On the first weekend of June, it was time for 3-day pleasure trip with two pilot friends of mine, out of Aschaffenburg (EDFC) near Frankfurt, in the trusty Piper Arrow. As always, in the planning phase, we considered and pre-planned a couple of “macro-destinations” and took the final decision the day before departure. The Alps didn’t look too promising, especially for our return flight a few days later. England was looking surprisingly solid, at least for the two and a half days we would have to our disposal.
So we decided to give it a go (my two friends had never flown to England by GA before). Our first stops was chosen to be Kent. This would minimize our flying for the first day and give us as much time as possible for ground-based activites. We wanted to see Canterbury and also spend some time at the beach on Thanet peninsula.
Unfortunately, since the closure of Manston airport (EGMH), there is no airport with a hard runway anywhere in the north and east of the county.
The only option now is Maypole airfield (EGHP). Here’s an airborne photo of it (courtesy of the Maypole airfield website):
It’s a farm strip. The (good) grass runway is 650 meters in length, with no appreciable obstacles on short final. As we would be three-up in the Arrow, we decided to: a) make sure the runway was firm and in good shape (which we were reasonably sure after phoning the friendly owner for PPR) and b) fly in with not so much fuel on board (2 hours).
Here is the IFR route that was filed. ETE 2 hours 45 minutes.
Here is the flightplan:
On the morning of our departure, there were two small areas of precipitation slightly affecting our route – one near the German-Belgian border and the other one in the north of Belgium, moving towards the Netherlands. The southeast of England was looking good.
Here is the spherics image from early in the morning:
Well, we would see about the weather a bit later.
Here we are, fuelled up (to just above “tabs”, meaning: 5 hours of endurance), at Aschaffenburg, 8:15 in the morning, just after having passed the check of our ID cards with two policemen who had come out to the airfield (this works quite well at EDFC).
We took off and picked up our IFR clearance from Langen Radar. When flying towards the northwest from EDFC, there is always some detour sine Frankfurt (EDDF) is right in the way. ATC routed us initially to RID VOR but then turned us on course. We climbed to FL60 initially.
Here is an ADL image, downloaded about 25 minutes into the flight.
We could see the showers visually, which by the time we reached them, were all to the right of our track:
Without changing course, we managed to sneak right past it.
Just two minutes later, the view ahead was like this:
The next hour was rather boring, crossing Belgium at FL80 on top of some cloud. There was a 10-15 knot headwind, as expected. As always, there were some discussions with Brussels Control over minimum crossing altitudes through the Brussels TMA, but eventually, the cleared us direct without needing to climb any further.
Reaching the North Sea. That “other” area of precipitation had in fact moved out to the northeast well in time.
Just a few minutes after coasting out and after starting our descent, we could see England and the White Cliffs of Dover.
Well, some more pics:
We then turned north towards Thanet peninsula.
We then turned towards Maypole and with one other aircraft approaching the field just before us, essentially made a straight-in to runway 20. The runway turned out to be in good nick indeed. This is the route flown:
Parked up at Maypole, with other (resident) aircraft and the club-house in the background. Among others, they have two more Piper Arrows there, so these types seem to operate fine from this place.
The “briefing room”, UK-style. :-)
The “refuelling truck”, again UK-style :-)
Anyway, the welcome by the owner Andy was very friendly, with the usual “tea or coffee?”
A nice old Aeronca Champ in one of the open sheds:
We ordered a taxi which then took us to Canterbury, where we had previously booked rooms in a nice little B ’n B:
We then had a first little bit of walk through Canterbury….
…and then took a train to Broadstairs (takes 25 minutes).
Some food and some drink was in order. Always Pimm’s No. 1 for me when I come over to the UK….
… while my mates preferred beer.
Afterwards, some more walking along the coastline. Broadstairs is brilliant for that.
By early afternoon, the beach was quite busy.
Back in Canterbury, some more sightseeing. A nice little place, particularly along the shores of the river Stour.
What was a bit of a disappointment was the famous cathedral of Canterbury. It is completely enclosed by walls and other buildings, so you can’t really have a good look at it from a distance. This is the only half-decent look we could get (plus, as Ou can see, the cathedral was full of scaffolding)…
If you want to see more, you need to pay almost 20 quid as an entrance fee. I understand that during the services, the entrance is free though.
The next morning, the weather was great again and after our full English breakfast, we took a taxi to the airstrip and got ready for our next (VFR) flight.
Destination: Duxford (EGSU). I have been there before (albeit nine years ago), but I told my friends it was sort of a “must” during every pilot’s first flying visit to the UK. I took the back seat on this flight.
By the way, it took us about 350 meters to get airborne from Maypole (just past the halfway point).
After departure, we decided to make two more rounds of the city and the cathedral for more photos, before heading north to Duxford.
Some more pics from the enroute section to Duxford:
Near Whitstable, at the Swale Estuary.
The Thames Estuary, whilst crossing the Southend (EGMC) airspace.
The historic Stow Maries airfield.
On final for 24L at Duxford.
Here we are!
Here is the track flown:
Some pics from the exhibition. I will not name all the single aircraft types (for the fear of messing up… )
Anyway, this first one is a Chipmunk, I’m sure.
In the early afternoon, we flew over to Cambridge (EGSC). It was my turn to do this massive, 10-mile flight as PIC. On the approach, we didn’t manage to take any good shots of the city of Cambridge, but we would come back the next day for some of those.
EGSC nowadays has mandatory PPR, mandatory hi-vis and slightly upmarket fees (55 Euros for landing and a night’s parking on grass). But still, it is of course a very valuable airport for GA. The aeroclub staff is very friendly. The airport is also located very close to the city, and with Stansted around the corner, I wonder for how much longer it will exist.
By the way, Avgas was 1.68 pounds incl. VAT and we took 170 litres. Actually, at Cambridge, when you are leaving the UK from there, they seem to sell the fuel VAT-free (even though that does not make any sense, but that’s a different story). Of course, we forgot to mention that we would be leaving the UK from Cambridge, so paid the full price… (We will of course do the drawback on the duty).
This time, we checked in to a nearby Travellodge (Newmarket Road). It’s nothing too charming of course, but on the other hand, Travellodges are modern, practical and – most of all – a good deal.
In the late afternoon, we walked the interesting parts of Cambridge. Really nice. Shame it was a bit cloudy by then. Also, most of the “colleges” are (somewhat understandably) not always open to the public, so they often can’t be seen from the inside (unless you book some pre-organized tour, I assume). Anyway, some great architecture and parks there.
Cows grazing in the middle of the city…
Anyway, then it was that time of day again…
Appropriately, we went to the:
…and later had some good seafood for dinner.
All in all, I would say Cambridge would be a perfect destination for the first EuroGA fly-in in the UK. With the airport, the city, and Duxford around the corner, it would totally tick all the boxes.
The next morning, it was time to head back home. The weather was still very good in the south and east of England, and also along our route back to Frankfurt. Hence, we weren’t in a hurry and decided to pack in yet another destination somewhere on the continent before the final the flight home. Of course, when leaving the UK, one is somewhat limited in the choice of destinations, since an international airport is needed for entry into the Schengen zone. But, since we all hadn’t seen the city of Lille before, and it was right on our way, it was a natural choice. So Lille-Lesquin (LFQQ) it was. We filed a VFR flight plan and were ready to go at 09:45 local British time. I was right seat again for this one.
Before takeoff, we agreed with Cambridge TWR that before leaving towards the south, we would be doing a circle over the city for a few photos. This was not a problem, but they wanted us to mintain at least 2000 feet MSL, probably due to the UK’s rather strict enforcement of the glide-clear rule.
Here we go:
After this, we turned enroute. Only a few minutes later, we had Stansted airport (EGSS) in our way. Hence, we said, “heck, let’s do a touch ’n go at Stansted”, asked Stansted TWR and surprisingly, got a clearance without a problem! Here we are on final for 22:
OK…, just joking. Of course, we merely crossed their zone, without ever touching their sacred runway. Here is another view of this massive airport:
Then, we crossed Southend through their overhead again, just as we had done the day before.
Shortly thereafter, we were also clear of the 2500-foot shelf of the London TMA and climed up to 5000 feet, IFR , through some scattered clouds.
Definitely a different kind of view from higher above.
At the mid-channel point, we started a shallow descent and got clearance from Lille Approach to proceed direct to their reporting point “November”.
Coasting-in near Calais.
Just past the reporting point “November”, a view of parts of the (vast) city of Lille. In fact, the whole urban agglomeration is the fourth biggest of France.
The tower cleared us for a right base join for runway 19, which is their secondary (non-instrument) runway. Very neat, since that keeps bugsmashers like us somewhat separated from the (frequent) airliners inbound to runway 26.
Now, if you ever go to LFQQ, be advised there are two GA aprons. The main GA apron is Apron C. However, if you need fuel (Avgas), then you need to taxy to Apron E after landing. That’s the resident GA aircraft apron, but that’s where the fuel is. So, if you do refuel, you will probably need to re-position to Apron C after that. Also, although it isn’t really prescribed anywhere, it seems that the GAT staff somehow “expects” visiting GA-aircraft to inform them about your coming beforehand. Anyway, we hadn’t done it, and it did not seem to make much of a difference after all. Otherwise, a good airport. The two blond handling ladies are super-friendly and seem to thoroughly enjoy their job. I have rarely seen something like that in France.
Parked up, with the tower in the background.
To get into the city, take the airport bus. It leaves directly from the terminal (the handling ladies will bring you there within minutes after landing) and is usually much cheaper than taking a taxi. However, its frequency is only once per hour (departures from the airport always at 30 minutes past the hour).
Lille has a nice old city centre, with a mixture of typical French but mostly Flemish architecture. Enjoyed it (even though we only had a few hours).
The return flight to Aschaffenburg was “mine” again. One more time, the airport handling was quick and flawless. The fees at LFQQ are within reasonable limits (47€ for landing, 2 pax and 4 hours of parking).
Having to cross Belgium again, we of course opted to fly IFR, despite the weather being no factor at all.
Tip: When headed east from LFQQ, with runway 26 in use, request the CIV6P departure from ATC (can’t file this one) instead of CIV6L (it’s shorter).
As is normal on fair weather summer days, during the afternoon, you often get cumulus clouds in the altitude band between about 5000 and 10000 feet. In fact, this sometimes makes IFR (at least in a low-powered aircraft) harder than VFR, since above say 8000 feet, you also often get the icing risk. Here we are, struggling to get on top of most of it.
As soon as we were handed off from Lille to Brussels Control, the ATC experience went downhill once again. First, we were sent a bit all over the place, for no apparent reason. Later, when halfway through the country, a controller sent us “direct to KENIM”. The GPS database didn’t have such waypoint, nor did we have anything like that on our filed route. Upon asking for clarification, he said “KENIM, Kilo, Echo, November, Uniform, Mike”, but he still clearly pronounced it as KENIM. What an idiot (sorry). I was on the brink of telling him over the radio that he ought to improve his pronounciation, as I was sure he routinely confused lots of other pilots as well, but held my breath. Actually, thinking about it, I seem to remember from a few years ago that I had exactly the same thing with that waypoint KENUM in the past, probably with the same guy from Brussels Control.
Needless to say, KENUM was also way too far to the north for us, in the vicinity of Aachen. It was only after some more insistence (insistence is my second name…) that we could finally turn on course.
Liège, and the river Meuse.
Then, something interesting happened. Flying at FL70 in the southeast of Belgium, the controller suddenly advised me that I was leaving controlled airspace. I was surprised, since I had thought that there was a 4500 foot cap (of controlled airspace) all over the country. Since the frequency wasn’t busy, I enquired with the controller, and he explained that they now operate that 4500 foot cap more flexibly, and raise it to 7500 feet when the military is not active (a bit as they do in Switzerland). I haven’t had the time to check if the Belgian AIP contains this information. Interesting in any case. German DFS would be shocked if aircraft flew around IFR, uncontrolled, in their airspace….
Some more nice pics from within Germany… Mosel river:
Traben-Trabach airfield (EDRM):
Approaching home, one more time we had to make a slight dogleg to the south to stay clear of Frankfurt’s airspace (now we were flying VFR) and landed uneventfully at EDFC, after 1 hour and 50 minutes enroute. Here is (the bigger part of) the route flown:
Well done, Alpha-Golf!
Thanks very much for this.
All familiar territory for me! I fly from North Weald and it’d be great to meet you here next time you’re over!
Can I ask something? On your first SkyDemon grab of the outbound leg into the uk, your rad panel at the bottom shows two blue horizontal lines. Not seen this before in SD. What are they?
All the best.
Great report! Duxford is always good for a day’s visit.
By the way, it took us about 350 meters to get airborne from Maypole (just past the halfway point).
Good going for a T-tail Arrow
Really enjoyed that trip report, thanks for taking the time to share.
@RussSheffield: sorry, I don’t know which blue lines you mean.
@Peter_Mundy: yes, but we had some good headwind. Also, runway 20 is very slightly downhill. Had there been no wind, the takoff run would have been more like 450 meters I would say.
It shows again that taking off from grass runways is not a matter of maths, but of judgement. Every grass runway is different, and they are never the same from one day to the other. Got to maintain a healthy respect for them. Anyway, As I said, my impression was that it was well kept, so if it hasn’t been raining a lot the days before the flight, I would say Maypole is a “solid” option of the northeast of Kent.
Great report, thanks for that!