May 23, 2010

A hot one!

Couldn’t type the headline ‘Phew, what a scorcher!’ because I think I’ve used it once before, but it’s been so hot, I can’t be bothered to find out. We’ve had over 80 degrees today and this morning I had to switch on the portable air conditioning unit I have in the conservatory or otherwise it would have been unbearable in there. I’m not a great fan of conservatories – I’m of the view that greenhouses are great for tomatoes but naff for people – so I was glad to get out later on. I got my stuff and Toddie together and away we went, off to Linton.

When I got there I was amazed to find the gate still locked. I phoned Bob and he said he was just leaving to come down, so I opened up and drove across to the strip. Toddie loves it there. Being an ex-gun dog, he loves the countryside and pretty soon even though he was 11 last week, he was racing around like a demented thing following scents all over the place. I’d spotted a pair of pheasants down near one of the hangars and we walked down in that direction as I wanted to see the area where MYRO will soon be parked. Toddie realised the birds were in the long grass and I suppose some half-forgotten instinct came to bear and in he shot. The birds flew up squawking away like mad and a couple of seconds later a very self-satisfied Toddie re-emerged.

Bob turned up a few moments later and when we met, I said I was absolutely amazed that nobody was flying on such a lovely day. Bob said that he was going to have an hour or so later on when the turbulence caused by the heat had died down and I said that I couldn’t blame him. I also said that once I’ve got my Licence back, there’ll be a little bit more flying going on at Linton, and he said that wouldn’t be a bad thing 🙂

We sat and chewed the fat for a couple of hours or so which is almost as good as flying, when you’re not. Sometimes if you talk about microlights to ‘ordinary’ folk, you can begin to see their eyes glazing over after a few minutes, but it’s amazing how two people who share the same enthusiasm can chat away about it for hours and never get bored.

We were joined a bit later by Peter, Ken’s brother who had something he wanted to do and also wouldn’t be flying. Bob then got kitted up and took off in his Quik and I decided to leave as he flew off into the distance.

If you like aircraft and flying, it’s difficult to beat being on an airfield, especially one that’s as glorious as Linton, on a day like today. The only thing that’s better is being on an airfield and flying, but that will come now soon enough. I also decided that I’ll get MYRO’s wings back on next week end so I hope we have another few days of good weather for that, too.

May 18, 2010

Excellent news!

I’m so grateful to Joan Walsh from Saxon Microlights in Essex and who’s also a BMAA Council member, who very kindly helped me out with some advice yesterday. She saw some comments that I’d posted about how frustrated I was about the amount of training I apparently needed given my previous flying experience and how I was annoyed that the exams I took last May were about to ‘expire’ and that I’d then have to take them again.

She referred me to NPPL/XC/REV 08 dated 26 Jan 2009, ALLOWANCES AGAINST TRAINING which is a document on the BMAA web site and said that her interpretation was different to what I had originally been advised. So this morning I spoke to Geoff Weighell, the BMAA Chief Executive, who kindly spared me some of his time. He confirmed that Joan’s interpretation is absolutely correct.

In fact I do not need to do a full NPPL(M) training course. I didn’t even need to take the exams, but no harm done there because revision of valuable information never hurt anyone, did it. All I needed to do was undergo a period of training (unspecified) by a qualified Microlight Flying Instructor and then pass a GST (General Skills Test) and the GST oral examination. Simple 😕

What’s annoying is that if I’d carried on flying continuously last Summer and not spent the time working on MYRO, I could have done that easily last year and be flying now. But that’s water under the bridge. At least now I know that I don’t have to worry about the ‘time limit’ on the ruddy exams and can aim to take the GST whenever I’m ready to at a time that suits me. And I don’t have to carry on paying to do fairly expensive cross countries in someone else’s aircraft when my own has been there waiting for me for weeks and weeks!

And that’s excellent news 😀

May 15, 2010

Great Couple of Days – Part 2

I told Rosie when I left yesterday evening that I’d like to go again this morning subject to the wind conditions that the forecasts had said might be a bit ‘iffy’.

She suggested that to cover all eventualities in the event that I would be able to fly, I should plan flights to both Stoke and Headcorn, which have runways that are very differently aligned to each. In the event, when I got the numbers for the wind this morning, I decided that Headcorn it would be.

So I turned up at the field a bit later than originally planned and Rosie was preparing to go off in the C42 with another student. While she was getting ready to go she said that if it was OK with me, I should make Headcorn one of my qualifying cross countries.

Now I realised why Rosie had been so intent on sending me all over the countryside yesterday! She had had an ulterior motive. She wanted to see if I was confident enough to go away from the field and then, having done so, that I was able to find my way back again 😕

Well of course I was up for it. The only problem was that Rosie has unfortunately had radio problems with MZEL and after the most recent tweaking, the radio hasn’t been tested. I’d meant to take my own with me but had forgotten so as Headcorn is PPO (Prior Permission Only) when I phoned them to tell them I was planning to come in on a qualifying cross country, I mentioned that I might be non-radio. They said that that was OK so long as I exercised good airmanship and kept a good look-out, but added that if they didn’t see me land, they wouldn’t be able to sign my Qualifying Cross Country Form. I decided to take that risk 😆

I took off and switched to Headcorn several minutes later. I could hear a few aircraft in the circuit and transmitted for a radio check. No response. I tried a few more times as I got closer to the airfield but as there was still no response, I decided I would join the circuit non-radio and not transmit again in case I was causing any interference that might affect other pilots.

As I approached Ashford, I spotted a couple of flexwings flying together on my right. One was below me and passed to my rear while the other which was above me passed above and in front. It was obvious that we’d all seen each other so it was all quite safe.

Shortly afterwards Headcorn came into view. The runway in use was 29 L and because of intense parachuting activity and rotary traffic, fixed wings must remain clear of the dead side. So I stayed clear of the zone, descended to circuit height and flew crosswind above the upwind end of the runway to join downwind. There was a Tiger Club Tiger Moth performing aerobatics over the field so I had to keep a good look-out. Luckily I’d managed to catch the QFE from transmissions I’d heard previously and everything went pretty smoothly. Until I was on base leg that is. Because I was non-radio I decided to fly a wide circuit remaining high on base leg and it was then I spotted a Robin overtaking below me and cutting in front on final. No problem, he was much quicker than me so I delayed my turn onto final a bit and kept him in sight. By the time I landed he was already clear of the runway. Great fun 😉

There was a twin landing behind me and he made it in OK but a single behind him had cut it a bit too fine and had to go around. Anyway, I left them to it and followed the Robin, which turned out to be German registered, round to parking. I parked MZEL alongside him and went off to pay my £10 landing fee. And I’m also glad to say that ATC did see me land so I was able to get my form signed as well!

Afterwards I took a few pics as a record of the event. After all, the first time I flew into Headcorn was in April 1980 so I thought it worth recording what was more or less a 30-year anniversary 😀

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The flight back was more or less as planned. As I flew over Ashford I caught a beautiful aroma rising from the perfumery factory there which was a nice surprise. Unfortunately I had a less nice surprise waiting for me! After landing I found that my mobile phone that I’d put in a jacket pocket was missing. Seems that somewhere along the route it had fallen out and dropped out through the gap in MZEL’s pod. What is really annoying is that wherever it fell, it’s still working because I’ve rung it and there’s a ringing tone. If it did drop out in flight, and I think it must have, 1500ft without a parachute is pretty good. Samsung would be very proud I’m sure 😀

May 15, 2010

Great Couple of Days – Part 1

I’d hoped to get this post done yesterday but I didn’t have time so this is the first of two today.

As the weather was being very cooperative, I decided to allow myself a bit of time off yesterday as I’ve been working very long hours on a new web site. So as the last time I flew was three weeks ago but for one day, Rosie and I did a little dual to check that my landings were still OK. In fact, I was surprised how long it took for me to feel ‘comfortable’ again and there were several ‘slack’ areas that I knew myself I’d need to pay attention to. Anyway, Rosie suggested going off for a bit more solo and this time proposed that I covered a quite complicated zig-zag route down to the south, then up to the north and back again.

So off I went. I climbed more or less straight out on a southerly heading and here’s a general pic I took after a few minutes looking south towards Hythe with the English Channel beyond.

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The next pic is just a general shot looking south with the French coast clearly visible in the distance.

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This next one shows the port of Folkestone. I was surprised how much less active Folkestone is compared to Dover. I suppose it’s because Folkestone harbour and the ferries that used to be quite active there have now given way to the Channel Tunnel which is now also served through Folkestone.

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The next pic shows what I mean, with Dover harbour in the middle distance and several ferries visible. Just to the right you can also just catch a glimpse of the White Cliffs.

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Here’s another shot of Folkestone town. Unfortunately, I just missed including the whole of the harbour because of the problems of taking pictures at the same time as flying the aircraft!

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Next is another general shot taken looking from Folkestone towards Dover. Isn’t this a lovely part of the country to fly in!

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I didn’t get very close to Dover because I had to make a left turn and head back north but here’s a shot of Dover harbour itself. You can just see the castle on the cliff-top on the left.

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My next destination was Canterbury which I wanted to reach by roughly following the line of the main A2 road. The rules of the air mean that you keep such a line feature on your left and here you can see how the road sweeps down through the Kentish countryside.

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I then took a shot out of the other side of the cabin showing how the North Kent coast was clearly visible. There are several wind farms in the Thames Estuary in the area shown but they are not visible in this shot.

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Finally, here’s the last shot I took just before I turned around and headed away to Deal over on the coast. It’s of the City of Canterbury. The famous cathedral is just visible in the city centre but I’ll have to leave some better shots for another time. In the distance you can see the Medway Estuary and the Isle of Sheppey.

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After leaving Canterbury I flew over to the coast just to the north of Deal. I followed the coastline southwards over the sea and flew over Deal pier before turning right to head back to the field. Yet again I’d taken off without any gloves and by this time my hands were too cold to take any more shots. By the time I landed at around 5.00pm I was feeling pretty chilly I have to say. The flight lasted for one hour fifteen minutes and what an enjoyable time it had been 🙂