Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 18th December 2016

Yet another sparkling start to a Sunday led us expect a decent day's flying; so, with the windsock giving no clear indication of wind direction, we set up for a westerly launch. After a later than usual start, getting underway at about 1145, the air was so still it was as if we were in flight test conditions in which the glider did exactly what you asked of it, and your position in the sky was the exact result of your own actions, with no allowance being necessary for (or excuse capable of being attributed to) external forces. Even the cups on the launchpoint weather station were still (and yet it was possible to feel a slight movement of air from the south on your cheek, or hair).

Visiting pilot Henry Ford, from Mendip GC, about to launch in the Zugvogel.
And so, with Peter Howarth conducting operations, we were able to crack on through some very useful check flight/currency work with Dave Downton, Chris Owen and Peter Harvey, whilst Roger Appleboom, Leith Whittington, Karl Andrews and visiting pilot from Mendip GC Henry Ford attempted to stretch their flights beyond 5 mins (Henry's bold venture in the Zugvogel across to Blackdown taking 6 mins, thus equal with two of Roger's energy conserving efforts in the K-8).

Today's visitor was Josh Balsdon, a land agent student at Leicester University who, at home on holiday, was brought to the club by his parents, both of whom had flown with us some years ago (not easily frightened then..!)

Visitor Josh Balsdon (whose parents had previously flown with us)
flew with Roger Appleboom.
Sadly, having got into a groove of about 6 launches per hour, the afternoon's flying was suddenly curtailed by the curse of condensation – misting canopies causing us to return the gliders to the hangar by 3:30pm. Still, 22 launches between 11:45 and 3:30pm (with a couple of simulated launch failures thrown in) was not too bad – for which thanks go in particular to Barry Green and Heather Horswill, the winch and retrieve driving machine!

Whilst wishing everyone all the best over the seasonal break, please remember that Licensed pilots can fly any day they can get the requisite number of suitably qualified members together, and that the next training flying day will be New Year's Eve, Saturday 31 December.

Happy Christmas!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 17th December 2016

The day started with lots of low cloud. The valleys were also full of fog. The airfield and aircraft were got ready as the assembled club members hoped for a clearance.

The winch driver' view before the first flights 
Rather than sitting around chatting whilst waiting, Instructor Gordon Dennis led a very interactive lecture on Navigation which saw everyone pouring over charts, planning and analysing tasks. Great stuff.

Little or no wind made for very smooth flying conditions
By 1 o'clock the cloud was looking somewhat higher so time to go flying. The first launch was a little premature as the launch was abandoned at the 800 ft cloudbase. After this the cloudbase rose very quickly and a series of circuits were flown by the K13 and K8 as pilots took to the air to maintain currency.

Waiting to launch
At 3.40 the very moist atmosphere took charge again as canopy misting ( inside and out ), and a rapidly lowering cloudbase,  prevented any further flying.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 11th December 2016

On arrival today the club was buzzing with activity (not all of it productive – about which more later…) as we made arrangements to change ends for the light westerly wind that was forecast. The sun beamed down on the gliders laden with dew which appeared more like golden champagne bubbles than water.

K-13: During tow-out the conditions were champagne sparkling...
As we made the long walk to the other end we could see the fingers of mist clinging to the river valleys that would shortly be ‘burned off’ by the winter sun. And then something happened which no-one predicted. Cloud. Lots of it. First, at the launchpoint, then over the winch and west end. Then, it cleared … and then returned. And so we waited for the sun to do its work. And waited. Until as the long tall tales and jokes began to peter out, we began to wonder why. Until, at CFI Don Puttock’s prompting, we began to look at RASP and the dew point. The weather station in the launchpoint gave the outside air temperature as being 11oC. Now you normally expect the dew point to be something most people would recognise as ‘cold’. Today, RASP forecast a dew point at 1200 to be 8.5oC – yes 8.5oC! Almost tropical… Allow a little room for error (both on the reading in the launchpoint and the forecast), plus the usual dry adiabatic lapse rate, and you could see that cloud could most possibly form at a little over 200ft above the airfield, particularly as the air was being pushed inland and uphill by a southerly breeze.

Church and windsock: And the reverse angle reveals a similar situation to the west.
Orographics, then. And with the Met Office saying “‘TIL 13Z”, surely there was time to retire to the clubhouse to enjoy Roger Appleboom’s stollen cake (sadly no photo) before returning to fly in the afternoon. Except ‘TIL 13Z’ meant that a moderate blue hole would appear at about 14Z, only to be swamped by yet more orographics as they swept up the hill. So no flying today.

 Zugvogel:...and then the orographic rolled up from the south.
To turn the unproductive activity mentioned earlier: those of you with (not necessarily all that) long memories will recall that is was quite usual to turn up at any gliding club to find people, not busily pulling out the gliders, but poring over some piece of heavy machinery that either refused to work, had started but now stopped or was flat or was otherwise u/s. Well today the machinery in question was one of the Land Dover Discoveries, which wouldn’t start. So a battery was despatched from the red Discovery, which did the trick. But upon returning said battery to the gold Discovery, then wouldn’t turn the engine over! So the question in our ‘And finally ‘push me/pull you photo is: Which Disco is pulling which? (Answers on a postcard please).

A typical gliding club scene: but which Land Rover's pulling which?

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Mike's First Solo

The ramblings of a fledgling glider pilot by Mike Bennett

I clearly recall the day that my wife slid a DGS one day course voucher under my nose, a rather special birthday gift and something I had wanted to do for a number of years. I warned her that there was a good chance that I might 'get the bug'. She smiled and reminded me of the fact that she had been an activities widow for the last 25 years what with caving, rock climbing, mountaineering etc. etc So nothing new there!

My first flight happened on the 13th June 2015, a rather overcast, windy day not suited to flying. I met up with my pilot, Rick and he explained that the conditions were anything but ideal but we would give it a go. I sat slightly bemused in the front seat trying to take in the brief he had delivered when suddenly we were propelled along the ground and into the air, a somewhat violent process!

"How I done it" Mike with Instructor Rick Wiles
At the top of the launch we released, it went quiet and for the first time I began to see the attraction of unpowered flight. Three minutes later we arrived back on terra firma, with a bump, not Ricks' best landing, he would admit later. No more flying that day but the damage was done. Like Toad of Toad Hall on first seeing a motor car I was left dazed but desperate for more.
Over the course of the next 17 months I clocked up 138 launches, mainly under the tuition of Ged and Gordon, gradually building up my confidence and experience. I would be the first to admit that I am not an instinctive pilot and it has taken a lot of persistence and patience on their parts to help me to progress.

Saturday 26th November 2016, Wind ENE 10 kts, Cloud base 1000ft above airfield. I met up with Gordon and he suggested that we do six flights in close succession to get me up to speed. He was to act as a passenger and me the pilot only stepping in if absolutely necessary. First flight saw low cloud base and an early release leading to a short flight and uneventful landing. The next five flights followed in a similar vein but thankfully the cloud base lifted slightly allowing full height releases.

Launch 145

At 1600, having done six flights he suggested one more and asked me to run through my checks whilst he went to the loo. Checks complete I sat waiting for him wondering what the hold up was. He ambled across sans parachute and said " I cannot teach you any more, fancy trying it on your own?". Yes please was my reply. I had been waiting for the chance for the last few months!!!!

Checks redone I looked at the placard, minimum front seat weight 75kgs, whoops!,, Im only 73 kgs inc. chute, quickly out and 15 kgs of ballast strapped in. So 88 kgs, inside placard limitations- a lesson I will not forget.

For the third time, checks done and ready to go!

Am I ready this time? Mike in K13 G-DDMX
Sitting watching the cable pay out I felt a moments hesitation. Am I ready? Too late now. As soon as the all out, all out came those thoughts disappeared and I launched, as if in auto pilot. Top of launch saw me at 1100ft and I lowered the nose and released gently. Wings level I re-trimmed, 45 kts, and took my hands off the controls to check stick neutral. Flying up wind away from the release area I settled the glider down and mentally ran through my priorities, lookout, airspeed, proximity and angles.

Mike nicely in circuit on his first solo
I banked the glider over and turned back towards the airfield to check my bearings just as the vario started to moan, sink! The moan became a continuous babble , sink, sink, sink! Ok so what have I been taught? Lower the nose, close with the airfield, turn downwind, check those angles, reference point clear, nail the approach speed of 55kts. All too soon it was time for final turns, diagonal then base leg and I was there looking at the reference ;point. Having turned slightly too late and not wishing to undershoot I deliberately left the air brakes alone and flew forward- gotta clear the cross track!!! Ok, half airbrake, check ASI 55 kts and losing height I attempted a fully held off landing. Touch down, not perfect but safe.

I sat in the cockpit awaiting retrieve and a big grin came over my face. Done it!
In the end the experience was uneventful. Just as my instructors would want I suspect and also a testament to their professionalism. I cannot thank them enough!

A somewhat bemused Mike with Instructor Gordon Dennis
Looking ahead I see so much scope to improve and develop and my enthusiasm is renewed.I am lucky to have the opportunity to progress within the sport, surrounded by like minded, friendly club members.

I cannot wait for my next flight!

Mike Bennett

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 10th December 2016

The view from the clubhouse towards the runway.
No prizes for guessing that a warm front was very close.
With rain and low cloud keeping the gliders in the hangar, the members had the chance to benefit  from a couple of briefings. First up was one of our new Assistant Category Instructors, Rick Wiles who gave a lecture on getting the information for a flying day using the NOTAM system for Navigation issues and the Met Office's F214 and F215 weather forecasts. These forecasts are very useful but do contain quite a bit of detail and need quite a bit of explaining. Well Done Rick.

Rick in full flow
After a break for tea and cakes, it was CFI Don Puttock's turn, this time with a briefing on the requirements for the Bronze C and Cross Country endorsements with a detailed look at the requirements for the Navigation test.

Don decided on  a slightly more relaxed style for his presentation.
Regardless of your experience it is always of value to take the opportunity to revisit sessions like these to keep your knowledge fresh on the subjects. It was great to see so many members at the club today keeping their flying knowledge up to date.

Meanwhile, in the hangar, Scratch and David were working on reassembling the 2nd quad bike which has needed more than a little TLC ( more like major surgery actually ).

Mike Jardine

Dartmoor Gliding News-My First Solo by Dave Downton

I do not normally mention my achievements, but on this occasion, I feel the need in order to say thank you to so many generous people.

As you may be aware I flew my first solo in HXP on Sunday afternoon (20/11/16), twenty months and 198 flights after I first came to the club on the 19th of April 2015 for a one day course given to me by my wife and children. Thanks to Roger for the introduction to gliding. It has been a long road, but my determination to achieve this milestone at our airfield had something to do with that, and my age may also have had a part to play.

As an ex-instructor in a past life (in other disciplines) I am all too aware of the burden of responsibility which rests on the shoulders of our instructors. Sending someone out on their own for the first time, hoping that they remember and do all that they have been taught and waiting for them to return safely, knowing that you are unable to influence the outcome, can be a little daunting.

Martin took the decision to do just that after 105 flights together. On our return to the launch point Martin said “That was good do you think you can do that on your own?” to which I replied, “I think so.”

That was how I found myself sat alone in the cockpit running through my pre-flight checks as I had done so many times before. I looked to my left to see Martin staring at the ground and thought that he looking as apprehensive as I feel.

Ready for first solo. Instructor Martin Cropper inspects the cable.
I asked for the cable to be attached and waited for the all-out which seemed to take an age.
Then I saw the cable move. “Cable live!” came the cry followed shortly after by, “All out, all out”. Suddenly at 14:46 I was moving along the ground and everything went into auto. Up I flew thinking of nothing but the job in hand, a beautiful launch (thank you Barry). I released a little over 1000 feet, settled down to 45 knots and trimmed just as I had done so many times before. This was about the time when I heard that familiar voice in my head, keep an eye on your speed, watch your attitude, keep that yaw string straight, stick and rudder together; Martin was definitely there in spirit if not in body.

I flew over the church where a little over 71 years previously my parents were married. I wondered what they would of thought of their son floating above in a plane without an engine.
I headed for my high key area and then started my downwind leg. Once in my low-key area, I increased my speed to 50 knots, set the trim, then that voice returned, ‘don’t let the speed drop, not too much rudder, don’t let the speed increase’. My base leg and final turn drifted into one manoeuvre and with my eyes on the reference point it was air brakes open as I began my descent. The speed started to increase, so it was nose up, I should have increased the air brakes, but forgot that so I touched down gently but long. I came to a stop and sat there for a moment feeling relieved and thinking, it wasn’t perfect but it felt safe.

The retrieve arrived in the shape of Martin driving the quad and Paula sat on the front. Paula shouted well done and Martin said that wasn’t a proper base leg you had better do it again (I think secretly he was probably as relieved as me).

Ready for flight two
On our way back to the launch point, Heather and Colin passed us in the cable retrieve towing a single cable and waving enthusiastically.

We arrived at the launch point to calls of well done and handshakes.

The second launch felt easier, although a clunk from the tow hook saw me instinctively dipping the nose thinking the cable had released, however, I soon eased the stick back as the glider increased speed. Another circuit and landing this time really long, not intentionally, I came around with too much height and speed, I am still very wary of the trees at the east end.

Back in the clubhouse Dave Downton (right, with Coke)
celebrates going solo with Instructor Peter Howarth.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to Martin for all the time and patience that he has invested in me, also to Ged and Gordon with 47 and 26 flights respectively. I would also like to express my thanks to the club members who it seemed, ran the airfield solely for my benefit, Heather and Barry for retrieve and winch, Paula, Peter, Robin and Colin for running the launch point and retrieving me. And thank you all for the enthusiastic congratulations which you all afforded me.

And finally, a big thank you to my family for starting this off with the present of that wonderful, One Day Course.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 27th November 2016

With high pressure settled over the UK and an east/north-easterly wind in place from Wednesday, the forecasts all week held out the prospect of wave for Sunday – and so it was with a spring in our step that we leapt up to the airfield where, initially, the sky was clear as a bell. That was to change all too soon, however, as the Met Office forecast revealed that a 'weather feature' (ie. cold front) would sink slowly across the SW, pushing a bank of cloud ahead of it.

 No, this is NOT the sky we saw on Sunday –
this is the sky we SHOULD have seen on Sunday...
Fortunately, the base of the cloud didn't descend to the 800ft amsl predicted, but remained high enough for us to continue launching (ie. 1,900ft amsl). With no visitors to host today, it was a bit like a musician practising their scales: here's how you launch into cloud, here's how you trim with no horizon, here's how you fly a crosswind circuit, here's how you anticipate foreshortened diagonal and base legs, and here's how you realise that you MUST keep the speed on all the way down the final approach – oh and complete a fully held off landing as the crosswind performs a dating service between your glider and the downwind boundary...

What we DID get on Sunday; grey, grey, grey.
With CFI Don Puttock on hand to provide some (unexpected) advanced instruction for IFP candidate Rich Roberts, and Adrian Irwin, Karl Andrews and Roger ('There's a Wave Bar Out There Somewhere...) Appleboom available to keep the solo gliders cycling through, we started apace until...most unexpectedly (ie. as Adrian rotated the Zugvögel into the climb) the winch began sucking on air instead of diesel! Fortunately Adrian, who is not one of those pole-benders you see occasionally, was able to guide the Zugvögel back to earth without drama. The subsequent post-mortem revealed an incompatibility between metals used in the fuel supply line – a fault which we are deeply grateful to Dave Bourchier and Barry Green for identifying and, eventually, rectifying sufficiently to allow us to continue.

The reason why we didn’t get soaring weather on Sunday.
And so Dave Downton, Ed Borlase and Dave Westcott were able to resume practising their aforementioned 'musician's scales' whilst, just before dusk the cloudbase did, finally, lift.
With thanks as ever to Barry Green for winching, to Heather Horswill for providing the retrieve service, mention should also be made of Ed Borlase's friend Adam who, as a drone hobbyist, obtained some very interesting videos of gliders launching that we hope he will be able to expand upon in future...

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 26th November 2016

With high pressure in charge and a promised ENE wind there was everything to play for. However, arriving at the airfield revealed a problem, the cloud base was very low; too low to fly.

Keeping faith that the cloudbase would rise through the day the airfield was got ready, the winch and launchpoint changed ends and the aircraft were taken to the launch point. And then we waited.

By 12:30 there was signs that the cloudbase was rising and there were even a couple of very small patches of blue sky. The first couple of flights released early from the winch to avoid the cloud but by 1:30 it was game on.

There were signs of wave all over the sky
 There were signs of wave all over the sky. This wasn't our usual strong north-south wave system but a system with wave bars visible on a northwest to southeast which seem to provide large areas of very gentle lift and / or reduced sink rates. But Dartmoor pilots are up to the challenge and there were several soaring flights. The best of these was a 38 minute flight by Roger Appleboom in his K6 whose flight was best described as "falling with style". He never really climbed much but used the reduce sink and light lift to stretch out his 1400 foot winch launch. Good Effort Roger.

One Day Course candidate Stephn Witten
Also treated to some soaring was today's One Day Course candidate Stephen Witten and visitor Nigel Weathermead. We hope we will see them both again soon.

Nigel Weaathermead ready to fly with IFP Mike Jardine.
And the biggest news story of the day. Mike Bennett flew solo for the first time today. Congratulations Mike.

Mike Bennett flying the K13 solo for the first time is nicely in the circuit
A somewhat bemused Mike with instructor Gordon Dennis
The flying day finishes early at this time of year and today was no different. We flew until sunset when common sense dictated that the gliders were returned to the hangar. This wasn't the end of the day for some as all the instructors and IFP's rushed off to Tavistock for the planned Instructors meeting.

Thanks once again to Heather for driving retrieve all day and Barry for his winching.