Start of an Addiction-John Allan

I became addicted to Gliding on my first amazing day flying with DGS.  Richard Roberts took me up for four flights on a 1 day introductory course, that I’d been given as a Birthday Present from my wife.  One of which was an hour long at altitudes up to cloud base around 4800ft above sea level.

I was allowed to take the controls, but mostly I flew around probably very erratically losing height, whilst Richard would gain it again, soaring expertly up in the thermals to cloud base so I would have plenty of time on the controls, and bizarrely it feels safer the higher up you are when you are flying.  It seemed almost impossible that a Glider made in 60’s could stay aloft using nothing but thermals.

The weekend after I broke my collarbone Mountain Biking, so was out of action for a month or so, and the weather closed in.  I returned a few weeks later and after a couple of days and started my training with exciting and enjoyable days.  As it was now December, they tended to be short circuits and then back to earth.  But I also realised I had joined a great club, no more than that, a community , where everyone was helpful and welcoming.  Instructors gave their time and expertise for the love of the sport and we are all volunteers helping to keep gliders in the air.  I learned how to assist with launching, drove the quad bike that retrieves the aircraft after landing, and the many other jobs.  I read lots and talked to the other members, and had theory sessions with the volunteer instructors on the days when flying was rained off.

I was trying to glean as much as I could, so that I would be ready for the better summer weather when it arrived.  I spent a fair bit of time learning how to use the Club’s flight simulator, in the depths of winter when on one day a river ran past the club house.  The simulator meant I could get more virtual time in the air and practise Launches and Landings. We also had some beautiful clear days in the winter.  I was itching to put things I had learned into practice for real.  The simulator seemed to have helped my skills and I could start landing the K13 which seemed to go well as we moved into February.

With the field completely waterlogged in early March, signs of some more promising weather ahead started to appear on the 30 day Accuweather App forecast.  Despite the name, it’s often inaccurate for the detail on long range forecasts, but was consistently showing a good spell of sunny weather - with easterlies – apparently the holy grail for Brentor.  I’d heard these were good for something called Wave, which could take a glider higher than the cloud base by using a standing wave of air flowing over Dartmoor.

In early march, I had just a week’s holiday to Italian Dolomites, Skiing with family, and I would be up in the air again the weekend I got back - or so I thought…
Corona Virus locked down Italy, so we escaped via Austria over the Brenner Pass through the Alps to Germany in a one way hired vehicle. A few days later than expected, we flew back home from Munich on what became a kind of super Business Class - we walked straight through Check in and Security, no queues here.

 An Empty Munich airport around midday on a Wednesday 18th March
 Our flight out and back were the most relaxing flights I have ever taken.

 Pick a row of seats, and relax, aboard a exclusive Easyjet flight.
 On returning to the UK, we went into lock down a few days later – disaster – No gliding!!
Several frustrating weeks passed, I watched the RASP gliding forecast, as day after day of sunny weather with easterlies passed by.
In actual fact we have been blessed with having all my family together again – both our daughters had left home, but our eldest daughter Jane couldn’t get back to Australia after our Skiing holiday, so had come back to live with us leaving her home, car, boyfriend to return on his own after our Italian trip, and our youngest was furloughed by Alpkit, an Outdoor Shop the Lake District, so also came back home with us. So we count ourselves very lucky.

However, for flying things were a disaster - lockdown wasn’t going away so I finally caved in and bought Condor 2 the gliding simulator software. I was recommended some suggestively named Thrustmaster Joystick and Rudder Pedal kit and built up an old PC we had lying around in our workshop (I run an IT company), and bought a decent graphics card for what is otherwise a fairly basic mini-tower PC. That was connected up to the TV so I had a large 42” monitor, my cockpit being a comfy armchair with far better headroom than a K13 it has to be said - so now at last I could ‘virtually’ fly again. Initially I flew all the places I knew from holidaying in Europe and the UK so navigation was easier - St Crepin, French Alps, Cirque d’Gavarnie near Lourdes in the Pyrenees and of course at home from Brentor. I even splashed out for the K8 at £8.50, and I was sorted. 

 Breche du Roland, Pyrenees, where we had been walking/scrambling last summer.
 It’s beautiful digital scenery making it a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and still gives a fascination seeing places you know from the air.
 Sion Valley, Switzerland, with weather set for perfect wave – I didn’t find an Oxygen Button, and this was QFE
 I found out what happens if you exceed the VNE and pull up too fast - the K8 flies very fast with only one wing.  
Virtual Club Flying – 17th May 2017

K8 rebuilt, it was with great excitement that I read on the forum that Rick had arranged an online Task/Race/Flight in Company (Multiplayer mode, each at home) for the Sunday 17th May at 3pm.
The use of Teamspeak makes it a very sociable affair.  Superb audio quality means you can just chat quietly to each other, and it’s very easy to hear what others are saying..  It makes me wonder why we put up with such low quality for phone calls and video conferencing, perhaps it’s also helped by most of us using headsets.

Our Task was set from Brentor, East Okehampton,  Eaglescroft, Roadford Reservoir and Back to Brentor – Weather was with a light WNW wind, with Good, Wide thermals (I think Rick was being kind to me for my first time), and a choice of K8, Duo Discus or  Genesis 2.

Launching at Brentor
 Richard and Rick, Ed and Dene off to a good start.
On reaching Okehampton, I found my PDA didn’t register the turn point, meaning I hadn’t actually started the task at all!!  But nevertheless continued around the course flying through all the turn points.

Looking north towards Bideford, after rounding Eaglescroft
After Eaglescroft a lack of good thermals left most of us struggling for lift and slow going, at this point Rick and Richard had finished, so they headed back to join the stragglers and came to keep us company and buzz us as we made the final leg.

Richard Practiced some Acrobatics. Ed lodged an Airprox report.
Better thermals at Roadford and a good following wind home,
meant we were mostly able to do a final glide to get back to Brentor.  

We all came in to land one after another, with Richard telling me, no pressure we are watching (F8 allows others to have an outside view of each of the other aircraft nearby) just to focus the mind, and embarrassingly I forgot that in a Duo Discuss I should have lower my wheel, so landed nicely, then came to an abrupt halt!! Must remember my landing checks.

Hugh on final approach.
A big thank you to all the instructors that give up their time week in week out, and that have helped and encouraged me along the way so far, and to Rick for organising the Condor Club flights.

For now it’s nearly the end of May, and as lockdown starts to ease, it’s only Solo pilots to allow for the social distancing rules,  but I am looking forward to getting in the air for real, and meeting up for days flying again – very soon I hope.

John Allan

Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 27th May 2020

A slow start to the day as the private owners rigged and the airfield set up ready for flying. We were joined by the CFI who after seeing things were running smoothly, left with some club parachutes to take to North Hill for re-packing.

First flight of the day was myself in a conversion flight to the Zugvogel 3B. After a briefing from Roger Green I launched straight into a thermal above the winch. I quickly climbed to 1800ft. I flew towards Black Down and then back towards the scrapyard and found some more lift. As conditions were seeming good, I didn’t want to deprive the syndicate members and landed after 22 minutes.

Steve Lewis took off in the Zugvogel and was soon seen climbing away. He was soon followed by Malcolm in the K8 who found a thermal straight off the winch and soon disappeared. Phil Hardwick, Roger Green and Richard Roberts all pulled their aircraft forward ready to launch. Roger and Richard were soon climbing away, but Phil unfortunately was soon back on the ground. He disappeared down the winch to launch Steve Fletcher and sort his brain out.

Phil ready to launch.
Roger getting ready.
With only Phil’s glider on the ground, he was brought from the winch to have another launch. This time he was soon climbing away from the top of the launch.

Steve Lewis and Malcolm returned after flights of 2 hour 9 minutes and 1 hour 58 minutes respectively. Andy Davey jumped into the Zugvogel and I got ready in the K8. Both of us were soon climbing away. So all six gliders were airborne and soaring.

My view approaching Roadford Reservoir.
Steve Fletcher s view of Burrator Reservoir.
Spot the airfield from 5000ft.
Tavistock from 4000ft.
Only 10 launches, but an astounding average of 1 hour 48 minutes per flight. Longest flight of the day was Richard with 2 hour 46 minutes. A quick thankyou to John Smith who arrived at the airfield to do some work on the bus project whilst he is unable to fly.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Monday 25th May 2020

With the airfield being restricted to just 10 persons and only solo flying permitted we used just a single club Ka-8 plus 5 private gliders. Only green-coded pilots are permitted to fly at present as 2-seater flying is not permitted (except by family household members).

K8 takes to the air
The wind was a stubborn 10 knot S to SSW so virtually at right angles to the runway and the sky was blue. Hugh Gascoyne had the first bite in the Ka-8 but was back in the circuit before we could launch the Astir with Rick Wiles on board. As we were doing just one flight each initially it was my turn in the Ka-8 and before I could get ready Rick had also landed, having found only weak lift while drifting rapidly away to the north.

Social distancing in action
Based on this I planned to do a circuit to the south but after releasing I felt a surge under the right wing and a barely audible squeal from the vario but as I turned into it it disappeared and popped up the other side. It turned out I had found an area of gently rising bubbles which seemed to stay between the winch and the church and eventually got to about 1500' when it petered out. I headed south to find there was not much sink but no lift and decided to return to the airfield. Again I fount the bubbles in the same place but this time a little stronger and I reached almost 2,000'. I again headed south, this time for a couple of miles but nothing so I was thinking sea air and again returned to the airfield but nothing so started a circuit and almost at once flew into 6 knots, Quickly back to 2,200' and I was thinking there was perhaps a sea breeze front close to the north side so stayed that side but although there were cumulus to the north with a base much higher they were out of reach and my allotted hour was almost up so time to land.

Open Cirrus on approach
There are 3 other gliders in this view
 Time for a quick lunch and then down the the winch as it was my turn to do the cable retrieve for 3 hours plus an opportunity to get checked out on the new winch. Peter Howarth took the Ka-8 after me and also stayed aloft for an hour but all the other gliders were struggling to get much more than 20 minutes or so, it seemed to be a Ka-8 type of day.

Looking south over the airfield
Princetown with the prison on the foreground
 Then at about 1:30 things started to improve, gliders were not coming back down and soon we had a call that there was nothing more to launch., Hugh had another flight in the Ka-8 and completed his hour plus 17 minutes while Richard Roberts chalked up the longest flight with 2:12 in his Discus having visited such exotic places as Dartmoor prison and tavistock., followed by Steve Fletcher with 1:34 in the Open Cirrus, Roger Green with 1:16 in his ASW-20 and Rick Wiles with 1:07 in his Astir.


Malcolm Wilton-Jones

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 24th May 2020

After yesterday’s blustery conditions, today was forecast with lighter wind straight down the strip and soaring conditions improving during the afternoon. An array of private gliders were rigged, double checking everything as we went whilst maintaining social distancing.

The grid was slowly assembled consisting of 2 Astirs, Open Cirrus, ASW20, Discus and a club K13.

Aircraft assembling at launch point.
With the cloud breaking it was time for me to take a launch to check conditions before opening the flying to those who wanted to take a launch. A 1100ft launch and signs that thermals were starting, but not good enough for me to use I landed after 6 minutes. After a quick briefing, the assembled pilots started getting ready. They were even more motivated when I took a second launch and stayed aloft for 15 minutes.

Richard getting ready.
Varying degrees of success were had with Richard Roberts 25 minutes. Phil Hardwick 22 minutes. Roger Green 1 hour 52 minutes. Flight of the day was Mike Jardine 2 hour 7 minutes.

Mike's view, from 2600 feet,  of Mary Tavy
with the airfield in the mid ground. Cornwall in the distance
Rogers view of Roadford.
Steve’s view of Tavistock.
K13 and Astir to the north of airfield.
Paragliders over Cox Tor.
Good to be back flying. 14 flights with an average of 30 minutes. Hopefully all members will be able to return soon.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 23 May 2020

After a long period of lockdown thanks to Covid-19, today was destined to be our first flying day. Following government guidelines flying is limited to suitably qualified and current pilots.

The view on arrival 
The weather had other ideas. The wind strength a ground level was forecast to be 15 knots+ and gusty. The met office was forecasting 40 knots at 1000 feet. After getting all the field set up whist ensuring we kept proper social distancing we decided to at least give it a go.

Rick getting ready
Take up slack

Step up Rick Wiles who we bravely elected to be our guinea pig. He made 2 short flights which were uneventful but by the end of the second flight the wind and gustiness had increased even more and we decided that discretion was the better part of valour. The K13 was returned to the hangar.

On final approach
Round out
The windsock shows why we stopped flying
 Rick and Scratch decided to continue with their mechanical work; Rick working on the Nissan CV joints and Scratch the green tractor's brakes.

A short, tentative return to flying. Hoping the wind abates soon.


Dartmoor Gliding- Be Careful Who You Listen To-Dene Hitchen

A Good Day Into a Bad Day
Be Careful Who You Listen To

It was a glorious sunny Sunday in August 2000. Light cross wind from the north launching from the east end. I was an early solo pilot looking forward to a good day.

Light northerly breeze with good looking clouds ( in the distance)

Steed for the day K7m FTU
Flight one – seven minutes, getting a feel of today’s conditions.

Flight 2 – thirty one minutes, reached cloud base at 2900 feet QFE, I’m liking this. Keep it within glide range of the field, that’s the rules, no heroics, simple flight.

Flight three, it’s time you pushed on a bit someone said, it’s your 18th solo flight and it’s a lovely day, patchy thermals, quite widely spread out but not too bad. Time for some advice from the seasoned pros.

Launching again
Step forward Mark Arnold, "Off to the north, that’s where you want to go, into wind, downwind run back to the field. See that large cloud in the distance, that’ll be working great, time you launch it will be overhead".

Sage advice is always available at the launchpoint ( maybe)
Many of the names of the people on site are long gone, I think Guss Pearce, Roger Mathews and John Bolt are names that come to mind among those I can’t recall, all watching as you do.

My turn next, ABCD, get in, straps on, CB SIFT CBE, advise from afar, if you have a launch failure, turn left, land into wind on the stub from the south. We used to practise stub landings in those days.

Good launch, 1200 feet, pull the release, as instructed turn right, don’t waste time head into wind straight for that cloud, there it is. Steady 2 to 3 down, plenty of height push on, it’s not getting any closer, push on they said I’ll get there, 1000 feet, still 2 to 3 down, no problem, only lost 200 feet, push on, it’s still not getting any closer, 900 feet, ok time to turn back, 6 down OMG. Too low for the runway. There are some great fields just to the south all lower than the airfield.

After landing out in the big L shaped field to the south east of the stub runway ( next door to the airfield), I walk back to the field via the stub south end, back in those days there was a track (still is though it’s overgrown now) running from the stub through the trees to the field I landed in.

Several members were already on their way to meet me, no recriminations just "where is it?". FTU was pulled by hand up to the track, dismantled, carried by hand through the trees and track to the stub, re-rigged, put back on line and flown again, though not by me.,

My one and only to date landing out.

They say you can’t beat good advice, I say good advice is only good if...........

Dene Hitchen

Wave flying at Dartmoor Gliding - a personal view

After Malcolm's post about wave flying over Mount Cook in New Zealand, I thought that I would review some photos from my library showing wave flying from Brentor. Some of these are published here

So how do we know when the wave is working at Brentor? The wind needs to have an easterly component but the wind at the west end launch point can be misleading. On a good wave day the wind can be almost calm as the rotor opposes the easterly wind. Sometimes the wind can be strong enough to make you question your sanity.

If the sky is "blue" i.e. no clouds, then the only way to know if the wave is there is to take a launch. Often though the clouds give us clues. The following photos are some of my favourite ground based ones.

Looking east showing a cap cloud over the higher tors.
A good indicator that the wave is working
This photo taken at the same time as the previous shows obvious wave bars near the airfield.
Notice the windsock hanging almost vertically.Don't be fooled.
This was anything but a gentle day with 30+knot winds at flying heights,
strong lift and sink and character forming rotors
Another wave bar over the runway
This wave bar photo was taken well to the south of the airfield.
I like the curved shape and the scale of it
A wave bar out towards Dartmoor
And this was taken late in the afternoon, Awesome.
So we've decided to give it a go. What happens next. Well the preparations should be thorough. At height it can be very cold; the temperature reduces by 2 degrees for every 1000 ft. So warm clothing is a must. Pay particular attention to the straps; these need to be TIGHT; wave rotors can be very lively. 

The early part of the winch launch is usually fairly normal but from about 400 ft upwards the rotor may make itself known often requiring large inputs from the pilot to keep the glider pointing the right way. Don't panic, this is normal. At the top of the launch, after release, you may well find yourself in more rotor, ride it out while heading towards the east. You may well be climbing in this turbulent air  but be careful. The sinking air in and around wave systems can exceed 10 knots down so from 1000 feet you may be less than a minute from the ground. 

If you are lucky enough to contact the wave the air will suddenly smooth out. Turn across the wind and commence following the wave. Because the wave forms parallel to the hills that triggers it, the beat Brentor is often North  - South. If there are clouds, the lift will be under or in front of the upwind cloud edge. This feels ( and looks ) very much like ridge soaring. If there are no clouds then "feel" for the strongest lift and adjust your track accordingly. If following the wave bar does not work very well, maybe try circling in a strong bit; if the wind is very strong maybe some figures of eight across the wind in  the strongest lift,

Tracking along the cloud ( wind is from the right)
Approaching the top of the cloud.
Tracking along the wave slot ( wind still from the right)
Well above the cloud tops
Just couldn't resist this view approaching another wave slot.
Wind is from the right. Best lift somewhere between centre and left hand side of slot
Now a word of warning. If you are above the cloud keep a very careful eye on the gaps. At the first sign of the gaps closing, descend immediately; you do not want to end up "stranded" above a solid cloud sheet.

Roger Greens Astir panel showing 11000 feet above Brentor.
Plymouth from 13,000 feet
The South Devon coast from 14,000 feet
All too soon it will be time to go back. Be very careful during your descent. Keep a good lookout. Soon enough it will be time for the circuit. Start your circuit with a lot of excess height. At Brentor when the wave is working the circuit is often in rotor. Stay high you may well need the extra energy to fly faster to maintain good control. Final turn should be high and the approach needs to be fast enough to maintain good control in the rotors. Normally the last 20 feet or so smooths out but don't relax, keep flying until the glider has stopped.

Wave flying at Brentor can be epic. It is not for inexperienced pilots but there is also great fun to be had flying with the instructors in a 2 seater.

This picture was taken by me from the backseat of K13 G-CHPX
while moving downwind to share that wave bar with K13 G-DDMX
crossing left to right in front of us
K13 G-DDMX at 10,500 feet.