We spent yesterday working on the X-Air so no flying. We made good progress and got everything set to go my mid/late afternoon. Topped up the rads, connected the battery and poured in some fuel. Peter climbed aboard and flicked the master switch – nothing. Dead as a dodo. Well, not quite dead because the starter solenoid direct connections were live, so we know the battery has plenty of charge. It’s just that nothing was getting through to where it mattered 🙁

We have a wiring diagram but we’ll need my meter, which was at home yesterday, to find out what’s going on. Hopefully it shouldn’t take too long but experience tells you that if you fiddle around ‘blind’ you can spend ages and still not get to the bottom of it. So there was nothing to do but pack up and leave it, to have another go next week-end.

So that left today for flying. Not a great day for it by any means – far from it actually. Still thick grey cloud, poor vis and a chill north-easterly wind that was quite strong and gusting. But who knows what the weather might do in the days and weeks to come (someone suggested more snow is forecast for this week) so you have to take your chances when you can if you want to get the time in. I’d planned a flight heading up to and round the Isle of Sheppey, so that’s what I did. I took off and landed back on runway 11. As expected, it was pretty turbulent up there but not so much as to be unsafe. My flight plan took in the whole of the eastern, northern and western perimeters of the Isle of Sheppey but the first leg heading straight into the wind which was forecast to take 38 minutes actually took a bit more. With the single tank, I’m not too keen to go lower on fuel than planned in the early stage of a flight so I decided to cut across the north-eastern corner of the Isle of Sheppey and the north-western one too, staying to the east of Sheerness rather than keeping to the sea side and flying right round it.

In fact I didn’t miss much by doing that because the conditions were so poor – dull, murky and rather uninspiring on account of the weather as you can see from the following pic of Sheerness. It’s looking west across the Medway estuary towards the Isle of Grain. Stoke is just beyond the power station chimney over on the other side.

Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey

No clicking for an enlarged version, I’m afraid, because the quality made it impossible.

I ran the camcorder and managed to get an hours-worth of tape but it’s so awfully murky that I doubt I’ll get a good enough video to put into the gallery. I’ll probably leave that until later in the year. As expected, the landing back on runway 11 at Linton was ‘challenging’ to say the least. You should only be prepared to take on a strong, blustery cross-wind landing if you have the confidence to do so and you must also be careful not to be over-confident. I was quite happy with the final approach although it involved quite a bit of stick-stirring, engine power-ups to maintain a good airspeed and counter sink and a combination of crabbing and left wing down to deal with the cross wind. Strangely enough, although I was working hard all the way down, when it came to the flare, it almost seemed to go calm. Anyway, all went well so I can now look forward to next time.

So that’s March off on a roll – all we need now is for the weather to start to look upon us a bit more kindly 😉

As a bit of a footnote to my comments on camcorder image quality, you learn something new all the time. Previously when I’ve set the camcorder on ‘auto’ I’ve had problems with the auto focus system alternately focusing on the ground (infinity) and the screen right up in front of the lens, the latter especially if there have been bits of mud deposited there during take off. So on this occasion I found out how to manually set the focus on a fixed setting which according to the manual was at infinity, to favour the ground. In fact it turns out that the setting lever works in exactly the opposite direction shown in the manual, meaning that in fact I’d set the lens to ‘close up’. This would, of course, account for much of the poor image quality.

While I was checking this in the Canon manual, I also found out that I can adjust the exposure over quite a large range too, so it appears that I could have improved today’s pictures by quite a lot if I’d known this information before. At least I do now, which will hopefully give me more chance of getting better results in the future – no matter what the weather 😕