Primarily for general aviation discussion, but other aviation topics are also welcome.
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#1699004
After a couple of days off from flying in the UK, it was time to get on the move again. The next flights would be much more gentle and relaxed than the Atlantic crossing, however! My new copilot, Elsa, joined me from the USA and together we set off on a 6 day flight around the UK, exploring some areas that I had never flown to before.

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We took off from Laddingford mid-morning, seen off by my Aunt who was in the area (not the one who’d flown from Sydney a couple of weeks earlier!) We took a short flight first to Goodwood, renowned as one of the nicest airports in the southeast for general aviation. They had a number of interesting historic aircraft parked up, which we admired as we sat in the newly opened airport restaurant enjoying a light lunch. From here we headed west to Dunkeswell, a small airport near Exeter that offered yet more snacks, and reasonably priced (for the UK) fuel!

Heading west out of Kent
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An interesting aircraft at Goodwood
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The final leg took us down the length of Devon and Cornwall, before coasting out over Lands End and making the short crossing to the Isles of Scilly. This archipelago of 55 small islands is the southernmost point of England, and is known for a more temperate climate than the rest of the UK; we even saw palm trees in places! The airport is perched on top of a hill, with extreme slopes on all the runways; we followed the “Skybus” air taxi service in to land, and were directed to park over on a slightly bumpy and very sloping grass field. A 25 minute walk took us to our hotel in Hugh Town, the Atlantic Inn. The islands were busy at this time of year, but we managed to get a reservation in a great fish restaurant overlooking the harbour, and plotted what to do the next day.

Crossing Devon and Cornwall
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St Michael's Mount
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Coasting out from Cornwall
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Hugh Town harbour
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The following morning we set out to explore the area around Hugh Town. Our first destination was the Garrison Walls, primarily constructed in the late 1500s by Sir Francis Godolphin as defence in the wake of the Spanish Armada. Sections of the walls are still present, as well as a number of cannons on display. We dropped in to the tourist information office, and they suggested a walk up the hill to the Buzza tower, and down into Old Town. Along the way we visited Old Town church. The tombstones here told a story of life in the Scilly Isles through the ages, including a number of shipwreck victims, paying witness to the maritime history of the area.

Climbing up to the Garrison
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The fortifications at the Garison
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Looking over Hugh Town
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The Buzza Tower
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Old Town Church
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Meeting local wildlife at Old Town Cafe
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A light lunch at the Old Town cafe was followed by a discovery that they didn’t accept cards, so we agreed with them that I’d walk back past on my way to the airport having acquired some cash; Elsa took on the lighter duty of riding the shuttle back to the airport with the luggage! Apart from getting mildly lost, my walk went well. We had taken care of the fees the previous day, so were able to head directly to the opposite side of the airport, and call for permission to start.

Heading back to Hugh Town
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Working in the boat at low tide
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There was some Skybus traffic coming and going, but we were ready for departure during a lull, and were able to taxi straight on to our runway and backtrack for departure. A footpath went directly past the runway end, just feet away, and a number of tourists stopped to take photos and videos as we took off. We took off and turned out to the right, getting great views of the other islands as we climbed out and set course back towards the mainland.

Ready to leave St Mary's Airport, Scillies
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Hugh Town
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The flight was very short, along the north coast of Cornwall to Newquay. As we approached the airport, still 5 minutes out, there was apparently one small airliner just taking off, and a single 2 seat Cessna on its way to land. This, apparently, was just too much for ATC to handle so they had us fly in a circle to delay, before allowing us to enter their airspace and land. Getting out of the aircraft was quick and easy, and before long we were at the rental location. Our car, a tiny Fiat 500, was perfect for Cornwall’s tiny lanes! That evening, after settling into our little B&B in the countryside, we headed into St Ives for, of all things, a curry. One just can’t get a good British-style curry outside of the UK!

St Ives
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Newquay airport
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Evening in St Ives
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kanga, Lockhaven, Steve J and 2 others liked this
#1699456
The previous evening, the very friendly B&B owner had given us a long rundown of all the things we should do and see while in Cornwall; far too much to do in the one day we had, but perfect for selecting some highlights from! We drove south to start with through Cornwall’s tiny narrow lanes, hitting the coast much sooner than I had expected. I was used to driving the vast distances of the US, and in Cornwall it seemed like everything was just around the corner from everything else. Perfect for seeing plenty of sights in a short time!

Penzance
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Maintenance in dry dock
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The coast road took us through Penzance (at my all-male primary school I had had the honour of playing one of the leading ladies in the school’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”), and on through the tiny hamlet of Mousehole. The roads were some of the narrowest I’d ever seen, and I was grateful for the diminutive Fiat 500, but still praying not to meet anything coming the other way! Astonishingly, we did meet a couple of 50-seater coaches; I have no idea how on earth they managed to get through.

We stopped at various points along the drive to stretch our legs and admire the view, before coming upon our first planned stop, the village of Porthcurno. This location is famous for being the end point for the vast majority of telegraph cables that used to connect Great Britain to the world. The first of these was landed in 1870, and connected Britain to India, cutting the time needed for sending messages from weeks to minutes. There is an excellent Telegraph museum now at the site, which today still lands several fiber optic cables, although is not as critical a hub as it used to be when, for a while, it was the largest cable landing in the world. As well as the museum building itself, many of the exhibits are located in underground tunnels that were installed to protect the critical communications equipment during World War 2.

Overlooking the cove at Porthcurno
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In the telegraph museum
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Enjoying a big sausage.
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After spending a couple of hours touring the museum we had lunch in the local cafe, and set off again to drive to Land’s End. Our B&B host had warned us that Land’s End was Cornwall’s “Disney”, and so it was; the place was incredibly commercialized and tacky. We spent a short time admiring the view, and the famous Land’s End sign (also commercialised, with a fee to take your picture with it), before moving rapidly on. If you go to Cornwall, I really wouldn’t bother visiting – there is a much better point to go to, just a few miles north along the coast!

The famous Land's End signpost
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Looking over Cape Cornwall
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Looking south from Cape Cornwall
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This much better point is Cape Cornwall. This location is managed by English Heritage. Until 200 years ago, Cape Cornwall was thought to be the most westerly point of the mainland, before the first Ordnance Survey revealed that it was in fact Land’s End. The point is topped by the Heinz Monument, the 1864 former chimney of the Cape Cornwall Mine which was retained for maritime navigation, and purchased by Heinz in 1987 to be donated to Britain as a historical monument.

Old tin mill
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The track towards the coast
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North Cornwall coast
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From Cape Cornwall we took a leisurely drive back towards the B&B, stopping for a while at an old tin mill, as well as to wait for a number of cows to clear out of the road. In the evening we headed down to Marazion, the town on the mainland side of the St Michael’s Mount, and had dinner at the Godolphin hotel overlooking the mount. A visit to that will have to wait for another time…!

St Michael's Mount
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The next morning we started at a leisurely hour, and took our little Fiat back along the A30 to Newquay airport. The first flight of the day took us east along the Cornish coast; rather than set out straight across the water, we had elected to stay over the land until reaching Barnstaple, then cross the Bristol Channel at a narrower point. This would have the added benefit of keeping us clear of the danger areas on the south Wales coast. As we neared the Welsh coast, ATC informed us that the main danger area was no longer active so we cut the corner and headed straight for the airport of Haverfordwest.

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Departure, just north of Newquay
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Crossing the Bristol Channel
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Coasting in to south Wales
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Haverfordwest was a quiet airfield, and we followed the only other traffic we saw during the visit in to land. We refueled on arrival at the self-serve fuel pump, something that is very common in the USA but much less so elsewhere. We took on far more than the required minimum to have the landing fees waived, and then ate in the on-field restaurant. A Flyer Forum member, Tomahawker, was on his way to meet us so we passed the time by walking around the airfield to the “Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Factory” which was every bit as good as we had hoped. Tomahawker drove us back around the airplane and we sat drinking and chatting for a while before it was time to be on our way.

Meeting Tomahawker at Haverfordwest
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The flight to Caernarfon was simple; all we had to do was keep the coast on the left and we’d arrive. The weather was great up until we reached the Llyn peninsula, where we had to punch through a cloud bank before descending into Caernarfon, landing on runway 25 with short final taking us mere feet over the local caravan park. A quick taxi ride took us to the car rental agency and…another Fiat 500! Once again it turned out to be ideal for the tight and winding roads of Snowdonia, and we spent an hour driving through the national park to our next bed and breakfast.

Aberystwyth
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Snowdonia
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Crossing onto the Llyn peninsula
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kanga, mick w, Lockhaven and 1 others liked this
#1700123
Our first appointment of our day in Snowdonia was at “King Arthur’s Labyrinth”. This underground attraction is based in an old mine, the Braichgoch slate mine, and features a boat ride in to the mine followed by a walk around some of the mine, visiting animatronic displays that tell various stories about King Arthur. It was remarkably tacky, and told us nothing at all about the old mine itself, which is what I had really been interested in, so we left rather disappointed!

Harlech Castle
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From here, we drove back north, along the coast this time towards Harlech Castle. On the way, we stopped in a town along the way to try a lunch of Welsh Rarebit (basically, melted cheese on bread!) Completed in the year 1289, Harlech castle was originally constructed by Edward I in order to help control Wales; it changed hands between the English and Welsh several times throughout its history, eventually being abandoned and partially dismantled in the mid 1600s. Happily, it survived the following centuries fairly well and is now open to the public to visit. We spent an enjoyable hour or so exploring from the top of the six-story tower, all the way down to the water gate, 127 steps below the castle!

Sightseeing in Snowdonia
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Historic steam railway
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It was only about 4pm, so we decided to take a drive through Snowdonia, based on a suggested route we found online. We headed north through Porthmadog, and soon came upon the Sygun copper mine, just outside of Beddgelert. This Victorian mine had closed down in 1903, and then been re-opened as a self-guided tourist attraction. Of huge vertical extent, the lower levels of the mine are all flooded, with a selection of the middle floors now being open for the public to walk and climb through.

The Sygun copper mine
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From here we continued through the hills to Llanberis, passing through Pen-Y-Pass. This is one of the most popular starting points for walking to the top of Snowdon, with three of the main routes up the mountain starting from here. Having flown around two of the UK’s highest peaks, it was nice to see the third, albeit from ground level! From here we continued southeast to Betws-y-coed, and then on to Blaenau Ffestiniog for dinner, and back to the B&B.

Hydropower near Snowdon
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The spoil from a slate mine
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The garden railway
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We woke early on the Saturday, with a busy day ahead of us. After checking out the wonderful garden model railway around the back of the B&B, we returned our Fiat 500 to Europcar at Caernarfon, took a taxi to the airport, and took off on the westerly runway, with a right turnout to follow the Welsh coastline towards our first stop of the day. This would be Leeds Bradford airport; close to the home of one of my closest friends from university, Ian, and his young family.

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Caernarfon airport
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Looking out towards Anglesey
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Protect the bridge!
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As we approached Leeds, I saw a number of familiar landmarks; my father and I had flown right past here a few days earlier! We flew a left base to runway 32, and pulled in to the Multiflight FBO just behind a slightly tatty old PA28 which seemed to be on a cross-country training flight. We were escorted land-side by a very friendly lady from Multiflight, who gave us a discount on the mandatory handling fee, as it was our first time in. Formalities completed, we wandered down to the cafe to meet up with Ian and Pippa, and spent a long time catching up. It had been a decade since we’d last seen each other!

Henley
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From Leeds Bradford, we flew south, almost shadowing the route my father and I had taken a week before. The weather was still beautiful and, being a Saturday, there were a fair few other small airplanes buzzing around, as well as a couple of very active gliding sites to watch out for. We were going to the west of London this time, instead of the east. Luton ATC were very helpful and gave us clearance through their zone, crossing the runway just after an EasyJet 737 had departed. They handed us off to Heathrow who were far less helpful; they pushed us down low and sent us almost all the way around to the west of their zone, although we did at least get close-up views of the Henley rowing facility and Ascot horse racing course.

Ascot
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Our destination was Redhill Aerodrome, tucked into the northern edge of the Gatwick zone. We were planning to meet a whole group of pilots from the Flyer Forum, who were gathering here for the afternoon. We touched down on the westerly grass runway and taxied over to the restaurant, where most of the group had already gathered. One had even flown in his Mooney from Switzerland; although not exclusively to see us! Another had just arrived on a commercial flight from Gatwick and had come straight over.

Forum meet-up at Redhill
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We spent the afternoon swapping stories, chatting about the upcoming Atlantic crossing of two of the other forum members, and having the chance to view some of the historic aircraft tucked in the hangar behind the restaurant. As evening drew in, we made the short flight over to Laddingford where we were met by my mother, and also Charles; the founder of African Promise. We’d really hoped to have the chance to meet up with him while in he UK, and he had made the trip down from London to make it happen! We worked out that it was about 17 years since we had last seen each other.

Redhill
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Headed to Kent
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An event on at the hop farm
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With Charles, founder of African Promise
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Lockhaven, Dave W, kanga liked this
#1700913
The time for returning to work was drawing painfully near. Before parking up the airplane for a month, it was important to take care of some routine maintenance. I organised, through the very helpful Liz of the Flyer Forum, to take the aircraft the 8 miles over to Headcorn and meet “Big Jon”, who had very kindly volunteered to give up a few hours of his holiday weekend to help me out. I had all the tools and materials I needed to change the oil and filter, as well as service the spark plugs, with the exception of a sand-blaster for cleaning the plugs. Not very practical to carry one of those with me!

Maintenance at Headcorn
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Thanks Jon!
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The flight from Laddingford was, of course, over very quickly. Headcorn is a beautiful grass airfield, that’s very welcoming to the public; on a sunny holiday like today, the grass parking area was full of families picnicking and watching airplanes come and go. The radio operator had been forewarned of my arrival and gave me directions straight to the maintenance hangar; I parked on the grass outside and Jon met me as I shut down the engine. We jumped straight in and soon had the cowls off, the oil drained, and the spark plugs pulled. Everything looked great, so we took care of the work, ran up the engine to double check everything, and then got the cowls back in place.

A beautiful day at Headcorn
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I said goodbye to Jon, and before departing I filled up with AVGAS ready for my flights out of the UK in a few days. The radio operator, who also took care of payments, waived the landing fee and told me he thought I had the dubious honour of uplifting more fuel than any other civil aircraft had at Headcorn, large historical ones excluded. 294 litres this time! I really missed US fuel prices; the one consolation is that the UK allows a pilot to claim back fuel duty on any fuel uplifted in the UK and then exported. With my tank sizes, that adds up.

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My flight out of Amsterdam was at 10pm on Thursday, so on Wednesday morning I set out from Laddingford. While I’d be finishing my day in Rotterdam, I first had an appointment with a gentleman called Joachim in Kassel. I had liked the Avidyne IFD440 GPS that I put into the aircraft enough that I’d decided to upgrade to the larger Avidyne IFD540, and Joachim was looking to buy the old one.

Goodbye, Mum!
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Coasting out north of Dover
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France/Belgium come into view!
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The Belgian coastline
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A positive feature of flying in the UK is that one can depart from the country from anywhere; it doesn’t have to be an airport with customs and immigration, as in most other countries. I therefore took off out of Laddingford and headed east, opening my IFR flight plan through London Information. I had spent some time the day before figuring out an acceptable route using Autorouter, and managed to find one that didn’t take me too far out away from the direct routing. As I coasted out near Dover at 10,000 feet, I could already clearly see the coasts of France, and then Belgium, ahead of me. Conditions were smooth, so I enabled the autopilot and relaxed as I cruised across the length of Belgium, passing overhead Brussels as I went. A left turn took me over Koln, and up towards Kassel. ATC assigned me the ILS approach for runway 22, with the full procedure taking me on a loop around the north of the airport and back in to land.

Brussels
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Koln
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Approaching Kassel
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Kassel has a very pleasant looking airport cafe attached to the GA terminal; but sadly it seems to have closed down. I sat somewhat hungry for a while and waited for Joachim and his friend to arrive in their Cirrus SR22, which they did right on schedule. Joachim’s friend was also the avionics tech who’d be installing the new GPS, and they gave the unit a quick once-over before declaring themselves happy and concluding the deal. I had filed an IFR flight plan once again, for the trip back towards the Netherlands, but due to ATC lack of staffing there was a 30 minute delay before I’d be allowed to depart. Not an issue I have ever encountered elsewhere!

With Christian before departure
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Refueling at Kassel
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Crossing northwest Germany
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After being assigned the easily remembered transponder code of “1111” I flew one of the standard departures out of Kassel, back over the same VOR that had started the arrival procedure, and was soon given a direct clearance to the Dutch border. The waypoint given had not been on my original flight plan so I had no route after this next VOR. As I drew close I asked German ATC where they might like me to fly next; they weren’t sure, so handed me over to the Dutch. They thought about it for a moment and then cleared me direct nearly all the way to Rotterdam.

Approaching Rotterdam
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The Romeo arrival to Rotterdam
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The new Central Station in Rotterdam
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As I drew closer and started the descent, I cancelled IFR and joined the very familiar Romeo VFR arrival in to Rotterdam. Having been based here for nearly 5 years, this was very familiar territory! I landed after a Transavia 737, touching down halfway along the huge runway to ensure I was well clear of the wake turbulence from the larger aircraft. I had contacted the FBO, Jet Aviation at Rotterdam, a while back to enquire about keeping the aircraft in a hangar there for the month The reply made it clear that they did not want to be bothered with any light GA aircraft; about €1,500 for the month, which would rent you a fairly nice apartment in the city. I had therefore contacted the aviation department of my employer, who keep their aircraft at Rotterdam, and they had very generously agreed to keep my little C182 in the hangar with their Falcon jets to support the flight.

Crossing mid-field to join downwind at Rotterdam
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Parked up in good company
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When I arrived, a small breakdown in communication meant that the guys in the hangar didn’t know I was coming, and wondered who this crazy man was who thought he was going to park his Cessna in their spotless hangar. Happily this was very quickly sorted out and “Planey McPlaneface” was tucked in next to the 3 week old Falcon 7X that had recently arrived. Th jet and hangar were so beautifully kept that I made a point of quickly polishing up my own aircraft to get rid of all the bugs, so that it wouldn’t look too out of place! Before being collected by my friend Justin, I had a chance for a quick tour of the aircraft. My suggestion of an airplane swap was politely declined. I said goodbye to Planey, locked him up, and it was off to work for a month, before the second section of the flight would begin…
kanga, ArchaicRider, Dave W and 3 others liked this
#1700924
Ross, it was great to meet you and chat about your experiences.

Just one minor correction - your photo titled “Henley” is not Henley, it is in fact “Dorney Lake” (4 miles east of my base of White Waltham).

Dorney Lake is owned by Eton College Rowing Club (they’ve got a ton of money) - and was used for the 2012 Olympic rowing contests.

For those that don’t know, Henley is located 330/05 from White Waltham. The famous Henley Regatta course is marked out on the River Thames (which has a current, unlike Dorney which is a man made lake).
Katamarino liked this
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