Day 5, Flight 1 – Oban to Inverness (Captain: Simon)

The weather looks much better at Oban, but the forecast further north was truly awful. Before breakfast we study the weather again and unanimously agree that reaching Stornoway was unlikely due to the wind, rain, fog and very low cloud forecast. Even if we did miraculously make it onto Stornoway, our chances of getting off again and flying VFR around the north coast into Wick was zero. If we couldn’t see the coast, what was the point of flying around it? We started to come to the conclusion that all the locals that looked at us like were totally bonkers for wanting to go up there actually knew a thing or two about the weather up there! Time pressure on Simon did not allow us to sit in Oban for yet another day in the hope of nice weather at Stornoway and Wick. So we decided to forgo making it around the very top of Scotland and focused on the choice was between flying the Great Glen, or Grahams low level escape route to Prestwick at 500 feet across the water.

After another great breakfast (with Illse berating Steve for talking too much to us whilst we were drinking our tea) we headed back to the airfield with Steve kindly offering us a lift.

Fortunately Graham is there.

Graham of Border Air Tours - our honorary crew member for his sterling advice!
Graham of Border Air Tours – our honorary crew member for his sterling advice!

Graham helps us to decide that we should venture up the Great Glen. Graham explains that the visibility looks sufficiently good and the winds from the south east are calm enough (<10kts) that rotor (which are winds coming down the mountain side at up to 2500ft/min) are not likely today. It is comforting to hear this although we weren’t really aware it was a risk! Graham then gives us a quick “don’t-crash” course in mountain flying, so that we know what sights we should see along the glen in order to know whether to keep going or turn back.

We were also told to stick the left side of the valley as we fly up the glen to avoid any possible rotor (for that days winds). We are told not to fly up the middle of the glen as we will have less room for a U turn if we had to make one..!

Finally the very few emergency landing areas were highlighted to us on the chart. So we were armed with all we needed to know to safely transit the glen if the conditions were right and make a safe flight up to Inverness.

Departing from Oban - over Ards's house (large white Victorian Villa) our stop for the last two nights, thanks for the best Salmon & Eggs ever :-)
Departing from Oban – over Ards’s house (large white Victorian Villa) our stop for the last two nights, thanks for the best Salmon & Eggs ever :-)

What a view! The Great Glen is aptly named!

It was a highlight of the trip for all three of us. Flying along at roughly 1500 feet in the lee of Ben Nevis (up to 4,000 feet) was truly spectacular. I would highly recommend seeing this from the air. It can be easily done from Oban if the weather is good, and if you’re not competent or confident mountain flying, then Graham Dawson offers scenic flights, or might even be tempted to ride-along for suitable compensation. His experience is well worth the investment!

Lifting the wing to see the top of Ben Nevis
Lifting the wing to see the top of Ben Nevis

Our route around the UK allowed us to see the three peaks of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis all in a matter of days. What a treat.

Simon really enjoying his valley flying!
Simon really enjoying his valley flying!
What a view along the Glen...
What a view along the Glen…
The Caledonian Canal leading into Loch Oich
The Caledonian Canal leading into Loch Oich
Through the Glen and into Inverness
Through the Glen and into Inverness
Through the Glen and into Inverness
Through the Glen and into Inverness

Simon had PPR’d for Inverness and spoken with Rob (a very happy chappy from the south) – who said he’d see us on the apron when we arrive.

Arrival at Inverness
Arrival at Inverness

As promised we get marshalled in by Rob who entertains us too with some quirky moves – thank goodness we ignored those when taxiing and just kept an eye on the wing tips! A very warm welcome to Inverness.

Warm welcome from Rob in Inverness!
Warm welcome from Rob in Inverness!

We walk to the terminal to grab some coffee and decide to try for Dundee, the last batch of METARs look good and TAF’s not so bad either.

We make our way back to AK, start up and the ask for taxi clearance from the tower. The tower is very helpful and inform us of the just-released METARS and the fact that a helicopter out of Lossiemouth could not get back in and had diverted to Kirkwall. Basically terrible weather along our route and we re-assess. It took all of 10 seconds (if that) to decide to shut down and we head back towards the terminal on foot.

Weathered in at Inverness
Weathered in at Inverness

By the time we had walked back to the terminal the haar had made it in from the North sea and commercial flights leaving the runway were disappearing into cloud in less than 6 seconds….

We decide that Inverness was not a bad place to stay for the night, so taxi ride into town and I find us some accommodation at the Glen Mohr hotel & apartments. Coffee & Cake in town, chill out at our apartment for an hour then dinner at McGonagall’s steak house. We go to see “Mr Holmes” at the cinema. Our walk back to apartment was slow. I was not sure how much of this was tiredness, and how much was the deliberation of whether or not we actually enjoyed the film!