The Fisk Arrival

Good spring weather brings the Cubs out. Here’s Dave’s India Delta in from Cumbernauld:

Good weather also means that we can get up high without freezing to death:
The last time we were up at 6300 feet was over Glenshee in the depths of winter with the windows open. That was COLD.
Looking at the gaps between the clouds you can see what John Gillespie Magee Jr. was on about in his poem High Flight when he wrote about “footless halls of air”…
On the way back in we got into a bit of a traffic jam…it was the Perth Airport “Festival of Flight” open day the next day and lots of people were inbound. It was so busy that the slow Cub was getting in the way of everybody else so we decided to climb out of the circuit pattern and hold off to the west of the airfield for a bit. Give the traffic a chance to die down. We were there for about 20 minutes just loitering about…every time we decided to commit inbound somebody else would call on the radio for rejoin. We just let them get on with it. The radio operator in the tower was working like the proverbial and didn’t need our slow Cub cluttering up that place.

Eventually the airwaves quietened down and we were able to get in to land. I was reminded of the Oshkosh Fisk Arrival. Well, not reminded, because I’ve never flown it, but it’s famous. EAA Airventure is the annual convention held by the Experimental Aircraft Association at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It’s massive. There are usually about 10,000 visiting aircraft…TEN THOUSAND!

Getting all these aircraft in safely requires a bit of forward planning. The “Special Flight Procedures” NOTAM regularly runs to over 30 pages. Most of the traffic comes via the Fisk arrival from the southwest.

Fly to the town of Ripon, fly at a certain height and speed, follow the railroad tracks northeast to Fisk, stay in line, no overtaking, listen on the radio and do as you are told. There are giant coloured circles marked on the runway to aim for. Apparently it’s not uncommon to have three aircraft touching down simultaneously on the purple, red and yellow dots. It’s organised chaos, and it works.

Here’s a traffic display on one of the quieter days, showing the stream of traffic routing northeast up the tracks towards Fisk:

It all looks very organised, compared with the mad scramble into Perth from all points of the compass. I want to have a go.

Also check out two of the airfields to the north of Berlin in the top left corner…one called “Broken Prop” and one called “Objectionable” – There are some stories to be told..!

New Destination…and Some Light Reading

With the weather starting to pick up it was time to take the Cub somewhere new. Despite the fact that Balado airfield is just down the road from Perth (literally), we had never flown in. Probably because it’s generally a microlight field with some quite short runways. They have been doing a lot of work, putting in new hangars and a new clubhouse…it is a popular destination for flyers from Perth, so it was time to see what all the fuss was about…

The entry in the Pooley’s guide states “PPR for first timer users” so I rang up and was told to come on down. For those of you not up to speed with strange aeronautical abbreviations (SAA), the “PPR” stands for “Prior Permission Required” – when you ring up they can let you know of any changes to the published procedures or any relevant stuff like new hangar construction on the old disused runway, that sort of thing.

At the holding point, waiting for landing traffic…

Departing from the downwind leg. Balado is only 14 nautical miles from Perth, so about 14 minutes at Cub speeds:

Passing Perth city centre:

A view of Balado airfield from above, looking more or less south. Easily visible are the outlines of the two disused wartime concrete runways, now covered with chicken sheds. The airfield was known as RAF Balado Bridge, named after the little village visible at the top of the photo. It SHOULD have been called RAF Kinross, but this might have caused confusion with RAF Kinloss, on the Moray coast.

Just visible between the village and the east/west runway is the dome of the former NATO satellite communications groundstation, which closed in 2006. The new airfield is on the green patch closer to the camera, with an aircraft visible at the intersection of the grass runways:

Nice new shiny clubhouse, with the offices of the microlight school, coffee machine and snack shop. All done by contactless payment, even the landing fees:

Three of the new hangars. On the overhead shot you can make out the big new hangar as well:

Perth based Cub and Skyranger Nynja (note the registration!) parked up by the clubhouse:

Bob and Susie starting up for more aerial adventures – taking the long way back to Perth via Stirling, Dunblane and Auchterarder:

The wind direction had changed slightly, so I followed the Ninja to a different runway than the one I had landed on. I was effectively using them as pathfinders to lead me around the slightly unfamiliar airfield.

On landing back at Perth , instructor Jeremy ran over excitedly and said “I’ve got you a present, don’t go anywhere!” – he returned five minutes later with this… A Commando comic with a Piper Cub on the cover. Firing rockets..!

This really did happen in WW2, enterprising liaison pilots strapping weapons to their unarmed aircraft. The most famous was Major Charlie Carpenter, who came to be known as “Bazooka Charlie” and was officially credited with fourteen enemy tanks destroyed. If you have a quick five minutes, here’s the story:


Some random photos from last week:

Refuelled and ready to go…
Sunshine on the rudder
Another epic Wallace Shackleton pic…
Little brother!

The yellow Cub is owned by instructor Andrew, and has recently arrived at Perth from Devon. The ferry flight was flown by Aaron, who runs Kirriemuir farm strip. All the way up the UK, with no electrical system, no starter motor (hand swing the prop to start) and a slow sedate serene progress through the sky.

It is a 1952 Super Cub, so it’s our L4’s little brother. Now that there are two, we can start the Perth branch of the Vintage Piper Aircraft Club!

Local Trips

Some photos and screenshots from winter flying. Sometimes the weather window is quite small in terms of size, so we have to stay local.

Winter winds can be quite gusty, staying in the circuit is great for practising those tail wheel landings…always looking for the elusive “perfect” landing that makes you want to go straight back up and have another go:

When I’ve been flying the Cub I find that my RV landings improve, and vice versa, so it would be churlish not to…

There has recently been a Service Bulletin released by Vans Aircraft warning of possible cracks in the elevator hinge bracket area. Compliance with the bulletin involved an internal boroscope inspection, requiring a hole to be enlarged to get the scope in. Luckily all our hinge rivets and brackets show no sign of cracks. Get airborne!

Just a local bimble. Longer range adventures planned for the summer!

High Altitude Cub

Winter weather can be tiresome. If it’s not wet and windy:

It’s snowy and windy:

But just sometimes, it can be lovely. Cold and clear with unlimited visibility and light winds:

Then it’s time to get the hat and gloves and warm coat on and get the Cub out.

Airborne with the smoke from the fire giving a good windication…

We decided to head north to the hills:

The Southern Cairngorms:

Following the road up to the Glenshee Ski Centre…

All that crappy flying weather with its extensive snow did have benefits to others. The ski centre car parks were full, with the overflow car parks in use. Lots of people visible on the slopes, just little dots from 5000 feet:

Unfortunately in order to take pictures with the phone I had to have the windows open…and it was ******* freezing! Some more shots through the open window and door:

Heading home and descending into the (thankfully) warmer air, the previously seen smoke had spread out a bit, and was indicating a very gentle flow to the southeast. In aviation terms, wind calm.

Weather like this tends to generate a lot of activity. Here on the 80 year old Cub’s modern navigation/traffic display (also called iPad with Skydemon!) you can see two aircraft in the traffic pattern at Perth. Not shown are the other four aircraft which weren’t fitted with “ADSB-out” – the circuit was chaos for a bit so we held off for five minutes before calling Perth Radio for rejoin.

The Cub can cause its own chaos in the circuit with its slow speed compared with the Cessnas and Pipers of the commercial training school. We do fit in beautifully with the club microlights though, so it’s just a matter of timing the run in.

The extra time spent holding away from the airfield can be used to warm up the pilot!

Happy New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year is weird. Back to work with the weather fluctuating between cold, crisp and clear to moderate snowfall:

Some days we didn’t even get the aircraft out of the hangar due to the poor visibility. It’s easier to launch from the hangar if we have to, and being inside stops the build up of snow on the airframe, like this Cessna 182 used by a local skydiving club:

Most days were grey and dismal and slightly depressing:

And then when the sun did come out, we still didn’t get any jobs! We did have to stand around in the cold for PR photos. Because of the low sun, the angles and the shadow of the control tower on the helipad, we had to park the aircraft right at the edge, with the attendant risk of the helilift running off the concrete and getting stuck. That sucker sinks even into frozen ground. Ask me how we know…

The show must go on. Happy New Year 2023..!

November Floods

A trip in the RV to warm up the oil. Nice above the clouds:

And lots of flooding below the clouds. The RV is not the best for aerial photography so it was time to go “low’n’slow”…

Airborne in the Cub with lots of moisture in the air:

A lot of flooding:

Confluence of the Isla and the Ericht:

Don’t cross the streams!

The same area a week apart. Day One:

Day seven:


Soggy Strathmore…

Some more from a few days later. Craig a Barns hill and Polney Crag near Dunkeld. Dunkeld itself was enveloped in the low lying fog along the River Tay:

The River Ericht at Blargowrie (L) and Rattray (R):

A wider view of Blairgowrie:

Home. There are three pilots living in the village that we know of, and at least one aeroplane under construction in a garage…

Wolfhill – centre of aeronautical excellence.

Angle Grinder De-icing

A November visit to Siljan Air Park in Sweden (ESVS). Cold and crisp with a light dusting of snow on our last day at the cabin…

Siljansnas is to the north of Stockholm, and the further south we got on the drive to the airport, the more snow was falling. It turned out to be the first major snowfall of the winter for the airport at Arlanda. Consequently the procedures for ploughing, deicing etc seemed to be a little bit rusty as they got back into the groove. The weather report below shows 1500m visibility and falling snow with a 500ft cloudbase:

Our flight was delayed. The inbound aircraft was coming from Helsinki where they had the same snowfalls, and a delay in deicing for their departure created a knock on effect for us. We boarded the aircraft and then sat around for a further 90 minutes until the deicing truck could get to us. I shot this picture once my window had cleared – all the blowing snow in the lights looks like they are using an angle grinder…

Not much heat from an angle grinder…and it would ruin the paint scheme! Talking of heat, the team at Skydemon (other navigation applications are available) has produced a “heat map” combining all the saved aircraft tracks from Skydemon users in Scotland. The Great Glen route from Oban to Inverness stands out particularly well, and off the east coast you can just make out the grid patterns flown by survey aircraft.

Some of those lines are us. Just a pity that we can’t make out last year’s Christmas tree pattern in the sky…

Weather Windows

Autumn. Variable weather, but with some nice flyable bits. In between the gales there were several opportunities to get the Cub out:

Once airborne in a slow aircraft like a Cub, the significance of the wind aloft becomes more noticeable. Notice the headwind giving a groundspeed figure of GS 53 (top left) on this Skydemon screenshot:

After reaching Crieff and turning round, the tailwind now pushed the groundspeed up to 105 – eye watering for a Cub…

On the odd day the weather can be absolutely perfect – light winds, warm and clear skies. When pulling the RV out week later the hangar was almost empty – everybody was taking advantage and getting out and about. Plus the odd visitor adding to the congestion at the fuel pumps, this Swiss registered King Air came in from Rotterdam:

The weather was nice enough for a longer flight out over Fife:

The former RAF Leuchars from above, now an army barracks but with the airfield still in use for the University Air Squadron and occasional diversions:

Approaching Dundee from the south. Tay road and rail bridges standing out:

Out and about in the Cub a few days later, lots of moisture in the air…

Lovely circular rainbow around the Cub shadow:

The next time I flew the RV I transferred the SkyEcho conspicuity unit from the Cub, but somehow neglected (aka forgot) to change the aircraft over in the settings, so to the whole world we were flying a Cub at RV speeds:

147 knots as a groundspeed for a Cub is pretty impressive. If only it was true…