After weeks of rotten weather, I finally got to fly yesterday. First, I took my wife up to Wellesbourne Mountford. She had a meeting with the RSC in Statford-upon-Avon where she is directing a play later this year. Instead of a couple of hours on the train, it was a 30m flight plus she got to arrive in style.
On the flight back to Denham, my first in an empty plane for a long time, I really enjoyed myself. I had plenty of time. I was flying VFR without a flight plan or any constraint on my route. The weather was fantastic. I plugged my iPhone (in flight mode) into the audio system and rocked out. I did some VOR tracking and holds for IR currency and some basic manoeuvres to clear the cobwebs but mostly I just enjoyed myself.
The route between Denham and Wellesbourne takes you over the Denham practice area which is so familiar to me from my training days. I enjoyed myself so much that I really must book up some more solo flights and just go … fly.
But back to Denham for 10am to pick my friend Mungo. And then off to Rotterdam IFR. I had planned to go down to Newquay Airport (AKA St. Mawgan) but a change of plans the day before freed me up to go overseas. I’m still learning Dutch and I love to go to the Netherlands and bother the locals with my pathetic attempts to speak their language.
The departure was pretty straightforward. Sometimes the controller at Denham can coordinate it with London but on this occasion, he was too busy. I have tried other ways to get an airborne airways join but now I find that calling London Information works best. They are in the same hall in LACC Swanwick as the enroute controllers so the controller’s assistant can literally walk across the room to arrange the join. I called them a couple of minutes after takeoff and I was climbing into controlled airspace less than five minutes later. They’re good guys.
We were at FL110 (that’s 11,000 feet to VFR pilots) by the coast and despite a headwind we got to Rotterdam in under an hour and a half. This is the kind of trip that the Cirrus SR-22 is designed for – airways cruising in the flight levels. As usual, the controllers gave me direct routings all the way to Rotterdam, straightening out the slightly indirect ‘official’ airways route.
When I told my passenger (an Extra pilot who prefers to be upside down when flying) that I never flew the route that I filed on my flight plan he cocked an eyebrow and asked me ‘what’s the point of it then.’ Sometimes I think it’s just to please Eurocontrol who like to have their chaos neatly organised.
I use Jeppesen FlightStar for my planning and Homebriefing to file flightplans. I am also experimenting with Autoplan IFR. This works very well and simplifies several steps in the process of planning airways trips. I’m interested to know what happens when this product comes out of beta and goes commercial. I hope the author doesn’t charge Jeppesen’s stratospheric prices.
We had a good day in Delft, which is 15 minutes drive from Rotterdam. As usual, KLM JetCenter did a great job. We walked from the plane straight to our taxi without breaking stride for customs, passport control or paperwork. They charge a lot but actually deliver some value. (Although I was a bit irked to be charged €3.20 for two bottles of water since we had already paid something like €180 for handling.) In Delft, I recommend the new Vermeer centre.
The best bit of the trip was the flight back. We could see the English coast almost from Holland and on the descent into London we had a perfect view of the whole city and, with visibility in excess of 40 miles, we could see the North and South Downs beyond it. A magnificent view after a wonderful day’s flying. Now I remember why I like flying.