Sunday’s weather was again doing the sun-and-showers thing which has been the best this summer’s managed, this time complete with scattered low cloud below the higher overcast. On top of this the aeroplane is getting short of hours before the 50-hour check, and the combination of the two factors meant any distant destinations were probably a poor idea. On reflection though, I recalled it had been an unusually long time since I’d popped into Haverfordwest so I put “the family” on notice and decided to drop by.
I dawdled in the morning, hoping for the cloudbase to lift a bit more, until “breakfast” became “lunch” and the plan changed from the airfield cafe to a Sunday dinner at “Vincent Davies” a “gift shop cum department store cum garden centre cum restaurant” down the road from the airfield.
I arrived at the airfield to find a Strikemaster (sort of a souped up Jet Provost) dominating the apron.
Less attractive, was the strange green slime which seemed to have evolved out of a mossy puddle down at the end where our decidedly less imposing little tommyhawk was patiently waiting. Since stepping on it nearly resulted in my going arse over tip before even making it to the aircraft, I resolved that my taxying would today be the very height of caution!
I did successfully negotiate both the slithery mess on the apron, and weaving my way around the jet and associated fuel bowser which had come to refuel it and joined the small queue forming at the hold. While still waiting, the parachute aeroplane arrived behind me. We backtracked together and rather than both try to follow each other round at the end I suggested that he go off first whilst I tucked myself into the starter length. This worked with a minimum of fuss and we were both soon airborne.
He was climbing out in the same direction as me initially and I lowered the nose frequently to keep him in sight, in between scanning around for the several other aeroplanes I’d also heard going in the same direction.
I changed frequency to Pembrey as Whitford point disused lighthouse slid by below, but hearing a squally static from the aeroplane ahead trying to raise them, I held off calling until I was almost abeam the field. One of the nice things about Pembrey is that the proximity of the beach gives a good clear indicator of the extent of the ATZ and it’s easy to keep clear, even though I was dawdling along at 1500′.
They were busier than I’ve heard them in a while, which is nice since they’re still unlicensed. I’m glad that’s not deterring the non-training visits. Having learned there, I’ve got a soft spot for Pembrey and it’s somewhere else I must pop in again soon.
I frequently follow the coast as far as Saundersfoot before turning inland and not long after I crossed the shoreline (with accompanying turbulence), I spotted what I initially took to be another aircraft approaching from ahead and right. I turned away to give him space and realised all at once that it was in fact no aircraft but a large buzzard. He swept by below and to my right, close enough to see the reddish brown and cream banding on the broad wings. I couldn’t resist turning to keep him in sight for a few more seconds, as he flew on, disdaining to even acknowledge this loud, clattery, metal bird invading his territory!
Eventually I brought myself back to thoughts of my own dinner, left the buzzard to look for his and turned back to pick up my track.
Haverfordwest is a familiar enough destination now that I don’t really “navigate” there, so much as aim in that general direction, and pick up some landmarks when I’m closer. There’s plenty to choose from, and the ones that normally make me switch mental gears to “arrival mode” are Templeton disused airfield, and closer in, the tall rides and rollercoasters of Oakwood Park.
Today the response on the radio was initially conspicuous by its absence, then decidedly non-committal on the subject of wind and QFE. I shrugged. There was a windsock and while the elevation was printed on the chart, I didn’t bother to work out the difference, preferring to look out of the window and fly a “looks about right” approach.
There was a bit of a gusty crosswind, the annual County Show had, as usual, taken over one of the runways and it wasn’t yet reopened. I wasn’t too displeased with the landing in the conditions. I climbed out to find my mum, and an aunt waving wildly from the outdoor seating, and waved back before quickly dealing with the landing fee.
Dinner was excellent, and defeated even me, and we wandered the garden centre bit of the store for a while, speculating on what fish my mum should get for her fishtank – a unique ecosystem at the moment where even the angel fish thinks it’s a bottom feeder and all the fish just slope about at the bottom!
I was in no particular hurry and we had another leisurely coffee back at the airfield before I gathered myself to depart. It’s such a relief to have the starter working properly again and TOMS happily strummed into life.
Traffic had been steady while we’d been watching and chatting, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself at the front of the queue for takeoff this time. I climbed out and on impulse wandered south along the estuary before turning for home. It was a nice flying day in spite of the cloud and it was good to be up and about.
I flew a nice low–ish sightseeing height along the beaches, only climbing in a fun, all out climbing turn to get well clear of Pembrey when I heard someone getting ready to take off as I approached.
Since I was at a now good height for it, and since I’d intended to practise PFLs ever since I bi-annual check flight I popped on the carb heat and closed the throttle over Whitford point. The sandbanks are handy substitute for fields, and have less risk of annoying or alarming people on the ground. I’d have missed the first one I aimed for, but probably survived the second.
Picking a field is half the battle though I wanted to convince myself I could do that too, so ambled over Gower looking for a good spot. I ended up in broadly the same spot as I used last time and this went better than my sandbank attempts and I was pretty much certain I’d have landed in my chosen field.
On the way back to the airfield I spied a rather better selection of fields in a slightly more remote spot and decided to remember that for another time.
Back at the airfield, and another crosswind landing. Swansea does have two open runways, but the parachutists were landing on the other one and for some reason hadn’t swapped as they normally do so the aircraft can use the more into wind one. All good fun!
Another careful taxy across The Mystery Slime, and I was done for the day. (Home via the pub with the flying club!)
I hope to goodness this fifty hour check goes smoothly. It doesn’t seem like we’ve had any time at all with the aeroplane between the starter motor problems and the last check!