After the high winds and turbulence of yesterday, today was a gift from the weather gods. A high of 27 degrees C had been forecast which you’d have thought would have meant more of the same, but in fact it started off rather dull and a bit cloudy with no hint of a promise of better things to come.
I did a bit of washing and hung it out as you have to if you don’t want to run out of underpants and socks and then left for Malbec as I’d intended to do, in order to give the runway another good cut at a much lower level. All went well and although it had warmed up a little by the time I’d finished, it still remained dull with a hazy, indistinct horizon and no wind to really speak of.
I’d taken the keys to all of my three aircraft with me but hadn’t really thought about flying when it dawned on me that today was the perfect day for testing out the Weedhopper. So after putting the ride-on mower to bed, I pulled it out of the barn and taxied it across to the top of the runway (the entrance to the field is conveniently just wide enough for it to go through).
I’d already walked the runway and found it to be much firmer than it was even yesterday when I flew the Savannah so while allowing the Weedhopper’s engine to warm up for a few minutes at the top of the runway I sat in the cockpit mulling over what to do. Should I do a few more high speed taxi runs or should I go for a take off, and if so, after another high speed taxy down and back again or not?
There comes a moment when the time for testing is over and you just have decide to go for it, and this was that moment. As I looked down the runway I opened up the Weedhopper’s throttle and decided to do just that.
And what happened? After a take off roll of probably less than 100 metres, it lifted off beautifully and soared into the air without a hint of drama. It was just like old times, like being back in MYRO again, except it seemed to feel a bit more stable and to have a bit more power despite having the same engine.
I adjusted the trim for a bit more nose-up and turned a bit right of runway heading so I could turn back left again 180 degrees for a straight-in approach to Malbec’s runway just as I’d done umpteen times over the past twelve months in the model I’d made of Malbec in X-Plane while I was unwell. But this time it was for real, and so much more exhilarating.
On final I had to pull the power back quite sharply because despite the day still being relatively cool compared to yesterday, there was still plenty of thermal lift trying to force me upwards. So as I was only a short way out with a runway of only 160 metres to land on, I had to keep concentrating on keeping my approach low and my speed within limits to avoid the embarrassment of having to dump the Weedhopper down with too much groundspeed.
But it all turned out nicely. Visibility from the Weedhopper is superb, much better than either the X-Air or the Savannah and despite any trepidation that I might have had, my landing was good if not totally textbook. But this was a relief nevertheless, as a first landing in an unfamiliar aircraft always is, and I taxied up to the top of the runway and shut down. There I did a thorough walk round and visual inspection to ensure that nothing had dropped off or was loose and it was time for another go.
I hadn’t taken any charts or anything else with me to Malbec, just the aircrafts’ keys, so this was not a time to be venturing too far afield much as I would like to have done. So I went for another take off and landing, which this time only took 5 minutes as I didn’t have to spend any time warming up the engine. I continued my landing roll up to the top of the runway and turned round again for another take off.
This time I flew straight out before turning left and flying over Victor and Madeleine’s house. I didn’t think that they’d be there and sure enough I couldn’t see a soul, although Victor has since told me that he was there working on his Mehari and saw me fly over.
Then I turned a bit more to the left to fly over Wim and Sophie’s place. Once again, I couldn’t see anyone on the ground, but thought that this wasn’t surprising as I know some family members have just arrived from Holland for a visit. However, Wim and Sophie were both in a field not far from their house and also saw me fly over.
So then I continued to turn left to avoid over-flying Chateau Fleurac and Fleurac village itself for another full-stop landing back at Malbec. And another respectable one, making three-out-of-three leaving me with a feeling of satisfaction and a smile on my face.
Time to put the Weedhopper back in the barn, but before I did so, a few shots to commemorate the occasion of its first flight after all my renovation efforts.
And that was it. A day that was especially poignant for me and a source of great satisfaction after all the work I’d put into getting 28AAD airworthy after its previous owner’s landing accident. Now I can’t wait to do it all over again, this time going further afield. And there should be time enough for that during the coming week despite there being a forecast of a down-turn in the weather for a day or so.
And the next thing I look forward to after that will be having my Weedhopper flying alongside Wim’s single seat version, something which I think will be good fun for both of us. Bring it on is what I say!