see until almost overhead. It is necessary to dive for the field to loose height before flying between the trees for a landing. Vincent wasn't available on the day, so we refuelled with the last fuel from our cans and left for our next stop. Due to recent persistent rain in Ireland the grass had not been cut recently and the strip was wet with long grass, making the take off run longer than expected. Over the hedge and away! So, next stop Rathcoole. This strip was a surprise. Not for the long grass or the wet and rutted strip – which was fairly common on the small Irish strips this year – but for the welcome. The owner sent his man to drive us for fuel at the local village, where the pumps were unique. They have a £ sign but the sales are in Euros, the numbers showing the price per litre are missing, the numbers showing the amount in litres don't work at all and the cost of the fuel delivered has many of the elements of the electronic numbers missing. So it was almost guesswork to get the amount right. On the third can we had quite a discussion about the amount delivered. The owner wanted to give me three litres more fuel in one of my cans because he thought it was short, but that would have made my oil mixture wrong! Eventually it was all sorted out. He gave me a £3 reduction for no apparent reason and forced 9 bananas on me for the three pilots in our group. So that was lunch! Next planned stop was Bantry in the far southwest. I called up and had no reply until I flew over the town. The airfield owner heard my aircraft and called me. I explained that I didn't have time to land and meet him but I requested, and was invited to take a touch and go. Simon and John in their Skyranger were parked on the field and gave me a wave. So with the field in my log James in his Quantum and I flew round the inlets and over the mountains of the south west before heading up the coast to Spanish Point airfield at Milltown Malbay. Spanish Point was the last stop for the night. Arriving just after 5.30pm we tied the aircraft down and pitched tents. The owner opened the well equipped clubhouse where he had installed about 8 Airbus seats! Some even had the in-flight TVs mounted in the seat arm. WE started to walk into town and were offered a lift into the village from a spectator on the road.
This morning John and Simon headed off into town for fuel and returned with some breakfast rolls filled with sausage or bacon – an unexpected bonus! Last night Colin had filed a flight plan (which is required to enter controlled airspace in Ireland) and so at 9.15 we set off in formation to visit Sligo (Class C airspace). This airport is laid our for passenger services with a departure lounge and all the appropriate signage. However there is no passenger service offered from here now, so we had the lounge almost to ourselves. Two French pilots flew in and were interested in our flight. They even put some money into our charity collection on-line after we had left. We bought fuel from the airfield at duty free rates for exporting to the UK. Unfortunately they only offer Avgas (aviation fuel), so there was no saving over the cost of duty paid Mogas (Unleaded fuel). A further flight plan is needed to leave Ireland which we filed at the airfield and with full tanks we crossed into the UK with a course for Bute. Our exit and entry points were from Fair Head in Ireland to the Mull of Kintyre, a distance of only about 13 miles but with unrestricted airspace I climbed to around 6000 feet on the crossing. Approaching the Scottish side I decided to try a Practice Pan (like a Mayday but a lower standard of urgency), which is encouraged by the emergency service. Twice I called them but no reply! I think I'd better check out my radio system when I get home. We flew over the Mull, across the mountains of Arran and into Bute. It wasn't a surprise when we were not received there by any customs officials. Fortunately the weather had been quite kind to us today with a tail wind most of the way, so we decided that we would push on to Glenforsa on the Island of Mull. I enjoyed a flight through the mountains of Mull to this little strip which has an east-west runway. In winds with any south is them the runway can suffer with rotor from the mountains. It also has a flock of geese that visit and this can give pilots some anxiety. Today neither was present and we all arrived without incident. The strip manager, Dave was as welcoming as usual and offered us the use of a hire car to collect fuel and run into Tobermory for the evening. So we had fish and chips on the quayside watching the fishermen sorting out their lobster pots while the boats rode at their moorings.
After a good night on Mull the weather was reasonable but we could see that it was due to change so we planned to move south to Bute or beyond if the weather would allow. So at 7.45 we were at the petrol station waiting for it to open at 8am. Spot on the hour it was opened and we filled up with about 120 litres to share between us. Topped up we got away from Mull at 8.35, heading directly for Bute. Well, three of us did. John and Simon stayed behind for a breakfast! We crossed over to the mainland flying south east and crossing the Mull of Kintyre near Lochgilphead. Flying over the mountains to the north of Bute I found myself in rotor which had a down draught equal to my climb speed. So as I was approaching the mountain with no ability to climb I turned a right angles and found some clear air where I gained height and crossed the mountain, dropping down to Bute Colin was pushing ahead and was crossing to the mainland while I was keeping pace with James in his Quantum. From overhead the airfield at the south end of Bute we crossed the Firth of Clyde, heading for Kilmarnock so as to stay within the corridor between Prestwick and Glasgow controlled airspace. Passing over the power station on the coast with the required vertical clearance of at least 2000 feet we found ourselves above the cloud base so dropped down to about 1700 feet. As we approached Strathaven the ground rises up to 850 feet leaving us with only 850 height below the cloud. We were pleased to reach this destination as we could get fuel and food in the town. The 'Breakfast Boys' never escaped from Glenforsa!
Low cloud today made flying from Strathaven impossible so we had a look at Colin MacKinnon's new house which is being built on the airfield. It is of a unique design and will be a smashing home when completed. See Grand Designs for more information! Amongst all the aircraft in the two hangars there is a Goldwing aircraft being renovated which was good to see. We sat around until 1pm when the cloud lifted sufficiently for us to leave. So with brimming tanks we set off towards the east hoping to get to the east coast from where we could follow the coast to Eshott in Northumberland. We diverted into Midlem to avoid the heavy rain and to reassess our position. The owner Robin was very welcoming and gave us advice on the best route south. The weather was looking favourable for a flight to Kirkbride so we followed the A7 from Hawick through the hills then crossed the Solway Firth into Kirkbride. As we crossed the Firth the weather changed with squalls and heavy rain. By this stage we were committed to getting down at the airfield and landed in 30 mph winds making the landing roll very short but rather lively. As the flexwing aircraft landed we held the wing down until we could turn it into wind and tie the wing down. The airfield were very accommodating, allowing us to sleep in the club house. As there was considerable flooding on the airfield this was really welcome! The local pub (out the gate and turn left is only 1.25 miles away and serves very good food. Back at the club house we finished the evening with a little whiskey, including a peaty single malt from Jura. Slept well!
And today is supposed to be the final day for Fly-UK. But here we are still in Kirkbride!
30 knot winds and intermittent rain with poor visibility so here we are sitting in the club house drinking coffee and thinking of flying tomorrow. Back to the Joiners Arms Country Hotel for an evening meal again tonight. No flying until tomorrow when we hope for a significant improvement in the wind speed and general weather. 9.30pm and it's raining solidly tonight. Still windy here.
The wind has dropped overnight and there is some sunshine today, however the hills are still shrouded in cloud. So we are just waiting for the cloud base to lift and then we will be leaving Kirkbride heading for the Manchester - Liverpool corridor where we have to be at less than 1000 feet above ground. Then into Wolverhampton for a top up with fuel and so back home. Change of plan due to persistent bad weather over the Lakes. Turned East for Newcastle and the lower land that side of the Pennines. Tracking past Darlington, Ripon, Harrogate, Sheffield and into Nottingham for a refuelling. ETA Nottm 15:20 Arrived Nottingham. Sitting in the airfield cafe with Colin, enjoying a coffee and piece of coffee cake. Bought for me by Col, so it tastes all the better. We left James in his Quantum a few miles to the north to turn into Park Hall airfield on the opposite side of town From here Colin and I will take diverging routes to our home airfields in Essex and Hertfordshire. Another Fly-UK year completed with a respectable achievement despite severe winds and at times torrential rain preventing us from flying. Only one aircraft which was at the start managed to reach the finish on Saturday evening. Well done John and Simon, forever to be known as the Breakfast Boys after their preference for eating rather than getting going at the start of the day! Well done to them.