25/09/16 – This Sunday was to be a flight with a difference for me. Rather than my normal training, we had a group flyaway to Norwich. This had been organised by the Gamston Flying School Community and consisted of seven aircraft and 20 people flying to Norwich, spending the day there, and then flying back. We were lucky that the weather was pretty good when we all assembled at Gamston Airfield at 9am, on a Sunday, yes 9am. Well it seemed early to me anyway.
I’d been tasked with flying the leg out to Norwich in my regular Piper PA-28, G-GALB, and I’d be a passenger on the way back. It was only my second flight away from Gamston – I’d been to Nottingham the same day I did my first solo if you remember – and my first flight into controlled airspace, with all the rules and regulations that introduced.
My copilot/instructor for the flight was John Shaw, Chief Flying Instructor at Gamston Flying School and a hugely experienced pilot and instructor. In the back was Jason Allum, who I’d not met before but who was quite happy to put his life, or at least his comfort, in my hands. They’re both lovely guys and I was happy to spend the hour in the plane with them.
After a few minutes sitting around in the office Steve Olechnowicz held a briefing in the meeting room where he explained very clearly all the procedures we would need, radio calls etc. I was very impressed! This was so much better than trying to read up in some stuffy technical book and I took lots of notes and asked lots of questions. Some of the other aircraft would be flying direct to Norwich over the Wash but Steve’s recommendation for us was Grantham-King’s Lynn-Norwich so I planned a route accordingly. I got the winds and used my whizz wheel to plan the headings and speeds and was pleased with having a chance to practice these skills for real.
Norwich is an international airport so we could well be landing amongst holiday jets, rather than the Cessna, Pipers and occasional executive jets I’m used to seeing at Gamston. We could well be sent to a specific point to hold if they were busy and they’d not be happy if I made a mess of things and ended up in the wrong place. Luckily I had John in the plane to manage all the important radio calls and make sure I could enjoy myself.
Raybin and myself were the only two students flying the leg out amongst the team so for us at least it was a whole new experience. We’re both at a similar point in our flight training so it was nice to be able to chat with him about how we felt we were getting on. There were also highly experienced qualified pilots, and ones who were just starting their training, so this day out was going to offer a lot to all of us.
One by one the aircraft departed Gamston and headed for Norwich. It was a bit bumpy to start with but we climbed up above the clouds and it soon turned clear anyway. It was pretty much an uneventful flight. We had to make a couple of clearing turns at one point as we knew another member of the flyaway was below us and we wanted to make sure we had visibility of them, but we ended up ahead of them anyway.
As we approached Norwich I was a little apprehensive about landing at a new airport but we were called number one in the approach by ATC and after a downwind then base leg I was on final and landing. I was pretty happy to have one of my better landings. It doesn’t pay to make a poor landing in front of the school’s Chief Flying Instructor and I was pleased with the result. After taxiing to the executive terminal – and being directed by a girl with two oversized lollipops (i.e. the marshall) as to where to put my aircraft, we shut down. We were there!
Taxis had been arranged to take us into the centre of Norwich so we assembled in the market square. After a bit of deliberation seven of us went off to find a steak house I could see on the map on my phone. I’m not sure my ground navigation was quite as good as my air navigation but we found our way there and had a lovely meal. It was great to have a nice lunch amongst a bunch of people who could talk about flying as much as I could and not get bored. We all got on really well and eventually after stuffing ourselves with steaks in the restaurant, and ice creams from Norwich centre, we made our way back to where the taxis were waiting to take us back to the airfield.
I was flying back as a rear passenger in a different PA-28, with Andrew Howard as pilot, Steve Olechnowicz as copilot and Raybin Yu as my fellow rear seat passenger. One thing that was different for us was the wait to leave Norwich. At Gamston it’s unusual to wait for more than five minutes to get onto the runway for take off, but at Norwich we had to wait for clearance and we got bumped behind a scheduled passenger jet service. In all we were 25 minutes waiting for clearance and I’m certainly grateful I’m not learning to fly there, imagine if that happened when you were about to start an hour long lesson!
Our flight back took us up to as high as 7000 feet, and was direct from Norwich to Gamston, flying over the Wash, as well as RAF Coningsby, RAF Waddington and even almost directly over my own house. I got my wife to go outside and wave but I didn’t see her!
The flight was smooth and a great opportunity to take lots of pictures. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/karlbown/albums/72157671428047244). Andrew made a lovely landing at Gamston and after staying as long as I could chatting to people I eventually dragged myself to the my car and made my way home.
What a great day out! I’d like to say thanks to everyone who contributed to the running of the event, Steve, Ed, Gwen etc., and to those guys I spent the day with. I had a great time and I’ve already booked myself on the next one. This is what flying is about! Not only was it a fun day out for us all, but for me it counted as a hour of training, result!