1 June 2022
Writing the cover story about strip flying brought back memories of when I started flying microlights – first flex-wing, later fixed-wing – at a tiny airfield at Sandy, Bedfordshire. It was (and still is) just behind the village which we had strict instructions not to overfly. The airfield operator even marked out a curved approach with big white arrows on the ground to steer us towards the threshold and keep us away from the village.
At the time I thought this was normal, and the fact that the longest runway was 550 metres didn’t strike me as unusual either. There were a couple of other hazards too, which we students just glossed over and accepted. A small river ran adjacent to the airfield and occasionally anglers would be casting fishing lines just a few feet below us. Then, on the northerly runway the approach was over tall trees just before the threshold of the shorter, 350m runway.
The good thing about microlights is that they are light and can operate at relatively low speeds, and thus need shorter runways. Even so, we should probably have been more aware. Phrases such as ‘Threat and Error Management’ didn’t exist back then, at least not to us newbies. We were caught up in the all-consuming excitement of learning to fly.
So, flying farm strips with Matt Coles (see ‘Welcome to the Strip Club’, not my headline, honest) was a bit of a wake-up call. Landing on grass didn’t faze me, but dodging a tree on short final did.. As did turning 90 degrees at low level around a tree to line up with a steeply sloping upwards farm strip. On a scale of one to ten of challenging strips, that one was ‘Dix Points’.
A good chunk of this issue is about strip flying and short take-off and landing. It’s a different world from operating from regular aerodromes with nice, long, hard runways and full support but, as Matt says, it sharpens up your skills. There’s a good debate about strip flying going on the FLYER Forum as well. Find that thread here.
Welcome to the July 2022 issue of FLYER, the second in our new format since going 100% online. I hope you enjoy it and the new website. If you have any suggestions for improving either, don’t hesitate to let me know.