After months of not doing much flying due to my girlfriend and I buying our first house, I’m finally back exploring local strips.
I kicked off 2016’s farmstripping by flying about 15 minutes South East of Oaksey to Draycott Farm, a strip that I have always wanted to visit. I first remember seeing it on maps many moons ago.
During those days the strip looked perfect; long and wide running North/South and nestled around the gorgeous chalk hills of North Wiltshire.
On closer inspection from photos online and the strip’s own website, it became clear that Draycott is indeed wide and gorgeous… but far from flat!
Info from their website:
- Location: Chiseldon, Wiltshire
- Type: Unlicensed
- Position: N51°29.75 W001°44.62
- PPR: No (but always best to ring! 01793 741630.)
- 18/36 – 700 × 25m Grass
- 100m starter extension available
- Landing Fee £10 (Please put in honesty box inside Flight Office)
- No fuel
Landing on 18 requires a bit of forethought, specifically relating to wind speed and direction, strip condition and your weight. The wind was slightly from the right for my visit, meaning it was blowing over a clump of trees about 20ft from the side of the runway which equals potential rotors. Added to that was now damp grass from thawing frost and quite a marked upslope on the first 100m of the strip.
Knowing that I was light (1 POB, ½ tanks and about 5lbs of baggage) and that I was more than happy to throw the power on and go around if anything went wrong, I elected to land with a bit more speed, quite deep into the field. The Citabria will happily stop in less than 200m with barely any brakes on grass like this.
The first learning point came when taxiing back to the parking area. Even with a light airframe the wheels were getting bogged down in a few areas so I had to taxi with quite a lot of power in order to keep up my momentum. This reached its peak when I slowed to a crawling pace with nearly full power at the very lowest (and therefore dampest) part of the strip.
Parked up, now what?
The strip is blessed with some great ‘big sky’ on sunny days, as you can see from the photos. I’m definitely going to come back here in the summer and put my feet up around the firepit near the small lodge clubhouse.
You can walk along the Ridgeway up to Barbury Castle (I’d estimate a 90 minute – 2 hour round trip if done properly). There’s also a small r/c aircraft field with two runways about 100m from the club house.
Departing to the South means you have roughly 100 meters of run up before the strip properly starts. I duly elected to use this, although noticed that to get the full run up you end up about 15 degrees off the strip’s heading, meaning a turn during take-off which I wasn’t happy to do owing to the soft ground.
Lesson number two
With full power on the tail was up within a couple of seconds and I was accelerating down the strip to the lowest point. It was here that my flying reverted back to ‘nosedragger’ mode. Not wanting to go from a downslope to an upslope at 40kts on the main gear alone, my brain decided that the best thing to do would be to pull the stick back for fear of a prop strike. I don’t know why it did, but it did.
Hitting the softer ground and pulling back on the stick was only going to result in one thing; the tail slapping into the ground. Unaware of the cause at the time, I assumed soft ground was the culprit. It wasn’t until I was back home, with the benefit of hindsight provided by GoPro, that I saw I had jerked the stick back when I reached the trough of the strip.
Once airborne I took the opportunity to hug the ground and fly along the rest of the strip at about 10 feet before a smart pull and turn to the North West to set course for Oaksey.
Next trip? Hopefully a return to Wadswick and visit to Yatesbury.
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About soft ground in early spring… I got stuck in the mud 20 meters from my hangar; had to get towed out before I could go flying. Embarrassing, but no harm. This looks like a great time.
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