If last year was my, “Year of attempting to get to France and failing,” then this is lining up to be my year of, “Trying to get to Caernarfon and failing”.
For once I arrived at the airport to blue skies and a vaguely promising forecast in hand — only to find a phone call to Caernarfon saddling me with, “Thundery showers and a 1000′ cloud base!”
Oh well. It was still a sunny day here anyway. Swansea seemed to be in its own little microclimate but climbing away I looked out at the clouds building inland.
Since I was going nowhere in particular I decided to practise a bit of “rough guess” nav and play the game of, “How accurately can I fly?” I picked a destination, guessed a heading, drift and distance and struck out trying to keep as close as possible to my chosen heading and my chosen cruise climb speed of 80 knots.
Deciding to level out at 2500, I missed it by a hundred foot, and since I was playing the accuracy game, decided to go for 3000′ instead where my levelling off was a bit neater!
My first couple of waypoints (chosen for scenic value or lack of cloud in their general direction) turned up more or less where I expected them, before I tired of that game and decided to play another. This one known as, “So how high does this cloud go then?”
Spiraling lazily upwards, I watched the coast dwindle away below me and the view broaden to encompass more and more miles of green fields, little villages and the frequent reservoirs and wind farms.
At 6000′ feet the cloud topped out and I gave it another 1000′ more before levelling and nipping over the top to look down at the gaps. From up here it seemed somehow far more broken than it looked from underneath.
It appears to be something of an open question how much of the ground, “In sight of the surface,” requires, so I didn’t venture too far from the still clear coastline!
Back over clear air I thought I may as well do some general handling practice, and so I launched into slow flight, and fast-as-I-could flight, and stalls and steep turns. (All of which were atrocious on the first attempt but improved enough to satisfy me).
I attempted to work out how long it would take to get down from 7000′ (even with the height I lost stuffing up stalls and steep stuff…) and decided that since I was headed down anyway I may as well get in some practise on gliding turns, and sideslips.
Back at a more civilised 3000′, and in spite of my regular attempts to to warm the engine, all that stalling and sideslipping and gliding up in the chilly heights meant that the oil was looking a shade cool. Since I wasn’t ready to head home yet, I settled down to a nice steady cruise and ambled along the river valley admiring the scenery.
I wasn’t paying much attention to navigation, since all that was required to find my home was to fly south until the sea appeared. This gave me a chance to play one more game with myself — the one that runs, “So which little village on the chart is this one then?”
Llangadog as it turned out, and with that I headed home.
Swansea had changed runways in m absence and it was a 30 degree crosswind at 15knots, just to make sure I was paying attention to the landing.
Good fun, and as keep telling myself, there’s all the summer to come to get to new airfields.