Isle of Man – Nearly Overnight .......... !


Final Approach to RonaldswayAndy Reid, Alastair Shaw & I met up one Friday for a trip down to the Isle of Man in G-WIFE. After a very foggy start to the morning, it had all cleared by 09.00 and we headed off into a 30kt headwind and a 1.5hr trip to get there. Andy wanted to practise an ILS approach so it was a bit different getting vectored around on altitudes and headings, including a few minutes confusion when we’d intercepted the ILS and found ourselves to be somewhat off the runway centreline ..... Ronaldsway ILS has a 4-degree offset!

On the ground, our next challenge was getting transport to anywhere interesting as it seemed that taxis were a bit reluctant to come and fetch us – no prospect of a 2-way fare! In the end, the chef at the Manx Flyers Clubhouse loaded us into his people carrier and drove us into town to catch the train to Port Erin ..... fantastic guy!

Train to Port ErinThe train’s a narrow gauge steam engine effort ..... almost makes me want to start building model layouts again! 20 minutes into Port Erin and we found a hostelry for lunch where Al & I both had Callig – a kind of haddock-type fish, local to the area (known as “Pollack” over here I believe).

Looking forward to some ice creams afterwards, we suddenly noticed the houses on the hill rapidly disappearing into mist and when we came out of the hotel, we found that what had been a stonkingly sunny and warm day had turned decidedly cool and clammy so we agreed to head straight for the airport - easier said than done (remember the taxi issue?)! 3 phone calls later and no joy on a taxi, we jumped on a bus and the very nice driver put us off at the right place to walk round to the GA side of the airfield where we’d left the plane.

Bad WeatherBy this time, the weather had really closed in and the visibility was down to a level of practically non-existent; but that wasn’t our immediate problem. Arriving back at the airfield gate, we discovered them locked and no sign of the Manx Flyer Handling Agent. Andy phones him to be told that he’d phoned him on Thursday and left a message to say he wouldn’t be there on Friday (no such call or message received by Andy!). Anyway, the agent says he’ll send a security chappie to let us in and we brace ourselves for a ticking off when said security chap arrives. When he does though, he was quite happy about letting us in and even said it would be no problem to let us out again should we need to stay the night (that’s right, look on the bright side)!

In at the plane, Andy phones the tower, speaks to the Met Man and decides that the conditions are above IMC minima so we can get going pronto. Engine started and we’ve got a rough mag!!! Leaning – 2,000 RPM – shutdown – start-up – running – shutdown – start-Waiting to Goup and the mag finally clears ......... but the ATIS is now reporting 1,500m visibility and 100ft cloud base - below minima (we need 1,800m horizontal viz. and 300ft cloud base)!! So we shut down and decide to wait and see what the weather does ..........

Over the next hour, the visibility drops steadily to 700m. We hear 2 aircraft going overhead on missed approaches but see neither of them (or was it one aircraft making 2 attempts? We don’t know – we couldn’t see!!). By now, we’re beginning to consider the option of staying overnight. It’s 17.15 and we calculate that with sunset around 19.00, our deadline for taking off with sufficient time to get to Kirknewton with enough light is 18.00, perhaps 18.15 max.

Gradually, the visibility seems to improve until the ATIS is again reporting 1,500m visibility however, this seems to go on forever (we never want to hear “Information Foxtrot” again!!) and we’re convinced that we’ve got well over our 1,800m requirement. The tower tells us that the next Met Update is due at 17.50 so we start up in anticipation. Finally, “Information Golf” comes out ..... 2,500m visibility!!!!!

Call for clearance and we’re away!

By now it’s really gloomy but we make a direct track from Ronaldsway to Deans Cross, turn north overhead Talla and enter the Edinburgh Zone at West Linton to land at Kirknewton at 18.45 – 55 minutes flight time home (that 30kt headwind outward became a 30kt tailwind on the way back).

All in all, a fun (if somewhat eventful) day out – and a few lessons learned from our experience ..........

  1. If you go to the Isle of Man, plan on hiring a car to get around. It’s much easier than playing around with non-existent taxis and long walks from bus stops (although the wee train ride was fun).
  2. The Isle of Man has its own very distinct microclimate so watch the weather forecasts and keep an eye on how the weather develops while you’re there.
  3. The trip also showed how handy an IMC Rating can come in. You wouldn’t necessarily plan to fly in those conditions but if you’re away from base and the weather turns on you, it can make the difference between getting home and being stuck overnight!

Must do something like that in the TB9 one day ..... without the weather bit!

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