2014 is underway!

First properly sunny Saturday of the year, so there was no doubt about where we’d be heading!

We were met by a pair of rogue sheep wandering the field but the sock was flying, and as we wiped away the dust and dust and insect life and general clutter of weeks and weeks worth of bad weather, we paused to watch someone else already aerobatting overhead.

As Nick refuelled, I investigated the new hangar door which since our third member has had an unfortunate garden incident involving a broken wrist, has been completed (to our mixed gratitude and mild chagrin) by our hangar-neighbour Stuart.

Easy, and light enough for even me to handle alone!  Proper job!

A heave out onto the grass a thorough walkaround ,and Rhubarb was ready to go.  I wandered up the hill to sign up out while Nick warmed her up before collecting me at the top.

The sheep had vanished, either rounded up or wandered back where the came from, so we didn’t delay in heading off.  “Round Gower?” Nick suggested, but we were quickly tempted up over the hills, standing so bright and clear to the north, so it was off to twirl about over reservoirs and windfarms turning lazily in the breeze, and up to the scattered clouds.

At least until our fingers went numb – I’d kitted up in suit and hat and new thermal socks but left my gloves on the ground!  I was soon sat on my hands to warm them while Nick flew back down to warmer altitudes!

Back over Swansea and tracking the bay eastwards we were joined then soon overhauled by local gyro.  Unable to give in quite so easily Nick opened the throttle and caught back up, at least for long enough to snap some photos and exchange waves before he dived away.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the weather – the bay was dotted with little sail boats – not to mention a huge ship with a pair of tugs and the pilot boat in close attendance, and weaving around them all a pair of jetskis.  Looked much safer to be up here in the sky than down there on the water!

Then it was back to the strip, and a refuel for my benefit before Nick head off to Cardiff and I drank coffee and had a chat and decided where to fly that afternoon.

With Nick heading off, the conversation turned to how I was getting back.  I assumed this was the usual a puzzler that I fly but don’t drive but it turned out that Phil-with-the-Starduster was dropping the aircraft off to Swansea and was after someone to drive his car over to meet him.

Well, that was a non-starter, but with nowhere in particular to fly other than “up there somewhere”, I suggested I could follow him over in the X’Air and give him a lift back.  (And by “follow” I of course mean “take off ten minutes before and land ten minutes after” since his rather lovely sporty biplane has a cruise speed approaching double that of Rhubarb fach!)

The day was still gloriously still as I leisurely checked over the aircraft and warmed her back up.  Phil had made the required contact with Swansea and I set off a few minutes ahead – rapidly overhauled at Britton Ferry for the second time in one day!  (My slow-and-steady progress towards Swansea contributed to by by general aversion to going in a straight line across the bay when there’s a perfectly serviceable beach to land in in case of drama, almost all the way around!)

I flicked over to Swansea radio and had been listening sometime mildly puzzled by a) the lack of traffic chitchat on such a sunny day and b) the outburst of static, when I realised I’d poked in 119.17 instead of 119.7 – finger trouble!  (It’s always the radio that goes to pot when I’m rusty!

Now on the right frequency I regained some time by making a slightly more direct join than Phil, slotting into the circuit downwind, and ending up second to him (and third to the Raven aeros lot who’d been looping their way into the circuit when I changed frequency.

The landing, after the longest lay-off since getting the share was a furiously focussed affair, but rewarded with a really rather pleasing touch down.  Pity I forgot to call final – see radio + rust!

Phil was busy with the firecrew arranging aircraft in the hangar to find a space so more chat was in order while that was sorted, before heading back out to the parking spot, miles (it seemed) down the hill – everyone was flying today!

Raven were off again and, with a quicker warm up than me, we let them go first while I did the guess-and-fiddle palaver with choke and throttle that the sort-of-warm engine required to coax it back to clattering life.  Starts lovely cold with full choke, lovely hot with none, but at the inbetweeny sort of temps I only ever seem to manage around 50% of my first attempts!

On this occasion though I managed to catch and keep it and used the warm up time to give a quick brief to Phil.

The ‘for pilots’ version of my brief is basically:

  • doors
  • any u/s items on on the panel in case of concern or confusion, and a
  • “if you don’t like anything I’m doing tell me, I promise I won’t throw a pwdu” version of CRM.

Phi happens to be an instructor, but I’ve always said the same to any pilot – hopefully helps avoid any ‘should I mention…’ moments, and gets an extra pair of eyes and another brain on side.

Out to Bravo for powerchecks then a short wait while Raven Formation headed off together.  With one other aircraft turning base by the time they’d lifted I decided to go ahead and go from the intersection.

Ground run is always short on tarmac and we were turning crosswind by the time the one on base (one of the school Tomahawks) was touching down.

I climbed in the circuit, to depart towards Mumbles and retrace the coast home.  Phil had a fly of the X’Air and declared it ‘good fun’.  Yes indeed 😉

Another bout of intense concentration on the landing – would have been typical to have a lovely one solo and then slap it down in company – but no, another respectable effort, thank goodness!  Even on the centreline.  Perhaps that should be my new year’s resolution.  On the centreline!

The sun was just on the horizon as I gently edged down the hill, dabbing at the brakes to prevent the momentum building up on the steep bit.

And of course Phil ran me home, averting a wait for the bus!

Successful start to the year’s flying all in all!

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