Last weekend saw two R44’s complete a trip around Britain in 3 days! Four customers and two instructors completed a 1,300 mile rally around some of the most beautiful parts of our country. Tim Gilbert did an amzing job organizing the logistics in relatively short time and everything worked out brilliantly. After last year’s successful Lands End to John O’Groats in a day adventure, it was decided to attempt the reverse trip. However being August, Tim’s hand was forced a bit and we had to forego getting right to the very furthest ends of the country to be assured of a bed for the night.
Setting off from Cambridge on Friday morning, Roy and Daniel had to deal with a bit of a murky start but that soon cleared and we made our way to Breighton for our first fuel stop. Breighton is very laid back and the fuel pump takes your credit cards so it is very efficient.
Tony and Ian then took over and flew the next leg up to Scotland. We skirted Linton and Leeming staying just to the East of the Pennines and were soon approaching the Firth of the Forth for Fife! Another warm welcome at Fife where the the guys from Tayside Aviation were so delighted to see us that they tweeted the fact that Fife had 3 helicopters and only 1 fixed wing in.
Swapping pilots again after a hasty pasty, we boldly set off to Wick. Here our good fortune with the weather began to desert us. The highlands were there but somewhat shrouded in showers. Duncan elected to steer his crew up over Dundee towards Aberdeen the Lossiemouth and Tim favoured the central route over Perth and up the great Glen. Both routes had their challenges but we got as far as Inverness albeit with a little diverting up and down valleys to avoid showers. Crossing the Moray Firth to the Crommarty Gap was spectacular but the beautiful scenery was soon obscured by the showers, so Roy carefully picked his way up the East coast of Scotland avoiding all the windfarms. Thankfully there was a brief respite in the showers and we located Wick and landed uneventfully. Dan arrived shortly afterwards and we all enjoyed the complimentary cup of tea and Kit-Kat relieved that we were ahead of the worst of the weather. Two and a half hours later and we were still waiting for the weather to go through but with modern technology, we could see the rainfall radar confirming the confident locals’ assurance that it would blow through. Planning to head along the Northern Coast then down the West of Scotland to avoid any low cloud, we were happy to see the weather open out and made a more direct route down the great Glen toward our overnight stop at Mull.
The views flying along Loch Ness were completely breathtaking and the leg provided an excellent exercise in decision making due to a number of showers lurking around the mountain tops.
Approaching the Craignure Inn on Mull was a fine lesson in hotel approaches. The touchdown areas were quite tight, a bit sloping and required slow, careful accurate flying. Tony did a fine job to get G-MARF right next to the window of the indoor swimming pool.
Duncan then marshalled in G-CFCM into the other even tighter spot. Tim even had the presence of mind to have briefed the possibility of having to open the rear door to check he was clear of a bush.
The usual excited reactions came from the guests enjoying a sundowner on the terrace and we were delighted to join them as soon as we had secured both the helicopters and our rooms. The Inn at Craignure has a local seafood bar which was just what the doctor ordered as served some of the best mussels we have ever tasted. Ian even invented a new cocktail whilst we were there!
After a full Scottish breakfast including haggis and both black and white pudding, we prepped the helicopters for a short flight to Oban for fuel. The views were outstanding as we crossed Lismore Island to arrive at 10.01 thus avoiding the out of hours landing charge. Oban seemed an idyllic place as we could see right back across to Mull but the very helpful refueller pointed out that its not always like that. In 14 years of holidaying at Oban, his mother-in-law had never yet seen Mull. At that point Tim noticed a shower was brewing up above Mull and suggested we set off to get ahead of it.
Flying South to the Isle of Bute, we squeezed between Glasgow and Prestwick’s airspace, over Kilmarnock and Lockerbie to Carlisle for more fuel. We set off for Welshpool routing through the low level corridor between Liverpool and Manchester. Manchester ATC was under some serious pressure with a large number of arrivals meaning we were somewhat left to our own devices. It was a relief change frequencies and hear the rather more relaxed Welsh lilt of the lady FISO welcoming us to Welshpool. In a flurry of activity Ian left us in a taxi to get a train to Birmingham, then back to Cambridge as he had other commitments whilst the rest of us enjoyed the packed lunches courtesy of the Craignure Inn.
Next leg was Daniel’s favourite bit as we flew south across the Brecon Beacons where the scenery was again stunning. Crossing the Bristol Channel at Porthcawl and down the Devon and Cornish Coast past Newquay. Arriving overhead of Perranporth just too late for fuel, we routed straight for Falmouth instead of Land’s End where Alan the Farmer had mown an enormous H to help us find his landing spot. Another challenging off airfield site, with a couple of power lines and some tall trees exercised the pilots who again did a fine job. Taxis to the Falmouth Hotel only took 10 minutes and within 20 we were enjoying a pint in the hotel bar.
It was Carnival night in Falmouth, so it was going to be difficult to find a restaurant but an inspired guess by Tim found us enjoying some gourmet quality fish and chips in Rick Stein’s place, accompanied by the odd beer.
The follwing morning, we hopped out of Falmouth into the historic Perranporth Airfield where it was warm and completely silent. Perranporth was an important WWII aerodrome and an is nearly all protected with orginial runways, tower and bomb proof bunker. Again we were made to feel most welcome and our thanks go out to all those who helped us make our visit to the South West so enjoyable.
Next stop was Comption Abbass which is the most delightful little airfield on a hill just South West of Boscombe Down. Not only was the restaurant clearly very popular but they have a Pilots’ express food ordering system which allows flyers to jump the queue which was very useful. Highly recommended for a visit.
The final leg was back to Cambridge and we followed separate routes. CFCM went North to Marlborough the Eastwards taking in as many of the chalk horses as they could find around Membury whilst G-MARF routed via Romsey, Marlow and Panshangar back to Cambridge. Thus ended our Round Britain trip and we are grateful to all those who were involved. Aeromega takes great pleasure in seeing PPL’s tackle such challenges and we welcome anyone who wishes to fly with us on our adventures.
Particular thanks to Tim for the organisation, Tony for the photos and Dan, Roy and Ian for taking up the challenge.