I am amazed at the number of local students and licensed pilots who have never seen the ‘VFR Guide to Gloucester Aerodrome’ which is freely available on the web:


This is yet another example of both poor instruction and poor instructor knowledge as every student intending to fly to this airfield should read a copy of this guide, especially as Gloucester is the busiest GA airfield in the country and is used by most local flying schools. It’s also quite informative for all VFR pilots.

Personally I would never send a student solo to Gloucester (too busy and unnecessary).  As a CAA staff examiner said to me recently, “why would anyone want to send a student solo to Gloucester when Kemble is just down the road?!” I quite agree and Turweston is another good alternative too. (However, Gloucester is a great airfield to take a student to dual if just to point out its complexities and differences).

Before you go to any airfield make a point of looking up it’s own website for visiting pilot information and also refer to the NATS website, UK AIP (Airfield Index) if it’s a certified or licensed airfield. You might also want to look up your home airfield too as some sloppy instructors do not understand noise abatement, deadside heights and circuit heights themselves. I recently found out at Wolverhampton that several instructors were teaching the wrong minimum deadside height of 1000 feet, it’s 1300 feet for fixed wing aircraft, no exceptions!



(a) Fixed wing circuits are LH at 1000ft QFE.

(b) Helicopter circuits are RH at 800 ft QFE.

(c) Autogyros should follow the fixed wing circuit.

2. Joining

(a) The standard fixed wing join is overhead. Aircraft should not descend below 1300 ft QFE on the deadside due to the helicopter circuit below at 800 ft QFE

Professionalism is knowing and adhering to the rules, not trying to make them up to cover your own ignorance!

Gloucester has more runway incursions than any other UK aerodrome and that’s down to having three runways and some unusual taxiway routes coupled with sloppy instruction and poor pre-flight preparation.

As a matter of habit after being given taxi instructions you should always confirm your taxiway routing on the aerodrome chart which should be on your nav board; it’s not much use in the flying school! Even better, try to work out the possible routing at the pre-flight planning stage or on your arrival checks (FREDAA) inbound. Always be fully aware of any airfield HOTSPOTS.

TEM, SA & CRM should also lead you to work out that a landing/taxi light or recognition light should be on for ground operations as well as in the air (at least in the ATZ). Some misguided instructor at Wolverhampton a few years back started the ridiculous habit of turning the landing light on for take off and turning it off at 300 feet during daytime operations and this seems to have been blindly followed by other instructors without question (it’s also ridiculous at night).

Unnecessary cycling of bulbs limits their life, apart from the absurdity of turning the light off at 300 feet which is the very place you need it most! Ask yourself where is the most likely place on any flight that you will have a high risk of traffic conflict and have a poor forward view you and will know why turning the lights off at 300 feet is ridiculous!

In fact, one of the differences between professional and amateurs is that amateurs are never sure when to use the lights. Professionals never start ground movement without recognition, taxi or landing lights on and they stay on until 10,000 feet.

“Lights on, taxi checks!”!

Professionals always conduct ground operations with LIGHTS ON!

Professional pre-flight instructor briefings should contain possible taxiway routing to the runway in use (as well as the flying area to be operated in). So many instructors and students only seem to become aware of the runway in use and the taxi route on the first RT call to an ATSU; hardly a good example of TEM and SA.

If you do get confused on a taxiway always stop and say so. The call “REQUEST PROGRESSIVE TAXI” tells the nice man in the tower that you need him to tell you exactly where to go and how to get there and don’t be shy, controllers are paid to give you information so that you can conduct a safe flight!

A knowledge of CAP 413 will reveal many more calls and content you probably didn’t know about and that will stop you making a fool of yourself with unnecessary calls such as telling an ATSU in the air the number of persons on board, as I heard recently (this is only needed for booking out over the radio).

Full marks by the way for the visiting pilot who arrived into a very busy circuit the other day at Wolverhampton and asked the FISO to order him a taxi!

In May this year a visiting instructor (described by his school as very experienced) and student in a PA28 overran runway 22 at Wolverhampton (604 Metres) and ended up in the tyre wall, fortunately there were no injuries and minimal damage to the aircraft.

If you cross the threshold at the correct speed and touchdown in the first third of the runway there shouldnt be any problem on this runway. You must however have an aiming point and if it appears you are going to overshoot the aiming point or you float, a go around should be initiated immediately on a performance limiting runway.

Improved braking is achieved by dumping the flap and applying full back elevator during the rollout, quite important on runway with a downhill slope.

Point and Power Approaches produce more accurate touchdown results then the out of date Tiger Moth Instructors ‘elevator for airspeed’.

Most landing overruns are caused by unstable approaches and especially excessive speed at the threshold and/or lack of aiming point control.

Your questions and comments to ministryofflying AT gmail.com or just hit reply.

These articles on my blog are based on my opinions based on my experience, you or your instructor may have better ideas or opinions, why not share them with us? There is always a better way of doing something! Always consult the aircraft flight manual for definitive information on how to operate the aircraft. History shows that we are not very good at learning from history but learning from the mistakes of others may stop you from making the same mistakes.

2 thoughts on “JULY UPDATE

  1. Hi Jon,

    “Improved braking is achieved by dumping the flap and applying full back elevator during the rollout,” I’ve sometimes wondered why the option of full back stick to improve braking is never considered for big aeroplanes? I remember one of the BAe test pilots at Filton telling me that when they demonstrated the short field capabilities of the 1-11 475 to some raghead by landing on the short runway at Filton, P2’s job was to haul the stick right back as they both stood on the brakes. Maybe it’s considered that use of that procedure would result in lots of tail strikes, but if you’re about to go off the end and the over-run is nasty, then the risk of a tail strike doesn’t seem so bad.

    I was really surprised to hear Staverton is the busiest GA field. I’d have guessed Elstree or Biggin.



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