Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 23rd April 2017

The scene on arrival at the airfield could not have been more English: Colin Boyd’s immaculate red Triumph TR4, together with Leith Whittington’s superbly crafted Slingsby T-51 Dart R, set against a sky full of lenticulars – what a way to start St George’s Day!  

A Triumph TR4, a Slingsby Dart and a sky full of lenticulars...
what more could you ask for?
With a steady south-easterly blowing (see photo), the challenge was to get the airfield switched round asap in order to take advantage of these conditions (a quick look at the clouds revealing at least three systems at various heights).  By a little after 1100 we were underway, with potential new member Dom March in the front seat of the K-13, but the classic area between winch and sugar factory failed to deliver, although a little lift was found in the valley between the airfield and Brent Tor church.  Dom’s second launch, to a height of less than 1,000ft, found nothing but strong sink, by which time it was clear that, as predicted, the wind was beginning to swing through south to SW’ly.  Not wishing to subject anyone to a downwind launch or landing, it was decided to change ends for a second time and thus, even though the operation went flawlessly, it wasn’t until what most would consider to be lunchtime (ie. 1pm) that we eventually got into a rhythm.
Windsock at start of day: definitely a SE’ly.
By which time the look and feel of the day had completely changed, the warm sunshine and lenticulars being replaced by cool grey cumulus that had us reaching for our fleeces and coats.  This didn’t prevent convection however, as after his third launch Dom was treated to the view from 2,700ft (about 300ft shy of cloudbase), courtesy of a thermal that grew in classic fashion all the way up (17 mins) and took an equal amount of time to descend from.  Our second visitor/temp member was Nigel Aldred who, on holiday locally from his home club at Camphill, managed a respectable 15 mins scratching over the church on his first launch, flying two complete circuits (including landings) thereafter.  Early riser Joe Nobbs (first seen on site at 8:30 AM!) then flew three check flights (under complete cloud cover), followed by Junior trainee Ben Caverhill, before our third visitor/potential new member of the day, Johnn Knight climbed aboard the K-13…  Johnn, who is a lapsed PPL holder with a great deal of experience bush flying in Zimbabwe and Oz, found the engineless 4-minute experience “…quite exhilarating…” and promises to be back.

Junior member Ben Caverhill checks K-13 HXP after the move to the east end.
So, although we logged only 16 launches overall (including two for Leith in his Dart, one of which was 13 mins..!) we have potentially gained two new trainees, plus one (hopefully) taking positive vibes back to Camphill (but not before Nigel returns on Wednesday, if the weather holds…) and so it was all well worth the effort.

Strange cloudscape to the South of the airfield at the end of the day.

Thanks go to Dave Parker, Colin Boyd, and Joe Nobbs for winching, and to the rest of the crew for being responsive and flexible throughout (the ‘visitors’ chairs being occupied only by visitors for most of the time…)

Martin Cropper

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