More annuals than the Beano…

…In the words of my mum when I confessed that the aeroplane was once again with the engineer!

In fact the annual wasn’t due for another month, but the 50 hour was and it seemed silly (and expensive!) to be back and forth twice in a month (or more likely three weeks by the time we’d taken and retrieved the aircraft)

Once again I, (uncomplaining!) had the ferry flight down to Dunkeswell, but in stark contrast to the last engineer-run, the weather was distinctly murky. In spite of blue skies overhead, the horizon was an indistinct smear, and as I approached the airfield on the bus I was dismayed to see Cefn Bryn soft-edged in the haze.

I dawdled over coffee to see if it would clear and conferred with Derek from Cambrian who also thought it looked rubbish. It soon became clear that this was no morning mist but a fully fledged inversion layer and unlikely to shift anytime soon.

“Oh well, worse than can happen is I have to turn back!” I finally decided, trying to banish the endless inconvenience that would cause, from my decision making.

Before I left Derek offered the loan of an PLB for the Bristol Channel water crossing. I’d already decided on a less direct route via Porthcawl and Lynton, to minimise the time over water but it seemed silly to reject a freely offered extra bit of security, so I accepted and, thoughtful, headed out to untie TOMS.

5K vis said Dunkeswell, and I grimaced. Legally VMC, as was the cloudless, if milky, sky, but still…

I was not reassured further as I taxyed out over the brim of he hill to the end of 10, and accelerated into the air. I climbed at first, hoping to get above the inversion, but my cowards-route short crossing called for me to be under Cardiff’s airspace so, resigned myself to a flight of squinting into the muck, I descended again and crept along the coast at 2000′ before turning south.

This was a familiar route turned strange by the vis, and I’d lost sight of the shore in minutes. The sky was still blue overhead, and there were ship wakes in the water below, but the horizon was nowhere to be seen and I found myself stealing regular peaks at the AI, and thinking again about the IMC rating.

The PDA GPS came in useful as a comfort blanket, assuring me that I was in fact progressing towards the far shore, and stopping my imagination from running away with me!

My happiness at finally seeing the little headland just east of Lynton was somewhat tempered by finding it adorned with cloud at ground level! Again I found myself skirting the coast. Happily it seemed to be only Exmoor so afflicted and once past Minehead I was able to resume my southerly track in improving conditions and was soon passing the comfortingly familiar sight of Clatworthy reservoir.

The GPS had a bit of a wobble here and needed the fine old technique of “turn it off and on again” to bring it back to life, but by this point it was academic anyway, and I was in no doubt of my position.

Dunkeswell was its usual busy self and I landed, happy again and met Andy, also from the TOMS group and my lift home, who’d been waiting patiently (I assume!) for my belated arrival.

We stayed for the always excellent carvery and watched the activity on the field before making a move.

Now all that remains is to see how long this annual takes. I wonder if I should run a book on it…

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