Diary 2008

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.

2007 <- | 2008 | -> 2009 | -> Current

2008 Gliding Pictures

Saturday 29th December 2008

Having had endless days of low cloud and then icy Easterlies I wasn't sure if today would work out. I woke up to an overcast sky. The cloud was so low it barely shows up on infrared. So I went back to sleep. It was only when it got light that it was obvious that Lasham was in a ribbon of clear air. So although over 2 hours later than planned, I decided to go, and made it there about 9:45AM. Just enough time to grab a late breakfast, and then I went out to grab a Grob 102 single seater from the hangar. A kind fellow member, Paul, helped me to get the glider ready, clean and de-ice the wings, and tow it to the launch point.

I managed 2 winch launches, both to 1800 feet and 11 minutes long each before lunch. The viz was pretty awful, with Basingstoke close to the edge of visibility. The remaining ice on the wings cleared rapidly during the first flight. On the second flight there were hints of very weak thermals over nearby Shalden. Then we stopped for lunch. I was first up after lunch with another 1800 foot launch. This time plenty of sink shortened my flight to 9 minutes. I then let Paul have 3 flights. Then I took the last flight as the sun got low. The viz was dire by then. Even Basingstoke was invisible, and Lasham barely visible into sun from a mile away. My eyes were on stalks on that last flight to make sure I didn't get too close to anybody else or lose the airfield. But after 10 minutes I landed near the hangar. The temperature had peaked at only 1C. So I was unsurprised to see ice re-form on the wings as I gave it a clean before putting it away at 4pm (sunset).

Mission accomplished today. Those 4 hops kept me current and after a couple of less than perfect landings recently I was much happier with them today. This almost certainly sees off 2008. I also paid my subs, and after a lot of dithering decided to stay on as an unlimited member despite 2 years of not breaking even (after all the weather has been awful). Let's hope for better weather so that I actually break even next year!

Saturday 22nd November 2008

A cold blast of polar air arrived today. With such cold unstable air there was a chance of thermals and of the South Downs ridge working. So I decided to wrap up warm and come to the airfield. I was the only one in the ballot so duely bagged a Discus, and greatfully accepted an offer to help me rig.

On the airfield early on the wind was a bit borderline for strength and direction so I decided not to go to the ridge as I have only been once before and that was not solo. So I got the glider to the launch point which was on the short runway, 34, which was directly into wind. Before lunch the sun was obscured by cloud but it was clear to the East with cumulus popping. I took a launch to 1200 feet straight away mid morning and promptly climbed in a weak thermal to 1400 feet as I quickly drifted the length of the runway. Then I pushed back upwind before coming in to land 9 minutes after launch. I decided to park up and wait as it was clear the air was very unstable, and gave the prospect of soaring despite the low November sun, if the top cover cleared.

Over lunchtime the top cover did indeed finally clear. Once the sun was shining fully on the ground cumulus did indeed start to pop closer to Lasham. I took a 2nd winch launch at 1pm to 1300 feet and managed to find weak lift. By staircasing my way up (drifting as I soared then pushing upwind to the next thermal when I drifted too far downwind), I was soon above 2000 feet and climbing away at up to 3 knots. I eventually reached 3000 feet half way between Lasham and Alton, and pushed back beyond Lasham slowly towards Basingstoke, climbing slowly in several thermals en route. I eventually reached cloudbase at 4200 feet! By now it was a beautiful cloud street from Alton to Aldermaston and beyond. I had fun exploring the street as far as just south of the Aldermaston zone, sometimes getting up the sides of some cumulus to as high as 4400 feet. Eventually the sun dropped below the remains of the frontal cloud to the West and light levels dropped. I made my way back towards Lasham and despite the lack of sun was still able to find 1-2kts of lift and stay high.

Cloudbase by now had dropped to 4000 feet. Back at Lasham then came the surprise of the day. I found 2-3kts that took me to 4000 feet and cloudbase. But then as I went to the Southeast side of the cloud I encountered 6-8kts of very turbulent lift that took me through some cloud wisps and straight up the side of the main cloud. Suddenly I was at TMA, 4800 feet and bumping my head on the airspace ceiling! Out of interest I pushed to the Western side of the cloud to peer along the street from the side, but didn't find any other lift. So went back and found the turbulent lift again and topped up back to TMA height being careful not to be flipped by the turbulence. Eventually as I entered golden hour the thermals finally began to decay quite suddenly, and I slowly sank my way back down, enjoying the lovely pre-sunset colours as I went. Eventually I trailer landed 2 hours 25 minutes after launch. A stonking day for the time of year! I've never soared to TMA from a winch launch in November before.

Meanwhile some people did go to the ridge and it was working, if not spectacularly. Upwind jumps across the gaps were apparently made possible by making use of thermals to gain extra height. However given the reports and my inexperience of soaring the South Downs ridge (not been there solo) I think I made the right decision not to go on this occasion. Meanwhile back on the ground, once my feet had thawed (must have been about -7C at cloudbase) I was again greatful of help offered to get the glider de-rigged before it got dark. Then a spectacular sunset ensued to end the day.

Saturday 18th October 2008

I didn't think it would be that great today. But I was going anyway for a meeting at 5pm. Still looked good for training though so my colleague from 13th September came with me again. We arrived around 10AM to find the airfield much busier than I expected, and all the gliders in use. Oops should have gone to the 8AM ballot as usual. I ended up at the launch point in the morning helping out while my colleague managed to get into the superfalke and got lots of training in that. Heh had lots of fun.

At lunchtime I ended up in the Duo Discus with another pilot flying mutually (me as P1). We got away off an 1800 foot winch launch. Cloudbase was up at 3000 feet with 1-2kt thermals (and some stronger - best was 4.5kts on the averager. Quite a lot of spreadout at times and a freshening wind meant no chance fo cross country. We were up for 1h45m. We could have stayed up for longer but it was cold aloft and despite drinking almost nothing and gouing before launch I had to descend to go again. Oops... My landing was a bit naff too with a balloon and a flump. Oops... But nothing major.

Then off to the meeting at 5pm before heading home as it got dark. A pleasant day of fresh air and some bonus soaring. Can't moan for October!

Sunday 21st September 2008

I was expecting a fairly blue day today, with the possibility of some wisps of cumulus later on. So nothing too spectacular. I was still surprised that I was the only person to turn up for the ballot. So Discus SH3 was mine. I wasted no time taking advantage of an offer to help me rig and was ready to fly by the 9:30AM briefing. Then after helping out others and yakking I got the glider to the launchpoint about 11'ish. I wasn't expecting much to happen before about 1pm.

However, during the morning a few small cumulus had been spotted in the distance to the south and east. Around 11:30AM these started to form closer to the airfield and suddenly it looked a lot better than forecast. So I devoured my lunch early and scrambled to the aerotow queue. I was airborne at about 12:15pm and found that 3000 feet was already reachable. With better looking conditions to the south I headed for the first planned turning point of Midhurst West (MIW). Down that way cloudbase was reachable at about 3900'QNH and easy to find lift.

On the way back I found my best thermal of the day, a 5 knot average to cloudbase at 4300'QNH over Liss. I then passed Lasham into bluer skies. Basingstoke was in a blue hole with cumulus beyond. But I was down to 2600'QNH and not finding anything so I backtracked to wisps behind me in the direction of Lasham (to stay in range). I found a Buzzard soaring (one of several spotted and soared with today) and joined it in weak lift but did not climb significantly. I edged back towards Lasham and was down to 2000'QNH (1400 feet above Lasham) before I found lift good enough to scrape away again.

Once back at height I went West to Micheldever near Popham where there was cumulus and climbed to over 4000 feet before heading north to Overton and then to some bigger cumulus just beyond Kingsclere, near Aldermaston. Given the time I decided not to go for my original target of Chievely and headed back to Lasham to local soar a bit longer before descending. My last climb over the airfield took me to cloudbase at 4800'QNH (4200 feet above Lasham). I then descended and landed to complete a very poleasant if challenging at times day.

I heard Chievely northwards was very nice. Oh well I should have pushed harder. But never mind. I did find it very hard to centre at times with thermals being quite turbulent, narrow and distorted in the inherently stable air. The cumulus also seemed to pancake a little bit so it took a bit of hunting to find any cores. From online feedback I think it was better further inland but never mind. I still managed LAS-MIW-BAS-MIC-KGS-LAS for 121km. So I am not complaining. Just don't ask me about task speed. :P (Total flight time 3h23m.)

Saturday 13th September 2008

The weather was looking uncertain today. But as a colleague wanted to go back and make use of his temporary membership, and a chance of a decent day was in hand, I decided to go, picking up my colleague en route. I failed to get a Discus in the ballot, but got SH7, a Grob102 with a retractable undercarriage. After breakfast I helped rig the Discuses then took my colleague to the main briefing and helped get him set up on the system. Thanks to the person who pulled SH7 out of the hangar while I was doing this. Before long we were out at the launch point, me waiting for the weather and him for an instructor and glider.

I aerotowed SH7 about 11:40AM. There was a slight tailwind (almost nil). Cloudbase turned out much lower than expected as I reached and passed cloudbase on tow! I released just under 2000 feet and sunk back to cloudbase where I did find 1-2kt thermals. So I played around in the cloudstreets between Lasham and the Southampton airspace (where cloudbase was highest) waiting for it to climb. From a 1700 foot start it got as high as 1900 to the south (visibly lower to the north) and in one hotspot got as high as 2200 feet. However spreadout was quite bad and at Lasham cloudbase dropped to only 1600 feet as a big blue hole came in from the north. With such low cloudbase it was uncrossable for me and I fell back down after 1h43m. So in retrospect, it was a relatively good day to fail to get a Discus as conditions were not cross countryable during this flight. Indeed all 6 club single seaters were on the ground during this blue hole.

Meanwhile my colleague had 2 winch launches with an instructor in a K13 and was having lunch when I came down. He re-appeared later with a brand new logbook.

Mid afternoon the K21 778 came back and was being parked up. I swiped it (having verified it was OK to do so!) and put it in the aerotow queue. I proceeded to take my colleague up as a passenger (Gee gave me the green light in the morning). We were up for 41 minutes and soared in 2-3kts to 3000 feet just SW of the airfield. His first taste of soaring. Then I headed to Basingstoke. Here cloudbase was 300 feet lower. But we got a good view of life below us, from the M3 motorway to a cricket match in full swing. Thermals were quite difficult to centre in I found. They seemed to be distorted. Possibly because the wind on the ground looked to be northerly, but SW'erly in the air with weather higher up coming from the East. So a right mix of winds! He got queasy after half an hour (that was my limit when I first started so all quite normal) so we left cloudbase behind and descended back to Lasham.

So a pleasant day given the conditions and awesome to have been able to bring an evening airex person back for more flights! We need all the members we can get so this is a valuable addition, and hopefully the start of a long and fulfilling hobbie for him (like it has been for me). And perhaps doubles the persuasion power at work to see if anyone else would like to take it up. We shall see!

Saturday 23rd August 2008

I went to Lasham today not expecting much despite a good forecast, because only 1 Discus and 2 Grobs were available in the ballot, and a competition was on. So I had a plan B to grab a 2 seater, and plan C to go walking in the Chilterns. The forecast was also good. However, only 4 people turned up, and shock horror, I won the ballot, and duely grabbed the Discus, SH4! I raced to get it ready and to the launch point before the competition briefing at 10AM. I decided to try for the A class task of LAS-Burbage-Thrapston-Isley-LAS for about 340km.

After another mad rush I managed to get a winch launch to 1300 feet just after 11AM. The comp grid started launching at 11:15AM so my launch was nicely timed. Thermals were already going to 3000 feet. It took me a little while to get away as the thermal cores were quite narrow and shifting around. But once I was up at height I wasted no time heading off towards Burbage. Once on my way I went a long way without turning, and I was atleast half way there by the time the first competition start gate opened. Conditions were good, with bigger and bigger clouds the further I went. Eventually I encountered spreadout and turned at Rivar Hill in the end as it didn't look nice at Burbage.

I then set off for Thrapston. Going past Didcot and Oxford conditions were booming and I again made fast progress, not needing to turn much. Only note in the Westcott area was a close encounter with a glider going the other way, less than a wing span. Just goes to remind me that no matter how well you think you are looking out, there can always be room for improvement! On I went Northeastwards. However, as I got to the Milton Keynes area the way ahead was very spreadout and intimidating. However to the north it looked good. So I turned at a place called Stony Stratford on the edge of Milton Keynes then headed north. Once I got back into better air around Northampton it was booming again, and before I knew it I was close to Husbands Bosworth gliding club. It was a bit spreadout there too but I had no problem turning HUS.

Then I decided to turn for home. Again between Northampton and Bicester it was booming, with up to 7kts on the averager at times (probably 8-9kts but for that the narrow shifting cores - up to 10kts in the best of them - I found hard to centre) and cloudbase as high as 5500 feet QNH. And even up there the wind was less than 10 knots. I also took time to have a good look as Silverstone race track as I passed over it. But then the fun really began. South of Bicester the spreadout was starting to get severe. So from Oxford onwards I flew very cautiously, staying very high and flying pretty much at best glide speed across some huge gaps that were developing. I did get some good climbs near Didcot though, enough to put me on glide for Brimpton air strip. So I set off for Brimpton, arriving still well below glide height for Lasham. I also was watching a glider landing there too as I approached. However I found weakish lift and before long a gaggle of about 5 gliders was soaring with me. Eventually I got up to glide just as I appeared to lose the thermal, and so set off for Lasham. Once round Aldermaston it was pretty dead until Basingstoke. A little sink put me below glide again, but a decent thermal over Basingstoke quickly pushed me back up with enough energy for a nice fast finish.

So yay! I thought it might not happen the way this year was going, but I finally managed a 2008 300km flight, and given the challenging last leg, it was a buzz just to to make it back! No doubt the light wind helped as I could take weaker climbs without drifting, and so park myself and think about what next. LAs-RIV-STS-HUS-LAS for 314km was the final tally. I did it in about 4 hours 15 minutes at about 73kph (total flight time 4h40m) so not bad given the big spreadout issues.

A fellow pilot in one of the S&H Grob 102s wasn't so lucky though. He ended up in a rough field near Wantage. So it was a mad dash to find 2 other people and some extra equipment, and then after getting SH4 derigged and in its trailer, we got the Grob's trailer out to the field. It took quite a while to work out how to get the glider out. The field was a stubble field that had been ploughed up so was too rough to be able to drive on or drag the glider across intact. In the end we found an accessible grass bank on the north side of the field (albeit up a hill). Then we had to derig the glider in situ, and carry the wings and tailplane across to the trailer. Then we had fun rolling the fuselage across. That was the hardest bit. Then we had problems with the belly dolly, as well as some late rain. But eventually we got it away just as it was getting dark. Well that was one helluva workout! Then back to Lasham in the dark to recover over drinks and a late supper (thanks Dave for buying those for us!) before a late drive home to collapse in a heap tired but happy.

Sunday 27th July 2008

I did indeed fly again today. The day started interestingly enough, as at 7:15AM a hot air balloon landed right near the clubhouse. I first saw it on the other side of the road almost on the ground there. They then used the burners, just cleared the trees and the main hangar before coming to rest close to the peri track. They were packed away and drinking champagne with a few minutes to spare before the restaurant opened for breakfast. Nice one.

I could afford a nice slow lazy start as no ballot to worry about (glider booked yesterday), and a quick DI was all I needed to do with SH3. I had towed SH3 to the grid by the 9:30AM briefing. In the briefing 3 tasks were set. The middle one, LAS-Sherborne-Oxford East-LAS for 300km was the one I targeted, with the option of going on past Sherborne to Honiton for 400km if it was good down that way. Meanwhile last nigth I had requested a special plain sandwich from the restaurant. That sandwich was delicious. Thanks B2Z catering!

The grid started launching at 11AM. I was towed at 11:30AM. I released at 1400 feet as at that height we were going through a sizeable thermal. I found 2-3kts which took me above 3000 feet under a wisp of cloud. I promptly set off Westwards to bigger clouds, and quickly romped my way Westwards with little in the way of turning between Bullington Cross and Salisbury. By that point I was a little north of track as there was a bit of a gap and smaller clouds beyond that on track. Eventually I crossed the gap and found towards Shaftsbury cloudbase had plummeted to only 3500'QNH and thermals became much more scratchy - presumably a result of sea air influence. It was getting hard going so I decided to turn SHA and extract myself to better air. (I had heard others with more balls carried on and went all the way to Honiton and back OK. But c'est la vie.)

This was the slowest part of my flight. It took me a long time to struggle back to better clouds. I headed towards Warminster, where cloudbase was around 4000-4500'QNH. I did briefly cloudclimb (when SH3's T/S decided to work reliably again) for a few hundred feet once but the thermal, as with many today, was anything but wide and circular and easy to lose. So I abandoned the cloud climb and decided to stay VMC. I turned Westbury which gave me a clear run past Keevil, between Salisbury plains and Lyneham. The further East I went the better conditions got. By Devises I was finding good lift and a steadily increasing cloudbase, but bigger gaps to cross too. Around Oxford it was booming, with huge clouds, and between 4 and 7.5kts seen on my averager to as high as 5500'QNH cloudbase.

I turned OXF and at that point decided it was time to go home as the clouds were starting to overdevelop and spread out. I hopped my way home past bigger and bigger gaps, but they was easy to cross with thermals with narrow but strong cores under the big clouds. I soon climbed up onto my final glide, which was boosted by energy from strong thermals I flew through around Aldermaston and Basingstoke. That was enough for another excitingly fast 120-125kt finish at about 3:10PM. Soon after I landed the clouds overdeveloped and spread out big time. I even saw a few spots of rain too. So I was right to return home when I did I think rather than improvise my way back up to 300km.

So LAS-SHA-WES-OXF-LAS was my task for 266km, flown in about 3h30m. Faster than yesterday at 76kph, but still slowed down by sticky patches. But still great fun. Now I need to rest as I am knackered! Sods law says it'll be a 750 day tomorrow...

Saturday 26th July 2008

I came last Wednesday but didn't fly as conditions were rubbish, with only 2500' cloudbase. Oh well. But today was much better. I got a Discus (SH3) in the ballot and after rigging and DI'ing, and briefing, took it to the launch point. I had 3 tasks from the briefing noted down. Took a winch launch at about 11pm'ish. But I had a rubbish launch, too slow and only to 1000 feet. With no thermals close enough I fell down after just 4 minutes. However About 12:20pm I got to go again just as the grid launch was finishing. Much better launch this time to 1250 feet and a thermal close by to get away on.

After reaching a 3000' cloudbase (3600'QNH) I set off quickly. Cloudbase was a bit lower to the northwest but it eventually rose again. A straight forward hop over to the Membury area and then joined a gaggle through the gap between Lyneham and Brize. There it was a bit bluer but cloudbase was higher. West of the Brize zone it was good but Birdlip was in the middle of a big blue hole. After topping up I could see wisps in the blue so set off for Birdlip using the wisps as stepping stones. After a good climb to 3600'QNH less than 10km from Birdlip I made it and then set off East again. I got quite low (2200'QNH) before I climbed away again on a 4 knotter which got me to the good clouds again.

Then across the north side of the Brize zone there were big clouds. The closer I got to Banbury the better it got. At one point I had 8kts on the averager, and at Banbury it was stonking, with cloudbase up at 5500'QNH. I romped around there and then it was south to Oxford. Between Oxford and Newbury there was quite a lot of medium cloud so I took it cautiously and stayed high as I could. Eventually I made it past Newbury into better air and near Aldermaston made it onto final glide. A huge thermal over Basingstoke boosted me as I passed through it and gave me enough energy for a competition finish at almost VNE. Wheeeee!

So LAS-BIR-BAN-LAS for 263km. Only about 69kph so not fast thanks to the Birdlip hole. But great fun and my first big XC of the year. After landing I booked SH3 for tomorrow as well as a bunkhouse room and will plan to fly again tomorrow.

Wednesday 16th July 2008

I'm on holiday now. Today was the best day of the week. So I came to glide. I managed to bag a Discus in the ballot. Was planning Cerne Abbas and back after the briefing. Winch launches looked awful again with K13's barely making circuit height. So I gridded (enough people for a midweek grid) and was launched at 11:01. At times there was a lot of cirrus aloft. I tiptoed my way to Chilbolton. With weakish thermals before lunch and a ceiling of only 3500'QNH it was tricky. Beyond CBN was a big blue hole. With thick top cover coming I decided not to risk it and tried for Hungerford as bigger clouds to the North. But at Hurstbourne Tarrant it looked dead at Hungerford. So I diverted to Newbury South (NES) before returning to Basingstoke West (BGW). Towards CBN it looked good now so went back there before returning and local soaring for a while. I landed 3h27m after launch.

The highlight of the flight was a series of spectacular colourful halos around the sun, and a circumhorizon arc around the 1pm mark when the sun was at its highest. These optical effects were seen somewhere near Bullington Cross. They were very colourful and I tried to take pictures of them. Back on the ground the other highlight was a low flyby by a B2 bomber, either on its way to or coming from the nearby Farnborough Airshow.

Sunday 15th June 2008

Original plan today was to take a friend up as a passenger. But given how today turned out I am kinda glad she pulled out. After the pullout I managed to book a Discus on Friday morning. So this morning there was none of the usual apprehensiveness as I didn't have to endure the ballot. Good job too as the only available Discus there turned out to be U/S! After getting the glider ready I decided to grid it as once again winch launches looked rubbish.

I launched at 11:15AM into a rapidly overdeveloping sky. Despite this I got away easily and locally it was quite soarable. It looked good to the South so I went that way first, and got to HARting fairly easily. Then turned round to see a decaying sky. Oops! I got low near Petersfield, down to 2400' QNH. But found a young and weak blue thermal right over PTW which saved me. It strengthened as I got higher and eventually I was back to cloudbase and on my way again. After that it was an easy romp to NEWbury. I would have gone further north but a huge gap stopped me. Instead I followed a huge street to my West which took me all the way to MARlborough without turning. I saw a way across to the South so then hopped over to ANDover before crossing a gap then following another big street back to BASingstoke. Then I blasted back up the street, diving under low bits of cloud, and turned HURstbourne Tarrant. On the way back I played with the thermals near Bullington Cross. The lower cloudbase right under the street was at 4200' QNH. But on the sunny side the highest cloudbase was 4900' QNH - a 700' difference which made for some awesome views, climbing the sides of clouds quite a way and then having fun blasting between big clouds, over and under too. Some of the thermal strengths were as high as 8 knots under the streets too, generally 2-5kts elsewhere. Eventually I took one more climb to 4600' up the side of a cloud SW of Lasham, then headed into a hole towards Basingstoke where I let my height slowly bleed off on purpose, and then did a 'competition finish' to land 4 hours 2 minutes after launch.

So my total task was LAS-HARting-NEWbury-MARlborough-ANDover-BASingstoke-HURstbournetarrant-LAS for 230km. Although I entered MAR-LAS for 177km into the ladder as too many turnpoints otherwise. Speed rather slow as I wasn't rushing, just having fun and following the weather. I took loads of photos, so expect some of them to appear on my piccies page before too long!

Sunday 8th June 2008

Unfortunately my luck has reverted. Lots of naff weekends again, and in the good ones single seater availability was almost nil. Last weekend I failed in the ballot again, and ended up going off butterflying instead. (I don't actually think I missed much mind you!) During the week I tried to book a glider for Saturday 7th, but failed. In the end I didn't bother turning up despite it being forecast to be the better day. I did come today anyway as the S&H AGM was at 5pm, but YET AGAIN failed in the ballot. Came 4th out of 3 gliders. Given I am an unlimited member I feel like demanding my 800 quid back as how am I expected to make it work when I can't get near the qualifying gliders?

Fortunately the DG1000 776 was available in the compass list and I swiped it. After faffing around for ages getting it rigged (was in the trailer) and DI'ed, I was going to go to the winch but noticed conditions were as awful as last time I winched this glider, with a slight tailwind and others barely making circuit height. So I opted for the back of a huge grid. After a long wait I was launched for my first solo flight in a DG1000 at 2pm. Thermals were only 1-2kts with occasional 3kts+ and cloudbase maxxed out at 4000 feet. But I am not clear to go cross country in this glider so I lost another chance to get off the starting blocks for XC km. I landed after 2h42m so I could make the AGM but could have stayed up longer. Still cost me 66 smackers in soaring fees which hurt given I'm already 800 big ones down for the year. But atleast I am current!

Saturday 24th May 2008

At last! A half decent soaring flight. Weather forecast wasn't that great but thought I'd give it a go anyway. The place was deserted at ballot time so I swiped Discus 'SH2'. I also helped rig another Discus whose pilot then helped me dig 'my' Discus out the back of the hangar and tow it to the launch point. It was rather windy today (yellow sock conditions - 15-20kts NE'erly gusting 30 atleast) so we were on runway 05 medium runway. Some time before noon I winch launched to 1500 feet, found nothing but sink and was back on the ground 5 minutes later. Oops! I tried again, launching just after noon to 1600 feet. This time I contacted a thermal and was away. I had to staircase my way up to avoid being drifted too far downwind. Cloudbase up at 3500 feet AGL. At Lasham it eventually rose to the TMA. Viz early on was abysmal, but it improved through the afternoon. There were good streets in places. I stayed local today. At 3000 feet I measured a tail wind of 36 knots! Above 4000 feet the wind was curiously lighter (which the morning's forecast soundinds did show) and more towards Easterly. I was finding a good few 5-6kt averages and cloudbase was quite variable, lower to the north. At one point I left northwards at cloudbase and arrived at the next cloud above it's base. At another point I left a cloud at cloudbase and found weak shear wave and climbed several hundred feet. I called it on the radio and then promptly lost it! Apparently some people scrambled on that call. Oops! (I'm sure Lasham won't complain from the extra revenue though...). After 2 hours I was starting to get a headache and feel queasy (no doubt not enough sleep recently and the rough conditions were to blame). Drinking and eating all my in flight nibbles didn't help. One last climb around 2:30pm took me to 4750 feet. Then a gentle cruise downwards to land after 2 hours 52 minutes. It still looked soarable when I left at 4:30pm but top cover from an approaching front was arriving. (Wet weather expected the next 2 days - typical bank holiday!)

Ahhh it's nice to be back! Please tell me the weekend curse is finally broken!

Saturday 10th May 2008

Argh! This year is a disaster. Weekend after weekend of naff weather, while good soaring weather comes during the week but never lasts til the weekend. I had taken a day off on Friday 2nd May, but that was also a disaster as frequent heavy showers, lots of jet movements and getting seriously fed up by mid afternoon finally defeated me and I went home having not flown. I briefly considered giving up gliding then as I am now worse off than last year, and that was a pretty awful year! I am regretting going unlimited again as I almost certainly won't make up the hours now unless a miracle occurs.

Today continued the vein of naff weekend weather. The forecast was good too. Firstly I did not get a glider in the ballot as there was only one available. Everyone was doing their nuts about that. It's a repeat of the awful situation last year. However, the DG1000's were both available on the compass list so on the CFI's advice I nipped into the briefing room and snuck my name onto the compass list for today for 776. Mine! First I had 3 check winch launches with an instructor before lunch which were useful as I did feel a little rusty today. Was cramping my circuit a little and ending up too high and going long. Not good. The flights were also rather short as a short winch run and slight tail wind meant only 1000 feet on the launch. But sorted in the end. Then the plan was for Steve Powell and I to go soaring together, me as P1 and him as P2. In the end we got off the ground at about 4:20pm. (Thermals didn't get going locally until mid afternoon as more top cover than expected prevented enough heating to reach trigger temperature for good thermals.) But at best there was only weak blue thermals to 2300 feet above Lasham. Then a slow sink back to land after 24 minutes. But atleast we did something and felt better than moping around on the ground all day. So I am _still_ waiting to have a decent thermal, and even dare I say it, cross country flight, this year!

Friday 4th April 2008

I took another Friday opportunity and blasted to Lasham for noon. I quickly got a Discus out of the trailer and promptly found no tail rigging tool and two dead batteries still installed! However I got it rigged eventually when I found some help, and borrowed the tool of an other Discus. Then over to the launch point as quickly as possible. I managed to get into the air on the winch at 13:49. Cloudbase was about 2500 feet AGL to the North with nice big clouds, and 2700-2800 feet to the south but smaller clouds and harder thermals. I got away slowly under a small cloud over the winch while the cables were being retrieved. Then just played, traversing along and across cloud streets, between Four Marks to the South and Basingstoke to the North. Best list was maybe 3 knots, but plenty of 0.5-2kts too. After about 15:30 cloudbase dropped to 2000 feet and the day started to die. After hanging on a little longer I decided to land at 16:02. Given the awful weather of late I am glad to have snuck 2 valuable hours in. Never good enough for me to go cross country, but great to finally get a long soaring flight in.

Friday 7th March 2008

On Fridays I currently have a half day, and finish at 11AM. So today I had arranged to meet Colin Watt at the airfield and have some training flights for a passenger rating. The day started very wet as a cold front went through soaking me during the morning commute to work. However by mid morning that was long gone and the sky was nice and clear. By 11AM when I left the office cumulus was already popping. I got to Lasham soon after noon, the sky looking increasingly soarable. After the lunch break I fished a K13 out of the hangar and DI'ed it. Colin and I got it to the launch point.

Soon after 2:30pm we aerotow launched it to 2000 feet. On the way up I pushed down through the propwash to the low tow position, then to the left, and then diagonally back up to normal high tow position. By now there were some nice cloudstreets around. We joined the Lasham K21 just north of the airfield and found a decent thermal. With the K13's winter vario gusting beyond 6kts up we started to outclimb the K21, who promptly recentered around us. We left the thermal at about 4000 feet. Ahhh! It's great to be soaring again after the long winter. We then flew upwind along the street towards Popham, maintaining our height just over 4000 feet. I reckon cloudbase was about 4500 feet AGL. Then after briefly soaring with a Buzzard we headed South away from the street into calmer air and started spinning exercises. Down we went and after 33 minutes I had completed a circuit and reasonable landing. My first K13 flight for almost 5 years.

Then followed three winch launches. The first launch was fine, and despite various stalling exercises managed 8 minutes aloft. Colin ran me out of height a bit but I tightened my circuit and arrived safely to a normal approach. My 2nd landing was a fair bit heavier than I would have liked and I wasn't happy with it. But no harm done thankfully. This demonstrated that I wasn't too current on K13's.

For the next two flights Colin had arranged for simulated power failures. The first was up at 600 feet and I decided it was borderline getting in straight ahead. So I elected to do a 360 degree turn. This time a smoother landing. Then the second launch failure was a bit lower and I was easily in straight ahead, with a perfect landing this time. Then back to the hangar from there and put the glider away.

It seems Colin was happy enough with my flying to grant me the passenger rating I was after, so that was awesome. And the training was valuable revision and great fun and should keep my skills sharp ready for the new soaring season. So a lovely afternoon all round. And ready to take the friends who have been prodding me up in the air with me now.

Sunday 10th February 2008

The soaring season is tantalisingly close now, with a few thermals around now during the week recently. However I wasn't expecting anything today as high pressure was in charge and the airmass was far too warm and stable. It was a very frosty start, and clear apart from a few minor mist patches. I arrived around 7:40AM and after about 10 minutes I decided to have a play with my X-Twin R/C plane. Atlast, some calm conditions, and it flew nicely, getting quite high at one point. Then ballot, breakfast, get gliders out and briefing.

I grabbed a Discus (SH3) that was in the hangar. The morning started eventfully as the launch point bus caught fire as I was towing out. I got there to find the back of the bus and the runway covered in fire extinguisher foam, and an ATC fire truck in attendance. A winch was brought out to tow the bus home. However winching continued, and I had 2 launches before lunch. The second was delayed when the retrieve cable broke, but hey. I got to 1300 and 1500 feet respectively. There was a marked inversion at about 900 feet, and bubbly below that. Then after lunch I took an aerotow to 3000 feet. On all 3 flights I played with my new camera. On the aerotow flight, I was down to just under 1500 feet near the refinery, and found a weak blue thermal. I climbed to about 1600 feet before I started to drift too far away. I was bumping my head on the inversion too just above me. After playing with some weak lift at 800 feet briefly it was in to land and hand the glider over to another pilot.

So my first thermal of the year, albeit an unremarkable one. A pleasant day that was rather mild too. Now I await the start of the soaring season.

Sunday 6th January 2008

December was a bit naff for weather much of the time. But no worries at this time of year as I wasn't missing much. I did come by Lasham on Thursday 27th December to pay my membership renewal. I remain an unlimited member, just like I was last year. I decided to come to fly today to keep current. The forecast clearly showed a clearer and brighter day for today. A nice weather window between rain bands. I arrived to find the car park under a thick layer of frost as last night's rain drops had frozen and grown frosty hairdos. Made the patio tables look pretty anyway. At breakfast time the place was deserted. However others did eventually turn up. After the briefing we opened up the hangar and I dug a S&H Discus B (SH3) out of the back of the hangar. It was filthy, but not for long once I'd cleaned it with kind help from another club member. Out at the launchpoint I found the wings had iced up a bit so left it to warm up in the sun for a while. Late morning I got it into the aerotow queue (no winch today - broken) and was off just before noon.

Up in the air it was quite bumpy until about 800 feet, above where it all went very smooth. I released from tow at 2000 feet and gentle floated back to earth, enjoying the slightly murky view. A pretty uneventful winter hop in totally unsoarable air. I sank back into the thin low turbulent air as I commenced my circuit and landed slightly unelegantly but acceptably next to the launch point. Back on the ground I then found out about the 15 to 1500 feet deal due to lack of winch. Doh! So back into the aerotow queue. For the 2nd flight I released at 1500 feet. In the first flight I noticed curious wind patterns, and noticed again on this flight. Above 800 feet the wind was about 20 knots from the SW. Below that height in the bumpy air the wind was much lighter from the SSW. The boundary was quite distinct. As a result, despite strong winds at height, no wind gradient at ground level. Curious. After the 2nd flight I handed the glider to another member and went back to the clubhouse for lunch. So a fairly standard winter's day. Fairly cold, and flew enough to keep current and in practice.

Before I left I bought an X-Twin remote control plane and some gliding clothing off Pete Masson, and watched him and two others have an aerial dogfight with three bigger remote control planes on the south side of the airfield. That was great fun to watch! Then off home as it started to get dark. Now I await a chance to play with my new toy!

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