Swansea, Sunsets and Skyranger

After a string of evening “bimbling about” flights and a few weekends away, two weeks turned out to be the longest gap in my flying for a while and I was fidgeting.

So with Nick away on his hols in sunny Spain I settled for sunny Swansea and me and Clive abandoned the hangar building (heaving sheets today) and headed for Swansea for lunch.

The wind was still slightly gusty but had been dropping through the morning and even with my playing-safe ten knots rule I was happy to go. I hadn’t quite predicted quite how much it would curl over the hills and it was downright bumpy until after Briton Ferry! Clive, being a paraglider pilot did see this coming…

wansea, when I phoned, could only offer up a guess based on the windsock as their wind meter had packed up, but it was favouring 04 which is on a standard left hand circuit so all wrong for slotting in neatly when coming from the east. Instead, I wandered on to Three Cliffs and tried to find a gap in the circuit traffic to make a straight-in not too annoying for all around me.

In particular I had no desire to tangle with the jump-plane – it’s considerably larger than us and flies very quick tight circuits in any case.

We fitted in behind him and ahead of a motor glider and were off by the bravo intersection, even though the landing was a little bit floaty. With the wind slightly gusty I’d been loath to get rid of too much power in case the wind went away and dumped us – the X’Air is not blessed with an excess of momentum…

I didn’t have quite enough bank on for the crosswind either so landed with a slight sideways load – must try harder…

After a bacon butty and a chat with some of the regulars we headed off again. A school Tomahawk was ahead of us for power checks but backtracked while I went from the intersection – I am still hugely amused by quite how little space is used and how slowly Rhubarb seems to drift into the air on a big tarmac runway. It really does feel like strolling into the air.

Focussed on clearing out of the way quickly, I turned a bit soon and found myself inside the circuit of one of the resident motorglider – another must try harder. Shallower, faster climb out maybe? Turning “early” at 500′ puts me in unexpected places – but I don’t especially want to arrive at circuit height before the end of the runway either, if thinking about where people expect to see other aircraft.

One to think about.

In any case a left turn out put us facing the opposite way to home but in the ideal spot for a little circular tour of Gower first – so of course that’s what we did!

At 60 knots this is a fairly leisurely affair and half hour after takeoff we passed south abeam the airfield once again – this time on our way home!

The wind had dropped enough that the turbulence south of the hills had abated and the northerly wind which gave a crosswind to concentrate on at Swansea was bang down 36 at Old Park, which presented me with a nicer landing!

The nights are getting shorter now but there was still time for a quick flit Wednesday evening too – this had started with a Facebook message the sort of pilot-ish equivalent of “are you coming out to play” by John-with-the-Skyranger and I was all to willing too abandon hangar waterproofing for yet another night and fly instead.

Since our labours with the ramp, this was my first attempt at shifting the machine from her spot alone and it was just about do-able. I wasn’t even the last to finish prepping the aircraft before we headed off.

John had gone first and with the fastest aircraft so it was a bit of a chase to catch him and frantic concentration to stay with him even loosely.



Proper formation training suddenly finds itself added to my to-do list – flying in company is great fun! We followed the coast for a while before John opened the throttle and left me for dust! Tom-with-the-Thruster joined him for a while as I chased above them watching and jokingly calling myself their top cover!

Eventually John zipped away from him too and me Tom escorted each other back to the airfield to squeak in with the last of the daylight. Arriving high I slopped off height in big gliding turns before resuming a more normal approach and a landing more on the centreline than of late. Pleased with that!

Tuesday saw Nick back in the country as of all of one day and already addressing the terrible flying withdrawal! John was also up the strip again and offered me the P1 seat in the Skyranger so he could take photos of assorted family and friends’ places

We flew an hour in the hazy evening sunshine and covered a surprising amount of ground over what felt like half of south Wales! Lots of people had obviously had the same idea and Cardiff radar was awash with GA – though the only traffic we saw was two paramotors at higher than our cruise of 2000′!

Back at the strip we though a bit about the best way to approach – a farm right smack on the climbout/approach has started making noise about noise. The challenge is that coming close enough in to avoid it makes for a very tight final, but staying high until past it makes for a steep one! We went for tight over steep and I landed the Skyranger – a shade fast but reasonable.

Nick was still off in the X’Air and after a cuppa John sallied forth again while I got at least a little bit down in waterproof slopping about. Really must get the roof on soon…

But it’s so so tempting to use up these long, dry evening while they’re still here…


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