Start of an Addiction-John Allan

I became addicted to Gliding on my first amazing day flying with DGS.  Richard Roberts took me up for four flights on a 1 day introductory course, that I’d been given as a Birthday Present from my wife.  One of which was an hour long at altitudes up to cloud base around 4800ft above sea level.

I was allowed to take the controls, but mostly I flew around probably very erratically losing height, whilst Richard would gain it again, soaring expertly up in the thermals to cloud base so I would have plenty of time on the controls, and bizarrely it feels safer the higher up you are when you are flying.  It seemed almost impossible that a Glider made in 60’s could stay aloft using nothing but thermals.

The weekend after I broke my collarbone Mountain Biking, so was out of action for a month or so, and the weather closed in.  I returned a few weeks later and after a couple of days and started my training with exciting and enjoyable days.  As it was now December, they tended to be short circuits and then back to earth.  But I also realised I had joined a great club, no more than that, a community , where everyone was helpful and welcoming.  Instructors gave their time and expertise for the love of the sport and we are all volunteers helping to keep gliders in the air.  I learned how to assist with launching, drove the quad bike that retrieves the aircraft after landing, and the many other jobs.  I read lots and talked to the other members, and had theory sessions with the volunteer instructors on the days when flying was rained off.

I was trying to glean as much as I could, so that I would be ready for the better summer weather when it arrived.  I spent a fair bit of time learning how to use the Club’s flight simulator, in the depths of winter when on one day a river ran past the club house.  The simulator meant I could get more virtual time in the air and practise Launches and Landings. We also had some beautiful clear days in the winter.  I was itching to put things I had learned into practice for real.  The simulator seemed to have helped my skills and I could start landing the K13 which seemed to go well as we moved into February.

With the field completely waterlogged in early March, signs of some more promising weather ahead started to appear on the 30 day Accuweather App forecast.  Despite the name, it’s often inaccurate for the detail on long range forecasts, but was consistently showing a good spell of sunny weather - with easterlies – apparently the holy grail for Brentor.  I’d heard these were good for something called Wave, which could take a glider higher than the cloud base by using a standing wave of air flowing over Dartmoor.

In early march, I had just a week’s holiday to Italian Dolomites, Skiing with family, and I would be up in the air again the weekend I got back - or so I thought…
Corona Virus locked down Italy, so we escaped via Austria over the Brenner Pass through the Alps to Germany in a one way hired vehicle. A few days later than expected, we flew back home from Munich on what became a kind of super Business Class - we walked straight through Check in and Security, no queues here.

 An Empty Munich airport around midday on a Wednesday 18th March
 Our flight out and back were the most relaxing flights I have ever taken.

 Pick a row of seats, and relax, aboard a exclusive Easyjet flight.
 On returning to the UK, we went into lock down a few days later – disaster – No gliding!!
Several frustrating weeks passed, I watched the RASP gliding forecast, as day after day of sunny weather with easterlies passed by.
In actual fact we have been blessed with having all my family together again – both our daughters had left home, but our eldest daughter Jane couldn’t get back to Australia after our Skiing holiday, so had come back to live with us leaving her home, car, boyfriend to return on his own after our Italian trip, and our youngest was furloughed by Alpkit, an Outdoor Shop the Lake District, so also came back home with us. So we count ourselves very lucky.

However, for flying things were a disaster - lockdown wasn’t going away so I finally caved in and bought Condor 2 the gliding simulator software. I was recommended some suggestively named Thrustmaster Joystick and Rudder Pedal kit and built up an old PC we had lying around in our workshop (I run an IT company), and bought a decent graphics card for what is otherwise a fairly basic mini-tower PC. That was connected up to the TV so I had a large 42” monitor, my cockpit being a comfy armchair with far better headroom than a K13 it has to be said - so now at last I could ‘virtually’ fly again. Initially I flew all the places I knew from holidaying in Europe and the UK so navigation was easier - St Crepin, French Alps, Cirque d’Gavarnie near Lourdes in the Pyrenees and of course at home from Brentor. I even splashed out for the K8 at £8.50, and I was sorted. 

 Breche du Roland, Pyrenees, where we had been walking/scrambling last summer.
 It’s beautiful digital scenery making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and still gives a fascination seeing places you know from the air.
 Sion Valley, Switzerland, with weather set for perfect wave – I didn’t find an Oxygen Button, and this was QFE
 I found out what happens if you exceed the VNE and pull up too fast - the K8 flies very fast with only one wing.  
Virtual Club Flying – 17th May 2017

K8 rebuilt, it was with great excitement that I read on the forum that Rick had arranged an online Task/Race/Flight in Company (Multiplayer mode, each at home) for the Sunday 17th May at 3pm.
The use of Teamspeak makes it a very sociable affair.  Superb audio quality means you can just chat quietly to each other, and it’s very easy to hear what others are saying..  It makes me wonder why we put up with such low quality for phone calls and video conferencing, perhaps it’s also helped by most of us using headsets.

Our Task was set from Brentor, East Okehampton,  Eaglescroft, Roadford Reservoir and Back to Brentor – Weather was with a light WNW wind, with Good, Wide thermals (I think Rick was being kind to me for my first time), and a choice of K8, Duo Discus or  Genesis 2.

Launching at Brentor
 Richard and Rick, Ed and Dene off to a good start.
On reaching Okehampton, I found my PDA didn’t register the turn point, meaning I hadn’t actually started the task at all!!  But nevertheless continued around the course flying through all the turn points.

Looking north towards Bideford, after rounding Eaglescroft
After Eaglescroft a lack of good thermals left most of us struggling for lift and slow going, at this point Rick and Richard had finished, so they headed back to join the stragglers and came to keep us company and buzz us as we made the final leg.

Richard Practiced some Acrobatics. Ed lodged an Airprox report.
Better thermals at Roadford and a good following wind home,
meant we were mostly able to do a final glide to get back to Brentor.  

We all came in to land one after another, with Richard telling me, no pressure we are watching (F8 allows others to have an outside view of each of the other aircraft nearby) just to focus the mind, and embarrassingly I forgot that in a Duo Discuss I should have lower my wheel, so landed nicely, then came to an abrupt halt!! Must remember my landing checks.

Hugh on final approach.
A big thank you to all the instructors that give up their time week in week out, and that have helped and encouraged me along the way so far, and to Rick for organising the Condor Club flights.

For now it’s nearly the end of May, and as lockdown starts to ease, it’s only Solo pilots to allow for the social distancing rules,  but I am looking forward to getting in the air for real, and meeting up for days flying again – very soon I hope.

John Allan

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