GAMSTON (Retford) & DEENTHORPE – 22nd JUNE 2019

GAMSTON (Retford) & DEENTHORPE – 22nd JUNE 2019

The fly out on the 22nd June followed the very successful trip to Paris and the Palace of Versailles in May. Although planned to be an awful lot simpler with a day visit to the Lincolnshire Heritage Aviation Museum at East Kirkby these things are rarely straightforward and so this turned out to be. East Kirkby is a great museum and one we have visited before back in 2011 but the ‘runway’ is basically a grass field and not very long at that. Unfortunately for us there had been almost constant rain over the whole month prior to the planned visit and Lincolnshire had really taken the brunt of it. This had left the strip extremely wet and discretion being the better part of valour there was no way I was going to attempt to get our aircraft in, or more importantly out in those conditions.

Several other options were tried and in trying to keep it a little brief I simply decided to take an easy option and visit Gamston (Retford) for a group lunch with a call in at Deenethorpe for tea on the way back. I had visited Gamston a few weeks before and found the Apron restaurant on the airfield absolutely excellent. Likewise, with Deenethorpe, we had called in ad hoc on the way back the same day and discovered a hidden gem in the countryside just south of Corby.

Fortunately, the run of poor weather cleared and we had a good TAF for the 22nd. There was no rush to depart as although we were booked in for an early lunch it was only going to be an approx. one hour fifteen run from NW. Departing North Weald it was simply a case of transiting below 1500ft across TMZ 2 to Ware and then a straight line through the Luton/Stansted gap directly to Gamston. The weather was practically perfect with scattered light cumulus starting around 2500 ft and really stunning viz. once north of the 2500ft airspace restriction we decided to progressively climb as airspace allowed to 5000ft. Being where we are and with the weather, it doesn’t allow us to do it that often so it’s nice to have a higher view of the country sometimes!

Although being well above the Wittering MATZ we decided to see if we could get a basic service from them but weren’t really expecting an answer being a Saturday. However, Wittering Zone came back loud and clear and looked after us as we crossed directly through their overhead getting a great view of the previous ‘Home of the Harrier’ base nestling on a ridge next to the A1 just south of Stamford. It’s muted that RAF Wittering is shortlisted as a new home for the Red Arrows if and when RAF Scampton closes but that remains to be seen. From Wittering as Waddington Zone was closed we went to East Midlands and then over Doncaster Approach briefly before calling Gamston Radio some 10 miles south of the field, being in an early descent given Doncaster’s 2000ft airspace over Gamston itself.

Gamston joining right hand downwind R21

Runway 21 was in use which has a right-hand circuit and we planned to descend on the dead side to join crosswind, then downwind to turn base just before Retford village for noise abatement. Navigation wasn’t a problem as we were basically following the A1 north and we could easily make the airfield just to the east of the main road from miles away. It was pretty quiet with only our own ‘FG’ ahead of us starting on the downwind leg although there was another PA28 inbound, although from the position report he should have been well behind us with the spacing working out nicely. Reporting ‘G-VB descending dead side’ we headed towards crosswind. About a mile and a half from the airfield my attention was drawn to movement below and to my left and a PA28 went rocketing ahead of us reporting ‘G-** descending dead side’ when he was quite clearly already at or below circuit height and effectively joining crosswind. As we came on crosswind we slowed and took a stage of flap to give plenty of separation.

However, it went from bad to worse as I heard ‘FG’ call final and saw the PA28 had cut in by turning short on the downwind onto base and was turning final just ahead of ‘FG’. Calling G-** final he was curtly told by the tower that he had cut up an aircraft on final and at least he did the decent thing and opted to go around and we never saw him again! Despite doing all the right things as we all know we rely on the other guy doing the right thing as well and this was simply a case of poor airmanship and a lack of special awareness in what can be a relatively busy circuit.

Anyway with that behind us or now out of way at least we were slipping onto Gamston lovely 1683 metre runway and vacating left towards the tower to park with the rest of our aircraft in front of the long line of great hangers that adorn that part of the airfield. The thought that the whole of this splendid airfield is in danger of becoming a ‘garden village’ is simply a travesty made even worse by the fact that our second stop of Deenethorpe could face exactly the same ‘fate’. However on the more positive side of the here and now being safely parked up we headed off to pay our landing fee in the tower and then across to the Apron restaurant where Alex Kenning who was flying in from White Waltham was going to join us. For those of us who have grown accustomed to the standard fly club bacon sarnie then the Apron is a bit of a revelation. An excellent menu with very high-quality food, well worth a visit but be sure to book if visiting at a weekend.

The Group aircraft on the Gamston Apron

With us all having had a very pleasant chat and with suitably stuffed faces it was time to head off to Deenethorpe. Having visited a couple of weeks before I would like to have called in again but unfortunately on this occasion, I was on the last knockings of the hours remaining to check and a stop was likely to tip it over the edge by the time I got back to North Weald, so we stayed a little longer at Gamston and watched the guys depart for the 50-mile hop south to Deenethorpe with the intention for us to fly overhead once they were all on the ground.

Our guys enjoying the lunch at ‘The Apron’

Departure on R21 can be a little slow as it ideally requires a backtrack and if the circuit is busy as it was for us spacing can be an issue. However once away it was an easy run down with a great view of Rutland Water before crossing through the western stub of the Wittering MATZ and seeing the familiar wartime airfield layout ahead that was Deenethorpe. The guys were all safely in by the time we crossed overhead having called on safety Comm joining from the north and slipping in for a left hand downwind for runway 22 on Deenethorpe’s old wartime 1200 metre runway being careful not to get too close to the gliding site at Lyveden just to the south. Given its age, the runway is in very good condition but there are a few patches of loose surface that need to be avoided where possible.

Overhead Deenethorpe

Parking is on the wide area at the western end of the runway and it’s a short walk up the old peri track to the portakabins that serve as a small cafe and office. This really is a little gem of an airfield and well worth a visit, no-hassle, a nice small outside seating area, very cheap tea and coffee and superb slices of homemade cake at £1 each all in a totally peaceful surrounding where only the birdsong interrupts the total tranquillity of the place. It’s places like this where it’s easy, certainly for me to look across those fields and now silent runway and get a tingle down the back of my neck as I imagine the noise and the hive of activity that this place would have been from 1943 to 1945 when it was home to the US Airforce 401st bomb group operating four squadrons of B17G Flying Fortresses. Are there ghosts here? Those brave guys completed some 254 combat missions in that period with 94 aircraft lost and horrendous casualties. Many of those crews must have suffered unimaginable horrors in their final minutes or seconds, it does make me wonder and reflect.

Of course, that contemplation can be easily broken if the local model flying club are up with some of their VERY big jet models which look and sound like the real thing. If they are then that’s some good entertainment in itself as these things are seriously quick and flown with great skill.

With the guys once again suitably stuffed it was time to say goodbye to Alex Kenning who was heading back to White Waltham in the Monsom. To make the departures easier the group all followed each other out for departure and had a very nice run back to North Weald once again via the Luton /Stansted gap and TMZ2, still amazingly in lovely clear and calm conditions.

Overall a very simple but great day out for our group, not really any great challenges but a good experience for all and especially for some of our less experienced pilots as well as being a couple of new airfields in the logbook for most.

Certainly two airfields to visit if you haven’t been and two places that nicely sum up what GA should be like. Long may they continue.

Next trip is to Bourges in the middle of France and that should be a little more of a challenge, in a nice way of course!