Sleap-No-Welshpool-No-Shobdon…

With payday approaching, I’d conservatively booked the weekend following the expected dosh-hitting-account date to fly next. However the night before the previous Saturday I had a text from one of the other TOMS pilots, with the terrible temptation of “empty seat — want to come”?”

It took me about a minute and a half to weaken and reply in the affirmative!

For once the weather was forecast good, and with this in mind we planned an optimistic, direct route over the lovely Brecon Beacons to Sleap, with the afterthought of dropping into Welshpool on the way home.

The morning dawned clear, with a trace of mist on the hills, and for the first time this autumn, a trace of mist on my breath as when when I stepped outside. By the time we reached the airfield the mist had gone — but not far — now hovering overhead in patchy cloud.

Still, there was still blue sky and we were soon airborne — and soon thwarted, at least in any attempt to cross the hills. Meeting the cloudbase at 2000′ with mountain up to 2907′ en route didn’t seem like a plan with any future in it.

A thoughtful foray around Gower followed as we discussed other options before concluding that coffee and lunch were the best plan for now. Gwynn thought the cloud may well lift as the day warmed, and we could try again later.

It was indeed better later, although with still only 3000-3500′ those hills still looked rather close. We’d planned a more detailed alternative this time though, and planned to head east then north and avoid the hills if necessary.

Smog around Port Talbot almost put paid even to that idea, but it cleared beautifully and suprisingly fast once we were past it, and we turned north early. Gwynn flew, (and offered an inside track on where the paragliders were likely to be found) while I played with the PDA and stared around at the glorious view and the frequent glider traffic.

I utterly adore flying over Brecon, the hills just blow me away in a weird, moving, mixture of hazy delight at the view and a healthy dose of apprehension — this is no place to be scud running, or to have the engine turn temperamental!

Fortunately we had clearance from the clouds and a sweet running engine, and apart from a few diversions around the taller peaks things were going well.

The detours had eaten into the day though, and when Shobdon appeared ahead, the temptation to change the plan again and settle for coffee and cake right there, got the better of us. Since we hadn’t phoned for PPR, Gwynn asked very nicely on the radio and we were welcomed in.

The welcome was the more striking for the fact the poor guy at the desk was apparently inundated with noise complaints that day and was alternately trying to talk round offended neighbours and chastise confused pilots!

I gazed at the Google maps photos of the noise abatement routes, trying to remember whether they’d been the same the last time I was here. I came to no conclusion, but attempted to commit them to memory and stuffed a copy in my pocket.

We didn’t stay long, the cloud still on our minds — it had lifted as the day warmed — would it dropped again later as it cooled…? We had our borders route, but the a straight line would be better

Before I left I found my name called in the corridor, by someone whose name I failed to catch in return but who read the blog. TOMSsy being recognised again! Someone was very pleased to have a Tomahawk at some point to snaffle that reg…

It was my turn to fly on the way back so we ambled back out to the aeroplane and started up. Our airfield information was stepped on by an unfortunate student, who caught a bit of a drubbing from the FISO for it, which I thought was a little harsh and not likely to put anyone in the best frame of mind for solo flying.

With the noise abatement very much on my mind (I didn’t want to have the next telling off!), I taxied out to the end of the runway which was being shared quite successfully with a number of gliders, but didn’t have to wait long to be back in the air.

The complete lack of wind was such a contrast to recent weather than I was quite taken aback at how much runway we needed!  I’ve gotten a bit too used to bounding off the ground in a stonking headwind!

I never was quite sure that I spotted the ditch mentioned on the noise abatement but I turned when the distance from the runway seemed like I must have reached it, and the GPS track suggested later that I didn’t do too badly.

I headed south initially, and climbed steadily, hoping for a round 4000′ for that “straight line”. I didn’t quite get it, but still managed a slightly more direct route. Gwynn’s better knowledge of local peaks and ridges came in most useful again, and we made slightly better time, finishing up tracking down the Swansea Valley.

The airfield was still busy, even without the parachutists (whose aircraft had gone tech), and I found myself downwind with two motorgliders ahead of me and another on final.

I slowed and chugged along and widened my circuit but was still catching up so decided to bog off and have a look at Three Cliffs for a few minutes! Managed to rejoin handily in a slightly more comfortable position, for a reasonable landing.

Am I sorry I weakened and splurged on the day — nope!

Rest of the Photos on Flickr

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