The cold has well and truly arrived, even through lexan the sunshine is not longer even remotely warm. But the engine loves these cold, dense days and my “mobile duvet” of a flying suit which was a birthday present back in August has finally come into its own of course!
And, we’ve lost only a few days to foul weather – chiefly my annual leave unfortunately and the shorter days have put my travelling plans on hold for a while.
As have sillier things…
Two weekends ago on a solo foray I headed out to the field with intention of giving Gloucester a go. It’s a distinctly brisk walk from the bus stop these days but the sky was gorgeous blue and the buzzard who must live near the field and whose feather we sometimes find between the hangars was crying overhead, perhaps hunting mice in the stubble and it seemed a very promising day to be up there too.
I’ve become a dab hand now at wriggling Rhubarb far enough out of the hangar to snag the nosewheel over the edge of the slabs to stop her rolling back downhill and inside while I get ready to go. (Although it takes me rather more than one heave to do it!)
Phil with a Skyranger from up the hill was around but sounding terribly faint on the radio as I taxyed out to go. With hindsight the handwaving he was giving me over this should have caught my attention more.
But it didn’t so off I sallied, all weathered and notamed and planned, right up until I flicked from SafetyCom to Cardiff to hear nothing. Didn’t even get as far as speaking because the nothing was so obvious.
Surely surely the rubber duck antenna couldn’t have gone as well. Not after the first two fixed ones did? Too much of a coincidence. So I potched vaguely for a few minutes power cycling and plugging things in an out to no avail.
Gloucester is a bit big to pitch up non-radio without warning, so I threw that plan out, turned the radio off and stooged north towards the hills instead. Pity about lunch, but It was still a pretty day!
Clear winter-sky vis threw the Beacons into sharp focus, the low sun and long shadows, casting the whole world in brighter deeper colours. In modern, unpoetic prose, it was like flying through a living Instagram filter!
North of Methyr I was struck by the sudden incongruity of the landscape. Industrial sprawl off one wing while off the other, the reservoir of Pontsticill was the last sign of human influence before the landscape rose precipitously to the mountains
I thought about tracking up the reservoir and flying further north to those high and lovely and tempting hills, to wind among them. But to be sensible it’d mean climbing and I was already breathing clouds of steam.
Half reluctantly, half eager to be warmer I turned south and descended. Aberdare, Maerdy, and down to the windfarms of Taff Ely before turning back west. Warmer now and with time to spare since I wasn’t having lunch out, I opted for a few PFLs, giving several a go between Bridgend and Porthcawl before finishing up at the beach south of the strip aiming for a particular patch of sand before climbing back up to head for the strip.
Oddly the beach was the one where I nearly missed even my imaginary field and end up slipping like mad to lose height.
Back at the strip I drank two coffees on the trot to warm up before addressing myself to the radio which turned out to be a simple loose connection I must have caught or kicked that morning.
The next decent day I’d a Facebook message, suggesting heading down to Rosemarket. Nick was flying the outward leg today and we hesitated, having had a less than warm welcome last time. Nevetheless off we headed after a quick test flight to check the wings were still on (we’d used one rainy day to re-tension the skins) and throw some more fuel in.
I phoned for PPR debating whether or not it would seem rude to ask to take the name of the person I spoke to, bearing in mind last time but decided against as they seemed content enough.
We skirted the north of Swansea (not enough green bits there to comfortingly believe in “glide clear” at any reasonably warm altitude over the city itself today!) and then picked up a direct track.
Vis was great again and the engine does love this cold weather – in fact the coolant temp was slightly too low – bit more tape needed on the radiator for next time!
Nick arrived overhead gave the strip the prescribed buzz while I watched for golfers and the windsock – which said we wanted the other direction so back on ourselves we went and touched down to leaping and waving from my wall-of-noise-nephews!
Very quick coffee, nephews in and out of aeroplane and time to go. But not before Nick had been harangued again for lack of PPR which I had in fact got.
So the choice is top secret recording app on phone, or cut our loses and fly somewhere else from now on. At Rosemarket, it appears either our faces or our flying machine no longer fit. Pity, since it was always one of the places I’d looked forward to visiting while I was learning, and I’ve been often since then and have some fond memories. But good weather days are too rare to spend being scolded so elsewhere we’ll be going from now on.
My mum’s fish have been adopted by the Tower at Haverfordwest – maybe we’ll go there and visit them instead!
I was flying back, so after extracting the boys from the aircraft and doublechecking both fuel and sunset at this tail end of the day, I started up (after a bit of coaxing – the engine wasn’t quite cool enough to want all the choke I gave it on the first attempt) and taxyed out. The chilly easterly wind at least meant we were already pointed in the right direction for a rapid retreat and after turning back just once to ‘wave’ the wings to the boys, we were off.
Cosy enough in my walking duvet, I still had icicle feet by the time we were passing Pembrey. We looked at the smoke of Baglan rising in the distance – so much quicker if we headed straight there. But all the water of two huge bays between us. Maybe not…
I skirted the coast, past Pembrey, and switched frequencies to Swansea in time to hear our new hangar neighbour aloft in her newly arrived ‘Muttley’ Skyranger (There’s a positive flock of them at Old Park now!)..
I tracked up Loughor looking for a good spot (lots of green bits), north of the airport to cross Swansea and pick up the coast, eventually flying south over the uni and following the curve of the bay, a wingtip tracking the coast until past the steelworks for a gentle descent into Margam and home.
Sometimes I don’t mind winter flying at all!