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Time to Reflect on 2009……..
Last years flying really was good fun. Looking back, we had the very successful Luscombe/Cessna event at Sywell, a great Luscombe Tour, and good weather for the Oaksey Park Rally weekend. What more could we want!! The weather played ball when we needed it to (most of the time!). Indeed, those who went on the French visit to Quiberon had such good weather we forgot for awhile what a pain English weather can be! Nige let us fly into Ranston a few times which is always good fun and concentrates the mind. Even the Great Vintage Flying Weekend weather was good! We had a couple of little fly-ins at Haddenham which went well (and hope to do some more this year). A few of us made it to Branscombe in Devon on a lovely day for their annual fete/fly-in and enjoyed a great day out and a terrific flying display. Others made it to RNAS Yeovilton and of course the autumn Vintage Aircraft Club BBQ at Sackville Farm. Some where not so lucky and there was the occasional fly-in where the weather deteriorated badly and planes had to divert or turn back to their home bases. Over all the flying was very good and I for one enjoyed the company many of the Luscombe Group. There were many other good flying days….. We are lucky enough to have a great choice of venues to attend each year…..lets hope we get a great summer again this year!
Catching the sunset Sat 6th Dec 2008
Last Saturday afternoon was a beautiful clear winters day with only a light northerly crosswind. Flying over the Chilterns just before dusk with the windows open, listening to the engine note and looking at the long shadows on the ground…what more could one want ! The sun was so bright and low you needed to plan the flight so as not to be directly facing the glare, but once that was done it was just lovely to map read local roads rather than a planned track, look at friends houses and fly over places of interest like Chequers, which surprisingly still has no restrictions over it.
The sun slowly sank through a mist on the horizon with only a deep glow left and the outline of the landscape…time to land. The wind had disappeared completely and a steep side slip on minimum power brought me down quietly onto the strip, the local village being done the wiser. Taxying back slowly out of view of everything except the red kite’s, sparrow hawks and the occasional rabbit, I dwelled ‘awhile on how lucky we are to look at the world from on high…… Only 25 minutes but what a lovely flight.
Sunday 3pm: off to collect eldest son Tom from a 750m farm strip in the West Country, I have not been there before so do thorough flight planning, drift, leg times, distance etc, and also look at google earth to get an idea of the strip. I also have photos of the strip. Its situated just above a steep escarpment on the south eastern side of the Somerset levels, two fields back from the brow. The wind was not favourable blowing up the escarpment & curling over and across the strip . Forecast was 15 kts gusting up to 27 kts. Get a brief from the farmer who flies off the strip and tells me a Cherokee is based there. Well if tricycle can do it so can Luscombe Silvaire! Flight down was uneventful and bang on the nose at the appropriate minute the strip came into sight : . Windsock was visible, no animals or walkers etc but cables at western end and trees beyond the next field at the eastern end. Looks ok but its not level and there is a definite uphill slope half way along which may be an advantage if landing from the east uphill. On this day it would mean accepting a slight tail wind, and bearing in mind I was going to land a bit faster than normal anyway, stiff x/wind, this slope will slow me down I hope, or at least that’s the theory!
The wind close to the ground proved stronger than expected, about 20 kts & buffeted TE on short finals. Gently, gently and I was down smoothly on terra firma. No time to dwell on this as the tail started to weather cock so keep power on to create airflow over the tail and pedal the rudder to straighten her up, full aileron & stick back,.. but the rudder authority wasn’t as good as normal (due I think to the a tailwind component) and we took a diagonal line towards the corn crop….urrrgh…use starb’d brake,…yes that helps, then another big gust of wind…this is definitely stronger than forecast! Slowing gradually helped by the uphill slope in the middle of the strip I come to a halt not 100m from the end hedge. Phew….TE is still not straight & with one wheel in the corn, prop cutting corn so shut down & turn her manually around. No damage done , re start & trundle down to the waiting party who luckily cant see beyond the hilly bit. I could have touched down earlier on the strip, but two undulations, possible drainage?, at the start made me think to touch down beyond this point so I lost 150m there. The gusty winds turned out to be about 30kts. So that seems to be where I start loosing the rudder authority whose usefulness was further diminished by the tailwind component. Should I have come in from the other end with a slight head wind but with a down hill slope and cables in front on the far hedge?... no I don’t think so.
Perhaps I should have picked Tom up from Reading station or used my divert airfield?...but then how would I have gained that experience.. and there is always that slightly disillusioned feeling of regret when you want to fly but don’t. Its still a good strip but next time I’ll think twice about the wind now that I have done the adrenalin bit !.. …Farm strips can bite and this one nearly did!
Luscombe & Friends Tour 2008 May30th to 1stJune
I was reading weather forecasts well before the Tour and for once this year the Gods were largely on our side. Friday afternoon saw TE & me meet with G-BSSA. On our way to Croft Farm we had a great view of Blenheim Palace and a slightly misty fly over the Cotswolds landing just ahead of G-BROO. We were among the last arrivals that night. Several Luscombes were already tied down. The evening meal in the pub was well attended & very pleasant. Great to meet up with so many flyers. Some camped the night, others B & B’d it. Saturday was lovely weather but the lack of wind reduced t/off performance for some, but we all got away from Croft Farm, great hospitality there, & a gaggle of assorted Luscombes & friends flew over to lovely Lane Farm in the Welsh hills where there was an equally friendly reception. Once the gaggle were all airbourne again the scenery was spectacular up to Weshpool. More aircraft were joining in and after lunch we split into 3 groups to fly on to Baxterley via Litchfield to miss the Birmingham zone. Baxterley is a very hospitable grass farm strip which I suspect on some days can be difficult, but we had only a little wind and we all landed without any fuss, lined the aircraft up & had a cuppa mid afternoon. Last stop for the night was Sywell where we had more aircraft join us & 40 of us sat down to a most enjoyable & relaxing dinner/evening. What a fantastic days flying. Its not often you get the chance to fly with and meet so many like minded people. Just the sight of so many Luscombes lined up is amazing…16, I think. Sunday’s weather was not so good ! ..but having decided to miss Sibson because of the mist, we eventually left for Sackville Farm to enjoy one of their delightful BBQ’s…. Slightly heavier… we left for Turweston for a line up & photo shoot. The remaining aircraft flew down to Brimpton and slowly the sun came back out again. Brimpton is well worth a visit and has a number of fly-in days every year ,all visited airfields have web sites. Well…what a very successful weekend. So many aircraft participating, friendly airfields, beautiful scenery, good food, and most of all, great company! What a flying experience ...one that will be remembered & talked about for many a year!
5th May 2008
I moved our permit renewal last year to the autumn as it previously clashed with summer flying. This was all well and good, but shortly after gaining the permit for this year ,last Nov 07, we had another mice outbreak. Mice tally now 16 .All caught around the barn floor using traps. None found in the aircraft since installing battery operated sonic device in the foot well. Now, one could be tempted just to do enough to rid us of mice & indeed in my naivety that is all I initially did. Bad mistake !....The smell in the cockpit persisted some while after the last mice had left. The only way to rid us of this was a complete clean in side. So… floor board up & side carpets out. Low & behold a luxurious leather nest made of my stick gaiters !Useful surveyors maxim follow the trail, taken from case law, now came in useful. Inspected all…I mean all….wiring cables & hoses. Wiring was checked, made good, tested, and reinforced with spiral binding. The mice had started to nibble the flexible hoses to the sides of the footwell. These have been replaced and checked by LAA inspector. They were getting brittle and should have been replaced anyway. The thought of wing tank fuel gushing out on the cockpit floor …is enough to give me nightmares ! So a full check every spring aswell & replace every five years from now on.
So even after the Autumn Permit renewal I still needed a thorough Spring check….one of the “extra” things that you need to think about if hangared on a farm strip!
Well the owl is now back and a lovely sight hunting at dusk, and recently Lapwings have been courting in pairs flying amazingly tight turns & sudden dives over the adjoining fields. Who needs a wind sock when the sparrow hawks are always hovering into wind !
Mice, money, transponders and birds (feathered ones)!
The leatherwork on the step below the seats and gaiters around the sticks is now in tatters! The mice liked the soft underside of the leather & have eaten it. I only had this made two years ago. Never mind, we have I think got rid of the mice for the moment. A bit of,rather a lot of, wheat seed poison did the trick & a few mouse traps. It was field mouse doing the damage although we thought initially rats or even glis-glis, edible dormouse, may have been the culprits. Even the owls have returned ! So I can relax abit…. Now to repair the damage….new leather and new wiring…the quotes run into four figures ! Thought I’d get a quote for a Mode S transponder and some re-arrangement of the panel to allow for a GPS at the same time, but this is so expensive that it’s not practical to do …over five grand from a licensed firm. May be a PFA guy will fit these bits at a more reasonable cost? I’m still looking around. I’m not too worried about not flying alot during the winter. Rather fix things & get TE shipshape for the summer.
We now have a pair of herons nesting somewhere close to the barn. They are a lovely sight swooping low over the fields. The Red Kites are also breeding more and a number of pairs can usually be seen in the air. Its nice to just watch them all…birds ,aircraft …farm strip…what more could one want !
I speak regularly to Charlie in the USA who rebuilt TE in the mid 1980’s. He sends me his recollections of flying TE around Indiana & the adjoining States…all very interesting…. hard copies are filed away & form part of the aircrafts history.
Its New Years Day and the weather is misty…I should really be polishing TE…
Oct 07. Owl on Strike!
Well, the news isn’t good, the barn owl’s gone on strike! After the harvest in September the mice start to come into the barn where we hangar the aircraft. Usually the owl deals with them, but for some reason this year he’s turned his back on us so far, even though he and his young family,two young owls, live in the other half of the barn. Perhaps there are richer pickings of luscious voles elsewhere. The mice are eating the pellets we put down, in fact they love them…suspect they have some hidden mixture they mix with the pellets to make them poison neutral ! Are they using the Warfarin for mouse DVT problems? I don’t think so as they have not done any real long flights, although I probably flew them to the VAC Sackville Farm BBQ today ! We’ve put slippery sheets of A4 rigid plastic on the axels and tail wheel assembly, like rat things on anchor chains, and spray WD40 around these areas…well I heard a tip on gardeners question time that it stops slugs….so may be it’ll stop mice too?! Even the glue sheets aren’t working at the moment. We may have to mount a guard. I have noticed a Robin ,not a DR400, has taken up residence in the barn. May be this little lion of the air is scaring off the owl! Oh well, the joys of farm strips!
Brimpton via Chiltern Park Sept 2nd 2007.
The weather was good if a little windy. I was at Haddenham early,the barn owl is back and getting TE ready when Rob Lees flew in from Leicester in his immaculate Taylorcraft G-BREY. 1946 it has recently been completely rebuilt.
I do a couple of run up checks on TE as I have just done an oil change, and the oil temp gauge has also been renewed..all ok. Roger arrives to fly his Cub G-ARAO. The wind is getting up, but its straight down the strip. Rob and I depart together. The Taylorcraft goes up nearly vertically after a very short 50-75m run, all very impressive. We head off towards Stokenchurch Tower in loose formation, then on to Henley . You can see the high rise towers in central London today. Chiltern Park sits in the southern end of the Vale of Aylesbury south of RAF Benson in a valley just over the Chiltern ridge. It is a farm strip with two grass runways, and there is a microlight school. We opt to land on the short northerly runway, slightly down hill, but into a now stiff 15kt wind. I stop almost immediately I touch the grass….must be blowing hard !
There are already a few arrivals including a Pitts Special, Luscombe’s G-AGMI, Phil & Loraine, G-NIGE (Charlotte & Geoff), & Taylorcraft G-AHNR, Jono Holland.Martin Stevens arrives in the big Bolkow 207 D-EFTI, and with T/craft G-BREY,Rob Lees, that makes seven. After a coffee & a chat, we all depart for Brimpton, keeping well apart due to the ever increasing wind !
Approaching Brimpton it is clear they are very busy. Aircraft are” going round” and re- joining, and there are a number of aircraft on long final, so it is time to concentrate ! I land after a long approach and park up. Whilst its blowing it is still a lovely day. The piston Provost does a good display, so do two Beagle pups and the Pitts. Some jet and other model aircraft also do displays. G-KENM (Martin Waters is there with G-BSOX ,Betty & Roger. G-AFYD also arrives from Compton. So with the resident Brimpton Luscombe G-BVGY that makes seven Luscombe’s ! I eventually depart and have a quick look at Jono’s new strip…umm…abit on the short side so leave that for another day! Back at Haddenham, Charlotte & Geoff in G-NIGE pop in. They stay awhile and then depart for their home field of Popham.
A really good days flying, although the wind kept us on our toes and good company to. I suspect very successful for Brimpton & their fund raising for the Air-Ambulance. Thanks Phil for suggesting the venues.
Sunday 12th Aug 2007 Avranches to White Waltham via Cherbourg.
Avranches is well worth a visit. This airfield also has a history going back to before WW2 as documented in its original authentic signing in book, that is still in use.
Next morning we wake to fog! ..but this burns off quickly and we’re on our way by 11 am. Up the Cherbourg Peninsular trying to beat a cold front heading west towards us. 15 Minutes out of Cherbourg we give up and land at Lessey to sit out the lowering cloud and rain. After a couple of hours,we do a short hop into Cherbourg, clear the formalities and having watched a Dakota land, we do a formation take off and head directly for White Waltham via Sandown’s overhead and Portsmouth harbour. Good evening visibility behind the cold front makes this a pleasant flight. 13/4 hrs later we land at White Waltham. France is a great place to fly and camp, especially in good weather !The French flying community were extremely helpful….oh if only English flying could be the same! Going with another aircraft was great fun and enhanced even more by meeting up with friends at Quiberon. Pierre who manages Quiberon airfield also helped to make our stay very enjoyable. Many thanks Keith & Dave, G-BSSA, for the hard work you both put in to planning this trip.
Friday & Sat. 10th-11th Aug 2007 Chauvigney to Avranches via Quiberon
Onwards & upwards, after saying our goodbyes at Chauvigney & wishing we could stay longer to explore the town we head off north east to get within striking distance of Belgium. The weather deteriorates enough for us to divert into a small strip,well found and navigated by Keith & Dave, for lunch, where again the French welcome us and drive us into town. We hang about watching the lowering cloud base and a 747 doing low circuits under the cloud from a nearby airfield ! A few hours pass….decision time ! Its no good sitting on the ground when we could be flying, so with Nige Barratt’s, sort of, open invitation to visit Quiberon, S.Brittany, where he is staying the weekend, we txt him with an eta for that evening! So no Schaffen Deist this year ! We fly west into ever warmer and clearer weather, refueling at Ancencis on the Loire. We approach Quiberon in the late afternoon over the sea with fantastic views of the coast.
Gaud kindly puts us up for the night & we all eat well at a superb restaurant on the coast watching a beautiful sunset. Next day its bicycle hire and around the peninsular for the day, including a swim in the surf. We thank Gaud and Nige for their hospitality, and depart for a lovely evening flight north over Britany to Avranches passing Mount St. Michel on the way. Avranches is situated at sea level on an estuary with views of Mount St. Michel. Walk up the hill, 4kms, in to town for a meal and a free ride back with the propriateur…again more French kindness.
Thursday 9th Aug 2007 Saumur to Chauvigney via La Rochelle
Up early at Saumur. Shake off the morning dew, coffee in club house, and off with a formation t/off and a fly past down the Loire taking pics of Saumur & its Chateau/castle. We have prior permission to land at La Rochelle, which is a busy commercial airport similar in size to Southampton. BSSA leads and we’re given a hold until it was quiet enough to land. Refueling took forever due to the traditional French lunch break ! A quick taxi ride into town and a delightful afternoon sight seeing. Beautiful old harbour, lovely weather, shady old colonial streets and ancient forts. We fly out in formation that evening up the coast & inland to Chauvigney south east of Poitiers passing a nuclear power station on the way. Chauvigney is a real gem.The level grass strip is on the top of a hill and dates back to the start of French flying, with R.Vienne below and a citadel town a few minutes walk away. The locals at the flying club welcome us, including some English residents. A nice meal that evening in the old town, then into one of the ruined castles where there is a jazz festival…great fun!
Wednesday 8th Aug 2007 & Flying France. I’m off early to White Waltham, well perhaps not as early as I should be, because , as usual getting TE packed and ready took longer than expected. Anyway a quick hop over the Chilterns and park next to G-BSSA. Keith and Dave are nearly ready, so file flight plans etc and repack aircraft with some of SA’s gear in TE as I have spare load capacity. Plan A is to fly to Calais and then into Holland and up to The Fresian islands before making our way down to Schaffen Deist in Belgium. Dave and Keith had been planning to fly this route in G-BSSA for some months and had invited me and TE to tag along. Both aircraft have obtained Holland and Belgium written approvals to fly in their airspace. Neither of us have transponders.
The weather is in our favour. We fly a loose formation, coasting out, at Folkstone. Good views of the Channel and on to Calais which has only tower & fuel services as it is being refurbished under new management. Re-assess weather, and decide the fronts that are threatening Holland for tomorrow and Friday are too much of a risk so a change to Plan B is called for ! We will turn right into central France and then in a few days make our way up E. France to Schaffen Deist.
After Calais we head SW , passing north of Paris over the R. Somme near Abbeville and then the meandering R. Seine, where the boat transports took our soldiers up to Rouen at the beginning of the WW1 in the summer of 1914. The river looks big and ponderous with wide bends. We stop at Argentan for fuel, and are met by some friendly French flying club members. The weather is deteriorating and it starts to rain, and then thunder and lightning. Typical just as I need to hand start !...and yes this takes TE time to start and I get soaked ! Off quickly,and we out pace the storm and fly into calm evening good weather. We land at Saumur in the Loire valley and pitch tents and walk into town for a well deserved few beers and a good meal. Its great to fly in the company of another aircraft.
April 2007 Gusty cross winds !
A fine but blustery day and a flight to Popham. Clear skies and a gusty15-20 kts wind nearly down our strip. Fairly turbulent over the Chiltern Hills tracking to Kings Clare mast. Called Popham to find the into wind runway was out of use and so it was to be a cross wind final which was now a gusty 20-25kts. Oh well, that’ll teach me for not ringing first ! I have never managed a good landing on this runway yet ! First approach over the trees and A303 went well until I side slipped and took off to much power ending up being lifted by the wind…by the time the wheels had touch (gently) three times it was time to go round and try another approach. We all have our own limits and I was keen to nail this gusty cross wind approach. High over the trees again to allow some room for turbulence and an extra few knots above normal approach speed on the ASI to hold her, note the ground speed on the GPS all the way down, another steep side slip and on to the grass nice and early this time…so lots of time to settle her down gently, which took another two long gentle bounces, stick full back, I never quite remember that, and into wind aileron and I am down . Well it might not have looked pretty but it was safe and gentle and controlled, and improved my cross wind experience once more. Next time though I’ll ring them first !
At last the new cowl is on...after a year of getting the bits together. Looks great even without paint (but I'm biased)! So yesterday it was time to test it. A thorough check of the airframe first, then a good run up check (we've also just done the oil change and renewed the regulator in the turbo alternator), then some fast taxying up & down the strip with the tail wheel up. There's a cross wind, & I never know quite how much ruddering will be necessary when I drop the tail back on the ground..all's well, so turn off and do another airframe check before a hot restart...and she started ok after a few swings, then gather up an engineer into the other seat (always get the engineers to fly with you...good insurance!) and off we go..just a short local, P's & T's ok no vibration, climb, cruise,approach,& landing all ok.The another airframe/engine check. So cowl needs finishing touches now then spraying. I've taken TE off line again this week so the engineers can put in new aileron hinge bearings, ready for the Permit inspection. Hope to fly next weekend.
It’s Spring at last and more mud! Sat 3rd March 2007
Off down to the farm after a morning in the office, through the concrete farmyard past the old listed Tithe barn and…. straight on to a very muddy track..ugh!
No I don’t think the Audi is going to do this!... so park up and walk nearly a mile across the field …skylarks dodging me as I inspect the strip which is surprisingly firm ….but then in front of the hangar its very very soft , so much so that the aircraft would probably sink down to Oz ! So no flying today,… very frustrating, but that’s all part of farm strip flying I suppose. There is always another day, I say to myself starting to get depressed and putting jealous thoughts of hard runway aficionados out of my head, farm strips are still the best and the owl is still keeping the mice away ! Next week the weather will be different…..won’t it ?
Mud glorious mud! Short fly to Turweston
Flew TE in the company of the other resident aircraft a Piper Cub yesterday. Getting down the very muddyand slippery ¾ mile farm track was fun! First time I have ventured there for some while as the track has been impassable The strip was surprisingly firm but needed an inspection for propeller hazards…. picked up numerous long dog walkers sticks. Finally checked out aircraft…no mice!...resident barn owl has been doing its job. Light cross winds today 8-10 kts no problem for either aircraft, so off we go to Turweston having booked slots the day before because of the draconian planning restrictions imposed on them by Aylesbury Vale DC. Only hard runway available as the two grass runways are soggy. Very wide circuit at 1300ft for noise abatement and cranked final, little turbulence, wing down into the wind and smooooth it onto the tarmac …..now why can’t I do that everytime !!! Fuel , a very nice bacon butty and friendly chat with the tower and flying club, then back track the hard and a high overhead departure to our strip. I’m monitoring my wooden 48/72 prop’s performance. So yesterdays figures at 1033 QNH & 1026 QFE were: t/off ½ tanks no luggage/passenger, with 10kts 40deg off runway heading, abt 300m, 250 ft asl on wet level grass, climb at 70kts 500fpm.., cruise at 2300 was 86kts. T/off tarmac runway, 448ft asl, slightly up hill full tanks same wind, estimate 250m, climb 60kts 400fpm and same cruise as before. Not bad, but I’m thinking what about mid summer mtow hot still day…what then. Keep monitoring the figures !
2nd Dec 2006. Good to be back in the air !
Well, after an enforced break for the last two months I couldn’t wait to get back in the air again today, even just for a short fly. I have had my wooden prop serviced and a new modern throttle and cable installed, so now I have a friction nut rather than the an old vernier type push button…things should be smoother now and hopefully servicing the prop has reduced revs thereby increasing kts…we will see!
After work it was down to the strip. First check the strip for debris, dogs sticks etc and see how firm it is then drag TE out, do an extensive check over, no mice birds nests etc, chock her, brakes on & into wind, and Armstrong 1 here we come, making sure not to slip over in the process on the soft wet grass! Low and Behold, blimey, she started first time; wish she would do that when people are watching me!! At Denham where we were hangared for one summer, this was a standing joke. I could start the aircraft no problem, outside the hangar, then taxy over to the pumps to get fuel, and while busy fuelling, the local flying school would quietly line up the chairs in front of me and provide the audiencefo r the re-start..which always took time…very entertaining…if you were watching!. not so good if you were swinging the prop. I digress….
5 mins warming up at ever increasing power levels, then a fast taxy, all ok, checks all normal, so off we go. Take off was uneventful with a 12kts wind about 30 degrees off rnwy heading, turn into wind, climb not quite as good as before the prop was serviced (about 700ft per min, one person and 2/3 tanks,70kts) and then into the cruise.’TE is one of those Luscombe’s with many previous lives and is now configured as an 8F although she started out as a metal wing 8A. At present she has a C90 up front and is “light” with very little extra weight ( ie starter stuff , large batteries etc), we have a turbo fan underneath and a small battery powering a small radio, plus full panel.
Now to set up the cruise and this seems to be greatly improved with about 85kts at 2250 revs, and without the spats on ! So we may get 90kts with spats, and once I have got used to the new throttle and set 2350 revs perhaps abit more…. I can always dream!. Try a stall…very benign, may be I didn’t pull up enough? Anyway the sun is now getting low and may be a problem on approach so time for landing checks which I call out aloud as taught by my instructors. Approach was flown initially at 65kts down to 60kts and then 55kts over the trees our threshold with a good headwind, then cut throttle, slip the last few feet and loose the flare. Down short and satisfied, even though it was only a short flight. It’s just good to be practicing again!
Learning to Fly.I was brought up in a service family and have memories of my father taking his bone dome to work. Later when he joined B.E.A, I remember going to Heston, part of the B.E.A training establishment to have a go on the Viscount/Vanguard simulators. My appetite was wetted, probably guided by my parents hoping son would follow in Dad’s footsteps!. I gained some flying experience as an air cadet on Chipmunks and Sedberg gliders at White Waltham, and vividly remember a trip doing circuits in an Argosy at RA F Benson. But not the R.A.F for me, service life seemed too regulated and anyway this was the early 1970’s, I had long hair, played guitar & was into Led Zepplin and pop concerts on the Isle of Wight!
I kept an interest in flying and some years later, already flying as a passenger in light aircraft with friends the temptation was too great when CAA/ FAA courses were advertised in “Pilot” in the USA in the early 1990’s at half the cost of learning in UK. So I took the plunge, took a month off work and ended up at Fullerton, Los Angeles training in the proverbial Cessna 152’s.
What a breath of fresh air ( wrong expression…very claggy nicotine/ gas guzzling/ hazy/sore throat air learning was in L.A. “ Son you can expect to get disorientated (because of the smog) over L.A …just tell the controller and they will give you vectors back to Fullerton” and “ expect the Marine Corps F18’s to come along side and say hi ,… Do Not Panic… just hold your height and heading” ! The worst part of a glorious month was mastering the American radio calls : ATIS, ground start up/ permission to taxi, tower and 4 frequency changes on the way out and in everyday to and from the basic training area over the Pacific. Later the x/country flying up into the mountains and landing at mountain strips was a joy. PFL’s like you could never do them over here, touching your tyres on a Pacific coast beach and then scraping over the palm trees!
Back home in the UK with new PPL in hand, a big shock awaited!, flying was very different and nothing like so easy going, gone were the smiley faces and the “have a nice flight” and the filing flight plans from your hotel phone with the controller saying “ if you come across any weather on your flight we’d sure like to know, so dial up (xxxx frequency) while you’re in the air and tell us”. Instead there was a distinct feel of “ give us your money mate”. Booker on finals looked so small compared to those large American runways,,,,and where was the radar?….Fullerton had radar and I had foolishly thought all reasonably large UK airfields would have the same !!......and then there was the English language to get used to again….”Circuit” rather than “Pattern”, no 45 degree joins, we never had “dead sides” or “overhead joins” in the States, and the twins and jets flew a parallel but larger pattern,.. inches mercury not hectopascals etc etc…….. and then there was the weather…well there wasn’t weather in L.A, at least not English weather…. which took me ages to get used to on returning home. So the “American Way” was very different although enjoyable.
I opted to do some retraining straight away at Booker in Cessna’s.!
After spending nine sorties in x/winds & poor UK viz to acclimatize I was taken up by a new young AFI, only to find ourselves near an RAF fly past at Strike Command High Wycombe !...”what shall we do?” asked the instructor totally flummoxed as two Nimrods and 4 Jaguars winged it past. “Hold your height and heading” I said repeating parrot fashion what the Americans had taught me (hoping this was the right thing to do and feeling very good saying it!)……but I thought he was instructing me?.... So the RAF missed us, but a mental note to check NOTAMS more thoroughly in future! (Technically I think I was PIC as I had my PPL so it was my fault I suspect!) I’d had enough of Booker for the present although it was essential to go through some retraining after the USA.
I figured a bit more fun and independence was required and anyway I seemed to be telling the instructor where we were most of the time so he could get used to the area !
Only thing to do was to join a flying group, which I promptly did on a farm strip near Dunstable. 450m of grass/mud and obstacles meant a thorough check out first without which the group would not let you fly solo. Then came some fun years flying Rallye’s around UK farm strips and occasionally abroad.
“Oh my god”.. you’ll all say! “a Rallye ugh”…I know…but the Rallye is safe, easy to fly, superb short field ability, fairly cheap to run aircraft, and has an incredible all round view. After awhile though its safeness gives you a distinct lack of feel for the controls. Some other challenge was needed.
The group started to go their separate ways, as tends to happen and two of us opted out and purchased a Bolkow 207 tail-dragger, converting first by way of a Piper Cub at Redhill and Sywell. The Rallye had a constant speed prop and so did the Bo 207, so I didn’t need that type conversion again, but I did a general type conversion onto the Bolkow (done at Turweston) especially as everything was in German! Being German registered we took it back to Deutschland once a year for its annual. How efficient the German system is. Paperwork signed off in engineers hangar on the computer link to the German CAA, jump in after flight test and back we come.(was’nt always quite so simple). Great fun flying dual and solo there and back, stopping in Holland either for lunch or the night when the weather clamped down. Having once in the Rallye routed the long way over the North Sea (Cromer to Texel Isle) we decided that the shorter Dover/Calais crossings were less strenuous on our nerves so routed that way and then usually via Midden Zealand and into Germany.
Well all good things come to an end, and I was not getting up to Turweston enough to take good advantage of flying the Bo 207 (having started up a new business shortly before the purchase). I’d always admired the Luscombes at Popham and Compton Abbas and had an inkling that was the way to go, so purchased G-EITE without flying it and during the winter! Not the best way to buy an aircraft, but having now bought a total of 3 aircraft all of which still needed maintenance/repair even after full engineering pre sale inspections I thought “what the hell” it has just obtained its new Permit to Fly so what can go wrong! I did not understand the differences between the CAA system and the PFA system well at that time, and having been used to the efficient German way assumed that a new Permit to Fly meant the aircraft was in good order. Well it was flyable but in good order ..no. How naive can you get! So we ended up doing maintenance which I suppose was expected to some extent, and in retrospect an education. I am now glad I have a better insight of this aircraft (me being a non-engineer) mainly down to the patience and helpfulness of engineers, Luscombe folk and the PFA.
Having converted on to type on some long runway in the Midlands, my first thought was “will I ever get used to this, well you have to mate after all you have bought it”! The Bolkow had a lockable tail wheel and 60 degrees of flap, so I had been spoilt! The first few landings and take offs and handling flights in the Luscombe taught me a lot about its capabilities and more particularly my own lack of experience!
Well a few years have gone by, and “TE” has a bigger engine now, we’re based on a farm strip again and I have learnt loads about spar replacements etc etc,…. and the flying?...well I’m still learning !....but there’s nothing quite like flying a Luscombe…. its just a lovely way to take to the skies.