August 21, 2019

This Saturday – slight change of plan

I’ve now phoned Romorantin and it appears that their fuel system only accepts Total cards, so I’d be relying therefore on the aeroclub there to accept my payment. I’ve also just checked with Blois and the same goes for them and their fuel system which only accepts BP cards. I’d have to phone either club beforehand to let them know my ETA to make sure that someone would be there to do so and I surmise that as Blois is the bigger and the more prestigious of the two, that would probably be the better bet.

I’ve also rechecked my possible route going via Blois and it’s a bit more direct and a few kilometres shorter than via Romorantin so I’m now leaning towards routing via Blois rather than via Romorantin. However, I’ll need to check carefully to ensure that as the leg from Malbec to Blois is slightly longer I’ll be able to make it there safely with the prevailing wind on the day, which will probably be northerly.

Watch this space for future developments! Now I most go to Malbec and adjust 77ASY’s engine idle.

Well, I’m back from adjusting 77ASY’s idle and I was very pleased with the results. I don’t have a carb balancer but I did my best to equalise each carburettor by inserting a thin feeler gauge under each adjustment screw in turn until it was just being gripped and then opening both throttles slightly by turning each screw by an equal amount until I got the idle speed that I wanted.

At the end the engine was ticking over very smoothly but I forgot to take some Loctite with me to put on the adjustment screw threads. It doesn’t matter though as I’ve got to go back and give the aircraft a good clean as it was covered in mouse droppings and splats of bird poo.

I also enjoyed a very welcome bonus. My altimeter was noticeably out when I flew up to La Rochelle, and before that also when I checked in with Bergerac a few weeks ago and was able to compare my indicated altitude with the height shown on my transponder. There will always be a difference as the latter is calibrated at standard atmospheric pressure ie 1013.2Hp but the difference was much too great to be acceptable. The technician at La Rochelle also commented on it.

I was thinking that I’d have to apply a manual correction during my upcoming UK flight but today I learnt something that I’ve not known for all the many years that I’ve been involved and tinkering with aircraft.

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As the above image shows, to the left of the altimeter’s pressure indicator adjustment knob there’s a small screw that today I thought I’d investigate. When I unscrewed it, it didn’t come right out because it was evidently attached to some kind of spring inside the instrument. This set me thinking and I carefully tried turning the knob with the screw hanging out. No change, the pressure scale moved normally.

I then tried doing the same after gently pulling the knob, and success! The altimeter needle remained stationary but the pressure scale rotated! Previously, the altimeter was showing an elevation of 850 feet, which is about right for Malbec, at a pressure setting of 1018Hp. I checked the QNHs for Brive and Bergerac which were identical at 30.2InHg or 1023Hp and was then able to set my altimeter’s pressure scale to that figure.

So that was job done! Now I’ll be able to fly confident in the knowledge that my indicated altitude will be as it should be. Incidentally, while I was there I checked the Weedhopper’s altimeter and that was giving an elevation of 850 feet at 1028Hp, so it too is out by 5Hp, but in the other direction. I don’t think that there’s an adjustment screw on its altimeter but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it 😉

August 20, 2019

It’s all systems go!

It looks as though the long-awaited weather window for my flight up to the UK is at last about to materialise and that I’ll be taking off in my Savannah this coming Saturday morning. There’s no telling how long it’ll last though, at the UK end, and I recall how I had to make a dash for home the last time in 2016 as an unexpected period of nasty weather that was forecast to last for several days was about to roll in from the Atlantic.

This time it looks as though I’ll have at least a week and I’m planning to stay for around 7-10 days depending on how things work out, with friends, family and my dentist! I’m hoping that he’ll be able to fit me in because I need a little repair work that he usually does in a few minutes which the dentist here in Montignac wanted to turn into a major project that would have cost me several hundred euros. So that alone makes the trip well worthwhile. And while I’m there I’ll also be able to drop into Specsavers and get my glasses repaired and updated.

Since having my new radio and especially my new transponder installed, I’ve been able to completely revamp my flightplan. I can now fly more directly than I originally planned cutting across Class D airspace at Limoges, Chateauroux (although technically I should be above their upper limit) and Orléans. And also instead of having to fly up to Calais to file my outward flight plan and clear customs, I’ll be able to drop into Le Touquet which is inside Class D airspace, making a transponder necessary, directly on my route northwards and further south.

Although I would have liked to drop into Calais, as I’ve never landed there, that should save me a useful 15-30 minutes which will be very handy at that end of the flight as by then I’ll be starting to feel a bit tired. It’ll also be nice going into Le Touquet again where I’ve not been since the 1980s when we had our Cherokee 180, G-BGVU, and used to go there quite often for lunch and to collect the fuel tax drawback that more or less used to pay for the flight from Biggin or Rochester.

I’ve also changed my plans for the UK end of the flight. After checking in at Headcorn, I was originally going to land in a field at a private property in Kent owned by a friend of mine. That’s now not going to be possible because the field has been used by sheep and nobody is going to be there either before or when I arrive to ensure that it’s in a safe condition to land on. So instead I’ve decided on what I think will be a better solution anyway, which is to fly into a local farm strip at Laddingford.

This has two good size grass runways and is also closer to the home of my sister and brother-in-law, so it’s a win-win all round really. It has good approaches and is also secure as it’s located on an active farm on which the farmer and his family live, so I feel happy that if the Savannah is parked there for a week or so, it should be pretty safe and out of harm’s way.

Here are some shots showing my planned route. I’ve changed my planned first leg as originally I was probably going to land at Blois to take on fuel. However, it’s not clear from the published details whether the airfield is guaranteed to be open to make this possible. The automatic pump needs a BP card, which I don’t have and don’t intend to acquire and without it you need to pay at the aero club. If nobody’s there I’d be scuppered, so best not to take the chance.

Instead I’ll be going into LFYR, Romorantin Pruniers, which is slightly further east and a bit further south, but closer than Blois to my preferred track actually. There they have an automatic Total card system but which I think, much like that at La Rochelle, also accepts bank debit cards. But in any case, I’ll be giving them a ring beforehand to make absolutely sure.

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My second leg is direct Romorantin – LFAT Le Touquet, where there’ll be no problem as far as I’m aware buying fuel, although if everything goes as planned, I shouldn’t need to.

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And finally, my arrival into the UK. I’ve shown it as just a single leg although actually I’ll be landing initially at Headcorn to clear customs (not that there’s ever any ‘customs’ there to clear) and close my flightplan. Then I’ll have just a short final hop of a few minutes into Laddingford.

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I’ve got a bit to do before leaving, but not too much. Tonight I’m knackered after cutting my ‘grass’ and de-weeding it and several other areas. Tomorrow I really must get across to Malbec and adjust the idle speed of the Savannah which is too slow after I changed its carburettor rubbers and then hopefully it’ll just be domestic things to deal with.

Apart from that 77ASY should be all ready to go, so it’ll just be a matter of redoing my Schengen and GAR paperwork to take account of my new French departure and arrival points and editing my outward and inward flightplans. For one reason or another, I’ve not been getting as much flying in this year as I would have liked, so I have to say that I’m already quite excited by the prospect and really looking forward to the flight.

August 17, 2019

My new computer printer

I spent yesterday evening printing off a huge stack of photographs on my new Canon Pixma TS8150 that I’ve had waiting while making up my mind whether or not to buy a new printer. So many, in fact, that I used up three of the cartridges that Canon supplied with it. Here’s a shot of the printer in question.

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Everyone knows by now that even though they are really cheap, it’s a massive false economy to buy an inkjet printer with only two cartridges – black and colour. The reason is that you use the colours (basically cyan, magenta and yellow) in very different ratios and when you replace a ‘colour’ cartridge because one of them has run out, there will always be quite large quantities of the other two remaining. And when you throw the ’empty’ cartridge away, because of that it’s also not good for the environment.

My old Canon MP530 had five colour cartridges, cyan, magenta, yellow, black and a large volume black for printing mono documents. As I mentioned in my previous post, in it’s day it produced magnificent colour photo prints that I was exceedingly happy with, but as it got older, it began to fail to do so until finally it was impossible.

Things have moved on since then. Not only can my new Canon print in higher definition (I chose the TS8150 because it offered a print resolution of 4800 x 1200 dpi compared to 2400 x 1200 dpi for the next model down for only a modest increase in price – the next model up prints 4800 x 2400 dpi but I didn’t think that I really needed that) but it also comes with a six ink system. The additional one is ‘photo blue’ but please don’t ask me what it does compared to the normal cyan.

What I can say is that the only word to describe the results is stunning. The prints that I did last night are as good as the best A4 colour prints that I’ve ever seen. Evidently the printer ‘processes’ the images before printing so even shots that are dull and/or lacking in contrast come out beautifully. Images are sharp and colours vivid and vibrant and although this may not be to the taste of ‘professional’ photographers who like to control every aspect of their work up to and including printing, for what I do, the results are exactly what I’m looking for.

The new Canon prints shots taken on my little Nikon Coolpix camera and my new phone especially well and as it also connects wirelessly, so you only have a power cable running to it, other computers in the network, such as my laptop and even my phone and tablet, can also print directly to it. It has other features that I’ve not yet bothered to explore and probably don’t need, but so far I’m mightily impressed with it.

Unlike my old Canon that I just chucked away and still had unused cartridges for that I am now unable to use, my old Epson printer is still functioning and will be OK for general use until I’ve used up as many of the cartridges as possible that I still have for it. But until then I’ll be using my new Canon for ‘quality’ work and especially for shots that I’ve taken from the air.

So taken all round, yesterday was a rather satisfying day. Not only did I get my PC back unharmed after a spectacular explosion in its power supply but I also got my new Canon TS8150 printer up and running. But that wasn’t all. Without any form of fanfare or notification, after a full two weeks, my home phone and internet also came back. I’m hoping that that will be the end of all of the problems that I’ve suffered with it, but only time will tell. In the meantime, back to my printing 😉

August 16, 2019

Massive sigh of relief

My new PC power supply arrived today. Fantastic service by Amazon Prime to get it delivered within 24 hours – I’m very impressed. I’ve even watched several ‘free’ Prime videos when I’ve been at a loose end on the odd evening and have no regrets about becoming becoming a Prime member earlier this year.

I carefully installed the power supply in my PC and powered it up briefly with the disk drives disconnected. Nothing was amiss so I finished connecting all of the cables, put it back in place in my ‘computer corner’ and fully powered it up with all of its peripherals connected. To my great relief everything is working perfectly and as an added bonus, my machine is now running almost silently. Clearly it had been getting ready to go wrong for some time as before the old power supply failed it was very noisy.

I also got sick of messing around trying to get my old printers, a Canon MP530 and an Epson SX438W, both of which I brought with me from England, to produce perfect results. In its day, and it was at least 12-15 years old, the Canon was state-of-the-art and produced perfect photo prints. However, I’ve since gone through three print heads and even with new cartridges it was impossible to get a proper colour balance.

Yet another print head plus more cartridges would have been throwing more good money after bad so the other day I stole myself and dropped it off at the déchetterie with a tear in my eye. I shall also probably end up doing the same with my little Epson. I bought it just before I came to France so it’s just over 7 years old. It was a low cost printer at the time and it has done sterling service and is still OK for ‘general’ mono and colour printing.

However, it too cannot produce high quality photo prints, which I like to do as an extension of my aerial photographic exploits. So I splashed some cash and ordered myself another new Canon, a brand that I know and trust.

The model was a Pixma TS8150 and I expected it to be delivered on Monday as yesterday was a holiday here in France. However, to my great surprise, when I returned from a quick shopping trip I found that the delivery man had left it together with the new power supply outside my back door.

So kudos to him as it would have been a pain in the backside having to slope off to the nearest ‘relais’ point to pick them both up. Having got my computer back working again, I’ve now unpacked the Canon and it’s waiting beside me as I type this to be plugged in and tested. I’m rarin’ to go with it and I’ll let you know what the verdict is when I’ve given it a good test run.

August 15, 2019

Instant chastisement!

Wow, I can hardly believe it. France Telecom, or possibly even M. Macron himself, must have contacts in very high places. I went to bed last night feeling quite confident that I was getting on top of the issues and problems that had been plaguing me for so long – like the Kia, my ride-on mower belt, my leaky plumbing fittings, stuff like that – and somewhat self-satisfied that I’d discovered that I could get 4G on my new mobile phone here in my house.

But it wasn’t to last – not even through the next day. I’d just got up this morning and was enjoying watching a video on Youtube about a group in a DC3 crossing the Atlantic to join this year’s 75th D-Day anniversary celebrations when there was a small explosion followed by a smell of burning and my computer went dead. I later established that it was down to my computer power supply blowing up.

In all my years of being involved with computers, and that involves a period looking after hardware and software for clients, I’ve never known a power supply behave in this way. I’ve got another on order that will be arriving from Amazon, who offer a reasonable price but the quickest guaranteed delivery, on Saturday and in the meantime have configured my backup PC for use up until then.

Fortunately, although it’s spec is now pretty old, it always comes to my rescue when I need it so I’m glad that I’ve never disposed of it. What I am worried about, though, is what my main PC’s power supply self-destructing so violently might have done to my hard disk or even its motherboard. I won’t know until the new power supply arrives so there’s no point speculating, but I’ll be devastated if I’ve lost emails, photographs and videos yet again, the way I did last time when my hard drive failed.

And even more annoying is that when the power supply exploded, it took out the fuse in the main fuse box and after I’d replaced it, the power socket was up and running again straight away. However, when I tested the unit after I’d removed it from the computer it blew the system again. This time, however, all the fuses are intact so it looks as though somehow it’s managed to take out the socket itself and that might be much more difficult to sort out.

And not only that, but in my hour of need while I was desperately trying to find and purchase a new power supply on the internet, my new-found 4G data connection disappeared – in fact my phone’s data connection kept appearing and disappearing as though it had a mind of its own. That’s why I think the French infrastructure gods might be punishing me for calling their system down her ‘flaky’. I’ve learnt my lesson now and I’ll hesitate before doing it again, that’s for sure 🙁

August 14, 2019

My dilemma

I got my Kia Sportage back on Monday and yesterday gave it a thorough clean inside and out. It came up pretty well, a couple of issues to be dealt with but nothing that I can’t do. It also drives well – better than before actually and using less fuel too – more than the C-Max but less than it was before it broke down.

My dilemma is that much as I’d like to keep both vehicles because they both have strong features that the other lacks, I don’t think that I can really justify having two cars even though some of my friends have said that I should. I don’t really have the space for two and, like my two aircraft, both will need ‘looking after’. Although I often end up with a vehicle that’s grubby and mud splattered, I don’t actually like having a dirty car and having two means that I’d have to be regularly cleaning both.

It’s nice to think that if either goes wrong I’d have another to fall back on, but both are money tied-up and both are depreciating in value whether they’re being used or not. I don’t have to make an instant decision but it’s something that I’m going to be thinking hard about over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been driving the Sportage locally and while I was out and about today I took a few shots of it.

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It’s a difficult one – I like driving both cars and having spent so much (an arm and a leg…) getting the Sportage back on the road again and in such good mechanical condition, in a way it would be a shame to let it go for a new owner to get the benefit… of my mechanic’s hard work and my money!

Changing the subject, my home phone and internet have still not been restored having gone down last Friday week. I was told on Monday that my service provider, Free’s, ‘partner’ had made an ‘intervention’ on Monday evening and that I could imminently expect them to contact me and resolve the problem. The ‘partner’ is obviously Orange, or France Telecom the state owned monopoly, so I’m not holding my breath waiting for the issue to be resolved quickly and efficiently – quite the opposite actually.

I suspect that as most of France goes on holiday in August and many organisations shut down for the whole, or at least most, of the month, Free are just stringing me along until an engineer comes back from holiday and deals with my problem. So why am I not foaming at the mouth, you might ask? It’s because there’s a silver lining.

I was in the Intermarché car park yesterday and I unlocked my phone to check on an incoming email. There’s 4G in Montignac and I was amazed at how fast it ran in data mode – my web browser was jet-propelled, email ran like the clappers, my on line newspapers were a joy to read and even Youtube ran in high def without buffering.

These are all things that I don’t experience at home – usually. While my home internet has been down I’ve been running my computer’s internet connection through a WiFi hotspot on my mobile phone (it’s called tethering). Usually I’m lucky to get a 3G data service as the mobile phone signal is very poor where I live.

But today after setting up my WiFi hotspot with my phone facing towards Montignac, as usual, I was amazed to see that it was registering a 4G signal. This translated into an ultra-fast internet connection, much faster than my usual home service, making browsing and everything else a complete pleasure rather than an infuriating chore. Internet, email, my newspapers, even uploading the photographs for this post, all jet-propelled.

Unbelievable, amazing, fantastic… what can I say. With a service like this I wouldn’t need a home phone or internet connected by fixed line. But will it last? Ah, that’s the question. With most (all?) of the infrastructure so flaky down here, it’s ofter here today, gone tomorrow. So I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed and wait and see 😉

August 12, 2019

In limbo

We’re passing through a period of much cooler weather than we’ve been experiencing for the past few weeks – 20s rather than 30s degrees Celsius – with a occasional light rain to water the plants and get the grass and weeds growing like mad again. But still fairly settled and with some good flying days thrown in that I’ve not capitalised on for one reason or another.

But not so in the UK, where a series of deep low pressure fronts have kept thundering in from the Atlantic bringing with them lashing rain and storm force winds. So no possibilty of my flying there as even if I could find a brief weather window, there would be no point in then having the Savannah tied down outside for days in such conditions with the possibilty even of it potentially suffering damage. Plus I’d not know when I’d be able to get out again and escape back to France.

So I’ve been back to busying myself with other matters and continuing to get things ship-shape at home. Like the Kia. I’m expecting to get it back this afternoon at long last. While it’s been laid up someone has managed to damage the driver-side (left-hand) seat belt, probably by slamming it in the door catch. It’s really annoying because when it broke down (over a year ago) it was only a week out of its CT (French bi-annual MOT) and it would never have got through it with a cut in the side of its seat belt, so it must have been done since then.

It’s cost me a further £50 odd to find a replacement on UK Ebay and get it shipped over, so after my mechanic has checked all the work that he’s done, as I asked him to (all nuts, bolts, clips, brackets, fastenings etc tight and in place, stuff like that), we’re going to fit it later this afternoon. And then I should be able to bring the Kia home again and start dealing with several other little issues that I’ve been getting myself ready for.

I also got back to sorting out my ‘atelier’ some more. I acquired four storage racks a few weeks ago but only initially assembled two of them which I then filled up with stuff that up to then had been all over the floor. The other two I hadn’t finished assembling, until this week end, so yesterday I was able to put those in place and get even more stuff off the floor and onto their shelves.

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I originally found assembling the racks very fiddly and tedious as they’re made from thin metal that bends very easily making slotting the various components together quite difficult. The problem is keeping tabs aligned so they slot in properly without popping out and not locking as they should. I’ve now find that by slightly bending them ‘inwards’ and treating them very gently the job became much easier and I’ve even found that I can do it much quicker than I could originally.

In fact, I’m so pleased that I’ve ordered four more to go along the back wall. I won’t have much to put on them right away but they’ll allow me to get stuff that are hidden in boxes on the other shelves out in plain view where I’ll be able to find things more easily.

The next things I’ll do is add some more lighting and clear out all the old mouse poo. Whether that’ll deter the little rotters from coming back again I don’t know, but if not I’ll have to think about taking the battle to them and if I have to do that, none of us will like it very much 😐

August 4, 2019

Today’s flight

Low and slow around the area in my Weedhopper, 28AAD. Not my cuppa tea so much since I acquired 77ASY, my Savannah, which is so much more capable. Low and slow is OK if all you want to do is while away an hour or so flying over the same old ground but nowadays I prefer to be able to hop into the Savannah and go somewhere, preferably somewhere new if I can.

I lost two years due to illness and I won’t be able to keep doing longer flights for ever as they are more physically demanding even in an aircraft like the Savannah, so I need to do them while I still can. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop doing little local flights, even when I’ve sold the Weedhopper, which I’ve advertised for sale, but no takers for the moment at least.

I planned to do a flight of just over an hour or so of the kind that I used to do when I first arrived here to become familiar with the area. The first leg was to be out to the west taking me to Vergt, from where I’d head south to a tiny little commune, just a few houses and a church on a small hill, called Clermont-de-Beauregard.

From there I’d continue southwards to Lalinde, a town that’s popular with Brits on the river Dordogne. Then I’d head eastwards to Le-Buisson-de-Cadouin and St-Cyprien before turning north to Les-Eyzies (Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in full) and continuing on for a landing back at Malbec. Here’s a picture of the route based on an old chart from 2015 which shows the place names.

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I took quite a few photographs along the way but unfortunately they were all taken through 28AAD’s plastic screen and doors so leave a lot to be desired for quality, even after doing everything possible to improve them by editing. My best aircraft for photography was 56NE, my old X-Air now sold, because it had no doors on. I was thinking about removing 28AAD’s doors today but decided against it and now I wish I had done.

Here’s the first shot climbing out past Fleurac with the chateau passing below.

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Now a couple of general shots heading westwards towards Vergt.

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Approaching Vergt, which is famous for its strawberries.

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Three shots of Vergt itself as I passed overhead and began my turn towards the south.

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A couple of shots of the tiny commune of Clermont. Not very good I’m afraid but the best that I could do with them.

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A shot approaching Lalinde.

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Three shots of Lalinde which is somewhat strangely located as a strip on just the one side, the northern bank, of the river Dordogne, I think because the southern side slopes up quite steeply from the river.

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Three shots of Le-Buisson, which is a small town of little renown except it has a railway station in the centre from which you can connect to cities in the north and south of France. I left from here by train when I went to pick up my Kia Sportage when I bought it back in 2013. Or was it 2014, I can’t remember?

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Now some shots of St-Cyprien. It has a big old building on its hilltop that I think used at one time to be an abbey. Now it’s been converted into appartments.

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And the final aerial shot, passing overhead Les-Eyzies.

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And to finish off, three shots that I took with my new phone after landing back at Malbec.

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The flight lasted 1 hour 10 minutes from brakes off to brakes on, so just about what I’d planned for. It was good fun and it was certainly good to be back in the air again. I took off at 10.10am to miss the forecast increase in temperature and hence turbulence and was back at 11.20 am, so that worked out well.

I’m hoping that with a bit of luck I might get another couple of flights at least in this coming week, but this time in the Savannah, getting myself prepared for flying up to the UK, but I’ll just have to see how things turn out.

August 3, 2019

Flying tomorrow!

Tricky post to write, this one. Our infrastructure is crumbling even more than usual down here. My home phone and internet went down late yesterday morning and although I reported it today, it’s still down. And of course, no technicians work after mid-day on Saturday so it’ll be down until at least Monday, so I’m connected to the internet through my new mobile phone that I’ve just received from China.

Trouble is the mobile network is even slower than the fixed internet… Also my water went off yesterday evening but luckily there was enough of a trickle getting through to have a wash and brush my teeth before going to bed. It stayed off all night and came back on again at about 9.30 am this morning so thank goodness for that.

Anyway, I mentioned to Wim a couple of days ago that I need to fly. I haven’t flown since my trip up to La Rochelle which was something like 6 weeks ago, so getting airborne again is well overdue, especially as I want to get away to the UK in the next week or so.

I planned to get the Weedhopper back out again and after Wim flew over my house this morning I went over to Malbec to get it ready to fly tomorrow. This involved changing the two aircraft around in the barn but not before I’d refuelled the Weedhopper, pumped its tyres up and cleaned its screen ready for an earlyish take off tomorrow before the air warms up and becomes turbulent.

Here are some shots that I took after I’d finished with the Weedhopper all ready to be pulled straight out and go in the morning.

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I took the pics on my new phone and I have to say that I’m really impressed by their quality. It’s one of these new-fangled ones with two (or three?) cameras built in and I rate the quality better than my Nikon Coolpix actually. Only thing is, though, that I can hang the Nikon around my neck and use it one-handed while flying and that wouldn’t be possible with the phone. Not without the risk of dropping it overboard, anyway 😐