Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 14th June 2020

With our two-seat trainees and less experienced solo pilots unable to fly until restrictions are lifted, it would perhaps be more appropriate if the ‘Sunday Soarers’ were renamed the ‘Arfur Duzzen’ as six regular Sunday stalwarts surveyed the sky and decided that “Sizzlin’, it ain’t!”.

There was a prospect of conditions improving later as the wind veered south-westerly, about which more anon, but for the present a leaden grey sky was all that was available to tempt the six to ‘take up slack’.  Peter Howarth played met scout into a moderate southerly, and on his second launch managed to extend the circuit to a full 9 minutes, having found some gentle lift around 180 degrees of each orbit.  Martin Cropper then jumped in, again finding reduced lift before the Met Office Tavistock’s very accurately predicted raindrops arrived at 1100.

Martin Cropper ‘hops’ over the hurdle fence to land the K-8 at the west end.
 Rejoining the fight some forty-five minutes later (suitably refreshed), Richard Roberts noticed that the leaden skyscape had some darker lines of energy beneath, forming from the south.  Catapulted back into action, this was Cropper’s chance to show the others a clean pair of heels.  Releasing at 1,200ft however, he found himself a full 300ft above cloudbase...!  It was only by allowing sink to take him down to 800ft agl that he was able to move under the cloud, get 4 up but then promptly have to move out to avoid losing visibility.  This did, however, coupled with a suspicion of wave generated downwind of the Wallabrook stream, enable him to achieve a duration of 19 minutes – flight of the day in the bag!  Almost.

View from the launchpoint caravan of Steve Fletcher preparing for flight.
As the morning wore on the cloudbase lifted, enabling Phil Hardwick to actually connect and circle in a thermal for long enough to equal Martin’s (short lived) record; as did Steve Fletcher, achieving 1,700ft agl as he gently drifted downwind before deciding that the K-8’s short legs required him to scamper home.

Phil Hardwick surveys the K-8 cockpit before his 19 minute soaring flight.
And so, by 1430, with the sky looking ‘similar’ and the ‘Arfur Duzzen’ having cycled themselves through cockpit to winch and back, we decided to draw stumps.  Back down in the hangar Colin dealt them a different challenge: how could the six invert K-13 DMX’s fuselage while remaining socially distanced?  A problem which was solved by, well, a six-foot rule.  Ironically, as we put the winch to bed and shut the hangar doors the sky began to clear, blueness abounded and, again just as predicted by Met Officer Tavistock, cracking white cumulus began to pop.  Had we had a full flying list we would still have been flying and able to take advantage of it..!

Roll on the return of flying for all..!

Martin Cropper

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