Along with what must surely be a world record for number of starting issues on one aircraft, we have now topped it off by having to have the aircraft repaired in order to actually fly it to the the 50 hour check!
No one else had managed to start the poor thing since my abortive attempt on Caernarfon and after trying a few things, including cleaning the primer jets and a complete new set of spark plugs it was finally reported as starting normally again.
Admitting to only a slight trace of doubt, I therefore voluntered to do the ferry run to our new engineer at Sleap. (Caernarfon would have been the last flight before the 50 anyway.)
My doubts were washed away as the prop flicked over, once, twice to fire and catch on the third blade with no fuss at all.
Filled with relief, made the more pleasant by the cloudless sky, I taxyed out to the PAPI lights to await my turn at the ski jump that passes for runway 10.
I hadn”t been to Sleap before, and had dutifully read to NOTAMS (to discover an aeros competition in progress!) and got myself briefed, drawn my lines on my charts and copied across to PocketFMS, charged the PDA and was ready to go.
It was fabulous to be up in the air again, and I felt quite the scrounger for knowing it was a freebie on the group for the engineer run! The railway below wound up the valley, acting as an easy guide for the first leg, as well as a useful line feature to keeping clear of the Sennybridge danger area.
It was nice to settle into the routine of navigation again too, so many trips lately have been to familiar destinations. I was enjoying the challenge of spotting new landmarks, and for the most part resisted the temptation to gaze at the GPS (I did double check Llandeilo was really Llandeilo…)
Overcome by the novelty of cloudless skies, and aware of the limited options for landings on the lumpy hills below, I stooged on up to 6000′ leaned well and gazed around most happily, not that I clapped eyes on another aircraft.
London Info was heaving and I decided I really didn’t need them badly enough to do battle trying to jam a word in edgeways, so I jumped straight to Welshpool early and turned the radio down until I got close enough to be worth warning them of my presence.
All that high, quiet sunshine went some way to erasing the frustration of the previous month.
Sleap itself crept up on me while I was mulling over how exactly to sort myself out to join right-downwind for a 05 runway while approaching from the south west… And do so without passing through the deadside — that’s where the upside down aeroplanes were to be found…
I was still blithely staring at Shawbury in the middle distance, in blissful ignorance, when during a scan for traffic I spotted the actual airfield dead ahead!
Shaking my head with a sheepish expression there was happily no one to see, I repositioned myself for an awkward little U-turn outside the ATZ for that downwind join.
Still dithering over that or the whole not-spotting-the-place thing, I missed the QFE and didn’t remember until shortish final, at which point I realised I hadn’t looked at the altimeter since downwind anyway.
With someone close behind I’d kept it tight and somewhat misjudged the crosswind, leading to a gentle but untidy and decidedly off-centre landing.
I decided to be generous and put it down to rustiness along with the missed QFE and late sighting of the airfield!
With the following aircraft now on final, I bailed off the runway at the end to let him land, before taxying back at the length of the airfield to the maintenance hangar, guided by the extremely helpful air/ground operator (a UKGAer I later discovered) — I’d never had found it otherwise!
With impeccable timing, Andy, the other half of today’s G-TOMS Ferry Team had just arrived after trolling the length of mid-Wales in the car to retrieve me.
We pushed TOMS into a tidy corner, introduced ourselves to the engineer and turned over keys and logbooks before heading for lunch.
The cafe was lovely, up in the tower with fabulous airfield views over the neat rows of tiny and brightly coloured aerobatics types awaiting their turn at the tumbling, twisting performances overhead.
Lovely airfield, one to return to when not under the duress of a aircraft check!