Friday, 8 October 2010
The Final day.
Expeditions tend to be an exercise in looking at every possible source for a weather forecast that looks promising and discarding the rest. The advent of the I phone now means that people are dishing out info on the latest charts and sat pictures at the launch point but for my money it still doesn’t beat using mark one eyeball to look at the sky and workout what’s going on.
Lots of gliders were rigging and ready to go by 9:30 today but the pilots were showing signs of reluctance to be the first to launch. Anyway a bit of gentle arm-twisting got Dave Draper into his LS 8 and away as the clouds was beginning to open up. It took a while for the wave to get properly set up but once people were reporting 2kt climbs the normal rush for a launch started.
All the Lasham gliders were thrown at the sky and most reported that the wave topped out at around 10,000ft. Dave Drapers persistence paid off and after 3hours he reached 16,000ft, which was enough for gold height. All the Lasham team members had good flights today and everyone finished the day with smiles on their faces. Sometimes have to remind myself that it’s a privilege to go wave flying in such a beautiful area.
Landing at Aboyne has proved a little challenging for some pilots from other clubs this week and the usual runway excursions have not failed to disappoint the spectators and frustrate there CFI’s. I have always wondered what happens when you hit your head really hard on the canopy, now i know, you make a round hole in it!
The social side of the Lasham expeditions are for a lot of people just as important as the flying and on that front this week has been excellent. The house we have rented this year is superb with all the facilities to make it feel like a home from home. The expedition members have been great company this week and have made my life easy, so thank you all.
The weather for Friday can best be described by the photo!
Normal routine on the Aboyne expeditions is to wake up at first light and look at the sky in the direction of the airfield. The picture that greeted me on Wednesday morning when I opened the curtains was probably one of the best early morning wave sky’s I have seen in a long time. Suffice to say the drive to the airfield was faster than normal
There is always a level of uncertainty when you are first to Launch Evan when the sky looks good, so I should have stuck to my golden rule of taking a slightly higher launch to be safe. The result of my inattention was 500ft very quickly lost and then a slow climb back into the wave. After about an hour we had worked our way forward to the primary wave in the lee of lochnagar and started climbing in the upper wave system.
Going on to Oxygen at 10,500ft, I passed the comment that someone will get diamond height here at which point the lift dropped off and we topped out at 11,000ft. Everyone on the expedition also had good wave flights today but by late afternoon it was getting very difficult to contact it without taking a high aerotow.
Two hours later both Lasham and Booker summoned the courage to put K21’s on the runway and give it a go. Surprisingly I only banged my head on the canopy once, not surprisingly I did not want to have another flight in conditions that were marginal to operate a K21 in.
Things began to calm down by late afternoon with evidence of wave setting up along the Dee Valley towards Ballater half a dozen people launched for a late evening wave flight.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
The official day one of the second week was for some spent walking, others visited places of interest and the few die-hard’s who had nothing better to do than stay on the airfield, drink tea in the clubhouse and watch the rain fall radar on there computers
The only flying that took place was an early evening air test of a Pegasus by the boys from “the other place”
At last a wave day.
Clear sky’s and a moderate southerly wind was just what was needed after yesterday’s rain and I have to say that I was rather surprised to be the first person on the airfield at 8am. Anyway the slick Lasham team had the hangar un-packed and the gliders parked in prime positions at the launch point before the opposition had started to rig.
First launch at 9:30 was into a very confused looking sky with lots of rotor cloud and no defined edges to work and it wasn’t until we passed through 5000ft that it became clear how the wave was orientated. The wind at 7000ft was forty knots and increasing but the lift appeared to stop. If you failed to connect with the wave as we did on the second flight you then spent your time battling with the rotor thermals and strong turbulence knowing that there was little chance of getting back into the wave.
By the time of our third launch in the afternoon it was obviously getting rough at low level and the increasing wind had positioned the rotor over the Airfield. It was not long after we launched that the tug pilots decided that they did not want to carry on launching. In these conditions landing at Aboyne turns into a good spectators sport from the ground and in the cockpit.
At about 5pm the wind had dropped so we persuaded the tug pilot to try another launch and after landing he said that this really was enough and the aircraft was going away. Those that were still airborne had the best part of the day and Graham Bell got to Flight level 195 and was still climbing at 7kts.
Friday, 1 October 2010
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Friday, 18 June 2010
A couple of hours after briefing Alex and Merv launched in 776, closely followed by Martin and Gordon in 775. All had great flights on their last day, despite Alex and Merv getting a much closer look at Serres then they had bargained for - almost low enough to read the glider numbers on the trailers parked below! Alex thought she was going to have her second land out of the week - but thanks to some valiant scratching they finally managed to get away. As we write, Nicki, Gordon, Tim and Merv are enjoying their last flight – the food has been bought for a bbq after the gliders have been packed away for their long drive home.
Sisteron is a great place to fly – despite the weather we flew 5 days out of 6, and there is plenty to do in the area on non-flyable days, gorges to swim in, wine to drink etc... thanks to Colin, Merv and Gordon for their part in a fantastic week.
We’ll definitely be back next year!
Alex and Mart
After his prediction at yesterdays morning briefing, it’s time for John Pierre to remind us of how accurate his weather forecast was and that for his next trick he will be walking on water and predicting the football scores.
The only flight of the morning was me doing the flight test for the French license. What I thought was going to be a formality changed when the CFI announced we would release and go to a little ridge called Bhume just to the south of Sisteron town. It was a very quiet 10 minuets trying to stay airborne out of range of the airfield.
It didn’t really get soarable until late afternoon and the sky had a very soggy look to it. Despite this half a dozen people took a launch and most managed to stay airborne until the showers started to develop in the east. The DG landed back while the Duo stayed local to Gap and managed to wait for the conditions to cycle through.
Tonight’s entertainment was provided by the members of the club in the form of a BBQ and live band. Despite being told that the beer was getting warm and the food was getting cold the Duo remained airborne until the first course had been consumed. The food, entertainment and hospitality were fantastic and when I get my camera back I will be posting some pictures.
The morning briefing at the airfield promised a clearance and rapid improvement by 2pm. Most people I think thought that John Pierre was just talking bull and it was time to do some more shopping. Both Merv and myself went to the classroom with the CFI to brush up on our theory for the French License. I quickly transpired that the goal posts have been moved again and there would be little point in Merv test as with out a PPL he would be restricted to Local Soaring.
Much to our surprise when we emerged from the classroom at Midday the skies were beginning to clear and it looked like we would fly. It took a while for it to actually become soarable but or those who waited around a mid afternoon launch was well worth it. As promised in the briefing, there was wave over the Jabron Valley and the DG managed to contact this straight away and climb to 10,000ft. The Duo on the other hand decided that the cloud streets to the South in the direction of St Auban looked inviting. The problem with Gordon’s plan was, that at St Auban the cloud streets stopped and so did the lift. Anyway a quick relight soon saw them back in the game and into the wave.
Now that we are approaching the end of the expedition it’s time to start planning the food and drink final glide to try and ensure that nothing is left over on Saturday morning. The result of this is that I failed to pace it over three days and had a bit of a hangover on Thursday morning.
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
A few of us decided that an afternoon shopping in Gap might give us some shelter from the rain. While strolling down a side street I looked in a shop window at what appeared to be at first glance a sports equipment shop. The first window contained fishing tackle, the second window had Knives on display, and then in the third window they had Handguns, knuckle-dusters, throwing stars, CS gas and an AK 47 hanging on the wall. It was at this point that I was tempted to go in and ask if they had any rocket launchers in the back that I could strap to the wings of our Duo to deal with a couple of irritating DG 400 drivers.
Today’s weather briefing flicked between charts a bit to quickly so I failed to fully grasp what was going on and the only point I really understood was Thunderstorms. Anyway the decision in my mind hade been made, if it was stormy over Sisteron and better elsewhere I would stay away and land at another airfield.
We spent least half an hour dithering over whether it was soarable and what was the high cloud to the west doing but as the locals had launched and not come back we thought it was just best to go. My launch behind the underpowered tug was one I think I want to forget; unfortunately the last part of the tow along the bottom of Trainon and over some power wires may give me some sleepless nights in the future. Climbing away in Six knots from that low point confirmed that it was a better day than it looked and the sky to the east looked fantastic. In company with the DG we went via Blayeul down towards the Cheval Blanc. Each time we stopped to climb two German registered DG 400’s joined our thermal using the Flarm alarm method. Your turning and they come straight at you from behind at which point your Flarm is screaming about the imminent collision they then proceed to cut inside you in an attempt to force you out.
Anyway it was now decision time as the Cheval Blanc had failed to deliver a good climb and I could see a storm to the North West, which could cut us off if we went along the Parcours. Merv and Tim in the DG had already started heading north and according to Tim there options were a bit limited until Merv found a climb near Sayne and they could run South again.
My decision was now to run South in to the good weather and see what happens. Anyway a jolly hour was spent in the area of Vinon and Puimoisson then back to St Auban. 6500ft 20 km from Sisteron should have been an easy glide back to the airfield, unfortunately a long run of 4 down forced us to do a 180 and drop back on to Le Mees and do battle with the gliders launching out of St Auban.
Nicky was already planning tee and cakes at the French centre but I had now got the bit between my teeth and wanted to get back. After half an hour of trying to get above 5000ft it became obvious that the only way back to Sisteron would be via the classic ridge route to the north so off we went, sometimes level with the hills then taking week climbs, ridge soaring bowls and finally having enough height to cross from the Vaumuse to Authon and home to Sisteron.
Once we were back at the airfield we had a crew change and the Duo went of again with Gordon and Martin enjoying over three hours of evening soaring. A very good day from a pessimistic forecast.
After a much-needed rest day and some local sight seeing it was down to business for the second week of the expedition.
The new team started in normal tradition by placing bets on how long the morning briefing would last; unfortunately they had failed to take in to account the new safety briefings, which have been added at the end of the weather brief. On a serious note the French national centre have produced these short briefings to try and reduced the accident rate in the Alps!
Thunderstorms would be the order of the day so it was get flying ASAP and make the most of the conditions. Launching at about 12:30 into a good looking sky it became obvious when we got to the first ridge that it had only just started to work and the conditions were very soft, so a very slow climb up the side of Malup. We than had a slow strole down the Crete de selles to Serres and back to La motte. Conditions were now starting to improve, but the fly in the ointment was the thunderstorm developing to the west of the airfield so it was now decision time, land before the rain or run South and know you would not be coming back. We chose at this point to return to the airfield and land just before the mass return.
The area around Sisteron and Gap then erupted in storms and we spent the next two hours watching them from our Gite. It also became obvious that if we had have gone South we could have had 2 hours of extra soaring as the conditions beyond St Auban look good. Chatting to someone latter who did land away, he described being P2 on an IFR aerotow retrieve at the end of the day as terrifying.
Saturday, 12 June 2010
Evan windier today.
Lots of Oh’s and Ah’s at the morning briefing when the wind charts were shown and the St Auban forecast said 20kts gusting 40kts on the ground. I have to say I was still confused by the comment at the briefing that there would be no thermals today; obviously they had failed to look out of the window at the cumulus over the mountains.
Another day of rough tows out to the south and obviously too turbulent for someone as a rope failed on one tow. A sobering thought considering the thickness of the rope and the fact that they don’t have week links! We can also draw a Vail over the re light that one of the Lasham gliders had to do!
Cloud base turned out to be around 9000ft, with good thermals, which made for an easy transition in to the wave over the Jabron Valley. Merv decided to explore north along the Parcors and then west to find the wave near Pic de bure. I then went west towards the Mont Ventoux but only managed to find the down part of the wave and boy was it going down.
This evening’s entertainment was a BBQ arranged by the Lasham team. The food, drink and entertainment could only be described as outstanding. The bar has been set high and next weeks team will have to be on top form to match it.
With the weather pattern stuck in the same routine it appeared that it would be a repeat of yesterday with a little less wind. True to form the competition waited until it clouded over before starting to launch. I am now beginning to see the importance the Tug pilots put on having there lunch first before getting airborne.
We only managed two flights today and it would appear that even Merv was beginning to feel the pace, as he stayed fairly local. Wave was again the order of the day and from the ground it looked like a classic slot behind the Lure.
Although not a classic Alpine weather week the statistics show that we have flown nearly 60 hours over the week and I think by the smiles on peoples faces everyone has had a great time.
Time for a rest day now and I think that a night away from the Red wine would be a good idea. Week 2 will be taking over the blog so stay tuned for more adventures starting on Sunday.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
Where did that breeze come from?
As we rolled up to the airfield it appeared to be a typical calm morning with a light breeze from the south, some CU starting to form and the odd wave cloud in the distance. The daily met brief was forecasting 20-30 kts on the ground and 50kts at 10,000ft Wave and moderate turbulence. Stepping out of the briefing we suddenly had 20 knots on the ground and the gusts felt severe.
Watching the first competition launches confirmed that the tows would be lively. Our launches were on to a small ridge to the East of Sisteron town, which was used as a stepping-stone in to the wave in the lee of the Lure. Both Billy and Graham had excellent wave flights to over 12,000ft and managed to explore well to the west.
The second trips were into a sky that had become overcast and with little evidence of wave. I launched on to the ridge and found that the turbulence at low level could best be described as severe and I was glad to contact an 8kt thermal and climb away. Both Robin and Ginny managed 2 hours in the local area and it was only the arrival of the rain that forced Merv down!
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
During the last two morning briefings we have been looking at the weather charts and the low pressure systems out to the north and west and each day we are told that tomorrow the weather will be bad. Then every morning so far I have woken up to bright sunshine and that well known phenomena in the Southern French Alps that it has it’s own micro climate and the frontal systems appear to be pushed north along the Rhone valley
At 11 o clock the sky looked very promising and any Brit would have said it’s time to Launch but in typical French tradition we wait another hour or so, by which time it’s now completely overcast with little sign of any Cu. The wind is blowing 15kts from the South so we throw the gliders into the air knowing that there will be one or two ridges we can sit on, unfortunately all the other Duo Discus drivers have the same idea and are in the same place.
There comes a point when Flarm is no help and I think that point was reached with 10 gliders on the ridge at Malaup. So we decided to move over to La Motte as there looked to be rotor clouds over the airfield. To cut a long story short after over an hour of searching we eventually contacted Wave in the lee of the Gache and this topped out at 8500ft. Merv in the DG took the opposite route crossing over to the crete des selles and finding wave near Serres. In the weakening conditions the second flights were never going to live up to the first but we did manage over two hours soaring.
Looking at the flight logs so far we have hade very interesting conditions and everyone has had flights of between 2 and 3 hours each day. I know some people will be expecting pictures with the blog, so tomorrow I will try and get my camera out when I am far enough away from the rocks.
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
After seeing how the grid worked yesterday we timed our arrival at the back of it to perfection, so that we would be the first to launch after the comp. We then adjourned to the restaurant for coffee, chatting and Emails. It was a bit of a surprise when the grid kicked off half an hour before I thought they would, so we quickly finished our drinks and wondered out to the launch-point.
By this stage the grid had moved forward leaving a gap between our gliders and the last comp glider and this gap was being filled by the Swiss contingent. They managed to get an LS 8 in to position before we closed in and moved our gliders forward. Due to the fact that we were out numbered I hade to settle for a long hard stare at them. We then pushed our Duo past the LS 8 and I then felt we had got our own back and the score was even. As we reached the front of the grid the Swiss team then pushed their glider past the Duo to take the next tug. When the tug turned up I realised that we were having the last laugh, as it was the underpowered Rallye and it would cost them an extra 20 Euros for their launch, justice had been done.
OK the flying. I am still confused as to what was happening on the ridges and mountains as I seamed to spend a lot of time scratching around at low level in very broken and turbulent lift/sink. Eventually we did manage to have a sight seeing tour to the north and west with Merv going to the Pic de Bure and myself having a very close look at Serres Airfield. The second flight of the afternoon was almost washed out by showers but we both managed to stay airborne and then as the weather improved again enjoy the good condition out to the west which lasted until late in to the evening.
Monday, 7 June 2010
With the competition going first we were a little slow off the make to get a place on the grid behind them which meant that our first launch was not until 13:40 by which time it was obviously working well to the East and showing signs of rain to the west. Both robin and Ginny had flights of over two hours exploring the local ridges to the east as far as Blayeul. The expectation had been for the day to cut off early but when we landed back it was obviously on for a second trip so Billy and Graham got in and we were off again with less than 15 mins on the ground.
With the changing weather conditions the second flights appeared to be a matter of timing with the Duo crew finding the wave to 10,500ft and the DG crew grovelling around on the rocks to the East of La Motte. We eventually arrived back in the Sisteron area as the Rain started to approach the airfield and the DG landed as the first spots hit the canopy.
As I write this the windsock is beginning to move and I expect we will be launching shortly with the promise of good weather to the West.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Yes week kan – Final Report
Unfortunately we haven’t been able to write the blog as the wifi has been busticated by the huge storms that have ravaged the Pyrenees and destroyed our wifi mast, several cathedrals and a small hamlet called Villa Sureal.
However, as intrepid aviators, we were not about to let a little thing like this get in the way of our aviation. Now sit yourself down in your most comfy arm chair with a large whiskey and prepare to hear tales of daring and dangerous doings.
So, it is sooo far back – Ben says “Wednesday, we flew” (Helpful, thanks Ben). He has tried to move the conversation on to Thursday but this is because he wished to draw a veil over the creative pull-off on the lee side of a ridge with a power dive into the cascading sink having only interpreted the first half of Dave’s instruction being “pull off tow when ready”.
We are in the bar on Saturday, it is pouring with rain (and other things), we have had our first beer having derigged all gliders (only to receive instruction that said gliders were being used this week) therefore the following is no longer in chronological order due to the effects of ilcahol and the random order that the human mind recollects.
Bob, intrigued by the contents of the funny bags we carry on our backs when flying, decided to investigate. He was somewhat perturbed when he discovered that just like toothpaste, a drogue chute does not go back into the parachute – oops. Slide that one under the driver’s seat and hope no one notices.
On the topic of parachutes, we were deeply confused to be set the Lasham challenge to take four in-date parachutes and pack them in the trailer for Sisteron. This was as we only had three out of date parachutes. Much scratching of heads and perplexed brows. We therefore (after much deliberation) adopted the SEP approach (namely someone else’s problem (i.e. Mr Lewis who has just arrived in the bar).
For the vegetarians amongst us, the last two nights’ dinner have been a little bit on the shocking side, as Bob Johnson and Ben Warcup have committed farm yard genocide consuming a vast smorgasbord of nearly all the deceased (hopefully) quadrapeds of Aragon, whilst Chris and Dave looked on ashen faced. Another veil needs to be drawn over the mountain of detritus that remained on the creaking catering tables of the club as we crawled our way out of the bar.
Flying has been both dramatic and exciting. Including the following:
1. Mike Evans claiming that not only cars can do hand-brake turn, as he nimbly sashayed his Discus down the runway with a neat 90 degree turn into taxi way C. Most impressive. He has convinced us that it was intentional.
3. Alison (having called 20 mins to landing) attempting to sneak down a 8,000 ft street climbing at 6 knots away from the airfield whilst engaging Mr Williams in witty badinage in the vain hope that he might not notice the big numbers on the instruments
4. Mr Larry Marks conducting a lightening tour around the peaks and snow line in 1hr 20 minutes resulting in Mr Bob Johnson retuning somewhat subdued (unusual for a man of his calibre)
5. Chris going on THE grand tour of every nook cranny, col, ridge, cwm, arête, peak and summit of the Pyrenees in a monumental flight which he terminated after 2.5 hours due to the cold.
Anyway, enough now, time to return from the blazing heat of the Aragon plain to whatever England has to offer.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
This is not Colin Watt, this is Keyser Sochez. Colin Watt is not here.
Day two was successful if you measure it by amount of damaged people, planes and puking. There was none so it was a successful day. If you measure it by hours flying, it was a disaster, as there was none of that either. The weather map had shown a spider web of fronts passing over us yesterday and it was dreech (for the scots among you).
But we made the best of it.
At breakfast we decided what rules we would pass when we were gods for a day.
1. Van drivers would have dead fish to hit cyclist with as they pass through London
2. Cyclists would have metal fish to hit Van drivers with as they pass through London
3. All morally bankrupt politicians would expire slowly
4. Toothpaste tubs would blow your fingers off if you squeezed them in the middle
5. We would all park very neatly (if its not a right angle to the pavement, it’s a wrong angle).
We then moved onto controversy – Socialism is evil – discuss …as we wondered around the supermarket.
Back to the apartment to tuck into our booty and a nice bottle of wine. Misery hit us as the second glass went down because the sun came out but it was suitably fleeting and never got flyable.
We could have been cultural in the afternoon, seen a monastery, could have been athletic and climbed a mountain but no, we dug ourselves into the apartment and somehow lost 7.5 hours playing poker at £2 a round.
The day finished gloriously with a food feast, lead by our able guide, Mr Bob Johnson as he took us to some of the best eating holes in town. (Although Dave W and Chris S wimped out and went for Pizza… lame-o).
This morning we are waiting for the cloud base to lift but it looks flyable. The only comedy we have had to date is a Bob Johnson rant at the L Nav and Gps in the DG1000. I didn’t know a man’s face could turn the same colour as the maroon Lasham fleece. He was good enough to using “effing” and not the eff word but no idea what he was on about… too many “effs” and crying with laughter.
Oh and we are letting Dave W drive the 4WD again. On Monday, he tried to go into town in low ratio. 28mph, fifth gear and pedal to the metal, he had twigged something was wrong but wasn’t going to turn back and request assistance until a near death experience with a series of large trucks made him realise his chocolate/ junk food need did not rank higher than his life.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
'What more can a first timer ask for, Initial climb to 8000 ft after 4 min tow, through stage two to stage three and 11900 ft. Followed by 3 similar flights encountering thermals, ridge, wave and rotor, not to mention climbing whilst looping!'
and a link to Owen's video for you to rate
Sorry guys I should have posted this much earlier!
All the best to Keyser and his troops - looking forward to your next post.
Merv in wet windy UK ;-(
Monday, 29 March 2010
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Having been lucky over the last few days with the timing of the weather fronts, today our luck ran out and the rain got us. The decision to scrub flying for today was made after the morning briefing, this allowed some people to go sight seeing in Pamplona, others to catch up on work and some to catch up on sleep!
Tonight’s evening cuisine was at the Biarritz restaurant in Jaca followed by a small sharpener in the bar before bed. More news tomorrow when the promise of better weather should get us back in the air.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
The day dawned cloudy and Anna gave us a gloomy forecast that just lacked locusts and boils. Colin immediately announced that we should get the gliders out. There was much muttering the ranks that the wine from the night before was affecting his judgement. The three gliders launched and immediately were whisked into good southerly wave up to 11,000 feet. Cloud was moving in from the west giving us some entertainment in working out were we were but we all landed back at the airfield for the second flights. The wind slackened and so these second flights could not repeat the achievements of the first batch though they reached a dizzying 6,000 feet as much as a kilometre from the airfield. They don't make instructors like they used to. Our three looked knackered by three in the afternoon as they guzzled their cafes con leches.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Over the last two weeks the various contributors to this blog have set a high standard of reporting that have kept us all amused and informed about there particular weeks adventures. Thanks for that guys and lets hope that week 3 has just as much fun both on the ground and in the air
After various reports of rain and possible cold front over us at midday it was a pleasant surprise to be woken up by the church bells and bright sunshine outside. Morning briefing promised a soarable day with cloud base at 1500meters and the possibility of more humidity and storms to the east over the high mountains.
It took a few hours for the low cloud in the valley to show any signs of lifting but when it started to it became obvious that the thermals over the mountains were already working and it was time to get on to the runway. Merv was the first to launch followed by the rest of the Lasham gliders into an improving sky and rising cloud base.. After about an hour most of us managed to work our way into the mountains where the cloudbase was now 9000ft. The second trip of the afternoon was not so fortunate as it has began to go blue locally and the climbs were only going to about 7000ft.
I had been warned about the shear volume of food that keeps coming out at the airfield restaurant barbeque, but seeing is believing. It’s hard not to over eat when the restaurant staff are almost demanding you finish off the food that’s left on the table. As I write this I think I don’t need to start eating again until some time on Thursday.
PS. Merv was airborne for over 5 hours and where he ventured to is not for the faint hearted!!
Friday, 19 March 2010
Today was a very unexpected bonus as the threat of more rain arriving earlier than yesterday. Roger had convinced Rick to skip breakfast and launch in the Stemme shortly after 08:00. The forecast wind was to be stronger and the first flights in the gliders were a struggle trying to contact the elusive wave that the Stemme had found. The second flights towed a little higher over the centre of the valley after encountering some fierce rotor over stage one but the lift above was off the clock (the Duo saw 12kts on the averager! All gliders had to abandon their climbs at 12500’ due to approaching rain we all landed and were back in the hangar just as the heavy rain arrived. It’s bbq night tonight – what another spectacular (grey) day!
Wednesday was a hard act to follow! We awoke with yesterday’s clear blue skies replaced by the high clouds of the approaching front and some interesting smooth but stationary lower clouds. Briefing advised flying early. Rick needed to test fly his repaired Stemme so Merv (very reluctantly!) volunteered to join him pretending to sniff for signs of wave. With the wind much lighter than forecast, weak but useable lift was found in the lee of Cuculo and the waiting pilots were encouraged into the air. Stuart and Roger in 776 managed to climb to 7500’ and had the longest flight of the day at 1:20. The rest of the crews managed short soaring flights under the grey skies – the rain held off but eventually arrived just after dark. We rewarded our sterling efforts with a nice meal in El Porton in Jaca.
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
More temperature less pressure produced a spectacular day with strong thermals starting earlier to 9500’ combined with consistent ridge lift from the steady southerly flow enabled the Lasham fleet of gliders to get to Ordesa and back at least once - until sunset stopped play! Merv was back in mad mode venturing behind the main ridge lines into France to sample some superb ridge soaring. The crew all ended the day with big grins on their faces as today exceeded everyone’s expectations. As you can see from the picture the expedition has a profound effect on the instructors! Meanwhile Rick Robert’s broken Stemme was being repaired by a licensed engineer and inspector flown in from Germany courtesy of Dr Stemme himself – they are now intending to fly back after the weekend as the weather is forecast to deteriorate over the weekend – any excuse to stay longer. Martin was breathalysed on his way to Jaca at 11:00 (am!) with a very commendable zero result! The BA strike is also taking its toll as Adrian and Martin have been forced to make alternative arrangements to get back home.
Today there is a little more temperature, increased stability and less wind– it’s now warm enough to abandon our coats as we patiently await the start of thermals basking in the sun. Sensible Merv took a high tow with Mark and promptly fell down with Merv doing all the flying he will be returning to mad mode tomorrow! Everyone else managed to climb away into the high mountains and had great fun even if Martin and Roger flew the whole flight with the wheel down in 776 – Thank goodness for pre-landing check
After a slow start we decided to launch into the blue just after 14:00 the forecast was positive about the thermals but not optimistic about wave as there was only a gentle northerly breeze.
Rick and Roger were first to launch in 775 closely followed by Adrian and mad Merv in 776 who advised releasing before they got to stage 1 (about 1500'). Margaret C and Hugh in 431 chose wisely not to follow Merv's example but we all ended up at circuit height (but with Adrian and Mad Merv on top of the pile!) Adrian had the best flight from such a short aerotow by eventually contacting wave which had to be abandoned at 11900’ climbing at 4 knots as the glider had to do another flight –typical. Thermals topped out at 8500’. The second squadron was scrambled just before 17:00 into the murky world of is it wave or is it thermal, with the Flying Duo – Owen and Roger - torn between going straight and going round in circles! Strangely enough both approaches seemed to work! In the blue the vultures proved themselves a handy indication though is wasn’t to last as not endowed with open class cruise speed, turn circles and in gathering numbers, they were best left to their own devices. Evening wave topped out at 6500’ in the valley with stage one and two proving rather “remote”, one might say. A great start with 10 hours flying time in total.
Saturday, 13 March 2010
We all woke to another glorious sunny day this time with light winds. With all the high pressure around and no wind it was likely to be a late start and modest thermals. Gliders had their DI's and were assembled at the launch point, then everyone relaxed in the sun, although Dick Happs looked asleep on the aerodrome taxiways nursing his bad back. Everyone hoped the Finns would sacrifice themselves again, then someone pointed out that they left yesterday (the skies are now a safer place!). So, at 1300hrs we started off on the home mountain with very strong thermals up to 9000ft, Clive, with Lance and myself and Wolfgang, set off east and ran along to Tendenera all in strong thermals around the snow line. Around 11hrs of flying from all the gliders again! Shorty gave John Brooke and Richard Amlott the added thrill of seeing the Cuckaloo mountain the wrong way up with aerobatics after the hard workout of low rock polishing. Everyone fit enough after another amazing meal supplied by the airfield caterers (No one can eat that much!!). Dave Greasley wanted a word said about his improved thermalling - nothing like unsolicited praise but nevertheless a significant step up in his technique was observed. The day finished with another sidesplitting BBQ, courtesy of Victor and the airfield gang.
So six out of six days flying with every kind of mountain conditions experienced - all vowing to return again next year.
Friday, 12 March 2010
The day started with a briefing in "English" by Clive ( Senor Cleebay), we understood it but.....! anyway; he said there would be no wave, and then promptly set the record for the day at 16,000ft. This wonderful achievement was somewhat marred by his student (evening all, 'ello, 'ello' ello, would you mind blowing into this bag, is this your car sir?) tying a knot in his pee bag (2 litre large capacity version). Cleebay also managed to get a speeding ticket in the morning in his BONGO!!! (How fast can a Mazda Bongo Frendie actually go??) So now if a you get a speeding ticket you have been "BONGO'ED". So; a wave day - but the "window of opportunity" was very narrow. Huge Kindell warned Wolfgang that he would be down in 10 minutes as it was far to early to launch - but 2hrs later and at 8000ft Wolfgang felt vindicated. However - Huge had the last laugh; wave to 14,000ft and was last to land. Not bad for a combined cockpit age of a 146yrs! (is that actually legal??) A difficult day but very rewarding for those prepared to work where the pine cones grow! The inversion was only 6000ft in the valley but as you worked up the mountain the inversion was raised until you "connected". Everyone is now feeling very 'connected' - last day tomorrow, so hopes of a big finish. And Simmo is definitely going to make sure he takes his hat home with him tonight!
Your spy in the sky, Don Juan Simmo
disclaimer: any simularity between the characters portrayed in this blog and real people is strictly co-incidental
Thursday, 11 March 2010
A different kind of day today. Not so windy and very little cloud, so a late start was declared. Weight & balance checks were carried out on all pilots after last night's meat-fest BBQ - Victor cooked up a storm at the fireplace and we all went back to Toya's many kilo's heavier.
First three launches today all got away off tow and had some fun flying at around 8,000 feet up above the snowline on the main hills. Sky-God Simmo then took John Brooke up for his flight in 431 and, whilst showing him the nuances of thermal centering, promptly fell down and was back on the ground 15 minutes later! In a show of generosity that is to be vigourously discouraged in future, Simmo offered to pay for the launch and they went again for a much better soaring flight in late afternoon thermals.
Still debating what to do for dinner tonight - there's talk of a tapas in Jaca, but Victor is doing a migas at the airfield tonight as well ........ decisions, decisions ...........
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
More wind and more wave .... well, in the morning anyway. Gliders were readied early so launching could start immediately after briefing. The first three launches all contacted wave shortly after release, towing to the second stage, and Simmo won the day for height achievement of 16,200 feet. The weather was much colder today - outside air temps of minus 22 being seen at 15,000 feet! Senor Greasley flew with Simmo today and came back feeling quite pleased with himself - he actually managed to take off and land on his own without incident ....... and his pants were still dry when he landed!! The Dickie Happs dicky back was a bit better today and he had a good outing with Simmo lasting just over an hour.
The afternoon flights were quite different - the wind had gone more westerly and the wave was very broken. Rotor thermals up to about 8,000 feet and a bit of a struggle but good fum nevertheless. Shorty and Lance Hiley managed to ridge soar the front edge of a cu and get into weak wave at 10,000 feet ...... but promptly fell out again! Total flight time for today was 11hrs 17 mins.
Jerry English turned up today with E6 - he and Hugh took a launch in the late afternoon to get warmed up for more wave tomorrow.
Tonight is barbeque night at the airfield restaurant, so Victor is going to infuse us all with a serious meat overdose ...... could be a big night!
Shorty .... standing in for Simmo today
Everybody had a great time last night thanks to toya's cooking ...... and ample Zoco! Todays briefing warned that it was unlikely that there would be thermals, but due to the strong wind there was a good chance of wave. Clive Mansfield launched first with Dick Happs ...... climbed in rotor thermals but had to return after about an hour because the old man's back was giving him some jipp. Shorty and Rich Amlott launched in the K21 and hooked straight into the wave, topping out at 15,500 feet for a cracking good flight. Simmo managed to make yet another pupil sick (that's two days in a row now!) but had a couple of good flights nevertheless. Senor Greasley has requested that the DG1000 be modified to incorporate a portaloo in order to extend his flight endurance! A total of 10hrs 37mins was flown for the day.One pupil missed out on flying due to the strong wind ...... the tuggies bottled it and wouldn't give us a launch (whimps!).
Tomorrow's forecast is more of the same - windy and mavey. Top tip for those coming out next week - bring pee bags WITHOUT holes in them!
Foreign correspondent Simmo
Monday, 8 March 2010
Expedition members arrived safely and went to their first airfield briefing. The forecast sounded a bit gloomy with snow to the north and east and a early cut off. An early launch was advised. Shorty volunteered to be the sacificial lamb and launched at 11am. It proved to be a day of two halves with the afternoon much easier than the morning. Everyone flew at least once, with 11hrs 40min flown and the best altitude of 8800ft all in mountain thermals. Shorty managed the great escape of the day with a scratch away from 800ft. One point for those that follow, remember your medical and gliding certificates, the local club will insist on them. We are all guests of the Hotel tonight, Toyah has promised local cuisine!
John Simmonds your local correspondent