Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 September 2011 - Gusts!

This is Dirk and I at 7000ft over Beau Vallon bay.

10 September 2011

There was a big grunt coming from the front seat. From behind I could see Dirk straining while the left wing kept dropping. It was clear that he was losing the battle so I did what any other pilot would do – lend a hand. Grabbing the training bars I heaved into the wing and with both of us hanging on we got the dropped wing back to level while Dirk muttered a ‘dankie…’ over the intercom.

We were taxing back after our survey flight around the island of Mahe. Now seemingly safely on the ground we had to contend with the ground gusts. In many ways it was worse than being in the air. Up there you can kind of role with the punches but down here you are a sitting duck. Being stuck on the ground one could not move and absorb the winds energy as easily. Whatever gusts Mother Nature throws at you, you just have to grunt and bear it. Keeping the large wing at the right angle was absolutely crucial – just a few degrees off and we could blow over. Don’t get me wrong. Within a certain range you have a fighting chance but once past that, it’s all over and over she goes. And it happens quickly. I know.

The wind was strong – gusts almost touching 30knots. It is a range that allows the pilot to decide if he is willing to risk it and fly. Once the wind gusts 30knots or more the decision is made for you. It becomes black and white and with that a peace of mind. It is stressful to stand there and watch the windsock dancing – then too strong, then not. Over and over again. The decision is made to fly but by then your stomach is pretty knotted and it makes it worse than what it is. It is all part of the job and of course with experience it become easier to separate oneself from the life or death emotions that cling to these kinds of decisions.

There are old pilots and bolds pilots but no old bold pilots.

At Beau Vallon bay, the lee-side of a tall as Table Mountain mountain, we climb to 7000ft to clear the rotor turbulence. Usually 5-6000ft is enough but with these winds we decide to play it safe – that extra thousand foot sure sooths the soul!

Sometimes it can be just as bad up high with some shear turbulence from the usual upper westerlies. But today it’s beautiful and peaceful up here. For a while we forget about the wind and stress and we both enjoy the stillness of our beings in silent reminder of why we do this.

Wish you were here!

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