I hadn’t really planned to fly this weekend. The aircraft is getting close to maintenance time again and I had hoped to sally off next Sunday to a UKGA “do”, and anyway the weather forecast was rubbish.
In point of fact even the METARs for Cardiff were rubbish Sunday morning, but the sun was shining and no one else had the aircraft booked and somehow I found myself looking at the weather, and the NOTAMs and slowly the desire to go and fly crept up on me.
I still had some doubts about the weather. Cardiff was still giving low cloud and rotten vis, but all I could see out of the window was blue skies. I eventually talked myself into it via a convoluted self-deluding logic that had me decided to pedal the shiny new pushbike out there and collect the new Pooley’s I’d bought. That way (I told myself!) I was still doing something useful if the weather did suddenly decide to follow the forecast and scupper my flying.
I’d been meaning for a while to try out the pushbike option, it’s cycle paths almost all the way, bar one enormous and exhausting hill (I got off and pushed!), but there was something charmingly childish about cycling to the airport (freewheeling down the massive Killay hill was more hair-raising than anything in the air!) and the weather appeared to be holding.
The airfield was quiet given the weather. Perhaps most people had believed the forecast, but I was warmed beyond measure to see one of the Vigilants up and flying. There was an awful accident earlier in the week, two air cadets and instructors from St Athan killed in a mid-air and after such a tragedy it was unbelievably good to see young people on the airfield, still smiling, still flying. In a world where knee-jerk reaction to accidents are so commonplace it was amazing to see the VGS operating more or less normally. Since every single conversation on the field eventually got around to the accident, it must have taken great courage from those cadets to be there at all. Frankly I wish I could bottle some of their remarkable spirit.
What an incredible organisation.
Perhaps to people who don’t fly it would be surprising that I was so keen, almost desperately so all of a sudden, to go and fly, just days after an accident so close to home. Maybe it was some subconscious sense of defiance that drove me, but the sky was blue, and TOMS started willingly at the first few turns of the prop and the windsock was the limpest I’d seen in ages. It seemed the silliest thing in the world to ask, “Why fly?” when everything about the day asked why on Earth you wouldn’t want to.
So… rolling down the runway once again, wearing the usual silly grin as the wheels eventually left the ground.
I say eventually because I’d almost forgotten how much of a difference to the roll that limp windsock makes — it’s been decidedly windier the past few times I’ve flown!
Since the pushbike option had involved a certain amount of experimentation (I’m still wobbly!) it was a little late in the day for straying too far. Also, the day’s NOTAMs had caused a moment’s pause since the danger area around Pembrey was additionally active for an hour at lunchtime for some reason.
Perhaps they were clearing the practise ordnance, I gather they do that at weekends sometimes. In any case it caused a moment’s pause and interruption to the mental litany of, “The danger area is never open at the weekends… never open at the… Hot damn, it’s open this weekend!”
I only boggled briefly, and in the end decided to wander around Gower then up north a-ways to see if there was any snow left on the higher hills.
Somehow however many times I fly around Gower there’s always something new. Today the cliffs and caves seemed particularly sharp and clear, the causeway to the Worm was open and almost a dozen paragliders were soaring off Rhossili Down.
I dawdled at 1200′, a favourite sight seeing height, and the accident impinged rarely on my thoughts, now that I was airborne again. I perhaps paused before deciding not to descend further to oggle the view — afraid that the walkers on the clifftops would also remember and be afraid for this little aircraft which was really only playing at diving and turning about.
I was perhaps more aware of lookout than normal. Something that I’d ceased to consciously think as much on as I used to and I made a point of schooling myself to a “proper” scan pattern.
Whether I saw more aircraft than normal I don’t know. I certainly thought about it more. I tried harder than normal to spot the aircraft announcing themselves to air-ground, made a point of not assuming the one I saw was the one I thought it was, made sure not to stare at the ones I’d spotted instead of looking for others. All those things we’re taught to do and which can so easily slip into habit or slip away.
In the quieter skies north of the city I flew over reservoirs and hills, and I did find the little traces of snow still on the heights above Ammanford.
I’d been up an hour and was feeling quite content with my lot once again. I circled round and headed back down along the Loughor for rejoin. Two in the circuit and I slotted in downwind.
Landing, I floated on a bit so while the touchdown was gentle enough it wasn’t entirely my most dignified and I sailed straight past my normal exit!
I suppose there always has to be something that doesn’t go right!
I watched the fire engine getting a soap scrub while I waited for fuel then wandered back to the club feeling quietly satisfied with the day.