Larger pic in Boats & Planes; http://www.paulhowardplays.com/boats--planes.html
Weather. Pilots and sailors rarely get a break in England. Earning the quids to pay for our fun invariably happened in perfect weather which had usually deteriorated to dismal by our days off.
This trip was no exception, 6/8ths cloud with a base around a thousand feet and full cover only a couple of thousand above that with horizontal visibility barely VMC in drizzle.
Kev (proudly posing with his ¼ share C310) had arranged Special VFR across the London zone so although legal, it was a little disconcerting not being able to see the much larger lumps of aluminium approaching Heathrow.
It’s always amazed me how implicitly pilots trust ATC, knowing exactly who we were talking to didn’t give me the same level of confidence and reduced visibility made me jittery before our wheels left the pavement. That said, I’ve experienced military jets hurtling underneath hoping that they’d seen me because at 90kts I didn’t have a chance of avoiding them. Kev’s Cessna could cruise at 180 kts and despite the weather I was looking forward to my first feel of a twin.
He took off and then handed me the controls. Wow this was different, previous flying had been in slow single engine Pipers, comparatively this was a very lively little machine.
We were directed to Crystal Palace and flying at 1000ft, were right at the cloud base and so bumpy that I was struggling to hold it within 100’ of altitude. With the 720 feet high transmitter approaching, I asked Kev to take over. His confidence in my flying was obviously way more than mine because he told me I was doing fine and to carry on.
At least I knew the mast was there, which was more than I did at LeTouquet. A crane had appeared out of the murk on finals and only reflexively banking the Piper allowed us to watch a crane whistle past ten feet under our port wing.
The next problem was inside the aircraft. Our rear seat passenger had over indulged in coffee before departure and the turbulence had shaken his bladder to such an extent that relief had become a matter of urgency. It hadn’t occurred to us that a flight of under an hour would require a relief bottle and it had been left behind. Our passenger told us through clenched teeth that he couldn’t hold it any longer and we frantically started looking for something he could use. All we could find was a plastic map cover and he filled it immediately. Having suffered Luftwaffe bombs, London’s East End wouldn’t have appreciated yet another airborne attack so the steaming, warm map cover had to be held the rest of the way. Knowing that he had spillable cargo, Kev’s landing at North Weald was a real greaser.