Friday 19th June
With a few modifications to the wiring completed so that my radio and ancillary equipment would work satisfactorily I got everything packed into the Black Shadow G-MWDB and an on time departure to meet Colin at Laindon airfield, Billericay. Colin is flying a very small flex wing, a deregulated Dragon Chaser. It only has a 250cc engine and is quite slow, so he set off ahead of me for Sandown. 5 minutes or so later I took off knowing that I would catch him along the way. Just past Gatwick I caught up with him and then tried to keep pace with his 45 mph. We crossed the Solent together then I flew ahead into Sandown and the Spamfield fly-in. Arrived at about 8.15 in time for a ginger chicken and baked potato meal. Tasty and quite filling. Met up with all the old friends from Fly-UK and several new ones. This year we have 6 German pilots who have joined the tour following a report of the 2013 flight by Bernd from near Friedrichshaven. A convivial evening was held in the beer tent.
Saturday 20th June
Quite a cold night last night in the tent. Somehow I had sprained my insole yesterday and it kept reminding me throughout the night. Breakfast was good though with about 7 different choices for the Full English. I swapped the tomato for a double black pudding - unbeatable! Colin and I took the bus to Sandown from the airfield - my excuse was my sore foot! Colin would have walked! I had left my jacket at home so was on the look out for a fleece in Sandown. A walk along the high street and back on the seafront produced nothing so we followed the beach to Shanklin, having an ice cream for lunch and searched the charity shops but finally found a sports shop selling cotton hoodies, so I'm now sporting one in black, which does at least match my Shadow. Warmer now. Back at Sandown airfield in time for a smashing 3 meat barbecue tea. Then caught Andy Fell (electronics wizard) for some help getting my phone charger to work. He soon tracked the opposite polarity connection, but somehow one thing led to another and before long he had to provide a new fuse and holder plus three solder connections where wires had broken away. Cogger and Knight provided gas soldering irons which were slightly under powered in the windy outdoor conditions. I guess he felt he had been 'caught' after all his efforts, but he not only got the phone charger going but I can now charge my Aware GPS as well. Eventually all was fixed and we retired to the beer tent and the evening's entertainment of a guitar and violin. Quite excellent but I had to get to bed so fell asleep to the accompaniment.
Sunday 21st June
Awoke early at 5.30 before my 7.30 alarm call, so took advantage of the spare time for a shower at the adjacent camp site. Next shower will be at Carlisle. Another 7 part Full English will see me through to tea! Mags on and away a few minutes after Col to catch him along the way. Departed Sandown at about 8.00am. Arrived Henstridge near Warminster about 2 hours later. I always wondered where Warminster was! Now I know - it's 2 hours from Sandown! Had a coffee in the cafe while we reconsidered out route for the rest of the day. The strong NW wind makes it difficult to get to Bodmin with the turbulence over the hills, so we decided on Shobdon for the night - 24 hours ahead of schedule. But a fuel stop will be needed at Kemble. And that is where I am now. Shortly after out arrival a 747 landed to be broken up at this airfield as its useful life has ended. It hardly used any runway as it was travelling light. Several other aircraft are here in stages of dismantling. After a cake and coffee the Battle of Britain flight flew over (without the Lancaster which is undergoing some repair). Now we are waiting for a forecast fly past of an Avro Vulcan - the last one flying. Not to be missed. Camera ready! OK, got the snap! It doesn't look so big in the photo until I zoom in and see the provost alongside. So from Kemble, off to Shobdon for the night, arriving at 6.30 and an evening in the Bateman Arms. Making up a company of 8 English and 7 Germans.
Monday 22nd June
Sat in the cafe at Shobdon this morning waiting for the forecast rain to pass over. Got fed up waiting - the weather is so unpredictable! Flew to Halfpenny Green, Wolverhampton which was about 30 miles to the north east, in a cross wind. I couldn't see the airfield that I was flying straight towards until I realised that it was out of my side window! I was flying sideways in the crosswind. Now I'm sitting in the cafe at Halfpenny Green which has a slightly better view. Three other aircraft arrived ahead of us and have departed for Ince Blundell, just south of Southport. If we can get away Colin and I will be heading for Ashcroft for Colin to change his chart and probably refuel before catching them up. We spent part of the afternoon in the cafe, then when it closed we moved to the Westbeach flying instructors lounge for a coffee and biscuit. 7pm and the weather has not improved. Wind is still 17kts gusting 20 so we are off to the Red Lion at Bobbington for a Lion Pie and a beer. In bed before ten ready for an early start tomorrow.
Tuesday 23rd June
Up at 5am for an early start in the still airs of the early morning. Departed Halfpenny Green 5.40 for Ashcroft, but as the going was good we went straight on to St Michaels, just north of Preston. A quick refuel from the cans of local pilot, Dave, and cup of tea then we were away for a direct run to Carlisle arriving at 10.35. Carlisle are a major airport but are always very friendly towards Microlights and they kindly suffer the extra work of a Fly-UK visit. 20% discount at the cafe. So it was a Big Breakfast each for lunch! Our first bite of the day. Other pilots were arriving from Ince and by the time we left there were about 5 of us there. We refuelled with petrol from our cans that we had remaining from St Michaels, and we were away. we had intended to stop at a small strip in the Lowther Hills near to Shap, but our fuel consumption let us fly on to Strathaven just 10 miles south of Glasgow. Here we met Paul, Paul, Andy and Cogger who were about to depart for Bute for tea at the Kingarth Hotel. Two German aircraft turned up with pilots Elmar and Arno. They had been to Bute. Forecast weather showed that the west coast would by very wet tomorrow so we decided to turn for the East Coast and East Fortune, which is about 20 miles east of Edinburgh. This is a WWII airfield with long and wide runways. However the microlight school only has the end of one runway where it has two strips - one on grass, one concrete. Part of the remainder holds the Scottish aircraft museum. This makes the circuit interesting as we fly over a Vulcan bomber and several other historic aircraft that are parked outside. There is also a Concord here but it is kept indoors. Seven aircraft arrived here and we were taken into Haddington for the local hostelry. The paella was very good! Taxi back to the airfield. It has been a long day flying from Wolverhampton to Edinburgh via Glasgow!
Wednesday 24th June
Awoke at about 6am feeling a little cold. The beer last night had kept me warm, but by this morning it had worn off! Got up at about 7am for a wander around the field, check how to get to Edinburgh and type up this blog. Paul showed up next, then Colin stuck his head out to check the weather and decided on another hour asleep. Elmar soon checked cloud base and proclaimed it was at 400'. No flying just yet. I favour a day in Edinburgh, but we will see. More to follow later today. We took a 2.8 mile walk to the station at Drem then a 30 minute ride into Waverley station. Paul Eastlake needed a new inflatable mattress as he had pitched tent over a thistle and it now it goes down in the night. We soon found one and with the rest of the day free we took an open topped tour bus round the city. Lunch was in a pub in town then we visited a whiskey shop so the Elmar (one of the two German pilots in our group) could buy a bottle of the real stuff to take home. On the return to the airfield we stopped for the evening at an earlier station where there was a pub restaurant. 2 meals in a day! Then a taxi back to the airfield where we found that several other aircraft had joined us. 12 on the field now. Paul Knight broke out his whiskey and it was shared freely. Empty bottle and to bed!
Thursday 25th June
This morning the weather was overcast with clouds at low level. We waited for some improvement and finally got away during the morning. Colin set off first for the coast just north of Newcastle. After I had sorted out the variou leads for the electronic devices on board (phone, gps, back up battery) and closed all hatches I was several minutes behind but with no hurry to catch up. We were heading for the coast with a requirement not to overfly the power station and to avoid the restricted airspace for Newcastle airport. This airspace extends out to the coast so we flew offshore by a few hundred yards, keeping below the 1500' limit in that area. I caught up with Colin somewhere over the sea. But we missed seeing each other. We were passing Sunderland when we met up. With Colin's invitation I did a little 'flying display' for the benefit of his on board camera. Checking it later I found that I wasn't in shot for the first part. We followed the coast from Newcastle as far as Lindisfarne and Bambrough Castle, then cut inland, picking up the A1 before spotting the airfield of Eshott alongside. Here we bought some fuel from Storm, the owner and we were off again for a flight to Bagby. Now Bagby has not only fuel but also a good cafe open between 12 and 1.30 so we arrived at about 12.30 and took full advantage of each. Next stop was Church Fenton, a disused RAF base. Runway 24 was about 1800 metres long. That's over 5 times as long as my home base, Plaistows. And I don't use much more than half of the Plaistows runways! I met Mark with whom I had arranged our visit. The Airfield was suffering from 2 severe water leaks on their main supply so the water was turned off. He kindly offered to turn it on for periods during our stay so that we had for washing and making tea and coffee, etc. We headed into the village for the evening. The first pub, the Fenton Flyer is run by an ageing hippie and has some excellent beers on hand pumps. No food though. The second pub has food but the beer is less memorable. One of the joys of Fly-UK, for me at least, is to try the local beers around the country. Another is to try the local food! We returned back to the airfield in the dark and were spotted by the security guard as we climbed back over the fence and were walking down the runway towards our tents. We had told him of our intentions as we left that evening, so he was prepared to let us pass. I pulled out my stove which is a beast. It runs on a variety of liquid fuels such as paraffin, petrol, kerosene, heating oil etc. I use two stroke mixture as that is what I have in the aircraft. The jet was blocked so it needed fixing, but that was a job for daylight. Someone else produced a stove and we had a late night brew on the airfield.
Friday 26th June
We were by now a day ahead of our programmed stops and needed to lose a day. York bekoned and we spent a day sightseeing there. On our return I finally got my stove going for a late night cuppa. As usual it burst into flames with a spectacular display - even apparently setting fire to the concrete. Photos were taken but no tea was brewed!
Saturday 27th June
Departed Church Fenton at 10.20 to head for the Lancaster aircraft museum at East Kirkby. Well worth a visit and contains so much more than the Lancaster. We had a couple of hours here and could have stayed longer but wanted to get to Boston for the end of the rally and sample their hospitality. A tasty meal was cooked up by the airfield and a band played late into the evening. Much beer was drunk.
Sunday 28th June
The weather was rather wet and with a low cloud base. So a few of us had a go on the flight sim, landing a 747 at all sorts of unlikely airfields. Almost as much fun as Fly-UK! During the morning and into the afternoon pilots chose their moment and departed. Colin and I left in the afternoon to return to our home bases at Willingale and Plaistows. Another great trip and lots of fun. Planning for next year already!