March 31, 2016

This *#@$~% awful weather!

All this week I’ve been expecting a weather window of at least two days, tomorrow and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, in which to get in some flying in the Savannah and then to ferry it across to Malbec. But it now looks, almost incredibly, as though those hopes could well be dashed!

It’s extraordinary how the weather seems to be changing, and always it seems for the worse, at the drop of a hat. It now looks as though, depending on which forecast you go for, that not only could that window disappear but that we could also be in for yet another period of several days of continuous rain!

I now realise that I could have done it yesterday except that I need a lift back to Galinat from Malbec to pick up my car and Wim wasn’t around to assist. But I then found when I dropped into Malbec that Victor, who I thought had gone away, is still around so could have helped me out. And not only that, but I also realised too late that if I’d dropped my bike over at Malbec first, I could have ridden it back as most of the route is downhill from Malbec with just a shortish steep climb in the latter stages of the route back up to the airfield at Galinat.

Today was forecast as being miserable and wet and has indeed turned out that way, albeit after quite a nice start. But by late morning some really thick cloud rolled in bringing rain later and also making it really gloomy and cold.

This is definitely the worst Spring that I can remember since arriving in France and made even more frustrating in that I have not just one, but two aircraft insured and ready to fly, but grounded because of the weather. When will it ever end?

March 28, 2016

Storm Katie

The news coming in from the south of England is not good with wind gusts of up to 100 mph causing severe damage to buildings and trees and several aircraft that weren’t secured down, blown over. Thankfully my family haven’t been affected and my sympathies go out to those who have had their homes, cars and other property damaged by the storm.

We’re fortunate here in the Dordogne in only catching the fringe of the storm, with wind gusts only getting up to around 30 mph. So not too much to worry about, but it’s a different story further north. I saw that La Ferté Gaucher, where I flew the Savannah down from, is currently being hit by gusts of the order of 60 mph.

The silver-lining for me though, is that the weather window on Wednesday for flying the Savannah over from Galinat to Malbec still looks open, with the wind forecast to fall back to just 10-12 mph and a high expected of 20 degrees Celsius. So it looks as though it should be good flying weather. I’m off to Galinat in a moment just to check that everything’s OK, but I don’t expect to find any problems.

March 27, 2016

Looking ahead

To this week and beyond. Up to today, the weather forecast for this week was atrocious, with winds, rain and even thunderstorms predicted. However, if today is anything to go by, things may not turn out to be quite as bad as we thought, as whereas we were expecting it to be dull, miserable and wet, it hasn’t turned out that way at all.

Sure, there was a bit of rain and even a few rumbles of thunder overnight, but not only have we been getting flashes of sunlight, the cloud has also risen and it’s possibly even just about flyable if you had a mind to.

It appears that we have to live with the Jetstream and its effects the whole time nowadays as we never seem to go more than a short period, a week or so at most, winter or summer, before it grabs hold of our weather and gives it a good shaking. Just take a look at what it’s up to at the moment.

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I’ve been watching the Jetstream on and off for a couple of years or so now, and although I’ve watched as it’s gradually tracked further and further south, from northern Europe down now into North Africa, I don’t think that I can recall seeing its convolutions as extreme as they are nowadays, with violent northerly and southerly wind components being so close together, like the writhing tail of a snake. This would appear to me to be the reason why the weather can change so markedly in such a short period of time. Let’s all just hope that things don’t get any worse!

With the forecast as it was up until yesterday, for rain and winds for the whole of this week, I was becoming a bit despondent. Philippe has moved his Citius back into his now-repaired hangar at Malbec, thus vacating the barn where I will be keeping the Savannah. However, it looked as though, like it or not, ASY would have to remain out in the open at Galinat, albeit under covers, as the weather wouldn’t be suitable to make the move for a week at the earliest. But it now looks as though there will be a window on Wednesday, so that’s not quite so bad and I look forward to being able to post a few pics, and maybe even a video, of the flight over if it does happen.

Now looking a few weeks further ahead. Some readers may recall that during our west coast tour last year, Wim and I had the good fortune to land at the ULM club Aero-Focus at Le Thou in the Charente Maritime, at a very opportune time, on the day that they were holding their ‘grande soirée’ to celebrate the Fête de St Jean le Baptiste. There were 200 people there and we had a fantastic evening, vowing to return there again this year.

Wim has found out that the date is Saturday 19th June and that they would be delighted if we visited them again, so we’ve made a firm note on our calendars and have also been thinking about a route. Although the whole flight will only take 1 1/2 hours in the Savannah, so easily done in a single hop, Wim has said that he’d like to make a couple of stops along the way, at Riberac, which is just still in the Dordogne, and Jonzac in the Charente. So that’s what we’ll do and here’s a pic of the route.

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We’d been hoping that the three of us, Wim, Victor and I, would all be making the trip together. However, it sadly now looks as though Victor won’t be able to join us, as it would be his first long cross-country flight and that he won’t be able to get enough experience in beforehand to ensure that he’d be able to accomplish it safely. Oh well, next year maybe 🙁

Now it’s just a matter of seeing how the days pan out over the coming week and whether I will be able to fly ASY over to Malbec. So it’s fingers crossed again, then…

March 22, 2016

More ’tilleuil’

After the tree-cutters had finished their work and disappeared again on Friday as swiftly as they’d arrived, this was the view from my living room window the next day.

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Until this morning, when the silence was broken abruptly and without warning by a chainsaw roaring into life. When I looked outside, I found that two men were back, this time with their heavy equipment, and had started work without my noticing.

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Before I knew it, they’d also cut down the scrubby little trees round to the north end of the house that I’d asked them to clear. For the moment, it’s left the house looking very bare, but you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs and there was no way of making anything of that part of my garden all the while the trees, that were really just giant weeds, were still standing.

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Here are a couple of shots of the equipment that they’d brought with them today in action, a bit of a difference compared to their last visit when all they came with was a tractor, a chainsaw and a small set of aluminium steps 🙂

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Only one of the pair returned after lunch and he set to single-handedly to chop a few of the smaller logs into shorter lengths and use the grab to transfer logs and branches into the large trailer that they’d brought for the purpose. I saw at least a couple of loads going out of my garden this afternoon, with difficulty I might add, as the road is quite narrow and the turn out of my entrance very sharp with a telegraph pole on one side.

This was the view when he’d left at approaching 7.00 pm this evening.

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Even though the ground is firmer now than it was a week or so ago when it was still raining, you can imagine what those huge, agricultural tyres have been doing to my grass. I should imagine that at end of this one, they’ll be looking for another job – landscaping my garden.

But it’ll be worth it in the end 😉

March 20, 2016

Guess what

Friday morning dawned with a bright, clear blue sky and the silence was shattered by the deafening sound of… birdsong, yet again. No revving of diesel engines, no buzzing of chainsaws. Nothing. I waited until about 10.30 am by which time I’d decided that enough was enough and fired off a one sentence email saying that if nobody turned up that day, the ‘devis’ I’d signed would be cancelled and I’d find someone else to do the job.

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Within an hour a large tractor and a van came trundling through the entrance to my garden containing a workforce comprised of… just two men.

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They’d obviously taken my email seriously because they’d hardly come prepared, having brought with them just a small pair of aluminium stepladders and a large Stihl chainsaw. I had to loan them my ladder so they could fix a cable about 10 metres or so up the trunk of the tree with the other end attached to their tractor, which they parked over in the corner of my front garden. Then they, well one of them anyway, got cracking with the Stihl while the other who drove the van just stood and videoed proceedings on his iPhone.

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It took just a few minutes to take a large slice out of the front of the tree and cut a slot opposite it in the back.

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Then it was a simple matter for the chap who’d been watching the proceedings up to that point to rev up the tractor and begin to slowly haul the cable in. Timber… the tree gave an almighty creek and began to topple onto the front lawn, constrained by the cable so it could only fall in one direction, away from the house.

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And down it came with a few creeks, a splitting noise and a muted crash as it hit the ground.

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And that was that. I guess that it had taken more than 200 years to achieve the state that it had been in, but it took less than 15 minutes to reduce it to a heap of shattered branches and wood debris spread across my lawn. As the cable operative set to to rewind the cable onto the back of the tractor and drive it out of the corner of my garden, the Stihl man spent a few minutes wielding his chainsaw to separate a few of the larger branches from the main trunk.

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And that was also that for the day. They’d obviously decided that they’d done enough to justify their visit and packed up to go, wishing me a ‘bon weekend’ and saying that they’d be back on Monday, or Tuesday maybe, to finish off the job and clear up. I’m hoping that that means by the end of the coming week, but now the tree’s down so it can’t continue growing over the coming (hopefully) summer, I’m not overly worried about timing. After all, although I’m at their mercy, they are also at mine because I haven’t paid anything yet.

After they’d gone, I surveyed the ‘new look’ of my garden and the remains of the ’tilleuil’.

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With the tree and all the wood debris spread over my garden, things are now looking at their worst. It looks very different without the tree in front of my house but it already looks cleaner and brighter with it gone.

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Once everything’s been cleared away and the ‘terrassement’ done to re-contour the ground in front of the house, I’m sure that it’ll look even better. I don’t like having to take down an ancient old tree but the fact was that I had no choice as without doing so, I’d be unable to build the extension I have planned for the front of my house. Taking the tree down signifies the start of that process, and that’s an exciting prospect.

March 17, 2016

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

I’m writing this at just gone 8.30 am and it’s a lovely sunny morning with a clear blue sky and very little wind. So it’s a beautiful day for doing, well, almost anything really. And it’s peaceful too.

Not that I expected it to be. By now I’d expected the peace to be destroyed by the sound of diesel engines and the clanking of heavy mechanical equipment because this is the day when the contractors are supposed to come to take down my lime tree.

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With rain forecast for later, I’d have thought that it would have been a good idea to be on site bright and early to make a start while it’s still fine, but there’s no sign of them and there’s little to be heard apart from birdsong. The only sound of anyone or anything hard at work is that of a distant woodpecker. If my tree is still standing at the end of the day I’ll be very, very annoyed 😐

March 16, 2016

Moving forward again

I’m back indoors this morning for the first time this week. After two days of hard work at Malbec, we’ve now got a new roof fitted to Philippe’s hangar.

At the end of a long day’s work on Monday, despite a few tricky gusts of wind that occasionally threatened to undo all of our good work, Philippe, Victor and I with the help of Olivier got the initial two light-weight plastic covers on with the insulation sandwiched in-between them. This made the hangar waterproof and was fully deserving of the meal the three of us enjoyed together at Le Café de la Mairie at Les Eyzies later in the evening.

And yesterday morning, the three of us with the help of a visiting ‘mécano’ who was finishing off the paintwork on Philippe’s Citius, got the much thicker and heavier ‘bache de camion’ top cover on as well, thus making the hangar weather-proof again except for its doors, which were also damaged by the force of the wind. We had a few tricky moments though, when after struggling to get the top cover up onto the roof of the hangar, it threatened to slide completely off to one side, which would have made it necessary to bundle it up again and repeat the process all over again. However, we managed to catch it in time and the job was completed in time for lunch.

So today I’m back to working on my house plans. I’d really like to soon begin bringing them to some sort of conclusion as they seem to be dragging on and on with the end constantly in sight, but without it ever being finally attained, which is becoming a bit frustrating. Tomorrow I’m expecting the men to arrive to take down my big old lime tree and with Philippe expecting to return his Citius from the barn to his hangar by the end of the week and excellent weather expected through until Monday or Tuesday, I’m hoping to move ASY across from Galinat to Malbec over the week-end. So something nice to look forward to, then 😉

March 11, 2016

Going bonkers!

I’m sitting indoors at my computer working on documents for the planning application for the work I want to do on my house. The sun is shining outside and it’s probably warmer outdoors than it is inside because it’ll take a while before the walls of my house start to absorb the heat and warm up. Much as I’d love to be outside, preferably doing something with one of my aircraft, I can’t stop because the work has got to be done. So I’m slowly going bonkers, even more so because the firm that is supposed to be taking out my big old lime tree promised to do it by the end of this week and, of course, hasn’t turned up. One of the problems of France, unfortunately.

I’m consoling myself with the thought that looking ahead a bit, the weather forecast just gets better and better. Tomorrow and Sunday look good for flying, albeit with a bit of a northerly wind, but by the end of next week we expect to be getting balmy days with light winds and temperatures up at 17 or 18 degrees Celsius. That’s more like it! So with a bit of luck, this week-end I should be able to get the covers off the X-Air, give it a check-over and get an ad up on Le Bon Coin and later on in the week, I’ll also have the covers off the Savannah and be able to get a few hours in that as well.

Life is looking up – the cherry on the top would be if I find a quick buyer for 56NE 😉

March 7, 2016

And about time too!

It looks as though the long spell of bad weather that we’ve been experiencing for the past several weeks is at last approaching its end. A bit more rain is expected up to the coming Friday but as from Saturday it looks as though our weather will start to get back on track. As well as then having at least a week without rain to look forward to, or at most just a few odd spots every now and again, temperatures next week should also start climbing up to highs of around 16 or 17 degrees Celsius, which will be nice.

This is great news, because it will mean that as well as being able to get some flying in in ASY, I should also be able to get the covers off 56NE and make sure that it’s tidy and in good shape to be advertised for sale. It was still looking OK when I last checked after the work I did last year in preparation for our west coast tour, despite the awful weather it had been standing out in under its covers over the winter. So hopefully I won’t need to do much to it before placing an ad on Le Bon Coin and I’ll be able to find a buyer for it without too much delay as the weather improves. I mean, owning a gaggle of ULMs is fun, but it isn’t what I intended!

I’d also like to think that I’ll be able to move ASY over to the barn at Malbec so it is under shelter out of the weather. However, I’ll have to wait and see as that will depend on whether Philippe manages to finish repairing his hangar roof or not.

March 5, 2016

Better? Better!

Well, a bit anyway. When Wim dropped in this morning with the dogs for our regular Saturday morning coffee and chin-wag, rainy squalls were still passing through. Shortly after he arrived, the sun came out and although we had the occasional light shower after that and the sun kept disappearing from time to time behind angry looking grey clouds, the weather improved a bit. It still remained rather windy, though.

So I took the opportunity to nip across to Galinat with the aim of replacing the two of Régis’s heavy old covers that I’d used on the Savannah’s left wing and rear fuselage with the lighter ones that I bought yesterday and generally seeing if I could improve the job I’d done of wrapping the aircraft up against the weather. In fact, it was still too windy to do much more than replace the heavy covers and try to rearrange the others a bit because if I’d tried to take any more off, they and I would probably have ended up being blown across the airfield.

But the end result, although not ideal, was definitely an improvement, as the following pictures show.

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Anyway, that will have to be it, I think, until the weather begins to pick up and I can prepare ASY for a move to Malbec. Much as I’d like to be able to get a flight or two in if there’s the odd break in the weather, as I mentioned before, taking off and replacing the covers would be just too much of a fag.

And then as I was driving up the hill to get off the airfield, I heard that familiar sound – it was a large flight of cranes making their annual trip north. Every year at this time, these courageous birds instinctively decide when winter is over and begin their heroic flight from their winter nesting grounds in North Africa and southern Spain to their summer homes in northern Europe. Its a spectacular sight and a privilege to see hundred upon hundred of these birds calling non-stop as they plough unerringly northwards, especially when faced with a cruel head-wind as is the case this year.

I jumped out of the car and grabbed my camera and there were two groups almost overhead Galinat. As I watched, they sensed that there was ridge-lift caused by the deflection of the northerly wind by the hillside and their echelons began to break up as they merged and came together into two groups. They then began to wheel and circle with wings outstretched and hardly moving as they began to ascend in the updrafts, carried southwards as they climbed.

The first group was more successful than the second and resumed their flight north having gained at least 500 feet, I would say, without being blown back too far south. The second group were not so lucky, and when I got back into the car after taking a few pictures, they were still calling and trying to climb having been blown back at least a coupe of kilometres or so.

Here are some of the shots that I took of them. It’s a pity that the sky was so grey.

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Are they right and is winter really over? They are rarely if ever wrong, so maybe there’s some hope that the weather actually will begin to pick up some time soon. One local weather forecast shows that we should be heading into warmer, sunnier, more settled weather as from next week-end. I just hope it’s right!

March 4, 2016

Still raining

One of the things about running a blog like My Trike is that you can look back at old posts and compare now to then. I did that yesterday and this is definitely the worst February/March that we’ve had since I’ve been here, starting from 2013. We’ve inevitably had a bit of wind and rain every year at about this time but this is the first year that we’ve had such strong winds and rain together, going on for so long.

I remember my old Vauxhall Astra estate getting bogged down on Galinat’s apron in 2014 but just like the other years, that period of bad weather was soon over and things quickly began to pick up going into March. OK, it must happen some time this year too, but unlike in previous ones, there are no signs that it’s going to happen any time soon. In fact we’re forecast to keep getting more of the same for a while yet.

I dropped into Galinat less than an hour ago on my way back from Montignac and was pleased to see that with the wind having dropped a little bit for now, ASY’s covers were still in place and only the small area of fuselage that I mentioned in my last post, to the rear of the passenger door, is being directly rained on. For now, but then that’s better than having driving wind forcing it in under the covers so everything is permanently soaked the whole time.

I picked up another two light-weight 5 x 3 metre weather-proof covers from les Briconautes while I was in Montignac so with a bit of luck I’ll be able to take the two of Regis’s big old ones off and make a better job of wrapping ASY up tomorrow. If there’s a long enough break in the rain, that is.

March 3, 2016

Not pretty

I nipped across to Galinat to check on ASY earlier on. I’m glad to say that despite the biting north-westerly wind still persisting, the covers hadn’t moved much since I secured them yesterday. We had rain overnight but have had nothing to speak of today. But there’s more to come tomorrow and Saturday, so I just hope that everything stays as it is until that’s gone through.

If the aircraft’s then got to stay where it is for much longer, I’ll probably get some more lightweight tarps from les Briconautes and do a better job of wrapping it up than I have at present. At least it’ll then be more protected, although apart from looking awful and not very pretty (to say the least), it shouldn’t come to any harm as it is now.

Once again, I also checked on 56NE and once again, its covers had hardly moved. But no point making similar ones for ASY if it’ll be moving into the barn at Malbec before too long.

March 2, 2016

Double whammy

Double nightmare. The weather forecast for the coming few days is pretty awful, if not horrendous. We’ve had cutting north-westerly winds all day with continuous gusts of between 30 – 40 mph together with regular squalls of driving rain. And it appears that we can expect more of the same non-stop for the next 4 or 5 days. Yes, pretty much non-stop.

I went to check on the Savannah today and found that the cover I’d put over the nose and engine cowling had blown up but was able to pull it back down again and secure it with another bungee. The same had happened with the cover that I’d put over the rear of the fuselage but although I was able to pull that down too and secure it with another bungee, it was impossible to cover up the rear of the fuselage behind the passenger door which is now pretty much exposed.

The wind is driving into the temporary covers that I put over the Savannah from its right rear quarter and not only is there no shelter at all from that direction but there’s nothing I can do about it except wait and hope that everything holds until the winds begin to abate. That will probably not be until Sunday, although the rain will persist even after they’ve dropped.

If I’d known that the weather was going to be quite this bad, would I have left the Savannah up north in its hangar for another couple of weeks? Yes, I think I probably would have. Ironically, the covers that I made for 56NE, which are fitted, have hardly budged an inch in the wind and rain 😐