Autumn has finally arrived and with it flustery winds and gloomy days and downpours.
But there’re still occasional windows and I’ve been lucky so far. A planned overnighter last weekend was scrapped from weather but the wind dropped enough late in the day to escape and do half hour of PFLs, after spending the rest of the windy afternoon digging out the front of the hangar ready for where we’re going to put the doors!
This weekend was looking even less likely but a perusal of the charts revealed that the main cause of the unpleasantness was a big and fairly fast moving trough. A clear but windy morning ahead of it gave way to a grotty lunchtime but a hint of a clearing afternoon.
Nick took little persuading to go and have a looksee and we did a bit more ditch and some little jobs on the aeroplane before concluding that it was looking very flyable.
The blackness in the sky had gone and the blue had spread, clouds moving away and collapsing even over the hills. The wind was still brisk and very variable and the ground wet in patches so we decided to have a look at the state of the runway first, and probably to fly in solo turns to lighten the load!
The grass is in really lovely condition on the strip, full and short and springy as we walked down the hill the length of the strip, eyes peeled for soggy patches. The slope works in our favour on this point at least and it was well drained bar one or two spots at the extremes of either end.
As if in confirmation, as I headed back to the aircraft and Nick to the cabin to sign me out, the Boredom Fighter trundled overhead and swept down to land, engine burbling delightfully.
After a slow warmup I powered up the hill, waved, ran through the power checks then turned onto the runway and opened the throttle.
I was up quickly, but not quick enough to miss collecting a splattering of soggy grass clippings and mud! Oh well, it’s not like we hadn’t seen that coming!
Left turn to miss the newly noise-sensitive neighbours before climbing for the hills and the collapsing clouds, climbing until it got chilly. The sky was blue above and the low sun turned the moisture still into the air, not to full blown haze, but just the faintest silvering of the view downwards, and shone on the wet ground, making the whole world sparkle.
In the absence of anywhere in particular to go, I wove about this temporary playground of shining clouds – this time of year has its compensations! Following the curve of the clouds just inshore I wandered vaguely north west. At 5000′ the wind over the hills wasn’t even enough to rock the wings but I could see the smoke from the steelworks streaming out close to horizontal as a reminder it wasn’t all as calm as it seemed up here.
Which of course I realised even more deeply on returning to the strip and noticed the drift over the ground as I descended and passed Margam Park and Eglwys Nunydd.
Crabbing into the crosswind was working well until the wind hit the trees when a hasty handful of power was needed and some hasty corrections” These were followed by a second set when at 2 feet above the ground and almost done with flying a extremely lively gust had me well and truly flying again! More power to catch it and enough runway left for a second attempt.
Touch down after that handful was disproportionately smooth, and just before the orange cones which is my usual ‘chuck it away’ point!
I taxyed to the top, swapped with Nick and, full of mixed glee and adrenalin, bunged the kettle on!
Nick headed off for a blast and I took my coffee for a wander across the empty field. Tracks in the wet grass showed almost as clearly as the log in the cabin who’d been there over the past few days! The tiny tailwheel of the Boredom Fighter, the outriggers of the half built Europa, the sturdy tricycle of one of the flexwings, my own tracks onto the runway, closely followed by Nick’s – we both dodge the cabin then get right up to the hedge and the little swerve was plain to see.
Nick had gone east and the headwind coming back had been so pronounced he’d decided to play with and see how well Rhubarb could hover! Full flap and dangling just this side of the stall he managed it for several minutes before pressing on.
I watched his rejoin as he turned into the tailwind on base leg at what looked like a million miles an hour! I half expected him to strafe the field, but nope – slowed down soon enough once on final for a tidy touchdown.
He also came up to the top and we cleaned the worst of the mud off the windscreen, struts, prop and leading edges (yes, even there!)
More coffee, swapped stories of the wind and the view and then it was time to take down the windsock (last ones there again!) and put Rhubarb back to bed, ready for the next chance to slip out, dodge the weather and fly!