Today, as far as the weather is concerned, it’s business as usual. First thing this morning it was grey and damp with a bone-chilling north-easterly wind and now the drizzle that was falling has turned into tiny hail stones. But yesterday was different. Yesterday we saw the sky for what seemed like the first time for ages and so I went flying.
We’d spent Saturday working in the hangar on the X-Air. When I arrived it was dull but dry but as the morning wore on it began to rain…. and rain…. and rain. We had a successful day, though. During the week I’d bought some new fuel hose and some plastic fuel filters and although it took a few hours removing the old, now non-compliant transparent hose and getting the new stuff on, eventually I got the whole of the fuel system finished. With coolant in the radiators the engine would now have run, but we couldn’t do that, of course, because with the incessant rain, we couldn’t get the aircraft out of the hangar for starters 🙁
I also got caught out when I went to depart for home. When I arrived, the entrance to the field was muddy but still drivable but when I left, due to the amount of rain we’d had, it bore a distinct resemblance to a paddy field. Unfortunately, I tried to get out through the gate without fully opening it and the path I had to take as a result took me into the softest area, where I promptly got stuck. Fortunately Bob was behind me in his 4 x 4 with a tow rope and was able to pull me out backwards, so when I arrived back at the field yesterday I made sure I took particular care to stay on the firmer area. I managed to do just that and avoided any further mishaps 😯
Because of the weather, I’d almost given up on the idea of flying yesterday but decided I’d give it a shot when I saw how the weather was actually turning out. There was a rather gusty north-westerly wind which would not have favoured flex-wings but which was still perfectly within MYRO’s limits, so in keeping with my policy of flying towards any incoming weather, I quickly put together a flight in a westerly direction, taking in Meopham, Longfield, Hartley (where I used to live), Swanley, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge.
I set up the camcorder but had a weird experience with it. Initially it started and ran properly but when I restarted it to record the flight, it seemed to stop. I assumed that I had forgotten to charge the battery last time but when I checked later on, it had recorded most of the flight, but without sound. Weird because firstly, I thought I’d switched it off and secondly, it had stopped with several minutes of tape unused, when I definitely had not pressed the stop button again. I can’t explain it at all 😕
The flight itself went according to plan. The first place I recognised on the ground was Meopham but although I tried to get my camera out, the wind was just too gusty to take any pictures. I did manage to get some shots when I got to Longfield Hill, though, the village just before Longfield itself.
Then New Barn, out of the other side of the cabin window.
I’m afraid that none of the pics I got yesterday were of very high quality, the problem being that I was having to take them with my left hand by aiming without looking while still firmly clutching the stick in my right hand to keep things on an even keel. I’m surprised they are as good as they are, actually.
Then Hartley Bottom came up on my left hand side.
Next up was Longfield and I had a good view of the new Academy they are in the process of completing to replace the original Axton Chase senior school.
Then I took a couple more shots showing the centre of Longfield.
In the second one, above, you can see the Ash Road winding up the hill under the railway bridge towards Hartley, so I turned to follow it and took a few more shots over Hartley itself.
I then turned back on course for Swanley but put my camera away at this point because of the gustiness of the conditions. I was sorry that I had, actually, because I flew over Horton Kirby which features a very fine railway viaduct. Another time, perhaps.
The whole of the rest of the flight went as planned taking in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, but with the gusty wind and conditions becoming duller, it wasn’t worth taking any more shots. I got back to the field and landed safely in a bit of a naughty cross-wind ending a flight of just 1 hour 20 minutes.
Time to have a quick cuppa and a chat, then I decided to see February out with one final flight even though the weather was obviously beginning to break up. This became really clear when after taking off, I could see some very heavy showers up towards the north-west. I decided to stay up for as long as I could and thought I’d do some general handling practise with a few steep turns and stuff thrown in. I realised that this was the first time I’d done this kind of thing since my GST last year and it was very satisfying to see how even in yesterday’s windy conditions I found I could easily take steep turns and the like in my stride with little or no change in altitude. You must never be too blase, but you don’t realise how your skills are improving the whole time the more flying hours you clock up. Mind you, I had those skills tested a bit when I decided to land after 40 minutes or so. With drizzle on my screen and with the showers almost up to the field, I decided it was a good time to land. I’d forgotten how in such conditions, squally winds tend to precede such incoming weather, and so it proved on landing. The gusty cross-wind turned out to be very tricky indeed and I found my approach speed varied quite a bit, possibly as a result of wind sheer I would think. As a result, my landing was safe but not the prettiest one I’ve ever done – Bob said the right wing suddenly lifted quite a bit before I brought it back down again just before touchdown – but as they say, any landing you can walk away from is a good one. And if you can re-use the aircraft afterwards, outstanding 😉
So today it’s good-bye to February. I managed to get 3 hours 45 minutes flying in but like many others I’m sure, I won’t be sorry to see it go. Surely the weather must begin to pick up a bit soon, mustn’t it?