Several weeks of bad weather had passed since my previous lesson (in which I flew with my instructor to Shobdon) but finally this Saturday it cleared up and I was able to fly the route solo.
After creating the PLOG, calculating weight and balance & fuel, checking NOTAMs, weather and plotting the route on the chart, my instructor reviewed everything and we filled out some paperwork. All ok, so I headed out to the aircraft and did the A-check. Everything was fine, so I was good to go.
First, I needed to get some fuel, so I taxied to the pumps. My instructor met me at the pumps, then I was back in the plane – alone. So, go through the checklist and request permission to taxi. When flying solo, you need to prefix your callsign with STUDENT when making your first radio call to each station. It doesn’t hurt to say it in subsequent calls, and I am of the opinion that I’d rather keep saying it (especially when on approach) to make everyone aware that I’m a student and I’d like to hope they might be a little more forgiving and/or cautious!
Without much waiting around, I was cleared for take-off and climbing up from runway 27. A small turn to the right for noise abatement, then I turned on to my heading from the PLOG. So far so good. People on the radio were feeding back reports of gliding and parachutists around the Malverns, so I was paying extra special attention in my lookout in that direction. I didn’t see anything though. Not sure if that means I was being blind or whether they were further away from my track than I first thought.
The journey proceeded as planned, it was fairly uneventful. At Ledbury, I changed frequency to Shobdon Radio and obtained the joining instructions. Runway 27 was active with left hand circuits. Gliding in progress (they use the grass runway) and have a lower circuit height.
After passing Hereford and crossing over the Cotswold ASR boundary, I switched to Barnsley’s QNH (which I obtained from Gloucester before leaving them). Soon enough the airfield was in sight. I still find it a little funny listening to Shobdon on the radio, as being an Air/Ground or FISO it’s less controlled than the ATC at Gloucester and some of the transmissions seem a little verbose at times. I’m glad I am learning at an airport with ATC, as I’m sure it’d be harder to learn with an A/G and then get used to the formalities of ATC.
The circuit at Shobdon was pretty busy, with lots of radio activity. I made an overhead join and had one aircraft ahead of me. Shobdon Radio did a great job of asking the aircraft ahead of me to expedite their exit from the runway, they really went out of their way to make my experience as straight forward as possible (I guess they were trying to avoid me having to go-around).
After landing, I taxied to the grass parking area, and went to the cafe to get some fresh air and a rather nice hotdog and chips! I met quite a few people in the cafe, including a nice chap who is based at Shobdon who has a share in a microlight. He had never landed at Gloucester so I encouraged him to do so – especially as he had the same microlights as they use at the Flying Shack.
Here’s the full video of the flight, incase you’re interested:
After lunch, I waited around a while. There was a planned airshow display near Gloucester (I saw this in a NOTAM) so I had to time my arrival at Gloucester to be after the airshow had finished. Soon enough, it was time to leave, so I headed back to the plane and worked my way through the checklist.
The flight back to Gloucester was again fairly uneventful (thankfully), so after landing it was back to Aeros for a well-deserved coffee and debrief with my instructor.