Two mates cruising around the Cotswolds at 160mph, with the sky all to themselves.
Sam and I decided to go for a late evening ride in the RV on an August evening, and it turned into one of the most picturesque flights I can remember.
With fluffy medium level cumulus to the East and wind swept cirrus streaking high to the West, forming the line of a frontal system that was to move in over night, we were treated to some of the calmest skies I’ve ever experienced. Calm skies and an RV are a great combination so we set off to tour the North Cotswolds at pace – and what fun it was.
Take off was just below max weight of 1600lbs (100 litres and two big lads) but we were still airborne in around 250 metres. Two roe deer were grazing right on the side of the strip and stared blankly at us, until we got within 50ft and they realised that something big and fast was coming straight toward them!
Looking down after take off, I spotted a combine harvester and grain cart in a field as we climbed through 100ft. The combine suddenly lit up with flashing lights, so I promptly gave him a waggle of the wings, knowing their night was far from over – along with dozens of other farms we saw across the Cotswolds that evening.
Our route took us North past Northleach and Bourton to Stow-on-the-Wold, again waggling the wings to Sam’s partner in their garden. Four minutes later we were overhead Broadway Tower, buzzing people on the hill who had gathered to watch the sunset. A serene affair, no doubt – now ruined by a Lycoming.
From Broadway we headed back to Stow and on to Chipping Norton, with wind on our side touching 150kts ground speed. At Chippy we climbed up to 2,500ft to get a better view of the sunset, as by now the ground was in the Earth’s shaddow and the fluffy cumulus high higher was glowing orange against the dark blue sky.
As we tracked back South past Little Rissington we were treated an amazing sight of the sun setting behind the Malvern Hills, some 35 miles away.
The whole experience of traversing the Cotswold countryside together at such speed was testament to the magic of aviation. Add in the fact that there were no other aircraft in sight (or on the radio) and it really felt the the entire sky was our own private playground – a real privilege.
Flying over the rolling hills we could see the Cotswolds alive in so many different ways and in such a short space of time; from farm workers combining and bailing in Bibury and Blockley, to walkers on hilltops and pub gardens full of Monday night drinkers.
We arrived back at base and spotted the same two roe deer on the strip. From our departure we knew they weren’t scared of an aircraft until it was right on top of them, so there was no chance I’d risk landing whilst they were still there.
1700rpm and a gentle dive gave us around 120kts and very little noise down the approach; safe and suitable for a run and break over the deer. This sent them bouncing into the woodland and made the strip safe to land on.
Talking of bouncing… this RV must be related to a deer because all it seems to do when landing on this strip is bounce.
The rolled steel gear absorbs energy by flexing and then rebounding so any undulations in the ground result in the aircraft trying to fly again. I’ll do a blog post on why later, with help from a 1930s General Motors video.