Following my recent currency check and good weather forecast I was able to book my first self fly hire, I would also be taking my first passenger along with me, my passenger had never been in a light aircraft before and so with sickbags at the ready (for the passenger) I planned a route from Bristol to Kemble to keep the route short and easy, having flown this many times during my training.
The weather was just perfect; blue sky, sunny and calm winds, there were some thunderstorms forecast for later in the day but as the aircraft was due to be back by midday there would be little chance of getting any problems from those.
Arriving at the flying club we were booked in G-BCJN, a Piper PA28-140 that I knew very well and had completed my skills test in as well as most of my training. My first job was to A check the aircraft and check the weather forecast, no problems were found with either and we were ready to go. I had to give my passenger briefing following the guide I had written for my skills test, my passenger took note of the points and information I gave.
After booking out via the airport system we walked out to the aircraft, completed a brief walk around to check nothing had happened whilst I had been away from it and then got inside the aircraft. I wanted to add at this point that in no way did I feel nervous seen as this was my first self fly hire and I had a passenger with me, all those hours of training and practicing methodically had prepared me for this day.
After completing all the usual internal checks I started the engine and proceeded to taxi to holding point HX for runway 09 which is fairly rare at Bristol Airport as the wind is usually from the west. After completing the power checks and waiting our turn we were given permission to backtrack, taxi into position and hold, shortly after backtracking clearance to takeoff was given and I advanced the throttle to full power, the takeoff roll is always fairly quick and we were airborne climbing initially up to 500 feet, in the process of this completing the after takeoff checks.
Once past 500 feet I turned towards Avonmouth Bridge and continued to climb up to 1800 feet ASL, or 1200 feet AAL. Handed over to Bristol Radar I continued to the Avonmouth Bridge with the occasional check on my passenger that they were ok, which of course they were and enjoying the view and amazing sensation of flight in a light aircraft.
On passing the Avonmouth Bridge I climbed up to our cruising altitude of 2500 feet and turned onto a heading of 060′. This route took us over the old Filton Airfield, left of Yate, left of Badminton Estate and safely beside Tetbury. Enroute I called up Kemble to obtain the airfield information which was runway 26, left hand circuits. I stated my intention to join the circuit by an overhead join and land. During my training I initially found overhead joins difficult to get right and visualise, but now and for some odd reason I actually enjoy them, the little highlight of the flight for me.
Completing the pre-landing checklist and letting my passenger know what is happening I started the overhead join, on descending deadside another aircraft was off to our right which seemed to be climbing and heading away from the airfield, but his radio calls were that he was descending deadside, he was a solo student and may have been struggling a little with his bearings. My passenger at this point was concerned how close this other aircraft was, it wasnt that close at all but to the untrained eye it seemed a big deal. I carried on around the circuit and turned finals, the cockpit was completely sterile with no talking.
The landing was a really nice soft smooth one, which always pleases me, and we continued down the runway and exited the runway to park on the grass opposite the cafe. My passenger would later comment they were a little nervous as it seemed we were very slow and heading towards the ground, being in a light aircraft and seeing everything gives a different perspective which they understood.
After a quick cold drink I paid the landing fee in the tower, completed a walk around and boarded the aircraft again to head back to Bristol. Following the internal checks I proceeded to start the engine, turning the key a loud whining noise happened but no prop movement, I tried again and the same happened, reviewing my checklist to see if I had missed anything I tried again. Something had either broken or worn out somehow, so I decided to ring the club and managed to speak to my instructor I had during my training, he told me to turn the propellor manually as sometimes when the engine stops the teeth in the cogs fail to align and so the starter motor cannot engage. This had never happened to me in all the hours of training, which must of been sheer luck or a rare occurrence.
Checking the key was out I turned the propeller and immediately saw what he was referring to and could see the teeth now engaged, getting back in and starting everything again the engine started without issue and we were taking off on runway 08 and heading back to Bristol.
Flying the same route back to Bristol I descended to 1800 feet before reaching the Avonmouth Bridge and was given clearance to enter controlled airspace but to proceed to Nailsea and hold as we would be number 4 for landing, it seemed we had returned during a busy period. After 2 easyJet and 1 Ryanair aircraft landed and I had completed multiple orbits we were cleared to land on runway 09 which isn’t my favourite approach due to the land rising sharply towards you, for those who have flown this approach you will know what I mean. The landing was another smooth ‘greaser’ and we taxied and parked back where the aircraft was taken from.
Shutting the aircraft down and finishing the shutdown checks my passenger was in awe of the flight, this was great weather, great flight and one very happy passenger and pilot!