Time: 17:00 - 17:45 (GMT)
Aircraft: EuroFOX - G-UFOX
I was thwarted again last weekend - the forecast basically said no flying and unfortunately, it was right - I didn't even bother going to the airfield. Sadly, this weekend isn't looking ideal either. We had hoped to go to a WFAeC flyout to Halfpenny Green on Sunday but the forecast is very windy for Saturday and cloudy for Sunday.
Throughout Saturday I am once again scanning the TAFs and METARs - it doesn't look like Sunday will be flyable at all. I check again some time past 14:30 and it looks like the winds may be relenting, so I make a bit of a snap decision to cancel tomorrow's flight and try a late flight today for a bit of a bimble - it seemed like my best bet. I quickly get ready and drive down to Popham, taking the octocopter with me that I have been programming up for my friend John, so that I can deliver this at the same time.
When I get to the airfield, it is evident that the wind hasn't settled as much as I would have hoped, but I am confident that it is safe, so I get the plane ready and give it a go. After prep and warm-up, I go down to the end of 21 and take off. It is immediately clear that the visibility is NOT clear - in fact it is quite claggy. Climbing higher and heading north, I can see a very pronounced inversion layer and once I get above this, it is crystal clear, so I can safely enjoy myself up here.
After some general handling, I head south-ish and try slowing her down and with some flap applied I keep safely above the stall - the GPS is registering a ground speed of 17 knots. When I get bored of this, I do some tight turns (my favourite) and the GPS track show these as very spread out, due to the wind. I then head back north and have the idea to try the opposite extreme, so I open the taps and straight and level, I read a groundspeed of 127 knots.
After some more bimbling, I decide to try something new - a roller-coaster ride. With some power applied, I point the nose down and gain a little speed, then pull-up towards the heavens with the inherent G-force felt. I then push the nose over for the reverse effect - I go very light in the seat. Then repeat a few times. I am not sure if I ever fully achieved negative G, but if I didn't it was pretty close. Good fun. Below me, I can see that the clouds are building at the inversion layer and joining forces, so I think I had better head back before it gets too bad. Overhead at 4000' above Popham I use a spiral dive to get down to circuit height on the deadside - wheeeee!
In the circuit I can feel (and see) that the wind is still gusting and swinging around a bit, so when on final approach I am in full concentration. Strong winds from the south can give a pronounced sink on the approach to 21, so as recommended by the instructors, I aim to land at least 1/3rd of the way along the runway (past where the old hedgerow was), with half flap and a smidge of throttle. As it happens, it was a real greaser of a landing, where you can only tell you are down by the noise of the wheels. Fantastic - I only wish there had been someone else there to see it!
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