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An Encounter with Jets

I had smelled the jet fuel in their wake as they roared past the front of my trike, with only a few hundred feet to spare. As I saw them turn to join for a downwind approach below me, beads of sweat dotted my forehead.

The day had been one of my most memorable flying days so far...

The sun had been high and the temperature soaring into the early 20's. I planned to visit Northrepps airfield in Cromer, Norfolk, in the East of England.

A 10-15 Knot Westerly wind was forecast and this would make for a nice tailwind on the trip over. With a cunning plan, and a bit of luck, the headwind would then drop off as forecast later in the day, and push me back home again.

It was lunchtime and the sky was at the peak of activity. Cumulus clouds towered high into the sky with their sharply defined edges warning me of the vertical air currents just below them.

An inviting clear and azure coloured sky lay to the East, and the outbound trip looked like it was going to be a rollercoaster ride until I reached it.

I taxied down to the end of our North-Westerly facing grass strip and admired the view as I hit full power. The ground dropped away majestically below me.

I scanned the sky eagerly, looking for the gliders that would most definitely be out in force. I had seen many streaking across the sky whilst rigging, so I was going to be extra cautious - who knows - they may even be on their debut cross-country..

As wound off the trimmer and speeded up to 60MPH, I opened up the throttle and the 912 engine had time to stretch its legs. It prefers to run at a good oil temperature of 90oC+, and, cruising along at 60MPH; 4,100RPM is ideal. Adding on the tailwind component too, I had a healthy groundspeed of 76MPH with only 1.5 hours to my destination.

Not bad for a 95 mile direct flight to the coast… especially when the journey by car takes at least 4 hours along horrendous back roads. It just goes to show that you can really go places in a Microlight!

My planned track took me past two large busy airfields near Peterborough; Conington and Sibson (a skydive centre), and then directly overhead RAF Marham with a final dog-leg past RAF Coltishall.

As I entered the Fens the ground flattened out and it became easy to see why the area is so renowned for water logging and called the 'Fens'. Most of it lies at sea level. With airstrip names such as 'Marshland', it's a dead giveaway.

The boundary of the RAF Marham MATZ fast approached, and I found myself alongside Downham Market. I chewed over my options.

Should I either request a transit through their overhead at 3,000ft, or just fly around the zone? After all, maybe they weren't even active ?

I opted to call them after listening to an unsure light aircraft call up and be told that the Marham QFE was 1023. I was convinced I could do better.

I slotted in-between transmissions and the ball was now in my court!

"G-IZ Marham, pass your message"

"G-IZ is a Microlight out of Northampton en-route to Cromer, 3,000ft on 1027, currently abeam Downham Market Heading 064 degrees, request transit through your overhead at 3,000ft".

"G-IZ, Are you transponder equipped?"

"Negative, G-IZ"

"G-IZ, are you able to accept a confirming turn to the right, heading 160 degrees?"

"Roger, G-IZ"

"Then, G-IZ turn right heading 160 degrees"

"G-IZ Turning 160 degrees"

"G-IZ heading 160 degrees"

"Thankyou G-IZ, now resume heading 064 degrees, maintaining 3000ft"

"Heading 064 degrees and maintaining 3000ft,

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