One of my flying highlights from last year was taking part in Project Propeller, a fly-in event which pairs veteran aircrew with current GA pilots for a meet up somewhere of aviation interest.
This year was to be a second attempt on Bruntingthorpe (the firs having been largely weathered off a few years ago). I’d been paired with a Port Talbot local who turned out to have been a flight engineer on Halifaxes, and heavily involved with the air cadets since.
We met up at the airport just as it opened, for a 10:45 slot time at “Brunty”. Phil, my passenger for the day, insisted on helping untie the aircraft and accompanied me on the walkaround, and things did go much quicker – leaving us both time for a cuppa before the off!
The weather was looking decidedly mixed, but we set off in hope. First hurdle became the Welsh hills, andI opted instead to skirt along the northern edge of Cardiff’s zone rather than chance the cumulus granitus on the direct route!
We passed near Gloucester and Phil did some flying, his most recent experience having been in a friends Baron. TOMS was a shade less plush no doubt!
North west of Gloucester the vis started to go steadily downhill, as did the cloudbase. I took back control and started looking for a clearer route. Down to 1000′ I was unwilling to engage in any lower level skud running.
Another aircraft it seemed was having similar difficulties, and his problems were compounded by being unable to hear Gloucester. Several aircraft, including me, relayed messages and when he switched t Leicester, the last we heard was that he was attempting to find an easterly route around the cloud.
I decided that this was possibly a plan for ourselves as well and for a while it seemed to work. Still being pushed east but able to edge north here and there I made intermittent progress toward Wellesborne Mountford, at which point the wall of cloud became impenetrable. At any rate for me and my non-IMC self and aircraft!
I tried a few more detours, hoping for a route, but ended up having to make a hasty 180 to keep us out of the clouds, at which point it was time to employ the better part of valour.
Still unable to spot Wellesborne, though we must have been almost on top of it, I decided instead to head for the known clear skies of Gloucester.
I hadn’t been in there since my QXC a few years ago, but it was as friendly and efficient as I remembered. Also as pricey – at 21 quid for landing, just missing St Mary’s for my most expensive stop to date — but then again I suppose the staff doing the ‘friendly and efficient’ bit need their wages paid!
On a happier note the lunches were also as good, and I tucked into a enormous ham and cheese omelette while continuing the fascinating chat with Phil, including the relating of his first 20 minutes on a squadron which featured a burst tyre, a ground-looped Halifax and the crew member who’d warned him not to evacuate though the top hatch, pegging it via that exact route!
I made a couple of phone calls over coffee trying to establish the odds of succeeding on a second attempt if we could get an alternative slot time. Sadly the weather seemed, for the moment to be settled on low cloud and even rain.
Most frustrating, especially since we were sitting in pleasant, patchy sunshine a mere 30-odd minutes flying time away!
Eventually it became clear it was a no-go this time, and I apologised to a philosophical passenger (“That’s flying!”) and we headed back out to the aircraft.
The flight home was uneventful, the cloud having lifted in this direction at least, and allowing us to take a more direct route over the hills, swinging south in time to take in Port Talbot and do the “my house” routine.
Back at Swansea we joined a busy-ish circuit with one Ikarus and the cadets motor-glider ahead of us. I extended downwind a-ways to give them room, which gave me a usefully long final as the jump-plane nipped out onto the runway to take off from alpha without a backtrack.
I was still poised for a go around at fifty foot, but he cleared off in time and I landed and rolled on to the intersection.
All in all a pleasant day, if not entirely the one we had planned. Here’s to better weather next year!
GPS Track: In so far as my decision making can be remembered it went something like…
1) Hmm, that’s rather a lot of cloud. Well we just heard someone else trying to get around it to the east so we’ll try that too.
2) That’s marginally better, back towards track.
3) Sod. More cloud. Let’s try east again. Ermm. Nope.
4) North then?
5) Nope. And now I need a 180 just to keep out of the cloud at all. Can’t spot Wellesborne either although I must be almost on top of it. Time to give in.