Landing on Grass, and Landing on Lights

07/11/2016 – Just four more days and I was back for yet another lesson, this time a navigation exercise to Sherburn-in-Elmet (EGCJ), to the east of Leeds, 32nm away from Gamston to the NNW. This would be a fairly simple flight but took me through the class D controlled airspace of Doncaster Sheffield airport so gave me a chance to practice asking for clearance. It was also only my third ever landing away from Gamston, after Nottingham and Norwich.

When I arrived at the airfield I was pretty sure that this flight wouldn’t go ahead, the weather was pretty poor, very cloudy and some rain, and visibility not good. But we hung around as the weather was forecast to improve. and so it did, so by 3pm we were happy to board our trusty Piper PA-28 G-GALB and get ready to go. Sherburn has three runways in a triangular arrangement, 10/28 – which is tarmac, and 01/19 and 06/24 which are grass. Looking at the wind we’d assumed that tarmac runway 10 would be in use.

By the time we got in the air at about 3:15 it was in fact very calm, there was still a fair bit of cloud around but nothing to be worried about. Doncaster were very quick to give me a clearance and I flew almost directly over the runway and we got a great view of the airport as we were overhead. Just after the airport we flew over Doncaster racecourse and got a great view of that also.


On asking for joining instructions for Sherburn we were told the runway in use was 01. I turned to Luke and said “Did he say 01 then, not 10?” Luke was as surprised as I was, but obviously the wind was better on 01. It meant however that I’d be performing my first landing on a grass runway. I was so used to the luxury of the long and wide tarmac runway at Gamston that I was a bit worried about just what the grass landing would be like, just how bumpy would it be? Also the runway is only 585 metres in length, and I’m used to the almost 1700 metres of Gamston. For me it was the equivalent of landing on an aircraft carrier! However I needn’t have worried, I made a good circuit and we landed with plenty of room to spare, phew.


Because we were so late starting out we didn’t have time to do anything but go into the main building, pay our landing fees and have a quick cup of tea. No cake for me this time. And it was already looking quite dark. So we jumped straight back into the aircraft and set off again pretty sharpish. Because of the short, and slightly damp grass runway, Luke showed me how to do a short field takeoff, and we bounded up into the air, and headed back towards Gamston.

Another quick and easy clearance from Doncaster, and and overfly of their runway, and we were soon back at Gamston. However by this time it was nearly 5pm, in November, so quite dark. It was my first time landing on runway lights. Two firsts in one day, and neither expected! Again it was much easier than I’d been expecting, and I was pretty happy with the whole journey. You can just see the runway lights in the pic below, and how low the sun was!


And here’s a video of the flight to Sherburn speeded up to 8 times normal speed.

If you want to know more, the podcast, as always, contains an expanded version of the above.

Author: oldmannewpilot

An old man, becoming a new pilot