Diary 2009

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.

2008 <- | 2009 | -> 2010 | -> Current

2009 Gliding Pictures

Sunday 27th December 2009

I decided to pick today to keep current over the winter. On the way in I noticed that there were still patches of snow in the shadey spots. (Last week there was a lot of snow before it warmed up for Christmas.) I arrived around 8AM in a heavy shower as an early trough went through. Thankfully not an indicator of the day ahead. Unsurprisingly, there was nobody much around that early. But surprisingly, after breakfast, I was still the only person aiming to fly, surrounding by several instructors. Since the sun was shining I went and got the solar panel out to top the caravan battery up a bit. After an age of watching movements and chatting we did get DG1000 45 out as another pilot was on the way to fly also. I promptly found a rudder problem during the DI, which Colin soon rectified. DI resumed and completed, and gave the filthy wings a clean. Then towed out to the clubhouse before pausing while some doubts were raised about the winch launch. The problem was large blocks of ice along the cable run along the edge of the runway! While we waited I taped the wings. When the ATC flying test departed we towed out and indeed the winch was set up on the north side where there was less ice.

I took 3 winch launches with instructor under broken cloud that looked low. However cloudbase was actually closer to 2000 feet, underlining a rather strong flying wind. There were also broken patches of weak lift but nothing usable. I did find the DG a little bit of a handful compared to the Discus in the turbulent conditions. Aloft the snow patches were pretty, although I didn't take any pictures as I was too focussed on the flying. My first circuit was too high and a bit wonky, and I changed from a north side circuit to south side boggy grass to avoid the launch point bus on the runway and landing lights on the north side left out for when the air test returns. So I went again twice. The other two flights were better flown, and I could feel the rust being blown away as I flew better circuits and landed nice and smoothely on a mud free runway. It was good to get some practice on this glider type for which I don't have so many hours on. Then Derek Copeland decided to have a go, and took me as passenger so that he didn't have to play with the ballast weights. This allowed me a chance to enjoy the view more and take pictures, even while on circuit and landing, something I don't get to do very often. Meanwhile a K21 had been brought out by the other flying pilot. Between us there were 7 launches in total for the day! Where was everybody?

Then after Derek hangar landed 45 we cleaned that mud off the undercarriage and put the glider to bed before we went to get a late lunch. I also showed Derek the photos. Then the other glider landed back and all was put away. (I discovered at this point also that a parachute strap had ripped a big hole in my old jeans. Oops! Luckily my coat was low enough to hide it and get me home with dignity intact.) I was just about to then head to the launch point when the bus came back so it came to me. My instructor of the day even rescued my bag from the bus as it was being put away. Thanks! Then with the sun getting low I returned to the caravan. The solar panel was still charging after 6 hours so the battery clearly needed a good topup. I also discovered the skylight was leaking slightly, leaving a damp patch on a mat. Better that than the carpet I suppose. (I should take superglue next time and try and glue the broken handle back onto the panel itself.) Put the panel away and then left for home.

Saturday 7th November 2009

Today the plan was to go and see the Lasham firework display and bring mum dad and sister along too, with tea in the new caravan beforehand. However I saw what looked like a possible small soaring window on the forecast soundings, but with a risk of showers. After dithering I decided I would come for the ballot and have a single seater ready just in case it was OK. The morning didn't quite start to plan as when I arrived I had left my fob and caravan keys behind. Oops! I borrowed someone else's fob to let me in. A quick call home and mum had swiped my fob and keys to bring along later. I had been hoping to have everything ready before they arrived but never mind. I was the only one in the ballot. I had already spotted SH2 at the front of the hangar so I swiped that. Then I discovered the restaurant have delayed opening until 8:30AM. So I went out and DI'ed the glider in the hangar while I was waiting for them to open. A pre-solo pilot decided to join me and learn about DI'ing. So I talked through what I was doing, and he was able to help me with positive checks too. After breakfast I towed the glider to the launch point early before the rest of the gliders came out. (It was already set up by an early morning group.) Then I helped out on the ground for a while.

Mid morning small low wispy cumulus did start popping indicating the air was indeed unstable. Over breakfast I checked the latest forecast soundings which looked better than yesterday. It turned out to be almost spot on. I decided to winch launch just before noon. That was a bit too early though. After gliding out to some cumulus I found 0 - 0.5 knots but it wasn't useable. I fell down after 10 minutes. I was just below 600 feet at high key point too but a weak thermal on circuit allowed me to still get back to the launch point rather than have to turn in early. Back on the ground I rejoined the long winch queue.

I winch launched again at 1pm. This time my timing was spot on. A promising cloud street was forming to the south of the airfield. As soon as I released from the launch it was obvious the front end of the street was the place to go, and sure enough I found a 2kt thermal at about 1300 feet. I carried on to just above 2000 feet before moving upwind a little where the street looked better. Here I went all the way to a 2500 foot cloudbase. Then it was a nice steady run upwind, with other gliders all around me, with a classic unbroken street line all the way to Candover. Beyond there it was breaking up so I turned tail and flew downwind, noting the LNav's reported 20kt tailwind. I went as far as between Alton and Odiham and then ran up and down a little bit. However in that 20kt wind the end of the street which I found at Candover was approaching quickly. A bunch of us hung on downwind of the airfield until the last cloud was starting to get a bit too far away. I was the last to break off upwind. I set off into the dead air at best glide speed (about 60kts). There were one or two cumulus clouds to the southwest of Lasham Village but those thermals were like the ones on my first flight. So at 1500 feet I set off round the west side of the airfield to the north side and then landed at the hangar after a north side circuit. Flight time 60 minutes.

So a bonus November soaring flight with 2-3kts to 2500 feet above Lasham. Nice! OK it was never going to compete with last time I flew which was in ridge, thermal and wave at Aboyne, but it was enjoyable none the less. I then got asked to help out at the airex launch point for a bit. Then I finally cleaned and put SH2 away, back where I originally found it. Then I managed to go and get my stuff from the launchpoint and get back to the club house just in time for mum dad and sister to arrive. After a brief sortie into the clubhouse we went to the caravan. The gas was working fine and got the gas whistle kettle singing nicely. I had problems with the water system though. There seemed to be a leak somewhere. I also had blips in the power too. Things to look at in the new year most likely. It was a pleasant afternoon though. After clearing and locking up again it was back to the clubhouse where at 6pm a ginormous bonfire complete with a guy on top was lit up, as was the BBQ. An hour later the fireworks were set off. They finished just in time as rain arrived shortly after we all piled inside for main supper. So great timing. Then off home after that. A very nice day and evening enjoyed by all. And I finally got my sister to the airfield for the first time in the 15 years I've been at Lasham! ;)

Sunday 25th October 2009

I did not fly today, but I did do a number of ground based tasks, not least a good rummage around my new caravan, producing an inventory and seeing what needed buying and doing.

Saturday 10th - Saturday 17th October 2009 (Trip to Aboyne)

I actually left after work on 1st October. After an overnight stop in Carlisle I returned to Fort William on the 2nd via Stirling and Oban. On the 3rd I had a nice albeit soaking walk above Kinlochleven despite a passing storm. The 4th was calm and clear, and I attempted the Ring of Steall walk, starting in Glen Nevis, then up over An Garbanach and round the ridges above the Glen that feeds the awesome Steall Waterfall. Then on the 5th I transferred to Aviemore and couldn't resist climbing Cairngorm before the snow cap melted. I then walked from Glenmore up the Ryvoan Pass and over Meall a' Bhuchaille on the 6th, and then from Aviemore later in the day I went up the local hill Craigellachie. However I overdid it and was totally knackered on the 7th. So I took the Strathspey steam train one stop to Boat of Garten then walked slowly and tiredly the 5 miles back before resting through the afternoon. On the 8th I had a driving day transferring to Ballater via Grantown on Spey, Glenlivet, Tomintoul, Braemar and Linn of Dee. On the 9th the weather was rubbish so I did a local walk along the Sgor Buidhe circuit to a ridge between Ballater and Morven.

Then on Saturday 10th after my last BnB breakfast I checked out and beelined it to Aboyne airfield. It was calm and not very soarable though. The morning was a foggy unfliable one and I helped fix SH4's radio. Was just a loose cable connector in the end. It cleared up in the afternoon. I enjoyed the sunshine while waiting for others to fly, as well as nipping back to Ballater to bag room 2 in Ravenswood. In the evening we went to Glenkindie to the north to find it fully booked, and ended up in Tarland where we had a nice meal.

Early on Sunday 11th it was rather showery and not looking promising. However, after the morning visitor briefing the sky was looking more interesting, and we got the gliders out by lunchtime. I was offered the K21 431 so grabbed that. Rob Ward jumped in the back seat as P2. He had gone up earlier but had a rather short low flight, and so had not yet experienced wave. We launched at 2:30pm with me in the front as P1. I needed my experience as it was a rough aerotow. I released us at 3000 feet and we were straight into wave. Up up and away above the clouds in strong lift! It was great for me to be back, and for Rob it was great to experience his first wave flight. And some first wave flight! We carried on climbing, sharing control, taking pictures, putting on oxygen as we raced past 10,000 feet, then climbed more slowly all the way to 19,900 feet. That climb would have qualified for diamond height. We then started to lose the wave. But we were getting rather cold in the drafty K21 anyway. We tracked westwards to Braemar, and then over to Corgarff. I took control after that for the most part as we returned to Aboyne, descending slowly all the while. We got below cloud no problem despite an approaching shower reducing the gap sizes. Then what followed was a rough approach. I lined up for runway 27 before someone suggested to use the grass runway 30 which was more directly into wind. This was an excellent idea. After a hairy and rough circuit I had a nice smooth gentle touchdown and landing, my first on the grass there. So I was pleased with that after my decidedly non standard circuit! Total flight time 2 hours 16 minutes. 2 other gliders came in close behind us and we put them away and defrosted as the shower arrived. In the evening we had a chinese takeaway.

Monday 12th had looked super calm in the forecast. I decided late on Sunday that I would walk up Lochnagar. That proved to be an excellent choice. I set off at dawn. Early stratus at 3000 feet was slow to clear. I entered it and walked the summit plateau in cloud. But at the summit at noon it cleared suddenly revealing a wow moment panoramic vista. Meanwhile others at that moment were walking around Loch Muick far below. With plenty of wildlife and spectacular waterfalls on the way down I finished after 8 hours and made a beeline for the airfield mid to late afternoon for a much needed cup of tea and to let the others know I was back safely. In the evening a superb home made meal was served which was delicious.

Tuesday 13th was unfliable with rain and low cloud the whole day. At times holes fleetingly appeared but with cloud on the circuit ridges launching was never an option. The rain got heavy after dark as we returned from the local Italian restaurant in Ballater. I felt rather smug having brought my large umbrella, and was suddenly rather popular... Wednesday 14th was another calm day but atleast it was flyable. I rested on both these days, processing pictures in the clubhouse. Some others did fly on 14th though.

Thursday 15th started off a bit like 13th, damp and rather calm. But all changed mid afternoon when a gap suddenly opened up behind a trough, with lenticulars forming in that air behind. We scrambled and I got up in 431 again, this time with Steve Baker in the back. We released at 2400 feet, climbed to over 3000, lost it a bit and dropped back to 2800 feet, then got away properly. Again the lift was strong as we passed the cloud tops, before it settled down. We topped out at about 7300 or 7400 feet. We explored west when a lenticular formed nearby. We briefly found 4 knots and were also marvelling at the curious lenticular formations further west, but then noticed the gaps rapidly closing beneath us! There was a gap below us just West of Ballater but with cloudbase only 3000 feet I thought it was a bit marginal for getting back in the K21. The DG1000 had descended there and was a bit marginal it turned out, so good call. I could see a shadow down a 'furrow' near the horizon. My GPS showed it was in the right direction. So I sped towards it at 90kts, feeling rather small as we dropped below the crests of the wavey cloud. Steve wasn't sure, but when we got there we did indeed find a small gap, and got safely below cloud just 2km NNE of the airfield. We hung around in weak lift near cloudbase while waiting for gliders below to land, and then descended for a smooth landing on runway 27N just as it was getting dark. By the time I returned to Ravenswood it was raining. Colin Watt cooked a nice curry in the evening.

Friday 16th was perhaps my most entertaining flight of all. I was happy to let others fly in the morning as I was a bit dozy, but they were doign well in the fresh NNW wind. I swiped the Discus B SH4 at noon, and towed to about 4000 feet near Ballater, where wave had been reported. However I failed to connect, and was soon dropping below 2500 feet and headed back to the airfield. However I saw gliders on a ridge south of Cambus O May and decided to join them. My low point was just 1500 feet. But the ridge lift was indeed working. The others later landed back at the airfield. I managed to hang on, clamber up to 2200 feet, and connect with some thermals and eventually made it to cloudbase just over 3000 feet up. After playing in thermals for a little while I had shifted south of Ballater. I pushed north and close to over the Dee I found myself rising up through gaps in the many small cumulus clouds here at 4kts. I then clipped through a layer of cloud above them and continued on up above the cloud.

Yes! From a 1500 foot low point on a ridge I had managed to climb back up and get into wave the hard way. That was decidedly satisfying! I carried on up to 7000 feet and then pushed West up glen Dee. There was a wave bar right along the southern side of the glen. Eventually I was at 8500 feet on the East side of Braemar with a great view of Glen Shee and up to Linn of Dee. I could see to my northwest a rather active rotor cloud and decided to jump upwind one bar. I lost 1000 feet but soon found good lift in front of said rotor cloud, which I believe was in the lee of Derry Cairngorm. The lift was good and steady, and I soon climbed through 10,000 feet. Before long I was able to just point the glider directly upwind and almost hover on the spot. I used my GPS mark function to help keep track of my position. Above 15,000 feet I did briefly get faint tinglies but they didn't last and I was fine. Meanwhile to the west, for the first time ever, I was able to see a cloud free Western Highlands (which is rare). I eventually topped out at 19,500 feet, FL195, which was the airspace limit here.

Having called my height and position I then moved East along the bar. I stayed above 19,000 feet for a long time as I was in weak wave for a good few miles. Then as I moved further East I started to sink. I got to the Tarland area still over 15,000 feet. I pushed downwind briefly just to see my GPS register over 300kph. Then in the tarland area I descended gently. I did do a few circles taking pictures in an attempt to take some 360 degree panoramas. Eventually I descended to 5000 feet over the Lochs, having enjoyed the glorious views of Deeside. I got a good view of the ridge I had soared to stay aloft. After talking over the radio to the ground it was decided grass runway 30 was the best one to use due to the crosswind. So I descended and picked my high key point, and had an uneventful, albeit rather bumpy, circuit and landing on the grass. The crew arrived quickly so we could clear out the way as another glider behind me also called runway 30. That was one of several gliders to land behind me on runway 30, a wise choice given those who landed on 27 struggled, and some even groundlooped in the crosswind. This flight was the first time I'd used ridge, thermal and wave lift all in one flight. So failing to connect initially was kind of a blessing in disguise. This flight also would have qualified for diamond height. After 3 seasons getting my diamond height, having 2 qualifying flights in one otherwise fairly poor week was pretty cool. I was up for 3h32m but I had radio'd back after 2h30m and confirmed nobody else wanted to fly it at the time. On the ground all the gliders were derigged ready for their journey home to Lasham. We had fish and chips in the evening.

Saturday 17th was a calm high pressure day. No good for wave but great for long distance travelling. So after a slow start I set off for Carlisle via Stonehaven and the Forth Bridge (to make a change and to see what's East of Aboyne, and to avoid nasty roadworks near Stirling). The A90 isn't as interesting as the Glen Shee pass, but a good choice for those with trailers. The scenic route from Edinburgh to the M74 was rather nice. I stopped again overnight in Carlisle before a straight forward dash home the next morning.

Saturday 26th September 2009

I did not fly today, but I did collect the keys to a touring caravan in the 'council estate' that I just bought from fellow Lasham pilots. I'll have a good look at the caravan once I return from Aboyne.

Saturday 12th September 2009

A late season soaring flight. I got Discus SH3 in the ballot. I decided to grid launch as the runway 09 grid is right by the trailer and a lot of jet movements meant lots of disruption. I got launched at 11:45 and was released into a big hole. But I managed to get away. Down to 1500 feet I found a 4kt thermal to the north. Cloudbase was only 2500 feet AGL so I local soared. In an hour it only rose a couple hundred feet. There were some big gaps around too. At one point I went south to find a slightly lower cloudbase. Then went to Overton to find a 3000 foot cloudbase but beyond that it dropped again. So I stayed local in the end. Cores were strong (6-8kts) at times but the thermals were rather broken and distorted by the fresh wind. 4kts was about the best average I managed. After a while cloudbase did rise and cloud amounts reduced, but thermals also got weaker and harder to use. After 3 hours I started to feel rather tired. So I landed after 2h46m and handed the glider over to another pilot. I then spent the afternoon resting and helping out before a planned S&H 'last supper' in the evening.

Saturday 29th August 2009

After a long gap it was nice to be back. August has been a fairly naff month for weather thanks to the jetstream but never mind c'est la vie. Today was looking good so yesterday I succeeded in booking a Discus (SH4) through the unlimited scheme. However the forecast was quite windy so, as also expected, the ballot was pretty quiet. I definitely picked the right glider as SH3 apprently had electrical problems and SH2 doesn't have a turn and slip, of which I made good use of SH4's today.

Inm the briefing, Colin set a 300km task of Lasham - Shaftesbury - Andover - Bicester - Lasham. Dave had forecast a 10AM start with it getting good from 11AM. However it was a little slower than that. The grid started launching about 11:15AM. I got a winch launch at 11:30AM during a gap in the grid launches. I launched straight into a thermal, which I could use despite being first cable, as the second cable had to wait for the grid. I climbed slowly at first as low down it was fairly broken and distorted in the wind (unsurprisingly). I drifted quickly Eastwards for a bit before I flew Southwestwards to a much better thermal. 3-4kts under a bigger cloud saw me to 3000 feet AGL with cloudbase around the 3500 mark. So I started to push upwind and was doing a reasonable job of maintaining height despite it not streeting that well early on.

It seemed to take an age to push upwind to Bullington Cross. As I went further West to Chilbolton cloud amounts increased a lot as spreadout increased and cloudbase dropped. I decided to turn back at Stockbridge as ahead there was hardly any sun on the ground, and big gaps to cross. I headed back as far as Basingstoke, which only took a few minutes with a 20+kt tailwind! At one point I did find an 8kt thermal near Overton which whisked me rapidly to cloudbase which was about 3500 feet above Lasham. I promptly turned on the turn and slip and called on 130.4 and proceeded to cloud climb, and rapidly got to 4500 feet before I lost my bearings and the thermal a bit. I lost most of the height finding my way out of the cloud but was never in danger. Was nice to keep current with instrument flying which is much more difficult (with a turn and slip) than visual flying. I also took another cloud climb a little while after but only gained a few hundred feet in weak lift before abandoning it.

I crossed a big gap to get to the Basingstoke turnpoint, but then I had a large street in front of me. I decided to push westwards again, this time towards Marlborough. Again as I got further West spreadout increased and cloudbase dropped. I turned near Rivar Hill in fairly weak lift. On the way back I noticed to the South of me a huge gap, while to the north there was much less spreadout and higher cloudbase. So I flew to Newbury where cloudbase was up at 4200 feet, albeit weaker climbs under smaller clouds. I played around there for a while. The LNav said I was just about in range of Lasham up at height. However there was a big gap to the south which I knew contained plenty of sink. So I took my third and final cloud climb, again to about 4500 feet above Lasham, which gave me extra margin. This time I kept my bearings and emerged exactly in the right direction and exited across the sinky gap. On the other side of the gap I arrived at the next cloud just above base, being almost 1000 feet below the Newbury cloudbase! I skimmed under it and carried on.

Back near Lasham I did actually have plenty of height to spare. Somewhere south of Basingstoke I contacted another 8kt thermal, and just couldn't resist. Straight back up to cloudbase, which left me with a huge cloud street upwind. I pushed upwind, and found myself climbing up the side of the cloud to 4000 feet. Another 3 gliders around me were all doing the same thing, and we all flew alongside the lower cloud as we pushed upwind to Popham. On the south side it was a bit warmer in the sun so I guess that explains that effect this time. With it being only about 2C at cloudbase I was starting to get rather cold under the cloud shadows, so I decided to land. A nice fast fly by before my best landing of the year - super gentle touchdown and rolled to ahalt close to the trailer.

Although I didn't go as far as I'd hoped, I was happy with today's flight. LAS-STK-BAS-RIV-LAS is 142km and estimated task time is 2 hours giving me a speed of 71kph. Plus some fun local soaring afterwards (and at Newbury - not included in above task distance and time) including the climb up the side of the cloud. That plus some valuable cloud climbing practice and challenging 20-25kt flying wind made the flight fun and interesting. Total flight time 3 hours 15 minutes. I was shivering by the time I landed and raced back to the clubhouse for a nice warming cup of tea! Others had the same idea too...

Sunday 2nd August 2009

Well today was cool. The 3rd weekend in a row that I have managed to glide. That doesn't happen often in this unpredictable country. I won the ballot at 8AM and bagged SH2 again. I was the last to fly it 8 days ago too. An early start beckoned so I had the glider ready early. I managed to launch as the grid started to launch, just after 11AM. Cloudbase was already 3500 feet AGL. Weak thermals early on delayed my departure just a few minutes. I soon set off towards Membury. Progress was slow though as it was rather spreadout and into wind, so I stayed high to get across some gaps. After turning Membury I was encouraged by a 6.5kt average to 5000 feet QNH. I then had a nice romp past Wantage and Abingdon to Oxford. Here, though, cloudbase was only 4000 feet QNH and very spreadout. I bottled and turned around at OXS, and headed back to the nicer air. Another romp later and I had passed Membury and reached Marlborough, passing a load of Keevil competition gliders going the other way.

After turning MAR, I doubled back to Oxford in nice conditions again, hoping the spreadout would have cleared and I could carry on to Buckingham to make a 300. Alas not! Back to Ocford and there was low cloudbase and horrendous spreadout again. Later on I heard it was better further on but never mind. I didn't fancy crossing a huge gap sitting over Bicester. So just beyond OXF I turned and decided to head back as I was getting rather tired. After a long glide away from the spreadout and starting to get low I found my best climb of the day between Benson and Didcot. The averager shows 8kts and in no time at all I had reached cloudbase which was at 5500 feet. From there it was an easy cruise home, albeit with a couple more weakish climbs en route. I ended up with too much energy after cruising through a monster thermal at Basingstoke and was close to VNE on my final flyby before a nice gentle landing to complete the day.

I was down at about 2:40pm quite early but bad weather was on the way and I'd had enough for today so that was cool. LAS-MEM-OXS-MAR-OXF-LAS is exactly 250km which I did at about 73kph (total flight time 3h38m). Not spectacularly fast but it'll do. So strong climbs but most averages were more like 2-4kts as the thermals were anything but round making centring hard, as well as hard to find under the big cloud slabs.

Saturday 25th July 2009

A nice day today. I was expecting from the forecast for some quite big clouds to form, and was not disappointed. I arrived to early low stratus which burned off reasonably quickly. Only 3 of us in the ballot meant we all got what we wanted. I took Discus SH2 and duly rigged after breakfast. At the briefing LAS-SAlisburySouth-NOrthamptonWest-LAS was set for a 300, replacing SAS with MARlborough for a shorter task. However there was a fairly brisk 15-20kt wind at flying height from the West which made me less comfortable with a long crosswind section of task. I decided to follow the hunch of another pilot and do multiple more East-West type legs.

I winch launched at 11:27AM and got away cleanly. Cloudbase was just below 3000 feet AGL and rising, so after a little while I set off for Salisbury. I then promptly flew through a light shower, and thought that this is ominous! However I then had some awesome runs upwind, with some long streets meaning I was able to push for miles without turning. It got harder nearer Salisbury with more gaps between thermals and the best ones looking like they were inside airspace. Also cloud amounts in places got a bit too high with spreadout and higher top cover playing a role. But it never got really bad. The only fly in the ointment of the first leg was when another glider came around while I was thermalling and came extremely close. Needless to say I did not appreciate that!

After struggling in weak lift as SAS was in a hole, I had a nice romp downwind. I carried on all the way back to BASingstoke, where it was also cycling down. I struggled low down for a while before eventually getting away again. Then managed to hook up with some streets again and pushed upwind to MARlborough. By now cloudbase was approaching 4000 feet. I then decided it looked good in the direction of Didcot and went as far as WANtage before turning round as a huge hole lay between me and Didcot. I reckon I could have got across but a bigger gap going South could have been more of a problem. I didn't fancy getting low as by now there were some strong thermals but also some large areas of heavy sink, which I believe caught out quite a few people who landed out today.

So, having climbed to just under 5500 feet QNH, I then went back the way I came, as far as MEMbury. I would have gone on to BUrBage but beyond Membury it was all going pear shaped due to top cover and a shower. So I decided now was a good time to head back. I thermalled my way back to cloudbase and then was not far below final glide. I cruised my way back to Basingstoke.

As I approached the area, I noticed a big line of much lower cloud to the South. I guess this was a sea breeze convergeance. I thermalled back up to cloudbase at Basingstoke and decided to investigate the convergeance, which had already overtaken Lasham. At one point I was at 4500 feet (above Lasham) while the convergeance cloud dropped to something like 3000 feet. I explored my way Westwards, dipping a wing into cloud here, flying over low lumps of cloud there, enjoying the spactacular sight. I never really managed to climb in the convergeance, but I did often find weak lift. At one point I was climbing above the top of cumulus. I must admit I found it hard to read the sky, as clouds on the land side of the convergeance that looked like they should have worked didn't, and I never found anything strong (unlike the 4-6kt averages inland before I came back). I could also see the convergeance was generating a heavy shower upwind. Eventually I sunk down to 3500 feet overhead Popham, and turned round and flew back along the convergeance before diving under the cloud as I approached Lasham. As I lost height West of the airfield I did encounter rain and so started my circuit with wet wings. Indeed the rain arrived soon after I landed. And it was a mass landing as the local thermals died and everybody fell down.

So a pleasant, if not spectacularly fast XC. LAS-SAS-BAS-MAR-WAN-MEM-LAS = 251km, and I did it in a leisurely 3h45m for 67kph. I was slowed down a lot by the sticky patches and stayed high to get across the bigger gaps. I also noted how variable cloudbase was. A number of times I arrived at the next cloud above base. But the flight was worth it just for the convergeance cloud. What a spectacular end to the flight! Total flight time 4h42m. Strongest climb 6kts, best height about 5300-5400 feet QNH.

Saturday 18th July 2009

Well I took last week off for a gliding holiday week. What a disaster! Low pressure, low cloudbase and showery all week. It never looked good enough for cross country. On Monday I went to Lasham, but decided not to bother rigging. I saw a sunny window approaching the coast from the Southwest, so got back on the M3 and went to Lulworth Cove for a nice pleasant afternoon. On Wednesday I also went walking in the Chilterns. Thursday onwards I cancelled and went back to work.

As for today, I knew it would be a windy one, but there seemed to be promise of a decent cloudbase and a few hours' soaring, maybe cross country into wind. I had all the Discuses to myself at the ballot so picked SH4. Thanks to the guys who helped me rig in super quick time. I was already DI'ed by the 9:30 briefing. Unsurprisingly we were tasked into wind. I managed to winch launch at 11:05AM. The launch was a bit slow, but was a rough one, and at the top I found out why. There was a thermal right over the winch. I duly carried on turning and climbed away. Cloudbase was about 3000 feet although the first few climbs were week and I couldn't get to cloudbase. The wind was something like 25kts at that height too so easy to drift downwind very quickly.

Eventually I pushed a little upwind waiting for cloudbase to rise a bit and thermals to improve. The thermals did improve a little but remained very broken and distorted by the wind, so hard to centre. Cloudbase refused to budge and cloud amounts were increasing. It was increasingly clear that I wasn't going too far today. I managed to push as far as Kingsclere. I took a couple of climbs to 3200' above Lasham. To the South of me a big street with lower cloudbase was blocking my view. I floated around above Kingsclere for a while, and at one point took a 500 foot cloud climb before falling out the side of the cloud. I pushed a little further upwind where huge amounts of spreadout and medium cloud killed off the street I was in. Eventually I made a break back for Lasham as I was just about on glide.

At about 1500 feet a blue bubble saved me from landing after 2 hours. I gained about 500 feet and that was enough to make a street over Lasham. I found my best thermal of the day, 4kt average, which took me straight to cloudbase, now only 2500 feet! I played around and pushed upwind a bit. Eventually I found rain. With wet wings and no sign of lift I scampered back to Lasham. I was soon falling out the sky so a good time to join the circuit for an uneventful landing right by the trailer, after exactly 3 hours aloft. A fellow pilot and I helped each other derig just before a heavier shower arrived, which pretty much killed off the day good and proper. Today I was happy just to get my feet off the ground as the weather's been pants lately with no sign of a respite. Alas the promise of a good cloudbase and some cross country didn't materialise, and the finish was earlier than expected. But I am happy I more or less made the most of the window we had. I'll check out the cloud photos I took later on and see if any are worth posting on the web.

Sunday 5th July 2009

Well after last weekend's disappointment, today didn't seem too promising either. A cloudy start slowed things down, but a clearance was on the way and it duly arrived by about lunchtime. The dodgy back from last weekend held out OK despite playing up slightly early in the morning so that was a relief. No problem rigging in the morning and derigging afterwards, although I was being extra cautious lifting the wings. We were on runway 23 (medium) and a hole was flowing over Lasham. When cloudbase of 2000 feet was reported, I decided to launch to beat thwe grid. That was a mistake. I winch launched to about 1500 feet and promptly struggled to stay up, soaring weak broken lift often as low as 700 feet before finally falling down after 24 minutes. Then after a long wait for the grid to launch, during which the winch launch was suspended, I finally launched again at 2:30pm. No problem getting away this time as a good thermal was close to my release point, which whisked me up and soon I was up at cloudbase, locally 3300 feet above the ground. I decided to set off on task and had no problem drifting downwind to Goring. Further inland cloudbase was over 1000 feet higher. At Goring I was bumping my head on the 4500 feet QNH ceiling. I then shunted over to Cheiveley before deciding not to head for Andover as planned, and headed north to Isley. There cloudbase was 4500-4600 feet above Lasham (5100-5200 feet QNH). Then I was able to push into a 15-20kt headwind by travelling along a street. Cloudbase dropped a little again as I got closer to Lasham, and thermals harder to use as I got to the smaller clouds closer to Lasham - no doubt the sea air taking effect. After wafting around locally for a little while I called it a day and landed after 2 hours 5 minutes.

Lasham - Goring - Chievely - Isley - Lasham turned out to be 100km dead so I'll take that given the late start and tricky conditions. Many thermals were very broken and distorted, and so hard to use. I did manage a couple of 4kt averages but mostly 2kts was nice despite the strong cores. Lots of heavy sink around so I stayed above 3000 feet above Lasham to be safe. Unsurprisingly better than last weekend so I'm relatively happy.

Saturday 27th June 2009

Oh dear! Today didn't get off to a good start. I took SH2 in the ballot. But when lifting the 2nd wing my back went twang. Ow! And then the morning fog, while clearing all surrounding areas, stubbornly refused to clear Lasham for a couple of hours after the surrounding areas. The first time I've seen fog / low cloud not clear until lunchtime in 'flaming June'! When it did finally clear it revealed a ring of towering cumulus all around us, with Lasham in the middle of a bowl of unsoarable air. It was still barely going at 2pm. At one point I got bored and had a wander into the long grass on the South side where I found loads of butterflies. The grid eventually decided to go, towing northwards to better air. But I was hurting a bit and local conditions were rubbish, so I gave up around 2:30pm and towed the glider back to the trailer to derig. A couple of kind souls de-rigged the glider for me as the back twang in the morning meant I was unable to lift the wings. The fun wasn't over there either. After a D Tour on the way home, I encountered a severe thunderstorm as I approached home (where it had heated up a lot more than at Lasham). Firstly I got reports of 2cm hailstones at home which had punched holes in, shredded and ri[pped off some leaves from the plants. I soon found 1cm hailstoned bouncing loudly off my car and then the heaviest rain I have driven in for quite a few years, with instant major flash flooding resulting, above the kerb stones in many dips. Was glad to make it home after several D-tours (not around the floods, but by the awful local drivers who couldn't handle the conditions!) and then start recovering from that back twang. So DNF for today alas.

Sunday 14th June 2009

I wanted to pick up some leaflets to hand out on Tuesday when I am planning to man a stand at a mini exhibition at work to promote gliding as a hobby. During the week the weekend was looking rubbish. But on Friday the models changed and Sunday looked interesting, so I decided to book a glider (so no ballot for me yay!) and see what happens. Well last night it was looking very promising with an early start. So this morning I still got there early and as soon as the ballot was done I persuaded the other Discus takers to get them all rigged before breakfast. A wise move too. It was a mad rush to get the glider ready. I decided to put it in the grid before the briefing. Then I taped and just had enough time to put water ballast in (it's been a while). The idea being that I can penetrate more and fly faster in strong conditions. I then had just enough time to mark my map up and scramble. The grid was launching by 10AM and I was fairly near the front. I set my tast as Lasham - YEOvil - TOWcester - GLOcester west - Lasham for 503km.

I was launched at 10:20AM. I had no problem getting away, although cloudbase was still below 3500 feet (QNH). It took me a little while to get away. After about 15 minutes I was closing on 3500 feet as it warmed up on the ground, so after getting a good climb to cloudbase I set off and tiptoed my way upwind. I was soon past Popham and Chilbolton, and had a good climb south of Salisbury. I pushed on, managed to go a fair way without turning. As I got towards the Yeovil area cloudbase did drop though. By the turning point it was only just above 3000 feet! So I tiptoed my way round the turning point (a road bridge on the Sutton Bingham Reservoir) before retreating Eastwards again.

I stayed high, hugging the clouds, until I got to higher cloudbases again. Then I could start pushing again. By the time I got to Frome cloudbase was up to 4600 feet. It was here I had my best climb of the day, peaking at 7kts on the averager. I continued pretty much without turning past Keevil and to Avebury, where I topped up as it looked poor ahead. I slowed down a bit as there were more gaps and weaker thermals to much smaller clouds, and the better clouds were all inside Lyneham airspace. I soon passed Swindon and carried on steadily to Abingdon, where I found a decent climb. To the East the conditions were much better again, and I romped on past Bicester and Buckingham. I was starting to feel tired at this point, so given the poorer air behind me I decided not to go to Gloucester. I carried on past Towcester as far as Olney before doubling back to Bicester. Was nice to see Silverstone again, just a week before the final F1 Grand Prix there.

Unfortunately, it was during this section East of Bicester that I heard fragments of radio calls that sounded like there had been an accident in the Abingdon area behind me. I hope the pilots involved were OK. Meanwhile after turning Bicester I then had a straight forward run back to Lasham. Between Buckingham and home cloudbase was now up at 5900 feet, with a good scattering of 5-6kt climbs available. With hindsight, I note that the poorer section had cycled and was probably fine by the time I was going back, and the 500 would have been on. But I was tired and didn't want to push too hard. My last climb was near Newbury. I pushed well above glide as I was expecting (from the briefing forecast) a sea breeze to push in past Lasham. But it was still well south of Lasham and I had plenty of height to burn at 100kts south of the M3, followed by a 130kt flyby at the finish. Wheeeee!

So I flew LAS-YEO-OLNey-BICester-LAS for 432km in the end, in about 5 hours (86kph). Best climb rate 7kts. Best cloudbase height 5900 feet QNH. I noted how much better the performance was at 70-80kts in the Discus with one large barrel of water ballast per wing. It does make the pre-flight process more stressful when it's an early start as it takes time to water the glider. I already have too much stress on board from work so could do without more but it was worth the effort today.

Saturday 30th May 2009

I wasn't sure how blue it would be today. The last couple of days have been moist warm sector air with low cloudbase, but the forecast showed an upper cold front going through from the East overnight introducing dry and more unstable air. I bagged SH4 again in the ballot, and noted two tasks in the briefing - LAS-SHerBorne-OXFordeast-LAS or LAS-HEReford-BICester-LAS. I winch launched into a sky of wisps and haze caps at 11:47AM and found it was fairly easy, once I got away, to reach 4000 feet. So after about half an hour I set off. I decided Northwest was better than West-Southwest. So made a beeline for the Lyneham gap. Getting past Ashbury was much quicker and easier this time! With a 15kt Easterly at height I made for cumulus not too far away, and then had a nice romp as far as the gap. The thermals were streeting, so I was able to make use of that en route. Further beyond Cirencester it looked rather blue so I decided to turn CRicklaDe.

There was a blue thermal right over the town which allowed me to top up in the sector. I then decided to head East where there was lots of cumulus. Pushing upwind just south of the Brize Zone was straight forward with nice thermals all the way to Abingdon. From there I headed for Oxford. In this area it was booming, and I achieved my best climb rate of 6kts, to 5500 feet QNH. Bicester was just blue wisps but I had a reasonable climb over the turning point.

Then the fun of getting home. I looked towards Lasham to see most wisps steadily vanishing. There was still cumulus and wisps over Oxford, so I slowly cruised my way there, staying as high as I could. From there I wisp-hopped my way southwards, topping up in any reasonable lift I could find to stay high, passing over Didcot town. Soon after that point it was out into the blue proper. By now I had enough height to make it to Brimpton atleast. However just north of Newbury I found a glider soaring. A big thank you to that pilot, who was marking a gorgeous blue 5 knot thermal that took me straight to my high point of FL54, or 5100 feet above Lasham (5700 feet QNH). This gave me plenty of height for a brisk final glide which got faster and faster as suddenly the sky was full of blue thermals, especially over Basingstoke. By then I was quite high and sped up to 100kts, and a 125kt competition finish past the clubhouse before landing 3 hours 30 minutes after launching.

So I did LAS-CRD-ABN-BIC-LAS for 226km in about 3 hours. Not that spectacular, but given the conditions and that I was fairly tired and not wanting to push it too hard, I was very satisfied with this flight. And to top it off someone swiped the glider off me as soon as I landed, so I didn't have to put it away. (I helped 2 others derig instead). SH4 was still in the air when I left. I also got my name on the Aboyne list (week 3) in the morning (my primary task for the day) as soon as it went up so I will now start to plan my Scotland trip in the same style as 2007, with 1 week touring Scotland, bagging the odd munroe and driving around, then dropping back to Aboyne to hopefully fly the mountain wave above the Cairngorms again.

Tuesday 26th May 2009

As expected, it was pouring down when I woke up. But also as expected, there was a clearance coming. I left slightly later than normal, and arrived at Lasham at 8:20AM. I still had the pick of the fleet, so grabbed SH4 again. I waited until after the cross country briefing to rig. By then it was drying out. A good afternoon was expected. Indeed the sun came out at 10:30AM. And by noon when I launched cloudbase was up to 3500 feet already.

I had planned Hereford and back and then a bit more. But conditions proved a bit more challenging. I winch launched and got away at noon. I rapidly set off on track but found it to be quite a slog. Flying winds were as high as 30kts at 5000 feet! So pushing into wind was very slow, especially without water ballast. It wasn't streeting too much early on so it was tough going. It was also rather rough, and the thermals were often distorted and broken by the strong wind, making them hard to use. The strong thermal core fragments also meant strong sink around which caught me out a couple of times. On one occasion not too far from Rivar Hill I did get low and got blown backwards by several miles while getting away again. I did eventually push as far as Ashbury (ASB) before I thought 'this is too much like hard work'. Also further upwind looked poorer and harder, with more top cover and overdevelopment. So I decided to turn and head back. Downwind was a blast, and was rapidly back at Kingsclere (KGS). By then thermals had aligned into a street upwind, so I pushed (much faster this time as straight up a lovely street) back to Ashbury. By then it was overdeveloping and spreading out quite badly with another big hole upwind so again turned back.

On the way back I had some fun. I decided to practice cloud climbing. Unlike on Friday I found some suitable thermals. In my best climb about 5 miles NW of Membury, I went all the way to the FL65 ceiling (6000 feet above Lasham). Cloudbase was 1000 feet lower than that, and slightly lower still in some other places. I didn't feel rusty at all, and had no problems maintaining control using the turn and slip. Eventually I was back into the Newbury area. In this wind I was local soaring here, and so I floated around for a little while before descending to land after a fast competition style finish to clock a flight time of 3 hours 32 minutes. Soon after I landed a shower went through. Apparently cloudbase plummetted after that.

I only managed LAS-ASB-KGS-ASB-LAS for 189km but given the conditions I'll gladly take it! Some people did get to Hereford and back for 300km but my excuse is they all had much better performance gliders than me. As I left at about 6:20PM it still looked soarable further inland. Thankfully traffic nothing like as bad as Friday and a much more relaxed journey home too. Now just a shame the rest of my holiday week looks naff for soaring... :/

Friday 22nd May 2009

I started a mini holiday today. So it was nice to come on a soarable day and have the whole ballot to myself. I bagged SH4 (as SH3's camera mounts have been removed and SH2's trailer is U/S apparently) and some kind students helped me rig it. As a result I was ready to go at 11AM when it looked quite nice aloft. I winch launched to 1500 feet at 11:04 but it took me a while to get established. I eventually got to cloudbase at only 2500 feet. After an hour of local soaring conditions improved and cloudbase creeped above 3000 feet so I set off towards Pewsey to the Northwest. This was the first leg of a possible 300km flight. However the further Northwest I got the poorer conditions became with more spreadout and gaps. At Burbage there was a big gap ahead and it didn't look good. The thermals were distorted and hard to use. I got frustrated and was starting to feel a bit ropey, so decided to call it a day and turn Burbage and head home. Drifting downwind was a little easier, and back at Lasham it was definitely better. Thermals were still hard to use, but there were some strong 6-8kt cores to push the averager to 4kts at times. Top cover and what looked like wave aloft continued to disrupt the thermals. However I local soared for a while and came down after 3 hours 9 minutes airborne. Towards the end I could not find a decent climb. I was hoping to practice cloud climbing in the Kingsclere area but it wasn't to be. LAs-BUB-LAS is only 95km but that'll do in those conditions. A 15-19kt wind at height also meant it was not for novices up there too. One thing I was pleased with was my landing. Well held off, smooth and gentle, and stopped close to the trailer. I spent the afternoon taking it easy and chatting to people while I got the glider derigged. I left at 4:15pm only to end up in the worst traffic I have ever seen to get home more than 2 hours later totally frazzled and frustrated. Oh well can't have it all.

Sunday 3rd May 2009

Today didn't start off so well. For some reason too many people had been granted bookings, and only 2 gliders were available in the ballot. So I was totally unsurprised when I failed to get one. I almost left early, but as happened a week ago, I ended up taking DG1000 776 which was again available. This time I sat in the back seat, and Alex Jones, another ballot failuree, sat in the front. As we came out of the cross country briefing we found the glider had already been DI'ed and was being towed out for a trial flight. So we met the glider at the launch point which was quite nice.

Alex and I then winch launched at 11AM. Alas we launched into a hole and were back on the ground after 10 minutes. Oh well. We took a second launch just before noon. This time we got away, and with cloudbase already well over 3000 feet, we soon set off northwestwards. Conditions were great, and we were able to go for some distances without turning, and then topping up in strong thermals with 5+ knots seen on the averager. Cloudbase was quite variable. Several times we left one cloud at cloudbase and wrrived at the next cloud above base and had to dive under it. We hit a sticky patch around Membury. By now cirrostratus was moving in and there was a nice 22 degree halo around the sun. However it was still quite soarable, so we pushed on. We tip toed our way through the Fairford gap and onwards to Birdlip. By then cloudbase was getting on for 5000 feet QNH but the thermals were weakening as the cirrus thickened.

We decided to carry on round the back of the Brize zone. However conditions were deteriorating and we spent a lot of time near Enstone in very weak lift just trying to stay up. Eventually we gained enough height to tip toe onwards towards Bicester. We eventually joined a gaggle of Bicester gliders and carried on south from there past Thame. By the time we got past Benson the cirrus was starting to clear, and the thermals were improving. With a street forming that took us down past the Compton box to Aldermaston, we finally were able to set off on final glide. After last week's final glide went wrong I was too conservative this time and we had enough energy to finish at 4-500 feet and 140kts (just under VNE). Wheee! We made it back. Relief!

We completed LAS-BIRdlip-BICester-LAS for 251km in just under 4 hours. So speed was in the low 60's kph, which I was happy with given how sticky it got at times when the thick cirrostratus was going through. We landed after 4 hours and 13 minutes in the air. That was Alex's longest cross country flight to date. I am glad I was able to share some of my experience and hope I didn't scare him too much. ;)

Sunday 26th April 2009

Given the forecast at the end of the last week I was expecting a washout this weekend. So it was a nice surprise to find that the short range forecast looked excellent. Low pressure close by. But enough of a lid to stop showers forming, and cool unstable air meant decent thermals and big cumulus clouds with not too much spreadout. However all went pear shaped when I failed to get a glider in the ballot. I almost decided to leave early, but I am glad I didn't as in the briefings Colin said I could swipe the Lasham DG1000 776. I duly did, and found Sejul getting the Imperial College Grob103 our to fly solo. Didn't take much persuasion for him to join me in 776 instead. A much better glider. This meant we could both go on a decent cross country together. The task set was Lasham - Oxford South - Market Harborough - Chievely - Lasham for 301km. We joined the back of the grid after getting a soft tail wheel sorted out and waited for the launch.

I was in control for the launch at 11:42AM. Cloudbase was already over 3500 feet. It took a while to get away though. We set off northwards around noon. It was pretty easy going once further inland. We romped our way to Oxford and then all the way to Market Harborough, taking it in turns to fly in some stonking conditions. At Market Harborough we managed to climb up the side of the cloud slightly. Then we pushed back into wind fairly easily. Between Silverstone and Oxford it was really booming, with strong thermals (6-8kt cores) going to a cloudbase of 6400 feet QNH (5800 feet above Lasham).

South of Didcot though the nearby low pressure was influencing the weather, throwing bands of top cover across the area. Showers were visible further southwest while to the Southeast it was blue. However we followed a street which took us right over Chieveley. One more slowish top up and we commenced final glide. The LNav showed us as 1800 feet plus above glide, but as flew across the fairly dead air gentle sink decayed our glide significantly and we ended up too low by BAsingstoke, being dragged down to 1200 feet above Lasham (luckily Basingstoke was a few hundred feet lower) on the south side of town. Thankfully we blundered into one of the strongest thermals of the day and shot up at 5-6kts average to well over 3000 feet in the blue. This gave Sejul enough height to have a play before we landed, and as he was cleared for aerobatics we found a quiet and calm part of the sky and performed some loops and chandelles before landing after 4 hours 23 minutes. Task time was estimated as 3 hours 50 minutes, which gives us a speed of 78.5kph.

Pressure had dropped by 2 whole millibars to just over 1004 during that flight. So the winter vario registered almost 100 feet too high on the ground. Impressive. And lower pressure than I was used to flying in, which meant we had to be careful as the flight levels were lower than normal (as they are based on pressure of 1013 millibars on the altimeter). That is why I always measure the 1013 height on the ground before launch, which was just under 700 feet at launch. (Normally it's more like half that.) Visibility was also amongst the best I've flown in, with Didcot clearly visible from Lasham, so viz was over 50km.

Sunday 19th April 2009

It wasn't looking spectacular today but thought I'd have a go. I got up early saw the sky was clear of North Sea clag and went to the airfield. It was only 3C there when I arrived. I got the same glider as when I last went 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately conditions weren't as good as hoped. It went fairly low and blue for a while, and around lunchtime two movements compounded the frustration. Meanwhile lots of lenticulars in the sky had a number of us commenting about wave.

After threatening to give up for a while, I decided in the end to scramble for the launch point when the 2nd movement got cancelled, and was first up on the winch into the blue at 2pm. A nice 1700 foot launch meant I had plenty of time to hunt and eventually found a weak thermal close to the winch and worked it as long as I could while the cables were being pulled out (so I wasn't stopping them launching). Eventually I worked my way up to just over 2000 feet, but it was very difficult, and a couple of times I dropped right back down to 1000 feet before getting away again. At one point I explored as far as Basingstoke and got up to about 2500 feet with the odd 2-3kt average, but thermals were distorted, and often it was rather hard and slow going, while being drifted steadily downwind.

Later on in the flight as an occlusion approached from the East cumulus did form more but the lift was generally in front of the cloud rather than under it, like rotor cloud - another sign that the wave (shown by the lenticulars) was disrupting the thermals. Shame I could not find a way up into it. I don't think anyone managed that. Some time after 4pm I did catch my best thermal, 3-4kts and got as high as 2800 feet before it got too weak (still well below cloudbase). Then straight back down to about 900 feet again! Eventually I decided I'd had plenty of scratching practice and landed after 2 hours 49 minutes. So glad I got a half decent flight out of it, but nowhere near being cross countryable. Incidentally this flight was my 700th glider flight, so a nice milestone there meanwhile.

Sunday 5th April 2009

One note from 21st March. On my 2nd flight that day I passed 700 hours. So a nice milestone there. This weekend I decided based on the forecast that Sunday was the better day. Sunday was pretty much semi-blue but the inversion was quite high. I heard a few people got up to TMA at 5500 feet QNH. Today was looking ominous as thick broken stratus hung around early in the day. It was forecast to be spreadout closer to Lasham but better further north. After helping to unjam a tug hangar door two of us rigged the two Discuses SH3 and SH4 (I had SH4) as the sky above cleared nicely.

The grid launched at 11:05. So by then I had the Discus in the winch queue. I managed to launch at 11:44. A nice fast launch to 1500 feet 70 degree light crosswind so not bad. A quick glide upwind got me to a useable thermal and away. conditions seemed rather nice with just over 3500 feet AGL already available. So I decided to set off northwards. I made steady progress with little turning required, and soon made it to Didcot. Beyond there was a bit of a hole, which I eventually crossed cautiously. Beyond Oxford conditions were booming. Behind me it was already spreading out. Ahead past the Oxford gap it looked gorgeous. I was starting to feel a bit ropey with a headache though. So I turned Bicester and then soared to by best height of 5400 feet QNH. By now some decent 4-5kt climbs available under large clouds. I headed back to Oxford back past the gap and under the spreadout which was now quite severe. I stayed high and tiptoed my way at best glide past the gaps, passing close to Benson en route. Eventually around Brimpton I was down to 2500 feet. Almost ready to land there, I found 4kts under a dark lump of cloud and climbed to 4800 feet QNH and that gave me enough height to glide back with 1500 feet to spare. By now my headache was getting bad and I was bursting. But managed to land smoothely enough by the trailer at 14:23, for 2h39m in the air. Just under 65kph task speed.

On the ground I quickly found someone who wanted to fly so I handed the glider over and went for some neurofens before helping tow the glider back to the launchpoint. It then took me a while, some tea and sandwiches to settle the head a bit before I headed home early. Despite the headache it was a nice day and so nice to finally get some 2009 cross country km under my belt (Lasham - Bicester - Lasham = 160km). I could have done more but my body said no today. So I'll gladly take what I had.

Saturday 21st March 2009

I thought on a whim I'd return today as the stable air we have had the last week was forecast to destabilize. It was pleasant on the ground despite a cold frosty start. First winch launch was just before 12:30pm. I got away and managed 1h31m before I fell down. First I staircased my way up to 2700 feet as I explored North towards Basingstoke and then encountered heavy sink which ultimately meant I fell down. So I relighted via a winch launch around 2:30pm. This released me straight into a thermal which whisked me straight back up to 2500 feet. Best height was 2950 feet. Again I explored towards Basingstoke and again found nasty sink but got away again this time. I quite enjoyed floating around in weak lift to 2500 feet as the day got late. Eventually I came down of my own accord after 2h16m. So 3h47m in 2 flights - I won't moan.

There were wisps of cumulus later in the day, but they never worked for me. I guess the cycle was too short. By the time the cloud formed the bubble was already out of reach. With a West or NW wind on the ground and a NW or N wind at height I was unsurprised to find those weak thermals rather distorted, with frequent re-centering required. All good fun though. I didn't bother with pictures as viz was very poor. From Basingstoke I couldn't see Lasham and vice versa. That's pretty awful.

Saturday 14th March 2009

Early in the day I finished off my refresher course today, with two winch launches in the DG1000T 45 with Ed Lockhart in the back. The first launch was rather slow but OK, and all OK until I landed, which was rather poor. I overadjusted my airbrakes, putting them away too much. I then floated on and on and on. Oh well the next launch was a high cable break. No problem. Was high enough for a circuit back to the launch point, where this time I landed fine.

I then proceeded to get a Discus out, hoping to go soaring. However it didn't work out like that. There was too much cloud, and I was too early. After 2 launches (also poor) which I couldn't get away from, I trailer flew and gave up as I was drained. It did clear up some more mid afternoon but never mind I heard it was difficult anyway.

Friday 27th February 2009

After last Sunday's motorglider refresher flight I still had an aerotow and two winch launches left on the refresher scheme. So I hatched a cunning plan and decided that if the weather turned out OK today then given I finish work by 11AM, I'd ride to Lasham directly from work on the new motorbike. Indeed the weather was better than expected, with the sun shining and not much cloud below 4000 feet. So I duly set off on my first long ride on my CBF600SA, which I have owned for almost 2 weeks. I took the motorway until the M25 / A30 turnoff then had a blast down the A30 to Basingstoke before enjoying the twisty A339 to Lasham. I got there some time after noon.

After getting out of my bike gear I went straight to the launch point and added my name to the casual list. I helped out on the ground until operations stopped for lunch. Then grabbed a nice fish and chips in the clubhouse. Helped out some more at the launchpoint after lunch, also watching some gliders soar in weak thermals to about 1800 foot cloudbase (info from pilot of one of the gliders), until some time after 3:30pm John Simmonds kindly offered to be my instructor. We pulled K13 'P' to the aerotow queue, and after briefing me we launched just as thicker cloud started to drift in from the West.

First the aerotow went normally to 1500 feet. Then commenced a descent on tow exercise to 1000 feet, during which I needed to use airbrakes to avoid catching up with the tug and producing a bow in the rope. At the end of that exercise the tug gave the check airbrakes signal (waggling rudder) and I put them away as we started to climb again. Then we boxed the tow before John put me out of position a few times to see how I handled regaining position on tow. That went well and we proceeded to climb past cloudbase (about 2000 feet), and were above cloud by 2500 feet. By 4000 feet when we released from tow there was about 6/8ths cloud below us and I was careful to keep an eye on our position (Lasham visible below us through a gap in the clouds, as was Alton further away).

After release we flew southwards over a cloud hole, and completed HASSLL checks that we started while still on tow. Then several spin and stall exercises brought us down to cloudbase before we flew towards the high key area. Down at 1000 feet we encountered a weak thermal, and we proceeded to attempt to soar it. It was weak and broken though, but I did hold our height for a while. I abandoned it after we drifted a km downwind with it (it was fairly breezy aloft). Then an uneventful circuit and smooth landing to complete the flight 28 minutes after launch.

I was hoping to get the two winch launches done also but we were all turfed off the runway for a movement. Given it was 4:30pm and it would have been 5pm before we could return, and starting to get dark, it wasn't worth setting up again and the gliders were all put away. So I will return another time for the winch launches. After helping put everything away I returned to the clubhouse, updated my logbook (which John signed), got my gear on and had a nice uneventful, albeit busy in the rush hour, ride home via the motorways. So a well spent Friday afternoon indeed!

Sunday 22nd February 2009

Today's plan was to go for a motorglider refresher flight which I had booked during the week. As expected the weather was rather cloudy early on, although there were more holes than I expected and no rain. After the morning briefing I ensured the Grob 109B motorglider was got out and not blocked. While helping get othyer gliders out my instructor (and BGA Chairman no less) Patrick Naegelli arrived on a gorgeous Harley and soon came over to DI the motorglider. Then around 9:30AM we were off. We did some field landing exercises. Between landings we got up to cloudbase a couple of times. First time it was 2000 feet. Second time near Basingstoke it was only 1500 feet. I felt rather rusty so was glad to have done the exercises. On the way back we did a final glide exercise. Throughout the flight Patrick gave me pointers to help me along where I was struggling more. After 35 minutes we were down again.

After that I decided to get Grob 102 SH8 out of the hangar as it was not blocked in by any other gliders. After A DI I went to the launch point to try and get a buggy and some help but they were all busy. Then a jet came in so they were all needed for that. Back at the clubhouse after the movement I found someone to help hold the wing and I pushed the glider along the peri-track myself. Near the launch point a buggy came over to tow me across the grass.

At the launch point after a rather naff looking morning some new holes appeared and some big cloudstreets were setting up. so I launched at about 12:25pm to about 1300 feet and somehow got away on a weak thermal. A few climbs later I got up to 1800 feet and pushed West to the main cloud street. I almost didn't make it but just made the line of lift and scraped my way up trying not to drift too far downwind. Eventually I managed to push upwind a little and briefly got to cloudbase, now at 3000 feet above Lasham. Then I pushed upwind again but encountered severe sink and lost 1000 feet very rapidly. I never found decent lift again and soon made a break back to Lasham before I fell too low. I scrabbled around near the circuit at 1000 feet for a bit before dropping down to land after 53 minutes.

A 2nd winch launch was rather poor, only to 1100 feet, and almost nothing but sink. So that only lasted 5 minutes. I used that as a hangar flight. Then after getting my down times, eating lunch and putting the glider away I left early. A good day if rather unspectacular. But was nice to catch my first thermals of 2009.

Saturday 31st January 2009

After a long spell of wet weather and some busy weekends coming up today seemed to be the ideal day to keep current. The forecast was for a fairly fresh Southeasterly and lots of cirrostratus. The wind had less South than I expected though so we were on the main runway. I was the only S&H / Lasham single seater flyer present. I grabbed a Discus B (SH3). After the briefing a kind soul helped me rig. SH3 is now in a brand new Swan trailer. It is certainly the nicest S&H trailer. Although SH3 decided to be a pig to rig this morning. However I note that the easier they are to rig the poorer the weather turns out to be so I was hoping it was a good omen! I have just bought a 'new' car, and I used its tow bar for the first time to take the glider to the launchpoint using the one man tow out gear. I had to wait a while though as an inbound 737 had dispersed the launch point. I waited until they returned and towed over.

Before lunch I took 2 winch launches. Just before the first launch I noticed the yaw string had vanished. So I launched without the string. The launch was very fast (70kts) and I back released at 1200 feet. Still no problem I had an uneventful circuit and reasonable landing after just 5 minutes. I then parked up, rushed back to the club house for another yaw string and attached that to the canopy. The second launch was a more normal launch to about 1600 feet. North of the winch at that height there was reduced sink which extended the flight to 12 minutes. A nice sweet landing that time.

Then there were a couple more jet movements and tests. This was a good time to have lunch. At this point I heard that people were contacting wave over Alton and over Lasham, triggered by the South Downs which was upwind today. At its peak one or two people claimed to make it all the way to TMA (5500 feet QNH). It was above the inversion around at 2000 feet, just out of reach of the winch. The original plan was to take a couple more winch launches. But instead, as the launch point was still reforming after the last movement, I persuaded a nearby idle tug to launch me from the north side grass at 1:15pm. I towed to 2500 feet close to Lasham, and straight off tow found I was in weak lift. I explored the wave using my GPS to log waypoints where the lift seemed best. I pretty much explored and joined the dots, flying between the runway 09 launch point and a mile or so Northeast. The wave was very weak (less than half a knot) but I managed to scrape 3000 feet before the wind dipped (at around 2pm looking at the weather station data afterwards) and the wave collapsed. I pushed upwind towards Alton but hit too much sink and didn't quite make it. At 1400 feet I did find some unusably weak and low thermals. But I eventually turned back and landed 59 minutes after I launched.

So what was expected to be a stable winter's day to practice my takeoffs and landings turned into a bonus minor soaring day. With hind sight perhaps I should have asked the tuggie to take me to Alton instead and explored there closer to the wave source. In reality I needed to be up earlier as the wind was dropping after lunch. But an hour off a 2500 foot aerotow is a nice bonus at this time of year. This is only my 3rd ever wave experience at Lasham. It does happen now and then! So in the future, if we get a stable Southeasterly think possible South Downs wave! The ridge may only be a few hundred feet high but it can still trigger some glorious wave.

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