Another morning off work to try and catch up a bit with my flying training. Today I had planned a land-away from Redhill to Lydd in Kent. I’ve been to Lydd before so wasn’t expecting any problems. Got to Redhill around 10am and went through flight plan with Instructor who was happy with it. Lydd airport is PPR (Prior Permission Required) so just before we left I called them to get permission to arrive. This is sensible as there may be something happening there or there may be some sort of other problems. When I spoke to them, they told me the cloud level was only 400ft and visibility was very poor. Looking out the window at Redhill, it was a bit cloudy but the weather looked fine. Anyway, I didn’t book in to arrive at Lydd but we decided to set off anyway so see what the weather was like on route and at least practice my navigation towards Lydd even if we didn’t land.
So over to the aircraft, do usual checks and request permission from Redhill ATC for local flight to the east. Taxied over to runway 26L and was soon taking off, turning downwind and setting a course for Bough Beech after a departure via Godstone. After take-off it was apparent the visibility was not great despite looking OK on the ground. As we reached Bough Beech I turned onto a heading for Tenterden we could see dark clouds ahead and the visibility was deteriorating rapidly. I had planned to fly at 2300ft but could only climb to 1800ft and was soon pushed lower by descending cloud. Lydd Air Traffic Control were certainly right about the poor weather conditions on the Kent coast. After a while it was obvious we were not going to get anywhere near the coast – the cloud was too low and visibility was poor. I decided I’d had enough and recommended a return to base – to which the Instructor quickly agreed.
To make things easy on the way back I simply turned North to cut the main east-west railway line running across Kent and then planned to simply follow it to Bough Beech and from there to Redhill. The plan was good and I soon found the railway line, turned west and soon found Bough Beech. I descended to 1400ft to keep clear of Gatwick ATC and was cleared for re-join to Redhill. By now the visibility was getting worse and both I and the Instructor reckoned it was near the minimum limit for flying. I could see Redhill airfield through the haze and was given a direct approach to runway 26L by ATC. This was good as it meant I didn’t have to fly a circuit pattern in the poor conditions.
Approach and landing was fine and as we taxied back to the hanger the weather conditions didn’t look too bad from the ground. Amazing the difference at ground level compared with what we had experienced in the air.
Rather shorter flight than expected but still a good training exercise.
Today I had also booked to sit my Human Performance ground exam. I finished the paper in just under 10 mins (rather than the 30 minutes allocated). The examiner was there and marked it straight away – I passed with a score on 90%