Diary 2007

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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2007 Gliding Pictures

Sunday 25th November 2007

On the one hand it was a bit of an anticlimax today, now that winter conditions are truely upon us. Sunrise was only just before the 8AM ballot, and sunset just after 4pm. So a very short day. A few thermals did try to develop, but were short lived and broken up by the strong wind at height. On the other hand, it was a sentimental day. My favourite glider, the Ventus C (391) and the DG300 (393) that I did my 500km diamond distance flight in are both to be sold, and will no longer be available after lunch. So it was a fairwell to those gliders.

I decided to say fairwell to 391 by taking her for a few last flights. Having grabbed it in the ballot and found a kind soul to help me rig, I got it to the launch point as usual. Late morning I took a winch launch, and promptly found some weak wave at the top of the launch. Nice! That added a few minutes to my flight. The wave was decaying, however. At lunchtime I decided to take a 4000 foot aerotow. Once off tow I went back to where I had found the wave on the first flight (albeit much higher) but found nothing. Then some cumulus started building towards Odiham, so I went over there only to find nothing but sink. I had to beat a hasty retreat before I got too low to get back. I landed long as there was a big jet incoming so then had to haul the glider half a mile back to the launch point.

I then took another winch launch, and again added a few minutes to my flight, this time in weak and broken thermals. The flying wind was more than 20 knots, so it was impossible to stay with them for long before being drifted downwind too far. After a break for a late lunch on the ground, having found nobody else to fly it, I took one last winch launch to trailer fly the Ventus. Just before launch a cloudstreet drifted through, and a few people managed to stay up a little while under it. But I only caught the tail end, and the best I could do was briefly hold height in the broken lift. Eventually I sunk too low and it was time for the final circuit. Then it was away with the glider for the last time, and a pleasant winter's day on the airfield completed. My main objective to keep current achieved.

Saturday 6th - Saturday 13th October 2007 (Trip to Aboyne)

I actually left on 30th September and went for a tour around Scotland on my way to Aboyne. Highlights were climbing to the summit of Ben Nevis on the 2nd and reaching John O Groats on the 5th, with many other sightseeing trips, including the Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. I used Fort William and then Inverness as bases where I stayed in some nice BnB's. But on Saturday it was time to return to Aboyne for my 3rd time. I set off from Inverness as early as I could and made a bee line for Aboyne. I got there about 9:30AM'ish, beating the Lasham crowd. After about an hour they (the departing week 1 people) appeared, and before long Gordon had assigned me SH4, which I was pleasantly surprised to find at Aboyne. I wasted no time getting airborne. It was a case of stuff lunch. I launched at 11:58AM. There was quite a lot of cloud present mind you, but I soon climbed in wave above the cloud, and rejoiced being back at Aboyne. After a long time stuck between 5000 and 10,000 feet, having heard a local reporting getting to 19k, I finally found the wave (in the lee of Lochnagar) that took me to 15k before I was called down due to closing gaps. The wave seemed to be collapsing then too. In the end I had to come down fairly sharpish, but made it through a wisp filled gap between Aboyne and Ballater before returning to the airfield.

That was to be my only flight before Thursday 11th. Sunday to Wednesday there was not enough wind to produce useable wave. Sunday, Monday and Wednesday did produce thermals, but I let others have a go. On the ground the weather was generally pretty nice so I just relaxed and helped out while less experienced members went circuit bashing and thermal soaring when available. Admittedly by Wednesday I was rather bored though. On Monday Gordon went home and was replaced by Bruce Cooper. On Tuesday cloudbase stayed too low all day and was the only non flying day. In the afternoon we all decided to walk around Loch Muick. With the clouds hugging the mountains it made for a pleasant and pictoresque walk. Although by the end I was pretty knackered. On Wednesday morning I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to climb Scar Hill on the north side of the airfield. The view from the top was good but getting up there involved wading through dense patches of soaking wet bracken and long grass. By the time I reached the rocks higher up I was saturated below the knees. Up top the heathers and lichens were rather pretty. Going down I found a path down to the road. Back at the airfield I promptly drove back to Ravenswood for a change of trousers, socks and shoes before returning for the afternoon.

Thursday 11th was the big day. The night before we drew a ballot. K21 778 and SH4 were available for solo flying while Bruce flew the less experienced in 776. I got the morning slot for 778, and wasted no time in getting airborne by about 8:30AM. After a high 4000 foot tow I struggled to locate the wave, and was down to 2900 feet before I got away. Eventually I was well away and climbing nicely above the low cloud and into the blue above the Lochs. Eventually I transferred over to Loch Muick where I climbed to 19200 feet before I broke off due to discomfort. Back on the ground I realised that I had broken off too soon and was just short of diamond. Doh!

Fortunately I got to have another go, in SH4 in the afternoon. I was away by 3:30PM. By now, after a blue spell over lunchtime, lenticulars had appeared everywhere. I released near the Lochs straight into wave and dived to 2900 feet to mark a low point on the logger. Then I climbed rapidly up the front of some lenticulars. Before long I reached them at 15-16k. I actually climbed through the front of one by mistake. Good job the glider was still warm. Lots of ice crystals 'snowed' past me but none of them stuck. Looking towards the sun during that period I saw the most amazing optical effects. However I pushed forwards in front of the lennie and climbed above it. Once above the views were jaw-dropping. The lennies gave the impression of rippled sand dunes in a desert. I also saw a vivid glory, with a shadow of the glider in the middle. I carried on up at 3-4kts while I took in the views. Eventually I topped out at 22,300 feet. Up here the wind was stronger than my stalling speed so it was possible to hover or fly backwards. At that point I decided to return to Loch Muick. I arrived just under 20k and promptly climbed there in front of the local lennie there, and reached FL240 (max allowed height) with 3 knots still showing on the vario. Up here it was easily below -20C, and ice crystals were forming on the canopy just like the ones you see on the windows of passenger jets at height. I broke off and drifted back over the top of the lennie to start descending on the down side of the wave. On the way down the views just got better and better. Down below it was fairly blue. I saw the entire Dee Valley and the Cairngorms, as well as the East Coast all the way to Inverness. Further west was more cloudy so I didn't see the Atlantic coast. Meanwhile below the upper Loch Muick lennie I found an exquisite rippled lennie. Other lennies at different heights gave the impression of a giant climbing frame as I descended between them. From 24k it took a long time to descend. Eventually I made it down for an uneventful landing.

My diamond was one of 3 (plus a gold) that day. On the ground after the toys were put away the process of downloading logger traces and filling in claim forms began. It was about 8:30PM before we left the airfield for a nice Indian meal in Aboyne. Then the next day it was calm again, sunny and very mild. We were all a bit bleary eyed after the long day yesterday and happy to relax on the ground. Some did do more circuit bashing but it was not very soarable at all. So a quiet day.

On Saturday everyone except me decided to be gone by lunchtime. I wanted to fly again as more wave was forecast. So, having last minute booked the same BnB in Carlisle that I stayed at on my way up, I got SH4 rigged and eventually had the whole fleet to myself. Early on there was too much cloud, but around lunchtime some holes appeared and soon opened up enough to launch. By the time I was ready to go the first of the week 3 people had arrived and kindly helped me onto the runway. I was then away in a brisk SW'erly. I took a decent climb south of the Lochs to somewhere above 10k before going north to the lee of Morven to climb slowly to 16.5k. Then I went NW along a wave bar to Corgarf, then southwards into a strong headwind to Braemar. From Braemar at 13k, looking W and SW it was 8/8 cloudcover below me. Then I turned back to Aboyne, and only lost 1000 feet in the 40km dash back downwind. I could have stayed up longer but I needed to get away myself now. So down I came, anjoying the views one last time. Eventually I got below cloud and was treated to a gorgeous display of crepuscular rays over the Dee Valley. When I landed more of the week 3 people had arrived who helped me de-rig.

I then paid up and legged it. I was over the Glenshee pass before dark and eventually reached my stop in Carlisle in good time to stay overnight before continuing home the next morning. So although many of the days were waveless, it was worth it just for super Thursday, and the tour of Scotland the week before made it doubly worth while. I nice relaxing holiday and a thrill to return again to Aboyne. Now I have diamond height I want to return again at some point and have a go at mountain wave cross country flying. Can't wait!

Saturday 15th September 2007

Today was my last chance to go soaring before I head to Aboyne in October. So I was glad the forecast was good. I picked up a Discus (SH4) in the ballot and prepared for the set task of Lasham-SALisbury-CALvert Junction-Lasham. It was forecast to be semi-blue or blue. So when cumulus started popping after 11AM I decided to go. I winch launched just after half 11 and quickly got away to a cloudbase just below 3000 feet. I decided to set off promptly. There were bigger clouds in the Popham area, and then beyond there only 1-2/8ths cumulus. Beyond Chilbolton it was fairly blue and I was struggling so I turned STocKbridge and then went north to better clouds.

Andover northwards was very good. Cloudbase was higher too. A couple of times I decided to take a brief cloud climbs for the fun of it and came out several hundred feet above cloudbase. My best height was about 4500 feet above Lasham, from a 3900 feet cloudbase. Conditions were booming until after Didcot, where a turbulent 'Didcot special' threw me out soon after I entered cloud! I carried on into semi-blue conditions to CAL. It was harder going out there with weaker lower climbs to be had, but doable.

I then tiptoed my way back to Oxford, where it was now booming. I had a good run to just south of Didcot where it had gone semi-blue. I crossed cautiously and easily reached good cumulus close to HUNgerford. So I turned HUN before going home. The trip back was semi-blue. I stayed high, topping up near NEwbury and Aldermaston before final-gliding it back. I landed just before 3:30pm. Total achieved task was LAS-STK-CAL-HUN-LAS for 238km which was a pleasant bonus XC, albeit rather slow at about 68kph (I was in no particular rush though), given the time of year. Thermals were quite weak in the semi-clue areas. Even under the bigger clouds I was finding some 4-6kt cores but hard to achieve more than 2-3kts average climb rate most of the time.

That wasn't the end of the day. I managed to get hold of a DG1000 and an instructor to convert to it. I took a nice tow to 4000 feet some time before 5pm, doing useful out-of-position exercises on the way up. (The tuggie commented later on how he was thrown about by those!) Then after the normal checks we went spinning. Interesting to see how the DG1000 spins and how it recovers. It is a huge glider but handles quite nicely with a reasonably fast roll rate. After that flight I experienced two simulated cable breaks on the winch. The first one revealed I was a little rusty at these! I didn't put on enough speed and turned too sharply. Thankfully we got away with it. The 2nd time round I got it perfect so was happy with that. By then I was happy landing it too. So all clear to go solo on the DG 1000 now ahead of Aboyne.

Sunday 26th August 2007

On Thursday the forecast was looking good for today so I decided to bite the bullet and book 393 as it was available. (If you can't beat them join them philosphy with regards the booking system). So I cruised my way in knowing I had a glider to fly. It was the last day of the regionals so a very busy airfield again. The day didn't start off that great as lots more cloud than expected - a result of an early dry cold front. Nonetheless I got the glider out to the launch point before the competition briefing.

After the briefing cloudbase rose steadily and the skies opened up from the north late morning. So I took a low and very fast winch launch just after noon but very quickly found 2-3kts lift to 2300 feet cloudbase. I then tiptoed my way northwestwards unsure what I would do yet. I also noticed clouds aligned across wind with heavy sink between, indicating wave interference. However cloudbase rose to 3000 feet plus (3600 feet QNH) as I approached Newbury South, and disappeared into wisps. To the north it was blue so I decided from there to head South back to the decent cumulus. My best thermal of the day was a 5kt average near Popham to about 3500 feet. I decided to turn Chilbolton and head north again. With the inversion creeping upwards I headed out into the blue and eventually turned Chievely as I was starting to drop down there. I then headed towards Brimpton to play safe as a nice place to land but near the East side of Newbury I climbed up from 2000 feet. Then from then I played around near Kingsclere and back towards Lasham, with plenty of 3-4kt thermals to 3500 feet or better, weakening above that. My best height was 4100 feet (4700 feet QNH) but mostly 3900 feet was best height after wafting around at the top of the thermal for abit watching the world go by.

As competitors came back I landed after 3 hours 38 minutes in the air (about 2 hours casual XC and the rest local soaring). LAS-NES-CBN-CHV-LAS was 120km so I am happy with that, and a pleasant day out. Notable events were several occasions of climbing with buzzards near Lasham, seeing and circling around several large tangled lumps of straw floating at 4000 feet (4600 feet QNH) as I soared near Popham, seeing large numbers of bank holiday fairs, fetes and other events dotted all over the towns and countryside, and seeing a group of cut fields turned into a giant dirt track that snaked through the fields and woods between. It looked incredible fun down there and was briefly tempted to land down there and ask to have a go (never serious of course!). So certainly lots of people enjoying the pleasant bank holiday weather on the ground too.

Saturday 11th August 2007

After a stunning week spent drooling out the office window I was glad to make it to the airfield today. The Nationals was still on so plenty of activity. The day did start badly though when my ballot luck finally came back to bite me. After 3 times coming top and running off with the only Discus I came last (8th). However my luck returned when a fellow glider pilot noticed the DG300 393 in the hangar. (It's been gone since April being repaired after someone crashed it.) The log book showed it had been test flown by the repairer so a quick check and thumbs up from the CFI and I got it out and DI'ed it extra carefully. Then managed to snare a passing buggy to tow it to the launch point. I was unable to get ready in time to escape before the competition gliders launched. So a 2.5 hour wait ensued.

I finally winch launched at 2:09pm. I started in weak low lift, which after a while got stronger as I got higher. Then progressed to better lift which took me straight to TMA. I decided to set off northwards with no particular XC plans and see how it went. I very quickly got to Didcot in booming conditions. Cloudbase had reached 6100 feet QNH with 4-6kt thermals to be had. From Didcot I pushed on towards Bicester. At Oxford the clouds were bigger, starting to spread out slightly, but still going well. I paused to take pictures of Oakley Wood just north of M40J8a, as I was there on the ground 24 hours earlier. Then on past Bicester. I finally decided to turn round and come back at Silverstone.

Having climbed (and couldn't resist the odd picture) back up to cloudbase I then set off back again. Progress was much slower on the return leg. Between Silverstone and Didcot there was some spreadout and climbs were weaker. So I stayed high and made slow but steady progress. I had some long glides across gaps. One such gap was past Oxford where I had a good view of Oxford University complex on my right. Didcot southwards was still booming. My best height was 6300 feet QNH before I dived under the airspace ceiling south of Didcot. Then a straight forward romp home from there.

On my way back I was listening to the competition finishers who were calling finals. The most alarming radio chatter was a report of an incident on the south side of the airfield which was fairly apparently a glider related accident when I got close enough to see. But I shall say no more here as I don't know what happened. I hope no one was hurt badly that's all. Meanwhile I was onto final glide somewhere around Newbury. The day was getting on a bit so I decided to come home. I overcooked it slightly and had to slow down. Then to avoid clashing with the comps I didn't do a flyby but just a regular circuit and picked a nice space in the middle of a landing area totally littered with lots of landed gliders at 5:04pm. I'm glad I didn't get back too much later as the sea air started to come in and kill the thermals.

So for a day that looked like I might not get to fly and then had a frustratingly long wait for launch that ate into the XC day, it turned out pretty well. I am sure I could have done double the distance if I had beaten the competition grid off the ground, but I was happy just to get off the ground, let alone managed L-DID-SIL-L. I set off maybe half an hour after launch so that would put the speed at about 80kph which includes pauses for sightseeing and flying cautiously so I was pleased with that. Glider away and a pleasant summer's day completed.

Saturday 28th July 2007

Today was the next day that held promise. However an unexpected blanket of low cloud put doubts on the day. Soundings suggested it would be very spreadout too. The set task was LAS-PEWsey-OXFordeast-LAS. We were expecting only 3000 foot cloudbase though. In the ballot I kept well out the way after the last two steals. However I was drawn top again! So swiped the same Discus as on Tuesday. However during the morning I must admit I was feeling rather underwhelmed by the weather. However in the end after some much needed goading (thanks) I got the glider out. There was a double movement at lunchtime so we had to wait for them. Then there was one almighty scramble for the runway to set up grid. I got just the right position - it allowed me to dump the car and the tow out gear and get back in time for launch.

There was a big hole in the thermals just upwind when I launched. Unfortunately the tuggie took me to the downwind side where I did not find much lift. I wish he'd towed me upwind! I was down to 800 feet before I contacted some weak lift under some wisps near the airfield. I slowly gained enough height to jump to bigger wisps and eventually the far side of the hole. Someone else just below me fell down so I was lucky there. It took me 35 min's to get high enough to set off. The wind was strong up at height so had to watch my drift.

With cloudbase around 3500 feet (4100 feet QNH) I set off. However every time I tried to push past Overton I got low and had to scratch in weak lift, and drifted most of the way back to Basingstoke. After a while I kind of gave up. Conditions did improve as some good streets came in. That plus cloudbase reaching 4000 feet (4600 feet QNH) spurred me to push upwind again. This time I made it as far as Rivar Hill before another bad area stopped me. I then played around and wafted back towards Lasham. Meanwhile cloudbase seemed to peak at about 4400 feet (5000 feet QNH).

Before I landed I noticed that the cloud over Lasham and to the South was much more spreadout - a sea air effect maybe? The nearest thermal to this area took me to 4400 feet. Then I headed south and arrived way above cloudbase. So I played around above and around lots of low wisps and lumps of cloud. Their base was 700-800 feet below cloudbase further north and dead conditions further south. I sunk back to earth and had a nice gentle landing by the hangar. By then this bad air had established itself over the airfield. I soon put my jumper back on!

Ah well Rivar Hill and back was 79km so worthy of my logbook, and 3 hours and 22 valuable minutes of 2007 air time is not to be sniffed at. So still a pleasant day.

Tuesday 24th July 2007

I took this week off for holiday. So was nice to get one decent looking day out of it. Unfortunately I had similar issues with the ballot as on the 7th in that only one Discus available. However my luck repeated itself as I got drawn out first again. So I swiped said Discus and ducked in case the lynch mob were ready to get me. In the briefing Colin's 300km task was LAS-AMBerley-BIRdlip-LAS. Today was the busiest weekday day I have ever seen, with people desperate to fly. When I got my glider into line the aerotow queue was already 15 long. Another 20+ gliders joined behind stretching all the way to the peri-track at the East end. (There was no grid as the grass was too wet and soggy to support one.)

I launched at 12:21PM. Cloudbase was rapidly rising towards 3500 feet (4100 feet QNH). I quickly got to cloudbase and then immediately set off, photographing the still very long queues at the launchpoint as I did so. The first leg was a straight forward downwind dash past Harting to Amberley. But as soon as I turned AMB conditions immediately upwind were not very good and I got low, down to 1800 feet (2400 feet QNH) with seemingly no decent lift nearby and local clouds not working. However I managed to find something in the end, and drifted all the way to Parham before I finally got away. So I made PAR my first turn point.

The wind was more westerly than forecast. I still had good fun making steady progress into a brisk headwind up the streets. There was some wave influence however, and to cross the streets I had to get through 6-8kts of sink as I left each street. I never found any useable wave though. The thermals were getting strong now (3-5kts) but the cores were narrow and distorted, and hard to centre. I staircased my way up past Lasham, running along streets before crossing over to the next at the most appropriate place. As I passed Alton I couldn't resist taking a pic of a glider in a field between Alton and Lasham. Beyond the Kingsclere area severe spreadout was occurring. So I tiptoed my way as far as Hungerford before I decided to go no further.

To the south there was much drier and clearer air so I decided I would head for the Chilbolton area. However between me and that better air was a huge spreadouty hole. So first I headed back as far as Overton before making it to the better air. I then went up the nicer streets and eventually turned at ANDover. I didn't go any further as it was almost blue further west. Then after playing in weak lift and enjoying the view for a while I dashed back downwind to the Popham area where I local soared for a while before going home at about 120kts. In the spreadout cloudbase was 3700-3800 feet (4300-4400 feet QNH). But in the better air cloudbase was 1000 feet higher! My best height was 4900 feet after I pulled up above cloudbase after clearing the end of a street and into clear air. Looking north I was well above cloudbase there. Later in the day my best climbs were 4-6kts but still tricky to centre.

So another lucky day. I was glad once again to be off the ground, and glad that I was in the Discus rather than the other ballotable gliders, the Grob102's. Flying winds were 20kts+ and with the heavy sink I would have struggled in the grobs. (Indeed one person landed out at Chilbolton and another private grob owner struggled big time.) The Discus is much better at penetrating into wind and flying faster through sink without dropping like a brick. My flown task was LAS-PAR-HUN-OVE-AND-LAS for 216km. That plus local soaring kept me aloft for 4 hours 6 min's. A pleasant day with photos taken. I will get some of these online in due course. Incidentally this was also my 100th flight in a Discus B!

Sunday 22nd July 2007

As the terrible 2007 weather continues, I wasn't expecting much out of today but decided to go anyway. I was feeling rather drained so aimed to just get some flying time in as my hours are so few this year. I grabbed the Grob 102 SH8 which is the glider that I completed Silver Distance in (as 398) once upon a time. Got the glider out onto a very soggy airfield (not surprising after huge amounts of rain). It was nice to fly again if rather less refined and performing than the Discus / Ventus. I launched about 12:45 on the winch and got away. For a while conditions were pleasant, with 2-4kt thermals up to 2800 feet AGL max. But then thick top cover came over, cloudbase dropped to 2500 feet, and then a huge gap came through. I was unable to get across so eventually fell out the sky after an hour. I decided not to fly again and handed the glider to another pilot. So hardly a spectacular day, but one more precious 2007 hour under my belt!

Saturday 7th July 2007

Whew! June was a complete washout for me! Horrible weather. Bad weekend after bad weekend for most of the month. So unsurprisingly this weekend, the first decent looking one in aeons, the gliding club was very busy. I nearly didn't turn up though as only 2 gliders were available in the ballot! However glad I did as I was drawn first so I got the only available Discus. So got it ready quickly and soon after the 9:30AM XC briefing was done I had it on the grid ready to go.

The grid started launching at 10:20AM. About half an hour later I was airborne. Interesting tow that as the tuggie turned tight circles when we reached a thermal. I gave in at about 1700 feet and released. I soon got up to cloudbase however (just below 3000 feet AGL) and decided to set off. I was on my way by 11AM. In the briefing the CFI had set Lasham-BODium Castle-BUrBage-Lasham for a 318km task, and a 500km task. I didn't feel up to the 500 as I was out of practice, but decided to try the 300.

To get to Bodium we had to get round Gatwick Airspace. It was a straight forward romp past Liss and Midhurst and was soon passing Parham and Worthing. Over Brighton the conditions were stonking as I crept past the southern-most part of the Gatwick airspace. Decent thermals up to 3500-4000 feet (4100-4600 feet QNH). East of Brighton the sea air was starting to creep in and I found cloudbase dropping to 2500 feet (3100 feet QNH). So I crept north a bit to better air and tracked northeastwards along the edge of the airspace. Eventually I contacted a decent street and had a good run all the way to Bodium Castle, which looked awesome from 4000 feet.

At times during that first leg I saw tail winds as high as 20 knots. Now I had to push back into that wind. However that proved not to be a problem. I easily pushed back to Heathfield, where I found the sea breeze starting to push in. Now the fun really began. The sea breeze front was working well, and I decided to soar it. I wafted my way westwards going under, over and around low scraggy bits of cloud. I was still up at 4000 feet at that point. Eventually beyond Ringmer the sea breeze drifted into the Gatwick Airspace. However below 3500 feet QNH the airspace was still clear. So I dived below this ceiling and was able to more or less maintain that height while I carried on along the front at 50 to 60 knots in gentle lift. Even between clouds the lift was there, like a gentle wave bar. I kept on going for miles and miles, past Brighton (I could see Brighton and the sea through gaps in the sea breeze frontal clouds below me) going around and over low lumps of cloud. Eventually I got to the Parham area and was clear of the low airspace ceiling once again, and was soon able to push back inland where cloudbase was peaking at about 4200 feet (4800 feet QNH).

Once past Liss I discovered that my pee bag had a leak. Eww!!! But enough said about that. Beyond Alton conditions got difficult, and I struggled. I headed for a big cloud close to Lasham to find it not working. I was down to 1500 feet and almost ready to 'land out' at Lasham. However slowly but surely over what seemed like an eternity I managed to scrape away and start pushing slowly upwind again. Beyonf Popham conditions improved a bit, and through staying high and pushing gently I slowly but surely made it to Burbage. Then it was a pleasant downwind dash back to the airfield for a fun racing finish (120kts / 400 feet) before pulling up and landing nice and smoothly back at the trailer.

I was happy just to use up all my luck and get off the ground today. But then I went further East from Lasham than I have done before. Bodium Castle is rather cool from the air, and on the way the coastal scenery was awesome as ever. But the best part of the flight was soaring the sea breeze heading back West. This is the first time I have done that, and was pretty amazing. At last a 300km flight under my belt, even if it did take me 5 hours. But then I was in no rush during that flight. I was enjoying the view, having fun, and still escaping before the sea breeze cut off the area East of Brighton. (Those who set off an hour after me had to turn back at Brighton as the sea breeze was getting too far into Gatwick Airspace to squeeze past and make it back again.) So an unexpectedly fun day. Best thermals were 6-7kts average to 4800 feet QNH but the bigger clouds did not always work and sometimes tricky to centre - especially low down. Lots of weak climbs taken too when getting through gaps and other sticky patches. Lots of pictures taken too. Keep an eye out on the piccies page for when I get those posted up.

Sunday 20th May 2007

Since the last flight the weather switched from days of blue and stable to days of wet and windy! Doh! However today looked like it would actually be a nice day. So went along to find a large ballot list. However for the first time in a while my tile came out first, so I swiped the Ventus. It was a lovely sunny start. In the briefing LAS-SALisbury-BUCkingham-LAS was set for pundits for about 290km, OXFord East instead of BUC for intermediates for about 210km.

Mid morning cu's were already popping everywhere. The grid moved at 10:45AM. I finally got winch launched at about 11:30AM. I set of quickly westwards. However it did not look that great further west. In the end I decided to turn ChilBoltoN as it looked poor further west, and I would have also been hemmed in by airspace. Things went well until OXFord, where a band of cirrus formed overhead and turned it claggy. However I was still able to find lift OK. It looked good to the northwest. I was able to go long distances without turning. I decided to turn WinSLow. There was a 6kt thermal right over the turn point! Then started the fun of getting home. Once I passed the Bicester area I got back to that cirrus band. Things had deteriorated a lot and for a while I thought I was going to land out. However after scrabbling in weak lift I found more useable list between Cahlgrove (inactive) and Benson. I was up at 3000 feet so no ATZ issues. A line of lift stretched southwards. To the west it was dead. So after flying cautiously I got past Reading, and found strong lift just East of Aldermaston. From there back it was easy. I local soared for a further hour. Best cloudbase 4700 feet (5300 feet QNH) over a hotspot near Lasham, generally 4300'. To the north is was up to 600-700 feet below that. Best climb was just over 7kts on the averager, with gusts pushing the mechanical vario off the scale.

Of course after I landed the expected incoming warm front had held back so it looked better at 5pm than during the day! However it feels good to finally get some XC km under my belt. I flew LAS-CBN-WSL-LAS for 211km at 74kph. Given the conditions I am not complaining!

Sunday 29th April 2007

I have one word to describe April 2007. "Blech!" I missed some good soaring over Easter. Since then every weekend day I have been free has been pants. Almost the whole month has been warm, blue and stable. That in itself is amazing! I have yet to see a real 'April shower'! I decided to go today to keep current and in practice, and to log my only April flights of this year.

It was a slow start and another blue day so I took it easy in the morning. I got the Ventus in the ballot so I got that rigged. I ate an early lunch in the clubhouse before towing the glider to runway 09 at lunchtime. I took a winch launch to 1400'AGL at about 1:30pm. Some weak lift delayed my descent around 1000 feet up before I landed 11 minutes after launch. I then took an aerotow. Tuf Fox-Fox towed me about 5 miles to the East. In the poor viz I could barely see the airfield from there. After I released 2000'AGL I sank almost steadily at about 4 knots until I was back at the airfield at 1000 feet again. This time I managed to scratch away in weak lift for longer, and extended it by about 10 minutes to 26 minutes. My second landing was nice and smooth unlike the first during which I ballooned and then bumped slightly.

After a long wait for a broken down winch to be fixed I took another winch launch around 3:30pm aiming to trailer-fly the glider. Very fast launch but got to 1700'AGL this time. The thermals were a bit better now, with the occasional 2-3kts on offer albeit in very narrow cores. At one point I reached the dizzy height of 2200'AGL! I wanted to head to Basingstoke (good local hotspot) but never quite got enough height to make it comfortably. So stayed fairly close to Lasham. Managed to stay up for 1 hour 18 minutes before falling down again. Thar ended a challenging afternoon, although still enjoyable and glad to be current and flying again.

Saturday 31st March 2007

The main feature of today was the wind. It was rather strong and gusty, up to 30 kts at flying heights. The day started off with 8/8 low cloud, but that soon lifted and broke up. I initially got a Discus out, but then handed that to someone else when I was kindly offered the back seat of a Duo Discus Turbo for a flight to the South Downs ridge. The wind was northeasterly so the ridge was working.

We launched soon after noon, and straight off tow headed south to our first turning point, Petersfield South (PTF). Visibility was dreadful, but despite that I still took some pictures. We reached PTF without any dramas and turned Eastwards along the ridge, generally flying around 1500 feet QNH, a little way above the ridge top, where we comfortably maintained height. The first big gap across the River Arun was easy. We left the ridge heading upwind into a cloud street which allowed us to gain height as we crossed. Then we fell back onto the ridge on the other side. We then proceeded past Parham airfield and the local gliders who were enjoying their local part of the ridge. After Parham I didn't take any more pictures as I was flying and conditions were too rough to permit flying and taking pictures at the same time.

The next big gap was at Steyning. Again we flew through a number of decent thermals which gave us enough height to easily cross despite the headwind. Then we reached Devil's Dyke. At this point we had to push into wind a few miles to reconnect with the ridge. Because of the strong headwind we needed a bit of height to make it across. We patrolled up and down the Steyning - Devil's Dyke section a few times until we connected with a thermal that was good enough to give us enough height to cross without drifting too far downwind. Then it was a simple case of gliding across briskly, reconnecting with the ridge near two windmills called Jack and Jill. From there is was a straight forward run Eastwards to the end where we pushed upwind to Cooksbridge, where the Lewes North (LEW) turning point is.

After that we turned back and drifted back onto the ridge. On the way out our ground speed was as low as 30kts because of the 25-29kt headwind. Going back was correspondingly quick. Crossing the gaps was easy with the tail wind. In almost no time we were back to the Midhurst area. At this point we left the ridge and thermalled our way back. To the southeast of Petersfield it was going blue, but to the northwest it was much cloudier and visibility much poorer. Where these two airmasses met was a huge cloud street. When we went under it we found a very strong and extremely rough thermal. We managed 6 kts average, with gusts going off the scale (10kts). We climbed to 4000 feet (above Lasham) (still well below cloudbase) and continued back to Lasham. We would have climbed again but the cloud we were aiming for drifted over the winch and we were too slow switching to another cloud, and got too low. So we fell down back to Lasham for a rather turbulent approach and landing.

Those who went north encountered showers, and one person to the West got to 6000 feet above Lasham. So cloudbase was very high today. But the poor visibility and strong and gusty wind meant that the decision to go P2 with an experienced pilot to the ridge was definitely the right decision. By the time we landed before 3pm launching had stopped because of the wind. However now I have finally been to the ridge, maybe I might go in a single seater next time. Good fun if rather difficult conditions. L-PTF-LEW-L was 169km, my first XC of the year. Thanks Roy for inviting me to come with you!

Saturday 3rd March 2007

After a long gap due to bad weather I returned to Lasham again today. I was the only one in the ballot. Since the Ventus was U/S (CofA) I picked a Discus B. Thanks to Chris for helping me rig. I winch launched a little before 11:30AM when cumulus was popping. Indeed there were thermals! For ages cloudbase stuck around 2400-2600 feet above Lasham. For a short while it dropped as a shower went through. At that point I dropped to 800 feet and put my wheel down before finding weak lift and climbing away again (wheel up again). I found that below 2000 feet the thermals were weak and broken in the 15-20kt wind, and much stronger higher up. Later in the flight cloudbase was up to 3200-3400 feet, and at best there were strong thermals, 5kt averages (8-9kt cores). Some spectacular streets formed. At one point I went upwind for miles at up to 90kts while still climbing up to 4kts up. The end of the street was a few miles beyond Bullington Cross, my furthest point (so not really a proper cross country flight). Beyond that there were more showers and dead areas. After 3 and a half hours in the air I slowly glid down and landed, before handing the glider over to someone else. My first soaring flight of 2007, with some buzzards keeping me company too. And boy did I enjoy it!

Sunday 14th January 2007

Not my best ever day at the airfield. First of all someone tried to swipe the glider off me during the morning. Then I had two rather poor flights. Was not happy with my winch launching today. On the first flight I rotated too quickly, and then on the second flight I had a high cable break. Otherwise fairly uneventful winter flights. I then promptly handed the glider over to someone else who flew it after me.

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