Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 28th January 2015

The low cloud and drizzle rolled away early in the day, but, unfortunately, as this was happening the wind quickly picked up to the forecast 21knots and beyond. Not only was the wind strong but it was very gusty making just standing on the runway a bit of a challenge at times.

The day looked ok but you cannot tell how windy it was in this photo.
We divided up follow our interests. Steve Raine flew the simulator on a short cross country. John Rogers and Jorg Beasley worked with me on Altimetry and then later on spinning using the simulator.

Allan Holland was in the hangar which was dark and cave like with the doors closed. I had visions of being in a mine whilst watching Allan inspecting the GusLaunch differential.  Also working in the hangar was Colin Boyd who was fitted a battery condition monitoring LED in the 2 seaters.

"Miner?" Allan Holland inspecting the winch differential
After lunch, we went out onto the airfield to conduct a strop hunt but came back empty handed this time. The afternoon was finished in the clubhouse where the simulator was kept busy.

Even Colin had a go in the simulator
Bob will be back next week. Perhaps he will bring good weather with him.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 25th January 2015

It was a day that meteorologists would have described as ‘quiet’. With a leaden grey sky, and no movement in the atmosphere, at least to start with, it could almost have been described as ‘dull’. Except we don’t do ‘dull’ at Brentor - there’s usually a crosswind, or some other form of entertainment on the winch launch - to put paid to that notion!

We don't do dull' trainee winch driver Jeff Cragg inspects a spot of light in the gloom.
And so it turned out. But we were also conscious that, depending on which forecast you followed, there was a warm front due to arrive - it was just a matter of what o’clock your forecast said it would reach us. And so with that in mind, and with a growing band of members on hand, we were up and running before 10, keen to get in as many launches as possible before ‘precipitation’ came ‘into sight’. And to good effect too for, fresh from his Introductory Flight Pilot ground school a couple of weeks ago, plus a surprise ‘loss of power’ in his first launch of the day in the K-8, Roger Appleboom was keen to sample the delights of the back seat in the K-13 for the first time, which he did with Mike Jardine. Mike was also able to ride shotgun with returning member Dave Parker, as Dave was feeling a little ‘under par’ (suffering from an overindulgence in the side effects of ‘jive dancing’ - which he may, with a little persuasion, be prepared to describe… but not in too graphic detail!)

The K-8 'lifts off' into the leaden sky.
It was also good to see junior member Ross Pratt, from Totnes, back on the field today - being a bright teenager Ross suffers from ‘brain like a sponge’ syndrome, so we hope to see him return anon to put into practice all he learned today. In the single seat stakes the homogeneous weather precluded any feature from emerging that would put one K-8 jockey ahead of another - longest flight of the day going to Chris Jones with a sneaky 8 mins, just ahead of ‘also rans’ Colin Boyd, Jeff Cragg, Adrian Irwin, Jerry Wellington and the aforesaid Roger Appleboom.

Club Junior Member Ross Pratt flew with us for the first time since New Year's Eve.
At a little before 2pm the cloud base dropped and a fine drizzle began, thus causing us to ‘stack’ for the day. Now it could be argued that we took the decision a tad prematurely for, no sooner had the rain started, than it stopped and the sky brightened a little. So had we remained huddled in the launch hut for 20 mins or so we could have squeezed in a few more launches before the front finally arrived in earnest at around 3:30pm, however, given that everyone had flown - thus remaining current - there was no shame in calling a truce earlier than normal for once.

Thanks go to Roger Appleboom for replenishing the club’s supply of antifreeze at an unbelievably low rate, and to Chris Jones and Adrian Irwin for getting the kit out thus enabling us to achieve 20 launches in a foreshortened day. And we know the answer to last Wednesday’s blog poser about how does the yaw string (on the outside) clear the condensation (on the inside) of the canopy? It’s an ionic thing - but whether the positively charged wool of the yaw string attracts or repels the negatively charged molecules of the condensation within its arc of travel remains open to debate. Answers on a postcard, please…(or should that be twitter feed, or email?)

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 24th January 2015

Clear blue sky with a brisk north westerly wind. Today was licenced pilots only and a small number of us decided to get the K8 out and keep our flying skills current.

Rick Ready to try again in the K8
So right from the start it was obvious that there was a bit of competition between the pilots. There was a little thermal activity and Mike Jardine who managed the longest flight at 13 minutes climbed to a dizzying 1800 feet in the weak January thermals.

Our first attempt at a group photo
Before leaving the launch point I decided that we should have a group photo. My initial effort showed the group with me in a separate frame. Rick then took a selfie of us. I wondered if this should perhaps be referred to as a groupie but have since found out that the correct terminology is a USIE. Unfortunately, neither of the photos contained Scratch Hitchen who drove the winch for us today. Thanks mate.
The finished "usie". 
After returning to the hangar, Rick donned his overalls and teamed up with Allan Holland and Scratch to remove the differential unit from the GusLaunch winch ready for some detailed inspections.

Colin Boyd and I worked on the total energy probe on K13 G-CHXP which, having somehow lost it’s end plug, was totally ineffective. The probe was carefully blown through from the underside to remove any blockages and a new end plug glued into place. We will see how effective this is next time we fly it.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 21st January 2015

The day started cloudy and damp with drizzle in the air. But the forecast suggested at least flyable conditions later in the day. So, we got the equipment out and then waited.

The low cloud starting to roll away
Initially we thought that we would have to wait for the weather but in fact we had to wait longer for the canopies to stop misting up. During this wait we discovered a slightly puzzling phenomenon. The misting inside the canopy was eliminated by the yaw string on the outside of the canopy. Strange!!

The mystery of the yaw string demist 
 Finally we decided that it would be safe to fly and that’s exactly what we did. Everyone who wanted to fly did so either in the K8 or mutual flying with me in the K13. No real soaring even though the wind was blowing onto the north ridge but it was fun trying.

Allan Holland strapping into the K8
While we were having all the fun, Chris Jones and Adrian spent their day sawing up wood to keep us warm for the coming months. Many thanks chaps.

Adrian and Chris cutting wood 
Makes you feel warm just looking at it
Back in the warm clubhouse at the end of the day, the discussion was about cameras and mounts for making gliding videos. This led to club member John Rogers demonstrating his head mounted camera and provided me with another picture for my dodgy headwear photo gallery.

John Rogers modelling the latest in pilot headwear
Good fun with friends.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 18th January 2015

Today we were ‘perplexed’ by ‘perspex’ - the stuff just wouldn’t demist. After the rain of recent days the ground was, admittedly, pretty damp, but the day dawned crisp, still and gin clear as the sun beat down from a cloudless sky (see photo). Even after a fairly slow start, caused by the need to complete monthly maintenance on the K-13 and K-8 (how quickly that month goes by…) which included polishing the canopies, once up on the airfield they misted up again, defiantly resisting the attentions of all available yellow dusters. A quick check of the Meteo forecast gave a clue, perhaps - humidity was 95% and, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the dusters were putting on as much condensation as they were removing!

The day started crisp, still and gin clear…
So we did what any aviator would do - we pressed on (safe in the knowledge that the DV panel would provide a clear view if the screen didn’t clear during the launch) and flung Adrian Irwin into the air in the K-8. At this point a brisk, northerly (90o) crosswind sprung up, accompanied by a significant gradient aloft, which not only put paid to any thoughts of cable break training, but also made any soaring quite tricky, and hence only relatively short flight times were recorded today. The wind strength and direction didn’t perturb Leith Whittington, however, in his sturdy and beautifully built Dart 17R (see photo), or trainees Chris Owen and Paula Howarth in the K-13 (see photo) who used the conditions to practice their crosswind circuits, approaches and landings to good effect. Pete Howarth was also prised out of the winch (thanks to the arrival of Colin Boyd) to fly in the K-8, thus maintaining his currency over the winter.

Leith Whittington's Dart 17R launches into a promising sky.
Paula Howarth flying the K-13 at 1200ft.
 We were visited today by Lloyd Jones, from Tavistock who, a long, long time ago and far, far away (in Northumbria) flew gliders with the Air Cadets. Recently disabled, and very capably hosted by returning member Richard Roberts, Lloyd was on a recce to see whether it might be possible to fly with us in one of our K-13s. We look forward to welcoming Lloyd back once all aspects of getting him into the air have been successfully resolved.

 "Howarth this is Howarth, over!"
The lunchtime winch and retrieve crew, Peter and Paul Howarth.
As the afternoon progressed, and keeping a good lookout for condensation on canopies, with the reducing angle of the sun we decided that 4pm approaching was a good time for hangar flights and baths for the gliders before bedtime. Thanks go to Paul Howarth and Colin Boyd for their winching, to Luke Botham for driving the retrieve before returning to his Shakespeare revision, and to Richard Roberts for his assistance at both ends of the airfield. Oh, and I’m giving myself a pat on the back for noticing that the winch’s coolant level was low at the DI (and topping it up with antifreeze). On checking later in the day this was discovered to be caused by a broken jubilee clip that was allowing coolant to escape. The consequences - both to the winch and the flying programme - of not noticing (and getting Colin Boyd to investigate) could have been far worse than just replacing a jubilee clip - that’s why we do a DI…

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 17th January 2015

Rolling up to the airfield a little later than usual due to earlier work commitments, it was interesting to see that there was a lot going on. Unfortunately this didn’t include any flying. The airfield was far too wet for that.

The winch cab is "parked" in a trailer.
Rick Wiles was leading a small gang working on the GusLaunch winch. By the end of the day they had removed the cab ready for some complex engineering work on the differential / final drive that has been displaying some signs of wear.

The winch looks rather sad without it's cab.
In the clubhouse, CFI Don Puttock was running a course for prospective Introductory Flight Pilots. Today was the ground schooling. Next month they will be doing the flying part of the course. This course spanned lunch during which Don produced some spectacular bacon sandwiches.

Don running an Introductory Pilot Course 

Hoping for better weather soon.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 14th January 2015

There were weather warnings in force. A careful look at the forecast revealed that in fact there would be a flyable weather window in the morning before the conditions would then rapidly deteriorate. Unfortunately, Wednesday Instructor Bob Pirie was still suffering from the virus that seems to be affecting large parts of the population.

Our Wednesday standby, Ged was in hospital so today would be licenced pilots only. It had snowed overnight and the rapid thaw on top of the already saturated runway meant that any flying activity would have done more damage to the runway than we could justify.

The overnight snow rapidly thawing on the runway
All was not lost though. There was interest amongst the members to discuss the options to display and analyse the .igc files recorded by the  loggers fitted in a lot of gliders. A demonstration of a freeware programme called Tasknav was held by me followed by a discussion on strategies for achieving a  first 50kn cross country flight and the effect of the 1% rule.

While we are having these non flying days, I am planning to encourage our early solo pilots to study for their Bronze “C” exam and will be holding a series of lectures / discussions to help them on their way.

There was a little work done around the site. John Rogers completed the refurbishment of the topper mower which will be offered for sale soon as it is now surplus to requirements since the arrival of the big mower. Colin and Steve investigated a faulty light fitting in the clubhouse. Allan was working on a spare glider tail wheel. David was investigating the electrics and radio in the green Landrover. Thanks everyone.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 11th January 2015

It was a steely, grey day for steely, grey aviators. If the actual wind met its forecast strength of 35 kts we would not have been flying. The windsock, however, showed it to be about 50% of that strength, once again proving the adage: never cancel a day’s flying on the basis of the forecast. However the forecast did give cause for vigilance, which is never a bad thing.

A steely, grey day.  Roger Appleboom tows out the cables
– before deserting to the warmth of the clubhouse!
But flying was not the only activity taking place today, as evidenced by Roger Appleboom who, having assisted with changing ends and getting the cables pulled out, promptly left me at the winch for the delight of Introductory Flight Pilot training with Don i.e.. swapping the steely grey airfield for the warm cosy clubhouse where the woodburner was approaching meltdown and the coffee in permanent, lava like flow. But to single out Roger is a little unfair, for he was joined by a great many others who shunned the steely outdoors for the balmy esoterics of Don’s training programme. No names, no pack drill, but these were highly suspected to include (in alphabetical order) Tony Dene, Roger Green, Peter Howarth and Fred May.

The River Tamar, and cloud to the south.
 Meanwhile, on the currency markets, solo pilots Chris Jones, Adrian Irwin, Allan Holland and Fred May were attempting to exchange the greatest potential (height) achieved in the K-8 for the maximum kinetic (time) in their bids for longest flight of the day, the prize eventually going to Adrian Irwin with a time of 10 minutes. Also remaining current was Chris Owen, who managed 3 launches to 1,300 ft plus in the K-13, followed by increasingly assured and well flown circuits as the wind gradually backed in increased in speed. By 1545 it had to be conceded that the windsock was showing 20kts from the south-west, gusting to 25 - no place for the K-8 and hence time to take our precious toys back to the safety of the hangar and join the academics in the clubhouse.

The River Tamar, clouds and showers to the west.
In a perverse kind of way it’s a matter of taste: would you rather be staying current by flying on a cold, steely grey day with absolutely no prospect of soaring, or attend ground school in the clubhouse that will enable you to take the next step in your gliding career? In fact, both are necessary - nay vital - activities, it just depends how masochistic you are!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 10th January 2015

Well the New Year continues to slip and slide in on a sea of mud created by the endless rain and drizzle in the westerly airflow. Where are the long periods of easterly wave that we all want this time of year? All this is of course driven by the Jet Stream which has planted itself firmly overhead. For your interest this link will take you to the current Jetstream forecast. ( It is always available on the club website on the Members/ RASP Forecast page )

Tuesday's Jetstream forecast shows a reasonably quiet period with light winds 
As always there were several members working on various projects. Rick refitted the hubs to the GusLaunch winch after servicing the brakes and both he and Dave were then preparing to remove the cab to inspect the differential / final drive assembly which has been showing some signs of wear. Phew. Colin Boyd returned with the canopy latching mechanism for DMX which has had the external latch release reinstated.

Have hub will travel (apparently). Rick in engineering mode
 While all this was going on Mike Gadd worked with John Bolt to complete the CofA and ARC renewal for the Open Cirrus getting it ready for the season which is surely only a few short weeks away.

Open Cirrus in the hanger undergoing CofA with it's happy? owner
As the day wore on there was a gradual infux of members ready for the afternoon's Committee meeting.

The committee starting to assemble in the clubhouse for their meeting
with John Bolt working on the Cirrus ARC in the foreground 


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 7th January 2015

Rushing around before going to the airfield I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunrises that I have seen in a long time. Unfortunately, as I was driving at the time, photographs were out of the question. From this beautiful start the day was all downhill. The rain that was forecast for lunchtime arrived early and it was already raining by 9:20 when I arrived at the airfield. The cloudbase was low and the westerly wind was already strong and gusty. Regular readers will recognise the signature of a non flying day and today was definitely that.

The fleet rest quietly in the hangar as the winter does it's worst outside
There was a small dedicated band of members present, some hoping against hope that some flying would be possible, others getting their overalls on for some work around the site. And me, well, I got the simulator going to encourage a few members to consider what is required to fly cross country.

Ready to fly, although the cloudbase ahead looks a little low.
A myriad of minor tasks were undertaken, the most notable of which was the removal of the canopy locking mechanism from DMX to enable the external canopy latch to be reinstated.

Hoping for better weather soon


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 4th January 2015

Answering the inevitable Monday morning question “How was your weekend - what did you get up to?” with the almost equally inevitable “Well on Sunday it was gliding” my Boss responded with “Well I shouldn’t think there’s much gliding going on at this time of year!” Before launching into an exposition of pressure systems, wind directions, inversions and wave I considered my position: he, the naval equivalent of a Brigadier and going places - me a junior officer, master of my own mediocrity and going nowhere - he must be right!

Following the north-westerly that drenched the airfield on Saturday, the forecast for Sunday was for the wind to veer through north to south-easterly; and as we Sunday Soarers know a south-easterly wind equals - wave!

But before getting seduced by this possibility there was the little matter of test flying the club’s latest asset, K-13 G-CHXP. And who better to do so than Instructor David Jesty (see photo), who reported that the glider ‘flies well enough, although the Total Energy is completely (expletive deleted)!’ This was consolidated by a flight later in the day by Colin Boyd and I, which indeed confirmed the need for a little ‘fettling’ with the instruments.

Instructor David Jesty checks out new K-13 G-CHXP prior to its test flight.
 But ‘where away’ the wave? (as the whalers of yore would have put it). In order to investigate this, over the course of 3 flights Adrian Irwin forensically quartered the sky in the K-8: first to the south, then to the north and lastly to the east, including over Mary Tavy. All 3 flights were of 7 minutes duration, but none revealed any wave. Examination of the sky over Dartmoor showed there to be a cone of orographic cloud between Cox Tor and Middle Staple Tor which remained all day, but no sign of any lee wave. It would appear that we would have been better placed on one of the ridges to the south, say the Beacon at Ivybridge, where I suspect some hang gliders were able to exploit the conditions; sadly our airfield is not portable…

Visitor Lawrence Lowry, from Bere Alston, flew with David Jesty.
The south-easterly wind did, however, give a beautifully smooth, and delightfully crossed airflow for trainees Pete Harvey and Chris Owen to practice their circuit planning and approaches under David Jesty’s tutelage and our visitor, Lawrence Lowry (see photo), from Bere Alston, was also given a couple of trial lessons by David. Today’s ‘blast from the past’; was Richard Roberts who, having last flown with the club 18 years ago, and with a little cajoling from Colin Boyd, strangely found himself back in the front seat for a flight with Roger Green. We look forward to welcoming Richard into the fold as a regular member once more.

Orographic cloud funnelled up between Cox Tor and Middle Staple Tor all day.
K-8 GDK was kept busy today, not only by Adrian Irwin, but also by Chris Jones, Jerry Wellington and I, as evidenced by the photo taken in late afternoon as the overcast crept in from the south. So the question of the day has to be: how does an ex-military, retired airline pilot with thousands of hours at the controls get beaten to the ‘Flight of the Day’ award by a personal finance advisor with less time in the air than the average Air Cadet (Jerry Wellington’s 10 mins trumping Adrian Irwin’s 7 mins - twice!). My money’s on some dodgy log-keeping; surely it can’t have been Jerry’s flying… can it?

View looking NE over Blackdown mid afternoon, the cloud gradually thickening prior to rain.
In a perverse kind of way it’s always reassuring to notice the first spots of rain on the windscreen when leaving the airfield - proof that - after 28 launches - there’s ‘not much’ going on in gliding at this time of year!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 3rd January 2015

First flying day of 2015 and I would like to have been reporting epic flights to great heights but alas this was not to be. Long periods of heavy rain only interrupted by even longer periods of drizzle with gusty winds put paid to any notions of “giving it a go”.

Instructor Mike Sloggett was on duty today and he was ready and waiting suitably early but in the end his skills were not required. Our trainees and early solo pilots were obviously still recovering from their New Years Eve revelries.

Water draining from the runway with the Discoveries as silent witnesses
 As ever Rick Wiles was on site with David Bourchier fettling the winches. John Bolt and I spent some time sawing up logs for the wood burner which has a voracious appetite for it’s fuel. Small price to pay for a warm, comfortable clubhouse.

More winch fettling
And all of this gave me a little time to reflect on our blog. From it’s humble beginnings in January 2010 it has grown steadily. Up to today there have been 883 supported by 1882 photographs. All of this has been made worthwhile by our readers. So far, there has been an astonishing 141002 page views. So a big thank you to everyone who has contributed articles and photographs. Keep up the good work. The biggest thank you must go to the readers, your continued support makes all the work worthwhile.


Dartmoor Gliding News- Wednesday 31st December 2014

After last Sunday's unexpected wave-flying exploits, today, with its fierce crosswind from the south, looked like being a bit of a non-event. Nevertheless I was looking forward to getting back in the saddle on the last day of 2014 after nearly three weeks of personal 'unserviceability' - and what a ride it turned out to be.

Neither that wind nor the forecast of occasional rain  (which actually didn't materialise) failed to deter a dozen or so of the club's most dedicated enthusiasts from turning up at the field and persuading me that it was worth getting K13 DMX on line for a day of dual flying in what were really quite challenging conditions.

Jeff looked like he'd been over indulging at Christmas
Until he removed the coat to reveal his parachute
 With everyone from Jeff Cragg at one end of the age spectrum to young Ross Pratt (who flew with Steve Lewis) at the other, everyone was keen to blow away the cobwebs and, as ever, I was very impressed by the way several experienced solo pilots were happy to swallow their pride and fly with an instructor, in order to stay current and hone their skills. It was good to have Ross's mum, Leslie, with us too, and hopefully one of these days she'll succumb to the temptation to take a flight - but definitely not on a day like today.

Cable on
Take up slack
All out and the K13 is off on another flight 
Everyone who wanted to fly flew, and with some areas of weak and ill-defined lift lurking around the mostly low cloudbase, life got slightly competitive occasionally, with  Bob Sansom ultimately pipping Adrian Irwin to the post for the longest flight of eight minutes. Practically every flight offered its own share of excitement and although our flight times were modest, I think everyone who flew felt it had been a day well spent.

Meanwhile, as ever, we continue to be indebted to Colin Boyd, David Bourchier and Alan Holland who remained around the hangar and clubhouse maintaining our gliders and equipment. The best news from their direction, by the way, is that the 'new' K13 G-CHXP is now ready to be test flown.

Personally, as ever I enjoyed spending the day and sharing the action with a good bunch of friends and enthusiasts - and here's to our collective success and enjoyment in 2015. A Happy New Year to you all.

Bob Pirie