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JetRanger around the UK

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JetRanger around the UK

Old 12th Jul 2005, 18:02
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PPRuNe Enigma
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Cool JetRanger around the UK (Pictures added)

Yesterday afternoon I caught a train from Aberdeen to Stirling and in doing so completed the final leg of my adventure, in a slightly more mundane mode of transport than the last ten days.

As some of you may know, last year I completed my JetRanger conversion and had subsequently amassed just about 25 JR hours. My challenge for this year has been to bring that total up to 50 hours - and in doing so, to make it interesting, I thought it would make a great adventure to fly singlehanded around the UK.

Now I'm home again and over the next few posts, in the now traditional installment fashion, I'll tell the story of my travels. Along the way there will be lots of weather, some spectacularly helpful and friendly people, and just a few bacon sandwiches ! Later, there may also be some pictures...

The journey begins with a complicated vehicle shuffle. When I get back to Cumbernauld I will need transport so first thing on Friday morning, I drive to the airfield, park the car and meet a taxi driver who takes me to Stirling railway station to catch the train to Aberdeen, where the JetRanger I've leased for the week is based. The owner is waiting to give me a lift out to the hangar.

I've offered to take the owner on the first three legs so we set out for Inverness - Oban - Cumbernauld. This first day is really a positioning flight to get the aircraft to my home base at Cumberanuld, but I figured it would be nice to extend my round trip a bit further North and take in some scenery. The weather is fine as we set out, with just a few showers to dodge. Aberdeen clears us VFR out of their Class D via Insch and we are under way. Just an hour later we're on the ground at Inverness, parked next to a bright yellow air ambulance.

After a verylong walk for a bacon sarnie we are under way again, this time for Oban. Just a few miles from Inverness a magnificent spectacle awaits us. The Great Glen comprises Loch Ness, Loch Lochy and Loch Linnhe and cuts a diagonal gash across the country from Inverness via Fort William to Oban. It's a 70nm trench with a 4000ft landmark at the far end, and we slot into it like a scene from Star Wars - possibly the easiest nav in the whole of the UK ! Keeping a sharp lookout for Nessie monsters (and low-flying RAF !), we head southwest and as we approach Fort William Ben Nevis rises, unusually cloud-free all the way to the top, far above us on the left hand side. Now the cleft widens into a sea-loch filled with dozens of small islands as we head into Oban, where Paul greets us with the usual warm welcome. We're treated to a cup of tea, jammie dodgers, and a nice slurp of Jet-A1 - all served up with one of the finest views from any airfield in the UK, out across the islands and the sea towards the sound of Mull. If you ever travel to Scotland, this is one field you must visit.

Last leg of the day is a quick hop over the hills and along a couple more inland lochs to Cumbernauld and a hangar for the night.

Tomorrow, the real trip begins. There's a warm front on the way so whether I get going or not will depend on just how fast it's moving . . .

Last edited by Grainger; 17th Jul 2005 at 18:07.
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Old 12th Jul 2005, 19:20
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What a fantastic thing to do!

I can't wait to read the rest of it and see the pictures, thank you for writing it for us to read.
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Old 12th Jul 2005, 19:42
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More, more. See if you can finsih before Harry Potter gets released on Friday ....

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Old 12th Jul 2005, 20:39
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Shhhhhh don't tell everyone how great it is up here, the place will be mobbed!!!!!

Sounds like a great trip. I look forward to hearing more about it. How I wish I had done my hour building in the summer when a round the country jaunt would have been more feasible.
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Old 13th Jul 2005, 09:41
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Arrived at Cumbernauld clutching a sheaf of NOTAMs, weather reports and suchlike.

The five-day surface pressure animation shows a wealth of fronts criss-crossing the country over the next few days - cold, warm and occlusions. This is the sort of situation that makes the weather virtually impossible to predict. Fronts may be displaced in space or time, or be stronger or weaker than predicted. I believe the official meteorological term is "unsettled". Today's forecast is for a warm front moving up from England towards Scotland, and sure enough the sky at Cumbernauld is overcast with just a hint of drizzle. Not an uncommon state of affairs here, it's fair to say !

A quick call to Carlisle confirms that their weather is clear, warm and bright - suggesting that the front has already passed. Knowing that the weather is clear at your destination always helps so I decide to set out, expecting the cloudbase to descend a bit as I head south. This gives me two options - if I can get through my destination will be clear, and if not I can turn back, heading away from the front.

I route east of Glasgow zone and head for the hills. With their tops in cloud a direct route is out of the question so I follow the M74. Scottish Information tell me that a couple of earlier flights from Carlisle attempting to reach Glasgow had turned back because of low cloud. At the moment I've got great visibility below the cloudbase and able to maintain VFR at 1000ft agl so I press on.

Decision time. My own personal minimum for this sort of situation is 500ft agl. Among other things, below that lies pylon and cable territory. Not funny. Today is a good day to make your decisions before you have to. OK. Occasional lower blobs of cloud drop down, and I find myself having to descend to 700 or 800 feet to keep VFR. If I end up getting below 500 ft, then it's farmer's field time. Every couple of miles I pick out a suitable spot - there's a lorry depot with a big concrete parking area, a field next to the Services, a nice-looking farmhouse with a big empty field next to it and no poles or cables... I could land there and maybe get a nice cup of tea. If I do get too low for comfort, I will always have somewhere to go - no blundering around in poor vis looking for a spot.

But 700ft is the lowest it gets. The drizzle gets heavier and I set the windshield heater to blowing warm air. It's very noisy so I can't hear anything, but it keeps the screen clear so I can see where I'm going - I know which I'd rather have ! Then I'm at Gretna and suddenly the sky clears, the sun comes out, and I leave Scotland and the rain behind. I've punched through the tail end of the front, and out into clear air. There's Carlisle ahead, I call the field in sight and land for a rest and another bacon sarnie.

The next leg takes me to Barton. Clear air now so no more cloud-dodging and I can route direct. NOTAMs tell me that Warton is off so I take a service from Blackpool, and an hour later I'm inbound for Barton.

"Barton Information, Helicopter G-XXXX, inbound from Carlisle for fuel, request landing information". They tell me the runway in use and QFE. This is my first visit to Barton and I can see it's a busy little place, with built-up area and motorways all around and a lot of activity on and around the field. I know I'm tucked in under a corner of Manchester airspace, so there's less room for manoeuvre than usual.

Three miles to run and I need a clear plan. "Barton, request more landing information !" They give me a much more detailed description and I route low-level to the North-Western boundary and cross to the fuel bowser. Thanks guys, splendidly helpful. Another slurp of Jet-A1 and a cup of tea for me.

The last leg of the day will take me to Sleap. This will be my first trip through the notorious Manchester low-level corridor. Oh well, the purpose of the trip is to give myself some new challenges. I've heard various stories - Manchester won't want to talk to you, no right-left separation so watch out for people coming the other way, and so on. How would I fare ?
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Old 14th Jul 2005, 07:58
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More please, MORE!

Even though I know about the next day.
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Old 14th Jul 2005, 09:51
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SATURDAY 2nd JULY cont...
My destination for this evening is Sleap.

I blast off from Barton, low level to the west and start to look out for my landmark for the northern end of the Manchester VFR corridor - a big triangular junction of the M6 an M62. Having heard various tales of unfriendly controllers, I'm not too optimistic but Manchester come back to me with a cheerful "sure, we can give you a flight information service" and I head due south towards Ashcroft keeping a good lookout for anyone coming the other way using the same two landmarks !

The VFR corridor is max alt. 1250 ft and there are a good few built up areas along the way. I wonder what people used to do when the 1000ft rule was a 1500ft rule.

Before long, I'm at Ashcroft and a clear run down to Sleap. Another wonderful little airfield and they have an ideal overnight parking spot ready for me. Whirlybird's waiting to greet me - we intend to fly together to the PFA rally at Kemble tomorrow.

We spend the evening poring over the Kemble AIC and planning our route into and out of the rally. We decide on Omaha to the northside. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day !
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Old 14th Jul 2005, 22:24
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PFA Rally day. We've decided on route Omaha via Michaelwood services. There's no Jet-A1 at Sleap so we'll need to pick up fuel en-route. options are Shobdon or Gloucester. I decide on Gloucester, as it's more on the direct route, plus I want some experience into the larger airports. I figure it's going to be very busy in the evening with people picking up fuel on the way home from Kemble, so better to refuel in the morning, on the way to the rally.

Brilliant idea time: I wonder if Gloucester can do a rotors-running refuel - that would save a lot of time. It'll be a first for me but well, if you don't ask, you don't get. So I phone Gloucester and they say sure, no problem, just call them with ten minutes to run and they'll have someone standing by.

It's a bright clear morning (cold front passed through during the night) and nav consists of picking a suitable large hill on-heading on the horizon and aiming for it. Getting to Gloucester takes about an hour. We call in for refuel and get directed to helispot 2 where, sure enough, the guys are waiting at the bowser. At Gloucester it's the fire crew who also do the refuelling. Fair enough I guess - if they set fire to it, they're the best people to put it out. Anyway, almost as soon as we're down the static line and fuel hose are out and fuel starts flowing. The guy shoves a bit of paper through the window for me to sign and we're away again. Cool, or what ?

On to Michaelwood services on the M5 and the start of the Omaha route. With Whirly beside me, I'm now very glad of the extra pair of eyes as we head towards Kemble. There's a few likely-looking airfields around here, but only one that's festooned with tents and parked aircraft. Keeping a sharp lookout, we duck down low-level beneath the fixed-wing "racetrack", make our one RT call: "Helicopter XX, one mile North" and head for the 'H'.

The AIC instructions are quite clear - make your approach to the 'H', but don't land on it !. As we arrive, there's no-one to marshall us, but there is a big tarmac area corresponding to the number '4' on the chart that is designated as the helicopter parking area, so we choose a spot as far from the 'H' as we can and set down.

As the rotors come to a stop, a small car hurtles towards us and two marshalls jump out.

"They're going to tell us we've parked in the wrong place", I groan.

The marshall comes up: "you're parked in the wrong place, mate !" ... and gesticulates towards the 'H'.

I produce the chart, show him the '4' right on the spot where we've parked, and the bit about not parking on the 'H'.

Just as I think we're going to have to get the wheels out, he relents: "Nah, you're all right here". We are a bit close to a taxiway so we agree to be careful starting up again and head off in search of the booking in tent, some grub and a cold drink.
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Old 15th Jul 2005, 10:27
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The VFR corridor is max alt. 1250 ft and there are a good few built up areas along the way. I wonder what people used to do when the 1000ft rule was a 1500ft rule.
Grainger, great write up ! Just answer this specific query.

Traffic in the LLR is exempt from the 1000ft (ex 1500ft), element of Rule 5, but not from the 'alight clear' rule (as per SVFR). Full details is The Manchester (EGCC) AIP entry.

Thanks for your kind comments about Barton, I'll make sure they are seen by the people who were working on Saturday
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Old 15th Jul 2005, 12:36
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Indeed, there was a certain amount of jockeying for position to ensure that I always had a landing option in range.

Exemption to the 1500' rule, that explains it. Thanks !

Next installment coming soon . . .
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Old 15th Jul 2005, 17:18
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SUNDAY 3rd JULY cont...

Phew, what a scorcher ! Today must be one of the hottest days of the year so far. It's a good thing the organisers have thoughtfully decided to hand out bottles of water with the entry wristbands.

Wandering among the tents and exhibits there's all sorts of weird and wonderful machines on display - some more homebuilt than others. We poke and prod a Rotorway and there's even a completely homemade helicopter that looks a bit like a flying bedstead (not you was it, Bugdevheli ?). Having made suitable "you wouldn't get me up in one of those" noises, we pause to watch the excellent areobatics show.

We nip into the BMAA stall and say 'hi' to Genghis, find six of the ten faults on the walkround inspection challenge, and pretty soon it's time to head off. As we get the bus back to Northside, I decide that next time, I'll give the pizza a miss - shoulda gone for the Hog Roast.

Back at area '4', there's now a motley crew of helicopters - a Rotorway, couple of Robbos and a Westland scout I think. Everyone else is clustered tightly around the 'H', making us into a one-helicopter splinter group. Departure is more straightforward than arrival - low level to the North then resume our own navigation. We're cleared through Gloucester's overhead at 2,500 feet and the air is so clear we decide to stay up here and enjoy the view. Back to Sleap to drop off WB, and then after another cup of tea, I'm on my own again heading back to Gloucester for my overnight stop.

I've now flown this part of the route three times. It's now a beautiful early evening and much as I've enjoyed the day I find the solitude most welcome after all the hustle and bustle. I get back to Gloucester to find that my earlier instinct was right - it's really busy with Kemble traffic and I have to hover for a while waiting for a gap as everyone lands. Just as well we refuelled this morning ! Finally cleared to cross, I land on helispot three this time and tie down for the night.

The plan for this evening is to meet up with a colleague who's based in South Wales and spend the night at their place, but frankly I'm so knackered that I'm not sure I can face it. I'm hot, sweaty and tired and not really ready for socialising. Luck's on my side - there's some confusion over which day they were expecting me (non-aviation folks often don't seem to understand that it's not possible to schedule things precisely, what with weather and everything else). So that gives me an out - I really wasn't looking forward to having to make small talk and their two kids jumping up and down all over the place when all I want to do is crash out. Great, excuses made and I'll see them another time.

Excellent. Er, except it's now seven p.m. and I've nowhere to stay. Oops.

Well, I could always sleep under a bush...wouldn't be the first time . Or in the back of the helicopter (I believe there was a thread about this on Rotorheads not so long ago).

However, I don't have to resort to the luggage compartment or the local shrubbery. A very nice lady at the booking in desk gets a taxi for me and the driver takes me to a couple of travel lodges - the first one's full, but the second one has a room available. Sorted. Shower, meal, one beer and then sleep.

I collapse into bed, thinking how wonderful and helpful everyone has been. Ten hours completed in the first three days ! If I carry on at this rate I'm gonna be knackered. [And bankrupt.] Luckily (!?) the weather is about to come to my aid...
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Old 17th Jul 2005, 18:06
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First batch of pictures

OK, here's the first batch of pictures. More later.

Start of the adventure...


Arriving at Kemble...

On the ground at Kemble...
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Old 17th Jul 2005, 20:31
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I think I recognise that Jet Ranger as heving 'been on the lawn' of the Glenfosa Hotel (as well)

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Old 18th Jul 2005, 17:44
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The day dawns grey and wet.

Oh well, I've allowed for a day or two of bad weather when planning the trip. Perhaps today will be my first non-flying day of the week. Gloomily, I watch weather reports on TV until about 10:00 am when they sky brightens. I phone Dunkeswell and receive better news: it's clear and bright, although rather gusty. That's OK. Windy I don't mind - rotten visibility is a different story. Encouraged, I call a taxi and head to the airport.

The taxi ride is only ten minutes but by the time I get to the airport, I'm greeted by this view:

A huge cell has formed right over the field ! Now I really don't like doing my check 'A's in the rain, so I take refuge for a while in the fire/refuellers' mess room, and the crew ply me with cups of tea in return for stories of my trip. Thanks guys !

Eventually, it brightens enough to get my refuelling and check 'A' done, and I'm off again, heading southwest. Essentially a straight run down the M5 to Taunton serices, it's made rather more interesting by further showers and cells. However, the visibility is good so I can see far enough ahead (about 20 miles !) to avoid them. Onto Filton and then Bristol, and I route via Thornbury to the bridges and down the coast past Avonmouth.

I was once engaged to a girl in Thornbury so it makes a good landmark. I try to spot the pub where we used to go... I think I see it, but I'm not sure. I wonder what she would have thought if I had said that in 24 years' time I would be flying over this very spot...

As soon as I'm clear of the Bristol Channel area, the sky clears - it seems all the poor weather was blowing straight up the channel. At Taunton services I leave the M5 and head inland for Dunkeswell - the highest airfield in the UK. It's a gusty approach but no problem for the JetRanger, which feels much more stable in these conditions than the Robinson.

The guys have an overnight parking spot arranged for me right next to the bowser and the refuellers are out almost before the rotors have even stopped.

The weather's much better at Dunkeswell !

My brother and sister in law are waiting to meet me. I'll be staying with them for a couple of days. Now don't get me wrong, I love travelling - but after three very busy days, the thought of a couple of days in the same place is quite appealing and I'm really pleased to see them.

Today the plan was to go down to Truro, have lunch in the Victoria Inn, and then round Land's End and back to Dunkeswell. But this time there's a warm front that just won't quit. Even down by the coast it's socked in and Dunkers is at 839 feet, so there's no point even thinking about flying today.

That's OK - I had planned to have one non-flying day midweek, so might as well be today. We visit some caves and a brewery maltings while the rain pisses down.

Tonight I need to be over towards London, so there's no time to make it all the way to Truro and Land's end. Anyway, the weather's still coming in from the Southwest, so we decide discretion is the better part of valour and settle for a shorter trip down the coast and enjoy some spectacular scenery. We get as far as Dartmouth then head back inland to Dunkeswell. Lunch for us in Dunkeswell's excellent restaurant (I had two puddings !), and another drink of fuel for G-GAND. Sorted !

Once again, everyone at the airfield has been splendidly helpful, friendly and efficient. Refuelling, parking, help getting weather and NOTAMs off the computer - thanks everybody !. Definitely one of my favourite spots and well worth a visit.

The next leg is a route I've flown several times before. I'd originally planned to stop at Denham to visit my old pals at Heli-Air but it turns out they have now moved to High Wycombe, so that's where I'm headed. Nice overnight parking spot, and a room in a splendid country pub - thanks Aileen !

As I tuck into my pie chips and peas supper, I wonder if I've finally manged to outrun the rotten weather. There was no way I could have known that tomorow, the weather would be the least of all our problems . . .
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 13:09
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Dunkeswell - the highest airfield in the UK
Is Crossland Moor not higher ??
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 15:04
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Close thing h-r, but my 2005 Pooleys has:

Dunkeswell: 839 ft
Huddersfield (Crosland Moor): 825 ft

Interestingly, I had been hoping that Oban would be the lowest - but Pooleys has it at 20ft AMSL and there are a couple lower - including Glenforsa at 15ft. Does anyone know if there's any lower than sea-level in the UK ?
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 16:00
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Southport/Birkdale Sands (EGCO) is AT sea level - its on the beach!! Although not sure if its still operated anymore.

Don't know of one below sea level.

Good posts. Can I ask for more info on who you were getting radio services from on your travels.

Not been "dahn sarf" yet, and it might prove helpful once my lottert ticket comes in, and I get the chance to follow in your foot steps. :-)

Keep up the good work.

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Old 19th Jul 2005, 19:22
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I think your style of writing really suits the tale and the PPRuNe format. Brilliant. Keep it coming with a few more pictures if possible.


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Old 19th Jul 2005, 21:16
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Mr Grainger

Can't believe you forgot our very own Barra!
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Old 19th Jul 2005, 21:38
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Of course - Barra ! On the beach . . .

Can't get much lower than that I guess without testing the pop-out floats !

RH - mainly I would take a Flight Information service from whoever's available. So from Cumbernauld down to Sleap for example, I worked first with Glasgow Approach, then Scottish Information (who were very helpful with weather reports) and then onto Carlisle.

After Carlisle, Warton were off, so I took a Flight Information Service from Blackpool (again very helpful) and then straight onto Barton.

After Barton, a very friendly chap at Manchester gave me a service through the VFR corridor.

The one I had difficulty with this far north was London Information - they were too busy helping people across the channel I think. A bit odd hearing people calling in from Cherbourg when you are up around Lancashire !

From Gloucester down to Dunkeswell I worked first Bristol Filton then Bristol Radar - complicated airspace with quite a few other aircraft dodging weather but again they gave me an excellent service.

Exeter looked after me around Devon, then from Dunkeswell up to Wycombe, first Boscombe then Farnborough. I always find the military zones very helpful indeed although they can go off duty in the evenings.

Next leg of the story coming soon - I'll try to include some more details in the writeup.


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