Saturday 29th December 2012

The weather is still wet. The usual story of high winds, frequent showers and a saturated runway continues although the forecast is suggesting high pressure conditions from next Wednesday. Readers who have been following my recent fascination with the Met Office warning colour scheme may be interested to know that for Monday in the Highlands of Scotland there is a “Yellow Warning for Snow”. I think we all know that you shouldn’t eat yellow snow. Perhaps their system needs a rethink.

Work on the Guslaunch winch continues even in these poor conditions. By bringing out the two Landrovers, the team can just about create enough space in the front of the hangar to give themselves workspace out of the rain. It is still windy, wet and cold though. I am sure we all owe them our thanks.

In the clubhouse, Will Wilson was preparing for his Navigation and Field Landing exercises planned for next Wednesday using the motorglider at Shenington ( weather permitting ) to complete his Cross Country Endorsement.

The day ended with beer and chat with friends in front of the woodburner.


Sunday 23rd December 2012

Although not 'properly' raining, the field was still awash from the previous days' heavy falls so it was another day for classroom activities. The two 'club one day course' candidates, Sam Deeks and Robin Wilson were the only students to venture out.

Martin Cropper gave Sam some simulator instruction whilst I covered MacCready and speed to fly principles with Robin. We also touched on task-setting techniques.

Robin raised a question about thermalling techniques which was the cue to start a rather inappropriate (for this time of year) briefing on thermals and thermalling.

And before Sam could escape he had a briefing on circuit planning.

Would be so nice to put some of this into practice soon!

David Jesty

Saturday 22nd December 2012

Another Amber Alert from the Met Office. Heavy rain, flooding, low cloud and fog. Great.

The DGS trout stream in  full flow.
So while we weren’t flying Ged and Rick worked away at fitting the new radiator to the Guslaunch winch. Thanks chaps, I know that the conditions you were working in were really poor; cold and wet.

The cold and wet conditions managed to give Ged an "etherial glow"
Meanwhile. CFI Don, instructor David Jesty and myself set about putting the world to rights in front of the roaring log burner. After threatening to correct all the text books on the dynamics of winch launching we went on to brainstorm possible costs and benefits surrounding replacing winch equipment.

The only flying today was me in the simulator, practicing my ridge racing skills. 68km flown in 33 minutes i.e. average speed 101.2 knots. So the challenge is on; beat that if you can.


Wednesday 19th December 2012

When I heard that the weather forecast was giving an amber alert, I should have been suitably concerned. Instead, the only thing I could think about was Red Dwarf and the need to change the light bulb to have any colour alert other than blue. Does the Met Office have a supply of different colour bulbs? Perhaps I need to get out more; I certainly need to fly more.

After last night’s torrential rain the airfield was too wet to stand on let alone fly from. Instructor Bob Pirie was standing by in North Devon just in case we could find a way to fly. But with the strengthening wind, frequent showers and lowering cloudbase his services were not needed. Thanks anyway Bob.

The view from the hangar by early afternoon says it all 
We welcomed visitor Michael Langdon-Howe, who was originally booked in for a One Day course today. While the members got on with a little work, wood chopping, scrap metal removal and refurbishment of the “old” quad bike, I introduced Michael to the club facilities, the aircraft and an in depth discussion about gliding followed by a “flying controls” lesson using the simulator. He will return on a better day to complete his course.

Steve looks very please with his early christmas present
There is one piece of news that we seemed to have overlooked. Steve Raine has joined Mike Jardine and Dene “Scratch” Hitchin in the Astir syndicate. He is very pleased with his purchase and is looking forward to flying it.


Sunday 16th December 2012

You just never know what talent is hidden in the most unlikely places. David and Roger set about breakfast.  Home cured bacon resting on a bed of twice cooked organic mushrooms , with sausages and herbs, Italian tomatoes and fresh duck eggs fried in olive oil. A pot of fresh ground coffee or Early Grey tea and toasted rolls with home made orange marmalade. All of this in front of a roaring logburner. What a way to start the day!

a forbidding sky (and a very wet airfield)
Winds were 230/20 with cumulus building quickly and providing the odd shower.

The new tow out trailer was commissioned under the watchful eye of Colin. David Bourchier arrived and quietly set about more work on the Guslaunch.

Just a few people braved the doubtful weather but enough for training to proceed. They do say “never cancel on a forecast”.

Even this sky wasn't enough to prevent David and Sam committing Aviation
David Parker and  Sam Deeks had an intensive days flying. David mastered launch failures in very tricky crosswind conditions and Sam learnt to fly the winch launch and land while dealing with the same conditions.

Many thanks to our new chairman Martin for patiently sitting it out in the winch, and Roger for providing much needed ground support.

Well done everyone


Saturday 15th December 2012

Forecast winds strong SSW and, although yesterdays continuous rain has passed through with the most recent (endless?) frontal system, showers were in the forecast and could clearly be seen from the airfield.

Initially, the plan was to fly with just one two seater so that Will Wilson could complete his general flying test. However, by the time that Rick and helpers had replaced the ML winch cables with some shiny new ones the weather had put paid to that plan. Better luck next time Will.

Chris Kaminski has been working on the Pirat's instrument panel. This will hopefully bring the end of it's extended period of maintenance a little closer.
Elsewhere, Colin Boyd was busy extending to cable retrieve trailer’s arms to ensure that cables will be laid on the grass either side of the track to reduce cable wear. Chris Kaminski was in the workshop continuing the replacing of the instrument panel on the Pirat. Don was passing on sage advice to those pilots with cross country aspiration, and discussing learning to fly with a couple of visitors.

The day finished in usual style with friendly banter in the clubhouse around the woodburner.


Wednesday 12th December 2012

A bitterly cold day, combined with a biting SE breeze and still-sodden airfield beneath the deceptively crunchy surface deterred all but a small hard-core of solo pilots from venturing up to the club today.

However, those of us who made it basked (?) in a total lack of precipitation, and enjoyed the luxury of operating from the west end of the field, with the clubhouse, wood burner and even unfrozen lavatories within easy reach. What's more, our spirits rose with talk of wave (which sadly never materialised) and the formation of a few embryonic cloud streets hinting at some potentially usable lines of energy.

Bob getting ready to give the K8 a workout.
In order to blow away the cobwebs after three weeks in sunnier climes, I took a couple of launches in the K8, managing firstly 11 minutes, but second time around 25 minutes and a climb to 1700 feet by allowing the K8 to do what it does best, namely turning tightly in well-defined thermals, and bimbling along gently to take advantage of whatever those energy lines had to offer.

K7M G-DBVB almost ready to go
Both the K8 and K7M BVB made several flights; the latter either two-up with Ged Nevisky in the back seat or flown solo, but during mid-afternoon everything went downhill fast. First of all there was a cable break, but then during the winding in of the repaired cable the two cables came together and then there was a massive snarl-up a the winch.  The team battled heroically in arctic conditions to unravel the mess, until - with both cables on their last legs anyway and a delivery of new cables scheduled for later in the day - the decision was made to go to work with the cable cutters. Everyone present on the field got stuck into this operation, cutting the cables into sections, then coiling and stacking them ready for delivery to the scrap yard.

As darkness fell and most members went their separate ways, Steve Lewis remained hunched over the woodburner awaiting the arrival of the promised delivery which finally arrived at 6.45pm.

In contrast to this disappointing ending to the day (which unfortunately meant several people didn't get a flight), we had an unscheduled visit by a very welcome potential new member called Naurooz Ismail, who took a couple of trial lesson flights with Ged. Naurooz, who lives in Fowey, first tried gliding about 40 years ago when, as a member of his school's cadet force, he attended a gliding course at Biggin Hill. He soloed in a Slingsby Sedbergh (T21b) after 17 launches, and then did a further dozen or so solo flights before moving on to other pursuits.

Naurooz waiting for Ged to get ready
Bob Pirie

DGS launches Social Networking

This blog has proved to be very popular ( and long may it last ) - many thanks to all our readers.

To augment this service we have launched a Twitter Account and a Facebook page.


For the uninitiated Twitter is a micro blogging tool which we intend to use to announce breaking news and as an index to changes around our other systems ie. the main website, this blog, the Safety Corner, You Tube, Facebook etc.

The short messages ( called Tweets ) will include a link to the item or change. For example, to follow this blog you could wait until you get a message ( tweet ) on Twitter and just click the link to take you to the full article.

The Dartmoor Gliding Twitter page.
To join in just sign up for a free account ( if you don't already have one ) and "Follow" our page. Your twitter account will show any updates ( Tweets ) from us.


The Dartmoor Gliding Facebook page will show all the articles from this blog , the Safety Corner, and many other gliding / aviation related pictures, videos, and articles.

Dartmoor Gliding Facebook page
To follow the action, if you go to our page and click the "Like" button changes will appear in you own Facebook news stream. Announcement of Facebook updates will, of course, also appear in Twitter

To join in the fun just click the links in the right hand sidebar. You can set up free accounts for both systems from there if you need to, if you already have these accounts you will be taken straight to our pages.


Sunday 9th December 2012

Not an inspiring start with low cloud and drizzle.

Get the fire going and lets talk about Macready, polar curves and speed to fly.

Sam and David tried out the principles on the simulator. We were beginning to wonder if Sam would ever get stick and rudder co-ordination when it was realised the rudder was working in reverse---never mind Sam we live and learn.

We then moved on to centring in thermals and more simulator practice.

Meanwhile Martin and Roger made the launchpoint steps safer with chicken wire, and sent back regular reports---these could be summarised as "its still raining or its about to rain"

Well we enjoyed ourselves anyway, and Roger got his bronze and cross country endorsement paperwork signed up.


Saturday 8th December 2012

A chilly, blue sky day with a very light northerly breeze promised very smooth conditions and no real prospect of much soaring. Ideal conditions to perfect / demonstrate classic circuits.

Originally, I thought today would be a game of two halves. As it turned out it was a game in 4 parts, so that spoiled that train of thought. Literary greatness is sometimes not easy.

Getting ready for a trial flight as the family look on
Part 1 was the flying. We welcomed a visitor and her family for a trial flight. Tony returned to complete his one day course. Victor continued his lessons. Several other pilots kept their currency up to date. The highlight was the arrival of club secretary Sandra bearing seasonal mulled wine ( non alcoholic of course ) and mince pies.

Vic and Don were not about to miss the festive cheer even if they were flying
Part 2 was the installation of the “new” engine in the Guslaunch winch. The heavy lifting was supplied by our neighbour and one of the club’s founder members, Mike Stacey, who turned up with a suitable machine from his son’s farm which borders the airfield. By the end of the day the engine had been connected and started. Several jobs remain but this was a big step forward.

Mike Stacey ( driving the Manitu ) carefully lowers the engine.
The smile of winch master Rick says it all. 
Part 3. The Twin Astir syndicate returned with their newly repaired fuselage ( undercarriage damage ), and a small army of willing helpers reassembled the aircraft and put it back in it’s “T” hanger ready for some better conditions.

Part 4. While all this was going on the committee held a meeting in the club house. Even this did not produce enough hot air to produce a thermal.

The Epilogue ( or is that part 5 ). The day finished in the clubhouse with a can of beer and some friendly chat in front of a roaring log burner.


Wednesday 5th December 2012

Blue sky, very cold and the wind was strong northerly.

We welcomed several crew members from HMS Vengeance who had arrived for a days adventure training. Unfortunately, the airfield was just too wet after the torrential rain of yesterday and the cross wind was out of limits for Air Experience flying. Better luck next time.

Work on the replacement engine for the Guslaunch winch seems to be nearing completion. The final bits and pieces were finished ahead of it’s planned installation in the winch Saturday next.

Two Davids, torque wrench and engine
As the weather was conducive to a walk in the open air, the assembled members search the fields both sides of the runway looking for “lost” strops. A couple of strops were found and will be return to flight status shortly.
Strop hunting party in playful mood.
The lunch break was a very convivial affair with members airing their views on an eclectic mix of subjects.

DGS debating society.
Lets hope the field dries out soon.


Sunday 2nd December 2012 – Mike and Roger at Shenington

After helping to organise a recent trip to Shenington for my cross endorsement which was subsequently cancelled due to bad weather, then missing what was rescheduled for the following week (last week) with Steve Raine and David Rippon, I was delighted to get an email from Don on Friday to let me know he was planning a trip up there for Sunday. So I re-organised a few things and after getting the 214, 215 and NOTAMS, I headed up there first thing Sunday morning to meet Don and Roger Appleboom.

Getting the T61 ready on a very frosty morning
An early start was planned to be well ahead of the approaching warm front forecast, so I left at 6am to get to Shenington at 09:45, just in time to see Roger depart on his flight in the T61 Venture with Don on a cold but still and beautiful winter day. So time to drink tea and chat with some friendly local flying enthusiasts, to get some local info on the site, then a final check on the weather and NOTAMS.

Two hours later a grinning Roger and Don landed.

So it was my turn then, here goes, let’s see how much all the reading and studying of charts, air law, compass, field selection etc. had sunk in. I had had mixed feelings, of a little nervousness, (mostly associated with my own confidence to make good judgements), and excitement to go and play with a motor glider with someone I like flying with! Once re-fuelled, strapped in and taxiing however, all I felt was focused and excitement, I had been really looking forward to this.

 Mike ( left hand seat ) and Don ready to go
Don takes care of the take-off and landing, but once in the air I had control, so after a few turns building altitude to about 2500 feet  QHN, I turned to 090 and set off on my planned 100km triangle. The first thing I noticed was how well a 1:500,000 chart actually works at a height of about 2000. Loving maps as I do, particularly Ordinance Survey, I had been concerned that an air-chart would not show what I wanted it to. But in the air I found that the chart really did provide me with what I needed to know, whilst I could then get on with enjoying the view and flying the motor glider.

In a short time my first turn point of Silverstone circuit came into view, and although I knew it was Silverstone, Don needed me to prove it to him by identifying other marks on the chart with what I can see on the ground, the gliders track/ heading, all compared with my own expectations. So off to my next turn point and once Don was happy that I could actually navigate, we decided to fly off-track to find some fields to play with.
Can I find somewhere down there to land?
After some confusion in my head over the wind direction, and a demo from Don, I would select a field; lose more height, still happy? yes, ok, then get into circuit and focus on putting it down safely. When the point is reached on finals when you both know that the landing is going to work, the brakes are put away, and the engine powered back up to climb out for another go somewhere else.

Once we were both happy with my attempts Don then took back control, and we headed back to Shenington to land for a civilised lunch perfectly prepared by Roger – thanks Roger!

1.5 hours airtime, flying a chosen course in a motor glider that was nice to fly, followed by some field landing
practice – what fun – I really enjoyed it and have decided to make it an annual thing, and I now feel more confident about heading off away from the club which I hope to do next year.

Shenington GC are a friendly bunch, I like the site and hope to return again soon

Roger and I passed and lots of thanks to Don Puttock for his time and efforts to do this for us, he seems to enjoy it as much as we do!

Now all I need is the illusive 2 hour soaring flight to complete my XCE. I’ve had 1.5, 1.45 and 1.50 this summer all short of what I needed. Winter wave, spring thermal and currency should sort that out.

My advice to anyone wanting to do this, is lots of preparation – but mostly enjoy it, whether you pass or not, it’s good fun.

Mike Gadd

Sunday 2nd December 2012

The Club One Day Courses continued, this week with Leith and Jacob in the frame.

The ever-lowering cloudbase and imminent rain meant it was a day to stoke-up the log burner and take on some classroom work.

With help from Martin Cropper, topics covered included understanding air charts, navigation and macro/micro weather systems. And the simulator was used for, amongst various tasks, some aero-tow training.

David watching the simulator action - spinning in this case
A useful day.  

David Jesty

Saturday 1st December 2012

A crisp clear start to the day, with a light NW breeze, promised some flying.

The gliders were out and ready in good time after Vic had ensured that the members were up-to-date with the routine glider maintenance tasks. The airfield is still surprisingly wet even though we have had several dry days.

We welcomed Bob Kendrick to the airfield for his One Day Course. After an introduction to gliding on the simulator it was off to sample the delights of flying in the real world. By the end of the day he was making good progress in controlling the Bocian and the coordination of his turns was really improving.

One Day course candidate Bob ( flying with me in the Bocian) in what was the last of the afternoon sun. 
Members were keen to maintain their currency even though all the flights were circuits. This is a good plan, next time might be a wave day; too late to discover that your currency has lapsed. As the afternoon progressed the flying was eventually stopped as showers pushed through the area.

The work on the “new” Guslaunch winch engine continues. Today the usual suspects were joined by Tony Pugh who drilled the new hole in the bell housing casting to permit the filling of the fluid flywheel after it is fitted. Thanks again everyone.

A nice day


Thursday 29th November 2012 – David and Steve go to Shenington

Steve Raine and I collected Don and drove to Shenington on Wednesday evening to carry out the Navigation and Field Landing Tests for their cross country endorsement on Thursday. After a fitful night we were woken at 7.00am by a bright and breezy Don who was keen to get the necessary Notams and Weather out of the way so the first candidate could be airborne by 9.30.

David, Don and Steve look pleased with themselves
Notams were down loaded only to find that part of our route was restricted due to parachute drops at Little Risington . This necessitated a call to ACT who fortunately confirmed that jumping on Thursday would be confined to nights at Hinton so we were cleared to use the restricted air space. Weather proved less of a problem we all ready knew that after a frosty start, we had a glorious bright morning with light winds from the N,which was confirmed by the aviation weather service.

The aircraft was prepared and ready to go by 0925. The altimeter reset to QNH which by coincidence was 1013 mb which, we felt, was a good omen. I was first to set off in a high state of trepidation. Don flew the take off from Shennington and, at 2000 feet, announced ”. You Have Control”. He then allowed a few local circuits to acclimatise to the area taking in Banbury etc., this also gave time to adjust to the aircraft. Then the dreaded you can set off when you are ready was announced

Scheibe Motorfalke - ready to propel our pilots towards their licences
284 degrees was the required course for the first leg to Bidford. By now I had started to enjoy myself, this was fine until I happily picked up what I decided was a major airfield on route. The stoic examiner then began to question where I thought I was. Confidently I defined my position only to be greeted with a big grin and “ok then”. Doubts crept in and I rapidly had to re-asses the situation only to find there were three airfields in a similar position fortunately a railway line came to my rescue. Eventually we arrived just east of Evesham and 5km north identified Bidford. More questions ensued to ascertain if I really did know where I was, in the end Don asked how I actually knew it was a gliding field. “There is an glider sitting in the middle of it” I replied.

The rest of the nav exercise proceeded satisfactorily except for the trend to drift to the west which meant that we had to fly east above the A40 to reach the N Leach turn point. Don then declared himself satisfied with the navigation. The field selection and landing approach tests were then carried out successfully. We finally arrived back at Shennington ready for Steve at 11.30.

Why does Don look worried?
Steve left at 12.00 round the same course with very similar results. It was interesting that both of us drifted to the right on the southerly leg. Whilst Steve did not have the same problem finding Bidford he was further right at the A40 and arrived at an Island further west and then re assessed his position to fly east along the A40 to arrive at the N Leach turn point.

Once again Don declared himself satisfied and Steve followed a similar activity in field selection and field approach. Finally Steve landed at 14.00 with a big happy grin all over his face. We all returned to the clubhouse for tea and medals

We had both passed and were very grateful to Don for the  instruction / examination and for the much needed bacon and egg sandwich after which we duly all climbed into the car to head south west again.

Trundling home, two certainly elated but very tired candidates.

David Rippon

Wednesday 28th November 2012

At last a break in the rain. Occasional cloud, a strong northerly wind and it was COLD.

The runway is still very wet so it was to decided to let it dry out and fly at the weekend when things will have firmed up considerably.

Better looking weather as the runway starts to dry out
There was only a few members here today but there were unconfirmed reports that were several members away doing their cross country endorsements in a motorglider. I will try to get a report about that.

A what did we do? Well apart from getting the log burner going, sitting around drinking tea and putting the world to rights, nothing much really. Subjects for debate ranged widely from schemes to improve the airfield to curing the world economic crisis.

Dartmoor Gliding Debating Society
As always David Bourchier put us to shame by keeping himself busy with an eclectic collection of odd jobs in and around the hangar.

David - busy as usual.
I am really looking forward to flying at the weekend.


Sunday 25th November 2012

The heaviest rain we have seen for a very long time. Dave Parker said he saw some blue sky, but nobody believes him.

Breakfast was croissant and real coffee. Croissants by Chris and Karon and coffee by Roger. Very civilised.

Chris and Karon then did a masterful job trying to aerotow on the simulator before setting off on their mountain flying cross countries.

Marta popped in with a new member "Chris", declaring that she is steadily building the Polish contingent in readiness for a take-over. Chris is a radio/electronics engineer (that's right--he knows absolutely nothing about pharmacy). Chris has been solo 5 times before, but a few years ago now.

Library photo of Polish "fifth columnist" Marta taken on a much sunnier day
The wood pile is now a splendid heap, thanks to several volunteers.

After lunch we had a short impromptu brief on hill soaring and then we went home, through the flooded lanes.


Saturday 24th November 2012

From early morning it was raining, the forecast was for the rain to increase, the news was full of flood warnings. Here we go again too wet to fly.

I arrived a little later at the airfield than normal to find that Rick Wiles and Ged Nevisky were already deeply entrenched in the removal of the Guslaunch winch engine. Ged had collected the replacement engine using a large lorry fitted with a hiab crane and the idea was to to remove the old engine while they had the crane available.

Rick and Ged stripping out the winch engine in the rain.
This work continued throughout the day during which they were joined by Dave Bourchier and Martin Smith and kept well supplied with tea by Vic. Is Vic the most experienced tea boy in the country? By the end of the day, both engines were in place in the hanger, the clutch had been removed from the “new engine” ready to be replaced by the fluid flywheel which has been removed from the “old” engine. Great work chaps.

Victor, the country's most experienced tea boy.
Meanwhile CFI Don was preparing his course materials for the evening lecture entitled “A appreciation of cloud flying”. An what did I do? I hear you ask. Well I got the best job really flying the various cloud flying exercises in the simulator and setting it up for the evening demonstrations.

The day finished with the “Cloud Flying” lecture and demonstrations being delivered by Don to a very attentive group of 10 pilots after they were all fed by Pauline with what can only be described as “Gourmet” burgers.


The 3rd instalment of The Glider Show podcast entitled “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back” has now published. To check it out click this link.   The Glider Show

Wednesday 21 November 2012

As I left home for the airfield apart from the damp ground everything seemed ok; 2/8th cloud cover, gentle wind. Looks good for some flying.

Listening to the traffic announcements on the radio revealed that my view of the weather situation was entirely wrong. Lots of roads were closed due to flooding. The main railway at Tiverton closed due to flooding. Must have rained much heavier overnight that I realised. Oh Dear.

On arrival at the airfield it was immediately apparent that it would be far too wet to fly.

The members went into make and mend mode, getting on with some of the myriad of outstanding tasks. The Zugvogel trimmer system was dismantled, adjusted reassembled and the aircraft returned to service. The Bocian instrument panel layout was changed to make the airspeed indicator more visible for the instructor in the rear seat.

From the left, Steve Raine, John Bolt and Ged Nevisky sort out the Bocian's instrument panel.
 I found it interesting that one group waited until it had started to rain before starting to wash the vehicles!! And we still trust these people to gliders?

Is car washing and rainbows seen in many photos?
In the clubhouse the simulator was put into good use with several pilots practicing various aspects of their skills.

Thanks everyone for a nice day with friends.


Sunday 18th November 2012

A cold bright start gave the promise of a good training day. Although it still took some while before the sun warmed the canopies enough to dry off the condensation.

It was good to see Marta back after a prolonged lay-off of many months: her first flight reintroducing her to the delights of a cable-break.

Training flights proceeded with the three club members on the 'club one day course' (Three? How did that happen?). Martin Cropper flew with the long list of others including a couple of trial lesson flights. Sarah Reed had a site check flight in the Bocian and then flew the Zugvogel: two more rather less common aircraft types for her log book.
Nigel Williamson playfully modelling carrier bags as shoe liners to keep his feet dry.
Sarah is modelling the Zugvogel in the background.

Sadly not enough time for every one to fly.

Thanks to all who helped.

David Jesty

Saturday 17th November 2012

Low(ish) cloudbase wind light NW and a forecast gap in the rain promised a training type flying day. The airfield is extremely wet following a week that seems to have an lot of showers over Dartmoor so we only got out K7M-GDBVB and Bocian G-DCKN.

After a familiarisation flight with Duty Instructor Ged Nevisky in the Bocian, Air Experience instructor Mike Sloggett set about delivering his usual high quality instruction to Andy Porter, today’s One Day Course candidate, only breaking off for a quick cup of coffee at lunchtime and to fly with an air experience visitor. By the end of the day Mike had been won over by the charms of the Bocian and has definitely joined it’s growing fan base. Thanks for your help once again Mike.

Mike Sloggett (left) and One day Course candidate Andy Porter returning the Bocian to the hanger at the end of the day

Elsewhere on the airfield Will Wilson received refresher training on the ML winch from me and then went on to drive the winch for several hours before coming to the launch point to fly and maintain his currency, after which he went to the clubhouse to tidy up and hoover the messy carpet. Well done Will.

Incidentally, last Saturday I reported that Darren Wills had retaken his bronze exam. I was mistaken it was Will Wilson who had taken and passed his bronze exam ( after his first pass had lapsed ). Well done and sorry for the error.

A quiet day.


Reflections on a first flight

.‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe……’ reflected Rutger Hauer playing a dying replicant in Ridley  Scott’s iconic film ‘Bladerunner’, and that is how I felt the other Sunday evening, musing over the events of a quite remarkable afternoon; no, I hadn’t seen Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or watched c-beans glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate, but I HAD played tag with a soaring buzzard, tickled a cloud with a wing tip just because I could, and all the while being  shadowed for much of the afternoon by my own reflection  haloed in a circle of rainbow, the hauntingly beautiful Brocken Spectre. And the ghostly image keeping me company was of a 50 year old glider, a K6cr.

Before July of last year I would not have known what a glider was; I suspected they were used by both sides during the last war for sneaky attacks on the enemy, seldom reaching their destination, normally crashing instead, killing all occupants. A flight experience day, given as a birthday present, with the possibility of  a follow-up ‘Fixed Price to Solo’ scheme, showed me that there really were still seemingly sane people out there prepared to defy the laws of nature and attempt flight without an engine.

Fixed Price to Solo schemes are great; a financial commitment when self confidence and self esteem are at an all-time low, when the demons within are mocking you for being an uncoordinated idiot incapable of learning a new skill…“give up, give up, stick to something you know, something you can do“………How difficult can it be to balance Stick and Rudder? The target was Solo by the end of the year, and within the scheduled 80 launches; In reality it took until March and over 100 launches,  and the first solo flight was on a day when [and I’ve never told the CFI this] I had only turned up to pay my dues to DGS, having decided to join a club nearer to home-if solo was going to take forever, I may as well cut down on traveling time!

Looking back, those early learning months were great fun, full of frustration and self criticism, but providing some memories that will be unforgettable; touching cloud base for the first time, circling in the same thermal as a buzzard, watching the lights come on in Tavistock as evening draws in……….I had no idea where the gliding experience was going, but I had a few targets along the way, destinations on an unknown journey, with the option of stepping away from gliding after each one without any regrets for the commitment of time and money; Solo, Bronze, Bronze XC, purchase maybe of a glider.

 As it turned out, I bought a glider much sooner than anticipated, having seen a K6 advertised at Shennington Gliding Club whilst enjoying an offbeat few days gliding with some other DGS members. With the invaluable help of Colin Boyd, the K6 was collected from Talgarth, full asking price paid, and brought back to Dartmoor.
Roger and the "new" glider
If the wait to get to Solo had seemed unduly long, the wait to get my own glider into the air was interminable. Pride of ownership was immense, and she sat in the showroom having her makeup redone, she sat on a nearby airfield waiting for the thumbs-up from the local CFI, she sat in her trailer at Brentor waiting for the rain to stop, and finally on Sunday 21st October, with wave developing on the east of the field, the K6, by now named by my wife ’Brangwy’, was once again rigged, test flown by Don, and cleared for me to take her on our maiden flight.

I have been told you never forget your first solo flight, and I probably won’t, but it was functional rather than memorable; Launch, Circuit, Land, Don’t Break Anything; prove to yourself and the CFI this wasn’t all a ghastly mistake. On an early solo flight in one of the club’s 2 K13s I had been fortunate enough to connect with wave, and, totally oblivious to the passage of time, clocked a 2 ½ hour flight, much to the angst of the duty instructor waiting below with trial lessons. Since then I had managed a couple flights just short of an hour; for me, mind-boggling stuff that kept me buzzing from one Sunday to the next. This launch felt very different, though; the culmination of everything that had gone before, at the same time seeming the first ever solo. I would have accepted a 3 minute flight if the glider came back in one piece, been satisfied with 5 minutes, and happy with 15.

Don’s last words of advice before the ’ALL OUT’ were brief and to the point; ’Fly straight to the easterly edge of the cloud, and soar the cloud as you would a ridge’

K6 on the wire.
The launch was OK, but I’ve managed better; the cable back-released at the top of the launch, pulling back too long for height; a momentary intake of breath while the attitude stabilized, and then I was through the cloud. What had looked from the field to be a grey shapeless cloud mass was in fact the trailing edge of a cliff face; a white, gently foaming wall of cloud stretching south east of Tavistock and beyond. Someone had pinched the cliffs from Dorset’s Jurassic coast, painted them white, and they were now hovering like a curtain over Dartmoor. Banking south, I followed the ’cliff face’, pushing as far as was prudent, then turning away from the face, tracking back the other way; zigzagging back and forth, from Mary Tavy to Tavistock and back, climbing the cloud wall as you would any other cliff face; sometimes hot spots of lift, sometimes sink, but always, gradually, gaining height.

I’m beginning to discover that a glider cockpit, like the inside of a motorcycle crash helmet, is a solitary, but never lonely, place to be; and somewhere I could easily spend a lot of time without getting bored. Small challenges present themselves all the time: ‘2000ft, I wonder if I could make 2500.……….lets follow that buzzard, he looks to be cloud-hill soaring, I didn’t know they did that!…………..3000 already, if I could make 3500, I’ll chase 4000 before I look for the field, but then again that looks like the highest wisp, I reckon I can dip a wing in there!’

At 3500ft, we were level with the top of the cloud, at 4000ft we were above, and I was looking down on fluffy white cloud baguettes for as far as the eye could see; the airfield had been out of sight for some time, obscured by cloud, as was Tavistock and Mary Tavy, but moorland was clearly visible to the east and north, and the estuary could be just made out in the south, so keeping within gliding distance of the field wasn’t an issue. I remembered there was a small camera in an inside pocket, and almost went into a stall getting it out, but the K6 remained serenely unruffled by the incompetent pilot. There was little lift above 4000ft that I could find, and we tracked back and forth between 3 and 4 thousand, with the Brocken Spectre  for occasional company. Other gliders would sometimes appear, stay for a while, and then go on their way; Colin in his K6, Martin swooping around in his fiberglass “sports car with wings“, the inevitable club K13; familiar faces drifting in an out of someone else’s dream. I used to hate sharing the sky with other gliders, in case I couldn’t see them, couldn’t avoid colliding with them; now it is becoming one of the pleasures of gliding!

And as quickly as I had been launched into, and found, wave, it started to break up.

Trawling the cliff face became sniffing and scratching for lift; a more experienced pilot would have found it more consistently, and a more confident pilot would have followed the reforming wave cloud north, but that would have meant risking pushing downwind, and I am still at the stage where I need to ensure that the number of landings at Brentor equals the number of launches. With the cloud now broken, the field was once again visible, and  with more sink than lift, it was time to think about a circuit while still stretching the flight for as long as I could………………..count the gliders on the ground, look for potential launches/landings, where are the retrieve vehicles, what’s the wind doing, above all, look out look out look out; I didn’t want this to end, but if it had to, it mustn’t be in disaster!

Good looking round out after a great first flight
Left circuit, bit cramped, cross wind landing, kicked straight at about the right time, landing fairly soft, canopy off, and then the warm congratulatory handshake from the ever supportive Colin Boyd; nice gesture to cap a magical flight.

The K6cr sits quietly waiting to be put away at the end of the day.
Wood, fabric, and glue, a technology the Egyptians had; that was all that had kept me rubbing shoulders with the clouds for almost 3 hours. The rationality of the Greeks, the practicality of the Romans, the mathematical genius of the medieval Islamic scholars, the scientific knowledge of Leonardo Da Vinci, all great societies had managed to use the ocean currants but had failed to master flight, yet they had the means, and certainly the dream……….Only in the last 100 years or so have we understood enough to soar the skies; the ancients would have been green with envy. 60 million people in this country, yet only a few thousand choose to soar with the birds!

For me, that last flight would make a fitting last page in the book, and I could walk away happy with my 15 months dabbling with flight, but there is a glider waiting for me at Brentor, and a cloud or two to be tickled, so it’s probably just the start of a new chapter: Bronze, Bronze Cross Country Endorsement, and THEN have a rethink.

Roger Applebloom

Wednesday 14th November 2012

With the wind having swung round to the south east (as forecast) and bright sunshine, the usual team of Wednesday enthusiasts got everything out and ready to go early, the only delaying factors being a need to change of ends and to wash the club gliders (encrusted in mud after last weekend's adventures). Also, a knackered 'spoon' on the Bocian's tail-skid had to be repaired and refitted. The latter was competently executed by Tony Pugh (newish member... ex-Vulcan and BA pilot) and Ged Nevisky, so that Steve Lewis could get airborne with one-day course trainee Anthony Cottle with minimum delay.

Ged Nevisky and Tony Pugh enjoying the sunshine after repairing the Bocian tail skid.
My first launch in the K7/13 with Dave Bourchier indicated hints of wave - although all we got were the 'sinky bits', resulting in a well-executed shortened circuit and landing. Steve Raine (K8) followed by our resident 'Astirisks', Andrew and Phil, also gave it ago - but otherwise all remained pretty quiet and routine at the launch point. Then, around late-morning, the world seemed to wake up to the fact that there might be wave in the offing, and several more members started arriving to get their names on the list or to put their wings on.

Dave Jesty helped Bob and Steve with the instruction task.
During mid-afternoon the hoped-for wave did, indeed, arrive with Phil (Astir) and Steve and Anthony (Bocian) climbing to above 2000ft, and Phil achieving the day's longest flight of 1hr.17 mins. With everyone convinced (at last) that things really were happening, the launch point was suddenly crowded with club and privately-owned gliders (including the Zugvogel, which these days seems to spend most of its time boxed-in at the back of the hangar).

Barry in the Zugvogel worked hard all day but didn't actually get to fly in the end.
But it was all too late, because the wave subsided and (sod's law!), having delivered a smooth performance for most of the day, our 'winchers' were suddenly plagued with launch failures. A special thank you here to winch drivers Dave Rippon, Mike Gadd, Steve Raine and Heather (in the cable retrieve vehicle) for all their efforts.

Sadly, several pilots 'missed the boat' due to a combination of their late start, winching delays and reducing visibility caused by a lowering sun. After consultation with Dave Jesty , who was helping out with trial lessons, I called a halt to flying. Our apologies to the two visitors whose trial lessons were cancelled, and we thank you for being so understanding.

The last flight of the day was by Trevor in the Jantar - just as wave was showing signs of reforming. But sadly the cable broke and he joined the long queue to get the gliders washed and packed away.

Finally, good luck to Messrs Rippon, Gadd and Raine who next week make a pilgrimage to Shennington to undertake cross country endorsement flights in a motor glider with our CFI, Don Puttock.

Bob Pirie

Sunday 11th November 2012

Winds 340/10 with little cloud to start.  A very good training day. Remembrance day and the first day of the club one day course experiment.

Thanks to the Saturday evening efforts of Steve Lewis, Chris Matten and David Bourchier, the K7M only needed the tailplane refitting after a tail skid replacement. Many thanks to everyone involved.

Thanks also to Nigel Williamson who not only brought the Hobnobs but agreed to drive the winch so our course could go ahead. Barry Green and Heather, and several others pitched in to make the day a success. Now that’s what I call teamwork.

At  8.15 am a  grinning Leith Whittington arrived in time for coffee with a tray of eggs!  So a team coffee before unpacking the hangar.

At 8.30 the hangar unpacking started at the field set up began. Roger Appleboom ( course member 1) completed his bronze GFT, and practised  some new flying skills with a total of 9 training flights.

Roger and Don
Keith Whittington (course member 2) de-rusted after a 2 month lay off and moved significantly closer to solo, with a total of  10 training lights on the day.

Don and Leith
A short delay allowed us to devour the scrambled egg and ham sandwiches, thanks Roger.

In addition the club K8 was flown by several club members, Alan Holland (as usual) demonstrating it was a little soarable---if you worked at it.

The two seater managed to squeeze in a couple more general  training flights before the standard landing at sunset.
The Bocian launches at sunset.
A good fun day for everyone.


Saturday 10th November 2012

The cold front moved away overnight leaving the airfield very wet but in surprisingly gentle weather. It would be flyable if we took care.

The flying started in calm air which gradually became a westerly breeze as the day went on. The flying programme was interrupted several times as showers passed through the area.

Some of our scouting visitors familiarising themselves with the Bocian
 We entertained scouts from the 6th Plympton troop who were here for a gliding course culminating in the issuing of their gliding badges. We used the Bocian to give them their air experience flights which they all enjoyed. They were surprisingly adept at handling the controls when given the opportunity.

Another scouting flight takes off. 
Rick Wiles took the opportunity to fly a couple of friends to exercise his friends and family rating. Mike Jardine and Chris Kaminski continued to acquaint themselves with the Bocian, a glider that is rapidly getting it’s own fan club.
Rick ( centre) and his friends share a moment before flying.
While the flying fun was going on, solo pilot Darren Wills Will Wilson was slaving away in the clubhouse on the Bronze Exam paper which he passed with style.

As the sun went down the gliders were washed and put away as 8 or 9 pilots gathered in the clubhouse for Don;s evening lecture aimed at pilots preparing to fly the navigation and field landing tests for their Cross Country Endorsements.