Causeway Airfield, a gem on the north coast!

Written by Mark Smith on Sunday 25 August 2019 12 minute read

Causeway Airfield

I’m a bit late to the game with this one, having completed the flight 27/06/2019, ah well! About an hour or so after my biennial licence renewal flight I decided to go for a flight up the coast into Causeway airfield, near Coleraine on the North Coast. This is a strip I’ve wanted to visit for a while, but either weather got in the way or I ended up doing other stuff. So, with a few hours to spare (I had taken the afternoon off and was planning on sticking round for the Ulster Flying Club AGM) I decided no time like the present! I already had it in my mind that I would be heading here after my re-validation so had my routes planned out on SkyDemon.

PPR

To get into Causeway you need to do a PPR call (028 7082 5544), the number is also on SkyDemon and the various websites, it will put you through to a hotel, but don’t be alarmed, this is correct and the friendly receptionist will pass on your message!

Causeway Airfield looking North

The airfield itself has 2 runways shown (1634 650m & 1129 380m), but the shorter isn’t really in use, as the wind was showing 060 at 10kts that would make it runway 16, excellent! It’s also a huge runway for microlights, over 600m in length and 20m wide, a beast

Leg 1 – To Causeway!

EGAC 271520Z AUTO 06010KT 9999 NCD 23/12 Q1029=
Start Duration Stop Distance Max Alt Max GS (kts) Avg GS (kts)
15:24 Z 1 hr 0 m 16:25 Z 73nm 2,578 ft 101 kt 84 kt

This is a route I’m already familiar with having flown to the North coast several times now, you can read about one of those times when I headed off to Oban. The one exception was the end point, Causeway. As always, a new field brings a bit of nerves, just as you never really know what to expect until you are there. I had been briefed in the PPR call however that all was good and blind calls on SafetyCom were the order of the day with a good lookout.

And we’re off

The weather today was stunning, just have a look at the pics below as I’m approaching Belfast Lough, so nice!

I realised I forgot to put my life jacket on, a bit late to remember half way over Belfast Lough

Belfast Radar were nice enough to clear me into their CTA not above 2,000ft, which is always good, as otherwise, you have to skim below it not above 1,500ft, which isn’t nice above water. It was around this time I realised I forgot to put my life jacket on, a bit late to remember half way over Belfast Lough. So, a wrap on my knuckles and something to add to the pre-flight checklist in future. Of course, the engine doesn’t know it’s over water etc, but I do, and can think of nothing more terrifying than attempting a water landing in a high wing aircraft with dangling landing gear. My assumption is I’d end up upside down, so a life jacket is essential in my eyes!

Groomsport passing below by right wing

Another view up Belfast Lough

Bangor passing along 1900ft below

That's alot of water

You can faintly see Scotland if you look hard enough!

The East & North Coast

After being handed over to Aldergrove Radar who had their hands full and pretty much left me to it I continued along the coast. There was hardly a bump and the views were tremendous. The east & north coasts of Northern Ireland are essentially large cliffs and mountains, great fun to fly around and over and very pleasing to the eye!

As it was fairly uneventful I was able to take loads of pics, take a look at what you are missing if you don’t fly here!

Looking North over Larne

Some event on in Glenarm

You can just make out Slemish Mountain in the distance

Rathlin Island

Causeway Coast

The North Coast is often called the Causeway Coast as that’s where the Giants Causeway lives. Take a look in my video below and see if you can spot the Causeway, it’s surprisingly tiny from 1,500ft! Also, along this coast is the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge (which was free for years to cross but not any more, bah!) and Ballintoy harbour where some little-known show about thrones or something was filmed!

Parking for Carrick-a-rederope bridge;they take your money here!

Ballintoy Harbour; it's well worth a visit!

Cliffs along the North Coast are stunning

More cliffs along with the causeway!

You can see the preparations for The Open were well under way here

I love this photo of Portrush

I managed to get a short video approaching the Causeway, see if you can spot it!

Into Causeway

Just after the Giants Causeway, I hit Portrush, where my mind then turned from sightseeing to airfield spotting.

The preparations for The Open were well under way here

Portrush is north of Coleraine and is a small sea side town perched on a Peninsula. As you can see in the photos, they were gearing up for The Open, grand stands etc had been built in preparation all over the golf course, a new ferris wheel was erected (lol) and the town given a bit of a spruce up.

I then turned South towards Coleraine, I’d spotted on the map that the airfield is right on the banks of the River Bann, which I thought was handy, just follow the river! As I hit Coleraine I was keeping an eye out for the airfield, they can so hard to spot, but it jumped out from about 8 miles away! The airfield was surrounded by fields of heather, the result being the bright green runways jumped out at me, woohoo! So I signed off from Aldergrove Radar and switched to SafetyCom. “Causeway Traffic, G-CNAB inbound, request airfield information”, I wasn’t expecting a response but airfield owner Mark jumped on his handheld and informed me all was clear, “G-CNAB joining long final for 16” so I setup on the longest final in the world! It was lovely though, this is terrain I’d never flown over before so was lapping it all up, I’d spotted the wind was slightly to my left as per the METAR and there were some trees on that side of the airfield but there was surprisingly little chop.

Long approach to runway 19

Landed but with a looong taxi

Smoothest grass runway I've landed on

I landed, in hindsight, far too early, I always over estimate how long it’ll my plane to land as it can glide and glide if you aren’t setup properly, so I had stopped in about 100ft and had the majority of a 600m runway to now taxi down! Luckily, it’s a very well-kept strip, one of the smoother grass runways I’ve been on and didn’t spot any marshy patches etc. As it’s so wide as well you will have a hard job missing it.

I was informed on the radio to make my way to the parking area and stop on the right-hand side. There was a decent sized grass area to leave the plane with loads of room for turning etc, excellent!

G-CNAB parked at Causeway

Treasure Trove of aircraft

Mark greeted me and brought me on the hangar tour which I really appreciated! There are all sorts in there and he certainly likes to keep himself busy with several sea plane projects on the go, really interesting stuff. He also has a fleet of Ax2000s which are used to do the odd bit of instructing on. As the airfield is on the River Bann there is a slip and the sea planes will use this on occasion.

Nice CFM Shadow - this was an option before the Jab came on the market

Nice sea plane from Americaland

An Irish Wolfhound followed us about; friendly boy

Kitfox with a 2 stroke; a far cry from the 915 powered beasts on YouTube

The hangars were all fairly new and there are plans to add more as demand takes it, which will be great to see, always good to get more aircraft for me to look at.

My stay was short as I wanted to get back for the AGM, so a quick trip to the caravan to sign the visitor book and pay the £10 landing fee and I was ready to head back.

Mark is hosting a Summer BBQ & Fly-in at Causeway airfield on 7th September, I’m going, would be great to see you!

Leg 2 – Back to Ards

EGAC 271720Z AUTO 02007KT 9999 NCD 23/12 Q1028=
Start Duration Stop Distance Max Alt Max GS (kts) Avg GS (kts)
17:22 Z 49 min 18:11 Z 53 nm 2,151 ft 89 kt 65 kt

As noted above the wind had changed at Belfast but at Causeway it very much favoured 16. Having checked the winds aloft before leaving Ards though, (and as confirmed by my ground speed above, I fly at 85kt IAS) I knew there was a roughly 20kt wind at 2,000ft, meaning it would be a bit choppier on the way back. As I’ve to stay fairly low to avoid Aldergroves airspace and the mountains do come up to 121300 ft or so, chop was expected on this leg.

I do like this route as it takes me right over where I live and I also like the zone transit over head Belfast City, it always looks great and the controllers are pros and very accommodating!

So off I went from runway 16 after the looong back track and was soon up at 1,800ft. I had planned on following the new carriageway from Ballymoney to Ballymena, it’s always my preference to follow roads etc or fly point to point rather than keeping my head in the cockpit looking at SkyDemon or the maps. After positioning myself to right of the road and heading south I noted the cars below, mostly going slightly faster than me thanks to the 25kt headwind I was dealing with, awesome!

Bumpy

The chop came, it wasn’t terrible but it was the sort of thing you’re thinking, can’t wait until this is done with a few fun thumps as I approached Ballymena. As expected, Aldergrove Radar wanted me away from their zone, which suited me, I don’t want an EasyJet in my eye so I skirted along a few hundred feet shy of their 2,000ft Class D airspace.

Result of this was skirting over the hills and taking the brunt of the turbulence. If the wind was much higher, I would have opted for a different route but it wasn’t too bad as I headed East towards Belfast. Aldergrove had me reporting my position over Ballyclare the again at Glengormley at which point I was shuffled over to Belfast City. “G-CNAB requesting Basic Service & Zone Transit via the overhead”, the response came quickly “G-CNAB cleared to enter the Zone, not above 2,000ft”, woohoo!

Belfast Transit

I approached the zone via Whiteabbey where I live and as the turbulence had died down managed to get a few great shots in (if I do say so myself!), take a look:

Approaching Belfast from the North West with views over Cavehill

The lough looking stunning!

Up close at cavehill with the zoo just below my strut

Belfast City airport and the harbour

Belfast City layed out below

As usual the controllers were great, they sent me overhead via their 04 numbers which was the active runway. There was a FlyBe Dash-8 on final which is great fun watching from 1,800ft and Belfast sprawls out in all directions below you with the shipyard showing off it’s impressive gantry cranes affectionately known as Samson and Goliath. Also, when flying the overhead, you can look right up Belfast Lough, which on a day like today is all shades of blue!

Into Ards

Once past the overhead and approaching Comber I signed off from Belfast and over to Ards, checking my time I realised I wasn’t going to make the AGM as I’d to fuel up, put the plane away and do the books, but I was happy enough, flying is far more fun anyway!

Wrapping Up

And so, ended a day of flying, first with the instructor and then with a few hours on my own, what a way to spend a day off!

Until next time, happy flying!

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