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, with rain spotting the windscreen:

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, Sønderborg, 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!