Saturday, 5 June 2010

Take off distance

The strip where the aeroplane is based is about 800m long. There may be trees at one end, a hedge at the other and a curved approach at both, but it is still more than long enough for the C812 at MAUW and probably more.

Coming out of Wing Farm a few days ago the runway looked shorter than its 500m suggested. No doubt the trees, house and hangar at the end of the strip didn't help. Detracting from the aircraft's performance was the fact that we were three up (all male - no jockeys) and that it was a warm afternoon. In our favour was the fact that we had a light load of fuel, that there was a 5kt+ breeze and that this particular runway had a slight (1.5%) downslope - it all helps.

The book said that it would be fine, but those big Poplar trees didn't look that far away.

In the end we were airborne and climbing away by about 350m.

Yes, I know I need to clean my screen.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Stunning weather, great place

I dropped into Wing Farm recently. It's a great little strip - challenging enough to make you concentrate, but not so difficult that the smallest of slips would lead to bent metal/wood/composite. Wing Farm sits in some stunning countryside, it's not far from Longleat House and Stourhead and is only a few miles away from Alfred's Tower, a useful landmark when trying to find it.

There's a fair bit happening on the ground too - Airborne Composites has its workshop there - inside Tim Dews and his team work their magic, and although they look after a number of motorgliders their real skill lies in repairing composite machines that look like they shoud never fly again. Tim does some very impressive work. Halfway up the strip you'll find Mark Jones and Galaxy Microlights - Mark runs a microlight repair shop, and is also one of the UK dealers for the UL206i engine - he's also involved in the restoration of a Gloster Meteor.

I love places like this, they're so much more than a few hundred metres of grass.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

That was close

Yesterday I flew to Goodwood for a couple of meetings (great place, lots going on). I took off a little late from the strip thanks to some local lingering fog - visibility was probably 3000-4000m and improving as I headed south. It wasn't crystal clear, but it wasn't at all bad either.

I was looking for Colemore Common - a 400m microlight strip near Petersfield when it happened. I looked up (having been scouring the ground for the strip) to see a Hornet Moth crossing from left to right about 200' above me. There was no imminent danger of collision, but that was only down to the fact that our respective altitudes were a bit different rather than any great lookout by me (or the Hornet Moth's pilot too I guess).

I never did see Colemore Common, but I did spot this beautiful looking strip a little to its west. There was a lot going on, and I suspect that the Hornet Moth was heading for whatever event was taking place. I'll try to find out the name of the strip and see if it is available to visit.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Old but good but broken

There's an old Skyforce Locator on the P2 yoke in the C182. Even though all it does is provide a single line of text with the aeroplane's location it is a great piece of kit. It's much loved by most non-pilots who sit in the front, but right now the screen is blank.

The Locator works by taking an NMEA feed from a GPS and figuring out where it is in relation to its internal database. It then provides a single line of text with a plain(ish) language description of its location.

The problem is, that since upgrading the 530 to a 530W it's not been possible to get the two talking (it worked fine with the 530). I'm hoping that Garmin can provide a simple answer, and that it's just a setting somewhere in the unit's RS232 set up page - but if it's not possible I'll be looking for an alternative something or other to put on the yoke - I thought about an 'Aware' but I do a fair bit of Euro touring and I'd get a blank look alongside the blank screen about twenty miles into France. Any ideas?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cheaper than Ryanair?

Had a bit of business to do in France over the bank holiday weekend so three of us jumped in the C182 for the trip, stopping at Popham on the way for a tank of their excellent value avgas (£1.55 inc VAT - I know, it's mad to be calling £1.55 excellent value but it is the cheapest avgas for miles).

Thanks to a decent tailwind on the way, and a not quite so strong headwind on the way back, the round-trip took 2.6 hours during which we burned 110 of avgas, which, taking into account the yet-to-be-claimed drawback of £0.3835, works out at about £128 in total or just over £42 each - cheaper than most Ryanair flights.*

As an aside, the weather looked a bit pants locally when we turned up at the airport for the return flight, but the visibility over the sea was actually quite good.

*OK, that might not take into account landing fees, engine/prop funds, insurance, maintenance, cost of capital invested etc.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

A busy five minutes

Flying late in the day has its advantages. The air is smoother, the light warmer and the low sun throws long shadows over the ground highlighting ancient earthworks and fields shaped by hundreds of years of agriculture.

There's usually fewer aircraft about too, meaning quieter frequencies and painless transits. It doesn't always work that way though - a couple of nights ago the little bit of airspace around Brize was heaving with the maxed out controller issuing 'standby and remain outside controlled airspace' instructions to VHF callers for a while. It all worked out though, everyone that wanted one got a transit, and we got a great view of a VC10 on final. By the time we left the Brize zone everyone had gone off frequency and once again it seemed like we were the only people flying.