January 5, 2011

2 days of flying, but…

… the weather both days was awful.

As the Christmas break was drawing to a close, like everyone in the South-East, probably, who flies for fun, I was becoming desperate to get some flying in before the holiday period ended. We’ve been going through a period of awful weather – in the early part of the Christmas break we had bitterly cold temperatures and too much snow to take off and land on and when the temperature rose and the snow melted towards the latter part, almost continuous poor visibility as a result of fog and low cloud. There was really only one flyable day in all that time which was clear and bright enough on which I went down to the field to see if enough snow had melted from the runway. I found that it had, but didn’t take any flying kit with me so couldn’t fly. I intended to do so the next day, which was forecast to be good enough but, of course, fate decreed that in fact the weather would close in again making flying impossible.

The forecast for last Sunday 2nd January was not too bright (literally 🙁 ) with moderate to poor vis and low cloud expected, but I thought I’d give it a long shot. Any approaching weather was forecast to be coming in from the north and I always think that when you are only flying for fun, it’s best to fly towards incoming weather on the outgoing leg so you can turn tail and get back home again with the weather behind you. I still had the route for the last trip I’d planned before Christmas in my GPS, over the Thames to Essex and back and decided I’d use that again. Last time I’d cut the trip down and just flown up to the Isle of Grain over the Medway estuary past Stoke via the east of Rochester, returning via the west side, so I thought I’d do the same again. The flight was almost a repeat of last time. I flew over and through puffs of low cloud, that didn’t represent any hazard to flying, with the sky above low, dark and overcast and with even more uninviting murk and low cloud hanging in the distance to the west. But an hour and twenty minutes in the air was very welcome, even if my fingers were very chilly despite wearing gloves when I got down. I decided not to bother with the camcorder because it just wasn’t worth it in those light conditions.

The forecast for Monday 3rd January was a bit better, but not by much. By then the wind had turned to the south-west with little or no fog, but we still had a very low, overcast sky with just one or two breaks in it from time to time. However, the joker in the pack was a 30% probability of snow showers during the afternoon. I planned a flight to the south for the reason I mentioned earlier, heading towards Eastbourne, turning south-east before getting there to hit the coast at Pevensey Bay, following the shore-line along to Bexhill and then turning back north for the return leg, a total distance of 62 miles. At any time, if nasty weather did come in unexpectedly, I would always have the option of just turning round and safely heading home.

So that’s what I did. It did get a bit touch and go at one stage with the weather and I had tiny particles of snow blowing around me in the cabin with the sky became darker and murkier the closer I got to the coast. As a result, I decided to be prudent and cut the route down a bit, flying further to the east of Heathfield and Hailsham in Sussex than I’d originally planned to and flying parallel to the coast but slightly inland. Even so, my GPS shows that including taking off and joining to land, I covered a total distance of 64.4 miles in a time of 1 hour 27 minutes, so overall the difference was not that great. It was also excellent flying because the air was so smooth that it was easy to set engine revs to hold a pretty constant speed and maintain altitude comfortably within a 50/100 feet range.

I had an interesting landing. I usually fly a longish final starting from about 1000 feet with a dog-leg to avoid troubling any neighbours or anyone else who I might fly over. This time I was a bit lower at about 850 feet but instead of having an easy job getting down, today for some reason MYRO wanted to stay up. So towards the latter stages I ended up a bit high and fast. No problem, I just had to side-slip it off. I got down and stopped easily enough even on the short Winter runway, and it was fun doing it as well. I did a recording of the flight including the landing and I’ll see about putting it in the Gallery later.

And so my Christmas break came to an end. Just under three hours flying – not as much as I’d have liked, but probably more than a few less fortunate souls managed to get in I’d guess, so maybe I have to consider myself fortunate 😉

And I’d like to finish by wishing anyone who happens to pass by my blog and reads this a happy, prosperous and above all, peaceful 2011.