The weather wasn’t quite CAVOK but was almost, with a bit of a breeze coming in from the north-east. So nothing else for it – today was the day to do the low-level Isle of Sheppey flight. And wasn’t I glad that I did! Here’s a pic of the flight I’d planned, which I followed more or less to the letter.
My idea was to take off from Linton and head up past Faversham to the Isle of Sheppey. Then I planned to descend more or less to sea level and fly westwards all the way along the island’s northern shoreline, keeping 500 feet away from any people, boats etc, all the way to Sheerness. Then I’d climb back up to 1500 feet or so to cross the River Medway estuary over to the Isle of Grain for a landing at Stoke. After a spot of light refreshment, I’d than take off again and return to Linton via the northern and western sides of Rochester.
And that’s exactly what I did, and in some excellent flying conditions; not perfect because of the gusting north-easterly breeze, but still very good indeed. I didn’t take my camcorder because it definitely has a sound fault that I need to get fixed and although I took my small stills camera, the vis wasn’t quite up to it, despite the fact that the flight itself was so memorable. I tanked MYRO up beforehand and then strapped a jerry can with the fuel I had left over onto the seat next to me. The whole flight would have been marginal on the single tank and there’s nothing more useless when flying than the fuel you left behind you back on the ground. And with a stop planned at Stoke where it could be added to the tank, the extra fuel would give me the additional margin and reserve that I needed.
And so I took off on runway 11, yet again the only aircraft flying in such gorgeous conditions at Linton, what’s been the story the whole of the time I’ve been there. I climbed out on a north-easterly heading up to 1300 feet or so but with the lift I kept encountering, I eventually got as high as 1800 feet on the leg taking me up to the Isle of Sheppey. I passed overhead Leeds Castle which is now looking a bit more Spring-like but whose moat has a nasty stagnant look to it from the air. There were a few wind buffets that tipped the wings a bit and were a bit disconcerting after last week-end’s rather scary experience but I settled down and relaxed after not too long. After all, you can’t let one negative experience ruin your enjoyment, can you.
I began to slowly descend as I crossed the Swale heading across to the Isle of Sheppey and by the time I got to the island’s northern coast was at about 1000 feet. So I then turned left and began my descent towards the sea, for the part of the route taking me up to Sheerness. In fact I only went down to a minimum of 50 feet, unlike when I went to Hastings and my GPS track after the flight indicated a height in places of -3 feet! And mostly I kept to about 100 feet, mainly because of the rather gusty breeze coming off the sea. But this still kept me below caravans lined up along the cliff-tops and the Coastguard radar scanner looking out at ships in the Thames Estuary. Just like last time, lots of small kids out with their Mums and Dads gave me friendly waves as I flew past, and even quite a few bigger ones too 😉
As I approached the northern tip of Sheerness I opened the throttle and began my climb to 1500 feet to cross over the Medway Estuary to the Isle of Grain. With Thames Port on my left I’d already switched to the Stoke radio frequency expecting to hear lots of chatter, but instead – nothing. Well, not quite nothing but not far off. I thought I might have programmed the wrong frequency into my radio but just as I prepared myself to join and land non-radio, I heard another aircraft. So then I just called up and landed on runway 06 – an interesting approach with the funny gusting cross wind and bits of lift and sink on final, but safely down and with nobody else behind me, I did a fast taxi with the nose wheel up off the ground up to the far end of the runway. So that was the first part of the flight – one hour and five minutes of glorious microlight fun 🙂
Shortly after I’d shut down, sorted MYRO out and was heading for the little cafe, Chris the Instructor and Examiner who I did my GST with last year landed in his Quantum with a student. It turned out that it had been very busy earlier this morning but now everyone had gone, leaving just him and me with MYRO as the only active aircraft on the field at that time! I booked in and then ordered a nice cup of tea and a buttered scone which I consumed sitting outside in the warm sun. What a lovely way to break up a flight. Shortly afterwards, Chris began briefing for an air-experience so I decided I might as well get myself ready and head off back to Linton. I signed out to save coming back to the clubhouse and then went off to add the fuel in the jerry can to MYRO’s tank. Then I carried out a quick (but thorough) inspection, got in and was off.
One final surprise was that as I was heading west away from Stoke, Chris came up on my left hand side with his air-experience flight. After a cheery wave, he headed up and away and I continued off on my way to Linton. That’s the first time for very many years that I’ve had company from another aircraft in the air and I’d forgotten what good fun it is flying with someone else close by. A short while later I skirted round the Rochester airfield zone and not long after that I was over Teston Bridge with the lock a few hundred yards upstream of it. Then it was time to spot Linton, which I easily did, and join for a landing back on runway 11. That went off safely and after I’d tied, covered and put MYRO to bed I sat down in the shade under a wing and enjoyed the flask of tea and snack that I’d taken with me. A great way to end a fabulous flight 🙂
Just to finish off, I won’t spoil the memory of a great afternoon’s flying by giving any more details at the moment, but one of the reasons why I dropped in at Stoke is because I’m now a member there. In fact, my time at Linton is coming to an end and I will be moving MYRO over to Stoke as from June 1st, if not slightly before. I can’t wait. It’s a very friendly airfield and club, much more active than Linton and with far fewer ‘restrictions’ than apply at Linton which take away much of the pleasure and fun of flying there. I’ll tell more later, but for now I’ll just think of today’s flight as one especially to look back on with pleasure. What microlight flying is all about, I reckon.