The best laid plans…
Mick Manders, the owner of Anglian Flight Centres, kindly agreed to us using G-ECAK for the tour. G-ECAK is a very well maintained, low hours C172.
Next on our agenda was the purchase of a full set of UK half-mill charts and a long evening picking out appropriate way-points. We needed to take into account runway type and length, fuel availability, landing and overnight parking fees. Also a priority was the proximity of destination airfields to the coast, and of course distance to accommodation and food! Most important however was how far alternate airfields were from our intended destination, should we need to divert, after burning more than 2 hours of avgas! Our first look at the Scotland half-mill chart and the limited choice of airfields compared to the number we enjoy in the South really focused our minds!
By the end of that evening our plan had really started to come together. We had broken down the tour to 15 legs of flying over 6 days. The plane was booked for 12 days allowing us enough time to get stuck in more than one location due to weather and any other unforeseen causes for delay en-route.
The 5 intended overnight stops were split between us so that each of us so we could each research potential accommodation. We agreed to book the first 2 nights, but after some good locations were found, the first 3 nights of accommodation were booked. Losing deposits/payments for accommodation from delays was a risk we were willing to take for the first 3 nights. Beyond that, we’d make it up as we went along.
Check-ride to check our ride!
From Earls Colne to Andrewsfield and back. Everyone was happy with AK. In particular we thought AK’s two axis semi-autopilot system (wing leveller and VOR radial tracker) would be of great use on our tour
Launch day draws closer…
Our launch day was set as 1st July. As it grew near we had a couple of incidents that threatened our planned departure on our intended date. AK suddenly required maintenance (rudder issues) and the parts needed were unavailable. It also transpired that it was low on remaining hours. So low in fact, that there would be insufficient available to complete the tour, even if it was actually repaired on time! This prompted a quick plane-change, and we were swapped into the clubs only other 4 seater a PA-28 G-BSJX. This in itself presented a problem for the club as JX was the only aircraft they could use for trial lessons with more than one customer on-board! They really couldn’t afford to lose JX for 12 days!! Suddenly, two days before departure day came the call that AKs parts had arrived. AK would be repaired, have a new 150 hour check completed, and would be delivered back to Earls Colne the evening before our planned departure! The pre departure stress was just too much! Still we were going, or were we?