After scraping the rust off, I was anxious to go somewhere. Where was not important. Anywhere would do to convince myself I could still navigate as well as still land. I thought of Shobdon, primarily because the food tends to be good there, but the cloud base did not look conducive to getting over the hills between here and there.
I’d had Aberporth (otherwise known as the rather generic “West Wales”) recommended to me by several people. It was reasonably close, had no unavoidable high ground en route. The lack of controlled airspace and the unmissable navigation feature of the coast meant that the Presellis could be easily dodged. I was also assured that the welcome, in spite of the lack of amenities, was excellent.
I phoned up for PPR and received a very friendly response from the a/g chap who recognised TOMS, and who gave me a very detailed weather brief, including the fact that the wind was some 30 degrees off the runway at 15 knots. I was undeterred and in a perverse way positively pleased. I have been feeling rather spoiled at Swansea with its variety of runways and directions, having ‘grown up’, at Pembrey where winter crosswinds are a regular feature.
I shivered my way through the walkaround, discovering once again that nothing freezes fingers numb faster than dribbled avgas while checking the fuel drains. I rubbed my hands together vigorously to try and restore some feelings before I fumbled for the switches and knobs of the internal checks.
I taxied over to the hold to wait for a gap between a Ralleye and the two air cadet motorgliders in which to squeeze in my take off. I had planned more or less a straight line to Cardigan, planning to turn north there towards the airport, as it can be tricky to spot.
In fact I did have to skirt further north than my planned track, to avoid the clouds sticking themselves to the Preselli hills, and ended up approaching the airfield from the north west.
I joined on a left base for 26 and was advised again about the crosswind and also some possible wind sheer from some terrain on very short final. It was indeed somewhat on the bumpy side, and I decided to stick at the first stage of flap and take an extra 5 knots ‘insurance’. I was very glad of it when, on extremely short final, I suddenly found myself knocked sideway with a good 30 degrees of unasked for bank. I thought for a split second about going around, but by the time I finished the thought, I was lined up again and all was calm, so I went ahead and landed.
Wing down, steady on the rudder, one wheel… Hmm this feels familiar and I rolled out wearing a big grin. Gusts aside, that was the most satisfying landing in some time.
My grin broadened further the next r/t message — “Welcome to West Wales, vacate next right and I’ll get the kettle on.”
As promised the hospitality in the tower was faultless, coffee and choccie biccies, and more coffee, and welshcakes and a bit of a natter, about the airport and the local area. I must come back when it’s a warmer day and take a stroll down into the village and the beach.
Eventually it was time to make a move, and I headed back to Swansea where my grin was made near ear-splitting by a landing I will be smug about for some weeks (or until the next time I bounce horribly or land with a thump anyway!).
I’d clocked up not much more than an hour on the tach, but had filled the better half of the day and come away happy and contented and feeling like I’d really been for a trip. Nice nice. Lovely example of what GA can be like.