It’s the best that I can come up with under the circumstances, but I think it’s pretty good. The weather problem that has prevented me flying my X-air, 24ZN, out of the UK and into France has been caused by the Jetstream. Here in Western Europe we’re still suffering from the tail-end of some pretty wild weather over on the other side of the Atlantic that has caused the Jetstream to lash around like the tail of a cornered snake bringing wild northerly, and occasionally southerly, winds to the UK and France.
Just for now, and not unsurprisingly perhaps, after deciding to return home at the end of last week, the winds have died down and it might well have been possible to do the flight during the first half of this week as I originally intended. But it would have been risky because yet again, some very high northerly winds are forecast over my intended route from the second half of the week, over the week-end and into the next and forecasting the exact time of their arrival has to be approximate. And we’re talking of gusts of 80 kmh or more, so nothing to be too complacent about.
But although the Jetstream has been occupying more or less its present position, with an enormous loop in its tail from the UK down over the length of France, for some time, experience tells us that it will not remain like that and change will occur at some time in the future. And probably sooner rather than later given the duration of the current weather pattern. In fact, the current forecast remains fairly pessimistic through until the middle of November, its furthermost limit, but due to the vagaries of temperature and pressure, forecasts inevitably change and there will more than likely be several days of lull during that period.
So here’s what I intend to do. When I think that there will be a possibilty of doing the flight, I’ll return to the UK, but this time in my C-Max. This means that I’ll be able to make the journey at more or less a moment’s notice with the bonus that when I arrive, I’ll enjoy the convenience of having my own car without any of the hassle of a hire vehicle. I’ll then fly 24ZN out at the first opportunity leaving my car at my sister and brother in law’s house but this won’t be a problem because when I get home I’ll have my Kia waiting for me to use in the interim. Then I’ll wait for an economically priced flight back to the UK from Bergerac arriving to join my family, who cannot come down this year to my house in France, for Christmas, returning to France in the C-Max after New Year.
So that’s it then… what could possibly go wrong 😕
I’ve finally had to admit defeat. There’s no sign that there will be a change in the weather pattern any time soon so it seems pointless to just keep hanging around here in Kent forlornly hoping that something will turn up out of the blue.
So as a result, because there’s currently a shortage going forward of reasonably priced Ryanair seats from Stansted to Bergerac, I decided last night to bite the bullet and booked a flight for tomorrow morning.
I have a plan for how I’ll proceed when a suitable opportunity arises which I’ll describe at a later date but for now this is it until I get back to my home in France. It’s disappointing but there’s nothing you can do when things are outside of your own control.
I’ve been in the UK since 4 October, had 24ZN ready to go since the middle of the following week and here I am writing this on 22 October still waiting for a weather window to fly it across into France. The problem has been one of the most active jetstreams for possibly many years which has kept rain and high winds streaming across the UK for a period of several weeks without hardly budging for the whole of that time.
And not only has the UK been affected because the northernmost parts of France have also been on the receiving end of the same kind of treatment, but not necessarily at the same time. This has meant that on the few rare occasions in recent weeks when I might have been able to make it out of the UK I’d then have been unable to continue any further.
And there’s another consideration. If I‘m held up while the weather is so unpredictable, there’s a risk of 24ZN being damaged, even blown over, if it’s left outside without tie-downs in the strong winds that we’re experiencing and I don’t expect to find tie-downs on the airfields where I could be landing.
So I have to either give up, return home and call it a day until the weather trend improves or continue waiting patiently until there’s a short string of days with suitable weather both in the south of the UK and down through France to allow me to get out and back home safely to the Dordogne.
Totally unexpectedly, as cloud and fairly strong winds had been forecast for today where I’m staying not very far from Headcorn, we were surprised when after early fog the day has turned out to be calm with bright sunshine. “What’s wrong with today then?” , my brother in law asked. The answer was a band of fog in northern France that would have stopped me proceeding further and with the risk of high winds returning, I couldn’t take the risk and thought it better once again to leave 24ZN safe in its barn.
We have winds of over 60 mph forecast for the end of this week and into the week-end but for now there appears to be a window for me to get away on Sunday. But with the weather the way it is, that’s an eternity away and I can’t bank on it so there’s still a good chance that I’ll end up throwing in my hand, going home and waiting until things improve. The trouble is, who knows when that might be 😐
In the immortal words of Kenneth Williams. I phoned Headcorn this morning and mentioned that I hoped to be flying in next Tuesday before departing the next morning for France.
“You’ll be lucky”, was the reply, “After all this rain we’ve been closed since the 10th with a waterlogged runway. We need several good dry days and doubt you’ll be able to get in before the last week of October”.
So the waiting and the agony go on and look as though they will continue for a while yet 🙁
On the day I arrived to start getting 24ZN ready for her flight to her new home in France, this crowd of little chaps were gathered in the field opposite the barn in which she’s stored watching me approach.
They were a small herd of fourteen cheeky little goats and it appeared that the corner of the field facing the barn is their favourite spot.
They were always keen to see what I was up to while I was working and stared at me through the gaps in the fence rails all chewing happily away. But as soon as I walked towards them they turned their backs and casually walked off looking back over their shoulders.
But they had a laugh at my expense. On the second day there was no sign of them – until I turned the corner and found fourteen little horned heads bobbing around in the barn behind the aircraft. They’d managed to force a small opening in the gate to take shelter from the light drizzle that had been falling and weren’t keen on heading back out again.
I eventually managed to shoo them back into their field through the adjacent larger gate but even as I was doing so the cheeky little devils were having another go at the other one and even after I’d propped it shut with a piece of fence post three of them together had their shoulders against it trying to get it to open again.
But the best laugh for them was that the whole time that they’d been in the barn, athough they hadn’t done any damage, they’d been pooing. And then stomping in it. It took me over an hour to clean it up before I could start working on 24ZN.
Although they had obviously been climbing over a lot of things in the barn, as goats do, luckily this didn’t include the aircraft and their little horns hadn’t damaged the fabric either. So no harm was done and I was able to continue getting 24ZN ready to go over the next couple of days. Here are some more shots taken after I’d finished.
And as the rain lightly falls while I’m typing this (on my phone), in the barn she remains and the waiting game continues. On the present showing there seems little possibility of my getting away during this coming week due to continuing poor weather. Whether I’ll be able to the week after I’ll just have to wait and see 😐
All has gone to plan. I arrived in the UK at Stansted airport via Ryanair as scheduled last Friday and after a false start located the company from which I’d pre-ordered a hire car at an off-airport hotel. An hour or so later I was at my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Kent.
The next morning I drove to my pal’s place where my X-air is being stored to get cracking on preparing it for its flight over to its new home in France. And there I stayed for the next few days until I’d completed all of the work that was necessary to get it airworthy and completely ready to go.
I filled its tanks to the brim yesterday and today I was back there again replacing its radiator overflow bottle and helping to cut a strip to take off from when the weather eventually decides to play ball.
I’m delighted with how well everything’s gone – I couldn’t have asked for much better actually. The only surprise I had was finding that the new carburettor rubbers that I took with me wouldn’t fit because the inlets are of a non-standard pattern, probably because an anti-icing system is fitted.
24ZN is now all ready to go and looks a treat as the following pictures show.
And now it’s just a matter of playing a waiting game with the weather. I almost couldn’t have chosen a worse time to have planned a flight from the UK to France as not only are we apparently locked in an extended period of high winds but they are also from the south or with a strong southerly component. But all things must end and, fingers crossed, I should be away some time next week. Here’s hoping anyway 😉