We flew to Dover on Monday to see a man who is one of the few specialists in this country who knows about Wilhelm’s kind of engine (it’s a German manufacturer). Lee wanted to learn more about how the engine works, as aircraft owners are required to carry out regular checks that come under what’s known as ‘pilot maintenance’. Never one to miss out on the opportunity for an outing, I decided to go along for the ride.
Wilhelm had a couple of illustrious neighbours when we arrived at the airfield first thing: a nice twin-engined aircraft in the foreground and a Cessna Citation business jet in the background.
The flight down to Dover was really hard work, so we shared the flying. It was so thermic that we were constantly being bounced around, and keeping on heading and beneath airspace was really challenging. We got a great view of Central London, though this photograph doesn’t do it justice – they looked a lot closer and clearer than this in real life. We could see the Millennium Dome, the Shard, the London Eye, the Gherkin and various other skyscrapers peering out of the haze on the horizon. Sadly, the centre of London is strictly off-limits for small single-engined aircraft – you have to have at least two engines to be allowed in! We did go over Pinewood Studios though, where we could see the massive green wall where they film green screen stuff for the computer effects to be added in afterwards (we were too busy trying to avoid airspace that I don’t have a photo of it unfortunately).
This is the Thames Estuary. Not visible in this picture: a huge offshore windfarm.
This was the view of Dover and its port as we made our descent.
We landed at this small grass strip, which is called Waldershare Park. It’s home to the Channel Gliding Club, but they weren’t flying that day.
Here’s our GPS trace for the route out. As you can see, we skirted around various airspace.
I spent much of the day sitting in Wilhelm’s cockpit doing my copywriting work while the guys pored over the engine, as guys seem to love doing. This is the beauty of being a freelance copywriter: you can work from anywhere! I actually managed to get loads done, so it was a very productive day.
The guy we were there to see drove us back to his house on a nearby farm for lunch, where we met his wife and two very adorable dogs. He was living the dream: he had his own grass strip (which wasn’t long enough for us to land Wilhelm in, hence we went to the gliding club instead) with his house right next to it. He even had a load of sheep, and two ponies.
On the way back, the sun was still shining and it gets quite hot on your head when it beats down through the canopy. I found an innovative use for the map, as a sunshade. Don’t worry – we had a GPS too!
We were both pretty knackered, so we took it in turns to do the flying. This is Canterbury on the way home – you can see the Cathedral right in the middle of the town, with the sea in the background.
The Isle of Sheppey. I liked all the little tiny river patterns all over it!
I spotted this ridge and furrow on the way home – I’m afraid the picture doesn’t do justice to it. Some of the ridges were aligned in different directions, which was quite spectacular.
Hinton in the Hedges airfield, showing us that we were almost home after a very long day.
Here’s the GPS trace for the way back. This time we talked to Luton and they let us transit through their airspace. The kink in an otherwise straight line was when they asked us to turn west to keep well away from an approaching A319!
The journey took an hour and forty minutes on the way out, with a bit of a headwind, and an hour and twenty minutes on the way back, with a ten knot tailwind. Three more hours for my logbook, and a productive day’s copywriting – not bad for a Monday!