Diary 2017

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.

2017 <- | 2018

2018 Gliding Pictures

Wednesday 25th July 2018
Even hotter. Square thermals. Great looking sky but hard to find and use thermals. 252km still achieved.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

This was one hot week. This summer has been insane with a never ending heat wave. However it has been a good summer for gliding with some high cloudbases and good conditions, not the usual summer heat where a low inversion keeps a blue lid on things. Indeed this week today was looking like the best day when I looked ahead on Monday. (It turned out yesterday was also quite good but a slow start.) I decided to book a glider and got SH2, with SH4 already booked. By last night I was ready with the motorbike. After a lovely cool blast through heavy traffic thanks to various breakdowns and accidents I arrived safely at Lasham at 7:50AM. I was so glad I was on the motorbike! I could see top cover to the West and Northwest which looked like it was drifting our way.

I was asked to draw the ballot at 8AM. Rick was pleased as I drew him out first! He helped me rig SH2 at 8AM before breakfast, with DI done by 8:35AM. It was good to get it done nice and early before it heated up too much. Craig was the other person with a Discus booking so that meant all 3 Discuses were flown by Rick, Craig and I, the single seater subcommittee. I soon went for another nice breakfast. Then I wandered over to the winch and buggy hangar, and at 9AM I was granted permission to borrow a Lasham truck to take SH2 to the launch point before briefing. Cumulus was already starting to pop to the South by the 9:30AM briefing.

There was a general very light Northwest to Northerly drift in the airmass. 30-31C was expected in places. 6000 foot cloudbases were possible in East Anglia. However an upper cold front might mean showers there. 4500-4800 foot cloudbase was more likely here with small clouds and sea air later on. A higher cloudbase to the North and a bit more cloud with strong thermals was expected. I was glad I came today as it looked like it was destabilizing from tomorrow with showers and thunderstorms possible. There were no notams to worry about in the task area. Tasks were set to the North. I liked the look of the 350km task to Wantage, Oundle, and back via Hungerford. The main pain was an incoming movement due at 11AM, just when we were likely to be wanting to launch.

After the briefing I returned slowly to the launch point and got the glider ready for launch. I planned the 350km task in the Clearnav and on the map. It was quickly starting to look nice aloft with plenty of good looking cumulus all around. I was thinking of pulling into the winch queue at 10:20AM but the first launch of the day had resulted in a cable snapping so it was out of action while they fixed that. So I pushed into the aerotow queue instead. However it was quite a big queue and the grid was starting up so I wasn't sure I'd get away before the movement. Thankfully the winch got fixed. With only 2 gliders in that queue I quickly shoved the glider back to the winch queue. That worked up a sweat but was worth it. After just a short delay I was ready at the front and cleared for launch by the grid. Even a short delay with the canopy down was baking in the hot sunshine!

At 10:50AM I winch launched to 1200 feet above Lasham, not bad given there was more or less no wind. With great relief I soon cooled down again as the cooler air aloft rushed through the vents into my face and cockpit. Nearby there was a nice cumulus cloud and I quickly found a 4-5 knot thermal that took me straight to cloudbase at 2800 feet above Lasham (3400 feet QNH). This was a lot lower than the weather station had calculated (above 800 feet out). However I was glad to get into the air before the 11AM movement. I played around locally for a while, starting off on cross country but not feeling too comfortable with a low cloudbase, large scrappy looking spreadout clouds, and not that easy to find thermals past the Basingstoke area. After going back to Lasham and restarting I went out a bit further to the Kingsclere area but was struggling. Up ahead on the radio I heard Rick calling that he was arriving at Newbury. But I turned back again and made my way slowly back to Lasham after scraping enough height to get back to better thermals. (The top cover did come and go a bit but it was never enough to damp down convection too much. So I am glad the forecast upper air didn't put me off.) After a bit more time at Lasham cloudbase was heading up to nearly 4000 feet QNH. I set off again at 12:13PM. This time conditions were nicer and I made good progress to Newbury and on towards Wantage. Around Wantage the sky was much more open with just small clouds. To the West it was blue. It was a bit more of a struggle now with thermals hard to find and stay in. I did get low once or twice but got away OK. After turning Wantage I carried on Northeastwards. I struggled for a while and at one point I was effectively local soaring Abingdon and down to just 2500 feet struggling to climb. But once past the Abingdon area the clouds were looking bigger and nicer again. But not all the nice clouds were working well. It was hard to find thermals. There were some strong ones about but often I had to settle for weaker climbs to avoid getting too low to cross some gaps. The thermals were also hard to centre in as they were all over the place. I carried on past Bicester. Up ahead someone turned back at Buckingham due to 'square thermals'. I had to agree that was a good assessment. Given my slow pace I decided to do the same. I turned Buckingham and then retreated Southeastwards. All around people on the radio were complaining of how great the sky looked but how poor the thermals were. It didn't sound any easier up track with people there reporting duff patches.

Back towards Didcot I was in better conditions again. However I could see up ahead that it was going blue towards Hungerford. About 10km short of Hungerford I was under the last decent looking small cumulus and struggling to climb above 3600 feet. Newbury had much better clouds above it so I diverted to Newbury Racecourse where I turned. Between here and Didcot conditions were still fairly nice so I decided to head back North and extend the task. Turning Didcot would make up 250km. With some lucky climbs in the blue (young thermals) I eventually turned Didcot. Towards Oxford looked a bit naff now so I decided this was enough today and turned Southwards again. Again I was struggling to climb at times but eventually mae it Southwards to Newbury again. Here was a nice cloud and I couldn't resist looking for one last climb under the FL65 airspace. I quickly found 4-5 knots that took me to 5800 feet (5200 feet above Lasham). Up here it was about 13C. I enjoyed that one last time before setting off on a fast blast of a final glide (I was more than 1500 feet above glide), descending back into the oven for a fast flyby before landing uneventfully near the trailer at 3:43PM, 4 hours 53 minutes after launch. (29C on the ground was baking after 13C 5200 feet above a short while ago!)

The first thing I noticed on landing was that SH3's trailer had vanished. It transpired that Rick had pressed on when I turned back, and ended up landing out near Harwell. Someone was already on his way with the trailer to retrieve him. Meanwhile I wasted no time downloading my trace, packing up my stuff and cleaning the glider. After about 20 minutes Craig landed in SH4. He planned to leave his out overnight. I contacted the office who told me SH2 was booked for tomorrow. It was OK for me to leave it out too. Great! So I parked it for the night and had finished that and putting the battery and parachutes away by 4:25PM. I departed on a hot motorbike at 4:45PM. It was another awful traffic rush hour. Google said 2 hours 10 but with lots of filtering, especially on a car park of an M25, I was back in 1 hour 15. Hot and sweaty as it was 31C back home but worth it not to be stuck forever in the traffic! (Nothing a cool shower didn't solve...)

Saturday 14th July 2018
Hot but another great day. 'Only' 302km this time.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

I was unable to book a glider. This weekend was looking good. I decided to come and chance it in the ballot. I arrived by car (for a change) at 7:45AM and found that fellow single seater sub committee member Rick was the one that booked SH3. He was there for the ballot so we got him to draw. He kindly drew me out second and I was able to grab SH4, the glider I would have booked. As an early start was expected we all went out before breakfast to rig the gliders. They were all rigged and I had DI'ed SH4 by 8:45AM. I then headed back to the clubhouse for a nice breakfast. Meanwhile it had clouded over aloft. It had been showery yesterday and it looked like that moisture was burning off. Hopefully it would clear after a while. After breakfast I decided to book SH4 for Wednesday as the long range looked good. I turned up at the briefing at 9:20AM and plenty of people soon followed me in before it started at 9:30AM.

Today was slack air with a light and variable wind at ground level. A slow southerly drift was expected overall of less than 5 knots. The areas that got wet yesterday would have a slower start. Moisture was burning off currently. No upper cloud was around today at all. It could get up to 28C before sea air blows in. It was to be a lower cloudbase and higher humidity than recent days but still good with 4000 feet by 1pm and climbing. The areas near the Severn estuary should be avoided. It looks good to the North while spreadout is forecast for East Anglia. It was looking like a 6PM finish. A Red Arrows transit was expected between 1:40PM and 2:35PM, mostly at 500 feet. Farnborough was active until 1PM, and there are various flypasts and air shows, none of which I expected to affect me. Just good lookout for busy air traffic needed. Tasks were set to the North and then the West before coming back. I liked the look of the Winslow Evesham Bicester 300km task and decided to plan for that one.

Back outside I asked if I could borrow a Lasham truck to tow the glider out but none was available. However a buggy lay inactive near the hangar. The pilot of Crown Services K8 831 was ready to tow so we got together and used the buggy to tow SH4 and 831 out. Meanwhile aloft the cloud was clearing with stratus and spread out cumulus clearing away to the North-East. It was more sunny and getting rather hot now. Once at the launch point we left the buggy to be available for retrieving landed gliders. I got SH4 ready to fly as cumulus started building nearby. I programmed the 300km task into the ClearNav as well as marking it on my map. By 11:05AM I got itchy feet and pulled the glider into the winch queue. There was however a long delay as the grid was launching and the glider at the front was faffing about for a long time too. But eventually I made it to the front and was eager to get airborne. If anything the delay may have been beneficial as cloudbase had a chance to rise a bit.

I winch launched at 11:55AM to 1100 feet. But I released into a thermal and was able to make use of it while the next glider waited for a launch slot. By the time the next glider launched I had shifted South a bit and was out of the way. After a while struggling to gain much height I found a decent climb and got away. Cloudbase was still not much more than 3000 feet above Lasham with large soggy looking clouds. But I was keen to get North where I suspected better air and higher cloudbase was to be found. I tiptoed North a bit and took a climb where I found Rick in SH3 just above me. (He had grid launched just before I launched.) The thermal wasn't so great and after gaining some height I went back to Lasham to restart. By now cloudbase was up to 3400 feet, or 4000 feet QNH. I restarted and headed off downwind. Progress was good with lines of cloud to be followed. I went up the Eastern side of Aldermaston as cloudbase was still below the Compton Box airspace (base 4500 feet). Beyond the Newbury area the sky did indeed open up and cloudbase was 4 or 500 feet higher, which made it easier. I tracked around the Western side of Benson before making a beeline for Winslow.

Then I had a good blast Westwards in good conditions past Hinton in the Hedges and Banbury. I could see up ahead cloudbase dropped and it looked more scrappy and overdeveloped. As I approached the poorer air I found a nice climb to 5600 feet about 10-15km from Evesham. Then I blasted Westwards through gaps in the lower cloud and with good East-West energy lines I soon turned Evesham after crossing a gap. To the North side of me gliders from Bidford gliding club were aerotowing and soaring. I went over to join them and topped up to around a 4500 foot cloudbase before plodding back Eastwards. With weaker thermals and some gaps I took it cautiously and tried to stay high. Eventually after crossing back past the gaps I made it back to the better air and had a straight forward trip to Bicester North.

I then tracked Southwards. However there were a lot of big gaps now and the poor visibility made it hard to see which way was best to go. However I cloud hopped my way to Oxford and then on to Didcot. In this area I reached my best cloudbase where one strong climb took me to 6000 feet. After Harwell the gaps were very large. But I found a route Southwards that took me just down the West side of the Compton Box. I was struggling to find the thermals now under some flabbier clouds so progress was a little slow. I noticed a glider had landed out near Chievely and couldn't resist a few pics as I passed. I soon reached Greenham Common where I couldn't resist pausing and taking a gentle climb to cloudbase at about 5800 feet. Then I blasted home at 80-90kts on a fast final glide. However I had to slow down as heavy sink threatened to pull me down too low too soon. But after slowing to 70kts and cruising more gently I soon made it to the finish for a nice flyby and landed near the trailer at 4:22PM, 4 hours 27 minutes after launch.

I was the first Discus back. Indeed it was still good aloft but the sea air was approaching from the South. I proceeded to clean the glider and pack all my gear. I had not eaten in the air as my breakfast had kept me going. I found my banana in the glider pocket squashed like a pancake and looking very unappetising. Oh well I binned it and cleaned up the mess. Ed dropped by thinking I was someone else. Apparently it was about retrieving the person near Chievely, a girl from Imperial College. One by one the other Discuses arrived back. We all did 300km flights. So that was good. SH3 still has issues with its ClearNav, and SH4's USB socket was playing up again. Fortunately I grabbed my trace from the FLARM again instead. We proceeded to put the gliders away. By 5:50PM they were all put away and one pilot had gone to retrieve the landout. Rick and I went to the clubhouse. I bought him a coke and my sandwiches with a coke were lovely. I finally departed just after 6:30PM, getting home around 8PM.

It was another good flight today. LAS-WSL-EVE-BC3-LAS was 302km. At Evesham my speed was still above 80kph which was great. But a slow leg to Bicester slowed me down, as did the plod home into a strangthening headwind with hard to find thermals and a pause at Greenham Common to enjoy being up in the cool 8C air before descending back to the heat. That means in the last 3 flights in the last month I flew 1055km which is more than my total cross country distance in both 2016 and 2017. Brilliant! Here's to more of this before the summer ends.

Friday 6th July 2018
Hot but another great day. 'Only' 305km this time.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

Since my last flight 2 weeks ago it has been roasting hot pretty much every day. Much of it looked blue and uninspiring. But this week it destabilised with showers around. Yesterday looked nice with a 7000 foot cloudbase. I looked ahead and saw maybe a similar day for today so decided I should go. Nobody had booked any Discuses so I bagged SH4. Then I retrieved my motorbike and prepared to go gliding.

I arrived at 7:40AM after a nice ride in the 16C cool early morning air. There was bad traffic due to an M1 closure so I was so glad that I was on the motorbike! I soon got my gear sorted out and had a nice brekkie as usual. Then all 3 Discuses got rigged and DI'ed before the 9:30AM briefing. I was sweating buckets already as it warmed up rapidly. It was busy in the briefing albeit not totally packed.

We had a slack airmass today with a general very light Northwesterly drift. The satpic was clear of cloud and it was already 21C. A maximum of 30C was expected at Lasham. Yesterday cloudbase reached nearly 8000 feet QNH at Oxford! It looks like a high cloudbase again today albeit not quite as high as yesterday. There was the possibility of spreadout further North and maybe 2-3/8 cloud cover here. A late finish was expected. There were some airspace issues today with a 5Nm radius around Kemble and an airway to the Northwest of that at 3500 feet getting in the way. Little Rissington was active, and Turweston and Silverstone were areas to avoid due the the British Formula 1 Grand Prix. There was also an air display at Yeovilton to consider too. A 100km task was set via Chilbolton and Wantage. I took a closer interest in the bigger tasks. A 347km task went to Salisbury South then up to Bozeat before coming back via Hurstbourne Tarrant. However I wasn't keen on this task as the track went straight over the middle of Salisbury Plain, hence a big diversion off track. The 505km task pointed us straight up to Corby, then Mottisfont Station, then Bicester North and back to Lasham and was more appealing to me as the basis of a plan.

After the briefing I got the glider to the launch point by 10:10AM after borrowing a Lasham truck. Then I sorted myself out in clubhouse and then returned to the launch point. I planned the 350 and 500 tasks in the Clearnav and drew on the map under the wing. Which way I went first I would decide after launch depending on how the day was developing. By 11AM gusts were getting stronger. It felt nearly time to launch. But I waited a while longer as another single seater glider had launched but couldn't get above 1500 feet and fell down. DG1000 glider KNF had parked a little way behind the winch queue. I decided to queue behind KNF as we were both aiming to go as soon as it got good enough. I pulled forward to the queue at midday soon after KNF did. Another Discus had queued up behind me. It was still blue but improving and my feet were getting very 'itchy'...

I winch launched at 12:21PM to 1200 feet. A glider was soaring just Southwest of me so I made a beeline for it and soared away to about 2300 feet above Lasham. I then went North to where several other gliders were soaring and soon got to 3000 feet. I could see cumulus popping to the South so I decided to head in that direction. I reached the cumulus at Colemore Common to the South of Alton and found 5kts to 5500 feet QNH. It was lovely and cool aloft after roasting on the ground at about 27C. It was still blue to the West and North so I decided to ditch the planned tasks and go South first. I followed the clouds South past Petersfield. Down here the clouds were big and slightly spreadout but a line of easy to use and fun lift took me to Chichester West where I turned 'CHI'.

I then went back the way I came and soon flew back past Lasham. It still looked blue to the North but nice now to the Northwest with plenty of small clouds providing thermal stepping stones. So I aimed for the Lyneham / Swindon area that kept me within the better looking conditions. On the way I ate lunch while I followed some streets and crossed gaps and eventually stopped at Wroughton close to Swindon, where I turned 'WRO' bigger blue gap between there and Lyneham intimidated me a little but my general goal was complete here.

It was looking better to the East and Northeast now so I pointed the glider towards Didcot and made good progress. I decided to carry on as far as Bicester. Around Oxford I was able to reach 6000 feet. But after that the clouds were smaller and thermals weaker and harder to use. I decided to turn Bicester East (BIE) and then retreated back to the better air. Once I got back past Oxford I took a moderate but nice climb to cloudbase at about 6400 feet and I was high enough to theoretically be in range of Lasham. However I worked out that if I returned via Bullington Cross I could make up 300km. So I followed the clouds Southwards accordingly. Near Greenham Common I took one last climb to cloudbase. I went all the way to 6500 feet at cloudbase here and was just 100 feet below the FL65 airspace ceiling. From this point it was a simple 80-100kt final glide via Bullington Cross where I turned 'BUL'. Then it was a fun blast Eastwards back to Lasham for a fast flyby and a straight forward landing at 4:44PM, 4 hours 23 minutes after launch.

On the ground the the SH3 pilot was already down. We proceeded to clean and derig the gliders. They were away by 5:20PM. The SH2 pilot also landed and the pilot of SH3 helped him and left me free to scramble back for dinner with Renée's sister. Good job I left when I did as time was tight. However we made it just on time. So that was an efficient use of the time I had today. LAS-CHI-WRO-BIE-BUL-LAS was 305km. My speed was 77kph which was quite good for me so another lovely summer's day. The heat and long day meant I was utterly exhausted so I was glad I deliberately hadn't planned anything the next day. Well worth floating slowly back to Earth.

Friday 22nd June 2018
My best flight since August 2005! 448km and almost 6 hours aloft.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

On Monday the long range was looking very interesting for yesterday and today. I wasn't available yesterday, but was able to call Lasham and managed to book SH4 for today. Indeed yesterday turned out excellent indeed with a long day and widespread high cloudbase. A fellow pilot messaged me late on to report that he had SH2 and that it and SH4 were being left out overnight. Brilliant! No mad dash to get rigged in the morning then and just a case of grabbing gear and DI'ing in the morning. I still set my alarm for 6AM to allow me time to get there early, given that a possible early start to the soaring was expected.

It was a nice clear but cold start on the motorbike. I needed my heated grips and thermal layers on the motorways and out of town. I arrived at 7:40AM and had time to grab a parachute and batteries and DI the glider where it had been left out, all before my 8AM breakfast. The place was already busy with big wing gliders towing out to the grid. I borrowed a Lasham truck after breakfast and used the tow out gear to get the glider onto the runway by around 9AM. Cumulus was starting to pop by then. Then after returning the truck and tow out gear I headed to the briefing which was already packed at 9:25AM.

It was a light North-Northwesterly wind on the ground and more like 10kts at height. No top cover and a maximum temperature of 21C was expected. It looked blue to the North, but small cumulus was expected between here and Northampton, up to 4500 feet above Lasham and higher to the North. There was a bit more of an inversion than yesterday so a slower start was expected. Maybe an 11AM launch and good for 500km with a 6:30-7PM finish. A Royal flight was notammed out of Brize Norton with an airway to the Northwest base 4000 feet QNH between 12:30 and 13:45. Shobdon were parachuting, and between 15:45 and 16:45 an air display was expected on the South Downs. Otherwise not much else to note. Tasks were set to the Northwest and North although some were planning Southeast then Southwest along the coast. The 320km went as far as Corby via Hungerford then back via Chievely, and the 500km task went all the way to Rutland Water and back to Bullington Cross before returning up to Buckingham then back.

After the briefing I marked my map up in the clubhouse and then headed back to the launch point and readied the glider for launch. For a while Lasham seemed to be in a blue hole with grid launched gliders being taken to the clouds around the hole. The training gliders weren't staying up off the winch. However conditions were improving so I decided to put the glider into the winch queue at 10:45AM. I was expecting a low launch due to a slight tail wind. I planned the set 500km task with the 320km task in mind too. I aimed to turn Chievely on the way up in case I fell back to shorter tasks.

I winch launched at 10:52AM to just 1100 feet. However I was on the 2nd cable and I got launched into a weak blue thermal. So I took it and scraped away to 1700 feet before the cables had been taken back out. I then moved to a nearby small cloud where other gliders were soaring and found better lift up to about 2800 feet above the ground, or 3500 feet QNH. It was hard to get higher as the clouds were small. I tiptoed around for a bit and eventually pushed Northwards towards Basingstoke. Here the lift was stronger and I could get to better clouds at about 4900 feet (QNH). Cloudbase didn't move much for a while but I was staying up OK and carried on Northwards cautiously. Near Newbury I hit a bump of heavy sink and dropped down suddenly to 2800 feet with the altimeter going wild for a moment. That was a little uncomfortable but soon I got away again and carried on Northwards. Between Chievely and Oxford conditions were a bit better. Cloudbase was slowly rising and thermals improving. It seemed like every cloud was working including the wisps and I made good progress. Near Bicester the clouds were smaller and more spaced out and progress a little slower, but beyond the Buckingham area it was rather nice with bases getting up past 4500 feet and plenty of nice thermals that were easy to find. As I approached Northampton I could see it was fairly blue beyond, just as forecast, so I decided to turn at Northampton South (over the M1) and not continue on further North.

Going back downwind was a tad easier. I had some good cloud street runs as well as some easy thermal hops. The poorer bubble of air near Bicester was now further South closer to Didcot but better than it was earlier. South of Newbury the clouds were smaller and gaps bigger but still easy going. I went as far as Chilbolton before turning and going to a nearby cloud. Bam! I found one of my best thermals of the day with 6kts on the averager and gusts going to 10kts. Once topped up I aimed for Didcot and made good progress Northwards back to the better clouds. With lovely conditions I was soon aiming further afield for Buckingham and indeed beyond Didcot and Oxford conditions were excellent. Cloudbase was getting up above 5000 feet and plenty of decent thermals and streets. I was able to go quite long distances without turning and made fast progress (for me). Soon I got to Buckingham, but a cloud street continued enticingly upwind to Silverstone. I couldn't resist paying the race circuit one more visit and got there without turning. Meanwhile cloudbase was reaching 5500 feet. Some thermals were 6kts or more.

The downwind blast back was epic, with Buckingham, Bicester, Oxford and Didcot all whizzing by. Closer to Newbury I did struggle a little bit to get enough height to be comfortably in range of Lasham. That slowed me down a bit. But soon I was OK and cut across under the Compton Box towards Aldermaston. By now I was getting well onto final glide and had a nice straight forward cruise back to Lasham at about 80kts. I saw the launch point had changed ends to runway 09, which wasn't surprising given the tail wind I had when I launched. So I had a nice fast flyby at 130kts alongside another finisher and then pulled up and round into a right hand circuit to land in a Westerly direction by the trailer at 4:50PM, 5 hours 58 minutes after launch.

One Discus was already back on the ground and being cleaned. The other landed just behind me. We wasted no time cleaning and putting the gliders away. By 5:40PM I had also put the batteries and parachute away and was on my way to the bar to collect my motorbike gear before departing at 5:55PM. I got home at 7:05PM. Google reckoned 2 hours but I did it in 1h10m. Nice! Once again the motorbike saved me oodles of time in the rush hour traffice jams.

This was easily my best flight for quite a few years. LAS-CHV-NOS-CBN-SIL-LAS was 448km and my speed turned out to be 78kph which was nice given how slow the first two upwind legs were at times. The final downwind dash home was 95kph. I'm sure that could have been faster had I not struggled North of Newbury on the way back. But suffice it to say I was rather happy with this flight. EDIT: On checking my stats, this was my longest XC since August 2005. Only my 501km back then was longer. This was my third longest flight in terms of time.

Friday 15th June 2018
More summer XC fun.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

The long range forecast has been looking interesting. I actually booked SH3 just before 5PM from the top deck of a 183 bus after looking at the latest weather model runs on my iPhone. It didn't look quite as good at closer range but still the best day in the next week. So motorbike and gear were prepared accordingly and alarm set for 6AM the night before.

After a quieter than expected journey I arrived at 7:45AM. After sorting out my gear and having another nice brekkie I stowed my gear in the office. The clubhouse was rather quiet so I went to the glider trailer to start gathering things and getting ready, hoping to find help on the way. A fair bit of altocumulus was suggesting to me that there was a bit too much moisture up there. So not as good as the long range forecast, but still looking better than the next few days maybe. After gathering parachute and batteries I found a private owner nearby rigging his glider. I persuaded him to help me get my wings on which was done in 5 minutes. It was still only 9AM, and I persuaded a member of staff to lend me one of the tow trucks to tow the glider out using the one man tow out gear. By 9:20AM I had left the glider at the launch point and returned the truck and tow out gear to the relevant places. By now the early cloud had cleared so it was looking better again. I just had wing taping to do at the launch point. The tow out gear and tressel were packed away in the trailer and then I attended the cross country briefing at 9:30AM as cumulus started to pop.

The briefing revealed that we were in a small receding ridge of high pressure. The wind was a light 10kt West or Southwesterly. The jet stream was close by though so fast moving upper cloud was to be expected and could be a factor later in the day. The airmass was expected to get damper and spread out from the West later. A 22C maximum temperature was possible. The trigger point had already been reached as seen by the cumulus popping outside. A 4000 foot cloudbase was expected and the best area seemed to be close to the London airspace. Notams were pretty quiet with just an aero expo at Wycombe Air Park and Sywell active for aerobatics to note. Tasks were set initially to Petersfield, then Northwest to Hungerford and Membury, then North and Northeast to Oxford and beyond. I planned the middle task of 200km, to Petersfield, Hungerford and Bicester.

After the briefing and sorting myself out in the clubhouse, I walked out to the glider by about 10AM. I then taped the wings and got everything ready for launch. The ClearNav appeared to be working (having failed last time I flew SH3) so I set up my task as well as draw it on the map. Conditions were already looking nice aloft and I decided to join the winch queue at 10:30AM.

After a short delay I winch launched at 10:46AM to 1500-1600 feet and released straight into a thermal. That was nice! I was the second cable so I made use of the thermal and soon climbed clear of the winch launch by the time the next glider was ready. Alas after 2 minutes the ClearNav froze again. I was never able to get it to work all flight so navigation was done by good old fashioned map and compass. Cloudbase was maybe 3300 feet above the airfield, or 3900 feet QNH. Conditions were nice and easy so I set off on task just 9 minutes after launch at 10:55AM. I followed some nice lines of clouds Southwards and had no problem reaching and turning Petersfield West (PTW). Then I headed Northwestwards a little East of track to stay with the best looking clouds. As I headed North cloudbase was heading up to 4500 feet QNH. The clouds were already getting big and flabby with signs of spreadout starting around Basingstoke. But I pushed on and after being cautious around some gaps I reached Hungerford (HUN). It still looked good to the North so I pressed on past Wantage, Harwell and Didcot. Further North it was harder going with the clouds being harder to read and more gaps between thermals. I got to Oxford East (OXF) and then went on to one more cloud. Beyond that was a huge blue hole and spreadout beyond. So I decided to retreat at that point. I contacted some cloud streets that allowed me to push back upwind. At one point I flew under a Red Kite that was gliding upwind too. I got myself back to Newbury as cloudbase rose towards 5000 feet. Round here conditions were very nice. A big flabby cloud street had formed upwind to the Southwest. The thermals on the sunny side of it were good so I followed it upwind as far as I could, to near Andover. A few cloud hops later and I was over Chilbolton (CBN). Then I decided it was time to return to Lasham. I routed out past Bullington Cross and a straight forward thermal hop back. I stayed high as I didn't want to land yet, and crossed the line at height exactly 3 hours after starting, at 1:55PM. Then for the rest of the flight I had fun under the local clouds. Best cloudbase was 5300 feet, and near Overton I had a practice cloudclimb in a cloud that wasn't spread out, although I only gained 300 feet to 5600 feet before flying out the side of the cloud. After more than 4 hours aloft I was getting pretty tired and decided it was time to land. I couldn't resist one or two more climbs after some high speed flying to burn height. But eventually I did finally descend to land smoothly and gently by the trailer at 3:35PM, 4 hours 49 minutes after launch.

After landing I put the parachute and batteries away and cleaned the glider while I left the FLARM downloading the logger trace to my SD card. The private pilot who helped me this morning landed a short while later and we leisurely helped each other put the toys away by about 4:45PM. I grabbed a tea and my bike gear too and brought the tea out to the gliders. Once the private pilot's glider wings were safely trailered I returned to the motorbike and set off home at 5:10PM. Google said 2h17m! But on the bike I took 1h20m! Brilliant! That was a lot of filtering through miles of bad traffic jams and great slicing through a yucky rush hour and saving the best part of an hour on my journey time.

In the end my task was quite decent. LAS-PTW-HUN-OXF-CBN-LAS was 225km and in 3 hours that worked out at 75kph, faster than I expected. So that was a lovely day. Here's to more lovely days to make up for the poor spring and make a nice summer.

Sunday 3rd June 2018
Instrument and migraine troubles could not stop a fun flight.

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

I arrived at 7:45AM after a nice quiet drive in. I was beaten to the glider bookings so I was here for the ballot. At 8AM there were 5 people in the ballot for 4 gliders. I came out 3rd. The first two grabbed Grobs so I picked Discus SH3. Nice! Then after a much needed nice brekkie we went out at 8:30AM. All 3 Discuses were rigged and DI'ed by 9:15AM. The 9:30AM briefing was packed to the rafters with lots of people desperate to fly after lots of crap weather. Today was looking better with a light wind but with a spreadout risk at an inversion at 7000 feet. A sea breeze was expected around 2-3pm. It was already up to 21C with cumulus popping outside as the trigger was reached. With mid 20's expected a 4500 foot cloudbase was possible. It looked poorer further North and Northeast. It was looking good until 6PM atleast. The West Country was looking good. Tasks were set towards Sherborne and then either back or on towards Oxford. I kept the Sherborne Oxford task in mind for 300km.

After the briefing the pilot of SH4 kindly towed SH3 out to the launch point for me by 10:15AM before he towed SH4 to the huge grid. I planned for the Sherborne Oxford task at the launch point. Then once ready I waited for the weather while counting 70 gliders in the grid! Just after 11AM I decided to move into the winch queue. We were being slotted between the grid launches.

After a delay due to a looped cable at the winch I was launched at 11:39AM to just 1100 feet but with gliders soaring in front of me I headed straight over and got away easily. Cloudbase was still quite low with wispy clouds so I couldn't get above 2700 feet above Lasham (3300 feet QNH) for a while. Soon after launch I noticed that the ClearNav had frozen. I tried restarting it several times during the flight but was unable to get it working. Meanwhile as I was able to get up to 4100 feet (QNH) near Lasham I started off Westwards. However conditions were not as good with blue holes and lower cloudbase for a while. I managed to tip toe past and reached cumulus North of Andover without too much loss of height. It looked very scrappy on the South side of Salisbury Plain so I decided at this point not to proceed with the planned 300. Instead I decided to play around where I was and plodded Northwestwards to Rivar Hill before going to a bigger cloud to the North right over Hungerford. By now cloudbase was up to maybe 4800-4900 feet. I carried on to the North but beyond the M4 cloudbase was about 500 feet lower and bigger flabbier clouds with some spreadout and some grotty bits. I raced under the lower cloud and made good progress towards Wantage but I stopped 2km short of the turn point as I was heading into a hole and it was getting difficult. I retreated back the way I came past Hungerford. By now I was starting to feel ropey as a migraine threatened. I decided to head back towards Lasham with maybe the possibility of heading out again somewhere or playing with the forecast sea breeze. I headed Eastwards past the Newbury South area where there were decent clouds, and round one of the blue holes. On the way I was tempted to go cloud climbing but every time a nice looking cloud was reached I couldn't find a decent thermal to use. Never mind. Back near Lasham there were good thermals and a cloudbase of about 4000 feet (above Lasham), but no sea breeze. However by now I had had enough. I played around a bit more, including flying alongside SH4 for a bit trying to take pictures. Then I descended at high speed and then decided to land at the launch point as another pilot had expressed an interest in flying. I landed at 2:44PM, 3 hours 5 minutes after launch.

On the ground the pilot was not around and was uncontactable. Nobody else wanted to fly SH3. So I found help and towed SH3 back to the trailer. After a cleanup I started to prepare for derigging. After removing the tape and total energy tube somone turned up and asked if he could take the glider off me. I gladly accepted and so retaped and put the total energy tube back. He was towing the glider back to the launch point by 3:40PM. I was shattered so that suited me well and just 10 minutes later I drove off to go home to collapse in a migrainy heap.

LAS-RIV-WAN-LAS was 121km but as I stopped 2km short of Wantage I achieved more like 117km at maybe 50-55kph. Given how I was struggling today with the thermals and with my head I had a pretty good flight and it kept me current after another long crappy period of weather.

Tuesday 1st May 2018
First Cross Country Flight of 2018

Click here for my flight on the ladder.

I booked SH4 at 4:45PM yesterday. I had decided that today looked like the best day of the week and I was keen to get flying again after 2 months of crappy weather. It was impressively cold for May with a frost and a cold ride on the motorbike. I got to lasham by 7:40AM after filtering through the rush hour. My finger tips were numb on arrival but I soon warmed up. A nice tea and brekkie at 8AM when the restaurant opened was most welcome. There was nobody present for the ballot so I had the single seater fleet to myself. I found a guy willing to help me rig at 8:25AM. The glider was rigged and DI'ed by 9:10AM. I then bought and folded a new 2018 half million airspace map on my way to the 9:30AM cross country briefing as cumulus already started to pop aloft.

While it was a nice clear start, fronts were moving in fast from the West. A low pressure system was moving away into the North Sea leaving us with a little ridge of high pressure. The wind was expected to pick up later on with 13kts on the ground but 20-25kts aloft. The best area was downwind of us. A maximum temperature of 11C would give us a 3500 foot cloudbase. Top cover was expected to be incoming later. Tall clouds and possibility of some spreadout were expected but it didn't look too bad. It was drier to North and poorer to west. So a good morning and a poorer afternoon. Tasks were generally set to the North. There were no notams to worry about in that direction. I was aiming for local soaring or a small cross country if it got good enough.

There were no buggies available but the white Lasham pickup truck was sat outside the maintenance hangar doing nothing. Engineering was deserted and there was nobody around so I decided to use it to tow SH4 out by 10:15AM. Meanwhile cumulus aloft was improving in appearance. After returning the truck and the tow out gear I walked back to the launch point and put the glider into the winch queue at 10:45AM. I also helped some private pilots into line behind me. I was 4th in the queue so not too long to wait and a small blue gap would be downwind and a bigger cloud getting close in time for launch.

I launched at 11:10AM to 1500 feet and straight into thermal. That was nice. I was launched with the 2nd cable so I took the thermal and got away. Cloudbase was 3400 feet above Lasham. After pootling around close to Lasham for a while I could see that to the North past a line of an overdeveloped cloud Street it looked much clearer. I flew towards Basingstoke. Past the overdevelopment was a big gap but I was able to get across and reached better conditions and higher cloudbases over the M3. I was getting up towards 4500 feet above sea level so I went for it and had no problem heading North past Chievely and Didcot where I called a good climb to 5500 feet where it was -5C. I continued North and soon found myself at Oxford where I turned OXF.

Further downwind was a gap and then overdevelopment so I turned back into the 30kph headwind. That made for slow progress back. But I managed just fine following and crossing cloud streets until I got to near Chievely. Then I struggled and dropped to below 3000 feet near Newbury. I did manage to turn NEW (the race course) then while keeping Brimpton air strip in sight I scratched away until I finally got away again after what felt like an eternity. Then over Thatcham I hit very strong lift (6-8kts) and took it into cloud at 5500 feet. I carried on to just under FL65 before emerging Southwards.

Then I flew high back to Lasham. As I approached I could see cloudbase was lower and showers were present nearby. (Was extra moisture off the sea or related to the incoming fronts causing this unexpected shower activity?) I also noticed that the launch point had switched to medium runway 23 and that a jet movement was taking place. I turned LAS at about 3000 feet then retreated North to higher clouds as the jet took off. After playing under big clouds at around 4500-5000 feet I explored the shower clouds to the South. With bases below me it was good fun exploring. Up here any precipitation was still snow. A shower was on its way into Lasham. I went to head back towards Basingstoke to try to stay up until the shower passed but found myself in a big dead hole. I was getting marginal so retreated back to Lasham as the shower moved in. My circuit took me over the clubhouse to landed in the runway 23 direction in light rain at 2:18PM after 3 hours 8 minutes aloft.

Soon after landing a heavier pulse of rain went through and I sheltered under the port wing until it passed. Then I pushed the glider back to the trailer. Long grass closer to runway 27 made for hard work but once over to shorter grass nearer the peri track I soon had the glider lined up outside the trailer. Before long I was offered a super quick derig as a heavier looking shower was incoming. I gladly accepted. I couldn't download the trace of the flight due to a fault with the USB port. But never mind. By the time the rain was here I was nearly back to the clubhouse. I had lunchb there at 3PM. Then as it dried out at Lasham I departed on the motorbike at 3:30PM. I soon caught up with the showers and had a soaking wet ride all the way home, being soaked through by 4:40PM when I got home. I had to change my clothes after putting the bike away before moving onwards by car to Renée's. But it was worth it to get my first decent soaring flight of the year. LAS-OXF-NEW-LAS was 135km, albeit at around 55kph due to the slow upwind second leg. My first cross country in 7 months still felt brilliant! Now I want more!

Sunday 22nd April 2018
Keeping Current During a Crappy Spring

In the last two months the weather had been dreadful. With continental air masses dominating, it had been freezing cold and grey then boiling hot and too stable but not much in the way of soaring in between. I was due to attend a single seater subcommittee meeting this evening. The forecast again looked naff so I didn't get up early. I decided I would head to Lasham in the afternoon. After lunch with Renée and her dad I drove to Lasham from St John's Wood via Baker Street. It was looked soarable East of junction 3 of the M3. Then it was poor West of there with a cold front resulting in top cover.

I arrived at 3:15PM and decided to take a walk to the launch point to see what was going on, and maybe even to grab a spare glider to stay current. The launch point was set up on the medium runway 23 as a brisk Southwesterly Wind was blowing. I found Discus SH2 about to take a winch launch. I spoke to the pilot while he waited for cables. He was about to put it away so we agreed that I could take it off him after his flight. While he launched I went back to the car to get my gliding bag. He only had a short flight and landed as I returned to the launch point. So I grabbed a buggy and retrieved SH2 to the winch queue and took it over.

I soon was ready and winch launched at 4:04PM to 1400 feet. Indeed it was not soarable. It was worth searching for bubbles of lift but I found mainly sink. I landed 8 minutes later at 4:12PM and after a short wait got towed back to the winch queue for another go. I launched again at 4:31PM to 1300 feet. Some cumulus like clouds were present now to the West and North. I went over to them but couldn't find any lift alas. There was maybe shower activity in the mid layers and not much happening down at my height. With less sink encountered my flight lasted 9 minutes and I landed by the trailer at 4:40PM.

I soon found some help and the glider was put away by 5:10PM. Then I went to the clubhouse for tea and a delicious banana loaf cake. I helped put gliders into the hanger between 5:45PM and 6:15PM. Then as I returned I saw Rick and Craig near the TV room. So we started the meeting early and soon enough it was completed. I set off home by 8PM just as the traffic was dying down nicely. It was a lovely sunset as I left Lasham too.

Now I was hoping that some decent soarable weather that I can utilise would finally come along soon as I was itching to go soaring again. It was a nice bonus to get my feet off the ground and be current again today though.

Friday 16th February 2018
First Thermals of 2018

Today was looking nice with the chance of a few thermals, the wind dropping and not that cold. The car was also available so I decided to go to keep current.

I arrived at 7:45AM. Traffic was blissfully lighter than normal due to half term. I was glad to have the car (as opposed to the motorbike) as it was around freezing outside. I grabbed Grob 102 SH9 in the ballot as it would be easier to put away. Another pilot had SH8 and we chatted over breakfast. Yay veggie sossies were back. That was a lovely breakfast. We then got the gliders out at 9:15AM. SH9 was nowhere to be seen so I switched to the new Grob 102 SH7 which was at the front. We towed the gliders out at 9:35AM. I also helped tow a K13 out. All were parked on the cross runway by 10AM. The airfield was very soggy so a short launch run along runway 27 from the hard was planned as well as landing on the runway instead of the grass.

By 11:30AM cumulus was visible to the South. Red Kites were also spotted soaring locally briefly. Light gusts also gave away the thermals, although they were still weak and blue over the airfield. The SH8 pilot launched and didn't stay up. However I decided to join the winch queue at midday as more hints of thermals arose and I fancied a go.

I launched at 12:22PM to 1250 feet, but there was not much cooking. After sniffing around near the release area I soon joined the circuit. I gained height on the diagonal which put me a bit high but full airbrakes saw me down at back of runway and a gentle roll took me to just behind the queues at 12:27PM, after just 5 minutes aloft.

I took a 2nd launch at 12:50PM again to 1250 feet. This time I was able to get away in a weak thermal to 1800 feet. Most of the time I couldn't get any higher although one thermal took me to 2050 feet. I was down to circuit height in the middle of the flight before getting away again. It was nice to soar with a buzzard at one point. The Red Kites were also around near by. I couldn't quite reach cumulus in the distance and in the end fell down. Another nice runway landing followed, and I rolled to a halt just behind the aerotow queue at 2:21PM after 1 hour 31 minutes of struggling to stay up.

I then happily handed the glider over when it was requested for use for conversions. (Otherwise I was considering an aerotow but not that bothered.) Then after eating my sarnies in the clubhouse I left soon after 3PM. The traffic was bad but I made it back home at 4:45PM (hence why I like motorbiking it midweek normally).

Sunday 14th January 2018
Check Flight and Winter Practice

In the run up to today I wasn't sure if the long running gloomy conditions would break up or stay cloudy. However the ground was dry for the first time in ages and the air not so damp. The soundings and met office suggested cloudy while xcweather suggested a clear spell. So I decided last minute to go for it and see what would happen. I hadn't flown for 3 months so was keen to get a check flight and get back to being current. I also needed to sort my 2018 membership renewal out.

It was a struggle getting up in the dark but after a lovely Sunday morning drive along empty roads I arrived at 7:45AM. It was still cloudy but dry and cloudbase wasn't actually too low. So it was looking ok for winch launching. I had the usual nice breakfast at 8AM and then attended the club briefing at 9AM. Winds were fairly light and cloudbase high enough for normal winch launches. With an Easterly air flow we would set up on runway 09. Then we headed out to get the gliders out. On the way I renewed my membership as I went past the office.

At the hangar the new SH7 glider (G-CLUD) was one of the first gliders out. With nobody to claim it I did exactly that and DI'ed it. Then by 9:30AM it was already on its way to the launch point behind a buggy. (I noticed on the way that a new hangar building was being built on the grass close to where the Discus trailers normally are, and the trailers were nowhere to be seen. I later found out that they had temporarily been moved to the East end.) Meanwhile Ed said he'd take me up in the new K21 775 (G-CLOL) for a check flight. So after dropping SH7 off on runway 09 I went back with the buggy and helped get 775 out too. It went straight into line and I was to take the first launch of the day.

Ed and I were soon aboard 775 and I took control for the launch at 10:02AM to a surprisingly high 1700 feet. It was indeed fairly murky up there with visibility being about 10km. Cloudbase must have been about 2000 feet above the ground. I think the wind was a bit stronger than forecast at the top hence the higher launch. After a straight forward flight followed by a nice circuit and smooth landing at 10:10AM Ed was more than happy for me to continue solo in SH7. I was pleased that I did not feel rusty after a long gap. And Ed, being the launch point controller, got to see the conditions close up which helped him to organise and space out the launches because of the murky conditions.

I then proceeded to get SH7 into line. Meanwhile another pilot offered to take the glider off me afterwards. That suited me as I didn't need to worry about putting the glider away and wanted to get away early anyway.

I had 3 straight forward hops in SH7. It felt identical to SH8. I did miss the retractable undercarriage of the old SH7 but it was easy and nice to fly, and perfect for launch and landing practice today. I got to 1650, 1700 and 1650 feet on each launch. I stayed to the North side on the first two and went to the South side for the last flight. I decided to test out the GoPro for the last two flights as I hadn't used it for ages. It seemed to be working OK although the battery had deteriorated which wasn't surprising. After 8, 10 and 7 minutes I had 3 uneventful landings, each stopping close to the launch point.

Meanwhile I had noted small teasing holes in cloud never quite opening up, and a clearance to the Southeast getting close before filling in, having not quite reached us. I had been tempted to take a high aerotow if the clearance reached us but I was right to forget waiting for it and leave early.

I now felt current again so after bringing the glider back to the winch queue I handed it over to the second pilot (with a third pilot interested in flying SH7 later). I then went back to the clubhouse for an egg mayo baguette lunch before heading off home soon after 1PM. Another traffic free journey saw me home well in time for tea and a rest. Now I am looking forward to a new soaring season ahead.

2017 <- | 2018