Well that was a more eventful weekend that was really entirely wanted…
The plan was Kemeys Commander ‘because it’s there’ but for the return leg my GPS log reads “Keymes Commander TO Unknown” instead.
“Unknown” being a farmer’s field in the Vale of Glamorgan where we ended up as a safer alternative than pressing on into lowering cloudbase and rapidly reducing vis.
I’ve gone into the hows and whys and wherefores in some detail over on Flyer so this is the short version…
Kemeys (or Cemais) is a little strip attached to, of all things, a tank driving activity centre… We’d no real reason to visit other than curiousity but it’s only about half hour away and the morning’s forecast had seemed (key word) to be favourable enough for an away landing. Most of the usual suspects at Old Park had gone to on a fly-out to Shobdon that morning and we had the field to ourselves apart from the returning Boredom Fighter as we left.
I’d entered the coords to the GPS and tapped in a straight line route which immediately after takeoff obtained a dogleg around the base of the hills to avoid cloud along the ridge. A mile or two further on though and it opened into wonderful blue sky.
Coordinates not withstanding the strip was tricky to spot, tucked down at the base of the hill with woodland close around and we did some burbling around overhead the spot the GPS thought we ought to find it!
With Rhubarb safely parked up beside the ‘Caution: Tanks’ signpost we went for an exploratory stroll and chatted with one of the tank staff (must look good on a CV that!) before heading back.
Takeoff was brisk into a stiffening wind – we’d almost forgotten how quickly the little X’Air jumps up into an actual headwind, it’s so rare at home!
We climbed out, Nick flying as I admired the windmill off our port wingtip.
Initially the weather looked even better as we headed home and we almost decided to go straight across the hills, only deterred by a vague smear on the horizon that had an undefined by off-putting look.
From somewhere below the smell of someone’s BBQ drifted up on the warm air and Rhubarb bobbed like a glider in the lift off the ridges before we left the hills behind and turned south, confident any weather would be on the hill, not over the lower ground.
On reaching Caerphilly 15 minutes after takeoff into blue skies it was lowering badly and the forward vis was going rapidly down hill.
The following are in sequence about 5 minutes apart from each other
We found the M4 which was pretty much the last ditch “Surely it will clear by there” and after somewhere between 5 and ten minutes we’d reached the point Nick declared, “I’m not comfortable flying in this.”
“No,” I agreed. I looked without much hope behind us but it was forming around us, there was no ‘back’ to turn to and we were closer to Old Park than any other airfield.
With a vague sense of disbelief I said, “All right, if we’re really doing this, I’ve got a field.”
It was one I’d been watching anyway – the height we were no at, having somewhere to land if the racket up front should stop was foremost on my mind.
Large and open, the only wires, were down in the shallow valleys at either end, animal-free and a field over from the farmhouse if we needed help. I listed off the points and Nick, who’d had his own eye on a different shorter, but closer field agreed.
After low pass to have a really good look at the grass we came around to land, Nick as the most familiar with the aircraft flying as I called out cables and watched the ground ahead. The sheep in the under-run field scattered as we passed over – not as used to such things as the ones back at Old Park.
Nick touched down impressively lightly on the upslope of the hill and Rhubarb rode slowly to a stop in a slightly long 150 yards – one thing we’d missed was the tailwind.
We climbed out, shivering in t-shirts and light tops into a damp breezy field of recently cut silage and walked down the hill to the faryard, leaving poor Rhubarb sat perched on the skyline.
Knowing quite how to start a conversation with someone whose land you’ve just plonked yourself on uninvited is not one covered in the etiquette books I don’t suppose but our abashed “I’m sorry sorry but we’ve just had to land in your field” was greeted in good part and the family were curious and helpful and seemed to view the whole thing as something of an event. We were thanked for not sticking it in the crops or among the livestock, directed to an all-you-can-eat Chinese, held off turning out the cattle into the field we’d dropped into, and provided uswith tiedowns and even a lift back to Old Park where Nick’s car was still sat. My faith in human nature was given a huge boost!
The following day we returned to pace the field and wait for the promised weather window to escape again. It was an interesting and thought-focussing experience deciding what route to take across the sloping field to make best use of the wind and the flatter bits. We picked out a few abort points and distance markers and planned a taxi run first to see how the longer-than-runway grass – except that when we did start accelerating the dear, marvellous little machine swooshed along with such energy that it was obviously we’d be up easily and so up we went.
We circled once, looking down at the near perfect field that had presented itself so obligingly right when we needed it, and waved at the farmer’s nephew watching us go. He’s on a promise of a flight in thanks!
The one weather window of the day turned out smooth in spite of the strong-ish wind and we tracked the coast around Porthcawl instead of flying direct.
We arrived back to discover that we weren’t alone in having had an eventful weekend. In a small sop to hurt pride we found we’d been joined in an unplanned farm visit by one of the Skyrangers who was still stuck – waiting for the farmer to cut him a longer strip! One of the flexwings had a story to top us both, having had an actual engine stoppage – twice (second after the running repair didn’t…)
So 2/5 success rate for OP flying this weekend, but hurt to nothing but pride thank goodness!
Here’s to less eventful flying next time!