Winter Flying

Cold, clear skies and an aircraft heater that works. Heaven. Some great views to be had during the winter. There are folk who put their aircraft away and tinker on it over the winter, preferring to fly when it’s warm and sunny. Obviously at work we fly all year round, and on days off if it’s not foggy, icy, snowing, windy or low cloud we also like to get airborne in the Sting.

Over the Ochill Hills looking towards Loch Leven and the Lomond Hills

Overhead Glenshee Ski Centre (spot the wing!)

Looking towards the Ochills from the south

Winter Aerial Sightseeing

And finally, it’s all very nice up there but it pays to keep a close eye on the weather. When a snow storm like this is bearing down on you, it’s time to head back to the barn.

Avionics Airtest

It’s done! The new Trig TY96 8.33 spacing radio has passed the airborne check with flying (ha) colours, so the aircraft is ready for the change in requirements coming at the end of 2017. The radio is excellent and has some really cool features including the play button to replay the last received transmission. Saves having to clutter up the airwaves with “say again?”

The paperwork has been sent off to Engineering at the Light Aviation Association and we’re waiting for the avionics approval to come back. The airtest also tested the transponder and altitude encoder so it involved heading down towards Edinburgh and getting help from ATC.

Trig Avionics is located in Edinburgh so it was good to support a local company and “shop local”

If it’s an avionics airtest then I must be a test pilot…right? Right?

(With apologies to Tom from my RAF Jet Provost course, who really IS a test pilot)

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to my readers! Both of you. As a present, here’s a picture of Beith, southwest of Glasgow airport, half-in and half-out of winter fog.

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…and on the Sigurd Martin / Sierra Mike front, we’ve just had the new 8.33 spacing radio fitted a whole 12 months before mandatory compliance. Just the airtest and paperwork to follow. If only the weather would oblige.

Aerial Geography Lessons

This is cool. It’s the River Isla joining the River Tay near Meikleour in Perthshire, taken after heavy rains and flooding in the Isla catchment area. The Isla is full of sediment and the Tay is clear. The distinctive two tone river continued for quite a way until the first shallow bit which mixed it all up. My friend Andy from Uni (now Professor of Physical Geography at Newcastle University) says the interface between the two flows of water shows nice Kelvin-Heimholz instabilities, but he always did talk dirty…

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Everybody remember oxbow lakes from geography at skool? This is near the Balhaldie Services on the A9 between Dunblane and Gleneagles. The river flows from left to right and has broken through the neck. On closer inspection it almost looks too clinical, as if there has been a bit of man made encouragement, maybe a digger.

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No digger for this one. This is the Lairig Ghru, one of the mountain passes in the Cairngorms. Gouged out by ice. Lots of ice…

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This almost vertical shot (iPad mini again) was from the works helicopter, not G-CESM. Next is Devils Point at the southern entrance to the Lairig Ghru

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Here’s a random Scottish hill:

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Regular drivers of the M90 might recognise the hill. It’s south of Kinross (the motorway was directly under the aircraft at this point). Loch Leven is in the background with Portmoak gliding airfield just beyond.

Despite what Professor Andy says, geography isn’t just landforms and erosion and Kelvin-Heimholz instabilities. This tank farm is part of the industrial geography landscape. Etc etc. I just like the picture…

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And finally, the snows have arrived and the ski centres are opening. We hopped in the Sting and with the excuse of needing to check out the heater, got airborne and headed north from Perth. Got to overhead the Glenshee Ski Area and then routed home via Pitlochry and Dunkeld. Sierra Mike / Sigurd Martin has now flown over 200hours (about 12 with me at the controls). The heater worked fine.

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The Eindecker Flies Again!

Bloody freezing! That’s what it’s like flying on open cockpit Fokker E-111 Eindecker replica in the winter skies of Scotland.

She gave up her space in the hangar for the Sting and then spent 5 months in a 20ft shipping container, but we were recently informed that there was hangar space again so it was time to put the Eindecker back together.

Unfortunately the fork end from a turnbuckle on one of the flying wires had gone missing during one of the moves. We couldn’t find it anywhere so there was a slight delay while we tried to find another. I ended up emailing Dave Stephens (the original builder) for advice and he came up trumps, telling me which bit to get and where to get it (a yacht chandlery in Essex!)

So after rerigging, tensioning the wires, connecting the ailerons, charging the battery, checking the oil, a ground run and refitting the cowling it was finally time for the Eindecker to fly again…on the coldest day of the year so far.

It was cold. So cold that I had to land after 15 minutes, drag the Sting out and go flying for another 25 minutes with the heater on full blast. This video was made last year, but gives you some idea. Lots of headroom but the cockpit heating leaves a lot to be desired…

 

A Tale of Two Captains

It’s November, and it seems that all airline captains whose first name starts with “D” can expect to retire in November. I know of three this month, so it must be true.

Duncan and Dave and Danny all retired this month, but then again so did Iain and Paul, so maybe the November “D” thing isn’t a hard and fast rule…

Captain Dave Dickie of Thomson Airways (formerly First Choice, formerly Air2000) and I spent many an hour in 757s and 767s trogging backwards and forwards over Europe and the Atlantic taking holidaymakers to and fro. We first met at Loganair in the 80’s when he was on the shed (Shorts 360) and I was a lowly Pilot’s Assistant on the Twin Otter (flying with the aforementioned retiree Iain).

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Photo: Capt Peter McC

Capt Danny Linkous and I have never flown together, but we have met. A former USAF F4 Phantom pilot, he flew for Piedmont and US Airways. Living in North Carolina, he flies light aircraft for fun and lives on an airpark where his Chipmunk is kept in a hangar about 15 seconds walk from the house.

We met when he and his wife Diane came to Perth Airport in Scotland to look at the replica P47 Thunderbolt I owned ( see http://www.sigurdmartin.se/2016/10/30/replica-fighters-why/ ). Because he was the one who built it! He got to sit in the cockpit and tell stories. At the end of the visit I gave him a Spitfire book and he gave me a dodgy brown envelope full of photos and articles and other stuff about N47DL, as it was originally registered in the US.

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A long and happy retirement to both Dave and Danny, and of course the others not pictured – Duncan, Iain and Paul.

 

Aerial Archaeology

Most people think that Hadrian’s Wall is the high-water mark of the Roman Empire in Britain. But there are lots of old roman sites much further north in Scotland.

Just a few hundred metres from Cumbernauld airfield is the Antonine Wall, and even further north there are several sites of old forts and signal towers.

Ardoch is at Braco, off the A9 on the road to Crieff. It’s the earthwork remains of a fortified camp, and looks fantastic from above, especially in winter with low sun and long shadows.

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From a much more modern era is this site at Ardyne Point opposite Rothesay, one of the many construction sites for the Mulberry Harbour pontoons used to turn D-day beaches into working ports

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Not all land based, This is the “Sugar Ship” in the Clyde, which was deliberately run aground after starting to take on water. It’s been there since 1974. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Captayannis for more…

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And finally… If you have lots of spare cash lying around and fancy living in a genuine (converted) WW2 Royal Air Force control tower have a look at this. Sadly it’s surrounded by the rest of the development. It’s at Clathymore on the former airfield at Findo Gask, west of Perth, and is surrounded by mud in the photo below…

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More details from http://www.clathymore.com/control-tower.htm – but they don’t mention a price!

 

Late Day at Work

Late callout…

Sun going down as we head 180 over the Southern Uplands:

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Rendezvous with the land ambulance to pick up the patient:

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…and patient safely delivered to the rooftop helipad of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow:

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Then another 30 minutes back to base. And the paperwork to fill out for extending the shift.

All photos taken with the internal camera on the iPad mini4 – pretty impressive.

 

Replica Fighters … why?

What is it about replica fighters? My first aircraft was a WAR P-47 Thunderbolt replica, powered by a 100hp Continental o-200 engine. It was small, cramped, sometimes tricky to land and GREAT FUN!
p47When I (temporarily) lost my medical in 2006 I sold the aircraft and the new owner found it a bit of a handful at his small grass strip. He quite quickly arranged to sell it on. Unfortunately on the day before the delivery flight to the next owner, the aircraft was flown to a nearby airfield to refuel and on landing back at the strip, in his own words – “I had just started to open the throttle to go around when the hedge jumped up and grabbed me”

The aircraft went from 100mph to zero across the width of a minor country lane, flying through one rather springy hedge and coming to rest with the nose buried in another. Although the aircraft was written off, the pilot walked away with just a scratch.

Fast forward 10 years and I have another replica fighter. This one is slow, has unlimited headroom and is quite forgiving and benign on landing (…so far!)

Powered by a 40hp engine (Briggs and Stratton conversion), it flies at about 45mph and doesn’t go very far. It once took me 40 minutes to fly from Perth to Blairgowrie and back. That’s 10 miles.

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It’s freezing in there, but great fun when wrapped up warm against the winter cold. The real WW1 pilots 100 years ago must have had anti-freeze in their veins.

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I think this was taken before flight as I’m smiling…after 30 minutes of wind blast my face would be frozen solid.

The Eindecker is a toy for fun on light wind days. Here is something more meaty which has the range to go places fast.

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It’s a replica of a P51 Mustang, the B model rather than the more commonly seen bubble-canopied D model. All metal construction, auto conversion engine, and built at home from a kit. It’s only about £60k…see http://www.moccasmustang.co.uk for more details and some seriously cool videos.

I’ve already got the leather helmet…

Hangarage Fees….

When we bought the Sting we already had a hangar space, occupied by the single seat deregulated microlight Fokker E111 Eindecker replica. That had to be derigged and go into a 20ft storage container in one of the other hangars to free up the space. e111But now there is another free space and the Eindecker has clawed its way back to the top of the waiting list.

We’ll soon have two aircraft in the hangar again…and be paying two sets of hangar fees. But as the wise man once said, money which isn’t spent on flying, dining or keeping your lady happy is just wasted.

Plus I’ll get to freeze my arse off on patrol over Strelitz wood again.eindecker