Weather Windows

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…

Montrose Fly-In

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)…

Photo – Calum John

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:

Video – Norman Sutherland

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:

Photo – Michael Alexander

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 ( 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:

Photo – via Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre

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:

Photo – Michael Alexander

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!

Normandy Concrete

…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!

Landing at a “Pop-Up” Airfield

The Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre ( ) 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.

Here we are landing on the northeasterly runway:

Full report to follow. With jeeps!

Delayed Gratification

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…

(via Google Earth)

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:

Photo credit:

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!

Visiting The Old Sod

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.

Border Force didn’t turn up…

Stranger Things

Almost time for the annual on the Cub so it was a bit of a frenzy getting some flying in before it went offline for a few weeks:

Actually, not really a frenzy. That kind of implies non-stop back to back flights from sunrise to sunset. Unfortunately the state of the world at the moment means that the price of Avgas has shot up and is now over £2.60 per litre. Filling the small tank of the Cub is not so bad, but stay tuned for when I filled the RV for a day trip to Northern Ireland…

Chugging along in the Cub we came across this strange feature near the old disused airfield at Kinnell. It looks like an old railway cutting has been sealed up and turned into a long thin lake:

It’s even on the Ordnance Survey map. Maybe it’s a fishing pond?

Cub frenzy complete, I decided to give the aircraft a bit of a clean. It does not fly fast enough to blow the fine hangar dust off, and I can only reach part of the upper wing surface when standing on the ground:

With the help of the step ladder I was able to clean all the top surface with these chemical free baby wipes. Actually touching the surface is a great way to ensure that all the fabric and internal ribs are in good condition. If something is broken inside it probably won’t feel right…

A lovely clean shiny aircraft ready to visit the engineers:

A day later in the maintenance hangar…

By then I was back to work, busily shuttling patients around Scotland for the ambulance service. More opportunities to see strange things from the air. Near Kilmalcolm we saw these concrete structures in a field:

It turns out that this is the site of an anti-aircraft battery from WW2. There are several of these dotted around the periphery of Glasgow. One even serves as the foundations for a uniquely shaped house. Zooming in you can see the four distinctive gun positions and the control/admin block:

Later that same day we came across a submarine getting a helping hand back into the base at Faslane. In this zoomed in picture the tow line is just visible running from the tug on the right to the bow of the sub. Not sure if it’s standard procedure or if it was limping home:

I’ve just heard that the Cub’s annual is being signed off tomorrow. There was a problem with the auxiliary fuel tank in the wing not feeding properly. Rerouting the line slightly has removed the potential for airlock and it should be fine again.

The auxiliary tank almost doubles the range of the Cub. Good for long distance travelling…such as Normandy 2024 for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Less than two years to go!

Big “shout out” to Bob of ACS Engineering, seen here shyly hiding behind the wing, who did most of the actual grunt work on the aircraft:

Good to go for another 50 hours / six months!

Coffee and Cake

After about twelve months of searching, I managed to get hold of a genuine World War 2 era US aeronautical first aid kit container. Ebay is wonderful! It even came with some 80 year old medical supplies: a pair of rusty scissors, tourniquet kit and Australian shell dressing. These have now been replaced by more modern contents. It looks great:

To celebrate, I decided to nip over to Fife Airport in Glenrothes for coffee. It’s only about a 25 minute flight. After pulling the aircraft out into the light…

…and taxying over the freshly cut, still slightly damp grass:

…we ambled over to Fife airfield in lovely sunshine. The parking area for aircraft is just over the fence from the car park and I spent some time chatting with one of the enthusiasts who regularly sit there watching the aeroplanes. The Cub did look lovely with the shiny wings:

Eventually I was able to get to the main building to pay the landing fee and order coffee and cake. Very nice it was too…

After refuelling the pilot it was time to go. The aircraft did not need fuel but if it had, Fife have a self service system visible in the background:

There were some weird plantations on the way back…

Compare the picture above with the next one, taken a few weeks later. The field are greener and drier, and the yellow oil seed rape crops are ripening nicely…

The weather did have some surprises up its sleeve…this forecast is for one of my days off:

But we went flying anyway before the wind got too strong. It was straight down the runway so no real problem.

Spring weather in Scotland – it’s all part of the adventure.