Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sherlowe fly-in, 3rd July 2010

Another great day out! This time it was down into deepest Shropshire to Bob Pooler's delightful strip at Sherlowe, near High Ercall. And today, my passenger was Malcolm Elliot, and ex-BA 747 long haul pilot, biker, and all-round great guy!

We got airborne off Liverpool John Lennon's runway 27 with no delay, climbed out over the Mersey estuary to exit the Liverpool Zone at Chester, and I handed control to the rear seat as Malcolm climbed us to 4,000 feet by the time we were south of the Peckforton Hills. "I'm not used to climb rates like this" opined Malc, more used to four Rolls Royce Turbofans than an aging Gipsy Major. "Glacial, innit", I replied.

I took control for a barrel roll and a loop; not my best - it's few months since I flew aeros and the barrel roll went deep in the exit due me rolling too soon in the pull-up. The loop was better, but not great. I need to 'up' my aeros currency! But I love the way in a loop the ground disappears behind you as the 'G' comes on, then there's sky, sky, sky, then upside-down Shropshire comes whizzing over your head from behind, then you're diving back down into the landscape, farms and fields visibly expanding, as the 'G' comes on as I throttle back to contain the engine RPM within limits, then soar up to regain lost height.

Malc flew us again until the Wrekin (a lone hill near Shrewesbury) was about four miles ahead, when I called Shelowe and started looking for the strip, which I'd not visited for over three years.

Sherlowe is a delightful spot. Lower Grounds Farm, almost in the shadow of the Wrekin, owned by Bob Pooler. Bob fought initially (and many of us supported his fight) to get Sherlowe established as an airfield with planning permission, and the strip now provides 'grass roots' pilots a lovely place to land. It's a grass strip, oriented 33 / 15 so often subject to crosswinds, with the southern half sloping markedly downhill.

Well today the wind was right across; ninety degrees to the runway, so I decided to use 33 to land uphill as the wind would be same on either runway. We joined overhead, descending, at ninety degrees to the runway, heading west, then turned left for a downwind for 33, descending to treetop height to weave between the outlying houses in the rural landscape to position short final for 33. The runway was viewed through the right hand side of the canopy on final, such was the crosswind from the left, and the touchdown was a bit touchy-bouncy as I kicked off the drift and kept the aeroplane within the narrow grass runway limits as we 3-pointed onto 33. A touch of power kept us rolling up the hill to the mid point, where we were marshaled to park on the west boundary.

We got the usual warm Sherlowe welcome from Bob, booked in, bought some tombola tickets, and a cup,of tea. Malcolm won a big decorative candle on the tombola which later took a bit of stowing in the Chippy to get it home! We settled into a couple of comfy seats to sip our tea and watch the arrivals of other aircraft, and a lovely display from a Sleap-based WW2 Yak fighter. Lunch was a burger (and very good it was - real beef so most tasty), then we took a tour of the assembled aeroplanes. Bob gave a spirited display of slow flying in his demomstrator Aviat Husky (he is the UK agent for Aviat Aircratft), and later a lovely aeros display in the resident Slingsby Firefly.

Where had the time gone? It was 2:30 already and time to go. We thanked Bob, fired up the Chippy, and as Sherlowe was by now busy with arriving and departing aircraft we stuck with the official 'runway in use' of 33 for departure - uphill. I taxyed down the hill to the 33 threshold, turned, and away we went, charging up the hill, onto the level section by the clubhouse (named 'Terminal One'), to lift off with a left turn-out. On reflection, runway 15, downhill, might have been a better choice.

Malc flew us back most of the way to Liverpool, with me taking over from Delamere for the approach and touchdown on 27. Amazingly, neither our departure in the morning, or our return in the afternoon, were delayed by commercial traffic. We were straight out, and straight in.

As we vacated the runway and I called 'Liverpool Ground' on 121.95 to get cleared to Kilo (the GA apron), I ran the canopy back on its rails and cool air blasted in to ruffle our shirts and hair as we blattered our way onto the apron, parked, switched off all avionics, and shut down the engine.

Another Great Day Out!