"Dave, how do you fancy a flight this weekend? The weather's looking hopeful, with high pressure forecast. What about Bembridge, or maybe Alderney." It was Graham on the phone.
Both sounded great; Alderney sounded like the other side of the world compared with my limited air experience of Perranporth, Henstridge and a bit of local flying, but a look at a map showed Alderney was not a lot further than Perranporth, just ships to spot rather than railways (disused). Having done a lot of dinghy sailing and the odd cross-channel by yacht in younger days, the thought of crossing an expanse of sea in the DR1050-M1 Sicile was exciting rather than daunting.
"Have you a Passport? Better bring it just in case it's needed." It all added to the anticipation of a special day out.
On the clearest, bluest day for a long time, we meet up at the microlight club at Kemble as Graham returns from filing the flight plan in the control tower. Aeroncas are gathering for their fly-in, but no time to spend looking at them this time, we're making the most of this great flying weather.
Out with all the gear for the channel crossing. Pre-flight safety drill next.... Liferaft - how to inflate, flares - don't fire them at the rescue helicopter (!), emergency pack - emergency locating beacon, fit the aerial, switch it on this way; lifejacket on. The thought of having to get all that gear out of the plane plus warm clothing, the picnic lunch (extra emergency rations) and this ample body through a door that better suits the slight figure of Joly or Delamontez just made it even more important that we didn't have to ditch.
Once aloft after a stiff crosswind take-off (is it always a crosswind at Kemble?) Brize Norton was contacted for a transponder check. "Nothing showing". We suspected as much; the test light wouldn't light, and hadn't illuminated on the ground either. Bembridge it is; Kemble tower - cancel the flight-plan please - transponder malfunction - changing destination to Bembridge. Another mile or two, a few more pushes and a reluctant circuit breaker resets. Kemble tower - reactivate flight-plan please, transponder now functional.
|Garston Farm passes by, then the turning point near Bath, and it's off on 160 degrees for the south coast round the edge of the Bournemouth CTR. Longleat House to starboard , and the dome of CenterParcs to port form a strange juxtaposition of the old and the new. Compton Abbas appears to port - plenty of activity down there, but not much up here with the birds. It's nice that way! Towns, main roads and rivers pass below, familiar from years of visits from my adopted area of Bristol to 'home' near Bournemouth. Heading for Swanage, Wareham on the river, Poole Harbour where I learned to sail some 40 years ago, the Haven, Sandbanks and Studland, then over the coast at Swanage, all full of so many memories.|
Graham passes me a stopwatch; "Tell me when 19 minutes is up, please, and keep an eye out for ships - just in case...." The air is just as still as it was over the land, and the Potez buzzes on.
|We rehearse frequencies for the Channel Islands Control Zone. Why has the new frequencies sheet with the updated half-mill chart from the CAA got tiny-sized blue on grey print for alternate lines? You've guessed it, Guernsey is an alternate line! Well, the number is just about visible. Graham spots a smudge on the horizon dead ahead, which rapidly becomes land. To the port there's a headland tailing away into the distance - the Cherbourg Peninsula. Sark and Guernsey to starboard confirm we're heading for Alderney. Jersey control zone hands us to Guernsey after a time, then to Alderney tower for the approach. The jagged rocks, seabirds wheeling below, the sink as we reach the edge of the cliffs, and the undulating runway with wind directly on the nose - how obliging. The Jodel settles and we exit the runway towards quite a full air-park.|
|With 100LL at 53p a litre, it pays to fill
up the tanks at this tax haven!
|Alderney's many surprises include the yellow phone box and a blue postbox. The old church tower announces the Museum, while crossing the far side of the churchyard is a 'millennium' path of stone blocks with inset pebble mosaic panels showing local motifs. Very effective!|
|The Alderney cow, celebrated in an old nursery rhyme and here in pebbles is now extinct, unlike Guernsey and Jersey cows which are still famed for their creamy Channel Island milk.|
|The capital (well, the only town really) is St Anne, and the main street leads down to the Harbour at Braye. The island's railway terminus is also there, and ex-London underground rolling stock can sometimes be seen being pulled by a quarry shunter.|
Lunch at the Sailing Club, a look at the "Little Crabby
Harbour" then a walk along the beach
and a climb back uphill to the airfield to round off a brief and very sunny visit to this charming island.
"Under the wing" of an Islander
Poole Harbour and the Arne Peninsula
Flight plan filed, there was time for some refreshments, and a
frisk from airport security on leaving for the plane.
The wind is now a brisk 20 knots, but fortunately still along the runway, so declining to backtrack to avoid tricky downwind taxying, Graham gives the Potez full-power and we lift off comfortably before the end of the tarmac.
With the sun at a low angle there are spectacular views of many earthworks as we fly back over Dorset and Somerset, though the clear blue sky has gained some haze during the day. A magnificent bonus to round off a truly special day.
Spectacular Hambledon Hill near Shillingstone
© Dave Hall 2002 E-mail dave at hallvw.clara.co.uk (replace at with @ symbol!)