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A Cracking Weekend Gromit

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  • A Cracking Weekend Gromit

    The forecasts were good for the whole weekend and I managed to sneak down to Rayne on the Saturday to take advantage.

    The sun was shining the worn out old windsock fluttered gently, sometimes across the strip and at times almost down the strip. I opened up the hangar to find, unusually, we had to move the Cub out to get to the trusty TST. I was glad Brian arrived to give me a hand move it, the grunt uphill to return it to the hangar can be a bit of an effort. Eventually our little craft sat outside basking in the sun, ready to go, while we swallowed a quick cuppa. We debated a while whether we would put on our trusty Ozees, it seemed sooo warm on the ground. As we talked we noticed a heck of a lot of other aircraft were taking advantage of the glorious day and were busy aviating. In the local restricted airspace that meant that the skies below 2500’ would be buzzing. We decided that heading northwards would be more peaceable ‘cos we could get up a decent height once past Mr O’Leary’s skies around Stansted, so we suited up.

    I had the first flight and was duly battered around a bit at the lower levels and fighting our way through massive sink, so once clear of bandit country I set a nice cruise climb. Easing our way up to 4500’ the air was beautifully smooth and all other traffic was way below. We made our way up to Bury St Edmonds sitting on top of the inversion. The Ryanair Boeings climbing above looking like glittering silver darts, we even noted the glowing orange of an Easyjet flight. Below the fields still showed a full pallet of colours and showing through the slight haze we noted the tiny shapes of other aircraft criss-crossing way below. Up here we were glad of the Ozees, without them things would have felt a bit Spartan. Coastwards there was what appeared to be an unbroken bank of cloud the sun shining on bubbly cumulus tops it looked wonderful. Breaking away from the main cloud bank were odd little puffball clouds that we tried to chase so that Brian could film them, but every time we drew near them they dissipated, first into wisps and then disappearing altogether like ghosts as we got too close. We laughingly gave them best after several attempts and headed back.

    Now flying into sun and descending into the haze the visibility grew more challenging but we could feel the warmth on our suits returning to us. This gave Brian the idea that on his flight that he would spend his time getting a positive ID of the towns and villages we passed in the poor vis. to stand him in good stead when returning in similar conditions from a long flight. As we flew out however he spotted a firmer looking line of breakaway clouds that he couldn’t resist. These clouds stayed firm, so we thought that we could sneak up on them. They remained as we got closer, we then found out why. It was a sea breeze front and we were duly bounced all over the place for our impudence. As we worked our way back with Brian looking at the landmarks from all angles, we agreed that had been a lot of fun, a good way to spend an afternoon.

    As we landed Joan stood waiting, earlier she had taken up an offer to fly an X Air Falcon owned by a group of friends, now she intended to have some fun in the TST before it went away for the night. She took off by herself ‘cos like most 390kg microlights it flies even nicer the lighter it gets. A tiny short run and she bounded into the air and climbed rapidly with the help of a thermal before throttling back to pass the village. Some while later she re-appeared slid in for a smooth landing and dismounted with a very satisfied smile. We finished the afternoon in the garden of the Swan supping a decent pint when Brian mentioned that tomorrow looked set to be a good day also, hum, food for thought.

    The next day the weather lived up to Brian’s expectations and we arranged to meet again at the airfield. We realised that so far this year, although we had enjoyed a decent number of flights they had all been local flights so a land out seemed in order.

    Inspired by one of our friends who yesterday had taken his Thruster for a flight along the coastline of Suffolk and Essex we decided that we’d visit Gt Oakley near Harwich. Brian rang for PPR, and we prepared our little mount and took off, Brian flying the first leg this time. Our plan was to go North about around Colchester and track along the wide Stour estuary and return along the coast passing Walton and Clacton, cross the river Colne and track along the Blackwater estuary, and then back to Rayne.

    Climbing away it was quite choppy and we bounced around until we were above 1500’ and then things got progressively smoother. We topped the inversion at 3000’ as we headed east to keep clear of Earls Colne airspace and looking over our tail Braintree merged into the mist as Colchester emerged ahead. Tiny-seeming aircraft passed beneath us and we had a delightful view of the gliders airborne from Wormingford. Now we were just below 4000’ and the puffball cloud that the gliders were working were a thousand feet below. It was fascinating watching the sleek shapes whirling in circles below their cloud, appearing and disappearing in the way that gliders do. They passed astern as the wide Stour estuary eased out of the mist ahead. We could now see the row of cranes that mark Felixstow port, largely occupied by vast ships. Passing the prominent white water tower that was our guide to the difficult-to-spot airfield we started to ease downwards towards Harwich. Out to sea there were large mist patches over a grey sea, looking for all the world like clouds drifting around the sea’s surface. As we got nearer the airfield became visible from the surrounding countryside and Brian positioned us nicely to join the empty circuit. Looking northward to Felixstowe I noticed the largest ship I had ever seen. It was absolutely huge and painted a bright blue; imagine the largest ship that you can think of, increase that by at least 50% and you may get somewhere near. I was still looking over my shoulder when Brian turned base. The beautiful airfield seemed deserted as we followed the taxiway and parked up, there were one or two cars parked but not a soul to be seen. Our hopes of a cuppa disappearing as we found the clubhouse locked so we signed in and went looking for life.

    As we walked around the corner we hit gold, the microlighters’ hangar was open and they were busily pushing out their aircraft ready to take advantage of the glorious day. They are a good crowd there and we soon had a cuppa apiece and we chatted for a while before they got on with the important business of preparing to fly.

    We signed out and as we did so the Rans lifted off and we mentally wished him a great flight while we carried out a swift pre-flight. My turn now and we lifted off finding the air was now super smooth, the sea effect I expect. Out to sea the mist clouds had joined together and now you could see what they mean by a fog bank. About a mile or so off shore it rose like a stage curtain with all the apparent folds and shades of grey and white, up about 1000’ with a poorly defined top. For the first time in years we could fly along the coast without a wind turbine in sight. The coastline itself was lit by hazy sunshine but was coloured by muted shades. A we neared the Colne we had a choice, we could descend to duck under Southend’s airspace, we could talk to Southend, or we could move inland a bit a fly around the edge. I chose the latter and shifted north clearing Brightlingsea and stayed high over the army firing range heading to the huge reservoir at Abberton. There was plenty of river traffic on the Colne, varying from small motor craft to a large ocean going yacht with its great sharks fin of a sail rising high. The south bank of the Blackwater showed a misty shape of varied muted shades with the silver ribbon of the river Crouch writhing over the landscape. Closer the strange wriggling shapes of the saltings north and west of Mersey Island looked as weird and mysterious as ever. The little creeks wound their way through them, no wonder this place had been a smuggler’s heaven.

    At the far end of the reservoir a strange reflective oblong that had been visible for many miles resolved into potythene sheets protecting fields near Tiptree, probably we speculated, cover for the strawberry crops with which the area abounds. Drawing level with Maldon we could see two sailing barges taking the tide into town as dark shapes against the silvery water. There were carrying full sail and made lovely sight, although the speed of their progress suggested they were employing the ”iron topsail” as the crews used to call the engine. Now we had to duck down to remain clear of airspace and were pleased the air remained really smooth, it seemed the sea breeze had preceded us.

    We also noticed that in the warmer, lower air that the revs needed to stay at our cruise returned to normal. At the higher altitude and lower temps to keep at our 50kt cruise we had dropped from the usual 5240rmp to 4850, the engine obviously liked it up there.

    We eased our way back to Rayne we agreed it had been a great little flight and altogether a cracker of a weekend

  • #2
    I do wish I could describe things as eloquently as you do Ginge. Lovely write up
    Sean McDonald


    • #3
      Thanks Sean, it's easier than you think. When you come back from a flight feeling inspired just let it flow


      • #4
        I've just finished reading 'Fate is the Hunter', the writing style is quite similar.
        Ginge - you must have enough stories in you to assemble into a book. I'm sure I'm not the only one who likes to read about flying when I can't be actually flying.
        Pete T.

        "A closed mouth gathers no feet".


        • #5
          Many thanks Pete, that is a book that I've yet to read, although I have heard it recommened several times. I have toyed with putting a book together but haven't got around to it. Maybe I should have go when the wind is howling around the house and flying is totaly out of the question.