Isle of Man - September 2001


  In September 2001, I had the opportunity to fly with the Manx Flyers Aero Club, who are based at Ronaldsway airport, in the Isle of Man. For those of you who don't know, the Isle of Man is an island that's 30 miles long by about 15 wide in the Irish sea, between England and Ireland. It's a pretty unique place - it's not part of the UK, but is a British territory. It has its own government, three railways and a mountain. It's where the Manx Cat is from (those cats who genetically don't have tails). As any avid motorcyclist knows, it's the home to the Manx TT, which is THE motorcycle race of the year.

  My Dad lives in Castletown, in the south of the island, not far from Ronaldsway. Whilst I was back over from Texas, I thought it'd be great to be able to take him flying. The Isle of Man follows the UK regs for aviation (and the aircraft are G-registered - see my flying in the UK section for what a US-certificated private pilot will experience. In summary, a private pilot with a foreign certificate can fly day VFR in a G-registered plane with absolutely no paperwork to be filled out). Ronaldsway Airport is reasonably sized; probably about the same size and traffic level as an airport in the United States with class C airspace. The controllers there are very GA friendly - I think three of them are members of Manx Flyers.

  Manx Flyers have a couple of Cessna 172s (as well as a helicopter, and probably by now, a twin). You can circumnavigate the Isle of Man in about 40 minutes of flight time, and as the photos below will show, it's a beautiful and unique place to fly.

  My checkout at Manx Flyers consisted of three touch and goes, and a quick tour of the immediate area of Ronaldsway. The airport is big with three long paved runways. The radio work is not much different to flying out of a field with class C airspace in the United States, and my checkout dealt with the differences. It took about ten minutes to get used to it. The biggest difference was that there is no clearance delivery or ground control frequency - for clearance delivery, you "book out" by calling ATC on the phone from the clubhouse, giving very similar details as you would when calling clearance delivery. You then fire up and call the tower when you're ready to taxi, and they'll give you the usual instructions. A couple of phrases are different - you'll hear "line up" instead of "position and hold", and you'll hear "pass your message" instead of "go ahead". Once you're off, you'll be handed off to departure. If you tour the island, there are reporting points you can use when you call approach to come back in.

  I flew a C172H with the tail number G-CCCC (that's a lot of Charlies), which fortunately gets shortened to Golf Charlie Charlie once you've made initial contact! My Dad took photographs as we flew. After our flight, we retired to the clubhouse which is right by the sea, and which has a pub. You can sit outside in the autumn sunshine, pint in hand, and watch the BAe-146s come and go! Talk about being in heaven!

Manx Flyers have a website - go to and take a look around. They have photographs of the planes, the airport and the clubhouse there. All their contact details are available should you wish to fly with them.
If you are into Flight Simulator, there is some good Isle of Man scenery at Magrathea (along with other British Isles scenery).


Click on the thumbnails for a standalone fullsize image. The photos are in clockwise order around the island.

Castletown - this is where my Dad lives. It's a small town on the south of the island with a harbour and Castle Rushen (which is on the Manx 5 pound note). It's the Island's historic capital (the modern capital is Douglas). My Dad lives on Malew Street, just down the road from Castle Rushen. Malew St. is on the left of the tennis courts that are in the photo.
Port St. Mary is the small town in the centre of the photo, on the south coast of the island. Furthest away is the Calf of Man, an unpopulated (by humans!) island just off the south west of the Isle of Man. Port Erin is on the right hand side of the photo.
Port Erin is the town in the photo. The land furthest away in this photograph is the Calf of Man. You can drive down to the Calf of Man, and watch the seals congregate.
Cliffs near Port Erin. You can take a short hike up here when you're on the ground - the cliffs are around 800 feet tall. The view is quite spectacular and the photograph just doesn't do it justice.
Just south of Peel. It's a clear day and you can see right across the island.
Peel - in the foreground is the ruins of Peel Castle. The power station is the building with the stack on the right side of the photograph.
The hilly landscape gives way to plains on the northern end of the island. There are also two airfields on the northern plains - Andreas, which is used by the glider club, and Jurby which is used by microlights (and motorcycle racers!) The photo is of the Point of Ayre, the northern tip of the island.
On the east coast, about 4 miles north east of Laxey, looking northwards. In the middle distance is Ramsey, one of the larger towns. The Point of Ayre is in the upper right of the photo. At this point, I would have just called for clearance to get back into Ronaldsway Approach's airspace.
Douglas - the modern Manx capital, and the island's largest town. The small structure in the harbour is the 'refuge' - a small castle-like building. It was once mistaken for the conning tower of a U-boat one night during World War II. This is the island's main port, and where you'll arrive by ship.
After flying, at some stage of the proceedings we'd have ended up here at the Glue Pot - my Dad's local pub! (If you look carefully, you can see the Glue Pot in the aerial photo of Castletown). The car coming down the road is my Dad's little Lomax (which is a LOT of fun to drive around the TT course).
My Dad's Lomax close-up. I told you it was a lot of fun :-) It may well have been built for the Isle of Man.

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