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 🙂