April 26, 2014

To Hautefort and its chateau

This is the full video from 10 April from which I extracted the take off and landing shown in the other video that I posted previously. Because of that, it suffers a bit from the same vibration problem, which I’ve tried to mitigate a bit in the editing. As a result it hasn’t affected it too badly and you can see the vid by clicking on the image below.

To Hautefort

I’ve not had a chance yet to see whether the mods I’ve made to the camera mount have solved the vibration problem because of the recent poor weather that we’ve been getting, but hopefully I’ll be able to soon 😐

April 24, 2014

Going backwards

The weather that is. For the moment anyway. It seems to have peaked since my last post and those long, warm, sunny days that we enjoyed earlier in the month are behind us for now. For the last few days we’ve woken up to fog that has taken until after lunch-time to clear, by which time it has been too late to work up very much of a temperature in the afternoon. And the visibility hasn’t been that great either. I took off on Friday for a flight south but had to land back at Galinat after 20 minutes, not because of anything to do with the aircraft or the weather, fortunately. I didn’t bother taking off again because it was a bit breezy and bumpy, although that wasn’t the reason why I returned to the airfield, and since then we’ve had several windy days, fog, as I mentioned above, and even a bit of rain.

My friend Val came to stay for a few days over the Easter week-end and we had a great time with dinner with friends on Friday and a Chinese meal on Monday. Only Easter Monday was a holiday (jour férié) in France and she left to return to work on Tuesday. I’d hoped to get a flight in today but was thwarted by the morning fog and although it was forecast to be bright overcast this afternoon with light rain later, it’s still dull as I type this and it looks as though the rain is moving in a bit earlier than was expected. So that’s it, and as the forecast is for rain every day for the next week, with even some possible thunderstorms thrown in, it looks as though 56NE will be remaining under-covers for a while yet. I’ve still got the flight south all planned and ready to go, and I wanted to try out my camcorder mount again, which I’ve stiffened in an attempt to get rid of the vibration, but now that’ll have to wait until things begin to look up again, whenever that may be.

Beginning of May? Who knows. What’s the bet that yet again, the old enemy, the Jetstream, is to blame for all this … 😐

April 16, 2014

Fabulous day

We’ve been enjoying some exceedingly fine weather over recent days, even better than this time last year when I was working in the house and also on 56NE’s new panel. I had my worst year ever for flying last year and only managed a few measly hours because of poor weather, having to get my French licence and getting 56NE back into the air. However, I’ve been making up for it this month alone and we’re still only half-way through. I didn’t fly today because of having other things I needed to do, but the conditions would have been perfect with unlimited visibility, uninterrupted blue skies and very little wind. We had a high of 25/26 degrees Celsius and it was like a warm Summer’s day back in the south of England, except here it’s still Spring with the leaves on the trees a brilliant green, the lilacs out in white and purple and smelling wonderful and trees everywhere smothered in blossom.

I had two friends to stay for a couple of nights over the week-end while on their way to Spain and the weather was perfect while they were here. I cut my grass a day or so before they arrived and cut it again yesterday and now it’s beginning to look more like it does in Summer, a bit dry with one or two dusty patches. Even so, I thought that the house and garden looked a picture in the sunshine today.

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Last year, I played around a bit creating wide panoramic shots by stitching several images together in Photoshop. This year I have a new Panasonic camera that does the job for me automatically and here are a few shots that I took today of my house and front garden.

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I also took a similar shot of the field across the road from my house, sweeping round from the north-east to the south. It gives a distorted view of the road because of the size of the viewing angle that it covers, but shows perfectly what fabulous weather we had today.

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As I’ve mentioned previously, Galinat can be seen in the distance from my front garden. I also took a conventional shot to the south-west using my camera’s telephoto lens and the conditions today meant that detail of the field could be clearly seen.

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Val’s arriving tomorrow for a few days and disappointingly, it looks as though the spell of fine weather will be coming to an end with a forecast of cooler temperatures and light showers over the week-end. However, I don’t think that we’ll let that dampen our spirits or spoil our fun 😉

April 11, 2014

First French flying video

As I mentioned in my previous post, I managed to mount my camcorder on 56NE yesterday and record my flight up to Hautefort. The flight lasted for an hour but to start off with, I’ve just made a short video of the take off and landing that can be viewed by clicking on the following image, to show what it’s like flying at Galinat.

Galinat Take Off and Landing

I’ll need to make some improvements to the mount because there was a bit too much vibration that affected the quality, but that can come later. For now, I’m just pleased to have at last managed to get a flying video together after all this time!

April 10, 2014

Just right!

That’s the only way to describe how things went today, despite a couple of minor hiccups which I’ll mention later. Nature has really come alive down here now. Everything is just so vibrant and green and this afternoon at Galinat, I was enchanted by a Song Thrush singing his heart out just for the joy of it. Everything was just as it should be for a perfect flight; good visibility, hardly any wind and a temperature in the mid-20s. I took off at about 5.15 pm when it was still around 25 degrees Celsius and while I was driving home just after 7.00 pm, it was still over 21 degrees.

It didn’t take me long to plan a flight for today – head north to Terrasson, turn north-west for Hautefort, which I’ve never been to, and then head back south to Galinat via Fanlac. The following image shows the route.

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My first problem came when I tried to export the route into my little satnav. I was really annoyed to find that I couldn’t get a connection between the mobile device and my computer, just as happened before with my last little satnav. I know from that experience that although it’ll still work as a car satnav, it’s about as good as a brick now for aircraft navigation purposes as there’s no way that I know of recovering it. I think the damage may have been caused by connecting it to my PC while it was switched on, but I don’t know for sure. Pity, but there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Luckily I still have a larger satnav that still works. I prefer not to use it, though, because having a larger screen its display is darker and a bit harder to see. But never mind, it was OK for today, so I got it set up and was ready to go.

By this time it was mid-afternoon, not a bad time to go as it would have allowed most of the thermic bumps to dissipate. I was in the middle of uncovering 56NE ready to be pre-flighted when I suddenly realised that I’d forgotten to bring the pitot tube with me, that I’d taken home to clean after my recent insect-related incidents. Nothing for it but to go back and get it – lucky that I don’t live too far from Galinat, isn’t it. It took less than half an hour and after re-fitting it, it was time for me to try something else.

When I was flying back in the UK, I used to like mounting my little Canon camcorder on the aircraft so I could record my good flights. I haven’t been able to since I’ve been in France because I’ve been unable to find a mount to fit onto 56NE’s fuselage tubes. Well, I got hold of something from Ebay just recently which turned out to be faulty (wouldn’t lock properly) but I filled it with superglue and thought I might as well give it a go today. Securely attaching it to the airframe was a bit of a challenge but after a few minutes, I managed to get an arrangement that looked as though it would work. And when I was ready to go at just before 5.15 pm, I switched the camcorder on, crossed my fingers and took off.

Everything went just as planned and I was delighted to see that I now had an airspeed indicator. In fact, I think that my pitot cleaning efforts did a world of good, because the gauge is now much more responsive than before and also it’s showing a higher indication of cruise speed. The gauge must previously have been under-reading and this explains why my flights have always taken less time than I thought they would! First, north-east past Terrasson up to the little village of Perpezac-le-Blanc. Just a charming little village in lovely countryside, as the following image shows.

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Then a left turn to head up to Hautefort, which I’ve never been to before, either by road or in the air. On the way, a typical little Dordogne hamlet caught my eye and I took the following picture of it.

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And then I continued on to Hautefort, which I could see in the sunshine in the distance. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had the impression that Hautefort was quite a big place. But it turns out that I was wrong. Here’s a picture that I took as I approached it.

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‘Haute fort’ translates as ‘high fort’ and it turns out that that’s what’s actually there – a large and imposing chateau on high ground over the village. Here’s another shot that I took as I flew past it as I turned south onto the next leg to head back to Galinat.

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My route took me past yet another little group of houses that I thought was very typical of the Dordogne and once again I took a shot of them

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The leg from Hautefort to Fanlac took about ten minutes and although I have a shot of Fanlac that I took several months ago, I took another because of the sheer vibrance of the green surrounding the village.

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Galinat was still several minutes flying time away, but I could already see the strip in the distance as I passed by Fanlac. So yet another long, long final and an uneventful landing. I checked the camcorder afterwards and I found that it had made a full recording of the flight. Now I just need to process and edit it and I can’t wait to put together my first video of a flight here in France. And as soon as I do, I’ll post it on here, of course 😉

April 5, 2014

Another bumpy ride

The weather forecast for today was excellent – bright sunshine, clear sky and very little wind. First thing this morning I looked out onto zero visibility in fog but you could see that it would soon burn away as the sky above it became more and more blue. I needed to sort a couple of things out and then go down to Intermarché to pick up a couple of items and get some fuel and it was lunch time before I got back. I gave Wim a ring and he said that he’d just got back in from Galinat after he and Regis had been flying Regis’s Zenair, so I decided that in that case I might as well take my time and go for a late afternoon flight when hopefully it would be less thermic as the power of the sun reduced as time went on.

By the time I’d had a chat with Fred, who has a low-wing, single engine aircraft whose type I don’t know in the hangar at Galinat, and got 56NE fuelled up and pre-flighted, it was gone 4.00 pm but whereas I thought that conditions would be calming down by that time, in fact the opposite was happening. While I was getting ready the sky began to fill rapidly with cloud and quite a noticeable north-westerly wind began to build up. This was fine for take off but it meant that there would be a reasonable tail wind with gusts when it became time to land. Nevertheless, I decided to go for the flight I’d planned at short notice, a bit earlier, as below.

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My plan was to turn onto a south-easterly heading immediately after take off and head down to the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, the second town in the Perigord after Perigueux. Then I planned to run westwards past St Cyprien and the TV mast south of Le Bugue as far as le Buisson-de-Cadouin before turning north to head past Le Bugue itself up to Fleurac and then back to Galinat. You can see from the above image that I more or less did that but having got to Fleurac, I then decided to head over to Plazac before doing a circuit around my house and another just to the north-east of Thonac, before heading back to land at Galinat.

I was able to take a few photos during the flight, but not without some difficulty, because with the increasing cloud there was a lot of lift and sink about, making for very bumpy conditions. And every time, just as I was about to take a picture, I hit one or the other, of course. I also had to be a bit careful because even though I’d cleared my pitot out, it still wasn’t giving a proper reading, so in effect I had no airspeed indicator while this was going on. The first shot below is of Sarlat-la-Canéda.

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Then St Cyprien. I diverted a bit to the north as my red track line shows, to take a shot or two of a pretty little chateau but it was so bumpy that none of them came out well enough to use.

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I went as far as Le Buisson as I’d planned but it didn’t have a lot to offer, so under the circumstances, I didn’t bother taking any pics. So next, Le Bugue. I flew over Le Bugue on my last flight but forgot to take my camera on that occasion. This time I did get a good shot or two.

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Finally, Fleurac and its chateau. It’s actually only a tiny little village. Wim and Victor both live outside it in the surrounding countryside.

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After flying around a bit more, it then came time for the usual long approach to land at Galinat. With the tail wind, I found that the approach was not just at a faster ground speed than last time but was also quite a bit more turbulent. I guess that one just has to get used to this around here, because it’s not for the faint-hearted with a lot of lift/sink bumps and wing-rocking turbulence. As I was holding off for the landing, I don’t know whether the tail wind dropped or what, but all of a sudden I found some unexpected lift causing an enormous balloon before the main wheels eventually hit the ground with a bit of a thump. Not a bad landing actually under the circumstances and certainly no harm done.

I taxied back to the apron and had parked 56NE, refuelled it and was covering it up when I had a very pleasant surprise. A car drove up across the grass of the apron and a gentleman got out and came across to introduce himself. It was André who is now 90 years of age and still flies from Galinat. He has an aircraft with folding wings a bit like a Pou de Ciel, that is kept under cover close by and every now and again he gives it an airing. We had a good old natter and he told me that he’s flown just the once so far this year but looks forward to doing so quite a few more times as the season progresses. He thought that the winds were far too tricky for him today, and he was right because they had given me a bit of a bumpy ride. Not beyond limits yet, though, for this old ULMiste 😉

April 4, 2014

Long day

I started work this morning on the wardrobe that goes with the chest of drawers that is now in my spare bedroom. I’m doing the same ‘ageing’ process to it so they will match and I’d hoped, optimistically as it turns out, to get the wardrobe all done and dusted today. Some hope! I had to do a minor repair to a small split on one of the doors that I think may have occurred while Wim and I were lugging it about the other day, not that it matters because it’ll never be visible. But it took time.

After that I began rubbing everything down. It’s all in bits because it won’t go up my stairs in one piece, so the aim is to treat every part separately, carry them upstairs into my spare bedroom and then re-assemble them. But I grossly under-estimated the time that this would take and in fact, I didn’t finish all the rubbing down until this evening. So it’s been a long day and I’m now pretty tired. I’ve just cleared up and I’m enjoying a cool drink while I type this. I haven’t yet decided what to do tomorrow, whether to continue and try to finish the job off or go flying. The weather should be pretty good and although Sunday will not be quite so good, being a bit more cloudy according to the forecast, it’ll still be flyable. I’ll decide in the morning, I think. Now it’s time for bed.

April 2, 2014

It just clicked

After my post yesterday in which I mentioned the poor vis and high winds that we’ve been experiencing recently, I read a news article on the BBC web site that mentioned that the UK was about to experience a period of poor air quality and atmospheric pollution. Today I read that the latter is due to pollution being blown across into the UK from mainland Europe and also to dust being blown up from the Sahara Desert, and an article on the Daily Mail web site included the following image by way of explanation.

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Something began to stir in my mind and I recalled a post that I did way back on 28 February about how ‘distortions’ to the Jetstream were affecting our weather. It included the following image that showed how the Jetstream, which I’d always thought of as a continuous high level band of strong winds that occasionally meandered from its ‘normal’ position to the north of the UK to positions a bit further south, was in fact far more complex.

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The image showed that the ‘continuous’ stream of wind was actually fragmented and split and that its southern segment, as I commented at the time, was extending as far south as North Africa. After today’s reports, I wondered if this was still the case and whether a distorted Jetstream might be responsible for the air pollution in question and the dust from the Sahara Desert that has been sprinkling our cars here in south-west France and as far north as London and South-east England, and this is what I found.

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This image shows the position of the Jetstream as of today and it seems to confirm my thinking. It would appear that it’s the Jetstream, our old enemy, that’s responsible for the ‘distortions’ in weather patterns that we’ve been experiencing recently. I’m not a meteorologist or any kind of expert in weather and its patterns and cycles and I do not have much knowledge of the history of the Jetstream over the years, or even over many months. However, I do recall discussions at a time when the UK had been suffering from an extended period of cold weather with constant northerly winds when an image was produced by the Met Office showing how the Jetstream had moved uncharacteristically further south than normal, dragging the ‘arctic’ weather conditions with it. And that was when it had moved only as far south as the English Channel. Now it would appear, that it’s moved much further south, as far as North Africa, and not only that. Now it’s also been torn apart, for some reason, into fragments that are wreaking havoc with the weather all over Western Europe.

I cannot explain why this should be or whether similar situations have existed in the past. What concerns me is how long it will go on for and to that I do not have any answers. The Jetstream forecasts that I have access to seem to indicate that there will be no significant change for at least the next few weeks but that shifting patterns will bring about short-term changes in local weather. I’ve made my own analysis based on those forecasts which for the next few days are largely in accord with the ‘official’ weather forecasts. It looks as though although the UK will experience strong winds from the west on 6 and 7 April, for us here it will be much more settled, remaining so right through to April 11/12, when we will again experience westerly winds with, most likely, a bit of rain. At the same time, there could be strong, cold northerlies in the UK. But on the basis of the present forecasts, it appears that pilots both here and in the UK can look forward to a good, settled period of weather from around April 16. We just have to wait and see how true that actually is.

April 1, 2014

Hey, what’s going on?

I managed to get a flight in today, but only just, because the weather was far from perfect. The weather was a big part of my choosing to come to France with my aircraft but as time goes on, it’s becoming more and more contrary. To the point, in fact, that recently pilots in the south-east of England, where I came from, have been reporting fine flying weather whereas down here we’ve been finding it almost impossible to get into the air.

Quite often I check the web site at Headcorn airfield HERE because it’s in the area where I used to fly and also because it has a WEB CAM (not streaming unfortunately). Today the web cam showed a bright sunny day, a little bit cooler than here, but with good vis as far as I could see and, more importantly, hardly any wind. I’ve just checked again as I type this and the web site is showing wind from 135 degrees at only 1 mph!

Compare that with the Plazac weather for today as shown in the following pic.

Today's weather

The forecast shows the wind coming from the south-east, which is almost straight down Galinat’s runway, but with quite strong gusts. I decided that there might be a window to fly later in the afternoon when the wind would be around 10 mph, but with possible gusting at up to 20 mph. I’d also decided on a late afternoon attempt because this morning, yet again, the sky was milky and the vis was atrocious, so it was a matter of ‘suck it and see’ if things improved as the temperature climbed, up to it’s forecast high of about 22 degrees Celsius. Ever since the period of wet weather that we went through that lasted a few weeks but finished a fortnight ago, we’ve been dogged by poor visibility, even with temperatures of 20 degrees C, or even higher. Last week-end we also had strong winds with gusts of 50-60 mph and since then, the forecasts have been for the windy days to continue for a while yet. Chuck in the poor vis as well and things begin to look not at all rosy 🙁

Too be fair, I do recall suffering from vis problems following a cold, wet winter during my last year in the UK, but even so, it’s so frustrating to have similar conditions follow me down here when I’d hoped that they’d be behind me more or less for good. Anyway, I already had a flight lined up, taking me out to the west to Le Bugue, Ste Alvère, Cendrieux and La Douze, returning via Rouffignac and Plazac, as shown by the following pic.

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In the end I thought that I might as well just go out to Galinat, pre-flight 56NE and take a final decision when I was ready to go, and that’s what I did. During the pre-flight I had to add a bit of water to the rad, so I’ll have to watch that in case some is being lost when the engine’s running. I also had to pump up a main wheel and I’ve always known that I should replace the existing tyres and tubes ASAP, so I need to plan to do that sooner rather than later.

And then it was ‘make-your-mind-up’ time. Wind blowing from the south-east is good for landing at Galinat, but not so good for taking off, because it’s a tail wind. Today, although the runway was firm, the grass had not been cut recently and was a bit long, so I had to take both things into account. I noticed that although there were some strongish gusts coming through, in between them there were lulls lasting for more than a minute, so having reasoned that I could wait for one of those to take off in, I decided that I’d give it a go. And things went well – all but for one thing. As I accelerated down the runway, I noticed that I had no ASI (airspeed indicator), but almost at the exact same time, I was airborne as I always use a short-field take-off technique in any case and had been holding the stick back to get the nose wheel up ASAP because of the length of the grass. Time to make a decision – to either take off and return to the airfield as soon as was practicable (it was too late to comfortably abort the take off on the down-slope of Galinat’s runway, not impossible but not really necessary under the circumstances), or to continue with my planned flight.

I decided on the latter. I didn’t have a passenger to concern me and I’m already comfortable with my knowledge of the speeds at which 56NE flies under different circumstances (climbing, level, descending) and at various engine revs. In fact, by using just engine revs and without an ASI to ‘chase’, I found that if anything, I was holding level altitudes better than before. That’s without the lift and sink that I kept bumping into as I went around my planned route, of course, but I was able to manage those quite easily using my knowledge and ‘feel’ for the aircraft, together with the VSI (vertical speed indicator) and rev counter.

The previous image shows both my planned route (dark line) and my actual track (red) which, for the most part, follows the former quite closely. Eventually it came time to set up for my approach and landing back at Galinat. I knew that I needed to be pretty careful with this because of the lack of ASI and also because of the gusting wind, but I didn’t know just how tricky it would actually be. In fact, it turned out to be the most challenging approach and landing that I’ve had to make so far at Galinat, not because of the absence of ASI but mainly because of the turbulence created by the wind rolling over the top of the hill on which the airfield is situated. But I’m glad to say that I made it down in one piece and without incident and I was pleased to see when I checked the ‘speed profile’ of my approach afterwards, that in the final stages I was almost dead on the target of 50 mph.

I also checked 56NE’s pitot tube (that generates the airspeed readout) and saw, when I looked closely inside, the remains of some kind of insect. I’d only given it a cursory inspection during my pre-flight and now I know that in future I should inspect it a little more thoroughly in order to avoid a similar experience in the future 😐