Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 29th January 2020

Firstly I must apologise for re-using some older photos in this blog. I found myself too busy and my other contributors were remiss in taking shots of the day. With the forecast giving today as the best day of the week we set about setting the airfield ready to fly. After checking the launch point at the east end we set the field up to launch on the north side and land on the south side as normal. Vehicles and glider retrieves were restricted to the track to limit any damage.

The front seat of the K13 was occupied by the collection of trainees who turned up in the fine weather. John Allan, Mike Bennett, John O’Connell, Dave Downton, Peter Mountfield and Robin Wilson all took their turns as I worked through the flying list. Our newest junior member Akos Imets returned to the airfield today keen to start his training. A couple of flights got him thinking about the difference in sensitivity of controlling the glider in pitch and roll.

Akos launching in the K13
Part way through the day I managed to get a different view of the airfield when Hugh jumped into the back seat to carry on preparing for his BI course and I occupied the front seat.

Thumbs up from Hugh.
The K8 was also kept busy with the solo pilots Phil Hardwick, Andy Davey, Steve Fletcher, Malcolm Wilton-Jones, Allan Holland and Hugh Gasgoyne. Andy managed a flight of 16 minutes, only pipped by Malcolm with a flight of 17 minutes.

K8 view of the airfield.
Thank you to the winch drivers who coped well with the crosswind and provided a smooth service. Also thank you to everybody else keeping the launch point moving efficiently. This enabled a total of 25 launches to be achieved which is very good for January.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 25th January 2020

The cloudbase today was barely above the trees but the airfield was busy with club members getting on with various projects.

The runway is still there (honestly)
On the roof of the the Vehicle Hangar, Mike and heather were wire brushing and painting one of the container roofs with a special roofing paint to preserve it against the future weather that only Dartmoor can deliver.

Mike and paint brush
Heather with a long handled wire brush

Outside the hangar, Phil and Rick were dismantling the power take off on the red tractor which has developed a fault apparently. Scratch was working on the replacement water trap and priming pump on the Supercat.

Rick attacking the power take off  with his favourite impact driver
In the hangar, Malcolm, Steve Fletcher and Mike Jardine were investigating the non functioning mechanical variometer in on of the K8's. This aircraft also had it's tailplane removed and the tailskid attachment bolt tightened. Colin was working on the C of A for K13 G-CHXP which needed new seat belts fitted. Colin was also supervising the K8 work.

The three musketeers working on the K8
Colin and Mike working on HXP
After lunch we all decamped to the clubhouse so that Rick could try out his lecture on the principals of flight us.

Rick in lecture mode.
A good effort all round


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 22nd January 2020

On Sunday our resident wave predictor Richard Roberts told me there would be a good chance of wave and it would be located south of the airfield towards the east of Tavistock. So was he right? Driving to the airfield there was 8/8th’s cloud obscuring the top of the tors and barely above Brentor Church.

There was signs that the cloud was lifting and some bright patches opening, so we decided to get ready to fly. The K13 and K8 were towed to the west end. The gold discovery was going to be used as launch control to prevent damage to the airfield bringing the launch tower from the east end.

Looking to the east.
First launch was the K13 with Mike Bennett and myself on board. At the top of the launch only reduced sink was found so Mike headed downwind to the north of the airfield. Part way along we found some lift and started turning. After a few turns we headed north and found ourselves in 2-3 knots smooth lift and were soon passing 2000ft. Malcolm had already launched in the K8. We headed down to let somebody else have a go.

Mike climbing at 2 knots
Hugh jumped into the back seat to practice some BI flying. We launched and headed to where Mike had found the lift and were soon climbing at 2-3 knots. The K8 could be seen about 2000ft above us. After a while Hugh became concerned that the cloud seemed to be closing around us so opened the airbrakes and made his way down to land. The K8 soon scuttled back in behind us as Malcolm had made the same decision.

Malcolm’s view at 4000ft
After a break of 45 minutes the clouds started to part and another gap opened over the airfield. I launched with John O’Connell in the K13 and Steve Fletcher launched shortly behind us in the K8. We were soon climbing at 3-4 knots past 3000ft. After 25 minutes we were back on the ground after John’s first wave flight which he was thoroughly pleased about. Steve landed 15 minutes after us having found the wave collapsing and the gaps closing in.

Another break of 40 minutes was made until the clouds cycled again and it was clear enough to try again. Roger Green launched in his Zugvogel, but shortly after the sky was already changing again and he could be seen with airbrakes open and making his way down to land. This time no clearances appeared and with the temperature dropping it was decided to pack the aircraft away.

So yes Richard was right it was a wave day, but not quite in the place that was predicted. Thank you to all who helped today and apologies to those who didn’t manage to fly due to the changing conditions.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 19th January 2020

In order to operate safely and cause as little damage as possible to the field we took a leaf out of the Saturday crew’s book and set up the operation at the west end, north side of the track. The wind was ‘light airs’, really, but aloft there was a gentle north-easterly.

Yellow sky in the morning: pre-dawn light behind Sheep’s Tor.
 The Supacat performed flawlessly, delivering consistent launches to 1,100-1,200 ft. Peter Howarth and Dave Westcott got the show on the road: Dave, not having flown since October was in need of some check flights and, sure enough, discovered that the cable can depart prematurely and without warning if the instructor behind is feeling mischievous..! Peter then flew restoring currency flights with John O’Connell before Martin Cropper did the same with Robin Wilson.

Launch point set up in the north-west corner of the airfield.
First launch gets away, from a winch viewpoint.
In the afternoon we hosted the first of our visitors: Louie and Rhys Mulvihill, school-aged twins from Exmouth, who flew with BI Rich Roberts. Although some sibling banter was in evidence, both enjoyed their flights and tuition (well some would say ‘hard sell’) from Rich ad we hope to see them return very soon. On the second cable Roger Appleboom and Ed Borlase attempted to find some (very elusive) lift in the K-8, Roger winning the prize with a modest 8 minutes.

Junior Visitor Louie Mulvihill being briefed by Richard Roberts...
 ...and waving on return from his first flight.
Our final visitor was Akis (Akosh) Imets, a 13-year old from Dawlish Warren, who we hope will be returning to consolidate his first attempts with the stick this coming Sunday.  That left the field clear for Allan Holland, and also for Pete and Paula Howarth to continue on the latter’s path to re-solo.

Junior Visitor Akos Imets launching in the K-13.
 Akos and family after his flights with Martin Cropper.
 So nineteen launches on the 19th January – not bad for the second Sunday of the year. If we continue at this rate the 29th February should be interesting – a pity it falls on a Saturday..!

 K-13 DMX launching into a clear blue late afternoon sky (note the windsock).
Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 18th January 2020

High pressure is definitely in charge of today;s weather. Clear blue sky with a light NNE breeze. It was cold with a frost. The Tamar Valley was shrouded in fog but this would not hamper us.

Looking west from north of the airfield.
Note the fog still laying in the Tamar Valley
 The airfield is still very wet after all the recent rains so a little care would be needed to make it flyable. The decision was made to fly from the west end but this brought up the first challenge. The launch hut was at the east end. It was decided that we could manage without the launch hut and the gold discovery was co-opted as a stand in launchpoint. The south side of the west end was very wet and would be cut up if we flew from there. Instead we launched from the north side and the aircraft would land further down the runway near to the centre track. The aircraft and cables would be moved on the track only and the cable retrieve truck would turn around on the track after having it's trailer removed. Sorted.

First flight was instructors Mike And Rick giving themselves a check flight.
K13 -G-DDMX returning to the launchpoint in the NW corner.

The day was filled with members either furthering their training, others having check rides but everyone trying to maintain their flying status. Generally flights were circuits in the very smooth conditions but as the day wore on the breeze strengthened a little and this switched on some lift from the north ridge which allowed some extended flights. Longest flight was by David Archer during his training flight who managed to extend his circuit to 13 minutes only landing so that he could take another launch to further his training goals.

K13 g-DDMX launching again
DMX on approach 
We welcomed 2 visitors today Dianchan Ee and friend Ian Jones. They both enjoyed air experience flights and left the airfield with smiles on their faces promising to return when the weather warmed up a little.

Dianchan  launching
Ian and Dianchan with parachutes ready to fly.
All in all we had a good day in very pleasant flying conditions.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 15th January 2020

After the brief respite that allowed some flying on Sunday, the continuing bands of rain and wind returned on Monday and Tuesday. This resulted in the north side quagmire being boggier and the skating rink on the south side had further caused that area to be even softer. So despite the sky being very inviting it was decided to declare a no flying day. But were the gathered members downhearted. No, it had been arranged for the Manatou to be brought to the airfield to continue with the erection of the steelwork for the new MT storage area.

All steelwork in place

We also lifted the cover onto one of the containers ready for it to be unfolded and pulled over the top of the steelwork.

Cover ready to go.
Also in the hangar, Colin was busy with the C of A and ARC ably assisted by Steve and Malcolm. The bus project was also progressed under the direction of John Smith with Hugh assisting.
After lunch Phil and Hugh fired up the simulator to practice their patter ready for their upcoming BI training and course.

Some good work was achieved , so please can we have some good weather and a dry airfield so we can get back flying.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 12th January 2020

Sunday gave a short break in the almost continuous wet weather

 A soggy sojourn out to the launchpoint.
To the north of the launchpoint the ground was a quagmire; to the south it was like a skating-rink.  We took the south side option (well, it was more like a sodden cricket pitch, actually…)  With a westerly wind of around 7-9kts, but gusting to 25kts+, we were within limits, but care would be needed.  Sporadic showers were also in the forecast, generating an array of rainbows, which always lift the spirits!

 Two winches, a tractor, a church and...another rainbow..!
Brentor: a haven for rainbow spotters –
 this magnificent panorama was taken by Ed Borlase
And so, with a small but cheerful team on hand, we set about getting K-13 DMX down to the east end.  But first, mentioned must be made of the early morning work put in by Dean ‘Scratch’ Hitchens to get the Supacat running, by by-passing a recalcitrant float glass, which had cracked, allowing air to be drawn into the fuel system.  With a longer-term repair pending, this was a great piece of defect busting for which he justly received everyone’s thanks.

First launch of the day gets away, under the careful scrutiny of Instructor Peter Howarth
This Duty Instructor’s thoughts of using the day to practice cable breaks (launch failures) were rapidly discarded, however, after the first launch revealed a very strong wind gradient, which was tricky enough to handle without compounding the ‘interest’ by releasing the cable prematurely (who can recall when TEM was known simply as ‘What could possibly go wrong..?’)  So circuits were the order of the day and, despite launches to 1,200ft, an upper air wind speed of 35kts meant there was little one could do but wait until it was time to drop into a (very rapidly moving) circuit.

Steep approaches were the order of the day...
...to be followed by perfect touchdowns, in this case by Steve Fletcher.
Thankfully, and to the great credit of pilots, nearly all returns to earth halted within walking distance of the launchpoint, the quad-bike being required just once, so damage to the turf was limited to the minimum (although turning the retrieve vehicle has left its mark).

Longest flight of the day was academic (more log-keeper error than soaring effort) but the team of Steve Fletcher, Dave (‘Shorts’) Downton, Ed Borlase, Scratch, Phil Hardwick, Ray Boundy, Barry Green, Roger Green and Malcolm-Wilton-Jones all seemed to end the day with smiles on their faces.

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 11th January 2020

Arriving at the airfield, the southerly gale was roaring through the trees. This put paid to any notion of flying today.

Low cloud, wet and very windy
There was activity though. In the hangar, Rick and Scratch were scratching their heads over the non starting Supercat winch. After much investigation it was discovered that the bowl for the water trap was letting in air; any air in a diesel system will stop the fuel flow. After a little adjustment this was corrected, new parts were ordered and the winch was running sweetly once more.

Scratch praying to the god of diesel engines
The weather was not suitable to work on the Vehicle Hangar Project but some planning and measuring was conducted to convert the southern container into a new glider workshop

Mike concentrating on approach control
In the clubhouse, the simulator was in demand. Mike Bennet was first up honing his co-ordination skills with some local soaring. Next was Phil Hardwick who wanted to practice his BI patter with Rick building towards his BI course a little later this year.

Cannot do that in the air chaps.
Phil and Rick discussing BI patter
After all of this Rick gave a lecture on winch launch failures.

Rick in lecture mode

Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 8th January 2020

The weather today was better than the forecast with no signs of the strong winds and the rain which was due around midday actually arrived very late in the afternoon. Cloud base was fairly low. Earlier in the week the call had gone out from Mike Bennett, the coordinator of the Vehicle Hangar Project, that we were going to install the roof structure today. This meant sacrificing any chance of flying today, which the assembled members were happy to do. ( It would only have been a few circuits anyway.)

Getting ready to work
The arrival of a Manatu forklift type machine and driver spurred us into action. The large "hoops" were lifted into place and bolted onto the spiggots on the container roofs. The container crews then installed the side purlines and the first of the diagonal wind braces. This was as much as we could reach from the containers.

Installing the first hoop
Getting on 
Bolting down the hoops.
Step up Mike who is an experience climbing instructor who proceeded to rope himself onto a platform on the Manatu and installed the 3 further rows purlines and some of the diagonal wind braces. Meanwhile the ground crew had sorted out and assembed the end framework.

Side purlines in place
The first of the diadonal wind braces
By mid afternoon we had had enough and wwork was halted for the day. All that remains to be done is to install the rest of the diagonal braces and attach the end frame after which the roof cover can be installed/ ( doesn't sound like much if you say it quickly ).

The end of a day's work
Many thanks to everyone who turned out to help

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 5tth January 2020

A Happy New Year!  Yes, today witnessed the club's first launches of 2020 and, although the total was quite modest, everyone who wanted to fly did so.  That said, if you had looked at the forecast you might have decided not to bother – but fortunately for those of us who boldly go, the wind was neither as strong or gusty as predicted, and the cloudbase was not as low as expected.  So with a quorum of 'larks' gathered at the clubhouse, we decided to get the kit out and running.  Whereupon it didn't.  Suffice to say that, as a third option, we ended up using the Guslaunch and, having jump-started at least three vehicles, the charging leads were in need of their own 'chill-out' space'...

The sky was leaden and the air smooth (ie. undisturbed by lift) but that did not bother today's visitor, Sam Lay.  Sam, who hails from Wiltshire but today travelled only from Bodmin, had spoken with Dave 'The Voice' Downton many times before today's weather provided a suitable opportunity.  Flying with Duty Instructor Pate Howarth, Sam certainly took a great interest in our sport a departed with a broad smile. 

Sam Lay waiting to fly with Peter in DMX
Adding to the Flying List were two very welcome returning members, Paula Howarth and Gavin Short.  Paula, who soloed at the club two years ago, has been studying for a PhD in Human Resources whilst working for the world famous Burts crisps company.  She felt that, having achieved a pass with Distinction, now was the time to get back to her flying space, a move which Dad Pete was more than happy to help with.  Gavin, a former naval submarine officer, solo'ed with the club in the early noughties before moving his family to Brussels, along with his Std Cirrus G-SCNN.  Now, many cross-country kilometres over Europe later, he has retired back to Harrowbarrow and is looking forward to putting some West Country miles under the keel of his much loved sailplane: ever seen a Std Cirrus with winglets?  You can now.

Flight of the Day was won by Roger Appleboom who, in the best traditions of DGS, got as much height as possible in the K-8 on launch and then, promptly, did nothing...allowing air being lifted from the south-west to keep him aloft for as long as possible before breaking into the circuit.  Also maintaining currency was Dave Downton who, after an 'entertaining' couple of hours driving the Guslaunch (oh how we love our old machinery..!) had a couple of flights in the K-13 with Martin Cropper, the second culminated in a hangar landing, where the wheel stopped exactly abeam the cross-track..!

So while it was a frustrating start (well, an exercise in resourcefulness witnessed at many gliding clubs), leading to an abbreviated flying programme it was, nevertheless, a worthwhile day in achieving the club's first launches of 2020, and for those involved to return to/maintain currency.

Martin Cropper