I was in bed by 11.30pm last night so was up bright and early (for me) at 7.00am this morning and I decided that if I got my skates on, I’d be able to get away from Malbec by 9.00am, with no pressure or last-minute crises. And that indeed did almost happen because I was wheels up by 9.05am. It could even have been earlier because I ended up waiting over 8 minutes for my old 7″ Asus tablet’s GPS to latch onto enough satellites.

It’s always been a problem and seems to be getting worse. On my last flight back to the UK it hung just after take off with all the hassle that involved while trying to climb out, turn onto the correct heading and get it rebooted and started again all at the same time. However, today there was one bright light. I recently bought an Asus 8″ tablet that I spotted on Le Bon Coin during the Covid-19 lockdown for not a lot of money. My idea was to hopefully use it to fly my new Fimi drone when it arrives, that’s if it has the correct wi-fi to connect to it.

But now it matters not. Luckily I loaded my MemoryMap navigation system into it when I first received it and had taken it with me this morning. Its GPS latched on in seconds and I therefore used it to navigate the whole of this morning’s flight. It performed magnificently, much better than my old tablet, so whether it can be used with the drone or not, I’m delighted with the purchase. You can see it on the top of the panel in the cabin pics that I’ve posted below.

Today was Ascension Day which is a bank holiday in France. I therefore expected the skies to be pretty busy as it was the first national holiday following the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown. And indeed the airwaves were almost as busy as for a normal week-end, but with little traffic from our neck of the woods. I heard aircraft making calls from Riberac, Montpezat, Egletons and a couple that went into Condat after I’d left (see route below) but mainly they were from further afield. And, surprisingly, none from Belvès.

Here’s a picture of the route that I flew today.

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My planning calculations gave a total time of just over 1½ hours excluding landings and take offs at an average speed of 145 kmh. My new tablet logged my track without me asking it to and that showed an actual time moving of 2 hours 10 minutes (my logged time 2 hours 11 minutes), a total distance travelled of 256km (planned route 225km), an average speed of 117.5 kmh and a top speed of 155 kmh. This to me is what flying the Savannah is all about – cruising engine revs 4800 rpm at which it uses about 14 litres/hour while clipping along at 145/150 kmh.

I set up one of my cheap little Chinese sportscam web cams on the Savannah’s right wing together with a power pack that was supposed to keep it running for at least a couple of hours if not more. Unfortunately, yet again it let me down. For some reason the power pack didn’t kick in and after the sportscam had switched itself off at around an hour of recording, after the flight it still showed 92% capacity. These damn things really are useless and even though today’s wasn’t a critical flight, I’d still like to have recorded it.

As it was, all I got (yet again, so not of much value) was the flight to Condat together with the landing and take off there. I’ve recorded those loads of times so today’s recording was just a waste. Luckily, I did have the GoPro mounted in the cabin. I realised while I was setting it up that I needed to remove its side door to connect a power pack to it and decided not to bother. I knew therefore that it would only run for about an hour but as it was in the cabin for the first time, it was an experiment more than anything.

In fact it was very successful and the quality of the recordings (Ultra HD 4K) were so good that I found screen shots from them were as good as pictures taken by my phone or Nikon camera. It’s just a pity that there weren’t more of them. The first of them shows the take off at Malbec.

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This shot was taken while flying past Montignac.

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This shot is of short final at Condat.

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This shot came from nearly the last bit of video that I got today and shows the magnificent curving railway viaduct at Souillac.

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After landing at Figeac I found that it was completely closed and everything was locked up. I didn’t even bother to get out of the aircraft let alone take any photographs and just restarted the engine to take off and head for Fumel. It was actually the same story there but as I needed to get out for a pee, I thought that I might as well take the next shot.

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And then on to Sarlat-Domme. It was much the same story again but there were one or two people on the aerodrome. As I arrived a young instructor (instructors are like policemen at my age – they all look young now) and a student were getting into a magnificent Robin Regent and after I’d filled in the movements sheet, I took this final shot just before they taxied out to head off to Brive.

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So how was the flight overall? Stunning, as I said in the title of this post, it exceeded my expectations. After a layoff, you always have a feeling of nervous anticipation before you fly again and that was true for me today. But as soon as I got into the air, I was back in the environment that I love. I also fell in love with my Savannah all over again. By taking off early, the air was relatively calm and it flew so smoothly, straight and well-balanced.

I’d forgotten just how good it can be and it was helped by my having reconnected the loose pitch trim wire since my last UK flight that had given me back my electric pitch trim and made it almost possible to fly hands-off. And d’you know what? Every landing that I did today, all five of them, were greasers. That always is the cherry to put onto the top of the cake after a good flight – which this time had cream on it as well 😉

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