Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 20th November 2016

In the local villages of St Dominick (Cornwall) and Milton Combe (Devon) there are pubs called the 'Who'd Have Thought It?' Well, today at Brentor was 'Who'd Have Thought It?' day – as weather forecasts all week predicted heavy rain for Sunday as Storm Angus picked up momentum in the Atlantic – in the event it picked up so much momentum that it swept through the south-west on Saturday night overnight leaving us with clear air, bright sunshine and the merest zephyr of a breeze from the north-west.

Who’d Have Thought It?
After yesterday’s rain today was surprisingly bright and clear.
With only two visitors booked today, and a small but happy band of members in attendance, we decided that one K-13 and the K-8 would be sufficient to meet our needs, and managed to get some early launches in before the arrival of our guests. These were Lisa and Andy Postle, from Plymouth, who arrived with their extended family, to be flown by Asst Cat Instructor Peter Howarth. Peter has a bit of a reputation, not only as a very deeply pocketed gliding Dad, but also as a soaring 'sniffer', who can detect rising air on the flattest of days: and so it proved as he delivered Flight of the Day at 11 mins on his second flight with Lisa.

 One of today’s visitors was Lisa Postle, a sailmaker from Plymouth who flew with Peter Howarth.
Lisa’s husband Andy also flew with Peter.
Crewing Up: Peter assists Lisa into the front cockpit
As the day progressed the surface wind dropped further: not good for launch heights but beneficial and instructive for launch failure training, so much so that, having successfully accomplished some spin training in the morning, there was nothing else for it but to send Dave Downton for his first solo! Dave joined the club over a year ago, in his sixty eighth year, and has become a stalwart member of the team, fixing gliders with Colin Boyd, running the instructor roster and booking visitors onto the calendar: indeed in many respects Dave is the shop window for the club being the first contact people have with us (the 'Voice' of Dartmoor Gliding).

Dave Downton about to be sent aloft for his first solo.
Flying wise, however, it has been a struggle to find the weather conditions in which to complete the syllabus. This has even included going to other clubs (Mendip, thanks to Gordon Dennis, and the Long Mynd), but to no avail. Until today, after his 197th launch, Dave was finally ready to go. So how often, in the middle of November, would you expect to get a nil wind, sunny day, with very few visitors and plenty of cables on which to practice spins and launch failures? Who'd Have Thought It?

Thanks go to Barry Green, for delivering the shopping list of launches demanded, to Heather Horswill for retrieving the cables (and repainting the Gents door in the clubhouse), to Richard Roberts (for repairing that annoying stair tread in the launchpoint), to the logkeeping team (for logging all today's 23 launches) and to Dave himself, for showing selflessness and tenacity throughout the long and winding road that has eventually led to the achievement of solo status. Well Done, Dave!

Back in the clubhouse Dave Downton (right, with Coke)
celebrates going solo with Instructor Peter Howarth.
At the end of the day, in the clubhouse, Dave did the traditional thing by buying the beers for all, but chose to stick with Coke for himself, later revealing that he celebrated with his wife at home with a bottle of wine which had been put by (some time ago) specifically for that purpose.

Now Who'd Have Thought That!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 19th November 2016

Today was always going to be a race. Now, before you imaging dozens of gliders in the grid waiting to be launched to zoom around a task at eye watering speeds, let me explain. The forecast was showing rain on the way, the only doubt seemed to be exactly when it would arrive.

Today's instructor, Gordon Dennis, pushed the somewhat limited team to get flying as early as possible due to the forecast rain. Flying started with Mike Bennett flying with Gordon. In the distance it was already raining. Steve Fletcher managed a couple of launches in the K8. Our One Day Course candidate, Melanie Jones,  had a couple of flights with new Ass Cat instructor Rick Wiles. And then it rained.

One Day Course candidate Melanie Jones waiting to go.
We waited for 40 minutes or so to see if the weather might improve, but no, the  cloud base just got lower, and the rain got steadily heavier. The gliders were towed back in the rain leading to some very wet club members after which the gliders were cleaned before being returned to the hangar.

Spare a thought for our Introductory Flight visitor, Michelle Bycroft, who was attending for the second time only to be rained off at the last moment. Sorry for that; better luck next time.

We tried.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 13th November 2016

After yesterday’s gloomy low cloud, today dawned with very welcome bright, clear, sunshine; and a dew that proved more than equal to most “waterproof” hiking boots! (rubber overshoes being the only sure way of staying dry – thanks to Phil Sherwood for proving that point.)

The surface wind forecast was N’ly at 10 kts – which was pretty much what we got – although upper wind strengths were certainly well in excess of that; and the RASP forecast showed the minuscule rise from zero at around 1230, returning to zero thereafter. That was not quite (for one of us, at least) what we experienced…

One Day Course student Pete Holt flew with Roger Appleboom.
Getting airborne by 1030, our One Day Course Student was Peter Holt, a commercial pilot wanting a taste of gliding flight and who swiftly got the measure of Roger Appleboom’s teaching technique (deciding that it was probably better to laugh at his jokes rather than outdo them!) At the end of the day he was still smiling, particularly with the cool aplomb with which Roger handled a mid-afternoon low launch failure.

Peter maintaining a good lookout.
Other guests were friends from our neighbouring village of Mary Tavy: Laure Bury and Paul Westaway, who were treated to spectacular views of their village in today’s sunshine.

Visitor Laure Bury, from the nearby village of Mary Tavy.
Visitor Paul Westaway, also from Mary Tavy.
For trainees Dave Downton, Chris Owen, Ed Borlase, Phil Sherwood and Ben Caverhill there was just a hint of Groundhog Day as the crosswind was, once again, 90 degrees from the N, however the reduced windspeed and gusts made final turns and approaches much easier to judge.

At around 1130 the sky went from clear to ‘smokin’, with little grey tufts of cu appearing with great speed at no less than 1,200ft agl. These rapidly transformed themselves into about three lines of energy spread down the length of the airfield which raised the hopes of solo pilots Adrian Irwin, Pete Harvey, Rich Roberts and Roger and Barry Green however just as quickly a parasol of cirrus formed to cut off those hopes in their prime..!

But just a minute… where’s the K-8? Well it’s not on the ground so must be… Looking directly overhead the launchpoint there the little fellah could be seen under the leaden top cover, pointing directly North at about 1,500ft! Upon reaching the northern boundary of the airfield it reversed course south (remember those lines of energy?). Returning member Alan Carter had, behind our backs, managed to thermal up into a line of energy at the Eastern end of the airfield, there to make a number of N-S beats thus earning himself the award of Flight of the Day with an emphatic 24 mins (he says he came down to make the glider available for anyone else – but we know it was because his soaring fees piggy bank was running low..!)

With two K-13s, both club single-seaters (Zugvögel and K-8) and Rich Roberts’s Discus on-line, our hourly launch rate was never less than 6, with two hours seeing 8 launches, and our overall total was 41. Thanks, as ever, go to Barry Green, Dave Downton and Allan Holland for winching, and to Heather Horswill for driving the retrieve (and also, it must be said, to former Club Secretary Sandra Buttery for keeping her company in the cab..!) And also to Tony Dean in the launchpoint: those who think that the launch total could have been bettered are probably right – but then we did observe the 2 minutes silence at 11 o’clock: We Will Remember Them.

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 6th November 2016

Contrary to most Sundays today the forecast actually tempted us into the air, predicting a reduction in wind strength from yesterday's 25kts plus to a gentle 10kts, albeit 90 degrees crossed from the North. An upward blip on RASP around lunchtime provided additional temptation, and so we set to with a will. Little did we know...

At the third attempt Alison Jackson, from Exeter,
finally flew her One Day Course with Peter Howarth.
It was great to see One Day Course student Alison Jackson on the field again today: this was our third attempt to get Alison flying and, thanks to efficient use of time by our new Asst Cat Instructor Peter Howarth, she successfully achieved all 6 flights of the course, plus a visit to the winch and learning how to run the wing, hook on and de-rig a glider. We look forward to the possibility of seeing Alison return in future.

Visitor Matthew Nicholson also flew with Peter Howarth.
Visiting brothers Nigel and Chris Thomas.
The wind through the morning remained consistent at 10 kts, northerly, thus enabling trainees Dave Downton and Dave Westcott to practice their crosswind skills (as if anyone at Brentor needed greater proficiency in dealing with this element of the syllabus). As the afternoon progressed, however, the wind backed 30 or so degrees (a good thing) and steadily increased in both strength and gusts (both bad things) until one very wise pilot decided it was time to land the K-8 at the hangar end of the runway (thank you., Allan...) That said, it remained safe enough for the K-13s to soldier on, with Pete Howarth flying visiting brothers Nigel and Chris Thomas, and Matthew Nicholson, whilst solo privateers Paula Howarth and Rich Roberts consolidated their conversions onto K-6 and Discus respectively.

‘What do you mean, Shower Approaching?’
The airfield was caught by just the edge of this downpour.
The low atmospheric pressure eventually manifested itself as a densely isolated shower that clipped the airfield as it passed N-S, preventing flying for 30 mins and which, with an associated sharp drop in temperature, persuaded us that hangar flights were now the order of the day. And so we 'proceeded in a westerly direction' to put the gliders away, conduct a shuffle of assorted mainplanes for Colin Boyd to work on in the workshop and position the 'new' ML winch on the hardstanding ready for work on the cable drums tomorrow, before darkness fell.

‘The Shower now departing...’ has left a very wet K-6 in its wake!
So that was it, a typical Brentor (35 launch) day of honing skills, maintaining currency and coping with a 'boisterous' 90 degree crosswind. Thanks go to... but what's this?? A logkeeping error??? Surely not..!! Could it be..? Launch No 10, Mr Leith Whittington, Dart 17R, is recorded as 10 minutes... as thus warrants his first ever award of 'Flight of the Day'*. Well Done, Leith (and if the angle of bank continues to increase you could be buying the beers on more than one occasion...) No, really, thanks go to Barry Green at the winch for coping with tricky crosswind conditions today, and to Heather Horswill who, as ever, delivered the cables throughout.

*Jointly shared with Allan Holland for an exciting (when viewed from below) 10 minutes ridge soaring in the K-8.

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 30th October 2016

About fifteen years ago there was no such thing as RASP, you had to use the BBC weather forecast plus a sounding to work out how what conditions were going to be like (remember UDCSS..?). And then along RASP and everybody wanted it; blindly adhered to its predictions.

Even as the hurdle fence was being taken down
there were indications of wave present.
At Dartmoor we are very lucky in that the site at Brentor is a RASP BGA turn point prediction point. Today the prediction was as follows: wind direction 090 (tick) strength 11kts (tick) temperature 17C (tick) overall 'Stars' forecast x-x-x (ie. nil) (wrong!) Today we experienced wave all day, with climbs of up to 10 up (and 8 down..!) all over the locality - it was just a matter of finding it, of which more later.

The turnout today was excellent – which was just as well with the hurdle fence to get down, and a mysteriously flat K-8 tyre to be dealt with (thanks to Pete Harvey). We got going a little after 10 when it was already evident that a weak secondary N-S wave bar was established partway down the airfield – if only we could reach the primary which must be somewhere east of Mary Tavy.

Today's One Day Course visitor was Jerry Griffiths who, despite being an active mountain biker, suffered from mal de l'air, which was most unfortunate but he hopes to return, suitably equipped with Stugeron and grey wrist bands..! Other visitors included Spencer Ham and son Ryan, Maureen Summerhayes and, all the way from Canada, Roger Spall, who greatly enjoyed participating in the banter at the launchpoint before a couple of early evening flights with Rick Wiles. Check flights were flown with Matt Wiles and Alan Carter, whilst trainees Jan Baev, Phillip Sellwood and Peter Harvey were given their first taste of wave.

Brentor’s fame is spreading:
Visitor Roger Spall travelled all the way from Canada to fly with us!
Maureen Summerhayes flew with Asst Cat Instructor Rick Wiles.
Visitor Spencer Ham flew with Asst Cat Instructor Peter Howarth.
Spencer’s son Ryan also flew with Peter.
Reaching the wave did prove a little troublesome for some (note the '8 down' above) but, launching between 2pm and 3pm, Richard Roberts (Discus B) and Roger Green (ASW 20) managed to get away for some spectacular flying (Rich to 5,500ft QFE) in what they found to be silky smooth conditions above 2,300ft (it was very different below 1,000ft..!) Strangely, the best lift was to be found not just upwind of the clouds (which were cumulus rolls rather than altostratus lenticularis), as you might expect, but further out in the blue gaps between each wave street. Richard made use of two or three clearly marked 'avenues' to make progress north to Okehampton, and then turn south for a 25 mile (35kms) run down to the now defunct airport at Plymouth, before recovering to base (flight time 1hr 55mins).

Richard's View of the wave bars from 5000 feet
Scratch Hitchens took the opportunity to brush up his back seat skills by giving Heather Horswill a flight in the K-13 by way of thanks for her many hours of retrieve driving, whilst Paula Howarth converted onto the K-6 kindly purchased for her use by father Peter: thanks, Dad!

Paula Howarth prepares for her first flight on type in the K-6CR.
Overall we manage 34 launches which, for the number of members present, may sound a little low but was actually a reflection of the clocks having gone back which robbed us of at least an hour's flying (the last flight landing at 4:56pm, exactly coincident with sunset).

Glider coming home:
K-13 DMX about to overfly the oak tree on last flight of the day.
It was one of those days when, once you got to the plateau of the Cu at around 2,300ft, and had a breathtaking view out to 20 miles plus all round, you entered a strangely smooth and eerie world which made you feel uniquely privileged.

So thanks must, most sincerely, go to all those who helped get us there, not least Colin Boyd for ensuring that we have the steeds to get us there. Colin is looking for assistance in the workshop – if you think you have the necessary workshop skills (and time – not only to listen to his jokes!) then please get in touch.

Martin Cropper