Firstly, belated wishes for New Year and Safe Flying to All
Sorry for the delay in giving all interested parties an update. Finally collected ZU-OLY on Sunday 21st December but for Stan and Andrews sakes, I recon both your aircraft will be flying before end of January - best of luck
Kalula.com to PE on Saturday 20th as this was the only flight I could get in the height of our holiday season. Hire car to George with high temptation to divert to Paradise Beach as I saw the turning off the N2 highway. Low cloud, drooping eyes and the thought of getting involved in some bar with Bains pushed me on to George. Arrived to find the Outeniquas once more in cloud and wondering was this going to be two strikes out of two!!!!
Gary Whitecross was taking part in the SA Paragliding Champs at Portaville and had organised a lift to George for Sunday. I awoke Sunday morning to crystal clear mountains and the hopes soaring. I was at Shadowlite at 0800 to witness the first of 5 aircraft being collected, this one departing for Uppington over the mountains. All I wanted was to get OLY handed over officially, fuelled and ready to go. Imagine my disappointment when I realised I was back of the queue so I "chilled" and chased Gary's progress. ETA for Gary estimated 12.30. “Currently having breakfast in Robinson” - so we continued to potter, made plans for Shadowlite to overnight ship a host of stuff to my home address and lets just bug Gary again!!!
What is that cloud forming over the Outeniquas??????? It cant do that not until we have got over the tops and into the Karoo
Whats that! The 0800 departure had been forced to land at Graaff-Reinet due to low cloud in the interior! By the time Gary arrived and we got Jean's attention for the hand over, the peaks were covered in cloud. Quick weather update from Bloem confirmed that the low cloud had dispersed in the interior and Cunims to the north and East over Lesotho. Some sweet talking to George ATC gave us clearance to fly "through" the Outeniqua Pass below cloud so we were on our way!!!.
After fuelling up and early clearance left for the pass I was happy to see clear blue skies on the other side of the pass. With Gary and all his experience in the left seat we followed the pass into clear air and gave George our status and I took over and climbed to 9500ft over the Groot Swartberg and headed for Bloem New Tempe with De Aar as an alternative. I don’t mind admitting I flew like a one legged blind drunkard initially but settled down under Gary's patient instruction.
Hang on!!! Why is the fuel sight tube showing half empty when by my calculations we should have only used 10 litres of the 85 litres that I know I filled before take-off? Are we loosing fuel some how? 50nm into the trip and looking down over the Karoo- no roads, no anything - time to Climb/Confess/Conserve
A quick "go to" on the Garmin 296 showed it was back over the mountains and head for Oudtshoorn. Communication to CapeTown ATC to let them know what was potting and accurate flying as we watched the miles roll back and the fuel level drop even lower in the sight tube. ATC were superb and kept in constant touch confirming course heading and distance which while reassuring wasn’t needed as we could see Oudtshoorn clearly as we crossed the Groot Swartberg just north of Stompdrif Dam.
Gary landed in a strong crosswind as if he was handling a crate of cracked eggs much to the pleasure of the three people at the gas pumps who were convinced we were in for a hard time given our wing span and cross wind. On filling we had actually used just under 18 litres. The sight tube given the relative position of dash to fuel tank in normal flying attitude only indicated the top 15+ litres in the tank. Fortunately I had fitted an electronic fuel monitoring system which turned out to be deadly accurate.
Contact with ATC once more to confirm our situation and flight plan reactivated we took off for Bloem. I could not believe the strength of the thermals so late in the day as we crossed the Karoo. I swear if I thumped my head one more time into the canopy I could have got a job as a garden gnome. If only we had time to cut the engine a soar - now that would have been special!!!
Now we were relaxed but alert as we crossed the Karoo checking map against GPS against visual. Not a place I would like to come short. Could be a long and lonely walk out!!
Gary has landed at New Tempe on many occasions and had it visual long before I could make it out. We landed with about 30 minutes of daylight left to a deserted airfield with the exception of the EMS helicopter paramedics who were busy putting their baby away for the night. With their help we secured OLY for the night and visited Bains Lodge where the beer was cold, the stakes large and the mosquitoes ferocious!!!!!
We had organised a taxi to take us back to New Tempe at 0800 and filling up the fuel monitoring system was spot on with 65 litres being consumed on our leg from Oudtshoorne for a distance of 340 nm. I now moved into the left seat and we departed due north to avoid Bloem air space and then headed for Springs via Welkom, Kroonstad, and Vereeniging. 2 hours 10 min for the final leg of 205nm to be greeted by family and friends
So now the flying really begins. Totally different to the Falke with all the characteristics of a tale dragger. Have to be on my toes with the rudder peddles but in the air she is a dream.
Watch this space for the enjoyable hours ahead!!!!