February 28, 2012

Route down to Plazac

I mentioned in a post a few days ago that my idea when the time comes is to fly MYRO down to my new home in the Dordogne. I still don’t know when that will be although I expect the move to happen sometime around the middle of April. I checked my planned route out again in SkyDemon (a brilliant piece of software – I’ll definitely buy it before I go) over the week-end and came to the conclusion that I’ll really have to have either a tail wind or hardly anything on the nose if the wind is from the south when I eventually make the flight. And as I’ll be flying at a low altitude, I’d also prefer to do the flight on a week-end when the French military low flight danger areas aren’t active. My planned route is shown on the following pic.

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After crossing the Channel, I’ll drop into Abbeville to clear French customs and close my flight plan from Stoke. After that I’ll be free to fly at my own pace. I’d really like to do the whole flight in a day if I can which will only be possible if I have a tail wind I think, and that’ll also allow me to make only two stops along the way, at Abbeville and Blois, where the fantastic French microlight show is held every year. Although I could purchase mogas along the way in France, my idea is to fill MYRO’s tanks and also take two full jerry cans of fuel on the seat beside me. That way if I top up my tanks at Abbeville from my jerry cans, I should be able to make it to Blois where I should be able to buy as much fuel as I need to complete the journey.

But I won’t know the full details until much closer to the actual time, because of the way that the weather can affect my plans. And before I fly MYRO down, I’ll have to complete my sale and purchase and hire a 7.5 tonne van to take all the stuff down that I intend to keep. So there’s still a bit to sort out and as I’ve just had a call from the French estate agent asking for a letter from my Solicitor confirming that my sale is going through, I need to arrange that straight away. There’s always something… 😉

February 25, 2012

Essex again

It was a lovely flying day today with wind from the north west at about 7 gusting 10 mph. So today I planned a flight over towards Brentwood in Essex then around clockwise to Billericay and South Woodham Ferrers before returning to Stoke via Canvey Island. I’ve shown the planned route in the pic below.

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And today I had the pleasure of the company of my friend Mary who was to have her first flight in a microlight, so it was a good day for it with only a modest wind and little by the way of gusts and bumps. We took off on runway 06 but could have gone off in either direction as the wind was more or less at 90 degrees to the runway. The flight went off exactly as planned and in fact we saw very little in the way of other traffic despite the fine conditions. When we joined overhead at Stoke I decided to take runway 24 for landing as it seemed to me that there was a bit more of nose wind vector on that heading, but it was a close thing. But anyway, we landed safely after a very enjoyable flight of 1 hour 15 minutes and after a a bit of chat and banter with a few friends in the club hut, headed for home. Another really fun flight 😉

February 20, 2012

Flight of a lifetime

I was talking to someone yesterday about leaving for France and how I will be getting MYRO there came up in the conversation. They assumed, as one or two others have previously, that I’ll be trailering MYRO over. Well, I have to say that the thought never even entered my head and I intend to fly MYRO the whole way down! In fact I planned the route some weeks ago, even before I found my new house in Plazac, and that’s still the way I intend to get there.

I think it’ll be the flight of a lifetime and certainly one that I’ll remember for a long, long time. The only dicky bit will be the Channel crossing – I’ve done it several times before in our Cherokee but never in a microlight and certainly nothing as slow as MYRO. I’ll be over the water for around half an hour, but that’s nothing like what Dave Sykes did during his recent flight from the UK to Australia, and so long as you are confident that your engine is in good shape, the challenge is really all in the mind. I’ll need good weather, of course, and preferably a following wind from the north, which would help the whole way down. The two tanks will also help as if the weather and wind are favourable, I should only need to stop and refuel a couple of times. But anyway, we’ll see nearer the time.

I planned the route in Skydemon but as I only used the trial version, I was unable to save the route into my GPS. It’s excellent software and I’ll buy it before I plan the route all again for real. I saved the route I planned originally as a gpx file and loaded it into Google Earth. I then ‘flew’ the whole route at about 1700ft and if the real thing is anything like the ‘simulation’ in Google Earth, it will be an amazing experience. I’ll put the route up here on my blog at some time so you can see for yourself.

But until then I must get back to work. I’ve got so much to do and as my head is in France already, it’s getting harder and harder to apply myself 😕

February 19, 2012

Another windy day today

But I still managed to keep my 100% flying record since permit. The wind was forecast to be strong north-westerly today, something like 15 gusting 18 mph or so, but dropping during the afternoon. So I got to Stoke just after midday and the wind had dropped a bit compared to this morning, but not by much though. There was nobody else flying there except for a gyro, which isn’t affected too much by winds, and a lone flex pilot who was just finishing his lunch, having flown in from Oxford in a Quik.

AX3s don’t like strong winds of course so although I’ve now got two tanks and an endurance of over 3 hours, I still decided it was prudent to head off into the headwind towards the north west away from Stoke, over the Thames at Canvey and into glorious Essex. I’d planned a flight of about 1hour 15 mins and that’s what I got. After slogging away into the headwind for about 50 minutes up to Brentwood (take a look at your chart – you’ll see how far I’d managed to get in that time..) I then turned onto a heading to head back to the field and the vis was so good I could see the Thames, the Medway and the two power stations at each end of Stoke as clear as a bell. In fact I could almost make out the arfield as well 🙂

Got back there in double quick time with that tailwind. Didn’t see any other microlights flying – just a few Group As and a Squirrel heli that passed across my nose as it climbed and went off in the opposite direction down my left hand side. Probably the air ambulance or maybe the Police I expect. I landed back at Stoke in a 90 degree 15 mph cross wind which explains why nobody else was flying. It was something of a tricky landing too with a bit of late sink which could have been nasty if I hadn’t caught it. But it all worked out well and I was pleased with my effort in conditions that were becoming somewhat marginal.

While I was getting MYRO ready to put to bed, a young mum who was visiting with a group of friends asked if her daughter who was mad to sit in MYRO could do so for a photograph. I let her of course, and I’ve not seen a smile as broad as that for a long time. Maybe we have a budding microlight pilot there for the future. And while I was putting what is left of MYRO’s covers on after the recent high winds, Trevor from Southend flew in all sideways in his X’air. Good on you Trevor, and after you, Chris and I had enjoyed a cuppa and a chat in the clubhouse, I hope you got safely home again.

February 15, 2012

Le Bousquet

My trip down to Plazac went very well. After leaving home in the early hours and crossing the Channel by Eurotunnel, I arrived at Brive la Gaillarde in south-west France, where I’d booked a hotel room for the night, much sooner than I’d expected. There was lying snow the whole way down through France and a few times I’d experienced temperatures as low as -16 deg C in the more northern parts around Rouen and Orleans. It was quite a bit warmer than that in the south, but still hovering around freezing with snow on the sides of the roads and the fields, but the carriageways themselves had been cleared the whole way down and it was possible to drive at the maximum permitted speed limits (130 km/hr on the motorways) when traffic allowed, which was most of the time.

Rather than leave the main road, I decided to carry on and visit the house alone so I could see it and form my own impressions without anyone else being present. I had a good idea of the route having been driven around the area previously by Bob and I kept seeing places and sights that I recognised. My satnav eventually took me off the ‘main’ road to take to the hills in the latter stages and I was a bit concerned as there was still a lot of snow on the rural side roads. However, I needn’t have worried as my car handled everything well and suddenly I recognised where I was and found myself passing the end of the track that leads up to Bob and Jude’s house. I didn’t have time to stop, though, and continued on to ‘my’ house in the hills overlooking Plazac.

As soon as I saw the place again, a smile came over my face. It looked different with a covering of snow but underneath it was just as I remembered it. I couldn’t go inside, of course, so just walked around for a while taking in all the details before eventually leaving to return to Brive. This time I travelled via Montignac and Terrason instead of driving on the main road and enjoyed the drive immensely. When I found the hotel (immediately – aren’t satnavs brilliant!) I checked and found that I’d driven just over 600 miles that day and after checking in, making a few phone calls and having a bite to eat in the Buffalo Grill next door, I had an early night.

Next morning I checked out after a quick breakfast and left for Rouffignac to pick up Regis, who Bob had introduced me to when I came down in January. Regis is very practical and experienced and had agreed to come and look over the house with me. We were poking around in the attic when Ludovic, the estate agent arrived and then we all had a grand tour and inspection of the house and property. The house is named Le Bousquet and if you click on the pic below you can see a short video that I shot of it.

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And then the time came to make the big decision – to buy or not to buy. I knew that I’d already made it, actually. Rather than delay things as I really had to set off to return home as soon as possible, we decided to drive straight to the estate agent’s offices in Montignac to sign all the papers. It took less than an hour and afterwards we shook hands, said our good-byes and I drove Regis back to Rouffignac before beginning the long trek home.

Once again, I arrived at Calais for the Eurotunnel much sooner than I’d expected and was able to take an earlier train, which got me home by about 10.45 pm UK time. So that was it. My two day adventure had come to an end with a successful conclusion and I slipped off to bed around midnight feeling very tired after a 1200 mile round trip, but with a smile on my face. The world didn’t feel like too bad a place at that moment. I’ve now got it all to do, of course, but that will be for tomorrow. Today was to savour and enjoy.

February 11, 2012

Busy day

Re-booked Eurotunnel, picked up some currency and rearranged car insurance and break down cover yesterday, but still had lots to do today 😐 Picked up warning triangles and hi-vis vest from Ken, filled up car and a jerry can with fuel (hope Eurotunnel accept metal jerry cans…) and checked oil, water and tyres. Then emptied out all microlight stuff from the back of the car, removed the roof bars and stuck a GB plate on. And then remembered that I needed to charge up the batteries of all of the stuff I’m taking with me – phone, camcorder, camera, lap top. And in between all of this stuff, I got in an hour’s flying in glorious smooth, cold air. Oh, and fed and took the dog for his early evening walk.

It’s now 8.30pm and I’m off to throw a few things into a small case, set the alarm for 2.00am and get some sleep before dashing off to Folkstone at around 2.45am tomorrow. I’ll let you know how things go when I get back 😉

February 9, 2012

Zowie!!

After a tense few hours, not having heard from the agent I phoned their office this morning to check how things were and make sure they knew that I really didn’t want to lose this house a second time! They said that nothing had been heard back just yet from the seller but that they would follow up the messages that they left yesterday. A short time later my phone rang ………. and I received the brilliant news that my offer had been officially accepted and the house is mine! I can hardly believe it 😀

I’m now thinking of dashing off to France this week-end using my previously booked Eurotunnel tickets. The agent said that there need be no huge hurry because it will take several days for the Compromis de Vente to be drawn up and signed by me and the vendor before the 7 day period of grace starts, but as the weather is ‘iffy’ in the Dordogne and there’s a chance of more snow there next week (although not in the forecast I’ve seen), I think I’d like to get back there as soon as possible to get everything absolutely clear and straight in my own mind. After all, don’t forget that I’ve only seen the outside of the house twice and the inside only once 😕

In the meantime, here are a couple of pics showing the house’s location. I mentioned that it’s not far from the medieval village of Plazac in an earlier post and the next shot taken from Flashearth (better quality than Google Earth) shows exactly where it is in relation.

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The point of the ‘Plazac’ arrow is more or less right on La Marjolaine so you can see that I can be there for a drink with Bob and friends in just a few minutes 😉

The next shot is a close-up of the location.

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The house to the south is not too close and is permanently occupied by neighbours. The one(s) to the west that are closer are apparently second home(s) and therefore only occupied a few times during the year at most, and as they are behind a strip of trees anyway, they do not impact on the house’s privacy. I’m not sure about the larger place to the north with the swimming pool, but it isn’t close enough to be of any concern really.

So that’s it! All bar completing my sale and exchanging the money to complete the purchase, that is. I can hardly believe that I’m very soon to begin the rest of my life in a way that I could only have dreamed about just a few months ago 🙂

February 8, 2012

Fantastic news!

Life really is a roller-coaster isn’t it? A week or so ago I mentioned that I’d lost the house I really wanted to buy in Plazac in the Dordogne, after someone put in a higher offer on the same day as I did mine. Since then I’ve become more and more depressed and my dream of moving to the Dordogne more tarnished as I’ve frantically searched for an alternative, but without any luck.

Well, earlier today I received a great surprise and some fantastic news. The local estate agent phoned to tell me that the other buyer had now dropped out. As I may have mentioned before, when you sign a Compromis de Vente in France to buy a house, you have a cooling off period of 7 days in which you can back out for any reason, and it appears that that’s what they have done. But anyway, I don’t care what the reason is, all I know and care about is that Charles, the estate agent, is now putting my offer forward again to the vendor and with a clear road, it looks as though my dream of living in a converted ancient barn in Plazac will now come true! I’m keeping my fingers crossed while I wait for him to come back and confirm that my Offre d’Achat (offer to purchase) has been officially accepted so I can relax again.

And not only relax, but also begin making some proper plans to move forward. Since losing the house in France, as the sale of my own home is still moving forward, I’ve been able to see nothing but problems. What happens when mine is sold and I have to move out? Where will I live, where will I store the stuff I want to keep and eventually take with me? Will I have to rent locally in France and search for a place to buy? If I do, what will happen about my dog Toddie? The list goes on and on, and all because of not having continuity between moving out of my home here and being able to move straight into another place over there. So you can see why I’m so keen to sort this one out, and not just because I happen to love the place in Plazac because it’s so perfect for me in almost every way!

I didn’t want to show any pictures of the place before but I’ve now decided that I’ll post some so readers can see why I’m so over the moon with it. First a few showing the outside.

From the front:

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Now the south side:

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Now two showing the back:

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Now inside:

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Looking back towards where the previous shot was taken from:

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The fabulous stone fireplace in the living room:

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I know it won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea but I’m crazy about it. I can just see a glowing wood burner in that fireplace keeping the place toasty warm (ahem… it’s -16 deg C there at the moment…) and I’ve got so many other ideas for the place too which I’ll share at some other time. In the meantime I’m just waiting for that telephone call … 😐

February 5, 2012

No fly zone

We did indeed get the snow that was forecast. It started during yesterday evening and continued during the night and although it had stopped by this morning, I’m looking out at a good six inches of snow as I type this. So by flying yesterday, I did choose the better of the two days as there would have been no flying today and even Heathrow has cancelled 30% of its planned flights. From the forecasts, although we probably won’t get any more, what we’ve already got is likely to be with us for the next two or three days at least before there is a thaw. My big regret is that I haven’t had a chance to repair MYRO’s wing covers since the high winds of a few weeks ago and the snow is therefore lying directly on them. Luckily the Mylar skins are pretty resilient.

I’ve just checked out the weather in the Dordogne and it looks as though we are faring pretty well in comparison. They can expect some snow today and during next week, the night-time temperature in Rouffignac is expected to dip as low as -13 deg C on Wednesday. And at no time during the whole of the coming week will the temperature get anywhere near freezing even, staying down at – 6 deg or -7 deg C until rising to a balmy +1 or +2 deg C next Friday or Saturday. So it’ll need a hardy soul to decide to get into the air down there too 😉

February 4, 2012

Cold? Yes, but…

Even at -2 deg C it was great getting back up in the air again. Today started with a forecast of heavy snowfalls affecting the whole of the country, but not until after dark here in the south-east. There was a lot of murk and low cloud earlier on but the cloud base was forecast to lift after mid-day, so I decided that I had to get up in MYRO if I could. In fact, as I drove to the airfield there was indeed a break in the cloud and the sun burst through, but it never looked convincing and I didn’t expect it to stay out, and didn’t mind so long as the vis and cloud base remained reasonable.

And that indeed is what happened. My plan was take on more fuel in MYRO than I ever had before and fly around the south of Maidstone, possibly even as far as Linton, before returning to Stoke via the Isle of Sheppey. I loaded between 45 and 48 litres which was not far short of both tanks full, and I was particularly pleased with how quickly the fuel transferred between them. All the messing around with copper tube inserts to keep critical parts of the transfer tubing open has proven to be well worth it and the arrangement is now working well. My only regret with hindsight is that I didn’t acquire a second tank with a rear outlet, like the original one, rather than the bottom outlet that the second tank actually has, as that was the source of many of the problems I experienced that needed me to find work-arounds. But never mind, the system now works like a charm.

I took off from runway 24 and climbed out nicely, right up until I got to about 800 feet or so, and then the engine began to become a bit ‘lumpy’. I’ve never experienced anything like this before with this engine and I decided to return to Stoke, suspecting possible carb icing. I landed back on 24 without incident but still with a bit of roughness which seemed to disappear but returned when I went for another take off, which I aborted.

I decided I’d better shut down and check to see if I could spot the problem, so I taxied back to the parking area. When I went to shut the engine down, I then found that I’d managed to leave a bit of choke on after I’d taken off the first time. But there was nothing for it, I still shut down and got out to give the engine, carbs and exhaust another once over. All was fine, but having stopped the engine, I had to sign in and then sign out again for a second flight.

By this time, it was a bit too late to think about a flight around Maidstone, so I decided to just go around Rochester instead. The engine checked out fine both before and after take off and in fact performed faultlessly, just as it should have, for the whole flight. Most of the flight was in quite good vis with a fair cloud base but there were a couple of places where the conditions were quite murky but still quite legal. And anyway, this is an area I know like the back of my hand and it was never necessary to consult the chart which I, of course, had with me. I was also quite surprised at how many thermic bumps and areas of lift I encountered as I did my circuit of Rochester.

I was told by the Cherokee owner that Rochester airport was closed last week end and it looked to be so again today, but I still took care to remain clear of their zone. I turned left at the M20 junction to head up towards Sittingbourne and then continued on over the old and new Isle of Sheppey bridges, which are alongside each other, up to Sheerness. I then turned left to the south of Sheerness to head back over the Medway estuary for a downwind join for 24 at Stoke. I decided I’d better cut the corner as there was now nobody else flying and I didn’t want Claire hanging around in the cafe, where I’d left my flight bag, waiting for me before she could close up and go home.

By the time I’d landed, my finger tips were becoming nippy through my gloves, but overall I was still surprisingly warm given the general temperature, which was still below freezing with a bit of a wind chill. Before putting MYRO back to bed, I thought a hot mug of tea was in order though, and it went down very well with an eccles cake 😉

So today turned out pretty well. Another small lesson learnt with the choke – I must take more trouble with my checks after the events of the last two weeks and not allow myself to become blase or over familiar. Experience shows that that can lead to nasty things happening, so I must take a bit more care in the future. But if we do get the snow tonight that we’ve been promised, I’ll know for a change that I chose the better of the two days to go flying 🙂