On Friday afternoon, I happened to look at the weather and though it would be good for a VFR trip somewhere or other. I contemplated a day out in Blackpool, perhaps a trip down to Gloucester or Wales, but it’s been years since I’ve been to Scotland (despite it having an overwater crossing short enough I can actually do it without ever getting out of gliding distance of land) so I had a look north. It looked like the west coast of Scotland was going to be stunning VFR all weekend, so I thought why not go to Oban. They have free bicycle hire to start with so it would make a nice day out.
First I needed fuel so I flew into EGNS (Ronaldsway Isle of Man), and as usual I timed my arrival exactly perfectly to see the only fuel guy on duty disappear off in the jet fuel truck, fuelling a turboprop twin that seemed to have 215 fuel tanks (IIRC it was a Conquest). I seem to time my arrivals at EGNS this way so often that I actually plan for it now – and expect 30 minutes on the ground! But it gave me time to take a photo of everyone parked on area Mike
With the tanks topped off I departed into the reasonably stiff northerly breeze, a direct headwind resulting in a blistering ground speed of 70 knots. I routed up via the Point of Ayre in the north of the Isle of Man and Burrow Head in Scotland, which results in the shortest overwater crossing.
The welcome sight of Burrow Head
Then over the lowlands in southern Scotland, I headed up towards Arran which would keep me a bit further away from Prestwick (with the airshow on that weekend, there was a lot of Prestwick bound traffic, so I didn’t want to transit their airspace, and anyway, flying over Arran would be a better view)
Appraoching Arran (another overwater crossing!)
(Arran doesn’t appear to have any airfields, not even a farm strip, which is a shame as it would be a nice place to explore)
Arran is surprisingly rugged, with proper jagged mountain peaks
…and U-shaped glacial valleys
The whole Scottish west coast is quite rugged, and often partially obscured by clouds even on a nice day.
There was a bit of mountain wave too, I could feel it as I progressed northwards (and on Sunday someone at the glider club mentioned that some Aboyne members flew their gliders in wave over to Oban and back).
Approaching Oban, about 10 miles to the south.
I was pleased to find that Oban’s AFIS service radio is decent and was very clearly readable. The FISO greeted me with “Welcome to Oban” on touch down which was a nice touch. There was a little bit of confusion because I thought she wanted me to park on the grass but really she just wanted my tail over the grass, but embarrassing yourself at a new airport does sometimes happen :-) Finally, properly parked.
The airport surfaces are all in excellent shape, and it was only 12 quid to land, park for the day – and there’s free bicycle hire. I think this is outstanding value for money. I had a good chat with the fuel guy who runs the fuelling operation, he has an aircraft on the airfield and is obviously passionate about aviation (and careful about filling your aircraft without spills which is really easy with the Auster’s fuel tanks). Oban itself is about 5 miles away so I hopped on the bike and off I went. The scenery is outstanding as much on the ground as it is from the air. If you go there and choose to cycle, while you don’t need to be Mark Cavendish you do need a basic level of fitness to ride the 5 miles each way, there are one or two hills. The airport bikes have a good ‘granny gear’ though so if you’re not a regular cyclist I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem.
The road to Oban passes over the bridge…
and past some very picturesque bays I’m sure I’ve seen on the TV at some point, because this looked familiar, probably a mile from the airport.
The town itself has quite a busy working harbour with fishing vessels, ferries, yachts and other sailing ships.
I got back to the airport about 4.30pm. The only minus point really is that the airport closes a bit early, and the out of hours indemnity costs quite a lot of money (not worth it for a single trip), although if you’re staying in the area the nearby Glenforsa airstrip is open till sunset (with a hotel!) – somewhere I want to visit because the Isle of Mull looks like it’ll be fun to explore. I also seemed to arrive for the “afternoon push”, I was ready to go at about 4.45pm and so were 6 other aircraft – a couple of gyroplanes, a couple of microlights, a Piper Saratoga bound for Blackpool and me. The FISO quite efficiently got us out considering we all had to backtrack, it didn’t take too long to get us all out of there. On the way back, once I had switched to Scottish Info, I heard the Saratoga basically telling Scottish he was doing the same route as me and at the same altitude…! I kept a good check on my 6 not wanting to be run over half way to Arran.
An excellent day out, great airport, nice town, a very pleasant day of riding a bike and flying. 10/10 would go again.
Very nice report and photos, thank you!
Really enjoyed reading that report and seeing the photos. Would love to visit Scotland myself some day too! Thanks for posting :-)
A great report – thanks!
Nice to hear good stuff about Oban. I have never been there but recall an absolutely massive thread on one UK site (nowadays mostly dead) which ran for years and which just seemed to pick the place apart.
I definitely want to fly to Scotland and was going to a couple of times recently but various things didn’t work out.
I have made three trips to Oban – definately worth another trip. Great sightseeing and some good seafood at EE Usk
Nice trip report, thanks for posting!
Arran: I’ve landed on the beach just north of Brodick, but it’s not quite as easy as it looks on GE. There’s also supposed to be a part-time grass strip somewhere near Ballymichael. We have a customer on the island, so could ask him to make enquiries if you’re interested.
There’s a vintage Piper fly-in at Glenforsa next weekend. At least your machine is the right colour, so I reckon you’ll have even less trouble gate-crashing than I will – if the weather doesn’t scupper it.
Arran: I’ve landed on the beach just north of Brodick, but it’s not quite as easy as it looks on GE
What’s the procedure for landing on a beach other than the physical landing? I’ve heard that public beaches can be used, but I don’t want to just assume that, go somewhere, and find myself surrounded by the police…