July 26, 2016

My next flight

I may get a chance to do another short local flight or two beforehand, but after Sunday’s success, I’ve already planned my next longer excursion in 77ASY. Here’s a shot of my planned route.

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My plan will be to drop back into Figeac but this time as my first leg from Malbec rather than the final one on the way back. That should again take about 35 minutes depending on the wind direction. From Figeac I’ll then head off on a south-westerly heading to Montauban with a flight time for the leg of around 40 minutes. Montauban, like Aurillac, is a commercial airport but more active, I think, so that should be interesting. From there I’ll head north-west to Fumel, flight time 25 – 30 minutes, and from there almost due north back to Malbec, flight time about the same.

The whole route is a bit less than Sunday’s at 268 km and the total flight time should therefore also be a bit less at around 2 hours 20 minutes allowing for take offs, landings and taxying.

It won’t be this week end, though, as Sunday is Cavarc’s open day, which unfortunately poor old Victor is going to miss this year, lying flat on his back in hospital at Belv├Ęs. So the rest of us will all be thinking of him ­čÖü

Just back to say that I’m also now planning to meet up with a friend in Saumur (Loire) on 10th August, which is exciting in itself but even more so because there’s an airfield very close to the west of the town, meaning that I’ll be able to fly there. The total distance each way is just under 270 km, so about the same as my foray last Sunday and the flight I’ve described above, but with no stops in between. No problem as it would only take about 2 hours from Malbec.

So something to look forward to for two reasons ­čśë

July 24, 2016

Today’s flight

Was everything that I’d hoped it would be. There were a couple of minor disappointments, which I’ll come onto later, but on the whole it lived up fully to my expectations for it.

Not that it looked that way when I initially turned up at Malbec, because here’s the view that greeted me.

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The airfield was enveloped in thick mist, which was actually the base of a low layer of cloud that I’d climbed up into on my way to the airfield. I’d checked the ├ëgletons web cam and over there they were CAVOK, but there was no way that I could take off in the conditions that prevailed at Malbec at that moment.

So I set to to fix up my video recording arrangement and once that was done, all I could do was sit it out until the mist burnt off. My plan was to connect my little sportscam video recorder to one of the power packs that I now have to give me a much longer extended recording period that theoretically today would include the whole of the flight. I tested the arrangement out a few days ago and the sportscam recorded for 5┬Ż hours, so as today’s flight was only planned to last for between 2 and 3 hours, there should have been ample time to record everything even if I forgot to switch it off after landing at each destination airfield.

But these little devices are determined to defy me and not do what I want them to. What actually happened was that the sportscam switched itself off almost immediately at Malbec, so I got nothing of the flight between Malbec and ├ëgletons. However, it stayed on after I’d switched it back on again at ├ëgletons and I got the whole flight from there to Aurillac, so that was one good thing.

However, it let me down again for the legs between Aurillac and Figeac and Figeac and Malbec, of which again I got absolutely nothing. I obviously need to find out why because the system clearly has the potential to do what I want it to. All I have to do is find out why sometimes it switches itself off again as soon as I start it up.

But at least I have the whole flight between ├ëgletons and Aurillac on disk, which I’ll edit over the next few days and put up in the videos section.

Here are a couple of shots of the sportscam mounted under the wing with one of the new mounts that I recently bought (the original was too flimsy and snapped a while back) and the power pack strapped to the strut next to it with its power cable disconnected.

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Part 1 – Malbec (Dordogne) to ├ëgletons (Corr├Ęze)

I took the next shot while I was still climbing out of Malbec on my north-easterly heading for Égletons. It shows a bit of the low cloud cover that had affected Malbec that I was leaving behind me, as it was burning off and breaking up.

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The next shot is of my panel as I was on track just north-east of Montignac.

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Here’s a shot that I took as I flew past the airfield at Condat that I’ve flown into a couple of times lately.

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Now a shot of the old, closed Brive la Roche airport. It’ll be a wonder if stays intact for much longer, as close as it is to the city. In the UK it would already have been dug up for housing or industrial use.

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As I continued into the Corr├Ęze, the ground gradually began to rise up towards me. I also noticed that there were several large, deep clefts in the ground, one of which can be seen coming up in the next pic.

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This is a shot I took of it as I flew past.

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Nevertheless, despite beginning to rise up, the ground was on the whole a bit flatter than what I’d left behind in the Dordogne. However, as I approached the higher ground with its associated light cumulus cloud cover, the rising air was becoming noticeably more turbulent.

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I had no problem spotting Égletons and as there was little or no wind, I elected to join downwind for runway 07. The landing went without incident and it was only as I was taxying to the runway exit, that an aircraft flew over me, going around in the opposite direction.

The couple shown in the next shot were aboard it and after they’d landed I apologised to them, as for some reason I’d not heard their calls and they, mine. This is something I’ll have to investigate as I also had radio problems at Aurillac, so I think I’m going to have to look closely at 77ASY’s aerial and power supply in the first instance to see if I can find anything.

The final two shots in this section are of the aero club building (far right in the next shot) and hangars at Égletons.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Égletons

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Flight time Malbec to Égletons, 55 minutes.

Part 2 – ├ëgletons (Corr├Ęze) to Aurillac (Auvergne)

After a brief stop and short conversation with a group of aero club members outside one of the hangars, I took off from ├ëgletons on runway 25 and climbed right to set course for Aurillac overhead the field. It’s gratifying that the Savannah climbs so effortlessly and soon gets you to the height that you want to be at without wasting any time at all.

As I headed south, the cloud cover over what is actually fairly high ground was playing all sorts of tricks and occasionally the level of turbulence was quite severe. But I refused to allow that to stop me taking pictures as the terrain I was flying over was unmissable.

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As I flew on south, the deep clefts in the ground that I’d noticed further north became more and more pronounced until they were so large that they were filled with large expanses of water.

What you can see in the next shot is a single track railway line emerging from a tunnel in one hill, passing over an amazing elevated viaduct and then entering another on its other side.

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I don’t know whether these were parts of a large winding river or lakes, but the landscape was both impressive and beautiful and I found it very reminiscent of the Swiss and Italian lakes.

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Soon the long black ribbon of Aurillac’s tarmac runway hove into view and although there was not supposed to be an ATS (airfield traffic service) at that time of the day on a Sunday, I called up and was surprised to get a reply. The controller complained about the quality of my radio, understandably so as I could hear music from a public radio transmitter breaking through even into my headset.

Nevertheless, we made ourselves understood and I joined overhead to land on runway 33. Aurillac is open to commercial airlines and I wasn’t surprised to find when I taxied to the apron that a Hop ATR turboprop was parked and coned off there, probably ready for Monday’s flight to Paris. But then my ‘problems’ started.

Despite the official airfield card showing parking on the grass to the left of the terminal building, and there being a light aircraft tied down there, the controller didn’t like it when I taxied on there and told me to shut down my engine. He then came out onto the tower balcony and shouted down to me that taxying on the grass was prohibited, so to please him I moved 77ASY by hand.

After taking a few shots of the airfield, I requested permission to start up and taxy but he said, although I didn’t understand at the time, that I needed to move the aircraft manually. However, as he wasn’t supposed to be on duty, and didn’t respond to any further calls, including my request to enter the active runway and backtrack for take off, I just started up and taxied across the grass anyway without incident.

Naughty! There’ll probably be a letter in the post next week. In hind-sight, I should have moved 77ASY off the grass and onto the taxiway manually and then proceeded, but too late now to cry over spilt milk!

Here are the shots that I took at Aurillac. As I say, despite being a local commercial hub, the airport was otherwise totally dead, except for a flying school Savannah S that landed and taxied to the hangars while I was there.

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Flight time Égletons to Aurillac, 40 minutes.

Part 3 – Aurillac (Auvergne) to Figeac (Lot)

The controller at Aurillac wasn’t responding to any radio calls by the time I wanted to take off as according to the officially published times, he wasn’t actually supposed to be on duty at all. But as the airport was so dead, I had no problem with announcing my intentions at every stage, taxying to the holding point and back-tracking runway 33 for take off.

In fact, because the runway is so long, eventually I couldn’t be bothered taxying any further and called that I was going to line up half-way down for a short take off. After doing that, I had reached my planned altitude, corresponding to the circuit height at Aurillac, well before the upwind end of the runway, so I then just turned on course and called up to say I was leaving the zone.

This leg of the flight represented a descent from the higher ground of the Auvergne to the lower ground of the Lot and the change in the terrain’s appearance reflected that. But it was still stunning to look at for all that. Here’s shot taken out of the left side of the aircraft shortly after I’d turned on course.

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Here are some shots looking out of the other side of the aircraft. I think that it’s amazing how quickly the transition from quite mountainous to relatively flat terrain happens.

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By now the rising thermals were making 77ASY behave a bit like a bucking bronco, so as the land I was passing over became flatter and relatively more featureless, I stopped taking photographs. Eventually Figeac’s hard runway came into view and I called up to join left downwind for runway 29.

I could see a few aircraft that were parked on the aprons and outside the hangars but no other signs of life, and so proved to be the case when I landed, taxied up to the apron and parked. No, actually there were a couple of guys having a conversation over the fence outside the ULM club, but they paid no attention to me and eventually went their separate ways.

I was amazed that there was no one around on such a lovely day, but that seems to be the way of things at the moment. Maybe the conditions at that time of day were just too turbulent for most people. I ended up taking a few photographs of the place, taking a swig from the flask of cold drink that I’d taken with me and heading off back to runway 29 for the final leg of my flight back to Malbec.

These are the shots that I took at Figeac while I was there.

ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Figeac

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ICP Savannah MXP 740 at Figeac

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Flying time from Aurillac to Figeac 35 minutes.

Part 4 – Figeac (Lot) to Malbec (Dordogne)

I more or less took off and flew straight out from Figeac to be on track for my final leg back to Malbec. There was no need to climb to any great altitude so I stayed at around 1800 feet at which level the turbulence from rising thermals had become quite uncomfortable.

This meant that taking photographs was the least of my priorities, but it didn’t matter as soon after the terrain that I was passing over began to transform itself into the typical Dordogne scenery that I’m now so accustomed to.

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I knew that I was getting close to home when the village of Payrac passed under my port wing.

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And then the great Dordogne river itself, which gives its name to this magnificent region of France.

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I’d nearly reached journey’s end when I could see the airfield of Sarlat-Domme in the distance off to my left, confirmed when I flew abeam the town of Sarlat itself.

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Then it was time to prepare for my landing back at Malbec. I spotted the airfield in good time and set myself up, as I like to do, for a comfortable long final. My efforts were rewarded with a text-book short field landing as I plonked 77ASY down and still had to apply power to reach the top of the runway.

So I’d finally reached journey’s end and successfully completed my flight covering four French D├ępartements (Dordogne, Corr├Ęze, Auvergne and the Lot) in a day. And what an amazing experience it had been.

Flying time Figeac to Malbec, 40 minutes.

Total flying time 2 hours 55 minutes.

Wim and I did a tour of the west coast last year but we don’t have anything similar planned for this year and we’re unlikely to now that the performances of our aircraft are so different. So I decided that instead I’d do a few longer one or two-day tours by myself, this being the first. And now I can’t wait for the next one ­čśë

July 23, 2016

My next flight

Victor’s unfortunately laid up in hospital after a very nasty accident, so much sympathy and good wishes to him for a full recovery over the next few weeks. But as a result, he won’t be around tomorrow to have fun with, or for some time actually, sadly for both of us. Wim just got back from a few days away and he’ll be tied up tomorrow with domestic issues, so he won’t be around to fly with either.

So I’ve planned a super flight that I’ll do just by myself tomorrow, that will take me out of the Dordogne into the Corr├Ęze, then into the Auvergne and finally into the Lot before returning to Malbec. Here’s a shot of the route.

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The whole route is around 288 km, so too long for Wim in his Weedhopper and if he’d wanted to fly tomorrow, I’d have restricted it to just something like out to Figeac in the Lot and back again. But as it’ll just be me in the Savannah, I’ll do the whole route in a flight time that should be just over 2 hours, or say 2┬Ż including allowances for landings and take offs.

77ASY is all ready to go with full tanks and a clean windscreen, so with a bit of luck I should be able to get away by around 9.00 am. That means that if I don’t hang around too much, I could be back before the worst of the thermals begin to bubble up. All I’ll take with me is a cold drink. I can hardly wait ­čÖé

July 18, 2016

Me 1, Weeds 0

That’s the current score but the game’s not over by any means. To say that we’ve had an absolute stonker of a day today is an understatement. A high of 36┬░ had been forecast but in fact we got 37/38┬░ and even as I write (8.30 pm local) my little portable thermometer is saying that it’s still around 28┬░. We have a forecast high of 39┬░ for tomorrow so goodness knows what we’ll actually get.

I thought that I’d get out into the garden earlyish on before it got too hot to slash down some weeds and cut the grass. I sorted out the front, which still looks very tatty, but the increasing heat eventually beat me out the back.

Regular readers may remember that the ground that Fabien had left bare after his ‘terrassement’ of a few weeks ago had become overrun with weeds, to the point that I couldn’t rake off the stones and roots that had been left behind and level the surface. I decided that desperate measures were in order as the weeds had grown so high and thick that simple manual removal was out of the question and that I’d have to use weedkiller.

So 10 days ago I went over the whole area with glyphosate spray and afterwards I took pictures so I could track progress. Here’s where things are now. The pictures are in pairs, the first of which shows the original state and the second the current.

First, looking towards the corner of the back garden.

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Looking towards the house from the main entrance at ground level.

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A similar view but from up on what will one day again be the front lawn.

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Looking direct at the house from the front.

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The view from the northern front corner of the house.

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A similar view but looking along the front at the slope that Fabien made after the big old lime tree had been taken out.

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So the weedkiller has done its job. There are still a few hardy weeds still bravely standing but the ones that I’ve given a tug to come easily out of the ground and will therefore not be difficult to collect and dispose of. Then while it’s so hot, I’ll just leave the ground bare before chucking some grass seed down in the autumn, although eventually I’ll have to kill the whole lawn off and start again because the ‘grass’ that’s there is of such poor quality.

But at least phase 1 of the game seems to have been settled in my favour ­čśë

By the way, the first set of shots were taken with my old Sony compact and the second with my new Nikon S3700. It’s a beautiful, lightweight little camera and in my opinion, the set of shots that it produced are sharper and with more natural colors than the Sony pictures. So I’m very pleased and can’t wait to give it a go in the air.

July 16, 2016

Just a little local flight

Wim and I planned just a short flight today, taking in a couple of local aerodromes. Take off was planned for around 9.00 am so we could get back before it started to become very hot and bumpy, as a cloudless sky and a high of around 30┬░ Celsius had been forecast for later in the day. We thought we’d drop into Sarlat-Domme and pick up a cup of coffee and then fly onto Condat, the airfield with a large tarmac runway that’s a bit like landing on an aircraft carrier.

Here’s a shot of my intended route.

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Wim didn’t land at Malbec this morning, and instead I waited for him to overfly the airfield before taking off and following him south to Sarlat, inevitably overtaking him en route. Here are a few shots that I took at Sarlat-Domme including some more unusual ones of the fronts of the airfield buildings that we don’t usually see.

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I bumped into the owner of the Beechcraft Kingair that’s based there who tried to help me a few weeks ago when my GPS fell off onto the Savannah’s cabin floor just as I was taking off and we said our ‘Hellos’ and shook each other’s hand. I think he also owns the Air Chateau business at Sarlat that does parachuting and various other activities as the picture above shows.

After taking off and turning on track for Condat, I took the next two pics as I flew past the town of Sarlat bathed in the scorching mid-summer sunlight.

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Roland, the owner of Condat, was there when I landed and we were in conversation when Wim touched down almost 10 minutes later. When he found that we were in no hurry to leave, he called a retired English friend of his to drop in and meet us, who turned out to be Bernard, a retired RN sub-mariner.

Wim had to depart because of other business but I stayed on for another 45 minutes or so and had to turn down the offer of a cold beer from Roland’s in-hangar fridge. But eventually I too had to leave before it became too turbulent. Even so, it was pretty bumpy on the way back to Malbec and the approach equally so, but I landed OK and clocked up a total flying time of 75 minutes.

Just as I was finishing wrapping up 77ASY for the day, Victor turned up and we retired to his place for a quick bite. And I also got that cold beer that I’d been looking forward to since Condat ­čśë

July 10, 2016

Nikon S3700

I mentioned in my last post that as my little Sony digital DSC-W800, that I’ve only had for a year or so but which has received the usual battering in that time, is not now delivering very high quality shots, I might look around for a new camera.

Well, I was idly perusing the French Ebay site yesterday evening, as you do, when I came across a brand new Nikon Coolpix S3700 at a very good price, no bids and only 40 minutes to go. So I decided how much I was prepared to go to and made a bid before the ad expired.

Turned out I was the only bidder and therefore got it at its starting price, which was much lower than it’s currently being sold at on the French internet discount photo-store web sites. Here’s a stock shot of the camera.

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It’s had very good reviews on all of the camera comparison web sites that I’ve seen and has been the best-buy low cost digital on almost all of them, so although it only has nominally the same number of pixels as my current Sony (20.1 MP), I’m looking very much to getting my hands on it. It didn’t cost me a great deal so I won’t be much out of pocket in any event, but I’m quietly optimistic ­čśë

July 7, 2016

Magnifique!

We had another magnificent day today – temperature around 30┬░ Celsius and hardly any wind to speak of. It seems that summer’s arrived at last so maybe now we’ll be able to start getting a few longer flights in.

I went over to Malbec in the afternoon with the idea of taking 56NE’s covers off and seeing what needs to be done to get it ready for sale. I was delighted to find when I moved the tie-down block under its right wing that the little Blue-Tits’ nest that had contained 3 almost fledged babies when I disturbed it a week or so ago was empty, so evidently they survived the experience and eventually flew out.

I fitted the new rev counter that I bought a few weeks ago and wasn’t very happy with the connections, that seemed to be a bit loose. However, when I started the engine it seemed to work fine, so I decided that I’d clean the screen and come back later for a flight to see if everything was otherwise OK. I thought that conditions would probably be about right after around 7.00 pm, and I wasn’t disappointed.

They were absolutely magnificent! I’d prepared just a short flight landing at Galinat and then flying out overhead Condat, the airfield that Wim and I visited a week or so ago, Terrasson and the ULM airfield to its east and then back via the north of Condat and Wim’s airfield at Plazac before landing back at Malbec. I got one of the most pleasant evening’s flights that I’ve ever had.

I was immediately struck by how basic 56NE now feels compared 77ASY, but it’s hardly surprising because it is. The take off went well and I was immediately struck on climb-out by how exposed you feel without doors on, so now I understand why some passengers that I’ve carried have said how insecure they feel! But more to the point, I immediately found that even though the engine revs were normal, the new rev counter wouldn’t read above 4000 rpm.

What a nuisance! If it’s faulty, which seems likely, I anticipate that there might be a problem returning it as I’ve had it for a couple of months or so, but I’ll have to wait and see. I also noticed that the airspeed indicator seemed to be considerably under-reading, but that seemed to sort itself out after a few minutes and I guess that was one of the results of the aircraft having stood for so long. And finally, one of the EGT readings also dropped off to zero, an intermittent fault that I’ve noticed previously which I think is probably also down to a poor connection. So a few jobs to deal with then, before 56NE can go up for sale.

Here are a couple of shots that I took of 56NE ready to go at Malbec.

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But despite all these little niggles, the flight itself was fantastic. It was inconvenient not having a properly working RPM gauge but I practiced a couple of approaches at altitude and was satisfied that things would be fine so long as I just monitored my airspeed and the approach angle to my selected touch-down point. This proved to be so when I landed at Galinat, which was a perfectly good landing, if not a greaser.

I only landed long enough to taxi to the top of the runway, switch the engine off and record my flight time. I noticed that there was a visiting flex-wing parked nose-in and covered up for the evening in 56NE’s old parking place. I then switched on again and took off, heading in the direction of my house, which I flew overhead (too close for a photograph, unfortunately) before heading for the airfield at Condat.

Here are a couple of shots that I took as I flew by. I described it as being a bit like an aircraft carrier deck after landing there last time, and the pictures show what I meant, as did another more so, that I took on the way back (see later).

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Here’s a shot of what Condat is more famous for, though – it’s large paper mill which I guess must be one of the largest employers in the area.

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Now a couple of shots that I took while approaching Terrasson from the west. The conditions were lovely but the quality of the shots leaves a bit to be desired, for some reason. I’m thinking that another new camera may be in the offing.

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Now a shot of the ULM airfield to the east of the town.

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My route back to Malbec took me past Condat again, but this time to the north of the airfield. I took another shot which very clearly shows how it sits on the top of and very close to the edge of the escarpment with an incredibly steep slope on its eastern side down to the plain and the houses below. I’m not sure I’d like to have a house down there, though, seeing how the shadow was beginning to creep over them.

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And a final shot that I took from overhead le Bos de Plazac looking towards my house, which is in the small group in the distance. The hay has nearly all been cut now and any left on the ground for more than the few hours is drying out incredibly quickly (thanks Tim!) due to the temperatures we’re now experiencing.

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I had a peach of a landing back at Malbec despite the rev counter problem, and I can only say that my practice landings and touch-and-goes in 77ASY at several local airfields have proven to be a godsend. Having taken the opportunity to go back to first principles, I’m much happier now landing at Malbec and I’m going to make sure that Victor does exactly the same when he returns to Fleurac and gets the Rans S12 into the air. Nice landings on short strips are 99% confidence ­čśë