The week between Christmas and New Year is weird. Back to work with the weather fluctuating between cold, crisp and clear to moderate snowfall:
Some days we didn’t even get the aircraft out of the hangar due to the poor visibility. It’s easier to launch from the hangar if we have to, and being inside stops the build up of snow on the airframe, like this Cessna 182 used by a local skydiving club:
Most days were grey and dismal and slightly depressing:
And then when the sun did come out, we still didn’t get any jobs! We did have to stand around in the cold for PR photos. Because of the low sun, the angles and the shadow of the control tower on the helipad, we had to park the aircraft right at the edge, with the attendant risk of the helilift running off the concrete and getting stuck. That sucker sinks even into frozen ground. Ask me how we know…
A November visit to Siljan Air Park in Sweden (ESVS). Cold and crisp with a light dusting of snow on our last day at the cabin…
Siljansnas is to the north of Stockholm, and the further south we got on the drive to the airport, the more snow was falling. It turned out to be the first major snowfall of the winter for the airport at Arlanda. Consequently the procedures for ploughing, deicing etc seemed to be a little bit rusty as they got back into the groove. The weather report below shows 1500m visibility and falling snow with a 500ft cloudbase:
Our flight was delayed. The inbound aircraft was coming from Helsinki where they had the same snowfalls, and a delay in deicing for their departure created a knock on effect for us. We boarded the aircraft and then sat around for a further 90 minutes until the deicing truck could get to us. I shot this picture once my window had cleared – all the blowing snow in the lights looks like they are using an angle grinder…
Not much heat from an angle grinder…and it would ruin the paint scheme! Talking of heat, the team at Skydemon (other navigation applications are available) has produced a “heat map” combining all the saved aircraft tracks from Skydemon users in Scotland. The Great Glen route from Oban to Inverness stands out particularly well, and off the east coast you can just make out the grid patterns flown by survey aircraft.
Some of those lines are us. Just a pity that we can’t make out last year’s Christmas tree pattern in the sky…
Autumn. Variable weather, but with some nice flyable bits. In between the gales there were several opportunities to get the Cub out:
Once airborne in a slow aircraft like a Cub, the significance of the wind aloft becomes more noticeable. Notice the headwind giving a groundspeed figure of GS 53 (top left) on this Skydemon screenshot:
After reaching Crieff and turning round, the tailwind now pushed the groundspeed up to 105 – eye watering for a Cub…
On the odd day the weather can be absolutely perfect – light winds, warm and clear skies. When pulling the RV out week later the hangar was almost empty – everybody was taking advantage and getting out and about. Plus the odd visitor adding to the congestion at the fuel pumps, this Swiss registered King Air came in from Rotterdam:
The weather was nice enough for a longer flight out over Fife:
The former RAF Leuchars from above, now an army barracks but with the airfield still in use for the University Air Squadron and occasional diversions:
Approaching Dundee from the south. Tay road and rail bridges standing out:
Out and about in the Cub a few days later, lots of moisture in the air…
Lovely circular rainbow around the Cub shadow:
The next time I flew the RV I transferred the SkyEcho conspicuity unit from the Cub, but somehow neglected (aka forgot) to change the aircraft over in the settings, so to the whole world we were flying a Cub at RV speeds:
147 knots as a groundspeed for a Cub is pretty impressive. If only it was true…
The Montrose Air Station fly-in was held towards the end of August at their “pop-up airstrip” – basically some cordoned-off football fields inside the perimeter track of the old airfield. I was working on the Sunday but free on the Saturday and the weather looked good, so off we went. I had filled up both the Cub’s fuel tanks the day before to give some flexibility to maybe take people flying if the opportunity came up…
On the way we did some aerial recce of “enemy” infrastructure:
It was quite quiet on arrival at Montrose. Having identified the strip I did an approach and go-around to get a feel for the obstacles and inspect the strip (notice the door and window open for a better view)…
It may have been a football field, but it wasn’t completely smooth. Here’s a reminder of the subsequent landing, taken from about 50ft up in a cherry picker:
On landing and vacating the runway I noticed a group of photographers by the fence, so I detoured over there to pose for the cameras before continuing to taxi to parking:
There were a few aircraft parked down at the end of the airstrip but I decided to park next to the collection of military vehicles. Thought we would fit in better there…
And before long the Cub was surrounded by jeeps for the photographers! Here’s me posing in the famous Normandy jacket…
All the military vehicles were owned and operated by one guy, and had come down from Aberdeen on the back of two low loaders. Two Jeeps, an M3 Half-Track, a Scimitar CVR(T), various motorbikes and an M29 Weasel cargo carrier. The Jeeps were kitted out with replica weapons and lots of extras. This probably explains the low loaders – Police Scotland might take a dim view of a convoy of “armed” Jeeps wandering around the countryside:
After the jeeps came the period costumes and more photographers…
FINALLY. The rush died down and I was able to sit down with my fly-in lunch and watch the aircraft:
After lunch I managed to take friend Norman for a quick flight…once he got down from his cherry picker, it didn’t really take much persuasion…and found myself in the video that he produced about the event that very same evening. You can watch the whole thing, or skip to 08:50 where our bit starts:
This next photo was taken by Matt, an engineer friend of Neil. The same Neil as in the Aladdin’s Cave post (http://www.sigurdmartin.se/2021/07/26/alladdins-cave/). Neil who provided me with a new elevator when the Cub ran off down the slope into a shipping container. He is one of the stalwarts of the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, in between restoring Cubs in his mancave and working as an engineer for a local airline. I think this is my favourite Cub photo so far:
Matt captured us coming in to land when I took Norman for his short flight. After wandering around for an hour or so chatting with acquaintances old and new, it was time to head home, slightly sunburnt but with awesome memories of a great day out:
Main memory: I do like jeeps, and they go so well together. I may have to get one…
…even if I have to promise Police Scotland that I won’t be driving around all tooled up!
…normally makes one think of bunkers, pillboxes and heavily fortified strongpoints. On our recent trip we found something a little different, and it was about 25 years OLDER than Herr Hitler’s Atlantikwall.
Visible on the map just a little bit north of Sainte-Mère-Église is a strange annotation Hangar à Dirigeables – a bit of internet sleuthery and we found out that it’s actually a museum, on the site of a French navy airship base from the 1920s.
The main attraction is the concrete hangar, which can be seen from quite a distance away:
The museum is in one of the adjacent buildings, and tells the story of French Naval Air Station Montebourg from its beginnings in 1916 to the present day. The concrete hangar joined a wooden one, now long gone, a few years later. In its history the hangar has been used by the French navy, the German Wehrmacht during the occupation and the Americans after liberation. The US Army used it as a vehicle storage and repair depot. On the internal walls you can see traces of graffiti in all three languages.
It is quite massive inside:
A few weeks later, while planning a trip through Denmark, we came across this place:
Zeppelin Rental! It’s probably (definitely – internet sleuthery again) not a place to hire an airship, but on the off chance that they have an ex-rental dirigeable for sale, we know where to keep it!
The Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre ( https://rafmontrose.org.uk ) is a museum on the site of the first operational military airfield in the UK. Just to the northeast of the town of Montrose in Angus, it is well worth a visit. The airfield itself is no more, but you can discern the old perimeter track on the aerial views:
The area just inside the southern perimeter track (north is up) is now used as football fields and this is where the pop-up airfield is located for the annual open day.
There was a break for Covid last year so this year’s open day and fly in was eagerly anticipated. The football fields give about 500m of firm, slightly bumpy in places, grass.
I was looking forward to flying the Cub once it came out of maintenance…
…but it would have to wait as the day after my last work shift we drove all the way to London, had a hotel for the night and then continued to the ferry port at Newhaven. Operation “Campervan France 2022” was GO!
We were off to Normandy again, four years since the last visit, and with some new places to see and things to do. In my case, one particular place to visit to get one particular thing for the Cub. I have been after a replica USAAF B-10 jacket to keep me warm when flying in the winter, and found them at the D-Day Experience museum in St-Côme du Mont. Ordering online was an option, but the sizings were a bit confusing, so it would probably be better if we went in person, wouldn’t it? Brenda agreed, I don’t think she was fooled.
Amazingly, the camp site chosen in Tournières was a twenty minute walk from the site of Eisenhower’s first field HQ, with its attendant memorial. Actually just about ANYWHERE in the area is within a twenty minute walk of some sort of memorial, mostly beautifully kept with information as well as plaques:
As you can see on the map, we were also quite close to the airstrip A5, used by P47 Thunderbolts of 506th, 507th and 508th Fighter Squadrons in July and August 1944. Now returned to farmland, the only sign of the temporary airstrip is the number of large gaps in hedges where the runway and taxiways were sited. We didn’t actually walk to the airstrip as it was far too hot, but Google Earth shows the evidence…
The warm weather continued the next day when we visited the jacket shop. We had to go through the D-Day Experience Museum and Dead Man’s Corner Museum to get to it. That was a shame. After the shop it was off to Utah Beach, parking up near the Roosevelt Café and the Utah Beach Museum.
We had visited the museum last time, so we went for a walk on the beach and had an ice cream. It was interesting to wonder if our Cub had come through this particular gap in the dunes on the back of a truck in June 1944:
A couple of days later, the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, where we found another Cub hanging from the ceiling…
Not exactly 100% museum authentic, as it still has the post-war (German!) civilian registration under the wing, a non-standard oil filter behind the cylinders, a non-standard silencer and a modern radio aerial, but it’s pretty cool to see, and the information board features that very aircraft in the photo:
One memorial which was not open four years ago was the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking Gold Beach. A large memorial wall is inscribed with the names of every British soldier, sailor and airman who died on D-Day itself, and the columns of the rest of the memorial show the names for every day from June 7th to August 31st. From above, the whole memorial is in the shape of the Union Flag:
Entry is free, just a €3 car parking charge which goes towards the upkeep of the memorial. It was quite poignant to find the column for the date we visited, and see the names of the dead 78 years on. Looking out over Gold Beach from the slightly higher elevation it was hard to imagine the sights and sounds of 6 June 1944…it is a lovely quiet spot now, a peaceful place.
After the memorial, which took a lot longer than we expected (in a good way), we headed to Carpiquet airport at Caen for the D-Day Wings Museum, a small affair housed in one of the old hangars. Various bits and pieces of aircraft including a replica Focke-Wulf 190 being restored after an accident and a real US Army Aeronca L3, not as prolific as the Piper L4 – the information booklet stated that there had been only one example serving in Normandy. I also spotted a model L4 Cub in one of the display cases.
We then left the “invasion coast” and headed to Fécamp and our campsite for the last two nights. Even here we could not escape Hitler’s Atlantikwall – while walking around the seafront and marina we could see the bunkers set into the cliff top. Note how they are protected from fire from offshore and oriented to fire along the beach:
After two nights in Fécamp, we got the ferry from Dieppe and drove home. Ten days after it was released by the engineers, I was finally able to fly the Cub and get some much needed delayed gratification.
There had been a flow problem with the fuel feed from the auxiliary tank but it had been addressed, so I filled that tank as well as the main on (yet another) lovely sunny day:
The heat wave which we had experienced in France had also affected the UK, as seen in the crop marks along the River Isla near Blairgowrie…
It was refreshing to fly with the windows and doors open, and the temperature was a little cooler at 3000 feet. I couldn’t resist a little silliness. Our home base has a radio room only, not full air traffic control, so they can’t issue instructions. But I managed to get some practice in case we fly into a full ATC field and they ask us to extend the downwind leg…apologies, it’s an overused Cub joke, everybody does it.
The Cub flew beautifully. We tend to expect something wrong after maintenance, but not this time. And since Bob has fixed the air lock in the auxiliary fuel tank feed line, we’ll be able to double the range and travel a lot further between fuel stops.
Have t-shirt will travel…and now I also have the jacket too, but it’s too warm to wear it!
A longer trip in the RV…I’ve been trying to get over to Northern Ireland to see my old school friend Andrew. First the pandemic got in the way, then the weather failed to cooperate, but towards the end of June there was a spell of good weather but still with potentially dodgy bits. We decided to give it a go and see. Notifications were sent to Special Branch 24 hours in advance for both the outbound and return legs, online “booking in” with the Ulster Flying Club at Newtownards airfield and we were ready to go.
The weather at Perth was quite nice for departure…
Although the Southern Uplands looked bad, the coastal route seemed workable, and the forecast was for a slow steady improvement over the course of the day.
The price of fuel has gone up due to “The Circumstances” and the bill for full tanks was a bit of a shock. As it was, we eventually got back to Perth with half tanks, but…£280!
Brenda was following on Flightradar24:
The weather was great for the first bit…
The cloud started to thicken a little as we passed Loch Lomond:
By the time we were tracking down the coast south of Prestwick the cloud inland was too low to go more than about a mile in from the shore, but it was still workable along the coast. Here you can see the remains of my in flight snack reflected in the windscreen as we pass the old disused airfield at Turnberry, now covered by the golf course. Just visible to the right of the wood is the hotel now known as “Trump Turnberry”…
Ballantrae and the River Stinchar. The lighter skies in front are promising improvements ahead:
By the time we passed Loch Ryan the cloud had risen to a level suitable for a crossing, although I couldn’t spot the traffic just in front but 18,800 feet above…
Within no time we were “coasting in” at Donaghadee and landing at Newtownards, where I parked next to another visitor. This blue Cirrus is also based at Perth:
Andrew was waiting. We’ve known each other for 50 years! Now I’m really feeling old…
We eschewed the airfield cafe and jumped into the gentleman’s open topped touring carriage for the ten minute trip to Greyabbey, just down the coast on the Strangford Lough side of the Ards peninsula:
Andrew’s daughter Tara had recommended this little place. “Lekker” is Dutch for tasty or yummy…
…and it is well-named. In the spirit of “pictures or it didn’t happen” here’s my breakfast in a bun. Lekker in Greyabbey, highly recommended.
All too soon it was time to get back to the airfield to meet my previously notified arrival time at Perth. Don’t want to upset the Border Force guys if they do turn up. On our landing at Rochester after the flight from Belgium in 2018 they didn’t appear, although the refuelling team said they had been doing spot checks the previous day.
Airborne and coasting out by the Copeland Islands, the cloudbase was quite high now, with some remnants of low level mist over the water:
Mid-point in the North Channel, passing the Stena Line freight only service from Heysham to Belfast:
Routing up the Clyde, passing Gare Loch with Faslane in the distance:
And back to Perth in glorious warm sunshine. I left the orange peel in the aircraft, pot-pourri for the cockpit…
A literal flying visit to see a friend, 1h15m of flying each way and lunch in a different country. General aviation is great. Fast and flexible, go where you need to go. But be prepared to cancel if the weather doesn’t play ball.