Saturday, 31 March 2012

Jaca Week 4 Day 6

There's never a vulture around when you need one. We waited until 1:30 in the hope it would be soarable. No-one else had tried so we felt we had to show the locals how to do it. Adrian Nettleship drew the short straw and was back down on the ground in 28 minutes. I didn't feel too bad about it because the Finns fell down shortly after. More cogitation ensued until 3:30. The Lasham crew in the shape of Paul Wheatcroft stepped up and once more we went into battle with Stage 2 and then back to Stage 1, grinding upwards until we could make the leap across to Stage 3. After some more grinding, the rate of climb increased and we were soon bouncing along at over 11,000 feet to the edge of Ordesa. Once more the double figure thermals appeared, making it six days in a row. The locals said it has been the best March for a Spanish donkey's years. Many thanks for a great team who made it a memorable vacation.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Jaca Week 4 Day 5

                    A classic view of the Jaca Valley

Each day dawns with a clear blue sky but today the forecast was a little different. A northerly wind of about 10kt was forecast on one chart but then it seemed to be easterly on the next chart, so by the time I launched I was ready for anything. The day was largely blue with small cumulus about 10km south of the big mountains. The trick was to get to one before it dissolved. If you got there in time, there was good lift, but in between you could find big sink. As usual the lift went up to over 12,000 feet but today it was harder work. The obviously conclusion when there is something you don't fully understand is to blame wave. Jaca changed from being a pussycat to somewhere where really scary things could happen if you weren't careful. Even though we were not doing mega distances everyone found the day interesting. We landed around 7:30 and headed off for Puento La Reina for dinner.
John McCullagh

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Jaca Week 4 Day 4

Yet again the thermals started popping around 12:15. The group agreed to allow Martin Hollowell a longer flight with Andy Aveling in the Duo. They disappeared for five hours to Seo de Urgel (just southwest of Andorra about 200 km away) and back. (I should have said that Andy only did 314km O/R yesterday to Sort.) Andy then got into the K21 to do another two and half hours! Two of the others were allowed mutual flying in the K21 and they also hurtled up to the normal great altitude at a staggering rate. This allowed me to have most of the afternoon off. At first I was quite relaxed about this but the awesome cloudscape had me champing at the bit by the the time that the mutual flight had landed. It was still possible to fly up to 11,000 feet for two and a half hours. Merv did his second flight in two days to Cerdanya.
John McCullagh

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Jaca Week 4 Day Three

     Lake at Riglos from about 10,000 feet

It just keeps getting better. This is just astounding weather for any time of year, let alone March. Today the thermals were going up to over 12,500 feet and some of the lift was off the clock. There is no averager in the K21 so I can't tell you how much. (Must tell the treasurer to fund one.) For my students, both went way beyond Ordesa but then gap seemed too much for a K21 and I had to turn before heading in the direction of Riglos. Andy took full advantage with the Duo and went even further. After about 5:30 it started clouding over, which one student thought was disappointing! Everyone is getting spoilt rotten. In future years when anyone reminisces about 2012 and how great it was, there will be mass cries of "Not again! I could have been there but I preferred the blue conditions in the UK."

We have only had three fantastic days and three more to go with much the same forecast. I'm not sure my stamina can stand this much flying!
John McCullagh

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Jaca Week 2 Day Two

              Collorada and Pic du Midi in the background

Same weather, same start to the day. As usual Andy says he will take a launch, and I look dubious but this time Andy re-appears after 25 minutes of struggle. Within a few minutes we both launched into the usual stupendous conditions and off to the east among the snowy stuff. Andy had also been trying to stretch my horizons so on the second flight I took up the challenge of Sierra Ferrera. He assured me that it always worked and gave the impression he had been there today. On both counts: wrong. However we managed to return and reached over 11,000 ft with the averager occasionally getting to double figures.  This instructing lark is knackering. Mike Evans circumnavigated the Pic du Midi which seems quite a neat thing to do and I have made a mental note to try. Merv and Simon Holland got to Cerdanya which will need a little more practice for me to emulate. Dinner at the monastery was good.
John McCullagh

Monday, 26 March 2012

Jaca Week 4 Day One - part 2

Yesa reservoir taken from western end. Note the drought conditions. The airfield has to get its water in a tanker and this is only March!

Jaca Week 4 Day One

Week 4 all arrived on a BA flight to Barcelona despite one nameless person forgetting about the clocks moving forward an hour. The morning dawned with some alto-cu and it seemed like nothing much would happen until Andy Aveling announced he was taking a launch. I watched from the Duo on the ground expecting Andy to scratch around for a half an hour but after 5 min the K21 climbed and the thermals boomed. Instead of the usual apprenticeship in the weeds where they proudly announce getting to 6500 feet, all four students were suddenly effortlessly wafted to 9000 feet or even to 10000 feet and off down the streets to Ordesa and Yesa. The Duo climbed at 11 kt according to the averager at one point. Nothing to this mountain flying then. The problem is: with a Day One like that, how do you top it? Do the instructors now have to devise all sorts of wondrous flights to stop polite yawns from the front seat?

Paul ordered a tea con leche and received the world's first tea cappuccino.

John McCullagh

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Jaca Week 3 Day 6

Last day - very promising briefing with the prospect of cumulus at 10000'. We were keen to make up for the lost day and to ensure that everyone had a similar amount of flying overall. When the conditions remained blue it was the Finns who cheated taking a very high launch that encouraged us to get going and show them how to do it properly. First sorties made it to the top but it took a little work to get there but it was worth the effort with some detailed inspection of the rock formations at close quarters. Returning for the second round still with the absence of cumulus, nothing had really changed then a solitary cloud appeared for about 2 mins then vanished. While Steve and Bob were accumulating precious minutes Merv raced back to make sure that Roger was not left out. Last launch, possibly a little optimistic, but a reasonable climb was found so off we set for the high mountains, finding very little in the form of useable lift we were now a long way from home with 3000' in hand but with some 4000' ridges in the way in the K21. Tiptoe-ing back with the altimeter unwinding and not a squeak out of the vario we eventually arrived at the point where the first climb was found. Surprisingly, it was still working and after several minutes we had at least enough height for a circuit. It would have been more than a little embarrasing to have landed out on the last flight of the week and have missed the main event of the customary dining in evening at chez Toya.

Our plan had worked and everyone was delighted with their flying allocation and all enjoyed the traditional meal and post flight banter. We have just lost an hour as the clocks have leapt forward so its now well past bedtime.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Jaca Week 3 Day 5

Hooray! the good weather has returned for the rest of the week, with good thermals to 9500 feet. Four members of the group exploited the day until 17:00 when the sun's heat was obscured by an increasing band of high cloud just as the floater (Bob No.2) launched on a wave of optimism just to practice a controlled descent in the bowels of the mountain until gravity finally won.

Before flying we decided that we would have a group dinner tonight in the instructor's apartment. This required a degree of organisation that the instructors were unfamiliar with so Morag had to step in and act as a quantity surveyor and budget controller to ensure that no more than 3 Euros per head was spent per guest. It is suprising how many  people can be fitted into a small apartment, though it did require the use of all the furniture from the apartment below. Merv and Peter carried the whole dining table up the stairs to the threshold of the kitchen only to discover that it wouldn't fit and that it would have been a whole lot easier if they had been legless. Some might say that they already were.

 Julian asserts control over re-assembly

Merv can't watch

Three chairs for Roger!

Restaurante Secundo Piso
Menu del Dia. (3 Euros pp IVA incl)
  • Pollo a la Chilandron
  • Ensalada Mixta
  • Patatas Chufadas con Mantequillia
  • Vegetales Asado
  • Tiramisu
  • Citron Mousse
Digestif (Muchas Zoco)
Cafe con Leche

A good time was had by all though the team may be a little quieter at breakfast especially as Merv will still be working on the Blog....

Merv asleep at the keyboard.

(with Bob doing the typing.)

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Jaca Week 3 Day 4

Today was almost mirror image of yesterday in that it was foggy in the morning, but we still prepared the gliders and took them to the launch point.

What no fettling?

There was no fettling left to do so we had a very relaxed lunch, Merv gave a series of impromptu lectures

Today's caption competition
We eventually decided to launch at 15:45. There were 2 to 4kt climbs to 5-6000' for about 1 hour then the valley was suddenly covered in spreadout and everyone landed back in quick succession. Almost as quickly as it arrived the spreadout disappeared and the conditions inproved for the second flights. Landing back after 1.5 hours. Everyone flew (except Roger) and enjoyed the practice in the light wind conditions so they will be on top form for tomorrow which is the start of a run of some improving conditions.

For today, the only flies in the ointment were the Finns, who managed to find the wave that was hiding behind Cuculo and were only forced to return by the sun disappearing . . . . grrrrrr

Merv (I told you there was wave about but you just didn't believe me)


Result of the 18 hour pressure test:

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Jaca Week 3 Day 3

Suprisingly, while Madrid was covered in snow, Alicante was flooded and there was a strong wind warning issued we awoke to blue skies and cumulus. Briefing confirmed that this was the best part of the day and the only flying opportunity.
Does no one want to fly?

Merv was unsucessful in persuading the team to launch in search of the strong southerly wave that was clearly holding back the bad weather.

Merv's rotor cloud

Having been running on empty for 2 weeks we decided to locate the problem.

We found the problem fairly quickly

The culprit - can you tell where it is yet?

So we attempted a repair using the materials we had readily available

First attempt - drinking straws and wing tape were just not up to the job!
So off we went to our local supplier to source some parts.

Our supplier

Parts in hand out trusty technician set to work

Meanwhile, Merv trimmed the end of the new pipe ready for the next joint on the nearest available flat work surface

Neat job - Wheres the leak gone?

At last - success - no more hissing noises

Now for a small competition - How many joints can you spot in the following photo?

Now at last we can all breathe easy

The End.

Merv ;-)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Jaca Week 3 Day 2

Another bright but cold start with a reasonable forecast. We watched the cumulus popping around the valley while we were lined up waiting for a launch as the tug pilot was off on a joyride in a microlight. Just before launching we noticed a hissing noise in the Duo - was that the radio, apparently not as it stopped when we turned off the freshly fitted oxygen. Undeterred, ­­­­­­Adrian and Merv were soon climbing well in the Duo to 9500’ over stage 1 attempting to sniff out the invisible wave. 431 containing Bob and Bob joined the Duo and then headed of to the east under a super cloud street south of the main peaks climbing to 12000 in thermals. Adrian, who had just about recovered from his newly acquired treeophobia from yesterday’s flight was about to develop rockophobia as he was directed to fly towards the high peaks still in search of the elusive wave. After 2.5 hours it was a struggle to get down 60kts with full airbrake and still climbing at 6kts. A quick turn round was effected but what a difference 20 mins makes. The strong reliable thermals had disappeared and Peter had déjà vu in the Duo as we slide down the slopes of stage one after Merv encouraged him to release too early but we eventually scraped away. Roger enjoyed his second flight and after a brief visit to stage 3 was expelled much lower back towards the valley. On the ground a mysterious 15kt northerly crosswind had returned that again provided some more entertainment, could this be from the wave….
Tomorrow looks wet interspersed with more wet but there may be a brief southerly wave slot available - perhaps not for the faint hearted.


Jaca Week 3 Day 1

The passage of a cold front brought a significant temperature drop with the return of the north wind but with crystal clear visibility. The team assembled for the compulsory 10:00 briefing. The forecast was unusually pessimistic but it looked ok out the window to us even though the high Pyrenees were getting a fresh covering of much needed snow. First up was Steve Sullivan in 431 who managed a fine aerotow with Merv in a howling crosswind into the turbulent mix of the rotor. Closely followed by Peter Bunnage with Bob in the Duo. Extremely tricky to start but eventually 431 scraped away and contacted wave over stage 2 climbing to 16000’.
 Meanwhile, Peter was seriously overheating after listening to the discussions about expected temperatures in the cockpit. After preparing for the intense cold of high altitude they ended up closely inspecting the trees below the top of stage one for much longer that anticipated. Bob Akehurst contacted wave in the Duo’s second sortie but the climbs were limited by the lack of oxygen. Roger Pusey discovered the delights of flying in wave on his introductory flight here reaching 17000’.  
Adrian Head was last to fly in the Duo but failed to connect and also ended up closely inspecting the trees in the bowls of stage 1. The approaches and landings were very sporting with a 20kt crosswind and provided some extra entertainment for those on the ground. After flying the Duo had its oxygen replaced ready for tomorrow.


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Last Day :(

Apologies for not post earlier but today was a mad scramble to launch at the ungodly (for these parts) hour of 11.30AM.

Cause?  The storms forecast for 3pm.  However, now it's 6pm and not a drop of rain has fallen on the airfield and the sun is still shining.

Yesterday turned out to be quite exciting with rotor thermals up to 11750, with Bob and Stewart in 431 taking the first launch and having a great time on one of their grand tours.  Clive and Bob in 775 went up to Tendenaras before heading out west.  Bob and Roger had a two hour flight in 431 along with Steve and Clive.

As we put the gliders away we were treated to a spectacular display of lenticular clouds above the Aragon valley caught by Bob on his phone...

Bob and Glyn were first away this morning after watching a vulture do a low pass of the field at about 300ft before climbing away in the wave near Cucaloo.

I was quick to follow with Clive in 431 having had a 'rest' day yesterday pulling off tow at less than 4000ft over Santa Cillia.  Certainly this makes the tows cheaper!

Glyn and Bob eventually found themselves over Embom at 8 grand in a wave thermal briefly getting to cloudbase and pushing forwards trying to get into the pure wave above.

Meanwhile, Clive and I got to over 63 near Cucaloo and tried to push across the valley to join Bob and Glyn.  However, we got there just as the thermals broke up the wave and after the thermals established we got a stonking 6-9 knots to just below 7 grand.

Next up in 431 was Roger and Clive, who spent a couple of hours between stage one and two.  Bob and Stewart then set off in 775 doing a tour round the valley and south to look at Rigalos.

Steve should be on the plane home now, and the rest us will make our way back tomorrow.

So that is it, another week at Jaca completed.  We flew every day and everyone had a great time and we didn't break any of the equipment.

Tonight we dine at Casa Angel as Toya is planning one of her famous dine in nights.

All that is left is to wish those coming next a great week and to thank our instructors for selflessly giving us their time and commitment for the week.



Friday, 16 March 2012

I was wrong about yesterday!

Thursday proved to be the best day of the week so far with cumulus base 12000 and decent thermals all the way up.

Bob launched first with Glyn in 775, took the low road up to Ordessa.

Clive and I with a camered up 431 initially didn't find anything over the firebreak but caught a decent climb up to 8000 before hopping up to 10000 to take the high road up beyond Francamp.

When we came back Stewart and Clive boarded the 431 express on another of their runs upto Ordessa and back down towards Yesa.

Steve a good flight but Roger spent a lot his time over stage two before coming back and finding that 775 can be a bit of a slippery customer when coming into land.

Interestingly, the viz has not been the normal Jaca clarity, but thus may be due to the forest fires in the south of France 70Km to the north west.  The Fins went and took a look at this in the Arcus, and reported goldfish bowl visibility at 9000ft using Oxygen so they could breath.  Certainly at times smoke has clearly been visible trapped in the inversion at dawn and dusk.

The low pressure is still encroaching from the south west, so today is expected to be less stable with a 15/20Kt south easterly wind.  Stage one may be a little tricky at times but the high mountains look on again.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Week 2, day 3

Just a brief one...

A better forecast was made for Wednesday with an easier day, with perhaps the chance of getting into the high mountains.

Glyn and Roger had great flights, both getting into the high mountains.  Roger got to Odessa with Clive whilst Glyn and Bob headed east before tracking back towards Yesa.

Roger came back with a grin on his face and some decent pictures in his camera, so I headed back to the firebreak with Clive in 775 but discovered a glass ceiling at 5500asl.

Steve had a decent flight with Bob, and Clive and I came back as the conditions appeared to be collapsing.  Clive was a little concerned than Bob and Stewart might get away after we had fallen down.

However, he was much relieved when they landed back 15 mins later after barely finding a snifter of lift.

Today the conditions are not forecast to be as favorable.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Today dawned with the same anti-cyclonic weather as yesterday and Bob and I decided that we should launch first to set an example to the others who did not seem to enthusiastic to launch.

However, as we found ourselves surrounded by vultures, trees, rocks etc we discovered that perhaps the others reluctance to launch was understandable.

A last ditch attempt over the gorge, the small hill and even the village yielded no lift and attempting to slipstream 431 as it passed by on tow did not help either so we landed back.

Needless to say, everyone who launched after us got away.

Glyn, now airworthy again; managed nearly an hour and a half getting as far as stage two with Clive. 

Roger took off with Bob in 755, and stayed up for an hour beating yesterday's time.  Steven, with Clive managed to get past the firebreak.

But, the real soaring stars today were Bob and Stewart who got to stage three and here's the proof...

Tomorrow is another day...

Week Two, Day One.

This was written yesterday...

It was very apparent on the drive past Yesa, that the Aragon valley is very dry and there is a water shortage.  It has not rained properly for months in Aragon and the airfield is very dry and dusty.

The weather is predominately anti-cyclonic and hence the low scratchy thermals only went to 5500ft asl.

Stewart and Clive fought their way to stage two, then quickly scurried back to stage one, and got away from below the trig point in 775.

Roger and Bob scratched around for ¾ an hour in 431, before being downed by the thick belt of cirrus that had formed over the foothills and the valley.

Bob and I decided to wait out the cirrus hoping things would cycle through a bit  and indeed, after a few minutes; strong shadows were visible on the ground again so we headed off to the trig point and pulled off into a broken two knots. 

Eventually climbing up to 5000ft, we jumped the valley across to the fire break to find an easier climb that got us to stage two.  But finding no lift there, we headed back to the foothills and grovelled around at ridge height whilst Steven and Clive passed us by en route to the firebreak behind the tug.

Stage two managed to evade both Clive and Steven whilst Bob and I decided to fly back to the airfield making a very close inspection of the foothills on the way.

Glyn is currently grounded with a bit of temperature, but will be back in the air at the first opportunity.

Finally the day died and 775 landed back and now we are all enjoying a cervaza or two in the clubhouse.  The weather is supposed to destabilise a bit as a little low is due to form over the south of France, which might just perk things up a bit.

Posted by Paul.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Week 1 Day 4 Jaca 2012

After a day off yesterday everyone was desperate to fly. The Forecast was for northerly winds starting slightly west going to some easterly component. Gusty and strong 20 - 35kts at surface. Good wave. This all proved to be true but understated. John Simmonds and Mike Birch had an exciting save from a low point of 700ft after a rapid loss of height after release. Once in lift the climb rate and turbulence has to be experienced to be believed. Into wave from as low as 7000ft and up to 19000ft after jumping to the primary wave. The most exciting part of the flight was yet to come, the circuit and landing. Rough as old boots just doesn't cover it. Approaches of over 90kts were needed in some cases. All flew except Stuart Becker who was ready, willing and patiently sat in the glider for over an hour waiting for the conditions to be calm enough for the tug pilot. Alas it never happened so he is top of the list tomorrow. The forecast is for more of the same, whoopie!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Jaca 2012 Day 3

The day looked good, sunny light winds and full of hope for at least a bit of rock polishing. At the briefing Vincent dispelled all our dreams with the forecast of a front! Not to be put off we  did the DI's and dragged gliders to the launch point. The front soon became visible and a launch by the sacrificial lamb, ( John and Mike Birch) took place, some followed but all fell down gently. So all got an early bath and went sight seeing. No Matter, tomorrow looks like  a classic wave day with strong northlies. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Week 1 Day 2 2012 Jaca Expedition

Another great days flying! A real wave experience with rotor climbs over the valley to 9000ft and a gentle push forward into the NNW wind and bingo! You're into the super smooth air of the wave bar. Then up to 18000ft in almost blue conditions over the valley and snowing over the mountains. It was easy to traverse from Yesa reservoir to Ordessa gorge. The temperature above 12000ft was very cold and John Simmonds had to go back to the accommodation for more clothes. The circuits and approaches would be classed as sporting or lively but everyone had enjoyed the wonderful pleasure of flying in Jaca Wave.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Week 1 Day 1 2012 Jaca Expedition

Early arrival Ed Foxon  actually flew last Saturday so he was at the bottom of the list today for daring to get to the top before the offical expedition  started. The conditions were a northerly wind over the Pyrenees with wave over the valley. Merv Saunders and Richard Abbott launched first and swiftly connected with the lift and were over 18000ft in no time. John Simmonds and Jackie Chandler got off next and towed into the mountain second stage to flirt with the rotor hoping to push into the wave at the third stage only to give up and return to the valley and try their luck there. After about 2 hrs in rotor John needed a rest and landed back to take Ed Foxon to try his luck. Meanwhile Mike Birch and Clive Mansfield had made the wave in the Duo and climbed to 12000ft. Ed was full of new tactics and theories and tried them all but still didn't quite contact the wave, however alot of fun was had with vultures in the K21. John Landed back to take Stuart Becker up. Having arrived in the early hours of that morning Stuart had spent most of the day asleep but now was ready for anything. It all started well with a really strong climb to about 6700ft we then  pushed over to the west and tried to contact the wave where all before said it had been only to have to retreat and try again. Meanwhile John D'Arcy and Clive had got into wave in the Duo again! At the end of the day everyone had flown and enjoyed their first day. Tomorrow sounds like another wave day with a front passing through so watch this space!