Diary 2005

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.

2004 <- | 2005 | -> 2006 | -> Current

2005 Gliding Pictures

Saturday 24th December 2005

I went to the airfield to hand in some membership renewal forms amongst other things. However when I got there only 3 of us were there at 9AM, including the CFI Gordon. The Falke motorglider was available, so I got the opportunity to go up in that with Gordon to do some instrument flying. That turned out to be an excellent hour in the air. Firstly Gordon showed me how to taxi the aircraft to the runway. Shortly afterwards I performed my first ever powered aircraft take off (with me in full control). Once safely in the air I put a visor on which meant I couldn't see outside the cockpit (to simulate flying in cloud). First I got used to flying straight at a steady speed on a set heading. Then changing heading, adjusting speed, and then making 30 degree then 45 degree 'thermalling' turns. All the while we had climbed up and eventually Gordon said I could remove my visor as we had entered real cloud! There was a layer of cloud about 6000 feet up and we entered somewhere near Andover. We continued to climb up to 7000 feet just above the cloud tops - with blue sky above - seriously gorgeous! Then I put the visor back on and we descended back down, Gordon instructing me on heading and speed changes until at 200 feet he had guided me through a circuit on instruments. I took the visor off to see the Lasham runway ahead. I then performed my first ever full control powered aircraft landing.

We still had some time left. So I took up Gordon's offer to do some circuits. We did 5 or 6 circuits, including a couple of touch and gos, one full throttle on at 5 feet, a simulated power failure and on the final circuit we switched the engine off and performed a standard glider circuit, reasonable landing and then switched on to taxi back to the clubhouse. If I decided to train for an NPPL soon enough, this flight could count as an hour of the 10 hours training. Cool! However I was pleased to get the hang of instrument flying quite quickly. The Falke has an artificial horizon. However it'll be interesting to compare with the Turn and Slips on the Surrey and Hants gliders that I normally fly.

I hung around to help out and chat to others as the cloud was clearing away and it was turning into a lovely mild sunny gentle winter's day. Then after lunch I was offered the back seat of the DG1000 by someone who was otherwise going to fly solo. So I obliged and enjoyed another half hour in the air. I also took some pictures (see my piccies page). Later in the day we were also watching wave clouds form above the airfield too. There did seem to be some weak shear wave about, albeit not strong enough to make use of. It made for some rather nice formations. Then having put the tugs and gliders away at sunset (only 4pm) the day was over far too quickly once again.

Saturday 12th and 19th November 2005

Well it feels like winter has arrived now. On the 12th I took a winch launch in a DG300 that lasted just 9 minutes. The inversion was down at about 1200 feet, and not warm enough for thermals. On the 19th winter was even more apparent. Early on there was a thick frost and freezing fog. However the fog over the airfield cleared while the fog to the north and east stuck all day. So at lunchtime I took a 4000 foot aerotow in the same DG300 and was treated to a gorgeous view high above the large area of fog. I took loads of pictures before I glid gently back to earth, which are available on the Gliding Piccies pages.

Sunday 9th October 2005

It's now well into autumn, and soarable days are getting short, and few and far between. The main season is long over. However today was soarable for a while, and it was good to get off the ground again for a while. I grabbed a Discus in the ballot, and had plenty of time to prepare it as it was a slow start and early finish. I launched at 12:41pm into locally semi-blue conditions. I managed to get up to about 2000 feet, and for a while had fun 'pair flying' with an Ash for a while. Slowly the conditions improved, eventually reaching a cloudbase of 2600'AGL. I decided to see if it was good enough to go anywhere. After pushing out as far as Popham blue holes to the north and west, and large scrappy areas with weaker and broken lift put me off going any further as in the good spots thermals were mostly fairly weak (mostly between 0.5 and 2kts) and cloudbase was no better than about 2600' above Lasham. So I turned back, and near Lasham promptly got as low as 1200' before scraping away again. Best cloudbase later in the flight was 3000 feet above Lasham over Basingstoke. I also found my best thermals there, peaking at 4kts under the largest clouds. Then it was getting too late in the day at only 3pm. Upwind the clouds were spreading out a little bit and thermals were dying. I decided to call it a day and land. Can't moan at 2.5 hours in October though.

I admit I was hoping to manage 104km and make 3000 solo km for the year. But hey it was nice to dream. If only there had been less top cover - it might have just got XC'able then. But realistically I am now into winter mode - patiently awaiting next Spring and the start of the next soaring season.

Saturday 17th September 2005

After ages with damp muggy air and low cloudbases, the soundings looked promising with an unstable northerly breeze pulled down behind the remnants of Hurricane Nate kept from being too unstable by a ridge of high pressure. I decided to play around to the South of the airfield, as that was where the best weather was forecast.

I winch launched in the Ventus a little before midday, and straight away caught a thermal. Cloudbase was already over 3000 feet AGL in this lovely cold unstable air. So after about 10 minutes or so I set off South aiming to turn Havant. I got there easily, and then headed back into wind. I pushed all the way to Chieveley. Cloudbase was about 4300'QNH there, and clouds were rather large and spreadout. So I didn't go any further north. I headed back towards the South Coast. As I passed Newbury I found my best thermal of the day - a 7kt average to about 4500'QNH. I carried on to the coast, where cloudbase had jumped to 5500'QNH. So I decided to continue on over the Solent. It was still soarable even over the water, as the ground and sea temperatures were about the same.

I went past Bembridge and few km southwest of there I found a 4kt climb to 5600'QNH. I also happened to be climbing with a Lasham based K13 which later landed at Bembridge for Silver Distance. I carried on until I was about 5km South of Newport. Looking back I should have turned St. Catherine's point as it was well within range. However I headed back past Ryde, and on back to Portsmouth, taking climbs over the Solent while I took lots of pictures. From there I decided to head on back to Lasham as I was getting rather cold and tired. After a couple more strong climbs I had a nice fast final glide back home.

I calculated my total distance to be about 267km, and flight time to be 4h01m. No personal records there, but a nice relaxing jolly in unexpectedly good conditions so late in the year.

Saturday 20th August 2005

The soundings looked promising with a northerly breeze, and I planned Lasham - TURweston - PeTersfieldWest - BEMbridge - Lasham. I winch launched in the Ventus to just 1100 feet above Lasham. I was down to 700 feet but then got away to a cloudbase not much above 2000 feet above Lasham. After a short while cloudbase reached 3000 feet QNH and I set off northwards. However I found further north cloudbase was lower and spreadout was present. After getting round Aldermaston and to the M4, I decided not to continue and turned back. After a little bit of local soaring I wandered South towards Petersfield. However bigger and bigger gaps were opening up and I stopped several km short of Petersfield. Back North again I reached a huge cloud near Basingstoke. Under that cloud I found my strongest ever thermal. When I reached cloudbase (a bit over 3500 feet QNH) the L-Nav was reading an average of a whopping 10.7 knots! After that I wandered up a street to Kingsclere, before drifting back to Lasham to land after 3 hours 22 minutes. Best height was 4100 feet QNH. Thermals mostly 4-6 knots. Some stronger though. Interesting day, if not straight forward thanks to some large areas of sink and big gaps between thermals. I estimate my wanderings amounted to about 135km.

Friday 12th August 2005

Well it had to come eventually. My last weekday flight before my holiday ends. Atleast it was a rather pleasant one. I got the Ventus in the ballot, and decided to put 40 litres of water ballast in per wing, thinking I could always dump it if it wasn't great, as a lot of spreadout was forecast. I then got the glider to the back of the Open Class competition grid, hoping to launch after the competition gliders had gone. I set my map up with the Club Class task of Lasham - COcKing - MARlborough - BaSingstokeNorth - Lasham. In the end I got up as soon as the Open Class guys had gone, ahead of the Club Class gliders. Great!

So having launched at 12:04pm I set off as soon as possible in half decent conditions with cloudbase already up to 3000 feet above Lasham. I had a decent glide over to COK, before slicing back upwind back towards Lasham. Here I got low and at one point was thinking about 'landing out' back at Lasham. But I got away and made it further northwest to some large clouds that had good strong lift under them. From then on it was easy going, following streets and hopping past gaps. I only really turned to top up before crossing a gap. Spreadout wasn't really a problem, although I could see it further North and East.

Having turned MAR I carried on to BSN with some good runs along the streets again. The highlight of the flight was a monster thermal close to BSN on the edge of 8/8 spreadout to the north - I saw a glider high up turning tightly and although I was above 3500'QNH I went underneath him, and my vario promptly went off the scale! Yee haw! Turn tightly myself, centre in the thermal's core, and after a few turns I was at cloudbase with the L-Nav's averager reading a whopping 9.7 knots! Easily the strongest thermal of the year (if not ever)!

Anyway I promptly left before I got sucked into the cloud (cloudbase was about 4600'QNH), and decided conditions were too good to land yet, and took a visit to ChilBoltoN before going back to Lasham. I took a good climb on the edge of the Southampton Airspace and then glid around Chilbolton. Then I realised I was only a few hundred feet below final glide height, and glid on under some spreading out cumulus slightly north of track. Strong lift under them pulled me up onto track and allowed me to final glide a bit faster. More thermals close to home gave me enough energy to cross the finish line at 130 knots - great fun! (Yep I dumped my water about 7.5km away from Lasham). Then a simple pull up into the circuit, wheel down, flaps set and round to land 2 hours 51 minutes after I launched.

I reckon the task itself lasted about 2 hours 45 minutes - about 82kph. So I still feel I am a bit slow - given some strong thermals and the water ballast I had on board. Still it was good fun in conditions that were much better than expected. It proved to be about right as the thermals spread out big time and died locally soon after I landed.

Sunday 7th - Monday 8th August 2005

Sunday was one of my best gliding days ever! I spent 6 hours 41 minutes in the air in total, and flew my first 500km flight. To read the full story, click on 'Stories' in the Gliding Index.

Monday was a bit of an anticlimax in comparison. The clouds were smaller and flatter, and the thermals much harder to centre in. They felt rather distorted. From the ground it looked awesome. Indeed locally to Lasham it was pretty good. But north of Aldermaston it was much trickier. Thermals seemed quite broken in places, and large areas of heavy sink were present to keep me on my toes. Despite this I had a slow waffle over to Didcot and back in a dry Ventus. Didcot appeared to be in a blue hole, but after a while it cycled and I comfortably reached the Power Station. On the way back I tried to final glide it but those areas of sink pulled me down below glide and for a while it was looking like I might pay Brimpton a visit. However after finding weak lift near Brimpton and gaining enough height to resume a marginal final glide I continued around Aldermaston. Then just south of there I blundered into by far the best thermal of the day. Suddenly the winter vario shot up to the stop, and after a few turns the L-Nav's average was reading 9 knots. It slackened off a bit high up but I very rapidly reached cloudbase at 5500'QNH. So I then cruised back at 100kts, diverting to the East of the airfield to gawp at a huge warehouse fire from 2000 feet up before burning off height and landing to finish the day. Total flight time was 2 hours 10 minutes.

Wednesday 3rd August 2005

And of course now the comp has ended the better weather returns! It promised to be an early start so I was running around like mad readying the Ventus that I won in the ballot. I finally launched by aerotow at 11:20AM and set off on track at about 11:35AM. There was a fresh northwesterly breeze and the air was quite unstable.

I had declared LAS-HEReford-WinSLow-PEN-LAS for 503km and the push upwind to Hereford went OK. Although between Membury and Swindon progress was slow as I went through a patch of poor air. Cloudbase was already 4000'QNH+ by now. I made steady progress to Hereford, catching up with others who had launched before me. However I noted that some clouds were starting to spreadout, and some big gaps between streets were present. I got round HER and then the blast downwind began. Much easier going now, although because of the increasing threat of spreadout and the presence of areas of major sink I decided to stay high where I could. Despite that the Bicester area had a huge area of Spreadout. There were cloud streets to the north, but I made the mistake of going further south closer to track, and ended up at 1100'QNH with water dumped, wheel down and ready to land at Bicester before the sun shone on Bicester town and set off 3kt thermals for me to climb away again. At first it was scratchy and short lived, but eventually they got higher, increasing to over 5kts higher up.

So having got away again I looked towards Winslow and decided given the wind and local spreadout I would turn Bicester and head home. I jumped my way to Didcot where I finally got a decent climb to 5600'QNH. Up there the L-Nav suggested the wind was about 25kts - rather strong! From there I was able to final glide my way home to land 5 hours 30 minutes after I launched. What a relief! So I still managed 344km, if at only 65kph. But was a good fun flight anyhow. Best climb was over 8kts average, and that climb at Didcot was the highest. The view along the Severn to the Estuary on the first leg was awesome. Wish I'd had a chance to photograph it. Maybe next time... ;)

Saturday 23rd - Sunday 31st July 2005

I was at Lasham during this 9 day period for the Lasham Regionals - my first entry into a BGA competition. Unfortunately the weather was dreadful, but there were some highlights and I came away still feeling good. I now have a taster of what being in the competition is like, and I am thinking about entering again next year in the hope of flying in better weather and getting better results.

I was flying in the B class. There were 3 competition days. On the 23rd I ended up in a wheat stubble field and only came 23rd of 32. On the 26th I couldn't get away and ended up landed back at Lasham after only managing 4km. Half the B's did the same so I didn't feel too bad. But the best day was the 29th. We had been set an assigned area task. Quite a few B's couldn't get away, or landed out fairly early, but I managed to tip-toe around the first turning point and then got as far as Oxford before landing out just south of Didcot Power Station. Two other B's followed me into the same field too. Only one B made it home. So due to my distance flown I came joint second which was great. In the final presentation I was also awarded the best newcomer shield which was a nice surprise.

A full report has been written up on the Stories page. To find out what happened click on 'Stories' in the Gliding Index.

Thursday 21st July 2005

Back in the competition Discus again, and today was looking very promising with an early start, so I munched cereal bars for breakfast while rigging, DI'ing and watering the glider as early as possible. As a result I was able to launch around 10:45AM. I had declared a 520km task which was LASham-LEDbury-ARUndel-CRicklaDe-LASham.

I set off around 11'ish having taken a while to get away. Early on cloudbase was low so I tip-toed my way towards Swindon. However several km short of there I got very low (below 1000 feet) and almost landed out. After dumping my water (what a shame) and scaping away in weak lift for ages I finally got away. Beyond Sandhill Farm conditions visually looked even worse, so I decided to turn there instead of Ledbury. That cut the task to 380km.

I then had a good fast romp downwind to Arundel near the South coast, where conditions were booming (4-5kts to about over 4500'QNH. The scenery was gorgeous and the vis better than inland. The ocean looked like paradise from aloft. And cumulus clouds were drifting out to sea, so no sea breeze. (I took a load of pictures which I might try to get online in August.)

Having turned Arundel, I then pushed upwind past Swindon to Cricklade. The clouds were still flatter or blue beyond Swindon, but cloudbase was now much higher and it was easier going. Having turned Cricklade and back to Swindon I took my best climb of the day, 6.5kts to 5500'QNH. With a tail wind behind me heading back to Lasham the L-Nav told me I was only a few hundred feet below final glide. So I started my final glide from Swindon! And indeed I was able to gain a fair bit of height simply by slowing down in strong thermals, and did not turn all the way home. I even got above glide south of Newbury and was able to fly faster, and had plenty of energy for a good fast 120kt competition finish past the clubhouse before coming round for a safe landing.

I haven't worked it out, but my task speed was not that fast, mainly because of the episode when I almost landed out. Shame that. It was still soarable for a couple of hours after I landed, so a 500 could still have been on (albeit undeclared). However I am happy with this flight, as it was my longest flight both distance and time-wise, and I passed 500 hours total experience during this flight too.

Saturday 16th July 2005

Today was definitely different. I had stayed at Lasham overnight, and started by getting up early (6:10AM) to see the T38 (Primary) being flown by tow car along the runway. I managed to get a go in it, and it is definitely very different to any other gliding experience I have ever had. There is no cockpit as such - just a seat on the front of the main frame, completely open, with an ASI (Air speed indicator) between the rudder pedals. When I launched, the glider climbed very quickly. The view was amazing. I held at around 200 - 300 feet above the ground. Two thirds of the way down the runway I released. At that point the glider (flying speed 45 knots) sinks pretty quickly (it only has 8-1 glide ratio so no airbrakes required!) and landed very smoothly near the peri-track at the far end. The next person then had a tow in the opposite direction as we had a light 90 degree cross wind allowing that to be possible. That was a great way to start the day and wake up before breakfast!

However the main flight of today was in the back seat of a Nimbus 3D. This is a huge glider with a 25 metre wing span. We launched just before lunchtime into a blue / haze caps / tiny cu's sky. Went westwards to Blandford first. Over there the inversion was around the 3600'QNH mark. But there were 4kt thermals to be had in the blue. Then we headed towards Bedford well inland. Over here the inversion was higher and we had a best height of about 4000'QNH. Mainly 2-4kt thermals but occasionally we found something stronger. Unfortunately 15km short of Bedford the conditions and flying P2 got the better of me. Fortunately taking control of the glider cured any queasiness but by then I was rather frazzled and we headed back to Lasham in some fairly intimidating conditions, with areas of huge sink threatening to spoil the final glide. But we made it back for a 350km flight which was still very pleasurable. It was interesting to see how a big wing glider compares to a Discus (15 metre wing span). Certainly when cruising the Nimbus goes on for many miles more than a Discus. And soaring feels quite different, as there is a lot more wing to move when banking and turning.

Thanks Dave T for offering me the back seat for that flight. :)

Friday 15th July 2005

The day started badly, with lots of low cloud and top cover. I delayed rigging until after the briefing. However eventually the low cloud lifted, and the top cover miraculously dissipated, leaving a rather nice afternoon.

Having finally rigged the same Discus as from Wednesday, I took a winch launch around 1pm. Cloudbase was just over 3000' (3600' QNH). So I headed north to Didcot. Conditions were fine until Chievley Services. North of there I had a big gap to cross, and arrived at Didcot rather low. However a climb right over the power station's cooling towers eventually got me away again to a slightly lower cloudbase of 3000'. At that point I decided to go back to Newbury, finding a way across without losing so much height this time. From there I pushed upwind along a cloud street to Rivar Hill before returning back to Basingstoke, where I local soared for an hour before landing back at Lasham. During that local soaring flight I had fun under a huge cloud street over Basingstoke, skimming the clouds at high speed before pulling up out the sides / ends of the street to climb slightly above cloud base (still in clear air I hasten to say). At one point I got to 4000' (4600'QNH).

So after an unpromising start the day turned out better than expected. I heard that later on cloudbase topped 5000' at Didcot. So maybe I should have pushed on to Oxford and played about over there. But still a nice day.

Wednesday 13th July 2005

Today felt distinctly fresher early on than last weekend, although still rather warm. I got the glider I am due to fly in the Regionals from the 23rd July in the ballot, and filled it with 10 gallons of water per wing and scrambled for an aerotow launch just before lunchtime as cumulus clouds were popping much earlier than expected.

So today being better than of late, I planned first to go South to Petersfield, then West to Bruton, and then North-East to Oxford before returning back for a 305km cross country flight. I had a leisurely glide south to Petersfield. Then I headed West towards Bruton, with a D-tour around the Southampton airspace in the process. Just shallow cu's and a narrow operating bandwidth at that time (2800' to 3600' QNH was best). Eventually I got to Salisbury. West of there the sky was going bananas. I just kept on going straight for many km, cloudbase only 3600'QNH but I didn't lose much height hopping from large cu to large cu'. Near Bruton it opened up into very shallow cu' Very poor vis West of Salisbury too so I still had to be slightly cautious. I turned Bruton, then headed towards Oxford. It was difficult going for a while. It took a while to get past Keevil. Then easier going from there. Big gaps but didn't lose much height. I turned at Wantage because northeast of there it looked blue. I was also getting low and a short while later dumped my water. However I then found just enough height to head south towards home and better weather, for a while on a marginal 'final glide' to Membury before getting away in a better thermal. Further south towering cu's were present with very strong thermals underneath them. I just couldn't resist taking a 7kt thermal straight to 5300' QNH cloudbase before descending back to Lasham. However most thermals were more distorted and only 2-3kt (sometimes less) achieved.

Today's flight was great fun and one of the fastest 4 hours 21 minutes I've had for a while. :) Although it was very hot again the cloud shadows made it much more pleasant. And the Lasham - Petersfield - Bruton - Wantage - Lasham (LAS-PTW-BRU-WAN-LAS) task was still 269km. Great to be going XC again.

Friday - Sunday 8th - 10th July 2005

I spent 3 consecutive days flying Discus B's at Lasham. The first 2 days were rather claggy, and the 3rd was blue. On the 8th and 10th I flew with 2 barrels of water per wing for the first time. On the 9th I flew dry. Unfortunately on none of these days did it feel good enough for me to go cross country. The wait continues...

On the 8th I had a few 4 knot thermals to between 3800' and 4200' to play with to get used to flying with all that water ballast. Unfortunately it was often 7 or 8/8ths top cover. At one point I went as far west as Bullington Cross. However at that point the only thermal there was drifting into Southampton Airspace, and huge claggy gaps blocked me to the West and North. So I had to chicken out and return towards Basingstoke where I eventually dumped the water as conditions got harder. I then local soared for a bit longer before returning to Lasham.

On the 9th low stratus plagued us until mid afternoon. Then it started to clear up. I took a winch launch at 4pm. Best thermal was 4 knots to a best height of 2900'. To the north cloudbase was lower. Just a shortish flight and nothing too much to note.

On the 10th the day started much more promisingly, and soundings were suggesting a very good day. So having put 2 barrels of water per wing in the glider again and declared a 511km task the day proved to be blue and difficult. I launched soon after midday and it wasn't long before I knew the 500 was off. I could see very small cumulus clouds to the north and west but they were a very long way away. Locally I was struggling in very distorted 2-3kt thermals and a 20kt north-easterly wind at height. I tried to set off to the north and west several times, each time getting very low and selecting a field to land in. Fortunately I scabbled my way back to Lasham. Later in the flight I tried to fly south, as a line of good cumulus had formed along the coast. But again heavy sink south west of Alton took me rather low and I retreated again. Eventually the heat (20C at 2000') finished me off and I retreated to the ground for headache pills and an ice cream after just under 3 hours.

Sunday 26th June 2005

Another poor day. Low clag didn't break until lunchtime. However having bagged the Ventus again despite coming bottom of the ballot I decided to make this an experimental flight. I've never flown the Ventus with water before, so I put a barrel of water ballast in each wing. I launched about 2:10pm. Cloudbase was about 2200 feet above Lasham. It slowly went blue and I never saw any higher than 2400 feet. I didn't get below 1700 feet but I heard that it was very difficult below 1500 feet, so I was glad I had stayed high. I dumped the water after an hour and a half, and eventually landed after just under 2 hours as I was starting to feel tired (and a bit bored). Another local soaring day.

Saturday 18th June 2005

Today was a hot and humid day - bad news for gliding, but I also was back in the Ventus which is always nice to have. Unfortunately the weather was not good enough for cross country. We were told to head north and inland, where more heating should mean higher cloudbase or inversion if blue. So I winch launched around 1pm into a scrappy looking sky. I would have waited longer but it looked as if sea air was encroaching from the South. Cloudbase was less than 2500 feet above Lasham (3100' QNH). It slowly rose during the flight. My best height was 2800 feet (3400' QNH) above Basingstoke some time after 2pm. Although much of the time it was hard to get above 2500'. After 2pm it slowly went blue from the South as sea air came in and started killing the thermals. I got out as far as the Aldermaston area a couple of times hoping for better conditions inland, but in the end I chickened out and played around the north of Basingstoke instead. It was a sultry 17C at cloudbase and after an hour and a half I was too hot and feeling rather sleepy. So in the end I headed back to Lasham to land just short of 2 hours after launching and made a beeline for the clubhouse and an ice cream! Chatting to a couple of experienced motorglider pilots I was glad I didn't head further away as those pilots both had to use their engine to avoid landing out in the Didcot area.

Monday 30th May 2005

I did turn up yesterday and had a DG300 ready to fly. But unfortunately the weather was much poorer than expected. In the end I did not bother launching. Today I came bottom of the ballot. However 2 things prevented this day from being a disaster. Firstly I had put my name on the flying list to have a go in the club's brand new DG1000. Secondly, no one else wanted the only serviceable K8 (CJM), so I bagged it and decided to have some fun in it. It was a bit of a come down after flying only the Ventus for the last 7 months, but after I remembered no flaps, no retractable undercarriage, and almost no penetration into wind, I had good fun in a glider that can turn so tightly and is so light that it can out-soar any glass glider. I had 2 flights.

For the first flight at lunchtime I had fun soaring to 3000-3500' cloudbase above Lasham. I took a winch launch and was down to 600' in the circuit before finding a thermal and getting away - any lower and I would have committed to landing. Once at height I did not go far as I found it hard to get far upwind without being blown back again as I regained my height in the next thermal. Then after an hour I decided to land as the wing tape had come loose and was furiously flapping against the fuselage. It got so violent that I thought the cover between the wings had come loose and thought it best to land and check it out.

Having determined it was just the wing tape I removed it and flew with no tape. Much better! I winch launched into the edge of a shower. However a sharp turn to the northeast where others were circling got me into weak lift under the clag from the shower which was enough for me to get away and escape into better air. After the ground dried up cloudbase rose rapidly. Some strong thermals appeared, one as strong as 8.5kts with gusts pushing the winter vario off the scale. Then on one good climb I found myself at the TMA base so had to break off. I then headed towards Kingsclere where airspace was better and reached cloudbase at 5100' (5700' QNH). By then after 2 hours with a draft going down the back of my neck I started to shiver and decided to return to Lasham. By now spreadout ad already huge gaps were ever increasing. I am glad I did not go far in such a low performance glider. But good fun anyway. Last time I flew a K8 was almost 2 years ago when I took the other K8 (474) to Didcot and back.

The day was not over however, as I got a go in the new DG1000. By then severe spreadout had killed all the local thermals, with more distant ones teasing just out of reach. With a 20 meter wingspan and a huge fuselage I felt like I had switched from a mini to a bus. But the DG was easy to aerotow and fly, and I had no problems during take off, flight and landing, and the instructor seemed to enjoy the ride too. The glider is pretty nimble for its size and can go for many miles without sinking much. It is definitely much roomier than the Duo Discus which I find cramped in the front seat. The controls are slightly heavier though. The stall was also strange, with the turbulence off the stalled wings momentarily 'disabling' the elevator. So the nose dropped rather sharply. But nothing too alarming once familiarised. It would be interesting to go on a cross country flight in this glider in the future.

Sunday 15th May 2005

That was a long break! 4 weekends of bad weather followed by illness. It was great to be back. I deliberately took it easy to start with as having recently been ill I didn't want to push my luck. (I remember when I came back too soon May last year and got sick up in the air. No way did I want to repeat that!) So with both a 200km and a 300km flight set in the briefing I drew both of those on my map (and put into my GPS). We were expecting semi blue or 1/8th's cumulus possibly to over 5000 feet AGL. So touch and go if the 300 was on.

Well I winch launched in the S&H Ventus C soon after 12:30pm into nice looking sky which looked like it might deliver. Straight away found a nice thermal to just over 3000 feet. Conditions were easy so I set off towards Basingstoke. As I progressed conditions got nicer and nicer with some strong climbs developing. I decided the 300 was on and continued on towards Birdlip. I took it slow going through the gap between Brize Norton and Swindon. But the first leg had no dramas and I took a strong climb right over the turning point up to cloudbase. Here it was atleast 3/8ths cumulus and going well. The next leg to Northampton was the easiest, with strong climbs (up to 8kts in places) and cloudbase steadily rising. I went quite a way without turning. Another climb over the Northampton South turning point (a junction of the M1) saw me headed for home. It got a bit trickier going past Bicester and Oxford as it was fairly blue here. But thanks to the glider marking a cracking strong blue thermal not far from Oxford. Another super thermal (8kts+) just north of Didcot under a big cumulus and I broke off at 5700' ASL (cloudbase maybe 6000' ASL). From there it was a straight forward trip home via Newbury to complete my longest ever cross country flight (by 2km).

I estimate my average flying speed was about 80kph, so I wasn't particularly fast. But I had intended to see how I go to start with. Other factors were lack of water ballast (which makes your most efficient speed faster), turning a few times when really I could have carried on to the next thermal (don't turn unless you have to), and a couple of possibly bad decisions when selecting clouds to fly to - especially close to the blue zones. But I was very happy with this flight - my first 300km flight since my maiden 300km flight in August 2003. During the year I intend to start flying with water ballast, and getting used to that. I also intend to work on the other areas and hopefully get my flying speed up in time for the Lasham Regionals at the end of July. So plenty to do. :)

Saturday 2nd April 2005

Spring is here. Unfortunately that lovely cold air is history, replaced by milder cloudier less favourable air. However today was a blue day with some top cover at times. The wind was a brisk, less than ideal Southeasterly. I winch launched in the Ventus again at 1:23pm and thanks to gliders nearby marking it, immediately found a strong thermal to over 3000 feet (3600 feet QNH). So I started to head north with a view to possibly going to Bicester and back. However by Basingstoke I was struggling to find lift. After a while I decided not to go further and headed back to Lasham, where I was down to 1200 feet before finding another thermal. Below about 2500 feet the best thermals were very strong - 6-7 knot averages. Then they rapidly narrowed and weakened above that closer to the inversion. Later on in the flight thermal tops got higher, my best height being 4100 feet. Late in the flight a lot of top cover formed but despite that thermals were still there and useable (just slightly weaker). I landed exactly 3 hours after launching in the end after a pleasant flight hanging around in the sky watching the world go by.

Sunday 6th March 2005

It's been a very cold 2 weeks. Once again today we had a cold north-northeasterly wind coming from the Arctic. It has been a snowy couple of weeks. But high pressure stabilized the air a bit today. However unlike on the 19th there was more moisture up at height.

I took a winch launch in the Ventus at 11:10AM. Almost straight away I found an 8 knot average thermal to 3300 feet (3900 feet QNH). So I then pushed northwest past Basingstoke to Kingsclere with the intention of flying to didcot and back. However further north there was a huge amount of clag and the visibility wasn't that great so I instead went to Hungerford where I found more very strong thermals to about 3500 feet. After that I pushed East to Chieveley services. There it was not so good with the large cloud amounts. So from there I escaped back to Popham where it was much sunnier. From there I went back to the Lasham area to complete a leisurely 101km - my first cross country of the year.

After that I played around locally to Lasham for a while as wherever the sun was shining there were 6-8 knot thermals to be found which was rather fun. My best cloudbase was 3800 feet (4400 feet QNH) to the South near Alton. Then I spotted a steam train departing Westwards out of alton and followed it for a short time. However by now it was getting a bit too cold, with it being -9C at cloudbase. So I decided to land 2 hours 22 minutes after launch. Another good fun early season flight, if rather another freezing cold one.

Saturday 19th February 2005

After yet anothet huge break I was glad to be back flying again. We had a northerly blast of air straight from the arctic today. As a result it was very cold and unstable. Conditions on the ground were quite tricky as we were operating off runway 027, which gave us a 10-15kt crosswind at almost 90 degrees! However I did not realise how good it would be aloft until I got up there. I winch launched the Surrey & Hants Ventus at 11:33AM. Already it was soarable off the winch to over 3000 feet (3600 feet QNH). Cloudbase slowly rose to a best height of 4200 feet over the next few hours, with 4-6kts averages and long streets of large cumulus clouds.

The best part of the flight came, however, after about an hour or hour and a half. I climbed up to 3800 feet cloudbase over Basingstoke. I then pushed upwind out the Northeast side and ran along the back edge of the cloud on the edge of a blue hole as I was still climbing. Before too long I found myself in 8kts of silky smooth wave rocketing above the clouds! Unfortunately I rapidly had to abandon the climb as the London TMA is only 5500 feet QNH. At this height the lift was still a steady 8kts! I took some pictures while up there. See them on the Gliding Piccies pages. I started exploring and eventually fell back down to cloudbase. Unfortunately I never found the wave again despite playing around in the area for another hour. I guess this was shear wave as the cumulus I climbed up had grown rapidly and was just like a mountain. There are no wave sources nearby upwind that could have given that sort of lee wave.

The rest of the flight consisted of more thermalling. At one point I got out as far as Kingsclere, which is 21km away upwind. Near the end I whizzed along a huge street of clouds at 4000 feet reaching 90kts without losing height. After 3 hours and 37 minutes I decided to land as I was getting very frozen. It was about -9C at 4000 feet! As I headed back I took the Ventus up to 120Kts going downwind briefly. The GPS read almost 150Kts. So the wind was very strong up at height. I did get caught out by curlover from nearby trees when I landed, and had a rather poor landing. Fortunately I got away with it as it was quite gentle but could so easily have been a lot worse.

About 3:30-4pm I winch launched the glider again to fly it back to the trailer. I got away in weak thermals again, and managed 42 minutes in 1-2kts to 2500 feet before landing. This time I learnt from the first flight and managed to land perfectly. :D On both flights I could have stayed up longer. At the end of the last flight it wasn't that far from sunset. I guess the cold air advection from the north kept the thermals going for surprisingly long. I have never seen a 5 hour soaring window in February before.

As it got dark light snow showers moved in and kept me amused on the way home with the flakes whizzing past my headlights. Great day, and I am even almost defrosted now as I write this.

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