Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 7th May 2017

"Who can drive the new tractor?" came the cry from Adrian Irwin, as it became apparent that we would have to change ends to accommodate the predicted north-westerly. "I can!" The words had hardly left my lips as I swung myself into the seat of our new David Brown and fired up the engine with increasing confidence as it eagerly responded to a prod on the foot throttle. "I'll just check the hydraulics" I thought, “before pulling away...” There followed 30 minutes of pulling this, pushing that, turning the other, turning it back again as more and more members turned up to offer their valuable input until, you guessed it, we concluded we had no idea about how to lower the hydraulic forks and the (all important) trailer hitch. So how many retiring farmers do you think are on-line and reading emails at 9:30am on a Sunday? Well, fortunately for us Farmer Phil was and, in a telephone conversation with Peter Howarth that resembled a call to the NHS hotline, it transpired that to get the forks to go 'down', you first have to lift the lever 'up' (at least initially, to clear the lock...) before setting it to ‘down’...

Nobbs and Barry Green attempt to figure out the tractor’s hydraulics.
The winch successfully arrives a the west end drawn by the new DB tractor.
With that 'gremlin' dispensed with, we set about aligning the field to a westabout operation, albeit the windspeed was forecast to be low, of which more later. Early arrivals included One Day Course student Peter Spencer who, despite having endured a day in the clubhouse a couple of months ago, nevertheless returned to fly with Pete Howarth (6 launches, one of 25 mins), learning how to operate all three controls together.

Today’s One Day Course student was Peter Spencer, from Wells in Somerset.
Pete also hosted visitors Tony Jago and Michael Boon: Tony's family occupying all know seat and floor space in the Land Rover Discovery to and from the launch point.

Visitor Tony Jago was accompanied by three generations of his family.
Afternoon visitor Michael Boon flew with Peter Howarth.
But what of the conditions? Well the watchword was fly what you see, not what was forecast... The day was initially much cloudier and the lower atmosphere much more moist than predicted by RASP, light airs settling to a gentle SW’ly before lunch. The wind then veered NW and freshened, backed to W before finally settling on SW again in the mid-afternoon. It was only then, with drier air, a better defined horizon and a whiter shade of grey clouds, that we were able to exploit the conditions: in fact in excess of 10 soaring flights were logged (10-49mins, 3 in excess of the half-hour) but none earlier than 3:45pm, so it was worth hanging on for.

HXP about to launch mid-afternoon into a promising sky.
On the slow coach line of the grid trainees/check flight artistes John Knight, Joe Nobbs, Dave Downton, Jeff Cragg and Chris Owen not only had the thermic conditions at their disposal but also those of a demonic instructor, determined to ensure that they could survive a cable break, at any height..!

Fast track pilots Alan Carter (SF-27), Steve Fletcher (Open Cirrus - 36 mins), Adrian Irwin (Zugvögel), Leith Whittington (Dart 17R) and Paula Howarth (K-8 - 43 mins..!) occupied the second line of the grid, where pride of place was surely taken by Mike Bennett, who not only converted to the K-8 for the first time but managed 13 mins soaring on his second flight (both landings requiring some quick thinking, 'over the top' recoveries...). Well done, Mike!

Mike Bennett about to fly the K-8 for his the time.
Thanks must most sincerely go to Barry Green, Colin Boyd, Dave Downton and Mike Bennett for winching, and to Heather Horswill for driving retrieve and dust into the Dyson in the clubhouse. Thanks also go to those who assisted with transporting our guests, maintaining the launch point, and most helpfully pointing out that nothing was happening when I raised/lowered levers in the tractor at the start of the day..!

Martin Cropper

No comments: