Sometimes in life you can’t wait for a quiet day, you’ve just got to go for it. That summed up my Thursday 22 August. After a busy day at work I decided to go and visit the farmstrip at Ebrington, only a couple of weeks after learning of its existence.
My keenness to visit was driven by the fact that one of the best pubs in the Cotswolds is just a five minute walk away.
Calling the number listed on SkyDemon led to a couple of conversations with Veronica who, along with her husband, look after the strip. She informed me that the grass either side was being topped and bailed which could preclude my visit if the bailers were still busy when I wanted to visit. Thankfully all the work was complete when I rang to confirm PPR a few hours beforehand.
Ebrington is a strip that I would definitely consider on the challenging end of the farm flying spectrum (when operating something like an RV). Overall length is an ample 530 metres but the challenges lie elsewhere, in areas that don’t become apparent on charts or Google Earth.
I was two-up with about 85-90% fuel, so we we’re basically at max weight. Whilst I know what our aircraft is capable of doing, flying heavy into short bumpy strips I’m more worried about landing gear leg fatigue than take off performance.
I made my first pass at 500ft, sussing out the general area, noting the woodland in the Runway 21 overshoot, as well as the houses on the undershoot. This first pass also led to the discovery of how thin the first 100 metres is, as well as what looked like reasonably significant undulations.
I had intended to complete only one flyover but I decided to make another pass for closer inspection. Making a normal approach to land I leveled off at around 75ft and was surprised at just how high the tops of the houses reached into the approach. From here I got a much clearer view of the undulations and width.
My mind then re-categorised Ebrington from ‘easy 500m farm strip’ to ‘approach with a dash of caution’.
With an almost 10kt headwind I was satisfied with the aircraft’s ability to get in and out. The third run-in was much more familiar and I felt a lot happier, thanks to the two practice approaches. In something like an RV you can forget about the first 100 metres of the strip. The undulations, coupled with your need to drop the nose after the houses would equate to a reasonably high rate of descent, unless, you were very light and came in tickling the stall. Being heavy I was not in a position to do that.
In the image above I have marked a realistic touchdown zone in red. We stopped about 150m short of the end and backtracked to park at the hangar. I would have videoed it but frankly when the workload is high the last thing I want to be distracted by is setting up cameras. Now I know what to expect, I’ll return with cameras another time.
Landing fee was a £10 donation to West Midland Air Ambulance.
The Ebrington Arms won The Times’ Best Village Inn two years ago and still rates as a very well run place not-least thanks to the provenance of both it’s food and drink. They brew their own beer under the guise of Yubberton Brewing Co. and most food is sourced locally. This pilot stuck to coke (liquid form).
As with all farmstrip flying there is only one way to ‘approach’ departures (IMHO). Get the tailwheel just into the roughage at the threshold so you’ve got as much in front of you as possible, hold it on full power, release the brakes and get the tail up early.
There is a ski jump at Ebrington when using 21, barely 50 metres from the start of your take-off roll. In a Cub you could probably get airborne off it but as you can see from the video the RV wasn’t yet interested in flying.
Even though we have electric flaps (so can’t ‘dump’ them down), I still dropped a few degrees at 50kts to help slip those surly bonds and ease her into the air.
Once you’re flying, stick it at 10ft and accelerate. In this case we were at 100kts by the time we turned to avoid the woodland and houses.
I can recommend visiting Ebrington if you’re into your farmstrips. I’d suggest some decent experience of short field operations before you go, especially if you’re in anything Cessna/Piper sized.
If you haven’t tried farm strips and want to start off somewhere bigger, comment below or message me on Instagram and I can recommend a few (including our home base).