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Airfield Information (Unofficial) > Dunkeswell  

Location

14 miles NE of Exeter
Lat & Long: 5051'48N, 313'56W
ICAO designator: EGTU
Dunkeswell is situated in the Blackdown Hills at an elev. of 839' AMSL
PPR - 01404 891643
GA Flying School

 Dunkeswell

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Joining Instructions

Joining from the south: Exeter Airport's extended centreline (08/26) passes to the south of the airfield in Class G airpsace. It is imperitive to give them a call (Exeter Radar on 128.975) if approaching Dunkeswell from this direction and to keep a good lookout for Flybe's DHC Dash-8s and Embraers (callsign "Jersey"). Our visit to Exeter ATC in 2008 provided much useful information about approach and departure procedures. (An AIRPROX at Norwich, which was also until recently in Class G, provides a cautionary tale - report 107/07.)

Joining from the east: RNAS Yeovilton's Area of Intense Aerial Activity is located 6 miles to the east. It is sensible to give them a call (Yeovilton Radar on 127.35) if approaching from the east on weekdays, and to keep a good look out for Lynxs, Seakings and the occassional Hercules. In addition, the old airfield at Upottery (aka Smeatharpe) a mile to the north-east of Dunkeswell is sometimes used by powered hang-gliders and model aircraft.

Joining from the west: Devon & Somerset Gliding Club's site at North Hill is located only a mile or so to the south-west. When there is a westerly component to the wind intense gliding activity is likely. Both aero-tow and winch launches are used (winch up to 3,000' AMSL). Gliders will be found soaring along the hill crest on a north-south beat. If approaching from this direction it is sensible to dog leg around the North Hill area rather than fly through! (See diagram below.) Gliders can be a bugger to see head on and have right of way over powered craft under the Rules of the Air.

Joining from the north: If you make the Wellington Monument a waypoint remember that other pilots may have had the same idea. Low flying military traffic may also cross your track heading east-west into or out of RNAS Yeovilton and its satelite RNAS Merryfield.

Circuit and Airfield

R/T: Dunkeswell Radio 123.475
PPR - 01404 891643

Note that intense skydiving takes place at Dunkeswell and therefore overhead joins are not permitted unless Dunkeswell Radio have confirmed there is no parachuting taking place. Normal flying operations (other than helicopter flying) continues when there are canopies in the overhead. They aim for the grass: aeroplanes aim for the hard surfaces. It seems to work.

The airfield can be very busy and not really suitable for non-radio. 

In deference to its wartime heritage, 'bomber circuits' are still the norm at Dunkeswell!  Seriously, note that the village, the new housing estate to the south and local hot spots must not be overflown. Circuits are at 800 ft. There is no separate microlight circuit.


Map data produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Map data reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey .

See the note above about joining from the West and the gliding club.

Dunkeswell is a busy licensed GA airfield. On a nice day you can expect to be sharing the circuit with numerous Cessna and Piper spamcans (some on training flights), microlights, homebuilts and Skydive UK's Beech KingAir turboprop or Cessna Caravan. Call "slow moving" if you have something fast behind you on final. Watch out for the skydiving plane returning into the circuit on a wide and fast base-join.



Airfield Map
 

   

Use of the grass runway is prohibited while parachutes are landing. Listen out for the skydiving plane calling "5 minutes to drop" and "Canopies in the air". The hard runways may still be used - with care.

Approach to 35 is over a small valley/gully. Beware turbulence.

Runways 17 and 23 have displaced thresholds as the initial parts of each runway are no longer used for flying. 

The section of 05/23 beyond the aerodrome boundary is now a solar farm. It is therefore not an option in the event of an EFATO or undershoot.

Final 35
Final 35

Somerset Microlights' HQ
Somerset Microlights HQ
Downwind 23 - Please avoid the village
Downwind 23 - avoid the village
Final 23 - Control is to left of runway
Final 23

On the Ground

Jim's 'waiting room'

The old peri track is not suitable for aircraft (and barely suitable for cars some would say!)

Somerset Microlights' CFI Jim Greenshields (living legend ;-] ) will be pleased to welcome visiting microlighters, provided he's got space in his crew room, where the kettle is always on. Just please remember that Jim is trying to earn a living and if you're getting in the way of the paying customers he'll probably prefer you go and have a nose round the hangar.

Avgas and UL91 are available next to the Aviator restaurant.

Mogas (or use of a car to go and get some) by arrangement from Somerset Microlights.

Landing fee for microlights is 5 (correct at April 2012).

Somerset Microlights

The airfield is owned by Air Westward Limited (MD Brendan Proctor, assisted by his daughter Nichola). Until recently parts such as the old control tower and outlying areas were owned by the Ministry of Defence (formerly a training site for the Royal Marines).

History

"Many returned home - Some stayed forever - None shall be forgotten"
(Inscription on memorial at the airfield)

During WW2 Dunkeswell was home to the US Navy's Fleet Air Wing 7, flying PB4Y-1 Liberators on anti-submarine patrols over the Bay of Biscay and Western Approaches.

USN FAW 7 arrived at Dunks in June 1943, some 3 months after the construction of the airfield, and remained until the end of hostilities. United States Naval Air Facility Dunkeswell had the distinction of being the sole airfield operated by the US Navy on British soil during the war. The Wing was principally composed of three squadrons: VB-103, VB-105 and VB-110. In addition, from June 1944 elements of VB-114 were attached to fly night patrols with searchlight-equipped aircraft (although airborne radar was the primary means of detection).


Liberator of VB-103 taking off from runway 23.  The control tower still stands
on the airfield today (although without its rather unusual 'turret')

There was an excellent small museum located in the industrial estate opposite the airfield main gate, run by a team of local enthusiasts. Frustratingy, they seem now (2015)to be homeless: http://dmm103105110.btck.co.uk/

On average, each patrol would last 10 hours, and could involve a radar-assisted landing or diversion to an 'alternate' if conditions were no longer VMC on return. Lt Hugh B Burris was a pilot stationed at Dunkeswell. The following extract is reproduced by kind permission of Franklyn E Dailey Jr. from his book, The Triumph of Instrument Flight (www.daileyint.com/flying/flying2.htm). Burris recalled:

"I completed my flight training at Corpus Christi in multi-engine, flying PBYs. In 1943, I was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. I was then trained and checked out in PB4Y-1 aircraft and assigned to Fleet Air Wing (FAW)-7 with headquarters at Plymouth, England. My squadron was VPB-110 and we operated out of Dunkeswell, England.

The Dunkeswell aerodrome had only a non-directional low frequency homer ['homer': a homing beacon; a ground located transmitter broadcasting a radio frequency signal in all directions] so we had lots of instrument flying and alternate field landings. [The 'alternate' airfield is the one designated for the aircraft to proceed to if the primary airfield is below instrument minimums for landing.] Primitive GCA was established at Dunkeswell in late 1944 or early 1945."

[Author's Notes: GCA stands for Ground Controlled Approach. At a point on a plane's incoming flight path, a GCA operator in a shack on the landing field near the pre-designated "GCA Runway", would "take control" from the control pilot. That operator would then help the pilot keep on the optimum flight path for landing by telling the pilot to go right or left, and to increase or decrease the plane's rate of descent. GCA operators also included redundant information such as you are a "little to the right of the glidepath" [or left] and a "little above the glidepath [high]" [or low], plus occasional affirmations that "you are doing just fine" if warranted.]

"My first GCA was at the end of an operational flight at night with dense fog and poor visibility. My confidence in the GCA operator and the equipment was not good but we were able to land safely after two tries. I will say that GCAs have made a great improvement and the same goes for the pilots."

[Author's Note: Burris' previous sentence needs a time qualifier. By 1945, GCA had proved itself to Navy pilots who were happy to have it in service.]

By the time FAW 7 left Dunkeswell in mid-1945 they had flown 1,646 patrols, sunk 5 submarines, assisted in sinking another 4, and lost 183 aircrew on operations. A further 49 were killed in accidents. Their names are recorded on a plaque in St Nicholas' Church in the village.