23 August 2013

A Short Nav

It was one of those ideas that floated in through the door to the bar. Naturally. While having dinner after having attended a presentation on Meteorology and mountain waves and the like, my friend and fellow aviator said "I want to fly to George tomorrow. But I don't like flying alone". So I jokingly said I'd go with. He said that would be great.

So the next day we arrived at the airfield and were greeted by a glorious morning. We set off at 09:00 in his trusty Jabiru, heading towards Tulbagh, then Ceres to see the snow. Despite flying a fair amount this winter, I hadn't yet been to see the snow, so I was quite excited.

Airfield at Tulbagh

Tulbagh/Worcester Valley with Ceres ahead

When we got to the Matroosberg, I was a bit like "Well? Is that it?" I always envisaged the Matroosberg to be a huge mountain range (ok, sitting at FL075 and looking down at the mountains might've made it seem a bit smaller than what it actually was), covered in snow (just the peaks had a dusting of white powder). You'd think that with the cold weather we've been having, the place would be covered in snow. Nope.
The coldest OAT (outside air temperature) we had was 6degC.

On we went, to the quaint (not) town of Lainsburg. It's been almost a year since I flew a very similar route on my way to deliver the Cubby to Wonderboom. And I thought 'How the heck did I survive all that with no one to talk to?!' . Lainsburg hadn't changed; still just a speck in the middle of nowhere.



Lainsburg just right of the nose

Then it was on to Ladismith. A new location for me, I never realised how close it is to Lainsburg. Cute town, decent-looking runway, and some green fields breaking the monotony of the bush-covered, rocky, inhospitable terrain we'd had below us since Tulbagh.

The terrain that lay ahead

You don't want to go down here

Snow on the mountains near Ladismith


Runway at Ladismith

To the west. Some snow in the distance, and a bit of green below

It's truly amazing watching the landscape change. Upon reaching the mountains near Riversdale, it was like stepping (or flying, as it were) into another world; south of the mountains were lush green fields, smattered with bright yellow canola flowers, and rivers, and happy, welcoming terrain. Look behind you (north of the mountains) and it's barren and brown, with no where to land.

No-man's land

'Dividing mountains' at Riversdale

Looking back. Green mountains, brown beyond

Looking forward. Much more inviting

That always plays on my mind in places like that: Where will I land if the engine coughs? It was something that I asked myself a lot on my trip to Wonderboom. Another thought on this flight was mountain waves, and dangerous turbulence you can't see (which is what the presentation was on). The most we encountered were a few barely noticeable bumps.

With the town of Riversdale in sight, we descended for the field. The original plan was to visit George, but we decided we needed a break, and we'd already heard enough "Avic so-and-so's" bombing along (students from AIFA, based at George and Oudtshoorn).

I can see the sea!
 Overhead Riversdale airfield, we determined that both windsocks were missing (we found one lying on the grass next to the parking area), and guestimated the wind direction.
After conducting a runway inspection, we landed, played "Dodge the bushes growing through the tar of the runway" and trundled over to the parking area.

Riversdale airfield

Runway inspection

Runway needs some mowing

Extracting ourselves from the Jab, we saw some people walking around, and we weren't quite sure what they were doing. Then we noticed they were playing golf. Now, it's not very comforting having three people walking towards you, brandishing golf clubs, and looking like they want to beat you up... I later realised they looked so serious and 'meant business' because they were actually looking for their golf balls...


The Steed

We enjoyed a lunch of banana bread (yum!) and then hopped back into the little white steed to set course for home.
Only when we had lined up for take off did we see how uneven the runway was.
Another trip down memory lane; the last time I was at Riversdale was two years ago when I obtained my CPL.

Wonky runway
And we're off!

Not keen to spend time climbing, we stayed between 1500ft and 2000ft AGL most of the way back. Following the N2 with the occasional detour to look at farmstalls and possible landing spots (dirt strips used by the cropsprayers), we wound our way past Heidelberg, Swellendam and Caledon, spotting a Turbo Thrush along the way (such majestic aircraft).


The Blue Crane Farmstall just outside Heidelberg 

Swellendam with their airfield in the foreground

Patterns in the crops look almost like Celtic Knots

At the base of the mountain, a crop sprayer can just be seen (look for the white stream of chemicals)


Dirt strip near Riviersonderend

Caledon Airfield


 Then we were faced with a decision: straight to Botrivier, then Sir Lowry's Pass and home, or to Betty's Bay and home via the coast?
It was such a beautiful day we decided to hit the coast. Good thing too, because we saw another crop sprayer near Botrivier (I'm crop sprayer-crazy), and 7 whales near the beach by Kleinmond! I had forgotten it's still whale season.

Crop sprayer below us


Betty's Bay

Cruising around that stretch of coast is fun, until you reach Rooi Els; between there and Gordon's Bay you have sheer mountain on your right, and the cold Atlantic on your left. With all that water, I kept saying "It's a good thing Jabiru's float!"
Sometimes it gets turbulent and flying above the mountains is unpleasant, but today it was as smooth as silk. So we hopped up over the mountains, which gave us some more landing options (that didn't involve water) should the need arise.

Routing to Gordon's Bay. Nowhere to land there

Beautifully clear, we could see across False Bay

Cutting the corner by the Steenbras Dam, we scooted down the coast from Gordon's Bay to Strand, then headed home.

Home Sweet Home

A morning well-spent!

13 August 2013

My Flying Adventures

Here's a short video of some of the flying I've been fortunate enough to do in the last 8 months or so...
This is why I haven't been updating my blog as much as I should :-/