The diary of the 2006 challenge - around the UK.
Over £30,000 was raised for charity.
15-06-06: DAY SIX. Fenland to home! The guys got to the airfield at 9:30 this morning to check and fuel the aircraft for today's trip, only to find Tony's starter motor hanging off. Two of the main bolts that hold the starter on had worked loose and this in turn had loosened the main starter cog. Luckily the mechanics at Fenland helps out and the team were ready. Bumpy bumpy, the hot summer sun combined with the strong winds meant a high workload for the guys. Less than an hour later the team landed at Duxford. 'Where do you want me to park' Les said to the air traffic controller, 'Next to the B17' came the reply. Our little Microlights were dwarfed when parked next to the 'Memphis Belle'! After a good look around the museum the guys were back in the air. Just after take off Les's rev counter stopped working, he put his hand behind the dashboard and felt a small electric shock, and the dial sprang to life. Unfortunately it only worked whilst Les was getting an electric shock! As the engine was running smoothly Les thought that it must be a loose connector on the dial, so we would keep on going. After one and a half hours of rough turbulent sky the guys called the home airfield on the radio 'Deanland traffic Golf Bravo Zulu November Hotel presently 5 miles north of the field at 1,800 feet will be joining downwind 06 left hand Deanland' It was the happiest sounding radio call you'll ever hear! On the ground there was family, banners and champagne ready to greet the team.
The guys are going over the GPS tracking information tonight in preparation for the Guinness Book of records. Unfortunately because of the rough weather throughout the trip the guys could not attempt the formation flying record, only the duration and distance flown records. So they will have a go at it NEXT MONTH. The team also plan to fly across the channel the following month.
Dave will be stating his training for his pilots licence in 2 weeks time ready for our 2007 challenge 'Africa and back in one week' . This web site will still be updated with his progress, the formation flying record attempt, the cross channel attempt, and of course the run-up to AFRICA! stay tuned.
Dave Getting ready to pre-flight the plane with the 'Memphis Belle' in the background.
14-06-06: DAY FIVE. Fife to Fenland! The team woke up to nasty sky (see pic below) but were hoping for improvement during the day. The Forth of Fithe crossing went very smoothly until reaching the mainland again where the guys found the cloud base to be 700 feet...a bit of a problem because the mountains climb to 2500 feet. So they decided to fly around the coast at 600 feet 1 mile out to sea. They actually calculated that at that height they could have done some fly fishing! After 45 minutes, the weather cleared and they were able to climb to 3000 feet and then diverted to Eshott to refuel. The problem with flying at such a low height out at sea is being able to glide to land in the event of an engine failure...but the challenge was to get around Britain in as shorter time as possible, and they knew that some of the challenge would be dangerous.
The guys were hoping for lunch at this point, but Eshott only had a vending and coffee machine...so that was that. Whilst Dave played with the clubhouse dog (fetch) he managed to throw the toy into the car park and hit somebody's car with the rubber toy! That was the teams Q to leave. And with that it was "clear prop", and off they went.
The next route was south again along the east coast towards Beverly (N.Yorks). A nice airfield but no food! So a chocolate bar and packet of crisps was the best they could do. It would be great to say that leg went smoothly...but...they had a near miss at 3000 feet whilst flying in formation. As Tony climbed up to 3000+ feet his aircraft popped up directly in front of Les & Dave missing each other by about 20 feet.
Before taking off they noticed military training in the area by the roar of afterburners. After take off all eyes were directed out of the windows for any military traffic in there are. Sure enough, 2 Euro fighters and 1 F14 Tomcat were practicing low level bombing and dogfighting along their route. These aircraft were flying around just under the speed of sound (600 knots) and at times were at the same altitude as the team! Very close.
The last destination of the day was Fenland, Norfolk. The team arrived at about 18:30 to a very helpful young lady in the flying club, who helped in finding accommodation. The team also met Dave Almay, who sold the first Rans aircraft to Les, and who has just taken over supplying parts and distribution for all those aircraft in the UK.
And finally the team would like to thank Chris at the Sycamore Farm Hotel for putting them up for the night, picking them up from the airport and driving them to and from a pub for dinner.
The coast of Scotland at 500 feet. The east coast (look out for the RAF).
Fife. Look at the lovely clouds.
13-06-06: DAY FOUR. Scotland. After a painful wait after yesterdays weather, today the guys set of for Fife! The manager of Caernarfon Airport was kind enough to waiver the landing fees to help the named charities which was greatly appreciated. A nice scenic flight at first along the north coast of Wales, and then a more involved flight under Liverpool's airspace (across the Mersey), through Warton military, Blackpool and onto Tarn Farm. Tarns grass runway in use was 300 metres! And then the sheep had to be moved. Both aircraft had to be setup on finals with full flap...airspeed just above the stall, and a touch down on the numbers to stop before the hedge! At this point the team would like to thank John Potts and Geoff at Tarn Farm for arranging fuel cans and a cup of tea. The team even got a tour of the hangars, looking at all the aircraft and basically doing what all pilots (and wannabies) do. Aeroplane chat.
The second leg was from Tarn on towards Carlisle airport. Following the M6 motorway to the north made for easy navigation, however guys were unaware that the army had just begun a 4 week training program at Carlisle, and security was tight. Army tents, military jets, helicopters and snipers in the undergrowth. The Scottish skies were dull and turbulent but the guys kept on going. Tonight the guys are in Fife. Tomorrow the plan is to continue south (weather permitting).
Scottish murky skies. Them boys LOVE the cake!
12-06-06: DAY THREE. Rain stopped play! The Guys woke up to cloud and rain, so Les called Mary at work and arranged a hire car which was to be delivered to the hotel within the hour. After a couple of hours the car still had not turned up so they ended up on a bus for one and a half hours, and at the wrong train station! (not their fault, it was down to National car hire) they finally got the car at 3pm. Once in the car they put it to its best use and tracked down the local KFC and all had a load up, the planes will struggle off the runway tomorrow. After lunch they all went to the airfield to put some PTFE tape around one of Les's leaking nuts (on the plane not les, at his age he expects leaking nuts!). They all went to the pub this evening for yet another meal, afterwards Tony called John Potts at Tarn farm airfield and although they don't keep any fuel there the top bloke John is picking up 40ltrs in cans, he wont be there tomorrow but he is trusting the team to leave the cash. He has also said to help themselves to any tea, coffee etc. A huge thanks to John. The team settled down to watch Big Brother and but thought that the Welsh TV didn't have it... It was on but an hour later than normal. The team are all looking forward to getting back in the air tomorrow.
11-06-06: DAY TWO. Dave discovered that Les`s snoring was louder than the engine! And that's saying something!! After a healthy fry up at Bodmin the guys refuelled, got ready, and set of on the 1st leg. The tops of the clouds were 4500, so 5000 saw them clear, and due to a fantastic tailwind, the team arrived at Eaglescott within 35 minutes. G-NH started experiencing a water temperature problem again, so the guys had to wait for somebody to help with an alan key to bleed the water system...which took another hour. Luckily Les`s life jacket had been left in the car at Deanland (typical) so Tony and Dave donned there lifesavers, and Les went without. Needless to say he crossed the Bristol channel at breakneck speed, leaving Tony behind! However, they did have a tailwind of 55mph, and both aircraft crossed the channel at 115mph (ground speed). Then they stopped at Pembry (South Wales) which was very pretty...but they had no fuel! So a deal was arranged where by Les would take one of the airfield reps up for a quick spin around the block in return for some fuel (20 litres to be exact) which they siphoned out of an old tractor! And then came the news that they didn't have any steps. So an ingenious procedure was used. Les on all fours (well, it was Wales!) and Tony standing on his back!!! The video footage is priceless. Its funny, but Les still has Tony's shoe imprints on his back! After all that, the team suspect that the fuel was contaminated with water.
The next leg sent the guys over the hills along the west coast of Wales heading north. The plan was to climb to 6000 feet to get the benefit of the tailwind which had helped them over the Bristol Channel (120mph again!) The scenery was awesome. At one point Les managed to fly directly behind Tony's aircraft, and experienced the full force of a streak shadows wake turbulence. A very nervous Les was then heard on the radio disclaiming that all his flying controls had been rendered useless, and was being thrown around like a rag doll.
The final stop for the day was insight (Caernarfon Airpark) and in the distance was Mount Snowden. The manager of Caernarfon was kind enough to waiver the landing fees and nights stop over costs. The guys then helped themselves to a cup of tea and a nice slice of cream cake...they love the cake! Tomorrow the guys have a lot to do...the planes need some service work in the morning, then have to stop in at Blackpool and Glasgow/Prestwick airports which then takes them well into Scotland.
Finally, Les has a room for himself for the evening so his snoring wont keep the other two awake all night! Sweet Dreams!!
Dave trying to get some sleep. Teddykins goes for a spin in Pembry.
Here is a shot taken from the up-coming DVD of the "Pembry step ladder" !
10-06-06: DAY ONE. The guys got to the airfield at 5am to fix Tony's plane. After an hour the choke was fixed and it was time to pack up and get ready. There was quite a few members of the teams family and friends at the airport to see the guys head off. After changing Les's spark plugs the guys had a problem with the new Rans, the whole ignition system was dead. Les disconnected the wires and reconnected them, and it worked. The Rans fired up and the team was off. Les and Dave took off first, taking off at full power. After the Rans has climbed a couple of hundred feet Les let go of the throttle and adjusted the flaps. As he did this the engine went quiet. Pointing the nose down and getting ready for an emergency landing Les found that it was just the throttle leaver had jumped back to tick over position (the leaver had been stiff so he had adjusted it to make it easier on the last visit) Les pushed the throttle back to power and the guys carried on climbing, albeit with a shocked expression on there faces. Once in the cruise the guys benefited from a 30mph tail wind. After only an hour they were already at there first planned stop. Because they still had plenty of fuel, the decision was to push on and keep going to Bodmin. 2.5 hours later they were well on their way. Tony adjusted the trim on his plane, and as he did this the fuel gauge changed to read the equivalent of only 20 minuets left. No time for discussions we needed fuel urgently. The team had just passed Exeter International Airport, so Tony went straight in, Les orbited around Exeter and followed Tony in 5 minuets later. After paying for the landing the supervisor came down from the control tower. He wasn't very impressed. Because Exeter is a large airport they like to have plenty of warning of your arrival so they can fit you in for a landing time slot because of the large aircraft using the airport. Tony admitted it has his fault but the supervisor gave Les the telling off! (maybe it coz he looks old and should have known better) explaining that he should have given them more warning and told them his altitude and position (which he did) on the radio. Les thought it's not worth arguing and they left the tower with a smirk on Dave and Tony's faces. After a quick re-fuel of the team the guys went to re-fuel the planes. Dave and Tony waited by the security gate entrance for Les, and got told off by the security guards for standing near the security gate! The guys felt it was time to leave, so they fuelled up and set off. Exeter gave them Radar tracking along the coast. The guys got permission to change to the microlight radio frequency and they were off again as per usual. Tonight the team are on schedule and are staying at Bodmin. The taxi is booked for 7:30 and Les has nearly lost his voice.... Hopefully a good night sleep will help.
Filming the start at Deanland. Bodmin end of day one.
09-06-06: Tony was out at the airfield today. He's got problems with his plane. One problem is with interference on the radio and the other is that it's not starting (quite a big problem!), It could be the choke? so the whole team is planning to get to the airfield at 5am to fix it. We have moved the start time to 10:00 to give the guys some time to can get it sorted. The last few weeks have been like a rollercoaster. Lets keep our fingers crossed.