Wednesday 11 December 2013 15:06 UTC
Where have you been? What have you seen?
I didn't get my flying holiday in the sun this year. I would have felt worse about it had I not read Neilcharltons report about the uncharacteristicaly poor weather at the time I would have been there.
The consolation was to be an overnight in Kirkwall for the three of us. The route was Perth, Inverness, Bonby, Wick, Kirkwall. The weather had been exceptionally good leading up to and on departure day.
Lines were drawn, headings noted, timings checked and notams perused. Let down charts were printed just in case.
After a quick phone call the C182 was loaded and we were off into a cloudless sky. So good was the weather we settled for a basic service from Scottish control at fl 65.
We had been taking advice on economical flying by running lean of peak and oversquare. It certainly works. After a bit of fiddling the big Lycoming settled at 9.2 US GPH at 129kts true. This was a saving of 2.5GPH at a cost of 4 kts and we had lower EGT.
We were soon handed over to Inverness as they were working potentially conflicting traffic. The first doubts about getting there started nagging about now. Where the Moray firth should have been there was a blanket of fog. The Prob 30 in the forecast was coming true. The fog stopped abruptly at the coast so there was hope yet.
Kirkwall2 003 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
Back with Scottish now on 129.22 we were infomed that the military areas were cold so we got direct Kirkwall from just north of INS. We could see the fog blanket offshore to the south of Wick was fading so Kirkwall was back on. The Dounreay power station stood out brilliant white in the sun. It looks like the long drawn out decommisioning process will mean we will have it as a prominant landmark for some time to come.
The photo below was taken as we were coasting in to Orkney. The Old Man of Hoy can just be seen in the distance.
Kirkwall2 005 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
The outline of South Ronaldsay was coming into sight as we were transferred to Kirkwall. We commenced the descent at 22 miles and were told to report at Lamb Holm. This caused a minor scramble as it did not show on the moving map. It is however on the chart buried under the VOR symbol. On landing we were met by a marshaller and parked way out on a disused runway. This photo was from an earlier trip. Notice the Loganair Islander with the Highland Park whisky advertising.
kirkwall12 018 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
The unfailingly friendly staff at Kirkwall gave us the most important information of the whole trip. The Highland Park distillery is open on Sundays for tours. Well that's this afternoon sorted!
Kirkwall2 015 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
I had learned that Loganair crew often used the Ayre Hotel if they have to overnight. It was an excellent choice with the rooms appearing to be newly furnished. The only problem was the poor wi fi coverage. The town is quaint with plenty of eateries and tourist shops. One peculiarity was that no matter what a shop sold it usually also had an off licence. How convenient! There were a large number of Scandanavians in the town. I should not have been surprised as Norway is about the same distance as Edinburgh.
Kirkwall2 017 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
View from my bedroom window looking over the Peedie Sea.
kirkwall 003 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
One of the lasting memories of the trip was sitting outside the hotel at 10 o'clock in the sun sipping whisky in an air temperature of 22 degrees.
Kirkwall2 020 by cloudsabove1, on Flickr
Next morning was a shock. Low overcast, 20kts and 7 degrees. We shelved plans to visit another island and decided to head back to Perth where the sun was still shining. Kirkwall tower were having difficulty getting an IFR clearance for us so we elected to depart initially remaining VMC. Over the Pentland firth we climbed through a shallow layer to our cruise at FL80 initially. The military areas were active so no shortcuts today.
Thirty five miles north of Perth the clouds parted. We had already been listening in to a surprisingly quiet frequency. A Saltire callsign here, an Exam 11 there and little else. The answer was a 20-25 knot wind from the southeast. I hope that's not summer over.
I am becoming increasingly aware of all the lovely destinations in my own country which I should pay more attention to. Now. Where to next.
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