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Funny Ole Month

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  • Funny Ole Month

    January can be an odd sort of month, but mostly I donít mind it. OK itís normally a bit chilly and the TST cockpit can be a tad draughty but dressing well and limiting flights to not much longer than an hour works well enough. It is also well worth it on those bright January days, the air is calm and the visibility seems to stretch forever.

    I can recall one short local flight when, no more than a couple of miles from the airfield near Braintree that has remained with me. I was at no more than 1500í, itís a bit warmer lower down, and the view was amazing. As I looked around the only slightly hazy bit was London but even the filthy air there couldnít hide the taller buildings. Beyond the city though, the Chilton Hills stood out clearly, sharp edged against the ice blue sky and the big green patch of Stansted looked scarily close. To the south the Kentish downs (or is that downs of Kent) were clear and bounded the horizon and between us the river Thames was a cold looking blue streak. West I had the Essex coastline, a whole series of almost conjoined estuaries of widely differing shapes and beyond them rows of wind turbines twinkling in the bright light. The north stretched out beyond the silvery dome of Sizewell and melded into indeterminate greens and browns somewhere in Norfolk.

    It is days like that that make me look forward to January in a strange sort of way, giving a relief to the grey days of December. Not this year though, that is not say, that all the days have been dull and murky. There have been a few days with beaming sunshine and blue skies, but unfortunately they seem to have coincided with howling winds. Although luckily for the sake of my remaining shreds of sanity I have managed to get off the ground a couple of times
    The first time the afternoon forecast was fair and I knew it was a while since Iíd flown as the wifeís impatience with me showed that I was getting harder to live with; a sure sign that Iíd not flown enough. Three of us showed up and waited for the promised improvement, we prepared the aircraft and drank tea, then more tea as clouds swirled by very close to the ground. After a while it seemed to me the clouds were higher so I decided to go for a look. I took off with mud from the TSTs wide wheels splattering the wings, pod and windscreen and climbed carefully so as not to get enveloped in the indeterminate grey mass above. 700,800, 900í hey this was better than expected, then at 1000í the scud of the cloud bottom was starting to drift past. Drop down a bit and pull a few tight turns, just to feel the little beauty responding to me. Then about a mile away the cloud base starts to lower and a fierce little shower forms, drop a little lower and there is a light sprinkling on my screen. Dropping another 100í clears that, but it is time to head back. I land well into the runway to avoid as much mud as I can. Phew, I feel better for that. As the others fly a blue patch of sky appears to the south almost touches the field before retreating south again and the cloud descends almost to the tree tops. Our forecast bright afternoon lasted just over an hour, now to wash the aircraft, but hey we all got to fly.

    Another two weeks of weather watching and seeing future promise degenerate in low cloud, rain or high winds and sometimes all of those together. Then a promised day of good weather remains with us although by the preceding day it is an afternoon of clear, this looks good. I must admit that looking out of the window that morning looks less than good, but the TAF tells us that it will all be OK.

    As we drive the latest TAF tells us that the clearance will be a bit later, but it will still happen. At the airfield, aircraft prepared, cups of tea consumed, this kind of weather is bad for the airfield tea supply, the patches of mist drift past obscuring trees less than a mile away. Then a dull sun shows and things start to clear, the aeroplane is ready so we start to climb into our outer layers.

    The runway is far less muddy than before and we climb away, the visibility isnít exciting but it is sufficient. We climb steadily, easing back power as we pass the village so that we donít annoy the good folk of Rayne. At 1000í we clear the inversion and pass into blue skies and a colour-filled wonderland, or at least it seems it compared to the dull grey world that we are accustomed to. Below us most of the fields are a fresh green with a slight misty overlay to the north and east there seems an almost black line where the inversion obscures the ground and the sky is an uninterrupted blue. South of us cloud has formed on inversion top and vast field of bubbling cloud tops are lit by the lowering sun and the colours are amazing. In places a soft gold passing through white to blues and greys with the bright blue above marked only by the con trails of high flying jets, an incredibly beautiful sight. We go and twirl about above the house of a friend who is unable to fly today due to his work shifts. Then itís time to go home as cloud is starting to form above all the inversions around us and we are in a blue hole, letís get back before it starts to close. Nearly home I ease back the throttle and sink towards the inversion, just as I pass through it the engine loses a bit of power, darn it ice, open the throttle to clear it. The mistier air down here reminds me the keep the throttle on the move as I fly the circuit, so I keep a little high, just in case. Turning final the world turns into golden haze as the low sun shines on the mist so I hold off for a while to give the eyes time to get attuned and grease it down. Not even any mud today, that was a rewarding little flight but the forecast promises no more until the month ends, but they have been known to be incorrect before.

  • #2
    Hello Ginge,

    Nice read as always.

    I did not get away flying in January. Had not flown since the very end of October. Boy did I miss it. Thought I would have got away 2 weeks ago, however the Airfield was closed, runway was too soft. Instead I warmed up the engine of my Quantum 503 for 10 minutes and gave the Microlight a clean. But today I got away later in the afternoon. I called the Airfield owner so as to check the runway conditions first, everyone is grounded was the reply, Airfield is closed, but you will be OK, your Microlight is good to go, but asked that I just do 1 takeoff and 1 landing. When I arrived at the Airfield at 15:15 there was a hive of activity. Pilots working on their Aircraft, however no one was flying. The ground was still too soft. I think the larger Group A guys for the first time were jealous of my little Microlight as I took to the Sky at 16:00. I had a beautiful flight of 1 hour in a 15 mph wind which affected only my speed over the ground. It was so good to be back. Looking forward to 2018 flying season.


    PILOTS are just PLANE people with a special AIR about them


    • #3
      Glad to hear that you got to fly Damien, wow two months without flying! I admire your resiliance.

      Your being Ok to fly while the runway is shut to others reminds me of a couple of years ago when i'd planned a winter trip to Duxford. I rang for PPR and was told that only the hard runway was available. Now I dislike hard runways with the TSTwithout brakes and with our skittish little tailwheel it reminds me of driving on black ice. I must have showed my disappointment as the guy on the phone said "hang on, I'll have a word with the boss" A different voice came on the blower and asked what I was flying, when I told him he chuckled and said "you'll be alright, what time are you planning to arrive".

      That elevated my already high opinion of the tower staff at Duxford and we had a great day.