Dartmoor Gliding News-It Would Be Churlish Not To Fly.

 In mid December a party of four headed to North Wales to collect a pair of new (to us) K-13 training gliders.  It was a two day trip but Richard Roberts had an idea up his sleeve that we should try and fly on Sunday morning.  Despite unpromising conditions when the Chris Gill (Lleweni Parc CFI) turned up he declared that there was wave and that we would go flying.

Lleweni Park- "We will be flying" - Really?
It was planned that I would be the first to fly with Adam (resident Assistant Category instructor) in the Duo Discus and so it was placed in front of the Arcus M.  Chris (the CFI) had to fly the tug and launch the pure gliders before he could self-launch in the Arcus M.  Plans at Lleweii Parc changed rapidly throughout the day; a visiting instructor and student from the Wirral launched first in the K21. 

Low cloud and rain on the ridge
The conditions were gloomy in the morning light with orographic clouds halfway down the ridge behind us and rain on the hills to the west.  Then it started to drizzle and it was decided to launch the single-seaters; an LS4 (piloted by Mike Fox the BGA's training standards manager) and an ASW 20 rather than the Duo Discus in the rain. Watching these launches was clear it was going to be a challenge to keep on the 4 metre-wide tarmac runway with the strong cross wind - Don't go on the grass was the mantra!

LS4 ready to launch...
....and off he goes.
Our turn came and although the drizzle had stopped both of us were damp and misting up was severe a problem. I flew the whole flight but as we cleared the boundary fence Adam took control, as planned, to allow me to get a good look at the landing fields, as part of my site brief, should we have a cable break.  What landing options?  The fields were small, hedge bound, and invariable damp and boggy.  I was yearning for the wide-open paddocks around Brentor, or at least the" L-shaped field", provided Martin wasn't in it first.

Arcus M behind the Duo Discus
I took control again as we climbed out through the rotor and some pretty heavy turbulence.  It's been a while since I was aerotowed and Adam helped me back in position several times.  Then at 2,000 ft AGL things settled down.  The tug reported that he was climbing in lift and we terminated the planned 3,000 ft tow at 2,500 ft.

The wave was unlike that at Brentor.  No wave bars or lenticulars were present just clumps of cumulus which appeared like soft ridges.  And ridge soaring we went.  Climbing back and forth heading into the wind.  Sometimes the lift and the wind direction would move but by 5,500 ft we were above the clouds.  The key ground features was Rhyl and the River Conwy, which lie to the north of Denbigh.  As we climbed in a steady 3 knots, once peaking at 6 knots, the Llandudno peninsula became visible.  I wanted to explore the different parts of lift and jump between the different wave clouds rather than going for absolute height, but we did top out at 7,700 ft.  Although it was cloudy in Liverpool Bay the mass of wind turbines stood out and we could see west to Anglesey and then north to Liverpool, Blackpool, and at the end of the flight we could just make out the Isle of Man.

Climbing through 6500ft
The K21 with a good View of Liverpool Bay
The Arcus M in it's natural element
Although the Duo Discus was as smooth to fly as I remembered keeping a good lookout was a challenge due to misting during the first half-hour.  all combinations of nose vent, DV vent, and DV panel were tried.  In the end, it was the heat of the sun that finally cleared the canopy.  Then it was time to head down.  Choosing a gap in the clouds where you could see the ground was difficult as the contrast between the bright sunshine the clouds shading the features on the ground was significant.  Once I found my descent hole I flew in circles at some 90-100 knots to try and burn off height.  The Duo Discus is very smooth and in its element at those speeds.  However, the lift was working everywhere and we agreed that I needed to crack open the air brakes and then a healthy 10 down was achieved.

Looking down at the airfield
As I did my pre-landing checks Adam reminded me of the turbulence lower down so I made an extra tug on my safety straps.  The high key is normally at 1,000 ft and I entered it at 1,100 ft.  My planned approach speed was 65 knots but I was erring on 70 kts.  On reflection, I should have descended steeper to better make my reference point (which is the cross-track).  I held off nicely but maintaining position on the narrow runway whilst using the rolling speed to get to the end of the tarmac, and not stop other gliders landing, involved a very high workload.  In the crosswind, I ended up over ruddering and put the main wheel just on the grass on the upwind side in the last five metres of the ground run.  The landing was safe, no damage was done in the boggy ground, and the site Land Rover ignominiously pulled us back on the tarmac.  Only the pilot's pride was dented and payback was grovelling on the ground picking out clumps of mud and grass and hosing the wheel and brake disc down.

The Duo Discus with a wheel box full of mud
I was met by Steve who had finished his flight in the Arcus M and Richard who was eager to get the Duo Discus back to the start point for his flight.

In summary, all the driving to and from Denbigh was worth the chance to go wave flying!


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