Dartmoor Gliding News–Wednesday 29th January 2014

Light winds with isolated showers was an encouraging enough forecast to raise sufficient Wednesday stalwarts to get a day’s flying in.

With Wednesday instructor Bob away sunning himself in Portugal, it fell to fellow instructor Ged Nevisky to man the K13. The day started off wet with low cloud but this lifted to allow launches to 1200 feet and beyond.

It was decided to fly just the K13 to limit the damage to the very wet airfield and this was kept busy all day. Trainee pilots Jorg Beasley and Carl Andrews made good use of Ged’s time. Good move chaps. Jorg also
flew with me and received an introduction to stalling ( for non pilots this is not as scary as it sounds ). 

K13 about to touch down
The K13 was also used by solo pilots Steve Raine, Robin Wilson and Dave Rippon to maintain their currency in the almost still air. In fact the flying conditions were so gentle and calm that the lack of soaring didn’t seem to matter. It was delightful to take a launch and then gently glide back down to terra firma.

Thanks everyone for a nice day and an extra thank you Mike Gadd who just popped in to check out the electrical fault in the K8 before going back to work, Colin Boyd who was doing some planning for a project yet to be announced ( intriguing ) and to Robin Wilson who spent several hours sawing up wood for the log burner. 


Dartmoor Gliding News–Saturday 25th January 2014

The general airflow is still westerly and WET. There was some hope in today’s forecast with a break early in the morning with the forecast winds starting light and increasing to 35 knots+ by the end of the day. So if we were going to fly it would need to be an  early start and an early finish. And that is what we did.

Mike Gadd ready for his first flight in the Pirat
The aircraft of choice today were the K13 and the Pirat. The K8 was left at the hangar because, if the winds really did reach the forecast levels, it would be difficult to get it back to the hangar safely.
Arriving at the very wet launch point, the cloudbase was still very low. But fortune favours the brave and within minutes the cloud rolled away giving very usable flying conditions.

Matthew ready to go
Mike Gadd converted to the Pirat. Matthew Wiles flew it for the first time in 2 years. Stefi Guiu was very keen to convert but by the time she had completed a couple of successful check flights in the K13 the wind had strengthened so much that a first flight on type was inadvisable. Better luck next time Stefi.

Stefi trying on the Pirat for size
Elsewhere, Allan and Rick continued with the TLC of the ML winch. Despite their best efforts and a long day in the cold and wet conditions cleaning pipes and fuel filters , the engine is still reluctant to run properly. Diesel fitter Ray has been summoned.

We returned to the clubhouse by mid afternoon as the winds had strengthened as forecast and the flying was becoming increasingly challenging. This gave Don the chance to hold an impromptu ( but well prepared ) lecture.

We made the very best of what today had to offer.


Dartmoor Gliding News–Wednesday 22nd January 2014

The forecast suggested light NW breeze and sunny periods with a 20% chance of rain.

Looking out the back windows of my house blue sky. Walking out of the front door the sky was black and threatening. By the time I reached my car parked 60 metres away it was raining. The drive to the airfield showed just about every combination of sun, showers and cloud I could think of. Parts of the sky over Dartmoor was dark low cloud touching the higher tors. Other areas were in sunshine. Lots of the valleys were full of fog / low cloud. Looking north towards the airfield the view was completely cut off be a huge shower. So much for the forecast then.

Clouds touching Cox Tor beyond a wet airfield
There was a buzz about the club this morning, the assembled members were keen to fly, even if it was just a circuit or two just to maintain currency. After inspecting the very wet airfield we decided that we could manage with a K13 and a K8 if we were careful.

Trainee pilots Adrian Pike and Jorg Beasley kept of instructor Ged Nevisky and the K13 busy all day. While not flying they both got stuck into learning some of the ground jobs. Well done both of you. In fact, Jorg signed up as a full member today after the end of his 3 months temporary membership. Welcome to the club Jorg.

The assembled solo pilots all made good use of the K8 to maintain currency and one or two even made attempts at a little soaring under the passing low clouds.

Proceedings were interrupted several times by heavy showers but this seemed to just give everyone a chance eat their sandwiches and have a chat or brief for their next flight.

The day ended in the clubhouse with the wood burner roaring to dry us out and some socialising to entertain us.


Dartmoor Gliding News–Sunday 19th January 2014

To say that everything went like an ‘un-expected’ difficult day with odd weather conditions in no way gives the full appreciation to those who stepped up and put themselves forward to get the day going and helped in its success.

Only Leith and Don were at the clubhouse when I turned up for breakfast. It looked like it was going to be a slow, no flying day, even though the sun was shining. My thoughts turned to the internal machinating of the prospect of a sunny day of lots of tea, odd jobs, too many snacks and a lecture or two. Then arrived Jerry! The prospects started to get better. Almost immediately after that, Andrew and Mike Swann turned up with another potential new young aviator. And then another youngster turns up with Dad in tow, then Dave and other members.

Variable winds and weather, rainbows and a muddy launch point. Winter flying at it's most challenging
This made three youngsters and a few older ones who were going to be very disappointed if we didn’t attempt getting the site running. After some quiet discussion about who could feasibly do what and no doubt Don doing a lot of inner TEM ( Threat and Error Management ). Strict briefs where given and I as the only person who has a fair amount of winch experience was thrown in at the very deep end winch launching.
Personally I cannot thank Jerry enough for volunteering to assist me on cable retrieve as I went through the testing and working out of the procedures to be used in operating the Winch based upon knowledge gained of other winches many moons ago, and also being a WI at Challock and in the ATC. It is amazing what you have to re-learn. Normally I would do both of these alone to learn and minimise the risks. But after about 6 launches we had it roughly licked. Learning the hard way about the nuances of the ‘braking’ control’s (especially on the right hand drum) meant even though you had the brake on full to start. The torque the motor puts out with the manual direct drive resulted in a few cable mends. I still can see Jerry’s face. I therefore learnt how to use a press again. One word about the winch experience ’Interesting’!

There was a crosswind. Almost every launch the drogue went across the northern fence even when folks tried to lay off. The day was forecast to go NW but that never developed. We even had an easterly that lasted for about 3 minutes.

Having said that we did the task. The two K13s , the Pirat and the K8 where out. And then the day got much easier when Alan and Colin turned up about 1-ish. Allan took over from me at the winch. The weather though closed in rapidly at the end and the sun seemed to just drop over the horizon. Almost every member flew.

For me the important thing was that everyone pulled together in difficult circumstances and the three youngsters were given the flying experience they turned up for, Leith, Ray and the other member’s gained/maintained currency and the society gained by the effort? Clubs like ours must never forget the importance of getting new members in and teaching them how to work safely in a team with everyone else to get the task done. This was well done.

A page of flights gained on an, at first Sunny, then blustery, then cold unpredictable day, with ground fit for wallowing in and text book orographic cloud forming on the far moors reminding me that we are on a hill ourselves. Ultimately everyone’s hard work and team spirit made this a good day.

And for the first time in years as I drove back to Helston in the dark. I recollected the late finishes as an Instructor I did as I was always one of the last away. ‘De ja vu’ certainly.

Tony Dean

Dartmoor Gliding News – Saturday 18th January 2014

Low cloud showers and heavy rain. The volume of water running off the airfield is almost unbelievable.

Junior Peter Clifford was in attendance as keen as ever. He and Stefi Guiu spent the morning with Don working through all sorts of gliding and flying related subjects.

Rick and Don discussing EASA licencing
Stefi made good use of the simulator and the assembled instructors to start to learn the art of thermal soaring so that she will be ready as soon as the weather is.

Stefi heading for her next thermal
The work on the ML winch continues, The left hand drum air clutch has been replaced with the spare. It appears to be operating correctly and there are no air leaks. This is quite an important step. A new replacement part would have cost in excess of £2200. All of this accomplished in the cold and wet conditions on the hangar apron. Above and beyond the call of duty. Many thanks Allan and Rick.

The winch  partly out of the weather undergoing TLC
Tomorrow looks like a better flying day.


High flying schoolboy takes to the skies

Andrew prepares to take off. Photo courtesy of ITV West Country News

DGS junior member Andrew flew solo at age 14.

Here is the ITV West Country News story of the event.



Dartmoor Gliding News – Wednesday 15th January 2014

I could produce the digital equivalent of a rubber stamp for today’s weather. Low cloud, frequent heavy showers and strong to gale force southerly crosswinds. Sounds familiar I know.

So while not flying what did we do today? Well instructor Ged Nevisky conducted today's lecture about the  Principals of Flight, accompanied by a very professional looking video and presentation.

Ged in lecture mode
 The simulator was busy. Steve Raine completed another simulated cross country from Brentor to Northhill ( 68 km ). Amazingly, non solo pilot John Rogers attempted the same cross country and , with a little prompting almost completed it. He actually landed out about 8km short. Next time he is even planning to lower the wheel first. Great fun.

John is obviously pleased with his efforts.
Hoping for better weather soon.


Dartmoor Gliding News – Sunday 12th January 2014

Wall to wall grey cloud sweeping up from the south and a threatening forecast quickly led to discretion winning out against valour today, even if for a period in the morning the rain held off, the 90 degree crosswind and low cloudbase meant that there would be little to be gained from a few launches. 

Low cloud and strong crosswinds
The discussion therefore turned to how to ascertain the crosswind limit for each type of glider in use – not an easy question to answer since, whilst the Flight Manual for the Pirat gives a figure of 10kts, there is nothing to be found in the manual for the K-13.  So whilst stalwart members Roger Applepip and Leith Whittington pored over this conundrum, Jerry Wellington kept his hand in with circuits on the simulator, and John Bolt surveyed the repair to Martin Cropper's K-6.

Martin's K6e current waiting for repair.
Colin Boyd also introduced a potential new member (with a 'powered' past) to the simulator and as the rain arrived around lunchtime so did Roger Green, with yet more tales of derring-do about the latest sailplane purchase from Germany.

As the rain set in however by about 3 o'clock it had to be conceded that home was really where the heart was and so we decided to call it a day. 

With thanks to those who travel significant distances to get to the club, hopefully next week will provide a ridge of high pressure that will give both the cloudbase, and us, enough lift to make flying possible.

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News – Saturday 11th January 2014

What a difference day makes! The forecast clearance arrived. Gentle breezes and clear blue skies. The early morning frost lead to some misting on glider canopies but the sun soon put paid to that.

We were flying from the west end of the airfield as, what breeze there was, had a little east in it. The only reminders of the wet weather was the very wet airfield. To preserve things we decided to operate without the normal launch point control tower as it was at the east end and moving it would have caused a lot of damage. Instead the bonnet of a Landrover complete with computer and handheld radio fulfilled the role.

The Swann family. Andrew in the K8, Mum, granddad Mike and little brother Hayden
This was a busy day. First up was 14 year old Andrew Swann who converted to the K8 after a successful check ride with CFI Don. This was a little nerve racking for his mother who was attending the airfield for the first time and watched in amazement as Andrew roared off up the launch. Bob Pirie took care of a check flight for Stefi Guiu who returned to the club today after her Christmas break at home in Romania. She immediately claimed the K8 for some solo flying.

New member Ray SwinField
Another check ride saw our oldest pilot John Blaskett cleared for solo flying again. New member Ray Swinfield, who is a lapsed but experienced pilot, undertook several flights and practice cable breaks. Last, but definitely not least, Mike Swann, Andrew’s granddad, started training with Don. Way to go Mike.

John Blaskett ready to go in the K13
Phew, was that all I hear you ask? Well no. While all the above was going on Don found time to test fly the Pirat which returned to the club fleet today.

Also, we entertained a cameraman and reporter from Westcountry Television who spent several hours on site filming and interviewing members for a story about 14 year old Andrew Swann qualifying to fly solo. This is due to air during the 1pm and 6pm local news spots on Monday 13th.

Flying finished as the sun got low in the sky and canopy misting became an issue. The toys were washed and put away and it was back to the clubhouse for tea and medals ( beer and tall stories actually ).

A very productive day


Dartmoor Gliding News – Wednesday 8th January 2014

Expectations of Brentor remaining rain-free until this afternoon were dashed as I drove past Launceston this morning (on the way from my home in North Cornwall) to find the airfield shrouded in low cloud, with not a hint of brightness upwind. On the positive side, Steve Raine had - single-handedly - opened up the hangar and clubhouse, got the vehicles out and Di’d and then, with the help of Dave Rippon, changed ends with the winch to accommodate a benign (by recent standards) SSE wind, and inspected the cables.

A 'quorum' of enthusiasts trickled in, and after steaming mugs of tea, it was out to the launch point with DMX, followed by a waiting game for a clearance. One gap did appear, enabling John Rogers and me to convert what we thought was going to be a simulated 400 foot launch failure into a 'proper(-ish)' launch through a hole in the cloud to 800 feet. We then fiddled our way down through the murk to a respectable landing by John (impressive, after a six-week layoff).

A nice approach .......
....... leading to a nice touch down.
Talking of 'laying off', so excited were we at doubling our expected launch height, that we failed to allow for the cross-wind sufficiently and the cable parachute went over the hedge. No harm done though, and when winch driver Rave Rippon arrived apologising for winding in the cable too slowly, we kept quiet about our own perceived deficiencies and accepted his apology gracefully.

As we opened the cockpit some serious rain arrived, and under a darkening sky it was back to the hangar with regrets coupled with gratitude expressed to the rest of the team.

DMX started the day in an 'agricultural' state due to mud having been frozen onto the glider in the arctic conditions of last Saturday, and ended today with a second coating of mud and manure of a more liquid variety. This helped to soften up the 'undercoat', and with the help of Vice-Chairman Colin Boyd and his gleaming new 'hose-toy',the glider was restored to its usual smart state and tucked away safely ready for next weekend.

Adrian looks on while Jorg flies the simulator with Ged instructing from the back seat
Back in the clubhouse, John Bolt fired up the woodburner to max, fellow-instructors Ged and Steve set about some 'seasonal simulating', and I attempted to reveal the mysteries of circuit planning and launch failures to pre-solo pilots Adrian Pike, Jorg Beasley and John Rogers.

John, Adrian and Jorg concentrating on Bob's lecture
Finally, around teatime, having spent a while setting the world to rights around the fire, beer can rings were pulled to mark the end of a frustrating - but nonetheless enjoyable day in good company.

Bob Pirie

Dartmoor Gliding News - Sunday 5th January 2014

The monsoon continues. Roaring gales and torrential rain made this another non flying day.

The rain continues
Three members were in attendance. This seemingly trivial piece of information is in fact very important. A policy decision taken several years ago require that if the club should be open that it is open with an instructor in attendance to provide ground schooling as required. So well done chaps; I know that going to the airfield in these conditions requires some effort.

Originally, a scout group from South Zeal were booked to fly today but they are rebooking for a bit later in the year when the weather will have improved. ( It will have improved won't it?).


Dartmoor Gliding News – Saturday 4th January 2014

So here we are in another new year. The winter storms have been lashing Dartmoor one after another but, apart from a couple of showers, today was a calm sort of a day. The airfield was very wet but, with care, a few flights with the K13 would be possible.

It was important for us to consolidate 14 year old Andrew’s solo status so that is what we did. A small handful of members manned the airfield so that Andrew could fly a check flight with CFI Don and three more solo flights. Way to go Andrew.

K13 resting after Andrew's flights
He wasn’t let off the hook that easily of course. After flying he received instruction in obtaining flying weather forecasts and NOTAM’s ( Notices to Airmen ); both important for all pilots to understand before flying.

Elsewhere, after completing the few adjustments necessary for the Guslaunch winch to go into full time service, Rick Wiles and Allan Holland retrieved the ML winch from the airfield and started working on it’s long overdue maintenance. The list of tasks seems quite long but every journey starts with a single step and they went to it with vigor.

Rick and Allan starting out on the ML refurbishment with much shaking of heads and sucking of teeth.
A bit like taking your car to the garage really 
Chris Matten turned up with K10 trailer. This trailer has had a complete new chassis. It is effectively a new trailer with the original aluminium top fitted. Chris still needs to refit the floor for the K10 the return to it’s home

In the hangar, the Pirat was reweighed. Gliders are weighed from time to time to ensure the aircraft’s total weight and centre of gravity positions are within design limits. The ARC renewal will be sent off this week and the Pirat will re-join the club fleet.

A productive day.


My first solo - Andrew Swann aged 14

On Friday 27th December, I decided to check the RASP (regional atmospheric soaring prediction) as I do every week before deciding which day to come and (hopefully) fly. On this occasion Sunday was looking slightly better than Saturday, but there was still the issue of the predicted 12 knot crosswind at 230°. I was hopeful of a solo after having had my medical done on the Tuesday previously, but after seeing the RASP prediction I was much less hopeful. But hey who knew how the day was going to turn out!

On the morning of the 29th December I arrived at the airfield at 8:45 but, unfortunately, today my grandad had to leave me and go and do some 'missions' as he phrases it. So I walked up to the clubhouse to find Tony Dean cooking breakfast. But where was everyone else? Sure as anything they all turned up and it was time to unpack the hangar and begin flying.

In  K13 G-DDMX waiting to go
 After hauling DMX and GDK up to the launch point it was time to begin. Because we were not using the launch hut we had no weights and/or cushions which meant I was not able to fly until Don and I had gone to the other end and collected weights and worked out whether the club had enough lead weights for me to solo in DMX or whether we would have to extract DAK from the hangar. Thankfully the club had enough weights, so loaded with 80lb of lead and some cushions we drove back to the launch end. After much appreciated help from Tony we lashed the lead in (making sure It wouldn't move) and then both Don and I put on parachutes and strapped in.

Launch 1 : uneventful circuit to the right, could have done with rounding out a little higher.

Congratulations from Don
Launch 2 : normal launch until Don pulls the release in the full climb. Right then I thought: nose down, 55 knots on the ASI, can I land ahead? No, so as planned in my eventualities round to the right we went. Right, have I gone back enough to land ahead safely? Yes! So in goes the diagonal leg, swiftly followed by the base leg, final turn, lined up with the airstrip, open the airbrakes and land! After getting the glider back to the launch point Don says that he's going to let me go on my own! 

So then, put the glider in the launch queue and run through my ABCD. Right, time to get in. Run through my pre-take off checks and the holding off the smile I asked for the cable.

With my left hand firmly clutching the yellow release knob, I was ready to go SOLO! 

Very uneventful launch (55 knots all the way up thank you robin) releasing at 1200 feet. Turn downwind, a few circles to use up height and then set off on my downwind leg. Just before I came parallel with my reference point I trimmed the glider for 55 knots. I then proceeded downwind a little further before putting in a diagonal leg with 900 feet showing on the altimeter, base leg and then turned finals at 800 feet and had a nice 2/3 airbrakes approach rounding out bang on my reference point. Now I think of it that was probably in my opinion one of the best landings I ever did. Get the glider back to the launch point where Don tells me that I can do that again if I want! 

I would like to thank everyone at Dartmoor Gliding Society for the help you have given me over the last 6 months, the Caroline Trust for the excellent work they do providing bursaries for young people who are interested in gliding, and I would like to give a particular thanks to all the instructors, especially to Don and one last thanks to my Grandad for helping me all the way through. 

Congratulation from Grandad
Andrew Swann

Happy Birthday to the Blog

With the howling gale bending trees to unbelievable angles and the rain running down the window pane in torrents, the decision to make this a non flying day seems fully justified.

K13 launching on a sunnier day
At this time of year, as well as planning the new year and it’s exciting possibilities, thoughts inevitably turn to the year past. While in contemplative mood it occurred to me that the blog is exactly 3 years old.

The first post was January 2nd 2010 which was a blue sky day with freezing temperatures. Since then there have been a total of 730 blog posts, 1260 photographs and an astonishing 100,000 page views ( 99,944 actually ).

Reviewing the blog and photos one thing is clear. The common theme is gliding of course but the blog is really all about people. People striving to achieve personal goals. people experiencing the joy of unpowered flight but most of all people working together to make the gliding club what it is.

The blog reflects this activity and all that remains for me to do is to thank everyone who has contributed articles, photographs and information. The biggest thanks must go to our readers because they make the effort worthwhile.

So many thanks everyone for playing your part and let’s look forward to an even better 2014.