Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 23rd September 2020

The last day of meteorological summer was heralded with low cloud, rain and a brisk wind. Let’s hope it is not a sign of things to come as we move towards winter.

Scratch was at the club to fit an extraction fan to the generator hut to help with cooling. He also planned to fit a small solar panel to charge the generator battery. Whilst installing the fan it was found that the output from the generator was 293V. After adjusting the voltage regulator and idle speed of the engine this was reduced to 247V. An added bonus to this was the noisy fluorescent lights in the clubhouse were silenced.

New cooling fan in position.
Following lunch although the sky looked brighter, the cloudbase did not allow flying. By about two O’clock things were good enough, so the assembled pilots started getting ready to fly. We managed the first launch at 14:53 with John Smith and myself on board K13 HXP. His third flight  was extended in broken weak thermals for what was to remain the longest flight of the day of 9 minutes.

John and I all masked up.
Gavin, Malcolm and Barry took turns to fly the SF 27.

Gavin getting ready in the SF27.
Meanwhile Phil flew the K13 with me to practice some BI patter. To avoid sanitising both cockpits, he decided to fly from the front seat.

Phil ready to go.
Next to fly the K13 was Scratch, who took Heather for a couple of circuits.

Scratch and Heather.
Steve Fletcher and Phil Hardwick had their conversion flights in the SF27.

Steve getting some tips from Barry
Phil concentrating on his checks.
Our evening visitor today was Phil Bowler who had travelled up from Wadebridge. He had two circuits with Mike Jardine including a hangar flight on the second.

Phil being briefed by Scratch.
Only 13 flights after a late start, but everybody who wanted to fly did so. Thank you to all who helped. We made the best of the day.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-Sunday 20th September 2020

 What was that appalling advert for Crown paints some years ago?  ”It does exactly what it says on the can”.  Well you could say the same about our local weather – wind NNE, 8 gusting 14 kts, cloudbase 3,500ft – that must mean wave!  Except that it didn’t.  Initially there were some promising lenticulars (see photo), but by mid-morning they had dissipated, then appeared elsewhere, then the sky went blue and finally there was cumulus.  This was most frustrating for our solo pilots: wave cannot be guaranteed to pour from the can – but that was not end of it…

Early morning lenticulars give prospect of wave.
The day started with a couple of check flights for Dave Westcott after a short lay-off, which quickly blew away the cobwebs ready for him to return to solo flight.  Ray Boundy then settled into the front seat, but not for long as today was ‘launch failure (low)’ day, an exercise which – in both demonstration and execution - ended after very little time in the air and long walks back to the launchpoint.  Ray acquitted himself so well, however, that he was rewarded with a couple of launches to full height later in the day!
John Howarth, Peter’s brother, was our first F&F visitor
(they’re both smiling, really...!).
Peter presents John with his certificate.
We then welcomed our F&F visitors: Instructor Peter Howarth hosted brother John, whose wife Janet had asked for a flight experience to coincide with their Ruby Wedding Anniversary, back in June.  Sadly, due to coronavirus, that wasn’t possible at the time, but today presented an ideal substitute.  Ideal because, Peter being Peter, he ‘spotted’ (felt/sniffed) some lift over Peter Tavy that enabled him to give his brother a unique view of our local landscape from 1,200ft for 18 minutes or so.  (Their second flight was 4 minutes – that’s gliding..!)  Our second F&F was hosted by Ed Borlase.  James Thomas, a marine biologist studying in Plymouth, together with his wife Alannah, and Ed’s girlfriend Natalie, having partaken of an agreeable lunch in Tavistock, arrived on site to be flown by Duty Instructor Martin Cropper.  After an initial ‘the scenic landmarks are here, here, and here’ before rounding-out flight, their second launch gave an opportunity for James to be introduced to soaring flight in a small but friendly bubble of rising air over Blackdown.

F&F visitor James Thomas gets ready to fly with Martin Cropper...
…and returns after an introduction to soaring flight.
Natasha, James’s wife Alannah, James Thomas
and Martin Cropper admiring a launch by the K-8.
Adventurer of the Day Award must surely go to Steve Fletcher who, having pestered everyone (except perhaps ship’s cat) about conditions aloft took a lead from Dave Westcott who said that he had experienced strong lift in the vicinity of the church.  Thinking that this might mark the secondary wave, he took a launch in the K-8.  He said: “When I came off the cable at 1,250ft there was only very broken lift, so I headed off towards Brentor church.  It was the same there, so I made for the Scrap heap where I noticed the sun was shining and a small wispy cloud seemed promising.  Arriving at around 950ft I managed to centre quickly on a pretty good thermal which strengthened with height taking me to 2,300ft QFE when I decided to push out to where there might be some wave.  Whilst there was some reduced sink and the odd bit of ½ up I couldn’t find anything so returned for an uneventful landing.  An enjoyable 25 mins.”  Research, observation and adaptability all added to the success of Steve’s Flight of the Day, today.  Well done, Steve.

‘Scratch’ Hitchens prepare to launch in the K-8.
Steve Fletcher connects with the thermal
that was to give him Flight of the Day.
‘Scratch’ Hitchens prepare to launch in the K-8.
The day concluded with Hugh Gascoyne ‘stealing’ the last cable for a practice launch failure from the rear seat.

A fickle day meteorologically (it didn’t do what it said on the can) but nonetheless worthwhile for our trainees, enjoyable for our guests and valuable for the club, as Ed Borlase was signed off as a qualified winch driver.  Welcome to the cadre, Ed, and Well Done!

Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 19th September 2020

 Every weather forecast gave us easterly winds at about 15knots at flying heights. This would be ideal for wave but the forecasts said no. The wind on the runway was northerly and somewhat gusty. there was signs of some wave clouds very high up and a few clouds lower down that looked suspiciously like rotor.

Photo of  the high level wave clouds taken late morning

Would today be suitable for training? Instructor Mike Jardine had Chris Maciejowski and Dave Archer on his list and I had One Day Course candidate Simon Vallance. The only way to be sure was for Mike and I to fly together to check out the conditions in the air. 

Mike likes to take selfies while I'm flying

The early stages of the launch were normal but as we passed 600 feet or so the turbulance from the suspected rotors could be felt and had me working a little harder. This was not too alarming and the launch finished at 1300 feet. Very good given the crosswind that was evident on the ground. The air seemed bouyant as we pressed eastwards through the mild rotor. Well out over the valley we contacted the wave which after a little searching gave a best beat of 4 knots but was generally 2 to 3 knots. A few passes in the very smooth wave lift did a couple of things. It had lifted us to 3000 feet and convinced us that we could construct some really meaningful lessons in these conditions. Time to go. A full airbrake decent was initially quite smooth but we encountered the rotor again at about 1800 feet. This stayed with us all the way to the runway but it was not too severe and a 60knot approach was all that was needed arriving back on the runway after 26 minutes. 

Climbing in smooth lift at 3 knots
Wave cloud over DMX

Mike authorised club flying and the first to go was Martin Broadway flying solo in his Twin Astir. Martin contacted the wave and climbed to 8000 feet above the airfield. Although he was still climbing steadily at 2 knots he decided to descend to allow his syndicate partners to fly, landing back after just 53 minutes. 

Martin relaxing after his flight.
Unfortunately, due to a broken cable the next launches were delayed and when flying resumed the wave had moved and the easy entry was gone. There was still heavy sink and rotors and after 2 attempts I decided to stop the One Day Course and Simon agreed to come back in a couple of weeks. 

One Day Course candidate Simon  Vallance
Chris Maciejowski and Mike in DMX

All the early wave activity had encourage a couple more privateers to rig. Roger Green flew in his ASW20 but was no more successful returning after just 8 minutes. Next up was Richard Roberts in his Discus. His first launch had him back in just 5 minutes. He had noticed some strong rotor lift in the bottom of the circuit near Brentor church and so he took another launch. This time he came straight back to the church from the launch and found a line of weak lift by heading NE towards Roadford Lake. As he climbed the lift got stronger and he was soon sailing above the clouds at 6000 feet above sea level (QNH) which is 5200 feet above the airfield (QFE). He returned after 51 minutes giving Martin Broadway both the longest and highest flight of the day. 

Richard's view from 6000 feet QNH
Looking down at a wave cloud from Richard's Dicus
The discus.
Today was a bit like the curate's egg; good in parts. We have no real explanation of the northerly wind on the runway which was definitely easterly at altitude but it was great fun anyway.

Thanks must go to our winch drivers who delivered good service all day.


Dartmoor Gliding News-Wednesday 16th September 2020

 I drove to the airfield under a clear blue sky only to arrive in a thick fog. The early arrivals started to rig their gliders to hopefully make use of the optimistic RASP forecast. As other members arrived we started to set the airfield up to fly from the east end and waited for the expected clearance. When the sky started to bet brighter we towed the aircraft to the east end. First launch finally was made at about 12:30.

First to fly was John Smith and myself. After two good circuits and a cable break practice, John had a big smile on his face, saying it was his best flying since returning to fly after lockdown. Keep it up John and you won’t need me in the back seat for much longer.

John Smith waiting to fly.
John later spent some time down at the winch trying to add another string to his bow.

Next into the front seat was Peter Mountford. He continued progress with general flying and handling the upper part of the launch. He had four flights which included an unplanned demonstration of an ultra low level launch failure caused by a problem at the winch.

Peter pleased with his flying.
Meanwhile the solo pilots Andy Davey, Roger Green & Steve Lewis (Zugvogel) were trying to find some lift, but only managing extended circuits in reduced sink on the small ridge on the north side of the airfield. Phil Hardwick only managed a circuit in the Astir.

Some of the assembled aircraft.

Malcolm had three flights in the SF27. The third was a flight of 28 minutes in week lift. The only other significant flight was Steve Fletcher in his Open Cirrus who also took advantage of  the short period of soarable conditions for a flight of 44 minutes.

Malcolm ready to launch.
We also welcomed Richard’s dad Terry to the airfield. Richard was hoping to take Terry soaring, but only managed a couple of circuits.

At about 4 O’clock the wind had swung around to the east, so it was time to swap ends ready for the evening visitor to fly with Mike Jardine. After re-setting the airfield I flew with Peter Mountford for one flight and Barry Green flew in the SF27 waiting for our visitor flight.

Our visitor Steven Wilcock arrived and was briefed by Mike ready for his flights.

Steven and Mike talking before flying..
Steven and Mike returning.
Steven left very happy after his flights, thanking all who helped. Thank you to all at the airfield today achieving 24 flights after a slightly later start.

Peter Howarth

Dartmoor Gliding News-SunDay 13th September 2020

A southerly: a bit like wide-mouthed frogs, you don’t see many of them around here.  As the cloudbase rose, however, so the wind was forecast to back SE’ly and the clouds to decay.  So no wonder the pundits made yesterday their day of choice.  

But every situation presents an opportunity and this we did by tasking solo trainee Ed Borlase to practice his field landing skills with a landing in the K-13 on the stub runway – all grist to the mill when it comes to obtaining his Cross-Country Endorsement.  

 Ed Borlase’s view as he turns finals to land on the stub runway.

We then welcomed Ed’s Friends and Family member: Simon Davidson.  Simon has visited before and is very keen to aviate but, sadly, vertically challenged, being too tall.  Having found that we could not concertina his legs enough times to fit into the front cockpit Peter Howarth hit on the idea of putting him in the back where, surprisingly, it was possible for Peter to obtain full and unobstructed movement of the flying controls.  Simon and Peter subsequently enjoyed two flights, which they were able to top off with a further flight towards the end of the day.  

Peter Howarth explaining a point to visitor Simon Davidson.
Simon Davidson observes from the rear cockpit…
…as Peter Howarth brings the K-13 to a perfectly held-off landing.
Our returning to solo trainees were Ray Boundy and Karon Matten: Ray taking a significant step forward with simulated cable breaks (“I never realised you did it like that…!”) and Karon refreshing her skills on return from holiday.  Earlier than predicted the wind began to show an easterly hint so we decided to decamp to the west end before tailwinds became a factor.  Changing ends coincided with the decay in cumulus so no soaring advantage was noticed, although it was after the move that Martin Broadway clinched Flight of the Day in the K-8.  After some training flights earlier in the week today’s benign conditions also allowed Colin Boyd to re-solo – well done Colin!  

Karon Matten sanitising the controls prior to boarding the K-13.
Ray Boundy conducting ABCD checks.
Thanks go to Phil Hardwick who, having flown yesterday, winched for us today without flying, to Rich Roberts who was everywhere, and especially to Peter Howarth who, having seemingly tried every which way, eventually found a method of flying with Simon Davidson – Simon’s grin shows whether it was worth it!

Smiles all round as Simon Davidson is presented with his certificate by Peter Howarth.
Martin Cropper

Dartmoor Gliding News-Saturday 12th September 2020

 The day started with low cloud but the forecast was for this to improve and with a light airs maybe this would be a good training day. RASP was a little more optimistic suggest some soaring in the afternoon.

Initially we fielded 2 K13's and the SF27 with the Twin Astir and Discus joining the grid later.

It was pleasing to see Chris Maciejowski returning today to begin his training to become a glider pilot after his Air Experience flights last Wednesday evening with today's instructor ,Mike Jardine. Chris was following into K13 G-DDMX by David Archer who managed a good soaring flight. Next up was Mike Bennett who also enjoyed a good soaring flight. Colin Boyd also flew with Mike and is making good progress on his goal of return to solo status.

Myself with Daniel and his grandmother
We also welcome a visitor today. Junior One Day Course candidate Daniel Langley ( who has ideas of taking up commercial flying ) attended the airfield with his grandmother and flew with me in K13 G-CHXP.  Daniel was a quick learner and enjoyed his flights culminating in an hour long soaring flight which allowed us to explore the local area and allowed Daniel to explore the vagaries of the local thermals.
Twin Astir approaching with the Tamar Estuary behind
A busy sky today. Twin Astir with K13 G-CHXP in the distance
Taken from K13 G-DDMX
You will already guessed that the day proved better than forecast which led to many soaring flights the best of which was Richard Roberts in his Discus who disappeared for 2 hours and 18 minutes. For a couple of hours there was what looked like lots of little convergences all around the airfield area with cloud bases varying from around 3500 feet above the airfield to just 1500 feet. The cloudbases were mixed together. Interesting. 

Tavistock hiding underneath a convergence
Gavin's View of the convergence from the SF27
Also of interest was the Twin Astir. Phil Hardwick flew it solo for 1 hour and 39 minutes landing only to pick up his syndicate partner Ged, who had arrived late, They then soared for another hour returning to the airfield only because they thought they might be holding us up. I think this was just an excuse to use the height they had to fly some loops and chandelles. Hooligans.

A great day.


Dartmoor Gliding News- Aston Down Expedition 2020

 Due to some unforeseen circumstances the original group was reduced down to 3 of us travelling to Aston Down on Sunday  6th September 2020 with Pete Howarth joining us midway through the week. Andy Davey, Phil Hardwick and myself met up at the lorry stop near Sourton and travelled up in convoy in case any of us developed a problem. The journey went quite well with only one major hold up whilst the fire brigade put out a burning Range Rover Evoque, by the time we got to it less than a 1/4 of the car was left the rest was melted metal on the hard shoulder. We arrived and rigged our gliders in anticipation of a full flying week.

Is the runway wide enough?
Monday dawned and we were up early and raring to go, but low cloud and spots of rain kept us in the club house. Eventually the training course running that week got under way and we watched them until the cloud base got to 2000 feet and then we decided to fly. We sent Andy off first in his Libelle but he was soon down after 6 mins, I and Phil followed but again the flights were short so we retired to the accommodation block and swapped tales.

Andy and Mike discussing the possibilities
Tuesday dawned the same as Monday grey and overcast, the forecast showed it was never going to be a soaring day so Andy decided to polish his Libelle. Phil and I took our gliders to the Launch point and I polished mine whilst we waited for a weather window. Eventually a very large blue hole appeared in the leaden sky and Phil and I both took a launch straight into it. Gliding gently around in the large blue hole we could minimise our sink rate and once back down to cloud base we could scratch a bit of lift staying aloft for a whole 13 mins! We both agreed it was a great experience.

Astir and Open Cirrus waiting to go
Andy, Phil and Libelle
Wednesday saw 600 foot cloud base and light sprinkling of more rain so we stayed in the accommodation block until lunch time when Peter Howarth arrived. Around 1430 the sky brightened up so we took the covers off and quickly went to the launch point. Unfortunately the thermals were very weak and ran out at about 1600 feet, after we had all had a few extended circuits I managed to stay up for 32 minutes and get flight of the day.

Wednesday's grid
Looking west towards the Severn Estuary
Thursday RASP was promising 3 stars from about 10.00 but the weather wasn't playing ball with grey low unbroken Strato Cumulus spread over a wide area. One of the local soarers said it would probably clear about 11.30. He was right, and then it was game on very quickly. Phil went first and instantly got away, Andy next but he scratched for a while before managing a good climb and eventually get away to do a 100k to Little Rissington and back. I had set myself a less challenging task to go to Nailsworth, Cirencester West, Cirencester Church and return to Aston Down. Coming off the wire at 1250 feet I put the undercarriage up, trimmed for 50 knots and went slap into a 4knot thermal, after about 1000 feet it strengthened to 6 up then 8 up with the odd flash of 10 knots up, all the way to cloud base at 4250 feet. I set off on my small cross country and having done that I then went for a bimble up to the North where I was joined in a thermal with 3 Buzzards very close by. Andy meanwhile was sweating on his return from Little Rissington getting quite low and with field selected he managed to climb away and get back to Aston Down just as the thermals all seemed to die, all of a sudden all the gliders were back on the ground and the soaring ended as fast as it started. Peter being the last to return after 1hr 41 mins. All of us came back smiling. My flight was 78k and 2hrs 40 mins, Andy was close to 3 hrs and 100k, well done Andy.

Kemble in the distance with retired BA Jumbos
Look at the vario
Friday RASP  forecast was again optimistic but low cloud and wind strengthening from the opposite direction to the RASP prediction soon put paid to any soaring flights. Peter, Phil and myself all did an extend circuit with myself managing 14 mins. We decided we had had a great week and it was time to pack up and come home. Phil and I were the last to leave and as we got into our cars it started to spit with rain, perfect timing. 

In Summary I had 9 flights and one of which was so fabulous it was worth it just for that one flight, the thermals were awesome and the view across the Severn valley down to the Severn bridge was fantastic. If you haven’t been on an expedition to somewhere different yet I recommend you come with us next time.

Stephen Fletcher