Well, yes and no, really. The view out of my window yesterday morning was pretty dire, with the hills opposite totally obscured by fog. My view was that there was no possibility of taking off in that and probably for the whole day the way it looked, but Wim phoned and was much more optimistic. He thought that the fog would burn off in the next hour or so as it warmed up a bit, but although still not convinced, I agreed that we should go over to Galinat and assess the situation from there.
My fears were realised once there because if anything, the fog became a bit thicker shortly after we arrived and there was a horrible cold, clammy feel to the air, so we agreed that the flight would have to be delayed for yet another day at least. I thought that the prospects would probably look better today, but to be quite honest, none of the weather forecasts that we normally use have been in agreement for the past few days and all have turned out to be adrift from how the weather has actually turned out, mainly because it’s been changing so quickly. So that was that and we went off to busy ourselves with other things.
But then the weather proceeded to confound us yet again. As the afternoon developed, so did the weather. I went out into my garden at around 3.00 pm and although there was still dark cloud hanging over Galinat, the cloud cover was breaking up from the west and there were actually large patches of blue sky to be seen with periods of bright, warm sunshine. It was still a bit too unpredictable, I thought, to call Wim up and drag him away from whatever he was doing, so I thought that I’d put a Plan B into action that I’d had in the back of my mind for some time.
This was to take my bike over to Malbec, then drive over to Galinat and assess the situation there. If it looked like being a ‘go-er’, I could then fly the Savannah over to Malbec and return to pick up my car by bike. It’s a good 20 km bike-ride, but much of it’s down-hill and I reasoned that the worst section would be the last climb up to Galinat, by which time I thought I’d be spurred on by the thought of my car being ever closer and closer. It was a pretty good plan and a fair assessment as it turned out, but I’ll come back to that later.
The conditions were even better when I got to Galinat and after stripping off the Savannah’s covers and loading them into the back of my car, I topped up the tanks with the 40 litres of 98 octane ‘essence’ (98 because it contains no alcohol) that I’d brought with me, by which time the conditions were pretty good for flying. Not that the following shots seem to reflect that.
It was a great thrill to start up the engine again after all this time, over 5 weeks actually, and warm the engine up prior to taxying down the slope past Galinat’s hangar and across to the runway. I thought that I’d do two or three take-offs and landings to make sure that I had the ‘feel’ for the aircraft before then doing the flight over to Malbec. And that’s what I did, taking off, turning out left over St Léon sur Vézère and back in as usual from just south-east of Thonac on a heading of 150 degrees.
Christian, Galinat’s owner, turned up in the middle of proceedings and berated me somewhat for using the piste while it was still a bit too wet, but to be honest, although there were a few marks, the Savannah’s wide tyres hadn’t done any lasting damage. He suggested that if I was going to take off again, just the one more time, to fly to Malbec, I should stay well over to the left where it was flatter and a bit dryer and I did that, even though the grass was much longer there. The thing is that once the Savannah leaves the ground, it leaps up and climbs at high speed, so I didn’t mind although it did take a bit longer than previously to drag itself through the longer grass.
The three take-offs and landings, two without flap and one with, had gone well so I was confident about my landing at Malbec. And I didn’t have too long to think about it, because at 140 kmh the flight was approaching its end almost before I knew it. I’d kept pretty low, not above 1200 feet, to give me a longer, shallow approach into Malbec and it was a wise thing to do.
With 1st stage flaps, my approach airspeed was under 90 kmh but I knew that I had a tail-wind making my speed over the ground some 10-15 kmh faster than that. So I aimed for a spot just above the hump before the runway threshold and hit the brakes as soon as my wheels had touched down. But even at that speed, with the slope on Malbec’s runway, I still had to apply power to taxy up to its top end where I shut down and climbed out of the cabin. Here are some shots that I took immediately after my arrival.
So at the end of my little adventure, the Savannah was at last securely in place under cover in Malbec’s barn, and what a relief that was. The flight over took just 10 minutes chock-to-chock. But the adventure wasn’t over just yet, not by a long chalk, because I still had to get back to Galinat to pick up my car.
As I’d surmised, the first part of the ride back was a doddle and was great fun, actually, whizzing down the hill past the Chateau de Peuch, and I was at Le Moustier within 10-15 minutes. Then things got a bit tougher as although the road looks pretty flat from a car, there are quite a few ups and downs on a bike, the ‘ups’ being the tougher bits, of course.
And to cap it all, then it began to rain, not too much even by the time I’d got to Thonac but quite a lot more as I began my climb up to Galinat. It was only then that I made my first stop for a rest and after continuing the ride, the rain began to get worse. With a few kilometres still to go, I had to stop under a tree for a while, not that it kept me that dry, but it gave me some respite as well as a chance for another rest. Then all that was left was the final, steep climb up to Galinat’s piste.
I walked most of it and just had to ignore the rain, which had come on pretty hard by that time, shortly after I’d entered the last stage of my journey that offered no chance of shelter. The weather was really having a last laugh at my expense! I decided to take a short cut off-road up the hillside to the end of the runway and take my word for it, it was really tough pushing a bike uphill through long grass in the pouring rain. But at last I did it and rode the last few metres on the roadway up to where my car was parked.
It was a massive relief to get back into my car. I had to take my top off that was soaked through, and cover the driver’s seat, but it felt great to have succeeded in my mission. My bike’s still at Galinat and I’ll go and pick it up later before meeting up with Wim at Malbec for a chin-wag. He’ll probably fly in and I’m glad that I’ll be able to leave afterwards by car, and not on my bike!