Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 23rd April 2016

After yesterday's almost continuous drizzle, today was refreshing. Dawn brought sunshine under endless blue skies. The wind was light and mostly northerly. The soaring forecast was hopeful and so were the club members heading for the club to get the equipment out and ready to go. As there was a little east in the wind forecast it was decided to fly from the west end.

The cumulus cloud started to develop early which mystified early flyers when they struggled to soar. My first flight in the K13 revealed the reason. There was wave in the area with sink ( 8 knots+ ) just north and east of the airfield and rotors all over the place. This system was moving around and this, and the north ridge which was working, would randomly suppress and augment the building thermals.

During the early afternoon the thermals were strong enough to be consistent and some good soaring was had before an area of spreadout cut off the whole of the area and once more made things difficult. Best flight of the day was by Mike Gadd in the Open Cirrus. He set off on a 186 km cross country flight from Brentor to Holsworthy to Wellington and back to Brentor. This task was abandoned early on when he realised that the sea air had already cut him off from Holsworthy. He went to Crediton instead when conditions changed and gave him a very difficult time for a while until he found a thermal which carried him to 5000 feet above sea level for a straight glide home. He was airborn for 2 hours 35 minutes.

The view across Roadford towards Mike's first turnpoint at Holsworthy,
out of reach, cut-off by the sea breeze.
Heading east over Okehampton
Crossing the moor over the highest point of Yes Tor
Black-a-Tor Copse and West Okement Valley
Other notable flights were Adrian Irwin in the club Zugvogel who reached Silver height ( 1000 meter height gain ) during his one hour flight. Take a logger with you next time Adrian. And the prize for the shortest solo flight from a full height launch goes to Simon Collier for a mighty 3 minutes in the Zugvogel.

Simon celebrates his flight in the Zugvogel
( or is that "drowns his sorrows )
Visitors today saw us welcome Judith Taylor, Neville Cheesman, and David Westcott. Judith and Neville  enjoyed air experience flights with me in K13 G-DDMX and David completed a One Day Course at the end of which he was able to fly the glider around the circuit; not a mean feat in the bouyant conditions. All left the airfield with smiles on their faces.

One Day Course Candidate David Westcott
Many thanks to those who helped make today special. Special thanks are due to Steve Raine who supplied great winch launches for most of the day.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 17th April 2016

Today was the first Sunday this year when the RASP forecast described a convex curve, peaking at 4-5 in the mid afternoon, so what, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

Well, in the best traditions of Threat and Error Management of course we inspected the cables prior to use, to be rewarded with a cable break on the first launch. Taking place at 800ft and with a mild northerly crosswind, the cable drifted well over the boundary, the drogue parachute creating an avenue through the trees...(see photo). From which returning member Ray Staines was treated to 14 min soaring flight which was obviously going to set the trend for the day... Or perhaps not. Sadly, the buoyant air over achieved and, after Karl Andrews had also achieved a quarter of an hour in the K-8 at 1100, the cloud cut off the sun.

First flight of the day drogue parachute found a leafy glade to land in.
 This was to no detriment for visitors Nick and Rob Tippett who, phoning in from Plymouth, were delighted to be told (by Dave Downton - the 'Voice of Dartmoor Gliding') that we had slots available to fly today (see photos). Indeed, by the time Rob was ready for his second flight with IFP Pete Howarth, conditions had recycled and soaring became possible again.

Visitor Nick Tippett flew with Peter Howarth.
Second visitor Rob Tippett also flew with Peter Howarth.
With the sun beating down on Blackdown the thermals began to fill the valley, delivering soaring flights for Ed Borlase, Pete Harvey, Peter Howarth, Chris Owen and Jerry Wellington, in which some found cloud base at 3,000ft agl within 10 minutes from launch. Conditions were also kind enough to allow Paula Howarth to consolidate her type conversion to the K-8: well done, Paula.
Today was also an opportunity to welcome new members Jayne Marsh and partner Dave Jones as Full Flying members of the club. Jayne (a former Air Cadet instructor who last flew in earnest at Upavon - so lots of change there, then) and Dave had already received Introductory Flights with us, but still decided to join! Welcome both.

"We must have got something right!"
K-13 DMX marks the thermal for
two buzzards to follow,
under a promising sky.
And so, as the hangar doors slid to a close just before 7pm (37 launches after the first at 1010 this morning), we retired to the clubhouse to reflect upon a day which, although 'could have done better' might have been it's summary; 'not half bad' was probably a more accurate assessment.

Thanks go to Heather Horswill for retrieve driving, to those who winched (both seasoned and trainees) and to those who hosted a variety of visitors (including professional photographer Richard Hayward)

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 16th April 2016

Today looked promising. The weather would be reasonable with perhaps a little stronger northerly wind than is idea. Even RASP ( Regional Atmospheric Soaring Predictions ) was playing ball. In the event, the soaring was good and the wind was more a little more westerly than forecast giving cloud streets leading all the way to the horizon.

A good looking sky ( photo by Steven Ellis)
Surprisingly the club was quiet. Where were the members on such a good day. A few were missing because they were preparing for the club expedition to the Long Mynd tomorrow. In fact Mike Gadd headed off today with his Open Cirrus in it's trailer in tow. Hopefully we will get some reports of their exploits when they get back.

The Zugvogel waits quietly for a pilot ( photo by Steven Ellis )
We welcomed two visitors today. Emma North and Max Zaraisky, a young couple from London who are relaxing in the area prior to their wedding in six weeks time. Both enjoyed their flights and we wish them well.

Visitor Max Zaraisky ( photo by Steven Ellis )
And his fiance Emma North ( photo by Steven Ellis )
New member Steve Ellis made the most of the quiet flying list to have a couple of soaring flights with Rick. In fact almost all the flights were soaring with pilots returning with tales of 4000 feet cloud bases and thermals pushing the the gliders skywards at almost indecently high speeds. Talk of 6 knot averages were commonplace.

Steven Ellis ready to go soaring
The airfield looks dry from up here. In fact some areas are still soft
Thanks today to everyone who turned up and made today's flying possible. A special mention is due to new member Steven Ellis who helped out where he could and even helped to supply most of the photos for this blog.

So, if you want a one,two, or five hour flight, today would have been your day.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 10th April 2016

There's discretion, valour, and downright foolhardiness. And, with the Met Office issuing strong wind warnings for Sunday from Thursday on, and MeteoGroup suggesting 20 kts gusting 35, today feel into the latter category.

The scene outside the clubhouse just before this year’s AGM – 6:30 pm Sat 9 April 2016.
But just how strong was the wind at Brentor? A determined team of Sunday Soarers decided to brave the elements as far as the launchpoint at the east end to discover what our recently installed weather station was actually reading. 11.9kts. There are times when you glance down at the instrument panel and think, 'that's not right' – but you carry on flying with your eyes out of the window.

The overworked anemometer atop the weather station.
But as the launchpoint rocked on it's chassis as another gust went through, none of us could tolerate 11.9kts as a reflection of the truth. There followed a frenzy of action as Dave Downton attempted to retrieve the manufacturer's manual from the internet, whilst others adopted the 'prod first, ask questions later' approach (see photo) that comes from close acquaintance with the IT age. Eventually, via a circuitous route no-one can remember, we got the display to read in knots, and update frequently, whereupon it did, indeed, vindicate the decision not to fly, with a gust reading of 31.9kts!

The overworked anemometer atop the weather station.
And so we returned to the clubhouse, where we were treated to a presentation by Peter Howarth on (the temporarily forgotten art of) thermalling: entering, sharing and leaving of same precious commodities. Which provoked an interesting discussion, ranging from sharing thermals between gliders of different construction and Rules of the Air, to how to centre and maintain a good lookout whilst doing so. That said, it was difficult to hear Peter's presentation at times due to the wind drawing a partial vacuum through the white hot logs in the wood burner, as the wind strength continued to increase (as predicted).

 Clouds scudding up over the moor in the strong wind from the south-east.
In the afternoon, we continued to fettle and brief for next week's exped to the Long Mynd – hashtag #excited!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 9th April 2016

Today we ended up taking the gliders for a walk. I expect a lot of head scratching at this point but let me explain.

During the morning the weather was poor, low clouds, blustery winds and frequent showers some of which were wintery with hail and sleet. This led to the club settling into maintenance with Rick leading more work on the Guslaunch winch.

The K8 waiting for the weather to clear
Around lunchtime the weather suddenly improved, with blue sky, isolated clouds and zephyr like breezes. The K13 and K8 were duly inspected and taken to the launchpoint which was looking very wet it must be said. The Twin Astir syndicate along with Colin Boyd used this break in the weather to replace the damaged airbrake connection found during  their recent C of A.

Wintery showers were commonplace
What we (I?) hadn't fully appreciated was that there were a lot of showers in the area and when the first one hit the idea of flying suddenly did not look so appealing. Apart from the rain, hail, and sleet, the associated winds gusts were severe. As the showers passed the wind was gusting to 25 knot+ and the direction was swinging around through 180 degrees or more.

The launchpoint was wet after the latest shower
The decision was made to abandon the idea of flying and the gliders were walked the kilometer or so back to the hangar. Just in case we walked into another shower on the way the K8 was towed with a pilot in the cockpit to prevent any chance of it trying to fly on it's own.

The K8 "walking" walking back to the hangar with Simon Collier in the cockpit
After putting everything away, we waited for the rest of the club to arrive for the evenings AGM. Gradually, everyone arrived and by 6:30, it was standing room only in the clubhouse. The business of the AGM was enacted without undue delay, the accounts were accepted, the Directors were re-elected where necessary and Martin Cropper and Steve Raine were relected as Chairman and Treasurer for the coming year. After the AGM there was a club meeting where all he membership were encouraged to express the views on the club, it's operation and the future.

A good day for a walk.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 3rd April 2016

Today was Grand Old Duke of York Day: No sooner had we got all the gliders up to the launchpoint (in anticipation of a south-easterly with the possibility of wave) than we had to take them all down again as spit spots of rain began to bounce off the wings. Once back in the hangar we gave them a good wiping down and watched as the drops gradually filled in the dry areas to return the airfield to the state of saturation it had emerged from last week. But before retiring to the clubhouse we had to admire the exemplary state of the hangar apron which, thanks to the efforts of Heather Horsewill, had been swept of the considerable amount of stones, rubble and gravel that had been deposited by last week's downpour. Thank you, Heather.

It’s 9:30 am and the gliders are being returned to the hangar.
Back in the clubhouse the scene was one of great activity, with Roger Appleboom leading preparations for our expedition to the Long Mynd, Colin Boyd and Mike Gadd making ready for John Halford's return to inspect the K-8 repairs, GRP paperwork and pick up the Pirat, and new instructor Gordon Dennis giving a presentation on Threat and Error Management to the assembled throng.

New instructor Gordon Dennis delivers a Threat and Error Management presentation
to a packed clubhouse – can you spot the path through the Swiss cheese?
If you hang on any longer you’ll go out through the roof!”
Barry Green appears to be telling Colin Boyd
as he tests out the new anti-gravity paint on the K-8’s tailplane.
Meanwhile, the rain continued and lunchtime loomed. After lunch, with newly returned Antipodean visitor Adrian Irwin's rain radar showing yet more rain inbound from the Brest peninsula, Weather Pro giving a slight clearance at around 4pm, but many members having a drive of 1-2 hours to get home, and the likelihood of getting through the Flying List looking increasingly remote, there was a general movement towards the clubhouse door. Spirits were not dampened, however, for we all felt we'd spent a worthwhile time refreshing our procedures, the reasons for them and the risks of taking short cuts in Gordon's presentation, the closing message of which was the need for currency and lookout. Let's hope we can do lots of that next week...

Much later in the day, as the rain began to clear from the south, there was clear evidence of wave to the east of Dartmoor, with a line in the cloud running north-south for some 2-3 miles near Tavistock (see photo).

Later in the day, evidence of wave could clearly be seen
looking north-south near Tavistock.
Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 2nd April 2016

Another rude awakening – low cloud, cold south easterly wind.

Ben Caverham arrived for his one day course and after my induction spent the morning at the simulator with Mike Jardine, making good progress. We also welcomed new member Steve Ellis, who pitched in enthusiastically throughout the day.

One Day Course Ben Caverham with Mike Jardine
 Our general optimism paid off, we got the aircraft out at about 1130 when it stopped raining and we had a good afternoons flying. For all of us following a winter that has done its best to prevent flying, it’s a matter of cobweb clearing and this was duly achieved by Mike Bennett and Steve Fletcher.

Pre-Flight briefing for Mike Bennett from Instructor Gordon Dennis 
Ben unfortunately didn’t make all his 6 flights due to the late start, but he will be back, living relatively locally at Mortenhampsted.

 Initially quite gusty conditions made it a bit challenging, and there was quite pronounced windshear present on approach for most of the day.

Adrian probably got the school record for duration in the Ka8 although none of the flights were very long. However, a good afternoons flying for all after a very unpromising start, everyone making the most of it and the last diehards retiring for a quick beer in the clubhouse at the end. 

Special thanks to Dave D for sacrificing his entire day to installing a water supply to the caravan – very much appreciated Dave.

Gordon Dennis

Dartmoor Gliding News-Friday 1st April 2016

April fools day! Good time to start a new job. Of course the joke was on all of us – the weather looked most unfriendly. A nasty shock after the previous day when conditions were booming; the national ladder shows two 500 km flights claimed – pretty good for March.

Despite that Luke Bearcroft enjoyed an introduction to gliding flying the simulator, following my short induction.

The only flying today was in the simulator where the sun always shines
Unfortunately there was no flying, but one very important job did get done – clearing all the alluvial matter from the apron in front of the hangar. Many a barrow load cleared away by several members who pitched in and worked very hard to clear it all up.

Gordon Dennis

Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 30th March 2016

Today the aim was twofold: to mark the end of rostered, instructor covered flying on Wednesdays and to welcome new instructor Gordon Dennis to the club.

Our new Instructor, Gordon Dennis.
Since its inception the club has operated with instructor cover at weekends and midweek on Wednesdays. With recent changes in the instructor roster it has been realised that continued cover every Wednesday is no longer viable and hence it has been decided that Friday should become the new Wednesday ie. that the club should operate with instructor cover on Fridays through to Sundays. Of course licenced members can feel free to use the site whenever they wish; the principal change here being that training – operation under the supervision of an Ass  Cat (EASA FI (S)) - will now take place on Fridays through to Sundays.

However, with the ground so soft after yesterday's showers we decided to leave flying operations until the afternoon and instead concentrated upon giving Gordon a tour around the site and several briefings, in particular upon our safety regime. And so, reminiscent of the French tradition (if not their weather) it was after lunch that we took to the airfield. Once Gordon had received his site check flights trainee pilots included Steve Fletcher, Dave Downton and Jorg Beasley, whilst a strong team of solo pilots busied themselves fettling their craft down at the trailer park.

The decision not to fly in the morning was vindicated by the fact that the ground around the launch point had hardened nicely. There are areas, however, that are extremely boggy on the south side at the east end and you need to pick your landing area carefully if you wish to avoid that sinking feeling and causing an obstruction to others as they come into land...

Thanks go to all who assisted with Gordon's induction today; in particular to Chief Caravaneer Dave Downton who has done masses to get the club's caravan back to almost 100% functionality, and to Mike Gadd for his safety briefing. Did you know that every real launch failure/cable break should be reported as an Unplanned Event? Let's make 2016 the year when we actually report every Unplanned Event that takes place rather than just heave a sigh of relief...

Martin Cropper