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What have you done with, or on your aircraft, this weekend? (March 29 - April 1, 2024)

No one else has kicked off the Easter edition, so I guess it falls to me.

In our case, our flights this weekend fell into the category of hope over judgement, or a classic case of get-there-itis. We made it, but wished we hadn’t tried.

Out two sons and their partners were skiing in Switzerland and we were very keen to be able to catch up with them and spend some rare family time together.

We had to get from Upper Harford private site in Gloucestershire UK to Sion, LSGS Switzerland. The issue was the weather – with a nasty occluded front racing towards the Swiss Alps on Saturday, due to arrive over Sion mid afternoon. We have done the UK to Sion flight many dozens of times, summer and winter in all kinds of conditions. The general idea is to fly IFR to waypoint VALOR at FL150 (which is about 20 NM WSW of Sion, find the quite predictable hole over the Valais caused by adiabatic warming, cancel IFR and make a visual approach.

So we left as early as possible to refuel in Shoreham on the British south coast and launched across the channel. The wonderful Jetprop reached the planned cruising altitude of FL 250 in 17 minutes. Very soon we were in heavy IMC, forbidding 80 kt headwinds, and horrible turbulence. You know if is bad when all the commercial departures out of London are asking ATC to change level “due moderate turbulence”. Moderate for an A330 is pretty uncomfortable for a sub 2T GA aircraft. From the chatter between ATC and the big boys it soon became clear that descending a few thousand feet would drop us out of a stray north bound branch of the jetstream, and
we were fortunately granted a descent to FL210 for the cruise, which solved most the turbulence problem and a little bit of the headwind.

Passing Moulins MOU and turning SE Therese and I talked through out options again. 1) as above, cancel IFR at VALOR for visual approach, 2) IGS instrument approach at Sion (requires a minimum ceiling of about 5,000 AGL and nerves of steel, 3) vectors for the ILS into Geneva and break off below ceiling for VFR up the Valais to Sion ,4) IVR to the planned diversion airport of Bern LSZB, and 5) if all else fails head to Lyon Bron LFLY. We were monitoring the developing METARs for Sion, Geneva and Bern every 30 minutes, and about 45 minutes from Sion it became apparent that the forecast frontal system was moving in faster than expected. This could be seen thanks to the Golze on our Ipad, as the cloud at Sion was closing in and descending – Few to SCT to BKN and 8,000 to some cloud also developing at 5,000 – clear signs that the adiabtaic hole was failing. There were also reports of sudden East winds at Sion – 15 gusting 30, extremely rare conditions there, and meaning we would have a strong tail wind on the Instrument Approach. We were already in IMC again and moving into the Alps and the wind jumped to 65 kts due south, ie sweeping in straight across the Mt Blanc massif – so horrible turbulence again. We pressed ahead towards the Valais hoping for the usual hole, but worrying that the front had got to Sion ahead of us. As a precaution I told Swiss radar that I might want to have vectors to the ILS into Geneva with a cloud break over Lac Leman. Blow me down, they told me something I had never heard before, not only that Geneva is not available as a diversion airport on winter weekends (which I know from NOTAMS), but that the whole Geneva TMA is closed to diverting traffic on winter weekends, no matter what the destination or alternate. This is extraordinary, that they would close a big chunk of Swiss airspace to traffic needing to divert for developing conditions. In fact they pushed me quite hard to proceed with the IAP for Sion. I told them firmly that I rejected that option as it would have required me to battle both dangerous turbulence for another 20 minutes AND to descend from 16,000 ft on the bizarre 6 degree IGS with a tailwind. Then the miracle happened. two minutes after requesting and taking vectors at 15,000 ft NE towards Bern, our planned alternate, we suddenly found ourselves at the top of a vague hole over the the river Rhone. It was a section we recognised from my days 20 years ago when I did my PPL training at Bex. There are high mountains there in almost all directions, but I was able to get “immediate cancellation of IFR”. We dropped the gear and one stage of flaps to slow the plane and executed a nice safe 720 degree spiralling descent to 8,000 ft. Below the ceiling we were able to head up the Valais to Sion and a rather rare and gusty landing on RWY 07.

Whats the moral of the story? Actually many – 1) get-there-itis is very real and it takes great willpower to resist it, or not, 2) its not just the destination and alternate weather that need to be thought about, but also enroute weather, especially if it involves exposing your passengers to conditions that they will not like, 3) despite all the planning in the world things come up that you have never heard of (closing a whole TMA!!), 4) you can never have enough alternate scenarios planned, 5) you gotta keep your cool when things get dicey.

Upper Harford private strip UK, near EGBJ, United Kingdom

Thanks for that interesting report @Buckerfan
Certainly not wanting to start the unavoidable popcornistic discussion about what you did, or did not, or could have done, but IMHO well managed and done

rather rare and gusty landing on RWY 07.

Yep, again, 07 ain’t the usual runway there. Welcome back 👍🏻

PS
Only some RC flying during these Easter days for myself, but those rolling harriers start sticking pretty good with the new Eratix.

Dan
ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

For reasons described above: Updated databases.

mri
LFSB, Switzerland

Cancelled both attempts to have some IFR flying, Friday and Sunday.
Out of six bookings over the last 2.5 weeks, five were cancelled for weather. :(

EGTR

Rain and clouds were an issue so I flew my plane 11 minutes from one Class D ATC controlled airport to another, spent an hour chatting with a friend there, and then flew home in 11 minutes. It was more fun than you might think, a little terrain lies between the airports and you go around/through it, not over, while also remaining under the local Class B. The money saved in buying gas cheaper at the other airport pays for the round trip if I buy 20 USG or more. I bought 20.6 gallons this time, so it was a free flight and I’m ready to go next time in sunnier weather.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 01 Apr 21:46

Helped my friend with a bunch of LAPL TMG tests, weather was great in Oxfordshire UK on Saturday. Sadly he is scaling down his very successful Motorglider school due to losing hangar availability due airfield redevelopments..

Posts are personal views only.
Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

I flew to Brno LKTB to visit friends. It was windy as elsewhere in Europe with 30+ tailwind on a way there and some 60+ kts headwind today during return flight while descending between 10k and 7k.

LDZA LDVA, Croatia

We got a pretty big cold front on Sunday. There were people in the air about 10min before the front arrived, just in time to hangar the aircrafts, and we were back there after 30mins of heavy rain and hail. Interesting to observe what I learnt in the PPL: after a cold front, visibility improves very quickly. There were a lot of remaining tall (and magnificent) CUs, with very calm winds and basically infinite visibility (during the storm it was <1km). I did more procedure drilling and warm-up for the test.

France

I´ve been away for work. A bit of worldwide touring. Singapore (WSSL)/Seletar-Ulan Bator(ZMCK)-Geneva (LSGG). Never been to the new airport in Mongolia, full moon approach with beautiful high plain snow covered landscape, unfortunately I was PF and had no “appropriate” chance to take photos.
Photos from overhead China, en-route from Mongolia to Geneva, and the last photo is useless and is simply a G35 batt to be installed in my Rallye (not the aeroplane flying from Mongolia to Geneva segment!). I´m hoping to get some flying in on the Rally this week, in Portugal.




Last Edited by Yeager at 02 Apr 14:37
Socata Rallye MS.893E
Portugal

Thread drift to 2 April:
After 2 cateract operations today I went to complete work on the Bolkow, intending to get flying again in a few days time.
At the Security Gate I was told my Airside badge was cancelled as I hadn’t used it for too long. I was given an email address to contact. I did so at 12.33, and went home. (~55 miles).
At 14.47 I got a reply saying I must contact an airport manager. I immediately emailed a airport assistant manager, and at 15.02 was cc’d an email asking security to “unpark” my badge so I could access my aircraft.
(I think Security is contracted out.)
(All the security people were very pleasant and professional – when my badge was scanned it showed as invalid. It expires in 2027)

Last Edited by Maoraigh at 02 Apr 22:29
Maoraigh
EGPE, United Kingdom
17 Posts
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