Articles > Watchford Farm  (10 September 2006, PFA Devon Strut Rally)

By Phil Parmiter

I was invited by the Devon Strut (www.devonstrut.co.uk) to attend their PFA Rally at Watchford Farm to fly some models for them to see. After talking to their PR guy Steve Robson and to Brian Annings the field owner, we had permission to fly in to Watchford with microlights too. In fact the invite was extended to all microlights within the area.

Both Colin Whitford and myself had passengers for the trip. Colin took his son, because they had decided to fly on to Eaglescott for a gliding lesson. I had one of the model pilots, Don Billingham, as my passenger. The van was loaded with the model planes and we all departed around 9:20 after ringing Brian Annings to recheck we had permission to land and for a local weather report. Colin agreed not to fly direct to Watchford but to travel along the cliffs to Lyme Regis so we could show my passenger the coast. This meant Don was also able to take some excellent air-to-air shots of Col's new Skyranger, G-MARO, from the Rans, G-MWUL.

Approaching Watchford, I called Colin that I would be landing first and he hung back as I cocked up the approach (too high)! I decided not to persevere with the wrong altitude and carry on with the landing, but to go around rather then risk a bent plane. Colin made his usual superb landing and my second attempt turned out fine as well.

The lads at Watchford had worked hard on the field and the surface was fantastic, with the whole field useable to land take off or taxi on.

Numerous 'batsmen' where in evidence waving their arms to attract the attention of taxiing pilots, marshalling the plane in neat rows for the wandering viewing public to see.

We arrived around 9:50 and around 15 planes were already line up in rows.

The models were got flight ready ,and we settled down for and enjoyable day watching some fine planes landing - some more than once, as they fought to control a bounce or two! (Hmm, glad I'm not the only one to cock it up occasionally). Pete Bishop and Bev Thresher of DSMC arrived around lunchtime; after a chat and a good look around they headed off to Dunkeswell to play with their X-Air.

Colin popped off to Eaglescott at 11:00 to see it he could get his glider flight in and returned around 4:00, not having achieved his goal but he said he had an enjoyable flight never the less. I think personally he popped over for a bit of plane spotting just to fill up his notebook.

After I had finished flying the models for the day, I asked one of the model helpers if he fancied a quick flight in G-MWUL over to Dunkeswell and back. We jumped in the plane and I asked Pete if he had any flight experience. He told me he was a retired navy pilot flying Hunters and Sea Vixens. (Woops, I thought I'd better get this right!) I asked him if he wanted to do the take off, but he decided to leave it to my greater experience on type.

We took off and climbed to 1,000 ft where I handed controls over to him. As you can imagine he took to it like a duck to water. We passed Smeatharpe and I called up Dunkeswell for airfield information. There was no answer but, noticing the Christen Eagle performing aerobatics to our south about a mile or so away, I called “Dunkeswell Traffic” just to let him know we were around. We carried on to Dunkeswell, landed, backtracked and took off again winging our way back to Watchford Farm. With Pete doing the flying and me doing the landing, take off and navigation.

After packing up the models and saying our goodbyes, Don and me in G-MWUL with Colin and his son in G-MARO behind headed our way back to Pymore . We flew back at 3,000 ft in superb weather - slightly hazy but perfectly smooth. The usual packing away ended with a 2-hour chat with Pete (who had travelled back in the van) and Don, about Pete's experiences in the Navy. A great way to end the day.


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