It's been threatening a storm all day and I expect it to arrive over where I'm sitting very shortly. Another pilot who diverted to avoid it, tells me the front is sixteen miles wide.

I decided to take my own aircraft up a little earlier for a 'look see'. In the very bumpy conditions, the Cessna seemed to have trouble climbing, which caught my attention and which I put down to the ambient temperature but as I coasted out over the sea at fifteen hundred feet, it started making 'interesting' noises. It felt like a helicopter and immediately had me scanning the instruments for engine problems. I suspected carburetor icing but wasn't sure but applied full heat just in case with very little change to the shuddering sensation.

Time to go home I thought, wondering if I had enough glide to reach the airfield if it packed up. Probably not. I radioed Manston Approach and informed them I was cutting my flight short because my engine was making "interesting noises". "G-AXGG do you wish to declare an emergency"? came the immediate reply. "Not yet", I answered, "If the situation becomes anymore interesting, I'll let you know"!

Manston, I knew, were dying to declare an emergency to liven up their otherwise dull afternoon but I would rather do without the paperwork if at all possible..

Anyway, I cut the power, dropped the flaps to their 40 degree limit and did a good impression of a space shuttle coming back into the short grass strip, letting the controller know I was down in one piece.

I invited our large engineer to join me in the cockpit for an engine run-up to try and identify the problem. It was while he was trying to squeeze himself in beside me that he put his considerable weight on the step above the right wheel. 'Crunch' the step comes off and takes my brake hydraulic lead with it.

I guess my poor aircraft isn't going anywhere for a while.

And here comes the storm. Not before time


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