Diary 2006

Welcome to the diary page. If you want to see what I have been up to lately with my gliding then this is the place to look at. Every time I go gliding I will add an entry to this page. Note that Lasham is about 600 feet above sea level, so for example 2000 feet QNH / ASL is 1400 feet above Lasham.

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2006 Gliding Pictures

Saturday 9th December 2006

I woke up 2 hours late as I somehow failed to switch my alarm on. But that didn't matter. I had breakfast at home then got to the airfield for 9:45AM. Everything went like clockwork today which was really nice. As soon as I arrived I found a couple of willing volunteers to help me rig the S&H Ventus. So I was still out at the launch point before lunchtime. Over the lunch period I took 3 winch launches. All of them were fine, and unlike last time my landings were nice and gentle and smooth. That's more like it! As a bonus there were some weak December thermals around. On the first flight I gained 100 feet near Lasham vollage in a very narrow thermal, from 750 to 850 feet. On the second flight it was a short period of holding my height delaying my circuit. On the last flight I slowed my descent just north of the airfield and stretched the flight to 14 minutes. Not bad given my winch launches only took me to 1400 feet (slightly higher on second launch). After I landed at the trailer the clockwork continued. Someone helped me off the landing area. Then just as I was ready for the derig someone walking past kindly helped me take the wings off. Thanks!

Thursday 9th November 2006

It was nice to be back at Lasham again, and the forecast was rather intriguing for the time of year. I got the S&H Ventus out and went for a winch launch when cumulus started to pop. However things did not go to plan. The launch was very fast and I ended up with a cable break. Then the landing was not very smooth, and I also ran over very rough ground after landing. However all was OK, and I decided to take an aerotow to get back into the air as soon as possible. This was justified, as it was actually soarable in November! I stayed up for almost 3 hours before the thermals died for the day and I fell down. Even then my landing wasn't that smooth.

So a mixed day today. I was not happy with my winch launch or either landing. But the aerotow was fine, and the soaring, while nothing spectacular, was a welcome bonus for the time of year. Next time I go I plan to practice winch launching and iron out today's gremlins.

Friday 6th - Saturday 14th October 2006 (Trip to Aboyne)

I decided to join the annual Lasham expedition to Aboyne again, flying during the 3rd of the 3 weeks that Lasham gliders and instructors were based there. I had four flights while I was at Aboyne. Here is what happened:

Friday and Saturday were spent driving up to Scotland. On Friday I again drove up to the Lake District where I spent the afternoon exploring. I stayed overnight in a BnB near Carlisle before driving on to Scotland on Saturday. Unlike 2 years ago the weather was dry going over Glenshee. I did not fly on the Saturday after arriving as the gliders were all in use. It was nice to be back at Glendavan house again too.

On Sunday, since I had flown at Aboyne before, Gordon sent me off solo in the Duo Discus. This turned out to be my best flight. I got a tow to 2800 feet above Aboyne, and managed to get established in strong wave (8-10kts). The only bad part of this flight was when I first got above 10,000 feet I started to feel faint and queasy, so decided to descend to 7,000 feet, when the feeling went away again. Then I re-climbed to over 13,000 feet without problem before Gordon called me down due to closing gaps in the clouds. The view above the thickening cloud was astounding. Shame I couldn't have continued climbing as this may have been a chance for diamond. But it wasn't to be.

On Monday I took to the back seat of the Duo, with Richard Whittaker in front. Conditions weren't as good so we went for a jolly together, and got as high as 9,000 feet. While up there we met up with the DG 1000 and did some formation flying. I managed to take a picture of the DG before my camera batteries died, while Richard Hodge in the DG (with Gordon) managed to take some nice shots of the Duo.

My next flight wasn't until Thursday. I took a launch in the K21. Unfortunately I failed to get established in wave and after just 24 minutes was back on the ground again.

I launched in the K21 again on Friday. This time I got as high as 12,000 feet in the lee of Mount Keen. I then went on a tour of the Dee Valley, again getting to 12,000 feet in the lee of Lochnagar. I flew as far as Braemar before returning to Aboyne, taking in views of Balmoral and Ballater in the process, as well as the highest of the Cairngorms further to the Northwest. Conditions below me were almost blue so for the first time I got a really good view of the entire Dee Valley and the mountains to the West. As the sun got low late in the day it weas nice to watch all the shadows lengthen below me.

On Saturday I set off early and made a beeline for home. Traffic was light all the way and I was home before it got too late. I nice uneventful 9 hour drive home. Overall I don't think this trip was quite as good as the 2004 trip to Aboyne, but I did enjoy it just as much. There was one low point where my car broke down and I had to leave it at the airfield overnight with a possible 500 mile AA relay home. But thankfully Richard Hodge fiddled with a few wires and it started again. So many thanks to him even if it did seem to be more luck than skill that sorted it out.

Tuesday 19th September 2006

Today was looking like probably one of the last good days of the year so I decided to go and have fun, and relax at the same time. Some small cross country tasks were set but I decided to stay local. I picked the S&H DG300 out of the back of the hangar and winch launched it soon after noon. The first half of the flight was a bit of a struggle. Cloudbase was 3-3500' but every time I pushed away from the airfield I got low and struggled, and came back again. There were some strong thermals around but a lot of rubbish too, with not every cloud appearing to work. Later in the flight cloudbase went up rapidly. By 3:30pm I reached 5000' (5600' QNH) over Overton. Up there it was only 3C - brr! After 3.5 hours I came back and landed. Was a good fun float around and relax flight, playing around at cloudbase at times, especially when the next cloud at times was lower and the base below me. Quite a strong (20kt+) wind up at flying heights too.

Friday 8th September 2006

Conditions were forecast to be going blue during today, and only getting to a maximum of 3500 feet above Lasham. However I decided it was worth rigging and winch launching the Ventus. After the comp I was happy to just have a nice lazy and fun flight. I wasn't sure if I would go anywhere, but when it became clear conditions were better than expected I decided to set off for Shaftesbury. On the way I took a picture of Salisbury Cathedral, and enjoyed the view. It was pretty straight forward most of the way. It was starting to go blue from the West at Shaftesbury, but I got round cautiously and stayed high. On the way back I decided to take a D tour to the west of Boscombe Down to do some sightseeing, taking a long range of Stonehenge. (And yes I was well clear of airspace to the north of the A303!) Then I backtracked to the west of Salisbury before continuing Lasham-wards. Between Popham and Salisbury I encountered the best conditions, with 4-6kts to 4900 feet QNH (4300 feet above Lasham). It was steadily going blue on my way back but hung onto the wisps and easily bumbled my way home. I then local soared for a while, topping out at 4000 feet above Lasham under transient wisps before finally deciding to come down and land. This flight was slow and not that long, but it was great fun and a nice relaxing flight.

Saturday 19th - Sunday 27th August 2006

I spent this period competing in the Lasham Regionals competition. This has been written up on the Stories page. To find out what happened click on 'Stories' in the Gliding Index.

Tuesday 15th August 2006

Having not had a decent flight in months I decided to come to the airfield today to fly the Discus 'SH2' to check all was OK before I fly it in the Regionals from next weekend. I wasn't expecting much out of the day, but after a winch launch I was able to stay up and soar for an hour and a quarter. Despite lots of top cover at times there was at best 5-6kt thermals to 3800 feet above Lasham. So not a spectacular flight, but great to be back in the air after such a long lay off for the time of year.

Tuesday 4th July 2006

A rather disappointing day today. The last couple of days had been 7000 foot cloudbases and continental conditions. Exceptional for the UK. Today promised to be more of the same. However a trough had formed to the South and by lunchtime was bringing a lot of cloud our way. Some who took high aerotows escaped to the north. I took a winch launch, but unfortunately suffered a cable break. By the time I got back to go again the air was dead locally. So I just trailer-flew the glider and packed up early. Bit of a duff day, but I guess I can't have them all. Ho hum.

Thursday / Friday 29th / 30th June 2006

I launched the Ventus from the grid just before noon. 3-4kts to 3000 feet. It was easy to stay up so I set off immediately. It was good steady going north, and inland the clouds were bigger. I had a good look at Silverstone as I went past too. North of Hus Bos it was getting rather spreadout. So I took it carefully, and managed to get round the turn point. I tip-toed my way south until I hit better air again. The most fun part of the flight was again soaring above Silverstone while a race went on far below me. Then I carried on up into the cloud and broke off at 6600' QNH (FL64) before I hit my head on the airspace ceiling. From there I was able to glide for many miles above cloud base before dropping down again - well worth the climb. Best conditions were between there and Didcot where cloudbase was as high as 5800' QNH. I started to turn north again but decided that I had had enough and proceeded home. There was a bad patch of spreadout between Didcot and Newbury which I tiptoed past, and got away again near Newbury before final gliding home to land about 4:15. South of Newbury the sky opened up too, and at Lasham it was going blue as sea air came in.

Thermals were often hard to centre in due to wind shear distorting them. But when established 6-8kt climbs were possible. Compared to the rest of the year so far, a lovely day out, and in the Ventus it was an easy, fun and pleasant 300. Hurrah!

After a stay overnight in the bunkhouse I also flew on the 30th too. However the morning was plagued by top cover. After that cleared it was just weak blue thermals. I launched the Ventus on the winch soon after 2pm and struggled to stay up, topping out between 2000 and 2500 feet above site, once getting to 2700'. After an hour I soon fell out of the sky. I didn't bother re-launching. But after the 29th I am happy. :)

Thursday 22nd June 2006

Today was windier than expected, but otherwise quite a nice looking day. However that wind proved to be a major spoiler on the day. After the first winch launch some time after noon I did not get away. I found some weak distorted lift but I was being drifted downwind too fast to stay with it and establish the climb. In the end I fell straight back down. After a lunch break a 2nd winch around 2pm resulted in a cable break (weak link). I was not happy with that. I think a strong gust caught me out that time. It was 3pm by the time I got a 3rd go. This time I got away and soared locally for 1h42m. It did not street very well, and I never saw particularly strong climbs, always distorted even higher up. I did not make it into any wave either alas, which had been reported and was almost certainly the cause of the difficult thermal conditions and lack of streeting in the strong wind. I was able to push upwind a bit. Cloudbase started at just over 5500'QNH but was slowly dropping during the flight to 5200'QNH at best by the time I decided to land.

In the end I landed fine and admittedly was a little fed up. To cap it off while pushing the glider back to the hangar I failed to spot a divot in the ground in time. The tail wheel fell into it and the rudder hit the ground. Doh! I had to leave a note for the CFI or DCFI to inspect it before it next flies and mark it U/S in the meantime as no one was around. Better safe than sorry. Will find out next time I go if it was OK or not.

Thursday 8th June 2006

It looked as if it had potential to be a rather good day so some big tasks were set. However I had to leave early but was keen to get some more air time. As it happens given the conditions I feel my plans worked out pretty well.

I winch launched in the Ventus just after midday. Cloudbase was between 3500' and 4000' QNH north and west of Lasham. Towards 2:15pm near Lasham it got to 4500'. There were lots of big holes to cross, and near Newbury the towering cu's were badly overdeveloped. I went out as far as Isley before returning to Newbury. Again Didcot was inside a huge hole! I couldn't resist a couple of cloud climbs. Back at Newbury I climbed to FL50 and that got me easily to Membury. Then I decided to head back. On the way back I had a fun climb to about 7200' QNH just south of Hungerford. That put me about 2000 feet above glide to get home, so I then proceeded back to Lasham at high speed, flying for ages with clouds above, below and all around me. The views were jaw dropping - especially when flying over the top of a larger cu' and staring down the side of a '3000 foot cliff' below me. (But I didn't take any pics due to poor vis.)

Climbs were often hard to find, but when found were very good - 6-8kts was possible, with more inside the cu's. I landed 2 hours 26 minutes after launch. And was able to get away early as planned while still having had a fun and enjoyable flight - mission accomplished.

Wednesday 31st May 2006

I did turn up yesterday but the weather was rather poor so I did not bother to launch. That plus my car breaking down made for a rather poor day. However today showed a little more promise. It looked like a possible 500 day. It was looking nice early on. So I launched soon after 10AM in a Discus B with the plan of heading northwest towards Birdlip.

However things were not going to plan. The wind was 20-25kts from the north at flying heights, and increasingly severe spreadout meant the gaps between the thermal streets were getting bigger and bigger. So after 'staircasing' my way to Newbury South (across and along the streets) I did not like the look of the sky up track. That plus hearing others up track struggling too meant I decided to head up street to Didcot instead. For a while it was nice flying along straight in almost steady (albeit) weak lift, with the occasional strong core. I stopped at Isley as Didcot was in the middle of a huge hole. With spreadout getting quite severe I decided to turn back. I almost got caught out by some nasty sink, ending up at 1500 feet the wrong side of Basingstoke before I clawed my way back up to cloudbase again. It was at that point I noticed a glider in a field nearby that turned out to be a friend who I later helped to retrieve his glider from what turned out to be a bean field.

Then after some unexciting local soaring I burnt off my height and decided to land just under 3 hours after launch. Not all the clouds appeared to work, but the best thermals were 4-6kts. Cloudbase eventually was scraping 4600'QNH above Basingstoke before I landed. LAS-NEwburySouth-ISLey-LAS was 89km. Not quite the 500km I was hopeful of when I set off! :P But compared to the recent general crap weather it was still a lovely day!

Tuesday 23rd May 2006

I flew myself today. Took a winch launch in a DG300 at 10:30AM. Struggled to get away at first, but soon did. Cloudbase rose to 3300' QNH, then stuck there for a while, before rising up to my best height of 4800'QNH on the edge of the first shower.

I tiptoed out as far as Whitchurch (WH2) before getting low and scraping back. Some decent thermals, but a lot of clag and rubbish too. Back at Lasham I was down to 1000 feet above site before getting away again (after what seemed like an age trying to stop falling into the landing circuit). I then pushed out beyond Kingsclere. Best thermal was by now 6kts achieved. Would have pushed further but by now a line of showers were rapidly advancing with no obvious way around them. I played around up at 4500' where it was about -1C.

I landed at 1:25pm just as it started raining on the airfield. I sheltered inside the glider where I landed while it pelted down, hailstones an' all. (Glad I landed when I did.) Numerous frequent showers later all the gliders had been put away and launch operations ceased.

Technically LAS-WH2-LAS-NES-LAS was 100km but since I was never significantly out of range of the airfield I'm counting today as local soaring, even if Popham and Brimpton did look inviting at times.

One nice statistic is that this was my 600th glider flight. :D

Thursday 11th - Friday 12th May 2006

Thursday was forecast to be a slow start, with blue thermals and the possibility of high base cumulus later in the day. A few cu's were forming to the south from lunchtime (suspected sea breeze convergeance) so I took a winch launch in the Ventus C just after lunch. Unfortunately I came down to 600 feet, struggled back up to 1200 feet before falling down. So I tried again, taking an aerotow just after 3pm. Much better! Straight into a blue thermal that took me all the way to TMA (5500'QNH) with 3-5Kt average. I pushed north towards Kingsclere but it looked crap so I turned back. Then after climbing under a wisp I pushed Westwards to Popham where there was real cumulus, base 6800'QNH. I pushed further west. Best cloudbase near Andover was 7200'QNH. I tried a few cloud climbs. The first 2 or 3 were just a few hundred feet gained in shallow clouds. Then I climbed a bigger cloud. It started off well. Then at about 8000 feet the thermal went bananas, off the scale. I decided to level up and escape at 8500'. By the time I was in clear air I was just over 10,600. About 2cm of ice had also formed on the leading edges of the wings. I final glid back to Lasham via Hungerford. LAS-CBN-AND-HUN-LAS (102km). The ice melted and fell off once I got below the freezing level. Until then I just flew steady about 65kts. After that performance improved and I flew a touch faster.

On Friday we weren't expecting it to be quite as good, with lots of cirrus possibly preventing it from getting going beyond weak blue thermals. However cumulus started to appear around midday. I winch launched the Ventus at 12:45 as the cu's got bigger and better looking. Got away off the winch this time and straight up to TMA! It was the same airmass as yesterday but the cu's were more widespread and not going quite so readily to storms. I went to Alton first, but decided not to go any further. So I followed a line of cu's northwards to Newbury and Oxford, then on to Bicester. (I had to glide 10km out into the blue to turn Bicester, but the 20km round trip back to the cumulus was no problem in the Ventus.) Cloudbase was already in excess of 6000 feet! On the way back to Newbury I took a cloudclimb at Oxford East to 7700'QNH. Then near Chievley I spotted 2 gliders in fields far below me. At Newbury I decided to go to Membury before final gliding back to Lasham from just under FL65 to land 3 hours 8 minutes after launching. LAS-ALT-BIC-NEW-MEM-LAS for 219km. Thermals were generally 3-5kts. Cloudbase peaked around the 7000'QNH mark again.

Monday 17th April 2006

Unfortunately the weather has gone back to being generally rubbish again. However today was the best day, so I came and took the Ventus out again. Today was forecast to be quite spreadout. I launched at 12:10PM into a lovely looking sky. However it wasn't as easy as it looked. Cloudbase was just over 3000 feet at first. But it slowly rose to a little over 4000 feet above the airfield. Some larger clouds did have strong thermals underneath them - up to 6kts. But plenty of good looking clouds weren't working, and spreadout and gaps were slowly getting worse. A 20kt wind at flying height and 0C at cloudbase were also limiting factors of the day.

So I didn't go far. I pushed upwind into the Kingsclere area and played around there. Following my training in December I tried a couple of cloud climbs well away from other gliders and large built up areas. In the first cloud climb I gained just a few hundred feet before I lost the lift. So I straightened up and flew out the side. That was nice. Then I found a 6kt thermal. So I climbed into that cloud and rapidly gained 1000 feet. Then I lost the lift, and got a bit disoriented. At that point as it went a bit pear shaped I pulled the air brakes to get out before things got too bad - as planned. After that 2nd go there was a big hole coming in so I did not get another chance to practice again. So I local soared near Lasham for a little while longer before landing exactly 2 hours 30 minutes after launch.

I guess my first XC of the year will have to wait until May now as the weather looks rubbish until I leave the country on Friday until early May. A far cry from last year's 100km at the beginning of March!

Saturday 8th April 2006

After a massive (for me) 11 week gap, I was so glad to be back at the airfield to fly, even if I wasn't expecting too much out of the day. Unfortunately since January every available weekend day had been crap weather. However I was just glad to get off the ground today and fly before leaving early. I did seek a possible check flight but the CFI was happy for me to just fly in a single seater, so I pulled the S&H DG300 out of the hangar.

After a weather briefing suggested showers I wasn't expecting too much out of the day anyway. It was very windy and quite gusty too. However by the time I aerotowed at 10:50AM it was clear the showers were not going to happen. Cloudbase had already climbed past 3000 feet above Lasham, and it seemed to be going blue. Under some clouds I did reach cloudbase just under 4000 feet, and even got a bit higher up the side of a cloud at one point. But a lot of the time it was a struggle to get above 3500 feet - still quite respectable. I airbraked it down in the end for lunch as there seemed to be lift everywhere trying to keep me up in the air. Flight time 1 hour 42 minutes. Best thermals were 3-4kts.

After a short break I decided to have one more flight - a quick winch launch to hangar-fly the glider. However despite a mediocre launch (only 1400 feet) I got away quite easily and before coming back was able to bump my head on the base of the TMA airspace at 5500'QNH (4880' above Lasham). For this flight it was cycling up again and it was not going blue any more. The battery failed early in the flight, but I saw 6-7kts on the winter vario at times. Again the only way I could get down was to use airbrakes! However I had a nice smooth landing near the hangar after 53 minutes and then someone swiped the glider off me, so I was able to be gone by 2:30pm.

For those who don't mind the wind it was a lovely day - much better than expected. I reckon cloudbase reached 6000 feet QNH. If I hadn't had to have left early I reckon cross country would have easily been on today. But it was lovely just to get my feet off the ground again.

Saturday 21st January 2006

I was at Lasham last Saturday (14th January) for a meeting but did not fly as the weather wasn't that great. I'm glad I waited a week as after about 3 weeks of almost continuous 8/8 dull dreary cloud cover today was gloriously sunny. I got the S&H Ventus C out which had just come back from CofA. It seems I was the last one to fly it, in September when I took it to the Isle of Wight! :P I had two winch launches. This was the first time I'd seen the new retrieve winch in operation. It certainly does speed up the winch launch rate when it works. However the retrieve cable did have a tendency to break quite a bit.

My first launch on a fairly short run with a cross wind got me to 1300 feet AGL (1900 feet QNH). After a bit of scrabbling around and exploring some forming cumulus I spotted some Buzzards nearby soaring away. I headed straight under them, getting down to 900-1000 feet. But sure enough they were kindly marking a thermal for me. I climbed a good 500 feet in that thermal before it expired. Then just upwind there were the Buzzards again marking the next thermal. So I headed straight for them again and soared alongside them, going round and round together. For a while I was catching 2-3kt thermals to a cloudbase of 2900 feet QNH. While I was up there I did switch on the turn and slip in clear air for a while just to play with it following my instrument training flight in the Falke in December. Then I headed under a large cloud that gave me 3.5 knots on the averager. Behind that was lots of spreadout and a huge gap. So I fell out of the sky after 46 minutes.

Then I launched again about 2:30pm. Unfortunately I somehow managed to fail to lock my airbrakes on this launch. So they popped out soon after I left the ground. I realised this just as the launch point controller radioed me from the ground. So that was an embarrassing schoolboy error winessed by plenty including the CFI... But hey we are only human. Thankfully I got away with it. Having put them away properly half way up the launch I still made 1100 feet AGL and fairly quickly found thermals which took me to cloudbase, now only 2700 feet QNH. Thermals were slightly weaker at 1-2 kts, but with less spreadout there were more of them and so I stayed up until the day died. It still gets dark rather early so this was little more than 45 minutes after launch. However some very weak wave northwest of the airfield (0-0.1kts up at best at 1000 feet AGL) did slow my rate of descent and I managed to stretch to 1 hour and 1 minute. That made 1 hour and 47 minutes out of 2 winch launches - which is exceedingly good for a British January.

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