Dartmoor Gliding News - Wednesday 22 May 2024 - Aston Down Expedition - Day Three

No brief today. No forecast required.

It rained all night and then all day

The morning provided a chance for our resident XK10 expert (John) to test my purchase for the club.  He declared it a lovely vario in nice condition.

An XK10 vario and a PZL vario (Ed: A useful addition to the DGS fleet)

A few late entry photos were submitted from yesterday.

Hugh and the Club Libelle yesterday. A proud man.
A glider pilot is born (Ed: You mean "Two gliders, Sean"?, with suitable acknowledgement to John Prescott)

The promised lecture from Wednesday's Duty Instructor didn't materialise, so to avoid cabin fever, six glider pilots headed to Gloucester to try some go karting.  A good time was had by all (Ed: I hear there was no competitive nature to the afternoon, despite Adam lapping the instructors and achieving a lap time just two seconds short of the establishment's lap record).

Val stylishly dressed, ready to race with the champions

The DGS team (Ed: Who can you recognise?)

Val mixing it with the boys

Glider Pilots; NASA Astronauts, or a bunch of loons from the South West?

Apparently after three 15-minute sessions it was all too much for one of our instructors who had to retire to bed, on return, for a nap (Ed: Well he does get up at a ridiculously early time in the morning so what do you expect?).

Hugh said farewell to us and caravanned it back to Lydford, Devon.

Tonight's culinary extravaganza was a curry cooked by Instructor Sam and the sous chef was our newly qualified Sean.

The evening was spent reviewing the weather forecasts, none of them agreed, so we would have to wait until the morning.

Gavin Short

Dartmoor Gliding News - Tuesday 21 May 2024 - Aston Down Expedition - Day Two

Phil joined us today with his DG300 having been unavoidably detained by his daughter's wedding.  But before he arrived, we had the morning brief; no NOTAMS to worry about and little to look forward to, with plenty of dense cloud cover all day.  But we would give it a go and set up on runway 03.

The club had a trial lesson at 1030 which was an aerotow to 3,000 feet.  Sam, the Duty Instructor, found some wave at 2,400 feet and managed to climb at 1/4 knot. He had to abandon the climb when the wave gap in the clouds closed.  That set the scene for the weather for the rest of the day; a door slammed shut!

After the tug landed, it wasn't available for the rest of the day (Ed: A planned evolution rather than a defect), which put paid to Scratch's plans to fly Val again on an aerotow in the DG300. So Val ran the tower, having built on her experience yesterday and advised by Sam to be firm on insisting the name of the pilot for the log (Ed: Her maxim - No Name, No Fly!).

Andy's Libelle "M" awaits its moment

There was a lot of looking at the thick cloud cover and wondering.  Rather than thinking about it, Hugh managed 36 minutes of scraping in very weak lift.

The focus of the day was Sean's conversion to his Libelle.   Once again, he flew the K-23 to get in the groove (Ed: at 22 minutes, that's a long groove, Man!).  Then he flew three flights in his Libelle.  He achieved a 17-minute flight in very weak lift on his second flight. On his third flight, he had to release early due to the cloud base. He later remarked that you had to fly the Libelle accurately, otherwise it would let you know that you weren't and would grumble (Ed: Like a wife, did you say?). 

Sean happy to be in his Libelle at last (Ed: And on an airfield rather than sitting in his garage going Brrrm, Brrrm!)

Adam helps Sean prepare
Take your time, Sean. No one is waiting.
"Cable on please"
And off he goes
There was a lot of waiting on the ground today

Sean, oblivious of the photographer as he runs through his pre-flight checks
Sean's steed safely back on the ground

In other flying later, Hugh managed to fly for 18 minutes and Mike 14 minutes in their Club Libelle.  Val and Scratch flew in the DG500 for a short flight, launching on the winch. Later, Andy managed 35 mins and Hugh 35 minutes (Ed: Wow Hugh, trumping Andy!).

Scratch flies Val (Ed: Note the murkiness of the sky)
Peter prepares to break a blue weak link on the ground run.
A plethora of pundits offer their advice to Peter on how not to break a weak link on his second attempt

Phil's DG300 waits forlornly, but didn't fly

At 1630 spots of rain started so we finished flying took all the gliders back to the trailers to derig and put in their boxes, or dress them in their pyjamas (Ed: You mean put in the trailers or their all weather covers).

The convoy assembles ready to drive to the other end of the runway and the trailers

My Standard Cirrus was the last in the line to go home
An arty shot of CNN (Ed: You were obviously bored while waiting for the last flight of the day to launch)

Today's extravaganza was John Allen's chilli and rice (Ed: We heard that the BGA has approved his Silver distance (50 km) and hence he had completed his Silver badge. Congratulations, John).  The expedites then duly celebrated, courtesy of the case of red wine left over from Phil's daughter's (Rachel) wedding (Ed: Thanks Phil).

So a relatively quiet day but a big milestone for Sean (Ed: Congratulations Sean).

Gavin Short

Dartmoor Gliding News - Monday 20 May 2024 - Aston Down Expedition - Day One

Sunny and blue came the dawn as forecast.  Nothing much was expected to happen in the morning, but after lunch it was meant to be quite good.  But not as good as RASP forecast for Brentor - six stars, the maximum.  Had we come to the wrong place?  Should we pack up and go home and fly at Brentor (Ed: Then reality hit us like a bucket of cold water.   We would have to derig the Kestrel.)

The pundits consider the weather

As to the flying, it didn't quite live up to expectations.  Adam sneaked in a couple of hours in the local area before it was meant to be soarable.  The DGS fleet launched from 1400. I was the tail end Charlie for the task; Aston Down - Avesbury - Uffington White Horse - Aston Down (106 km). I climbed to 3,000 feet and set off on the local 100km task. Soon I was abreast the airspace around Highgrove House.  The clouds felt soggy and weren't working so at 300 feet below the glide path I skedaddled back to the airfield and landed after a straight run in.

Rick managed a bit further on the task but experienced the same conditions.  Peter in the Kestrel set an alternative task out to Cirencester and then Nympsfield and home, some 48 km (Ed: On the way back from Cirencester, his flight computer said that he was on final glide and he hadn't even turned Nympsfield). 

Andy had a bit better luck but also abandoned the task. Mike had a short flight and then handed their Club Libelle to Hugh who had a flight in the local area. He set himself a task of Nympsfield and Birdlip of 45 km.

Mike and the Club Libelle
Adam's K6 wants some of the action too

Peter's view of Nympsfield (Ed: Through his DV window)
Peter's view from the Kestrel near Cirencester

Meanwhile, after a second round of lunchtime sandwiches to fortify him, Adam took off for another 3 hrs 15 mins Ed: To add to his morning flight of 1 hour 48 minutes).

DGS gliders ranged at the launch point
Yet more DGS gliders at the launch point
Little and large.  A Libelle and a Nimbus 3DT

Scratch had check flights in the DG500 for both aero tow and winch launch to fly from the rear seat.  He then flew with Val for over an hour in lumpy thermals (Ed: Not good for your back then, Val?).

Cooo!  Look at that view Scratch.

In the meantime Sean had cracked in another 90 minutes in the Aston Down K-23 persevering by scraping away from launch height for ten minutes in 1/2 up, eventually getting to 4,200 feet AGL (Ed:  You must be nearing the conversion to your Libelle, very soon).

Mike helps Sean get ready for his flight in the K-23

Andy's other Libelle "M" (Ed: Envious Sean?)

Let us pray.  Gavin retrieving the IGC logger trace of Sean's Silver height that he achieved on Sunday from the K-23
A pair of Cirri tucked up for the night

John's view of the day:

"I Made it past the M4 and round Avebury, but then it looked very uninviting to the east, so I went back northwards and round Cirencester church instead and across past Nymsfield, making a slightly different undeclared task of 100Km."

John navigates by the Motorway network (Ed: Are you sure that is the M4)

John rounds Cirencester church (Ed: Ensuring that he really does turn the correct way point. Electronics eh?)
John's trusty Mini-Nimbus back on terra firma
Club gliders being walked back to the hangar

Instructor Sam continues assessing Aston Down's Ben for his Bronze C

Tonight's gastronomic extravaganza was Rick's sausage curry with naan breads and poppadoms.

"That was the day that was!"

Gavin Short

Dartmoor Gliding News - Sunday 19 May 2024 - Aston Down Expedition - Day Zero

Sunday dawned bright and sunny.  There was a little fog and general mistiness in the Tamar Valley, when viewed from the high part of the A390, whilst I headed to the club.  Sensibly, I took the opportunity to top off the tank before my car transmogrified into a 14-metre leviathan (Ed: You mean hook up your trailer).

Six members starting from Brentor today; Rick, Adam, Peter, Mike Bennett, John Allen, and I.  Scratch meanwhile was caravaning it with Val riding shotgun.  Hugh brought his caravan up on Saturday (Ed: I thought that DGS was a gliding club and not a subsection of the UK caravaning club).

Five of the Aston Down Expedites hooked up and ready to roll
Last year there was the incident of the hare and the tortoise.  This year, food and number plates were not forgotten, but the incident of the day was trailer stabilisers not raised as the trailer was pulled out of the glider rack (Ed: Ouch. Less haste, more speed).

After getting all the gear out for the Sunday Soarers, we decided that we didn't have time to help derig the Puchacz for an inspection by Colin as he hadn't yet arrived. 

The Expedities helped the Sunday Soarers to get the toys out

The convoy turned left out of the gate, and soon we met the first of several groups of cyclists, these coupled with a pony on the main road, slowed progress. When on the A30 good progress was maintained.  The hare leapt ahead, wanting to fly today.  The rest of the convoy took a break at Sedgemoor services, and most managed to consume our beverages rather than wear them.

Ouch, that coffee is hot

Amazingly, the convoy managed to stay together in the labyrinth that is Stroud (Ed:  Follow the signs for A419 and then Cirencester brings you past the airfield).

After a welcome mug of tea, despite the hard water (Ed: A shock to the soft Devonians and Cornish), we decided on prudence; we would rig and be ready for flying tomorrow after being suitably rested (Ed: The tortoises then. I hear that the consumption of a glass of red wine made the decision for CFI).

John got to fly and got away after a relight to explore the cloud base at 5,000 ft AGL.  Andy had started much earlier in the day and had flown north-east up to near Banbury. He reported that the conditions were difficult and that he didn't manage his planned task.  We were regaled with Sean's tales of his progress during the preceding week.  He had transitioned to glass in the K-21 and now was flying in the K-23.  He managed over an hour and a climb to 5,000 feet (Ed: That's your Silver Height gain the Sean, congratulations).

Tonight's culinary extravaganza was Spaghetti Bolognese courtesy of Mrs S followed by a piece of one of her famous banana and chocolate chip cakes. 

With that the expedition retired, ready for the first day of flying tomorrow.

Dartmoor Gliding News - Wednesday 15th May 2024

Today was always going to be a bit different as we were lucky enough to have the lovely Andrea Ormsby visit us from the BBC Spotlight programme. The main reason was to help us promote ‘Women in Gliding’. Only about 5% of glider pilots are women and as a small club open to all we have always been keen to attract more women into gliding.

The forecast was very marginal and with the wind and low cloud it was decided that conditions were not good enough to fly our trial flight visitors and we also cancelled our scouts evening flying.

In order for Andrea’s visit to be of some use to her, despite the weather, she filmed us throughout the morning, from the briefing given by Duty Instructor Mike Jardine, getting the gliders out, putting on parachutes, and Mike briefing Val Kiely prior to her training flight. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great but a small weather window opened up and so we were able to launch Andrea who filmed her very brief flight. Andrea then filmed Val on her (also very brief) training flight. After interviewing Val and myself the weather got steadily worse and with the wind strength, low cloud, and drizzle the decision was taken to stop operations.

Andrea filming Val whilst the hangar is unpacked.
Spotting a possible weather window approaching I Daily Inspect the K13.
Andrea films herself with Mike.

Andrea enjoying her flight.
I film Andrea returning from her flight, I wonder if my
footage will be good enough for the programme though?

A smiling Andrea who thoroughly enjoyed her
flight returning with the K13.
Andrea filming Val preparing to fly.
Whilst the filming was taking place Colin and Gavin worked on the Puchacz in the hangar and were accompanied by Neil, a prospective new member, and Steve Lewis. Mike Bennett showed our Fencing Contractor where we needed a new fence.
The Puchacz getting some TLC.
As always the Dartmoor members made Andrea very welcome and helped flight operations to make her day a success. 

I'm not sure when the completed piece will appear on Spotlight so keep an eye out for it.

Steve Fletcher