Ok, so the likelihood of the weather being good for all is slim, but we ought to give it a go, shouldn’t we? It might be a glorious day….
The event will be on 13th December and it will be at Leicester Airfield…
…said the forum post…
I considered it. Leicester at this time of year was a bit of a challenge in terms of daylight really. I’d need at least one fuel stop each way to allow for wind delays and to avoid spending all my time with my mind on the level sloshing about in the marker-pen-labelled tank. It was also the day of the Old Park Christmas party which I would hate to miss through stranding.
But it’d be fun, loads of mates and forumites I don’t see that often would be there
I’d need an early start. Fortunately this was offered via a lift to the field, via a petrol station, from John who wa taking his Skyranger out for a frosty sunrise flight.
It took me until considerably AFTER sunrise to do the necessary with fuel and oil and decanting it from John’s cans to mine to mix and put in, but I was airborne by twenty past nine.
Early morning mist lingered in the low ground but the vis and sky were sufficiently clear that I took a straight line across the hills to Gloucester with a brief detour to take some photos of the Parc Penallt pit pony earth sculpture which a mate had recently posted online and which was bang on track. (Bang on my track lots and lots of times previously too, though I’d never noticed it!)
The wind was straight across my track all the way, and I arrived in Gloucester some half an hour later than planned. A hasty coffee and a refuel also took a bit longer than planned as my card chose this moment to play silly buggers with the machine! The upshot was that I was already an hour behind myself and it was clear the wind was stronger than the forecast. It would need to be a very short visit to Leicester indeed – I had planned what had seemed a substantial amount of ‘slack’ into the day, planning to be back at Old Park an hour and a half before dark. That slack was already two thirds gone and I hadn’t even arrived yet!
This was a two-leg run that should have been an hour routing via Gaydon to miss, collectively, a bunch of gliding sites, Wellesbourne’s ATZ, and the controlled airspace round Birmingham. Listening to Wellesbourne on the radio it becomes clear that they too were heaving. Lots of people taking the opportunity of a clear winter’s day to get some flying in.
I mused on efficiency as I flew – was it worth flying faster, burning more fuel? Would I save back the extra time needed to refuel? The premixing of the oil and the slow delivery from the can once done make refueling the little X’Air a slow old process.
I settled for keeping the speed above 70mph and hoping that if I refuelled at Leicester I could make the run back in one hop and gain back the time that way. It’d mean using pricey and (as far as the little Rotax is concerned) mucky avgas, but it might work to keep the day on course.
Leicester was busy and I had a few moments of concern on losing sight of the other aircraft joining with me in the overhead. He must have been close behind me in the end as even with my short touchdown someone had to go around behind me.
I taxied in past a positive fleet of Flyer forum aircraft, including – I noted with a sort of satisfaction-by-proxy – Paul’s Bulldog, back in the air. I received a mock salute as I taxied past Keef and co and an exuberant welcome upstairs (possibly through sheer incredulity at the ludicrously slow progress my arrival time implied!)
I stripped off half of the mobile-duvet flying suit, not yet defrosted enough to take it all the way off, and commenced getting myself on the outside of a truly enormous bowl of lentil and bacon soup.
Fuelling and paying again took longer than expected and it was a 50-50 chance of needing a diversion for daylight even before I took off and by the time I was settled on track and a groundspeed showing on the GPS of 45knots it was a definite! I choose Gloucester for the early stop as it was the right sort of distance, friendly, good for transport links and with UL91 on tap.
I was helped by everyone I encountered from the reception staff, to the firemen who found a corner of a hangar so quickly that I walked outside to find an absence of Rhubarb and had to go looking with the ridiculous questions of “Um, where’s my aeroplane gone?” on my lips! Mike at the Flying Shack gave me a lift the the train station and Nick, the other half of what appears on Gloucester’s billing system as “The Rhubarb Flying Group”, picked me up the other end to arrive in time for the Old Park Christmas party!
I’d been given a bottle of bubbly by Jono who’d organised the fly-in as a sort of ‘A for effort’ and with ‘help’ from some of the flexy flyers (who assisted with shaking…) I pinged that open with a certain amount of overspill and had a very good evening indeed!
I had some concerns about finding a flyable window to get back before Christmas, but the following weekend was just about doable if I went via Newport instead of over the hills and didn’t mind going really extremely even more slowly…
I was less pressed for time and chatted out on the apron before departure – Rhubarb as a very microlighty looking microlight tends to draw interested comment when at airfields which aren’t primarily microbases and I spent a half hour enthusing about the operation, the airstrip and the little 582 before settling up and leaving.
It was BUMPY and I spent most of the first half of the flight torn between flying higher to be out of the bumps and lower to be out of the headwind, but it eased a bit once passing Bridgend and I was rather pleased with my crosswind landing at the end, especially since I was using Port Talbot steelworks as a windsock because no one else had ventured out!
All in all not a bad end to the year!