July 24, 2008

Ruddy Weather!

Day after day – winds something like 12 gusting 25 mph and as if that’s not bad enough, typically something like 60 degrees of directional variability also. In layman’s terms that means that the wind is not only constantly doubling in speed and then abruptly falling back again but it’s also wildly swinging around in direction, from side to side. And this is July – mid-Summer here in the UK for goodness sake, and there seems to be no end to it in sight!

It’s becoming so frustrating. OK, you can fly  an AX3 in these conditions, although it’s not much fun because you’re constantly being buffeted around and you’re needing to work all the time to maintain steady flight. But training in such conditions is pretty hopeless, as I’ve been finding. To learn effectively you need to be able to repeat the same procedure time after time in conditions that are reasonably constant, and that just hasn’t been possible for several weeks now.

To cap it all today, Rosie and I decided that as the day was also forecast to be hot and sunny with almost clear skies that would inevitably lead to severe up-draughts (what is known as thermic activity), we would wait until 6.00pm until things would have calmed down before giving it a go. I have to drive 50 miles each way to the strip which is quite a commitment, really. You’ve guessed it – after getting there today and waiting a while to assess the conditions, we decided that the wind was still up to its tricks and that it would be a waste of time going for a training flight. So we put the AX3 back in the hangar and I left for home again.

Oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a few ‘pilot’s-eye-view’ pictures to give people an idea of what it’s like to fly a microlight in this part of the world. They were taken late in the afternoon on a day last week which was a bit overcast and I had hoped to have some brighter ones by now. But as you can now see, it hasn’t been possible. The screen had received its fair share of squidged insects and stuff and you’ll also notice the occasional raindrop on it as one or two heavier bits of clag passed over. As before, the pics link to the very large originals for anyone with a fast connection who wants to see the full detail.

I handed over to Rosie just after I’d done a touch-and-go and the first pic was taken at only 150ft or so.

The procedure is – full throttle, as you accelerate, pull back to take the weight off the nose wheel, pull off at 40-45mph, ease the stick forward to get 50mph and hold that up to 200ft, then nose up to get 45mph which you hold for the rest of the climb. Remember the mnemonic – PAT, power-attitude-trim, and even in this little aircraft trimming helps a lot. And don’t forget to keep monitoring your Ts and Ps (engine temperatures and fuel pump pressure) – yes, almost as much work as in a GA aircraft. But much more flying because the considerably lower inertia of a microlight means that you’re hands-on flying it the whole time. Really good fun, leastways I think so 🙂

The next two pics are taken out of the pilot’s side as we continued the climb out.

Check out Google Earth. The next pic is taken across the cockpit in the direction of Sandwich. That’s the throttle lever that Rosie’s fingers are on and the coastline and English Channel in the distance.

The next two pics are looking west from the pilot’s side as we climbed through something like 800ft or so. They show how marvellous the countryside is around here and what the attraction of flying low and slow in a microlight is all about.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this next one. Just glorious!

And one last one for now, looking from the pilot’s side towards Dover – not that you can see it here!

Well, that’s it for now. I hope I’ve been able to give some sort of idea of what the attractions are of this amazing sport, hobby, pastime – call it what you will. All I know is that I just love it 😉