Trying flying high!

Mid Summer's Day, 2001

June 21 was a beautiful, hot day. Fortunately for me, the road that led to where I was working passed very close to where my gyro is hangared. Being the day with the longest hours of daylight in the year, I couldn't resist taking my flying gear with me for a flight after work.

As it was such a beautiful evening, and just for a change, I decided to try flying high. I usually tend to fly higher than most of my gyro friends (to give me more choice of a good landing spot should the engine stop), but I had never seen just how high my gyro would take me.

Despite being a warm evening I wore warm clothing beneath my lightweight Nomex (fire retardant) flying suit, as temperature decreases by about 2 degrees C for every 1000ft that you climb - took my digital camera too.

To be kind to my gyro's very old VW engine I climbed to 1000ft, reduced the power and levelled off for a while, then continued this same technique over and over. Approaching 4000ft I took the camera out of my zipped up breast pocket and took some photos (below) as I had flown a giant circuit/pattern and was back over my farm strip again. I had no glove on my camera/throttle hand, which was now getting quite cold!

approaching 4000ft and at my favourite cruise speed of 52-53 knots.

Overhead Wing Farm strip (beneath my knee). 500 metres long (about half a mile).

Put the camera away again and continued climbing. At about 4,500ft I passed through an inversion layer (looked rather like a band of smog - but not smog really). Looking down on this layer was rather like looking down on a layer of cloud except that you could see the ground hazily directly beneath the gyro.

I continued up to almost 7000ft (6,800ft actually), at which point my gyro just didn't want to climb any higher! This was on the QNH, so approx 6,500ft above ground level. Not exactly Bill Clem or Ken Wallis height, but my own personal little record (and still well over a mile high!)

It was a strange new sensation being on full climb power, attitude AND airspeed - but not climbing! Even though the air was silky smooth I have to admit to feeling a little nervous, and I certainly didn't fancy fiddling around getting the camera out of my zipped pocket, putting my freezing cold hand through the camera's carrying loop (for safety) and taking photos. Better safe than sorry! As the ground was not easily visible it would not have made a very good photo anyway.

One of the interesting things when flying quite high is how flat everything looks. In the photo below there is a very steep, high ridge. The only way that you would know that just by looking is by the shadow of the ridge. I have heard it said that you don't appear to be moving when flying high, and I can confirm that that is also true.

I know that many people can and do fly higher than this, but to me it was a very interesting experience. After I landed and had warmed up with a cup of coffee in Wing Farm Strip's coffee caravan, I decided to make the most of the longest day and went off flying again - great to be flying at nearly 10.00 in the evening!

the shadow of the ridge is the only thing that tells you it is not flat ground!


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