Best way to describe the week-end really. Peter and I got cracking on the X-Air on Saturday morning with a view to getting it totally ready for permit inspection the next day. During the week I’d bought a new fuel pressure gauge and new water temperature gauge and sensor which we thought would totally solve the gauge problems and ultimately save us time. The X-Air HADS (Homebuilt Approved Data Sheets) show that BOTH gauges are required for permit so my initial assumption that they would not be an inspection show-stopper couldn’t have been more wrong. To cut a long story short, the fuel pressure gauge worked fine but the new temperature gauge still refused to give a reading. Further investigation seemed to point to some kind of short or wiring fault involving a voltmeter that the previous owner had fitted so as the end of the day was approaching, we could go no further with it.
When the X-Air was inspected the next day it sailed through as I’d hoped save for the gauges and an advisory on the main tyres which are showing signs of standing and age. So we agreed with the inspector that we’d kill both birds with one stone by fixing the gauge problem and fitting two new main tyres and tubes. We’ll do that next week-end and as he’s got to come back the week after to inspect several other aircraft on the field, he’ll then also be able to sign the X-Air off for its check flight. I was very happy because I’d worked into the early hours organizing all of the X-Air’s paperwork and getting its Log Books up to date and in order (having had to do the same for MYRO, I knew what was expected 😉 ) and the inspector said he was very pleased with everything we’d done. I call that a result 🙂
On the downside, he and I agreed that as the voltmeter is not shown in the HADS and does not have any Mod paperwork, it either has to be removed or go through as a mod with a BMAA fee of £50. I said to Ken that I could see no practical reason to have it (if your battery is low, the engine won’t start!) especially as there’s an approved, working ammeter fitted. He agreed, so as part of solving the water temperature gauge problem, the voltmeter will be coming out. All in all, apart from the water gauge problem, I think the inspection went very well.
And so onto Sunday. Yet again, Saturday was a brilliant flying day – CAVOK (absolutely no cloud) and perfect visibility. Only problem of course, was that because of working on the X-Air, I couldn’t fly. Yet again, on Sunday the weather stood on its head – more grey cloud, a lot of mist (more like light fog actually) and, as it turned out, rather turbulent winds aloft. A strange mixture. But not having flown for 3 weeks, I wanted to give it a go. I’d planned a flight down to Hastings on the south coast and when the cloud began to break after the X-Air’s inspection had been completed, I decided to give it a go.
As soon as I took off, I realised that the vis was still very limited because of the mist – not dangerously so or under the VMC limits but to a point where a few years ago I’d have decided to return to the field. But with modern GPS’s you don’t need to rely on map reading using visual ground features so I decided to carry on, and I’m glad I did. Despite the limited vis, the sun was out at Hastings and lots of people were out and about on the promenade and on the beaches. And on Sunday I decided to do something different. The Law is that while flying, you must keep at least 500 feet away from any person, vehicle, vessel or structure, but that doesn’t mean you have to fly at a minimum height of 500 feet. The distance can also be horizontal meaning that if you wish, you can fly right down to ground level so long as you maintain a minimum horizontal separation of 500 feet. Or down to sea level….
And that’s what I did. For the first time since I had my Tri-Pacer aircraft back in the late 1970’s, I descended to 50 feet or so over the sea and ‘skimmed’ the water at 50 or 60 miles per hour. It’s great fun and very exciting. I started at the western (St Leonards) end of Hastings and flew along the length of the promenade past the now very badly fire-damaged pier. Lots of people seemed to enjoy the sight and many of them gave me a hearty wave as I flew past. When I got to the cliffs at Fairlight Cove I had to look up to see the cliff tops and I flew below the radar scanner that was lazily turning at the Coastguard station (it’s for ships in the Channel anyway, not aircraft…) and as I rounded the bend, ahead of me was the long shingle beach that stretched all the way up past Winchelsea to Rye. As I flew along, the occasional flock of seagulls were startled by MYRO’s passage and flew up from the surface of the sea in front of me in a cloud of flapping wings but none ever came too close to MYRO’s spinning prop. There were quite a few families with small children out on the beach enjoying the sunshine and as I flew past several Dads (and Mums too) pointed MYRO out to their children and I got lots of friendly waves as I flew by.
I then had to climb again as I reached the end of the sea leg and turned back inland over Rye to return to Linton. The return legs passed very quickly because of the southerly tail wind I was experiencing and the approach and landing were satisfactory, if not as smooth as I’d have liked. By the time I came in to land there was a very fresh, gusty 90 degree cross wind which made for a very challenging landing. I have to say that actually it wasn’t one for the less experienced or faint-hearted pilots amongst us and my landing was a bit harder, probably unavoidably so, than I’m accustomed to doing. But it wasn’t that hard and all was well.
On the downside, again, I’d been running the camcorder over Hastings but yet again the recording left much to be desired. Although I’d thought I’d set the focus to ‘fixed’, it kept going rapidly in and out making it almost impossible to watch the footage. Also for some reason much of the sound was lost as the recording level was automatically set to much too high a level, something that has never happened before. Yet again, more things to to be resolved before I start recording in earnest now the weather is at last beginning to pick up.
But all in all, a great day and a flying experience I’d never have missed for anything 😉