Long Marston Airfield

Flying with my father

MotorGlide member Stan Shires achieves a flying milestone.

The other week I accomplished the real main reason for me learning to fly. What was it? My First Solo? No, though that was a very satisfying first. Was it was the Cross-Country or General Skills Test? No: they were mere gateways to get me to this meaningful event.

You see, about thirty-seven years ago when I was a 6-year old boy, I started to go flying with my dad. We lived on the London/Essex border and he was flying out of Stapleford Abbots in Essex. My dad was in various groups, including a Tiger Moth. However, his flying got serious when he bought his own plane: a Stampe SV4C (G-AZTR) – the French equivalent of a Tiger Moth. He is an accomplished pilot and learned to do aerobatic and even competed. One of my lasting regrets is that we never did aeros as I was too young and too scared.

After a few years he sold the Stampe and bought a Beechcraft Bonanza (G-BGSW). This was a beautiful plane – a fast 4-seat tourer with retractable undercarriage and variable prop. We toured as far as Spain, Portugal, Finland via Denmark and Sweden and regularly went to France.

However there came a point when my parents moved abroad and his licence lapsed. Suddenly 20 years had passed. Then my dad hit 70 years old. It was then he was revalidated and started flying again. He now flies every week in a PA28 out of Wellesbourne.

So that is the background to the real main reason for me learning to fly. I wanted to be like my dad. So the other day we met at Long Marston and got Wilhelm ready. I went through the Daily Inspection and followed all my checks. Finally we lined up, with the GoPro recording all of this, and then I opened the throttle.

stan and dad

For the first time I was in the left hand seat. We flew around for about an hour and then returned to Long Marston. After about an hour I made a fine approach and made a very good landing (for me at least). As we taxied back I don’t know which one of us was more proud. I could see the genuine pride in his face and I was bursting with pride that I was a slightly average version of him. He complimented me during a debrief on a very safe and smooth flight. He even complimented the landing saying it was better than the guy he normally flies with in the PA28.

Afterwards we went for a pint and a Cuban cigar. I don’t know who was more proud, but for the first time I was in the left-hand seat and I did a good job.

Stan’s Qualifying Cross Country Flight

One of the big flying tests you do towards the end of your NPPL training is your Qualifying Cross Country flight, a 100km solo that includes landing away at two other airfields. One of our members, Stan Shires, completed his on Bank Holiday Monday and today he shares his experiences of this milestone in his flying career.

Stan and Wilhelm air-to-air

Last Sunday I took my big penultimate step in my quest to gain my flying license. It was time for my Cross Country test. I had planned it all out in my head and had chosen the first leg to be from MotorGlide’s new base at Long Marston to Enstone. I chose Enstone as it has a lovely long runway, I did my first solo there and knew the airfield and circuit well as I had my first few lessons there. The second leg was going to be from Enstone to Shobdon. Its runway was aligned with Enstone so if the wind was right I was all sorted. I had not landed there myself but I had flown in with my dad.

I awoke early thinking about the flight and started working on my plog, checking the weather and for NOTAMs. All was going well until Lee sent me a text saying the wind was in the wrong direction so it was time to through my plans out and pick two new airfields. I could feel my tension rising as I started from scratch again and tried to get my head around visiting two new airfields.

This was going to be a day of firsts:

  • Flying away from Home for the first time alone
  • Making a PPR call
  • Speaking to London info
  • Landing at new airfields I had never been to before

With advice from Lee I chose Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton for the first leg. Then it was a long leg, into wind, down to Kemble. Then back home. I planned the route again and got myself all set. Wilhelm was full to the brim and we were ready to go. However before I could start up I had to make my PPR call to Halfpenny Green to tell them I was on my way. Isn’t it funny how making a phone call about something new requires a bit of thought. I rang them up, passed my details and answered their questions. I made a point of telling everyone that I was a student pilot, which seems to make people more understanding. Even just knowing the runway in use and the direction of the circuit calmed my nerves a bit as I made a note.

The flight to Halfpenny Green passed without note. I changed frequency and started listening to the traffic, which confirmed the info I had from my PPR call was still valid.  After a while I made my call, told them I was a student, used the radio script in Wilhelm in an attempt to sound professional. Standard overhead join, call downwind, call final and I was down. The tower then advised me on where to taxi and I parked up.


As I walked to the public area part of me was thinking,  “Blimey I am a pilot!” Halfpenny Green is an old World War 2 airfield. Maybe I should visit as many as I can as a nice little personal goal with my flying? Anyway in the tower I gave the two guys there my form to sign and paid my landing fee. While I was there the Air Ambulance flew past and landed, which added to the occasion.


Time was pressing and I had a long leg down to Kemble and it was all into the wind. I phoned Kemble and the lady who took my details was very encouraging to this student pilot but told me not to hang about as they closed at 5.

After a while in the air I thanked Halfpenny Green and changed frequency to London info. Like the first PPR call speaking to London info got my heart racing a tad. I listened for a few minutes before finally calling them up. I thought I did OK but they then asked me for my current location. Oops I forgot to say I was over Worcester. They were fine and very unthreatening to the student pilot. I needn’t have worried.  Squawk was set. As I listened to the other pilots asking for basic service I noticed with some reassurance that I was not the only one who left an item or two out of my information.

After an hour into wind I spotted Kemble and all was quiet. I joined downwind and made all my calls. The runway is massive, which made the landing easy to sort out but meant a long taxi. Up in the tower I met the lady who had been so nice on the PPR call. I would have liked to have enjoyed the stop more but she pointed out it was 16:47 and they close at 17:00.

Wilhelm Kemble

After a quick toilet stop to make sure I was comfortable I was quickly back on the radio and ready to taxi. By the time of my power checks Kemble came on the radio, passed their final info and signed off. So there I was all alone with my own airfield. Time to get going and head back to Long Marston.


Back at Long Marston I must have been more tired than I thought with all the concentration of take-offs, landings and radio work. I made a pig’s ear of my first approach and went around for another go. This time I was on the numbers and taxied back towards the clubhouse. Rachel & Lee were waiting for me and Rachel even took some pictures so I have some nice shots of me to go with the ones I took with my iPhone.



So my day of firsts went well and I had passed my Cross Country without incident. 2.1 hours of solo time to go in my logbook plus two new airfields too. Now I just need a couple more hours solo then it is time for my General Skills Test with Matt Lane. So with a bit of luck and some decent weather I will have my NPPL-SLMG very soon.