Too much merriment!
From the last fight I wrote about, which was to Oban in Scotland back in October, I have done a fair bit of flying, performed a 25hr service and had a few training flights focusing on circuits (I did 17 in one flight) and Practise Forced Landings (PFLs). My instructor recommended every 3rd flight or so to spend a few hours going over thing, keeping currency etc.
Christmas has been and gone and while off for the week between Christmas and New Year there were a few lovely days here in Northern Ireland weather wise. Unfortunately, I took advantage of the amount of beer available and wasn’t able to fly, whoops!
However, a day after boxing day and booze free there was another day of decent weather, woohoo! This wasn’t as nice as the previous days, low cloud and early morning showers were the order of the day, but, having checked, re-checked and re-re-checked forecasts it was due to lift around 11am which meant aviating had to happen.
I managed to persuade my future brother in law and potential future microlighter to join me on a quick trip to Enniskillen airport (EGAB). I also managed to rope in Gavin Curtis who accompanied me for the Scotland trip, so we met up at my home airfield of Newtownards and headed off.
We lifted off around 11:55am followed by Gavin in his C42 and had plotted a route that took us to Ballynahinch, Armagh, Fivemiletown and then onto Enniskillen. We weren’t sure at point of departure if we were going to stop or touch and go at the destination airport but would decide on our way depending on time etc.
On lift off it was immediately apparent that while the showers had gone the low cloud hadn’t lifted yet in areas and on routing south I had to stay low at 1,000ft altitude until we were south of Saintfield. The views are always better down low but I’m always aware that if the noisey thing at the front stops, I have limited options, so was pleased that once I ducked under the last cloud could climb up to 1,800 feet before climbing over another cloud and routing east over Ballynahinch towards Armagh.
I’ve never really flown over clouds before and I have to say I loved it, really gives you a sense of speed and the view of the cloud tops makes you feel like you’re in an airliner rather than a home built Jabiru Microlight, epic stuff!
I’d just like to point out, as I can hear the grumbles already, yes we were in full visibility of the ground at all times! There is no way would I risk it otherwise.
As we routed towards Armagh we passed south of a very active microlight field Kernan Aviation. Gavin took responsibility to co-ordinate our routing to the south to avoid any conflicts as the field itself was active with a few arriving aircraft.
This is a great tip, if you’re receiving an Air Traffic Service (ATS), in our case a basic service, they will be more than happy to let you sign off to co-ordinate a transit of a busy airfield. You can then re-join the service once you are clear. Much better to be safe and speak to people than hope for the best and rely on the flawed “see and avoid” technique.
This is a small city with a population of 14,749 (smaller than most towns in the UK) and is quite hard to pick out in the landscape. However, it has a huge Cathedral dominating the city which actually makes a great way point itself and can be seen for miles.
My passenger Neils mum lives here so he was very happy that we’d be overflying it and be able to point out his mums house! It is also the home of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium which was founded in 1789 and is still occupied by Astronomers who study things like the Earths climate, the Sun and Solar System astronomy. I’ve never actually visited it but I now have from the air. Unfortunately we were so occupied talking and looking we forgot to take any photos of it, I’m blaming Neil as I was too busy flying!
I have some custom waypoints on my SkyDemon chart and I spotted on the the way to Armagh, that there is a monument named Navan Fort just outside Armagh. Navan Fort is an ancient ceremonial monument and was a royal site in pre-Christian Ireland that has origins from the 8th century BC, when a ring of wooden poles were raised at the site. It then had a large roundhouse structure added in 1BC which was filled with stones and burnt which is believed to be a ritual offering the building to the gods. Interesting stuff and it was great taking this in from the air!
I love history and there is so much of it Northern Ireland, turns out this flight took in a few interesting monuments, as you will read towards the end, I found a new one (to me) right outside Newtownards!
Gavin decided to head back to his homebase as he’d need to fill up with fuel if he carried on and time wasn’t on his side that day. So I headed onto Enniskillen without the 2nd plane. I’ve been here a few times before, but I can never pick it out from the background scenery until i’m a few miles out.
It was busier than the times I’ve been before where I was able to make straight in with no other traffic. Today was using runway 14 with a right hand circuit and a helicopter and army Islander in the circuit.
I joined in the overhead to get a good view and slotted in for a circuit to a touch and go. I opted out of a full stop to save on time and I had loads of fuel left. Also, sadly the cafe was closed earlier this year so with nothing to fill my belly I didn’t really have incentive to stop!
The approach to 14 is great, flying over Lough Erne, which I really need to fly around one day, into the airport located at the southern shore. And then we were on our way back to Ards.
As can be seen, this is the same route as the outbound, simply reversed, got to love the reverse route feature of SkyDemon!
Above the Clouds
The return had the wind behind us with an airspeed of 85kts and a ground speed between 95-100kts, we were in for a shorter flight. As so much of Northern Ireland is class G airspace I climbed up to the smoother air at 3,500ft after leaving the Enniskillen ATZ which brought us above the low clouds to our south as we routed back to Armagh and onto Ards.
These images make it look like we were in overcast conditions and outside of VFR rules, but, to my left to the north was completely clear skies so contact with the ground was never an issue.
After passing Banbridge I dropped down to 1,800ft to nip below Belfast Airspace and changed from Aldergrove Approach to Belfast Radar for the northerly route back towards Newtownards.
South of Ards and with the field in sight I decided to sign off from Belfast Radar do a bit of VFR flying around some of the islands of Strangford Lough (this is great fun!) before joining the Ards circuit. I demonstrated some manoeuvres to Neil such as feeling 0 gravity and pulling a few Gs when recovering from unusual attitudes.
It was here I spotted a site I hadn’t seen before that turned out to be an ancient monastary dating from the 5th Century and used right up until the 15th century. I somehow never noticed this before so I dropped down to 800ft for a decent look. I was too busy flying to get any photos, but I since found some interesting information at this site and this
I also found a decent video on YouTube someone took of the monastary and the island itself.
I am going to have to visit the island soon as I had no idea this existed and it would be a shame not to get closer to it!
Return to Ards
After a stand overhead join we were back in the circuit with a Cessna, flexwing and another joining in the overhead.
The flexwing was not using radio so it made co-ordination on the radio with the other aircraft more important. I was visual with the flexwing and the Cessna which I was #2 to so I let the overhead aircraft aware of its location. In conditions like this I always perform extra calls, adding crosswind and base leg calls as well so everyone has a decent picture of where I am while maintaining a solid visual lookout, as best as I can anyway.
I have to say, I did a near perfect landing, just kissed the runway, which redeemed myself from the last landing I did with Neil were I did a slight bounce as I carried a few extra knots into the flare!
A great 2hr15min flight was had, with a few unexpected events thrown in, in the form of low cloud and busy airspace. I enjoy a challenge and it’s good to leave your comfort zone occasionally to gain some extra experience. I always find it means next time you experience it, the stress levels are far far lower and you can concentrate more brain power to flying rather than worrying!
I have a profile at a website named FlyLog.io, I’ve started adding my flight logs here along with tracks when I remember to upload them, my thoughts being if something ever happens to my logbooks, I can re-create using this data. It’s a free service and gives you breakdowns of hours flown, currency and allows you to print out and save your logs locally using several accepted formats. You can add photos, landing fees and passengers to flights as well as your gps track. I recommend trying it out, and for those that fly a Thruster, I got the site owner to add it in so I could add my training flights properly!
You can view my profile here and I have added this flight to it so you can view my track and gps data. If you use this service feel free to add me as a contact!
Thanks again for reading if you made it this far and if you have any thoughts or anything to add, feel free to add a comment below!