First Snow!

Snow on the hills! And a day off with good weather, so time to try out the camera again – no iPhone pics this time, Canon EOS 1300D with 18-55 lens shooting at 18mm through the canopy at 1/320 in shutter priority. Just pointing and shooting and seeing what comes out…

This is taken from the edge of the hills looking south, with no snow in that direction:

Plenty of snow in the other direction

Cool cloud formations spilling over the peaks:

Looking up the A93 towards Glenshee Ski Centre:

Looking north towards the ski centre. The slopes on the east side of the road are called “Sunnyside” for some strange reason…

Still not enough snow for skiing, but it’s early yet. A good season on top of last year’s good season would be fantastic and would justify all the investment in new and refurbished lifts that the ski centre has put in over the last few years. It might also give us a bit of trade at work. Don’t want anybody to get hurt but it’s nice to be able to swoop in and take them to hospital when we can. It turns a 70 minute road journey by ambulance into a 20 minute flight. And the views are great…

Scared of Heights

Some repairs required on the hangar roof. Thousands of hours flying and it turns out I’m scared of heights:

Well, maybe not heights. Just the potential for falling with the sudden stop at the bottom. At least the view from up there was good, and the roof got fixed…

Kortrijk Update

Remember this?

Kortrijk is a sleepy little airfield. So sleepy that there is nobody to collect the landing fee…there’s a form to fill out and post in a box. Eventually they get around to sending a bill

We finally got the bill! Over two months later…

Autumn Flying Piccies

Just messing about with the iPhone camera. Normally we’ve been taking shots like the first one with a bit of sky in them…

…but I was solo this time, so I was able to get a bit more vigorous with bank angles to get the shot. Brenda does’t like it getting too “tilty”so this was a perfect opportunity to experiment. This is a fruit farm near Blairgowrie:

And the River Tay at Murthly:

Stubble burning just north of Forfar:

Glamis, the Queen Mother’s ancestral home:

And some more random smoke, location uncertain:

iPhone camera experimentation = thinly disguised excuse to go flying!

The Trip Home (3) – Racing The Rain

We woke in Kortrijk to wall-to-wall sunshine, but a look at the forecast for Scotland showed a band of rain moving in from the Atlantic. If we got a move on and didn’t get delayed too much then we should be fine for getting home.

After a hotel breakfast and checking out, we made our way to the airport. Past the drop-off area:

Following the signs to the impressively named “Food Court” –

There is a café/restaurant upstairs but it wasn’t open on either of our visits. The food court turns out to be a couple of vending machines:

While planning we met these Belgians who were off to Duxford for the day. The landing fee at Duxford gets you into the Imperial War Museum as well:

Routing sorted out and flight plan submitted, the friendly customs guys let us out to the aircraft. No need to refuel this time as last night’s hop from Midden Zeeland hadn’t used too much and Rochester is less than an hour from Kortrijk at our speeds. Thumbs-up from the co-pilot and we’re ready to go:

Climbing out towards Koksijde we could see in the far distance what looked like a line of low cloud over the UK. It was only as we got closer that we realised the “cloud” was the cliffs at Dover:

The track to Cap Gris Nez took us past the Eurotunnel terminal at Coquelles:

Crossing the coast, northbound this time:

Cap Gris Nez behind us…

We were a lot more relaxed heading north, the product of experience…it is never as scary as you think it will be…

Looking back from mid-channel… Au revoir, France. À bientôt…

Bonjour Angleterre. Hello England! It was a great feeling switching over to London Information and hearing the voices – just like coming home:

Approaching Dover again…

After Dover it was a straight run through Kent to Rochester. London Info was busy with UK traffic heading to Le Touquet and the Channel Islands. We also heard the Belgian guys ahead of us as they made their way towards Duxford. Pretty soon we were down and taxiing to the pumps where the pit-stop team burst into action. They even offered to push the aircraft back onto the grass for us, which meant we could go to the café…

We were half expecting a visit from the Border Force guys. We had filed a General Aviation Report (GAR) via Skydemon the previous evening (it needs at least 4 hours in advance) but nobody came to meet our arrival. Border Force will check any interesting looking arrivals and also do spot checks. The refuellers said they had been at Rochester the previous day checking inbound arrivals from the continent but we must have been too mundane to check. There is a benefit to being boring!

Rochester café’s famous bacon sandwiches. Stopping for one of these is worth the risk that the weather might beat us to Perth later! Note the concurrent flight planning activity going on on the iPad at the same time…

And off again, northbound over the Thames, looking west towards London:

Over the flatlands of East Anglia, these are the Old Bedford River (left) and the New Bedford River (right, also known as the hundred foot drain):

Following the power station route markers towards Sandtoft for fuel:

By now the high cloud was building up, sign of an approaching front…we didn’t get any pictures at Sandtoft as we did a quick turnaround and headed north again. Approaching Newcastle the western sky was turning slightly ominous…

And north of Newcastle there was some lower cloud around. Nothing to stop us progressing, but we did have to descend to 1500ft at one point to stay in sight of the surface:

At 1500ft I noticed that the 4G symbol had popped up on the iPad and the signal was good enough to load up Rain Alarm which showed us where the heavy rain was. The coastal route was clear and so we decided to press on. Some people pay megabucks to get data link weather installed but this was just as good. Due to having signal the Skydemon also updated the latest weather reports including Dundee and Leuchars, both were good enough to continue:

Coming up to the Firth of Forth at North Berwick we were able to climb again for the last major water crossing…

Then it was a straight line through Fife, before positioning to final runway 21 at Perth:

Home at last…10 days, 31.4 flying hours and about 3000 nautical miles later:

It was quite an adventure. A lot of firsts for both of us. A few niggles with the aircraft which were sorted out easily enough, and almost a whole page of log book entries, with lots of new airfields: Gamston, Rochester, Kortrijk, Groningen, Höganäs, Siljansnäs, Falköping, Lübeck, Paderborn/Lippstadt, Midden Zeeland and Sandtoft…Rochester, Kortrijk and Höganäs were so good we went twice!

In over 30 hours of flying we saw fewer than 10 other aircraft. None of them came really close but I managed to alarm Brenda with some vigorous manoeuvring to “avoid” a Luftwaffe Transall transport aircraft which was actually about 5 miles away. When first spotted it looked like a light aircraft a lot closer. A bit of a Father Ted moment…

We are now looking at the various electronic conspicuity products on the market which will add traffic symbols to the Skydemon map in real time. We’ll still need to look out the window as not all traffic will show up but every aid to situational awareness helps.

We also now have a better idea of what makes a good touring aircraft. Three things we have agreed we would be nice to have are more speed, an autopilot and better baggage space. For now though, the Sting is perfectly adequate.

We are already planning the next great adventure!

 

Scotland to Sweden 2018 – we had a blast!

Return Trip (2) – Avoiding Thunderstorms on the way to Belgium

When we woke in Lübeck the weather was looking dodgy for our planned route. Being creatures of habit and scared of change we had planned to use Groningen and Kortrijk and get across to Rochester for the nightstop…but there was a forecast line of thunderstorms across the Netherlands from Amsterdam northwards. This meant that Groningen was out.

The storms were not forecast for the south of the Netherlands, so we planned to head south into Germany before turning west. We planned to refuel at Münster/Osnabruck then head for Kortrijk. With that in mind we jumped into our taxi and headed for the airport.

Once again the plan fell apart. Munster had the builders in at the fuel station and had put out a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) to that effect. We replanned for Paderborn/Lippstadt but this meant we then needed another fuel stop as we didn’t have enough to get to Kortrijk. I’ve always wanted to go to the Dutch airfield of Midden Zeeland so that’s where we decided to go. With the law of unintended consequences having a field day we then didn’t have enough time to get to Rochester, so Kortrijk became a nightstop. Remember, flexibility is the key!

Airborne from Lübeck heading southwest we crossed the Elbe…

Then it turned and followed us for a bit…

Autobahns make distinctive navigation check features:

Crossing the River Weser:

Passing Bielefeld, heading south towards Paderborn. That light coloured strip in the distance is the now-disused RAF Germany station at Gütersloh, former home of the Harriers, Pumas and Chinooks:

We were soon parked up at Paderborn. No self service pump here – a towed fuel trailer comes to the aircraft. We had a bit of a faff paying the bill as the card machine refused our card, and again, and another card, and another. After a good old “power supply reset” – also known as the “Microsoft on/off/on” – it took the first card straight away.

I had to use the same card for an emergency top up of Skydemon flight plan credits as they only last for a year and today was their expiry date. Typical…just when we were in a hurry.

After a rehydration stop in the terminal building,we went back to the aircraft. Zoom in on the nose wheel of the Piper Archer next to us and you’ll see they couldn’t park with the nose wheel on the yellow line either!

Taxiing out at Paderborn, there was a charter flight pushing back:

Did you ever have the feeling you are being followed?

Airborne again, west from Paderborn/Lippstadt towards the Dutch border at Nijmegen…

Autobahns again proving useful for navigation:

Back over the flatlands…crossing the Rhine:

At the border. The Rhine at the wingtip flows towards the left and then splits. The Waal (left) goes to Nijmegen and the Nederrijn (right) goes to Arnhem…

Not far to go now to Midden Zeeland:

The grass runway at Midden Zeeland is delightfully smooth and a joy to land on. We were soon at the pumps.

The restaurant looked quite busy with locals which is always a good sign. We would have loved to stay and sample the menu but once again it was a “splash and dash” so after paying, we were on our way.

Pre take off checks in the run-up area. One of the nice things about foreign flying is noticing the small differences in things. Like the signs…

On a westerly take off from Midden Zeeland there is an immediate right turn of 45 degrees (if safe) to avoid a holiday park. This puts the aircraft straight out over the water, but to be honest there’s so much water there anyway it can’t be avoided:

And then a turn to the south past the port of Vlissingen:

Climbing out past the shipping traffic to and from Antwerp:

Back over dry land at the Dutch town of Breskens. Only two big bits of water left to cross: the English Channel and the Firth of Forth. But not today.

Belgium again! Crossing the border with Zeebrugge off in the distance:

It was still a hot afternoon with thermal activity making it bumpy as we crossed Belgium towards Kortrijk:

Once again avoiding the paradropping site at Moorsele we were soon established on a straight-in final for runway 24:

Finally. After a long day but the shortest leg so far, we put the covers on and found a hotel for the night:

Brenda didn’t have to search too far… The Bell-X Hotel at Kortrijk is about 150 yards away from the front door of the terminal building! This is the view from our room, note the big “AIRPORT THIS WAY” sign. If we had been given a room at the rear of the hotel I’m sure we would have overlooked the aircraft:

After dumping our bags we set off in search of sustenance, taking note of the architectural features on the way…

…and finding an excellent little restaurant “De Cruyscouter” about 3 minutes walk from the hotel. Excellent steaks, Flanders style.

Not Ned Flanders. But I like your thinking.

Then back to the hotel to plan tomorrow. It looked like we might be racing the weather back to Perth. The plan was Kortrijk to Rochester, Sandtoft, then a final leg back home. We would be starting from further away but it should be possible before the frontal cloud and rain arrived in Scotland from the west.

On that subject, due to night stopping at Kortrijk we didn’t get to our hotel booking in Rochester. Sadly it was a non-refundable booking so we lost about £80. In the grand scheme of things, adding up six days of fuel receipts, landing fees, hotels, taxis, pizzas etc £80 wasn’t actually a huge proportion. But it’s still £80.

Tomorrow, onwards to Scotland!

The Return Trip (1) – Sweden to Germany

One snag with flying in to an air park can be lack of ground transport. Luckily we were given the use of a “spare” car by Toffe. He was airfield manager for years and is still the go-to guy when you need the heating turned on or the grass cut. The Siljansnäs Flygklubb also have a car for rent by visitors at reasonable rates…but it is in high demand and not always available.

Looking at the long range weather patterns on wxcharts showed a potential window of three days for getting home the next week, so we relaxed and settled in for four days.

Having access to a hangar is awesome…we were able to make a mess and not have to tidy up! We pulled the cowlings and made sure everything was secure, hinges lubricated, tyre pressures OK and the oil topped up. In 15 hours of flying the engine had burnt only a tiny amount of oil. We added a smidge to get the level back in the middle of the range on the dipstick.

Using the excellent Onedrywash stuff we cleaned and polished the whole airframe…after having removed 1500 miles worth of crusted on insects. That was fun.

We planned to start the return trip on Monday – on Saturday the weather broke and it rained on and off for two days…the first rain for weeks.

Some evening visitors to the garden. We were sitting on the deck and they sauntered right past us and only started running when they heard the shutter noise from the iPad camera:

On Sunday I taxied to the pumps and refuelled in a gap between showers. The Monday forecast was now a grey start but clearing up later. We weren’t too concerned as we had five days for the three day trip…but I had a kind of sinking feeling standing in the rain taking this photo:

Monday morning. We were up early, aircraft out and ready to go. The weather didn’t cooperate. As forecast it was grey and misty first thing…

Apparently all the weekend rain had fallen on hard sun baked ground and rather than soaking away it sat around and evaporated into low cloud and mist overnight. Eventually it did brighten up and we were able to depart.

Climbing out over Siljansnas village after takeoff from runway 14:

Once settled into the cruise and talking to Sweden Control with the flight plan activated it was time to look at the trees again. The clouds slowly cleared as we progressed further south…

A point about the flight plan…our first two legs were within the country and not crossing any international boundaries, so a flight plan was not mandatory. Since it’s for search and rescue purposes and there’s a lot of countryside to get lost in it’s better safe that sorry, we did submit one for each leg. To save time on the turnarounds we filed all the flight plans in the morning and then just adjusted the timings with a delay message as the plan fell apart.

More trees, more lakes:

Windfarms…

We had decided to split the long leg down through Sweden and aimed for the airfield at Falköping. By the time we got there and pulled up to the fuel hut the clouds had almost totally cleared and it was hot again…

Falköping is just about exactly halfway between Siljansnäs and Höganäs, and almost on the straight line between the two airfields. We had passed overhead on the way north. Every year they hold an EAA fly in, this year’s event in early June had 140 aircraft attending.

It was quiet when we landed with only one other aircraft movement while we were there. The tower wasn’t in use at the time, just blind calls on the radio.

The helpful club guy refuelled and after paying (and the obligatory Swedish flying club ice cream), we were off to Höganäs. Flying south we passed a small area of what could be English countryside:

This time we had pre-warned Höganäs by email and they were ready for us. Refuel was quick and it was now very hot so we had a break to rehydrate.

Then we were off again, on the final leg of the day – destination Lübeck in Germany. Very soon after taking of from Höganäs we were crossing from Sweden into Denmark:

If Denmark had the same rain we had in Sweden, it didn’t really show. Still as dry and yellow as before:

A slightly different routing though Denmark took us along the coast with great sea views out to the right:

The island of Femø just off the wingtip. There is a 645m grass airstrip on the island, but apparently it is closed at the moment. We’ll have to come back:

Pretty soon we were approaching the boundary, following the route of the Rødbyhavn to Puttgarden ferries which shuttle back and forth across the 10 mile stretch of water between Denmark and Germany. We signed off with Copenhagen Info and wondered whether Bremen would talk to us this time…

Puttgarden ferry terminal. German coast ahead!

Bremen Information answered us immediately, loud and clear. By the time we had checked in and set the transponder code we were back over dry land and had 50 miles to go to Lübeck.

Lübeck-Blankensee airfield is to the south of the city. Approaching from the north we could make out the old town with its distinctive green spires in the distance:

The controller cleared us direct to the field rather than routing via point “W” and we were soon on short final for runway 07…

Flughafen Lübeck is 440 nautical miles from Siljan Air Park in a straight line. Our route was slightly more wiggly due to the detour around Copenhagen’s airspace after leaving Sweden, but not much. Not a bad days flying.

After putting the aircraft to bed we got a taxi into town. We had already booked the posh sounding Hotel Excelsior and pretty soon we were checked in and ready for a bite to eat. It was a short walk into the old town; by chance, the bridge we crossed led directly into an area teeming with cafés and restaurants, so we were spoilt for choice:

We finally settled on yet another pizza restaurant, and made a start on the rehydration. The table behind us was full of Swedish students on a trip, it was if we had flown for a day and not gone anywhere!

After an excellent pizza, we passed the Museum Holstentor on the way back to the hotel. According to the Google this is an “iconic gothic gate” …

Built in 1464 it is a little bit leany – that’s not a trick of the camera.

And so…back to the hotel for a big sleep and worrying about the next day’s routing and the forecast. Once again the plan was about to fall apart…