Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sisteron The Trip Home

Dear all

I'm writing this from our scheduled overnight stop in Troyes, however on a short trip dinner trip into town the exhaust pipe decided to separate and drag on the floor with the corresponding bag of nails scraping noise providing much amusement to locals. The chap from Green Flag turned up an announced that there was nothing he could do and it was not worth him taking the van back to the depot only to bring it back on Monday morning to the Mercedes garage where it is currently parked outside! However, he did donate a suitably modified coat hangar to support the pipe but suggested that it would be too noisy to continue our journey. In the meantime Green Flag say that they will try to effect a repair tomorrow morning but being Sunday all the mechanics will be at church sans doute.

Your currently stranded correspondant


Friday, 20 May 2011

Sisteron Week 2 Day 6

Last day - with a similar forecast for the past two days another early start was made. There was evidence of a storm out to the north west very early at 11:00. Unlike the previous days, the clouds to the east did not develop into Cb but did produce rain and most unusally the notorious storm hotspot Pic de Bure had reasonable cumulus at 10-11000 bases for most of the day. Conditions to the north east were booming. Tremaine managed to get 13200 in thermal in the mountains east of Briancon. The second sortie started with Mark soaring away from a 1300' tow (to make up for yesterdays long tow) and topping out at 11000. We returned (early for us) in order to pay the bill before the office closed at six and shortly afterwards Pic de Bure erupted to produce a large storm, again there were storms all around but no rain on the airfield. This week has had a very good mixture of weather starting with the awesome wave day FL195 and finising with thermals to 13200'! Mark and Tremaine have equally shared the 36 hour flying time and we all have had a fantastic time.


Sisteron Week 2 Day 5

Today started early with good thermals to 9000 however the storms built very quickly after 15:00 curtailing the second sortie that became sandwiched between two. Again the rain never reached the airfield but was evident all around.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Sisteron Week 2 Day 4

A day of two halves - east and west see below- where would you go ?

Hard to believe that these pictures were taken at the same time. A relaxed start as there was a reasonably thick layer of high cloud that was slow to burn off but true to the forecast the conditions were good but so were the thunderstorms. Eventually the storms surrounded the airfield but the rain never reached it. We were entertained by the club in the evening to aperitifs that were enjoyed by all


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Sisteron Week 2 Day 3

Tremaine had an earlier start launching at 11:20 towards some solid looking cumulus to the west providing 4kts to 7000 that encouraged us to keep going west. Turning at Monte Ventoux (pictured) we headed north east as the conditions steadily improved, reaching Pic de Bure for another close inspection we moved on to the east climbing to the top of Guillame before crossing the lake to the south to sample the delights of the Par Cours and back home by 15:00. By the time Mark launched the cumulus had joined together forming a street back to the Par Cours which we ran to Dormillouse at the northern end then back south to Cheval Blanc. Looking back to where we had just been a shower had developed so we decided to head west back to the sunshine and continued until the cumulus ran out just short of Monte Ventoux. Returning to the Durance valley a large line of well developed clouds provided more fun until nearly 19:30, as usual we were last to land (No change there then)


Monday, 16 May 2011

Sisteron Week 2 Day 2

Another completely different day with light and variable wind, crystal clear blue sky and more temperature. Mark launched at 13:00 onto Hongrie and climbed quickly to 5500 which turned out to be the high point for what seemed like an age. Eventually a good climb was found over Maloupe and we set off for the very sparse cumulus on top of Pic de Bure that worked well to 8500. Tremaine launched to the same Hongrie hotspot and after an intoduction to rock polishing headed east towards the 1/8 Cu that looked promising from a distance but by the time we got there the clouds had either faded away or reformed in another remote part of the sky. However, there were still reasonable climbs to be had in the blue. Reaching Les Blanches a band of thickening cirrus began to reduce the sun's heat but a climb to 10000 took us safely back to the home valley via D'Aujour.


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sisteron Week 2 Day 1

What a contrast to last week! - the rain arrived on Saturday, followed by the Mistral today. We awoke to find a distinct drop in temperature and the wind averaging 20knots gusting 35 from the NW at the gite! The briefing was extended to cover where the wave sets up and how best to use it. The oxygen bottles were refilled in anticipation and we rushed to get airborne before the conditions became too fierce as the wind was strengthening all the time. The tow to the Gauche was short but very lively and Mark Benson and Merv were soon climbing in very strong but smooth lift. Heading north we encountered similar conditions on the northern side of Maloup that took us to the ceiling of FL195 - thank goodness we refillied the oxygen. After three hours a call to Sisteron revealed that the wind on the ground was now 30kts gusting 45 and if we landed there was no possibility of a re-light so we stayed up - until the oyxgen ran out. After 5hrs 20 the wind had relaxed a little we landed at 18:00, by 18:30 after changing pilots and oxygen bottles Tremaine Callier and Merv were back in the air with a shortened version of the first flight but still managed to hit the ceiling of FL195 and landed at 20:45. The wind at height was in excess of 50kts at one point we noticed while flying to the North at 50kts the Clearnav was indicating we were flying back to Sisteron! What a day ;-)


Friday, 13 May 2011

Day 4 and 5

The gremlins of technology have been with us for the last two days and I have been unable to access the blog site due to what appears to be a problem with the French site being down for maintenance.

Rolling two days flying in to one blog seams like a good idea as the weather on both days had the same trends and eventual outcome by mid to late afternoon.

Forecasting the location of afternoon thunderstorms is obviously something that the French Metrological office at St Auban have refined into a fine art and their morning forecast has been surprisingly accurate in the last two days. Despite knowing that the storms are going to develop, it never fails to surprise me how quickly they develop from a small Cu in to a raging Cu Nim and how it then moves in any direction they like. It really focuses the mind when the storms are near the airfield and how quickly wind direction goes from light southerly to 20kt northly within moments.

Both days showed signs of Cumulous developing over the high mountains before the morning briefing at 10 am and by the time we launched around midday some of the tops were starting to go ballistic. The three-hour weather window has allowed us to explore the local area with diverse conditions ranging from having to park on a small ridge for half an hour waiting for a thermal to kick off to cloud base going being over 10,000ft in the high mountains near Barcelonette. Today the Duo with Merv an Ed Foxon on board ventured east towards Mont Viso and the Italian border with the return journey around the thunderstorms sounded very interesting. Hopefully I can post some photos later when we download the cameras

As I write this blog in the early evening I can hear the thunderstorm rumbling away in the La Motte valley and the rain that’s falling looks like it may stop our evenings BBO at the house.


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Day 3.

Later Start
Around midday the top cover started to thin and the first signs of usable convection appeared to the east. It was another hour before a self launching ASH 26 got airborne and started to report back that it was working up to 6500ft.

Both Duo’s launched at about 2pm and the first climb over Hongrie was 4 knots. Moving South we found another strong climb on Trainon gave us the confidence to push on to Authon. We failed to find a climb at Authon so I made the decision to push South again to some Cu at the end of the Vaumuse. Arriving under this it we found a week climb and cloud base 1000ft lower. We had found strong sink between the climbs so very quickly we were down in the low hills near St Auban doing battle with broken thermals and the local glider from the French national centre. This struggle lasted for over an hour and we constantly found the climbs stopped abruptly at 4000ft and we came to the conclusion there was no possibility of re tracing our steps. After a radio conversation with 775 who was under the Cu on the Lure Ed and myself decided we had to take our chances crossing the valley on to the south side of the Lure. Eventually the pull of the of St Auban got us and we dropped in.

Towing back to Sisteron we released when we could reach a local ridge next to the town and then local soared in the company of 775 for another hour in week evening thermals.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Day 3

Morning update.

Rather thick top cover first thing this morning which as I write this at 1pm is starting to thin out and allow the sun through. The morning forecast from St Auban promised soarable condition by mid afternoon and it looks like they could be right. So a relaxed lunch, more coffee and a possible launch later on.


Day 2

French hangar packing is an entertaining thing to watch and even more amusing if you are involved in the pushing, pulling and shouting. Today was no exception with the entire hangar having to be emptied to get out an LS 6 and then repacked in a different order. By the time we had done this, DI the Duo we are renting and towed it to the launch-point we were a little way down the launch queue.

By 11:30 Merv was getting itchy feet and launched with Martin Conboy as P2 on to one of the local hills called Malaupe. The radio remained silent for 20 mins before they gained enough height to contact us. This didn’t really inspire the RAF GSA contingent to launch and it was probably about an hour later before Alex and myself got airborne in the Sisteron club Duo.

As we aerotowed out I went into sheep mode and let the tug pilot take us in the same direction as the previous 3 glider had been towed, towards St Genis. Releasing above the top we did one run along it and were going down it fast. At the point where the computer said we were 75 meters above glide back to Sisteron one part of my brain reminded the other part that it’s a rented glider with a hefty excess, so home we went. A low save in the circuit saved the embarrassment and cost of a relight and we were then back in the game.

Everyone did two and a half to three hour flights with reliable conditions on the rock faces giving people good practice at climbing away from low level. By late afternoon Merv and Ed Foxon managed to reach Pic de Bure but with the upper wind coming from the North the climb up the southern side was slow.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Morning update Day 2

Another hot and sunny day so Just a quick post before we climb into the Duo's and head into the mountaiins. It looks like a repeat of yesterday with thunderstorms forecast for the high mountains and possably near to Sisteron in the afternoon.

I will post some pictures this evening when we get back!


Day 1.

As in previous years you need to pay attention at the morning briefing because that vital bit of information may be missed in translation or lost in the chatter of French pilots. As it was only Brits at the briefing it was remarkably quiet and as it turned out a very accurate forecast.

The slight spanner in the works today was new rule number 3, which requires all pilots who want to fly Sisteron club gliders to have a check flight each year. As we are hiring a two seater from the Areoclub they managed to find an instructor to do this flight with me, but it quickly became apparent that there might be a communication issue as he spoke no English and my French language does not go much beyond making radio calls in the circuit and buying beers in the bar.

On to the flying. After a bit of a wait just to be sure it was working in the mountains Merv and Ed Foxon launched in the Duo and disappeared towards the east. Once established under the Cu on the Tete Grosse they had a good run up into the Ecrins and then back home for a good 3 hour sight seeing flight.

After my check ride we launched with the second crew of Alex and Martin Conboy. By now it evident that the forecast was correct and the thunderstorms were brewing to the East. Both gliders still managed to run to Dormillouse and at that point we went separate ways with Merv and Alex heading west to the Pic de Bure and myself and Martin going south.

A pleasant evening arrival back at Sisteron followed by a few beers and a good meal was the perfect the way to end the first day of the expedition.


Pre expedition practice day

When you go away on an expedition it always takes a few days to settle into the routines of another club and evan if you have flown there many times before things change. Well the big thing that has changed at Sisteron this year is that they have not employed professional staff to run the airfield and are going to try to rely on volunteers. The Jury is still out on this one, but so far everything appears to be OK.

The tug pilot informed me that for this year there is only one new rule, you must be local to the airfield by 7pm. By the time we parked the Duo at the North end of the airfield ready for a launch and it was then we had found out that there is a second new rule that the gliders need to be further back towards the hedge and we had parked in front of a Swiss glider that wanted to launch. Well if you cant find any Germans to annoy then the Swiss are the second best option.

So a relaxed start today as we were one of the last to launch at about 1pm. After ten minuets on one of the local hills we realised that it may be a bit more difficult than it looked with very turbulent thermals and possibly of wave mixed in with it. After two hours flying we finally managed to climb high enough to move away from La Motte and head towards the higher mountains. The parcours was working well but again it took a long time to get over 10,000ft. I was then persuaded by the P2 to try pushing towards the wave clouds over the Barcelonnette valley. It didn’t take long before we were doing a passable impression of a grand piano thrown out of a second floor window with the result that we had to scuttle back around the corner of Dormillouse.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

It's hot here

Another long day in the saddle. So sorry folks the priorities for this evening are beer, food and then sleep and I will then update the Blog with the antics of the last two days early tomorrow morning.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sisteron 2011

8th - 20th of May