Some good news

At last! I received a very welcome email from my builder yesterday asking whether I now have water on my land, which I do, of course. I’m hoping that this means that I’ll soon be receiving news, maybe this coming week, of when they’ll be starting building work. Initially they said that it might be possible to get cracking in September but changed that to October when we signed the contract and it’ll be great news if they do now confirm that that’s when they will actually be getting going.

I’ve also got good news on my Fimi quadcopter front. I’ve had a chance to do some longer test flights today and as far as I can see from screen grabs of videos that I shot just before it ended up in the oak tree and today, nothing seems to have changed. It therefore seems to have been unharmed by its experiences, which is a great relief given that it’s worth some way north of 300€!

By way of comparison, here are four shots, from before and after for comparison. Today is slightly duller than the day before the Fimi took its excursion into the tree and the times of day are different so the white balance has changed somewhat, but more importantly, the picture definition appears to be unchanged, which is a big relief.

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AFTER
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In other news, the postie drove down my land to my caravan this morning to hand me my new bow and arrow set. It’s actually quite impressive even though it is just a starter kit and I’m tempted to have a go of it. I don’t think I will though, because if I am going to sell it on, it would obviously be better if it remained ‘new still in its packaging’. But anyway, here are a few shots of it.

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At the time of writing, there are no signs of the thunderstorms that were forecast for this afternoon and maybe they fizzled out to become the showers we received this morning. They’re still being forecast for 7.00 pm on XC Weather though, so we’ll have to wait and see if they do actually materialise.

I knew this would happen

So my Fimi X8 SE 2020 quadcopter became stuck up a tree a couple of days ago and there was some urgency getting it back down again because we are expecting thunderstorms tomorrow and continuing wet weather on Sunday. So after thinking about it I went ahead and ordered a ‘starter’ archery set comprising a 60″ bow and a set of three or four arrows, I’ve forgotten exactly what the ad said.

My idea was to fire an arrow up into the tree with eg a fishing line attached to it which could be used to pull up a rope with which to shake the tree branch and release the Fimi. However, the next day (yesterday) I came across a super video on Youtube that showed how to build a simple device to perform the same job much more elegantly, it seemed to me, and more cheaply also.

So although I couldn’t now cancel the bow order, I ordered some of the required items from the internet yesterday (a metre of surgical tubing and a cheap-as-chips fixed spool fishing reel and line) and picked up the remainder (2 metres of 25mm PVC waste pipe, 2.4 metres of thin wooden dowel, some rope and some strong cord) from Brico Depot while I was there buying some tubing and connectors with which to install the water heaters that I have ready to go into my caravan.

I was all ready to make a start by lunch time, so took another quick look at the Youtube video to take notes on the method of construction and within half an hour had my quadcopter retrieval device all ready to go. I took a couple of practice shots just with an arrow and no fishing line attached and was amazed by its power and then with the fishing line attached to the arrow it was time to move to the next phase.

I’m not an angler and have never used a fixed spool fishing reel before and it took me a while to find out how it worked and how not to end up with bundles of fishing line entwined around my feet. Once I’d mastered that (not well enough but it got better and I only ended up wasting a couple of small bundles of line) it was time to use the device in earnest. The first shot went off like a damp squib but I put that down as just being part of the learning curve, reeled everything back in, re-attached the fishing line that had pulled off and had another go.

It took several attempts maybe around seven or eight, but less than ten, before I managed to place the arrow in about the right place in the oak tree relative to where the Fimi was stuck and see it come back to earth with the fishing line still attached to it. It had gone too far, into the next tree, but at its highest point seemed to be positioned about right and yanking on it did move the small branch on which the Fimi was perched.

So I carefully removed the arrow, attached a length of the string followed by the end of the rope and then went back to the fishing reel end and began carefully reeling in the line as though I was trying to land a large fish. The line got stuck a couple of times so I had to release the tension and give the rope a shake in the hope that that would allow it to clear whatever the obstruction was and lo and behold, eventually the end of the rope appeared up in the canopy of the oak.

After a few more moments of reeling, the rope was almost in reach. But not quite. If I had continued reeling away, it would have raised the other end of the rope until it was out of my reach. The rope was too short and I needed to find a way of lengthening it. Trouble is, the only other rope I have is in store but when I looked in the back of my car I found an old length about a metre long and some cord. I joined those together and attached them to the other end of the rope and went back to reeling.

To cut a long story short, with the extra I was just able to reach both ends at the same time but was unable to pull on them together, so I tied the loose end round a tree trunk and went back to vigorously pulling the other from a position from where I could see what was happening to the Fimi. And here’s what happened.

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Whoever came up with the idea for this device was a genius because after taking just a few attempts to get the arrow on target, it worked like a charm. After just a few shakes of the branch, my Fimi was released and came tumbling down to the ground. I’d hoped to catch it if it did, was just unable to do so but did manage to break its fall on landing. With the tree still being in full leaf (part of the reason why the Fimi was trapped in the first place) it suffered no ill effects on the way down and having had its fall broken, it landed in quite soft grass. And I’m glad to say that a quick test (quick mainly because it was beginning to get fairly dark) revealed that it seems to be absolutely no worse for wear after its experiences and being left out up a tree for two nights.

Here’s a shot showing the rope still in place after the Fimi had been recovered that gives an idea of the height at which it had been trapped – I’d estimate something like 15 metres up, perhaps even more.

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So all’s well that ends well, as we say. Trouble now is that I’ve got a brand new bow and arrow set arriving tomorrow. I just knew that would happen. I don’t see myself as an archer and don’t really have any interest in it, so the kit will possibly be a candidate for Le Bon Coin? Maybe…

FOOTNOTE

Typing this at 9.30 am the next morning (Saturday) and the rain has arrived early. We’re expecting possible thunderstorms this afternoon but we’ve just had quite an intense shower lasting about ten minutes or so that was quite unforeseen. So how lucky was that, then, that I managed to get my Fimi out of the oak tree yesterday evening. It would have received quite a soaking if it had still been up there and I suspect the outcome would have been completely different and far less favourable.

Here we go

Right, after two deliveries today and picking up some items from Brico Depot yesterday, I’ve now got all of the components necessary to make my own device for retrieving my Fimi quadcopter from the oak tree where it’s currently resting.

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I’ve got to nip out to pick up some insulating tape though, because I forgot that the roll I already have is in my toolbox that’s in storage. After that I’ll press on to make what I hope will be the means of getting my Fimi back. Fingers crossed 😉

Aw shucks!

I should have searched yesterday before ordering my bow and arrow set. I just came cross this much more elegant, and possibly cheaper, solution.

I think my Fimi would be a prime candidate for one of these things and I’m wondering if I should put one together without waiting for my bow and arrows to arrive. The concept of firing a projectile into the tree is obviously the correct one but the idea contained in this video looks to be a much more effective way of going about it. And the ‘projectiles’ used would be cheaper too.

More frustration

My super Fimi X8 SE 2020 quadcopter is stuck up a tree.

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It was my own fault, but not entirely. I was flying it a day or two ago and the battery I was using suddenly came up with a fault message. Luckily it wasn’t too far from home at the time so I brought it back but kept it flying and although it eventually displayed a message saying that it was at 0 volts and had to land, I still had time to bring it back from about 100 metres away and land it. Plus it almost had the normal flight duration.

I decided that I’d check the battery out again today but keep the Fimi close by while doing so and initially all was well, but this time whereas the initial warning message came up at about 50% voltage (I think), this time it came up at around 80%. Clearly the battery does now have a fault but after the previous experience I thought that I’d see the flight out.

I was only flying at around 30 metres distance but had decided to try to capture some shots of some housemartins that were wheeling over some trees not far from my caravan and as the battery seemed to be performing as before, I thought that I’d have enough time left to bring the Fimi back safely as the battery was still showing around 50%. However, without warning it suddenly gave a message that it would have to land immediately and started to do so.

I tried to cancel the landing but it ignored my command and descended into a tree. It was a soft landing and I don’t think that there was any chance that the Fimi was damaged. However, it’s supported something like 30 or 40 feet up in a canopy of oak leaves. The question now is, how do I retrieve it as it would be impossible to put a ladder up or climb up there?

I could leave it for a while to see if it become dislodged by the wind but I don’t like that idea as although the Fimi’s body is waterproof, I’m not sure that moisture couldn’t get into its electric motors. Here’s another shot taken using my Zino quadcopter which shows that the Fimi is actually on its side, which could be a good thing.

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Being on its side effectively makes it narrower. I think that I’m going to have to put a weight onto a strong, thin cord and see if I can throw it up over the branch that the Fimi’s stuck on and see if I can either catch it on one of the upward pointing motor arms or shake it around a bit and dislodge it, catching it before it hits the ground if it does fall.

If that doesn’t work, and it doesn’t look encouraging because although I might have been able to throw a weight that high when I was a bit younger, after experimenting with a few rocks, I can’t now. I don’t know what else to do – maybe a bow and arrow would work – otherwise I’ll have to see if the wind does dislodge it. However, we’re not expecting winds of any strength at all until this coming Sunday and then we’re also likely to be getting quite heavy rain. Taken all round, it’s another frustration that I really don’t need right now. And a rather expensive one at that 🙁

FOOTNOTE

I’m back to say that after thinking about it, I’ve ordered a bow and arrow set. Wim is a keen archer and has one but he’s off with Sophie for a short break and won’t be back until after the week-end when we expect to see some quite heavy rain. That won’t do the Fimi any good at all if it’s still up in the tree. Here’s what I’ve ordered, which should be delivered in a couple of days – can’t do anything about that unfortunately, and we’ve been getting some heavy overnight dew lately.

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It’s what is referred to as a ‘débutante’s’ kit – ie for an adult beginner that’s a good step up from a child’s toy, which I wouldn’t think would be at all suitable. The bow is a 60″ with a pull pressure of 26 lbs. If I can’t throw a weight on a string high enough into the tree the only alternative, aside from calling the Incredible Hulk, will be to fire it up there and I think a bow is the only practical alternative. It comes with three or four arrows and I only hope that I don’t lose them all in the tree while trying to rescue the Fimi…

I’m gobsmacked

Having applied for an electricity supply on my land, I’ve been batted backwards and forwards, initially between the two state-owned organisations EDF and Enedis, and more latterly between Enedis and SDE24, another public sector business, since mid-May. I’ve been getting to grips with the latter two over recent days, a most frustrating experience at the best of times due to the stultifyingly bureaucratic manner in which both operate.

I brought things to a head at the end of last week when after confirming that it is SDE24’s responsibility to extend the mains electrical cable onto my land and for Enedis then to make the final connection, I demanded to know by last Friday when SDE24 would be doing their part of the work. Naturally in the usual arrogant way in which the French public sector works, I got no reply.

So today I contacted them again to ask if they had received and read my message with another copy of same and with a further request to know when the work would be done. The response I received was as follows.

“Regarding your extension of the electrical network, the work is projected to be actioned in about week 45 (that’s mid-November). Regarding your connection, you need to contact Enedis”

I regard this as appalling and an utterly contemptible display of customer service at its rottenest by the French public sector. This was my reply.

“I made my demand for connection in the middle of May – that was week 19. So you are proposing a wait of 6 months – most likely over 6 months with the final hook-up. Is this normal? I would suggest that this is unacceptable for the delivery of an essential service in a country like France. What is the problem?”

This was the reply that I then received from SDE24.

“SDE24 only received your request (from Enedis) on 3rd August. The time required to carry out an extension (of the network) is about 4 months. This term cannot be shortened due to administrative requirements and for consultation with the managers of other services which is mandatory before the work can be done. Thank you for taking these factors into account”

So a typical response from a desk-bound bureaucrat. It would take 30 seconds for a check to confirm that there are no other services on my land that could possibly conflict with the provision of an electrical supply, as was confirmed weeks ago in any case when an actual engineer came on site and did an inspection. The latter also found that the job will be very simple – merely feeding less than 100 metres of cable into an existing plastic sleeve in the ground.

And so the bureaucratic bullsh*t continues. This is France in the 21st century. I think that SDE24 must still be relying on one man and a donkey to do their cable work. I’m not giving in and I’ve already decided what my next course of action will be. I’ll not be accepting this nonsense unless I’m forced to do so, so keep watching this space.

On a lighter note, I’ve been working on a Youtube video during my free moments in my caravan. It’s not been easy because I’ve been using my laptop which is not only slower but also has far less computing power than my main PC, which is in storage. I’ve been using an editor that requires much less power than Corel Video Studio which I usually use but which nevertheless gives results that are equally as good. It’s Hitfilm Express, and the best part is that as well as being very effective, it’s also free.

Here’s the video.

I’ve also quadrupled the size of my laptop’s SSD hard drive up to 1 TB so I’ve now got storage to spare as well as a usable video editor. So I’m now looking forward to getting back to video editing, which I enjoy, and producing more ULM and drone content.

That’s it for now 😉

A good morning’s work

I was up before dawn for a CT (chemical toilet) run to Rouffignac (sorry, it’s a fact of life and has to be done) and after a brief breakfast, as the promised rain still hadn’t arrived, I thought it would be a good time to put into action an idea that I had yesterday.

My water standpipe was more or less just sticking out of the ground and already I was finding it a bit messy standing on bare earth to fill my water containers. As the Véolia guys hadn’t done a very good job of tidying up before they left, I thought that I could kill two birds with one stone by removing all of the rocks that they’d left strewn all around, ‘landscaping’ the area around the tap as best as possible and laying some paving slabs to make a platform to stand on.

So that’s what I did. I started before the rain arrived and finished in a light drizzle. I’d brought all my unused paving slabs with me when I left my house in Plazac and used six of them to lay a small platform around the tap and the box that contains the water meter. I also had to lower the small round black cover adjacent to the water meter box that houses the master valve because it was sticking much too far above the surface of the ground. Here’s how things finished up.

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It’s not perfect – I could do with a bit more soil for a start to build up the surrounding area – but it’s better than before. The other thing is that it will be a great help when winter comes and the weather deteriorates and also when builders with big boots start using the tap during my house construction – whenever that might be…

Ready?

Yes, ready for when SDE24 and Enedis can stir themselves to provide me with an electricity supply and as ready as I can be for the start of construction, seeing as I now can’t do any more, like moving the caravan back up to the top of my land and putting in the base of my garden store, until I’ve got electricity. This is because my ‘coffre de chantier’ (the temporary electric cabinet that the land owner has to install on site while the house is being built) is now in place and my water standpipe is secured ready for use.

I retrieved some tools out of storage yesterday and then went over to Brico Depot to buy a few bits and pieces. These included a new ball valve to replace one on the caravan’s water connection that was leaking so I can eventually connect up a hosepipe, two lengths of 2.5 cm x 2.5 cm angle iron, one 2.5 metres long and the other a metre and a small bag of nuts, bolts and washers.

Then today, as it will be raining from tomorrow for several days into the coming week, I cut a metre length off the longer of the two pieces of angle iron giving me two lengths of 1 metre to bang into the ground to support my ‘coffre de chantier’ with three bolts on each side and a 1.5 metre length to do the same to support my standpipe. Here are some shots of the final results.

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The ‘coffre de chantier’ is now all ready to be connected up to a mains supply. It was confirmed to me yesterday that SDE24 are the source of the current delay and I told them yesterday that I want to know by at latest today the date when they will be doing the necessary work as the current situation cannot be allowed to continue. Unsurprisingly, at the time of my typing this I’ve had no response.

I’ve designed the water stand pipe to be secured to its support by four large cable ties. Unfortunately although I already have quite a few cable ties, they’re all in the storage so I’ll have to pop out and get some more. In the meantime the standpipe is secured just with a single piece of wire until I can finish the job off. Once the cable ties are all on, there’s very little more that I can do at the moment – other than continue playing the waiting game 🙁

Water, water…

As the dying man crawling across the desert muttered, ‘Is that a mirage?’

OK, I hadn’t quite got to that state but I was getting pretty close to it. But last week the man said that Véolia would be along either at the end of last week or the beginning of this and they duly arrived today. It’s not a pretty sight, even after I’d straightened the standpipe, that was originally at a drunken angle, and made it vertical but I guess I must be thankful for small mercies.

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Considering it cost me over 1500€, I don’t think you get very much for your money. As I told them in the office a short while ago, I could do it myself in a couple of hours and it took two of them less than that to ‘complete’ the job and disappear up the road again. I say ‘complete’ because now I’ll have to go over the area with a rake to remove all the rocks they’ve left on the surface and level it off.

But as they say, ‘It’s an ill wind…’ The rocks will actually come in very useful to use as hardcore when I get round to laying the concrete base for my metal garden store which I soon hope to be able to start building. All I need now is electricity so it’s time to chase up SDE24 and Enedis. Where’s my phone…

Very sad news

A short time ago I visited the airfield at Galinat and found that it was totally overgrown with weeds because the runway appeared not to have been mown for many weeks, possibly even since the beginning of the season. I remarked in a post here on My Trike that I hoped that this wasn’t a sign that Galinat might be no more, especially since when I dropped in at where Christian, the owner lived, there was no sign that he was still there.

I went up to Galinat again today as I returned from the Véolia office in Terrasson, of which more in a moment, and I was initially encouraged by the fact that although the small white windsock that someone had erected was no longer flying, the runway had been run up and down a couple of times with a tractor so at least it should now be possible to land and take off there again. Until the grass grows too long again anyway.

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However, my hopes for the future were dashed when on returning I stopped at Christian’s house instead of just driving by. It was obvious that nobody has lived there for some time, and more ominously, several of Christian’s old things were still hanging up outside. As I turned to leave, a youngish local pulled up in a battered old Peugeot of the kind of era that Christian himself would have been driving and asked if he could help. I asked about Christian and sadly he told me that he had died in June at around the time of the local elections.

So an era draws to a close. Galinat has not seen much life, since about the time I left actually. Christian will be missed by all who knew him but it would be sad if Galinat also suffers its demise as a result of his passing. The airfield falls under the jurisdiction of Tamniès and I do not know how it is regarded by the local ‘authorities’ as, although not to the same extent as in the UK, there are people here in France who delight in getting such facilities closed down.

I have sent the Mairie an email to find out if possible what the future holds. At the very least, there is a FFPLUM on line ‘fiche’ for Galinat and at the moment the contact details are incorrect as they still link to Christian. If the airfield is to continue in operation (I do not know if Christian had children or other close family) there needs to be a new ‘manager’ and their details need to be posted on the ‘fiche’. I’ll let you know what response I get.

Regarding Véolia, I went to their office in Terrasson again this morning taking with me a copy of their invoice for connecting me up at Labattut and pointing out that as I’d paid over 1,500€ for the privilege nearly a month ago I needed to know exactly when the work was going to be done. The lady behind the bullet and Covid-proof plastic screen was different to last time, not so hatchet-faced, and she was almost sympathetic when she checked on the system, found my details and couldn’t find one.

She said that she would get the ‘responsable’ to call me to tell me when the date would be. She didn’t, however, tell me when that would happen. I don’t think that this is the end of the story, far from it. This is the appalling state that France finds itself in, when it is practically impossible to obtain the supply of an essential service. Even one that you’ve already paid for.

You couldn’t make this up. I’ve just returned to say that a few moments ago I was on the internet on my laptop and my phone dropped its connection. When I checked I found that there was ‘no service’ on both sims and as I couldn’t get it back again, I decided to reboot the phone.

When it came back on again, there was a message saying that during the few seconds while it was off, there had been an incoming call. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was Véolia. I called back and a gentleman on the other said that my file had just been passed to him, that they were waiting on EDF and that my connection would be done by the end of this week or the beginning of next.

I’m saying nothing… 😐

Special flight

Sophie’s young granddaughter is down for a short visit from Holland and whenever she comes, she always likes me to take her for a flight. The last time, nearly a year ago, we flew in my X-Air but she’s flown in both it and the Savannah and today it was the Savannah’s turn again.

It’s only a short flight down from Rotterdam to Bergerac by Transavia but this is the first time that she’s spread her wings and travelled alone, so that alone made this trip a bit special. As she has aspirations of becoming an airline pilot, I thought that I’d also make today’s flight a bit special and show her what’s involved in doing a flight in controlled airspace, namely by transiting the Bergerac zone and showing her it from the air.

This is only possible, of course, because my Savannah is fitted with a transponder, which makes everything something of a doddle, but I thought that I’d go through the planning that was necessary, not in too much detail though, so she could begin to understand what the responsibilities of a pilot are under these circumstances. Here’s a shot that shows the route that I had planned, landing at St Julien (just south of the Bergerac zone) and Lacave (to the south of Brive).

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I gave Danique the chart and showed her how I’d marked distances from the airport on the first leg, from Malbec to Bergerac reporting point NE, the latter being just outside the controlled zone to the north of the airport. I explained that this was so I could call up Bergerac when I was ready, accurately give my position, altitude, heading and transponder squawk code (7000) before requesting the current Bergerac QNH (pressure setting, which was still 1019 hP as I’d discovered before taking off) and clearance to transit Bergerac’s zone via reporting points NE, NA, SA and then direct St Julien

So this went as follows. ‘Foxtrot Juliet Hotel Hotel Papa is out of Lima Foxtrot 2467 (the code for Malbec) destination St Julien d’Eymet, currently 35 kms north east of Bergerac at 1800 feet on 1019 heading 256 degrees squawking 7000, estimating November Echo at 05 (5 minutes past 10), request Bergerac QNH and clearance to transit the zone via November Echo, November Alpha, Sierra Alpha and then direct St Junien. Over’

Bergerac immediately came back with ‘Clearance approved’ and gave me a new transponder squawk code of 3410. They then asked for the aircraft type – a Savannah with 2 on board – and that was almost it, no drama no pressure, a classic ATC response. I was asked to report overhead NE (November Echo), which I did and also added that I was turning onto heading 187 for NA (November Alpha). As we flew on I was advised to maintain altitude as another aircraft was going to depart heading north using the same corridor below us (not above 1300 feet as we were at 1800 feet, thereby maintaining a 500 ft separation), and we saw them pass below us.

As we left the Bergerac zone just before arriving at St Julien, I advised ATC who acknowledged my call and advised switching back to squawk 7000, which I did before thanking them for their help in the usual way and immediately beginning our descent into St Julien. We knew that the winds today were going to be fickle and Wim and I had discussed beforehand whether we ought to make the flight at all, actually. In the event we decided that I should go ahead but that did not stop the landing at St Julien being quite challenging (see my earlier post) on account of the shape of the terrain, the narrow threshold and the proximity of the trees on either side.

I didn’t have a video set up but here are some shots that I took at St Julien in the few minutes before we took off again to head for Lacave.

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The leg from St Julien to Lacave was the longest of the flight at around 50 minutes and on the way we passed by Castillonnes, Belvès, Sarlat and some other small private airfields. This time I landed even higher up Lacave’s long sloping runway (see earlier post) than I did in the X-Air and here are some shots that I took after we’d taxied up onto the airfield’s superb parking area.

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There was a family with young children playing outside an open hangar and just before we left I had a conversation with one of the guys in the group. It turned out that this was not the first time that we’d spoken, because he was the person who I’d contacted when I originally phoned to ask for permission to go into the airfield in my X-Air. So that was good – I always like to make contacts like that because you never know when you might need them in the future.

The final leg back to Malbec only took 25 minutes but by that time, getting on for midday, conditions were already becoming pretty bumpy and the landing was again challenging, as it had been at Lacave because of the fickle winds that I mentioned previously. What do I mean by that? How about 9 kmh gusting 24 kmh and 10 kmh gusting 28 kmh, depending on which stage of the flight we were at. Nevertheless, we got up and down safely and the Savannah was reusable (the definition of a successful flight) so everything was OK and we’ll live to fly another day 😉