Once again we were faced with trying to get TOMS home from the engineer. With everyone busy, few opportunities presented themselves until a rather unsettled Saturday afternoon.
This meant a belt down to Devon from Cardiff, followed by a flight home, dodging the showers before confronting a gusty crosswind landing back at Swansea.
I surveyed the met reports very solemnly indeed. Ending up at Dunkeswell after a 2 hour or more drive only to find it was too bad to come home would be no fun at all.
The visibility was excellent and the showers looked likely to be easy to dodge. I ticked that point off and stared at the wind. 60 degrees off the closest runway heading at Swansea, at 20knots.
Matters were simpler at Dunkeswell where it was a mere 20 degrees off one of their shorter runways.
I did question whether it was hubris developing but I felt, if not happy, at least content, with that. It had been a flustery, windy winter and I was in more current crosswind practice than I’d been since relocating from Pembrey with it’s single runway.
It was close to the windest weather I’d flown in but not quite there and I decided to go.
Of course nothing with aeroplanes if ever simple, and after the troll down by car, we arrived to find the carb heat cable fixed, but the park brake broken. A certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued before some help from one of the airfield staff got us out of the tight parking space behind at hangar, refueled and ready to go again.
A phone call to Swansea to double check the weather resulted in a bizarrely protracted conversation with one of our air-ground staff who seemed intent on dissuading me from making the flight.
Not sure whether it was misplaced concern for my wellbeing or misplaced dreams of authority, though I’d like to be generaous and say the former.
In either case, I was already fully aware of the headwind en-route and the crosswind and the gusts I could expect on arrival, and could have done without the repeated pointed references to same.
It wasn’t as though I hadn’t already run it through my decision making three times already. Once before leaving home, again on arrival at Dunkeswell and again two minutes ago as I prepared the aeroplane.
In any case if push really came to shove, there was hours of daylight and both Haverfordwest and Cardiff had more into wind runways if I arrived at Swansea and decided I didn’t like it after all.
Feeling irritated at having to justify myself, and not wanting to take my annoyance into the air where it would be a distraction, I refocussed on my checks and taxyed out to the far end of the airfield.
A few people were up and flying including some very intrepid parachutists — I think that’s about where Id draw the line in this wind!
TOMS leapt into the air quickly, and I settled down for what would probably be a slightly longer trip than usual in the northerly wind.
The visibility was even more outstanding from the air. Almost disorientingly so — you saw landmarks before you expected to see them and then took ages to reach them!
I had to dodge fewer showers than I expected, though I saw plenty of them in the near distance, and one scattered a stunning rainbow around my right wing.
Hubris again maybe, but this was such a familiar route I barely looked at chart, or GPS except for interest to see how well the ground speed matched my guess. About 20 knots less than the airspeed, and I decided to stick at 2000′ instead of go higher where it would be stronger still.
I didn’t bother with Cardiff’s “basic service” today and switched Straight to Swansea from Dunkeswell, enjoying the peace and quiet. In spite of the freezing wind outside, the sun through the perspex was warm and comfortable.
An Aztec inbound to Swansea was the only other traffic about, landing a few minutes before I joined.
04 was the closest runway to the north-north-easterly wind, a nice runway to use if you are stuck with a crosswind. Lots of space.
In the absence of other traffic I joined straight in, keeping an extra five knots of speed and one stage of flap on as I approached.
Concentrating more on keeping the approach stable in the promised gusts, I replied rather vaguely to air-ground’s query on my position.
“Long-err-ish final 04”
“Roger,” came a dry reply. “Would you like the QFE–ish,”
I rolled my eyes. Bet that visiting twin wasn’t subjected to wit on the r/t
“Affirm,” I said, though really I was more interested in looking out the window than a precise height by now.
The wind information followed, and had dropped to 15knots. In spite of which, I still managed a less-than elegant touchdown. I didn’t manage to quite get all the drift off as yawed the nose round, resulting in an indignant TOMS trying to make a break for the edge of the runway.
Quickly back on the centreline to roll out, and vacated to head back to parking. No fuel to be had this weekend, so straight to the tiedowns to do battle with the cover — the wind seeming to pick up the moment I started trying to get the thing on!
I headed home feeling rather more relieved than anything — I like the run to Dunkeswell, but I’m getting heartily sick of constant mechanical problems with the aeroplane. Surely there must come a point where everything that can go wrong, already has… 😉
My gripes were unfortunately put into stark perspective the following day when one of the airfield regulars, who’d given me a jolly on one occasion, had an accident in a R44, resulting in it turning over.
Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery to all.