Diary 2014

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.

2013 <- | 2014 | -> 2015 | -> Current

2014 Gliding Pictures

Sunday 28th December 2014
Winter hops to stay current.

It was -1C and a crisp frosty clear start at 8AM. I made sure I had enough thermal layers to be cosy out there. After the usual nice breakfast and a 9AM briefing we headed out to get the toys out. It was icy on the peri track so we had to tread with care. I found another pilot (Ed) who fancied flying a Discus too and carefully we rigged SH4 and got it to the launch point once an early jet movement had landed. We lined up on the runway, and after some effort de-icing the frosted up wings Ed aerotowed in SH4. He was back after just under half an hour. I then aerotowed at 11:26AM to 4000 feet. I headed out over Basingstoke but found heavy sink there and was down to 3000 feet fairly quickly as I retreated back towards Lasham. The air was fairly smooth until I got low down. I didn't find any lift and was down after 28 minutes. I heard on the radio that the runway was being cleared for a movement so after landing I taxied to the peri track out of the way.

While on the ground small cumulus seemed to be popping around midday. If I lined up on the grass they were prepared to launch me from there. So I got ready and decided to take that tow. I aerotowed to 3000 feet at 12:15PM. Conditions looked better to the South and East but a little out of range and downwind. To the Northwest of the airfield I flew under small wisps of cumulus that seemed to be maybe 3000 feet up. But I was never able to find any useable lift. Just the odd small bubble here and there. I fell down and landed after 19 minutes.

I was able to hand the glider over to another pilot so after lunch in the clubhouse I left some time before 2pm. And there ended my last flights of 2014. Here's to a better 2015 season.

Saturday 29th November 2014
Winter hops to stay current.

It was a gorgeous sunrise on the motorway. I arrived a few minutes before breakfast was served so that was great. Then another pilot and I got together and agreed to share a Discus. We rigged SH3 before attending the 9AM briefing. It was a light wind, mild and a low inversion. The ground was soggy after recent rain. It was not expected to get soarable. I planned to stay current with 3 winch launches.

I flew three 8 minute flights before lunchtime. The inversion was well below the winch launch height, at maybe 600-700 feet above Lasham. It was hazy to the South, and to the North a grey wall off murk prevented me from seeing Basingstoke. There was medium cloud aloft but the sun was slowly getting through as the morning progressed.

After my flights I handed the glider over to the other pilot who took two high aerotows. I had lunch in the clubhouse. By now the sun was fully out and I returned to the launch point to enjoy the warm sunshine and help out. (I also saw a butterfly which is unusual at this time of year.) Some time after 2pm the other pilot landed by the trailer. Together we put the glider away and I left the airfield about 2:50pm.

So nothing special but a nice day to keep current having not flown for 8 weeks.

Sunday 5th October 2014
Good day for October.

I had seen during the week that this weekend was looking interesting on the soundings. On Thursday I decided to book a glider (SH3), although I wasn't sure quite what would happen. Yesterday it was looking like it might be blue with top cover. Certainly a cold front went through yesterday sweeping away the warm humid air that had plagued us for an eternity and bringing Autumn in at last.

I didn't miss getting up in the dark but the drive in was a smooth one and as soon as the sun rose I woke up nicely. Meanwhile the motorway was lined with mist filled fields that in places was trying to flow onto the road. At Lasham it was only 2C and frosty - my first frost of the autumn. So lovely crisp cold air and glad I got my woolly hat and thermal layers out. At breakfast at 8AM the place was deserted but I soon found someone willing to help me rig. During the rig I found a lifeless battery cabinet and half charged batteries. (It seems they've removed the power as they are about to tear down the old hangar and replace it.) However I found enough batteries with enough charge to keep me going for today. SH3 was rigged by 9:30AM when Colin gave 3 or 4 of us a briefing. There was a light southerly airflow with top cover thickening from west. Will it affect any soaring? We shall see. With a 15C max temp and dew point dropping to 4C or lower small high cumulus to be expected if it isn't blue. We were expecting a 12 or 1pm start with a 2-3hr window before it dies from the West with thickening top cover. If it gets good enough we go North and see what happens.

With buggies and help obtained we got both SH3 and SH2 out. By 11AM I was at the launch point watching the weather. In the end by about 11:45AM despite fairly thick top cover moving through cumulus was starting to pop locally with bigger cumulus already present for a while over Alton.

I took a winch launch at 11:58AM to 1200 feet and easily found a weak 1kt thermal on the Southeast side of the airfield that with little drift allowed me to watch the world go by while I slowly climbed up. Eventually I moved to better clouds and eventually got to a 2800 foot cloudbase (all heights above Lasham - add 600 feet for QNH) in the Alton area. I played around there for a while, sometimes finding up to 2kts, and explored further South to the West of Oakhanger. Clouds further south were tempting but on the other side of a big gap. Eventually they dissipated too. So I headed towards Odiham, but didn't do so well there and returned to Alton before exploring the North side of Lasham. The top cover thickened up for a while and I struggled for a while, dropping to 1500 feet before a gap in the top cover arrived and the sun returned to full strength for a while. I eventually got away again. After 2 hours cloudbase was still only 3000 feet. I explored North a bit as far as the edge of Aldermaston. After above 2:30PM conditions improved and cloudbase rose another 400 feet (and a bit more in places) and it got easier to stay up with some stronger cores. After playing around under some larger clouds for a while, I took a cloud climb at 3PM half way between Basingstoke and Aldermaston. From about 3500 feet I climbed 900 feet up inside the cloud to 4400 feet, and emerged above lots of lower clouds. Bliss! I attempted to shoot a video while flying above the clouds which was gorgeous. Eventually I sunk back to cloudbase. After playing around a bit more and as more top cover arrived and the day started to die I decided to return to the airfield. I landed by the trailer at 4:06PM, 4 hours 8 minutes after launch.

That was my first ever October 4 hour flight. It wasn't good enough for me to go Cross Country but as local soaring flights go and given the poor year I've had it was highly enjoyable and I didn't want to descend. I needed today's flight. It reminds me why I enjoy gliding. This was probably my last good soaring flight of the year and one I savoured while I was aloft.

The pilot from SH2 and I soon had both gliders put away. The batteries were left by the CFI's office where they plan to move the chargers to soon. After a short break in the clubhouse I was on my way home again as it got dark.

Sunday 7th September 2014
Weakly soarable. Too much top cover.

It was a foggy start. But that soon lifted into low cloud. I got Discus SH4 in the ballot. After breakfast another pilot was interested in a demo on rigging so I showed him the ropes and in the process we got the glider rigged. Then after rigging SH2 and DI'ing SH4 I went to the briefing. It was looking like a slow start. Perhaps a 1pm start with a 3-4hr window maybe. It would be better to the north with less cloud and maybe even blue. Some tasks were set to the Northwest and North but I suspected anything more than local soaring would be a nice bonus.

After the briefing I got SH3's fuselage out in another attempt to retrieve the log file. But I was unable to. The port must be broken. Meanwhile a French visitor introduced himself to me and persuaded me to help him rig. The glider was on hire but he was hoping to fly after the other pilots. Then after other gliders were taken out a buggy kindly took SH4 out. The other Discuses soon followed. Then back to the clubhouse as the sun threatened to break through for a while. I ate my sandwiches and rested for a short while before returning to the launch point. On the way I found the person who had SH3 on hire, who was pleasantly surprised to find it already rigged and at the launchpoint. Then followed a long tedious wait for the weather. Alas at 1pm the cloud had persisted and even thickened a bit. A webcam at Newbury showed it cloudy there too. The old front appeared to have stalled over us. It looked increasingly unlikely we'd get a good day out of it. Then at 1:15pm an ATC vehicle arrived. So much for no movements. In the end I decided to take the last winch cable before the movement as there were a few thermals nearby. It beat being left on the ground anyway.

I winch launched at 1:33pm. I released at just 1100 feet but it was into weak lift and climbed at about 1kt to 1600 feet. Then I moved upwind a bit and topped up to just under 2000 feet. Then the top cover thickened up again and I slowly but surely sunk back to earth to land at 2pm, after 27 minutes in the air. Any hope of staying up until better conditions arrived dashed. I could see sunnier skies to the North but it looked pretty dead. Visibility was pretty awful and I couldn't see much beyond Basingstoke.

In the end around 2:15pm I had had enough. I was bored and my feet hurt, and decided that by the time it got thermic properly here we would be running out of day. So I decided to hand over the glider to the French pilot. He launched soon after 2:30pm. I then left. On the way home I drove into the nicer air and indeed it looked good further North. But never mind it wasn't meant to be today. I'm glad I took the launch when I did but in hindsight would have done other things today. Never mind.

Saturday 16th August 2014
Colder, bad spreadout, small XC area yet again, 1000 hours achieved.

I went by motorbike to the airfield today for a change. It's hardly been used this summer and badly needed to be exercised, and with no tow bar on the car still it didn't make much difference there. It was a surprisingly chilly start. I'm glad I wore some thermal layers. I even turned on the heated grips on the M3. It was, as expected, busy at the airfield due to the Juniors and Nationals competitions. However, as previously observed, people tend to stay away when the comps are on. So only two of us were in the ballot. I got SH3 and another pilot, Simon, got SH2. SH4 was booked by Imperial College and entered into the Juniors, and had been rigged early. After breakfast, rigging and DI'ing, SH3 was ready by the 9:30AM briefing. With the front of the grid not far from the trailers, and the winch launch point miles away on the South side, I was sorely tempted to push the glider to the front of the grid and aerotow away before the comp. Meanwhile there was a Spitfire in the hangar going to the Red Bull air race at Ascot curiously enough.

We were hoping for a 300km day for the pundits (so maybe 200km max for mere mortals like me in a lower performance glider). Tasks were set to the Northwest to Membury and then on past Oxford as far as Sackville Farm and back. I planned accordingly. With competitions and Bicester and Dunstable too, we expected the skies to be busy. So good lookout needed, but plenty of people msrking thermals which would be useful where it spreads out. In the end, after the briefing, the two of us did push our gliders to the front of the comp grid while the competition briefing at 10AM was on. It saved finding a means of towing them out. Then I had an hour to get ready and relax. The call was made to launch the competition at 11:15. So we at the front needed to be thrown into the sky before this time.

After a few in front launched I took off at 11:11AM. It was a straight forward tow in lovely bubbly air with two other aerotows in front almost in formation. I released at 2000 feet and a short way upwind under a large flabby cloud I found a nice thermal that took me straight to cloudbase at 3400 feet. I waited about 15 minutes for cloudbase to rise a little bit while watching the comp get launched below, but soon enough I couldn't resist and set off Northwestwards, pushing slowly into a stiff head wind. It looked like better conditions up track so was worth pushing on. But with quite a lot of spreadout in places I aimed to be cautious and stay high. On the way I could clearly see Didcot Power Station already with 3 of the familiar towers missing (having been demolished). Despite that I got unstuck a bit near Membury as the best clouds were too far off track. I was down to 2000 feet above Membury and struggling to climb in weak lift.

After what seemed like an eternity I did eventually reach some better lift not far from the turning point as it drifted in from upwind. Once I got up towards 3500 feet QNH I went back to the turning point to go round it then retreated downwind to bigger clouds. Then it was a straight forward run towards Didcot. With a large patch of spreadout moving in I decided to stay sunny side and go round the Eastern side of Harwell. The D-tour brought me over Didcot town. I then spent a while taking pictures of the new look power station with 3 scars where the Southeastern towers used to be until this month.

I then carried on Northwards aiming for Oxford. However, beyond Abingdon conditions looked significantly worse, with almost no sun on the ground and not much evidence of useable lift. So I decided not to go any further. The nearest turning point was Abingdon Bridge, so I turned there with a handy thermal close by marked by another glider, then topped up before plodding Southwards again. Now it was a case of aiming for the Western side of any sunny patches, and that way I was able to find plenty of lift to stay high and make good progress to Welford. Then as conditions were OK I carried on towards Rivar Hill where there was a nice cloud street. I followed the street Westwards in plenty of lift, past the Northern side of Rivar Hill, as far as Burbage. Beyond there the street appeared to go into airspace around Salisbury Plain. So that was as far as I went. Here I found a good thermal so I decided to take a cloud climb. I entered cloud at 4800 feet QNH and climbed 600 feet to 5400 feet. Once I exited cloud I returned to Lasham as I had a bit of a headache and was tired. Given the worsening spreadout and increasing wind at height (up to 35kph), I wasn't going to go far now and 3 hours was enough. I had a nice flyby of the finish line at 120kts after being a little overcautious coming back. It was a pretty bumpy flyby as it was thermic on circuit. So I then had loads of height to kill but got down safely not too far from the trailer at 2:26pm, 3 hours 15 minutes after launch.

Back on the ground a Yak aircraft was in the way but I soon pulled the glider around it. I also had to wait for the Spitfire to be pushed past by an army of volunteers before parking up. SH4 then soon appeared behind me. Apparently he had landed at Popham having got caught out by the same spreadout that I struggled in. So not the best first day of the comps for him. There were plenty of other landouts too unsurprisingly. My cautious flying paid off today. We helped each other mutually derig SH3 and SH4 and then ater a short rest in the clubhouse I left just after 4pm to have fun on the A roads going home on the motorbike.

A fairly unremarkable flight overall but it seems fitting to pass 1000 hours while somewhere North of Didcot, one of the cross country locations most frequented by me as it's the gateway to the North and Northeast and such a familiar landmark. LAS-MEM-ABN-BUB-LAS is 170km in about 3 hours for 57kph. Slow but fun.

Saturday 26th July 2014
Hot Day, Late Start, Small XC Area Again, Strong Thermals and High Cloudbase.

It was a smooth drive in. I got Discus SH2 in the ballot. Rick was in SH4. Philip in SH3. There was almost no wind today and it was looking hot. There was the possibility of a 6000ft+ cloudbase with a start around lunchtime. With 15,000ft tops there could be the odd shower. It might be an early finish if too much top cover came in. Notam-wise it was blissfully quiet. Tasks were generally set to the North and Northwest. Rick kindly towed my glider out for me. Then began the long wait for thermals to pop. A band of top cover went through which delayed things but finally cumulus started to pop as 2pm approached and the temperature went past 26C.

I winch launched at 2:01pm to just over 1000 feet in a slight tail / cross wind but quickly found weak lift. It was weak and scratchy until 1500 feet but then as I got higher it got much stronger, to 3-4kts average. Eventually I moved west of Basingstoke and under a big cloud I found 7.5kts average to 5500 feet above Lasham, the best climb of the day. After a nice romp round Burbage I set off Northwards following the best clouds. North of Chievely clouds were smaller and thermals weaker. Beyond Wantage it looked fairly dead as I ran towards the back of the top cover band. So I turned there and went NW to bigger clouds. But not too far as it looked weaker beyond. After reaching Faringdon the lure of the bigger clouds to the South was too much and off I went.

I did actually struggle under the bigger clouds as they were overdeveloping a tad. I did try a cloud climb west of rivar hill. But it was weak and I only climbed a few hundred feet to my best height of 5600ft above Lasham. I eventually turned Andover before deciding to retreat. I struggled for a while to get away again but eventually I retreated to the Newbury South area. I did consider heading North back to Didcot but it was late and it looked like massive gaps between cumulus clouds with lots of spreadout around in between. So I stayed in the area West of Basingstoke and played in the weakening thermals under the increasingly bad spreadout for a while. After one more time reaching cloudbase at about 5400 feet above Lasham (6000 feet QNH) I had enough height for a fast 120kt final glide back to Lasham for a racing finish before landing at 5:11pm, 3h10m after launch.

Rick and I got the toys away by about 6:15pm. I then bought Rick a drink before leaving at 6:40pm for a smooth drive home. LAS-BUB-WAN-FAR-AND-LAS was 176km done in about 2h30m for about 70kph. Not bad for another bimble in less than ideal conditions. For the second month in a row just avoiding a no fly month. With almost all the good weather during the week, where did the summer go?

Sunday 29th June 2014
Small XC Area, Strong Thermals and Huge Cloud Streets.

Being a Sunday morning it was a smooth drive in with little traffic. It was a cloudy start but by 9AM it was clearing up and the sun coming out. A front was clearing slowly to the south and a trough was incoming from north. The wind was Northerly, and we were setting up on runway 09 to start with. Good conditions were expected locally with 5/6'8ths cloud cover by mid afternoon. The thinking was to Start north to Oxford area and then south. With little sea breeze expected, could it be an Isle of Wight day? The thinking was to be back by 4-5pm latest.

By 11AM it was looking nice and I decided to get going. I launched at 11:20AM from runway 09 in a 90 degree crosswind, but only to 1000 feet. However I released straight into lift so it was an easy getaway. Cloudbase was about 2800 feet but soon rose to 3000 feet above Lasham and I set off northwards. It wasn't straight forward with lift not always easy to find and some big gaps to crossand the thermals not always streeting that well. I got stuck for a while near Aldermaston but eventually I got round and made it to Didcot. To the west there was severe spreadout and signs of trouble upwind to the north. So I decided to turn tail here.

It was an easier plod downwind as cloudbase rose towards 4500 feet QNH. It was quite variable though. I ended up at Overton where I picked up a large spreadouty street that took me all the way back to Lasham. There were 6-7kt thermals embedded. This street was NW-SE - a sign of impending wind change? Down at Lasham they were changing ends to runway 27 as a result. I carried on downwind until Alton.

From Alton I headed NW up another huge cloud street. Again there were 6-7kt averages and a 5000 foot (QNH) cloudbase at Alton, although it dropped back to 4500 feet upwind. I romped upwind almost without turning all the way to Woolley down before jumping north across a gap to Wantage where I turned back.

I went back down the street towards Lasham. I local soared near Newbury for a while, taking in the cloudscapes which were epic. My best height was 5400 feet QNH. From just NW of Lasham I couldn't resist one more street run. I followed it all the way to Newbury before finally returning to land at 3:55PM, 4h35m after launch.

Then there was the usual scramble to put the glider away before I left at 5:30pm. A nice day to keep current and so glad that June wasn't a no fly month after all. And for a bonus I wandered round a fairly local 227km of Lasham - Didcot - Overton - Alton - Wantage - Lasham. I'd estimate the cross country time of 3 hours 30 minutes, or 65kph.

Sunday 25th May 2014
Windy day. Short XC and Fun in the Clouds.

Since the last flight the old black Jazz had been swapped for a newer red Jazz. It was a smooth drive to airfield in the new car. I was still missing a tow bar but would manage as best I could. I had originally ruled out gliding this weekend as the long range forecast was awful. But just yesterday I decided I'd made a mistake. I managed to re-arrange plans and made a dash for the airfield.

I arrived at 7:55AM. There was nobody else at the ballot so I grabbed Discus SH3. SH2 was grabbed a short while later by another pilot. SH4 was in the Lasham Nationals and Regionals competition that was operating today. So it was a busy start. After breakfast the gliders were rigged. After briefing we got the gliders to the launch point for 11AM. I managed to find a towing ring for my car and used the rope to get one glider out. We then grabbed a buggy to get the other. Alas we just missed the last pair of cables before the comp launch. So we had to wait. The Nationals launched first. The Regionals stream launched next soon after.

As they finished I winch launched on runway 23 from the South side at 12:34PM. It was one helluva bumpy ground run but once in the air, despite the short run, I made it to 1200 or 1300 feet. I quickly found a strong 6kt core that whisked me straight up to cloudbase at 3600 feet above Lasham. Knowing that cloudbase was expected to be higher inland, I couldn't resist and set off Northwards. I had a fast 90+kph romp to Didcot and then on to Oxford. However I did find the thermals onland mostly fairly weak and hard to use. Perhaps the wind was breaking them up a bit in places? It wasn't streeting that well for the wind strength either. At Oxford East I decided to head back. The push into wind was tortuous and very slow. After an eternity I passed Newbury and then carried on upwind as far as I dared. I got about half way between Hurstbourne Tarrant and Andover East before deciding that was far enough, as it looked scrappy further upwind close to the coast. Struggling to climb and marginally in range of Lasham I turned towards the airfield across a blue gap. Eventually over Overton I found some lift that msade sure I was in range. Back close to Lasham I could see a marked drop in cloudbase to the South. This cued an awesome session of local soaring around the scraggy low bits of cloud (a sea air effect no doubt) with loads of strong lift under and around them. The lowest clouds were below 3000 feet while slightly inland I got to 4200 feet. At onepoint I found a drier thermal that took me up in a gap to 4400 feet. (I did briefly wonder if it was wave. But no I think it was thermic.) Then as the first competition finishers landed I decided to return to earth. I landed on runway 27 without incident, stopping close to the trailer. I landed at 4:39PM, 4 hours 5 minutes after launch.

SH2 had landed before me. The pilot soon appeared and we then proceeded to derig the gliders. I was gone by 6PM.

That was a fun bonus flight that took me ever closer to the magic 1000 hours. I'm so glad I came to glide after all. It will be several weeks before I can fly again as I'm off on holiday the next 2 weekends. LAS-DID-OXF-HUR-LAS is 155km at a leisurely 55kph but fun.

Saturday 3rd May 2014
First 300km of the Year.

The forecast looked like this was the best day of the weekend. Hardly any wind, and good blue / semi blue conditions with cold air advection in the afternoon maybe getting to 5000 feet. It was a frosty start which is impressive for May. The light wind was highlighted by a balloon in the air once I came off the M3. At Lasham I came out 2nd in the ballot and managed to bag Discus SH2. It was in the hangar and needed a test flight after its annual. Gordon told me to plonk it on the front of the grid which was forming in the direction of runway 09 (so the front was right by the hangar). So a mad pre-breakfast scramble ensued to get it ready by about 9AM. I then went for breakfast. Meanwhile Gordon was already launching in SH2 for the test flight and landed it back at the launch point by the time the cross country briefing started at 9:30AM.

In the briefing Colin reckoned there would be cumulus to 5000 feet to the north. It would be a long day with a 6pm finish. Gordon texted me to note that there were already 2.5kt thermals to 2800 feet above Lasham. That spurred Colin to rush the briefing to completion. The main notam was a 5Nm radius temporary airspace around Abingdon until midday. I eyed the 300km Lasham - Eyebrook - Chieveley - Lasham task for 313km. A longer 500km task was also set. After the briefing I rushed to the launch point and got SH2 ready. It was already soarable so I scrambled as soon as I could.

I winch launched at 10:38AM to 1300 feet and soon found lift to the North under some cumulus. It was a struggle to get away though but eventually I got to just over 3000 feet above Lasham (3600 feet) and set off about 11:10AM. It was fairly slow going Northbound as cloudbase wasn't particularly rising much and the thermals were not that strong or easy to centre and use. I headed up under the Compton Box and eventually reached the edge of the Abingdon airspace around 11:55AM. As soon as it hit 12PM I dived in to better cumulus within the ex airspace. After tiptoing on past Oxford I reached better air and had more fun past Bicester and Buckingham. As I approached Northampton I could see the sky beyond looked a bit flatter and given how long it took me to get there I decided to chicken out of going further away from home and turned Northampton South. Atleast I had 200km in the bag if I got back.

Turning back I enjoyed the nicer air until the Oxford area (cloudbase still not much above 4000 feet QNH) when I reached bluer air. I found a couple of decent cumulus that got me to Didcot. To the South is was now a big blue hole. Given the better conditions further North I decided what the hey, turned Didcot and retreated Northwards again. I aimed for Buckingham, and was rewarded with a 6 knotter that got me to 4600 feet, the best of the day. Turning back again I aimed for Newbury to make up 325km. Once past Oxford it was a case of (as has been for most of this flight) staying as high as possible as I tiptoed across the gap using wisps as stepping stones. There was a lot of sink around too hence the caution. Eventually I made it to decent clouds at Newbury, and had fun there soaring to 4700 feet, my best height of the day, before returning into the blue to get back to Lasham. However despite being well above final glide height and taking it easy going back there was large amounts of heavy sink and by Basingstoke I was getting marginal. Just after Basingstoke I decided to turn in a thermal that I bumped into and gained a few hundred feet to get back onto a comfortable final glide. Then I continued and after a nice fly by I landed at 4:05PM, 5 hours 27 minutes after launching. Task time was about 5 hours, so that equates to about 65kph for LAS-NOS-DID-BUC-NEW-LAS for 325km. Incidentally this was my 600th solo flight that also took me past 900 solo hours.

After landing the other Lasham Discuses soon returned as well. After cleaning and preparing SH2 it was soon derigged. The others decided to leave their gliders out overnight. I left about 5:30PM once everything was away. A good day it was.

Friday 18th April 2014
Tricky Thermals

It was Good Friday so unlike on Monday there was no traffic this time. I arrived at 7:45AM to find there was already a queue for the ballot. By 8AM there were 6 of us and 3 gliders to pick from, plus a 4th one that needed a test flight. I came out 4th and got the last glider, Grob102 SH8. As it was passover I had brought my own breakfast which I proceeded to munch. In the briefing at 9:30AM it was clear fronts were clearing through from overnight. High cloud was clearing south. The wind was 15kts at flying height, more to the East and less to the West. It looked like an early start and more cloud to the East and less to the West. Tasks were set to the Northwest and North. As I was in the Grob I eyed the smaller 200km task to Marlborough and Winslow. But kept bigger tasks in mind just in case.

It was already soarable by briefing. I decided to get into line by 10:30AM and winch launched at 10:53AM to about 1400 feet. I soon found a nice thermal to just over 3000 feet above the ground (3600 feet QNH). I set off on track northwestwards but I struggled and got low. Cloudbase was not much above 3600-3900 feet QNH and not rising much, and even seemed a bit lower on track. I got a good look at Whitchurch from a rather low height before I got away and retreated back to Lasham. Meanwhile I got to know the new Glider Guider moving maps installed in the Grobs. It seems quite nice albeit with some frustrating touchscreen features that I struggled to get used to. After a while cloudbase jumped to 4300 feet QNH and I tried again to set off on track. Again thermals were tricky and hard to find and stay in. Eventually I decided it was a local soaring day for me and stayed in the Basingstoke - Kingsclere area. Even then I sometimes got down to below 2000 feet above Lasham struggling to stay up. But there were some good 4-5kt climbs in places when I got lucky. Although as before I could never stay with them for long and was almost continually searching for the core as it tried to elude me!

After a while with about -2C at cloudbase and a draughty cockpit I got mighty cold and decided to land at 2:06PM after 3 hours 13 minutes. But not before topping out at 5500 feet QNH. A c'est la vie day but still good to be soaring. I certainly can't complain with 7 hours air time this week! I am getting ever closer to the magic 1000 hours total experience.

Monday 14th April 2014
First Cross Country of the Year

Last week this day had looked like a nice gliding day. I had the day off and managed to book SH3 so happy days. A bit of a gamble at long range but it payed off as closer to time the forecast looked consistently like the best of a series of soarable days. However it was still a weekday and heavy traffic saw me not arrive until 8:15AM. However that was no problem as the glider was mine. At the airfield 2 people had already fought over one remaining Discus by the time I arrived. I had nice big breakfast first as a switch to Passover food was imminent. Then I had kind help rigging, and the glider was ready by the 9:30AM briefing.

It looked like the best area was north and northeast of London with a high cloudbase, but a possibility of overdevelopment, and maybe blue at Lasham. Several tasks were set in that direction. The smaller tasks went via Oxford East to Grafham Water/Towcester and Ely/Nasebury respectively, while the bigger task went via Birdlip instead of Oxford. I decided to plan Oxford Grafham Water and carry on to Ely if conditions were stonking.

I took a winch launch at 11:26AM. It was only to 1100ft with a light crosswind but I only lost 100ft before finding lift and soaring to 3000 feet. I set off towards the Didcot area. It took me a while to cross a blue gap from Basingstoke to Newbury but got across ok. Then it was lovely until Oxford. Then a big blue hole between Oxford and Bicester presented itself. I pushed on, tiptoing across using wisps as stepping stones and trying to stay high, but I got low South of Bicester and spent an eternity trying not to fall down. I managed to get within range of Bicester, between there and Calvert Junction and eventually connected with a decent cumulus on the far side of the gap. I decided to skip going to Grafham Water / Ely as I'd lost too much time. So I went North into much better conditions to turn Towcester and then go back home. It was gorgeous that way, with cloudbase up at 5000-5500ft on the way back. I also enjoyed the views around Buckingham and Silverstone Racetrack. Going back, the gap South of Bicester was still there, with lots of sink on the North side. I wonder if something wavey was causing this section to be suppressed? Or perhaps a soggy patch of ground? Anyway crossing it downwind and higher up was much easier and I soon passed Oxford and Didcot to romp home and rescue a reasonable speed. I spent a while local soaring near Kingsclere for short while before landing on runway 09 as they had changed ends. I landed at 3:33PM after 4 hours 7 minutes aloft.

The glider was put away soon enough and I left by around 4:45PM. More awful traffic plagued me going home, but I had time to rest before the Seder as Passover started. LAS-OXF-TOW-LAS was 214km done in 3h30m for about 61kph. Not bad given the sticky spot.

Sunday 23rd - Sunday 30th March 2014
Jaca 2014 Expedition

I was on the Lasham expedition to Jaca in Northern Spain this week. I had four flights. The first was with John Simmonds in Duo Discus 775. It was a non soaring sighting flight as the weather closed in on the Monday. The second flight was with Bob Johnson in DG1000 776 and involved wave to 13,000 feet, well above the mountain tops on Wednesday after a snowy start. The third flight was my favourite, with John in 775 we managed to thermal our way to 8500 feet and fly alongside the snowy mountain tops on Thursday. One more flight late in the day on Friday with John and 775 again was less spectacular as conditions weren't as good, but involved a bit of soaring before falling back onto the hills in a strengthening wind and having fun bowl bashing and some formation flying with 776.

Click here for a photo diary of this trip.

Saturday 15th March 2014
Keeping Current

Alas I missed a couple of good soaring weekends due to illness. Then a warm high pressure settled over the country making it unsoarable. This weekend looked marginally better but not by much. I arrived just before 8AM and had another nice cooked breakfast. I entered the Lasham photo competition first of all as I'd brought my prints with me. The judging will be next weekend as I head to Jaca.

Discus SH3 was in the hangar as it had just had an annual and needed test flight. I decided to get that glider out. I see I was the last person to fly it in October! Gordon test flew it mid morning after I'd DI'd, cleaned and towed it to the launch point. As early cloud from a decaying front dissipated and it warmed up it looked like weak blue thermals were forming. So I decided to launch and have a go. Meanwhile we were surrounded by exquisite virgae.

I launched at 12:24 to 1500 feet and found weak lift off the launch. But it was too weak narrow and broken to maintain my height. I landed 10 minutes later. A second launch at 12:54 was a similar story and also 10 minutes long. Clearly not soarable as also indicated by a long winch queue and nobody else staying up.

After waiting a while and determining it wasn't getting any better I decided to take advantage of the free 1000 feet offer and take an aerotow to 3000 feet. I launched at 13:33 behind cub Romeo Golf. It was entertainingly rough below the inversion (around 2500 feet) and silky smooth above. At 3000 feet somewhere near Candover Church I released. In that area there seemed to be a hint of weak wave, while exquisite virgae continued to pass by. I managed to slow my descent for a while but eventually fell back through the inversion into the rougher air. I then sunk a lot more quickly and never found a decent core to try and soar in. I landed after 24 minutes.

By now the temperature seemed to be dropping a bit and the wind was getting stronger. I found another pilot who wanted to fly it so I handed the glider over to him. I then managed to grab a late lunch while the other pilot braved a long winch queue and winch problems. Eventually he landed by the trailer after 2 flights and I helped him derig and put the glider away. I then headed home exhausted by about 4pm.

Sunday 2nd February 2014
First soaring flight of the year.

January was the wettest January since records began! I wasn't very well too so I didn't fly at all last month. Weather windows are few and far between, but I had seen on the soundings for today that it was quite breezy and a chance of a few thermals, but maybe some showers and a band of top cover going through at lunchtime though which could spoil things. This was the only weather window for quite some time (long range for next weekend looks like blowing a hoolie again as another storm goes through) so I decided to just go for it and see what happens.

After a smooth journey in I arrived about 8:10AM, expecting to have to wait 20 minutes for breakfast. However they were already open and I was hungry so I wasn't complaining. Another lovely Lasham cooked breakfast (veggie version). The plan was to just grab a Grob 102 out of the hangar. However Discus SH4 had just returned from having an instrument upgrade, and Colin was keen to get it flown. There is never a bad excuse to rig a Discus! So I had some help and by 9AM had SH4 rigged. It had a new radio and a new more advanced ClearNav vario fitted (the old one is going to the Grobs to be fitted with new GliderGuiders - a cheap version of the ClearNav). By 10:30AM I had the Discus out on runway 23, medium runway where we were launching from in the brisk Southwesterly breeze. I was expecting that. I decided to wait before flying as small cumulus were starting to pop a bit and I thought I'd see if it did indeed get soarable.

Around 11AM a movement was announced. A 737 was going to take off at midday. Doh! That was when I wanted to launch possibly. I decided to get the glider into the winch queue early to atleast have a hop before the movement. After just over a half hour wait I launched at 11:43AM to 1400 feet. Lo and behold it was just about soarable. Very weak and struggling to maintain my height at first, I clung on and eventually gained 100 feet. Meanwhile the movement occurred at noon as planned, those on the ground forced to watch us soar while they had to wait. I managed to hang on and after drifting downwind slightly, push upwind a bit along a weak street. This was pretty much the story, watching the drift, soaring in occasional 0-1kt lift, best height 1750 feet. Eventually the top cover the soundings hinted at arrived and it damped down. There were bigger clouds to the South but they were too far away. Eventally from 1600 feet I was forced to push across a gap to a cloud further away. But I got there at 900 feet and couldn't find lift. So I had to head back to the airfield. The plan as to do a Southerly Circuit to land on main runway 27 and stop close to the launchpoint at runway 23. This was achieved without any dramas. I landed at 12:37PM, 54 minutes after take off.

I then rejoined the winch queue hoping to find other people who had expressed an interest in flying. Meanwhile aloft the cumulus had mostly gone. I ate a late lunch in the clubhouse after helping someone move a glider into the Brown Elephant workshop. Then it looked like the top cover had cleared a bit so I headed back to the launch point. Alas it was just a small hole and any soaring window would be gone by the time I launched. At 2:30PM I towed the glider back top the trailer and another member helped me derig. Soon after 3pm I headed home. Just one flight but nice to get some decent time in the air. I did take a brand new camera up with me and took some pictures too.

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