Since falling off the rackety edge of “able to afford” a shared aircraft I’d done a number of things – tailwheel for one, and I’d still got the odd longer trip in spite of rental prices and availability (which is good at Cambrian for solo hire to be fair).
For a while it was even nice to have the maintenance and upkeep and fixed costs all be someone else’s problem for a while and just turn up and fly.
A niggle had started though – not solely in the money pocket when paying my rental fees, although that’s always the first place to manifest!
I wanted an aeroplane again.
Realism dictated that bog standard C of A types were out. Ideally, with parking fees soaring and no out of hours flying, so was Swansea itself. An offer of a share in a very nice AA5 met the second criteria but not the first.
“Not Swansea”, given the geography of the area leaves not a huge variety of choices and places Margam ‘Anthony Hopkins’ International (AKA Old Park Farm…) at the top of the list and I came very close to the first offer I was made there, an utterly lovely Pioneer which I hard to think long and hard about before deciding against – gorgeous but would ahve taken just a bit too much time to get really familiar and comfortable with – especially right on the performance edge of what’s do-able (for me!) at such a challenging strip.
The third option came a rather roundabout way. I’ve been flying occasionally with Steve, a student pilot on the Ikaruses at Swansea and a mate of his, who we passed in the hangar one day had an X’Air Falcon which, with sole ownership, was also starting to totter on that edge of affordability. He was looking for either an outright sale or a half share, neither of which I could afford either in terms of one off or operating costs, but I, possibly rather cheekily, made a suggestion of a third share and we that look for someone else.
I flew it, liked it, already loved the strip ethos and atmosphere from my visits when considering the Pioneer, and after a bit of consultation which one of the former TOMS group who had already gone the microlight route, I was sold.
There’s still some paperwork to be done in terms of differences training, but ‘Rhubarb & Custard’ (G-CGOV) is such a delightfully simple, viceless little creature I’m looking forwards to lots and lots of flying!
Starting promptly with spending Sunday afternoon ’till gone sunset at the strip this weekend! One of the utter delights is the sheer breadth of experience and knowledge among the flyers there and the diversity of types.
Dawdle too long and someone will offer you a ride-along…
Which was how I came to find myself practically astride the shoulders of a bloke who’s name I’d learned ten seconds previous, in the back seat of a tiny, open, flexwing which positively tore into the air, where we spent a windy but delightful half hour or so racing about the beach and dunes, waving at passers by and generally skylarking*.
Up higher I had a bit of a go – to my utter confusion – because of course from a certain point of view flexwing flying is plain and simply backwards! You want to do up, you push the bar forwards, want to go right, you push left. And it really does need a push!
Clearly however I was making all the mistakes that anyone who hasn’t flown before makes with any aircraft which is to fly it too much, because a quick demo of what happens if you just let go proved the machine far far more stable than I’d ever have guessed.
I arrived back on the ground with tired arms, numb fingers, a ratsnest of a ponytail which I hadn’t thought to plait and a grin like a fool!
Quick warming cuppa then it was off again in Rhubarb where Nick was (after going to spot his Nana out walking the dog!) was good enough to basically sit and make conversation while I stooged about trying to get the picture straight in my head and some sort of coordination going on with the turns!
We did that, until we got cold then back for another cuppa and to chat until we couldn’t put of covering up the aeroplane for another day.
*While complying with all relevant rules, regulations, minima, maxima, loadings, clearances, separations and quite possibly Instructions from Mam…