Life is the greatest challenge of all
Coffee in the Cotswolds
And to end the week on a high................(My head is still on Sunday having just come to the end of a night shift).
After being suitably embarassed after arriving at Shoreham having forgotten the key for the trusty steed (thank you Fire Service for the HUGE effort you went to in order to enable me to go flying), we joined the queue of 8 aircraft waiting to depart and make the most of the fine weather.
We climbed out behind 4 others all heading west and climbed to 4000', switching to a very busy Goodwood, before turning inland from their overhead.
Not wishing to tempt fate with scattered cloud we settled back down to 3000' and marvelled how quiet Solent were, compared to what we had come from. Time to admire the view, bathed in the autumnal sunshine, giving everything a soft comforting glow.
Passing overhead Popham we commented on how busy it always seems to be and laughed at all the cars sat on the motorway below. This has to be the way to travel !!
Already Newbury was coming up off to our right and I realised that, apart from a trip with DW, I had not actually piloted myself north of the M3 until today. Sam spotted Greenham Common and Newbury racecourse, whilst acting as a very handy back up for spying other aircraft.
Kingsclere mast stood out in the clear conditions, as Hungerford loomed on the nose and the Honda factory at Swindon reflected the sunlight from the middle distance.
Navigation is so much easier on days like this and Sam is getting rather good at navigation too. She can happily tell me where we are 99% of the time, picking out even the smallest details. It was she who spotted a farm strip, without prompting from me, of a fellow forumite. Purely from the way he had described it to me in an e-mail.
Lyneham gave us a crossing on a direct track to Kemble just to make my life even easier. We floated serenely on, the M4 busy below us and a pretty yellow biplane passed beneath us out enjoying the weather. All too quickly the lakes to the east of Kemble were beneath us and we were joining left base for 26, avoiding the village where a Remembrance Day gathering was under way.
The huge runway came up to meet us and I began to wish I had landed a little longer as we taxied past the deserted MYT DC10's on our left. A Tiger Moth (?) took off on the parallel grass runway as we taxied, I really must experience the magic of open cockpit flying one day. We had time to discuss the disadvantages of getting the approach speed right by the time we taxied off the runway and parked up outside the now infamous AV8.
Landing fee paid (ouch!!!!), Sam was very quick to notice how different AV8 was compared to your average airfield eating establishment. Worthy of note I feel. Unfortunately the service remains leisurely, though the coffee was the best I have tasted. Sam was astounded by the variety of 'craft there were. She was also astounded that people actually flew such tiny planes (she regards the 152 as rather cosy!) and disregarded my comment about acquiring anything so small. Wait till she meets tKF someday Guess the Eurocub idea will take some working on
As we were finishing our coffee, Mike Cross and Irv Lee ambled past on their way home, another forumite met in the flesh.
Must attend one of your seminars one day Irv. Sam does love your G-BTCH reg Mike, can she have it transferred??
All too soon it was time to go, the penalty of winter flying being the lack of daylight hours available to sit and observe. Seeing the antics of one of UH's Extra's, Sam is now convinced I am in need of help.
Climbing to 2500' we switched to Lyneham again, only to be given clearance to cross their zone at not above 1000' on their QFE so a swift descent was undertaken in order to comply. Having passed junction 15 of the M4 we asked for a climb to 2500 and at the end of their confirmation I could have sworn someone snuck in a "Hello Andy" to the end of the transmission. Sam noticed it too, but we decided our ears were playing tricks............
Levelling out after a further ascent to 3000' I noticed a plane below quite clearly enjoying the late afternoon, swooping and turning through the sky. As we got nearer I had a feeling I recognised the plane. I love Luscombe’s and this was definitely one, a distinctive maroon fuselage with silver wings, the pilot obviously enjoying his antics. Keeping a very close eye on it I watched it descending and realised it was preparing to land. Sam twigged before I did..... our ears hadn't been playing tricks then!!
We descended to a couple of thousand feet and watched the pilot land. As he backtracked my Cessna waggled her wings in a friendly greeting type of way. Before we knew it the lovely red and silver plane was speeding down the strip again and climbing up to meet us. The Luscombe still has my vote as one of the prettiest small aircraft, especially viewed from alongside in the soft afternoon sun, with lush countryside in the background, (at a safe distance by 2 pilots that have some trust in each other not to do something stupid).
G-**** waggled her wings at us in a "come down and have a cuppa" type way, but we regretfully had to refuse the offer for fear of running out of daylight, knowing how busy Shoreham was likely to be as everyone raced home before dark.
Another time, another excuse to go fly.
As she peeled off to return home, we continued on our way, revelling in the beauty of the countryside below us and the odd balloon launching into the tranquil evening, before tuning back into Goodwood and the chaos of "12 others known in the local area".
Sam was back in serious plane spotting mode and as we wafted back over Goodwood Racecourse and onto Arundel I prepared for a chaotic return to Shoreham.
Last week I had been held at Littlehampton for several long orbits whilst everyone queued to land so I was very surprised to be given a left base join for 02, initially not below 1600'.
Must have been a lucky day to end a marvellous week as others calling after were all given overhead joins whilst we came in on a shortened base and final underneath a fairly full overhead, to kiss the tarmac and end what has been my best flying week to date.
3 night flights in an Aztec as self loading freight, 3 new airfields (plus 2 with Timothy) and 6.5 hours P1 in a 'plane I am coming to love and enjoy, despite it's simplicity. Sometimes it is not about speed, but about just enjoying one's passage through the air as much as the destination.
The New Year resolution I made at the start of 2004 is proving to be the best one I have ever made. What was it?
"To complete my PPL".
I am so glad I saw it through. Now to start thinking about next year's......