Friday, 21 June 2013

Week 2 Day 6

The day showed great promise no wind, with cumulus popping in the mountains before breakfast and the briefing was well attended unlike the last 2 days. But by 11 there was only one glider (Roger's) on the runway so where's the catch? Merv was keen to maximise the remaining time of the last day, Roger graciously allowed John P and Merv to launch first and the conditions were indeed as good as they looked. We headed south and had look around Puimoisson while trying the conditions over the flatlands just for a change. We watched an aerotow tow high into the mountains and the tug seemed to take ages to return while we were climbing in a good thermal very local to the airfield! John P returned via the high ground to the east which was in cloud shadow and without significant wind. Tom and G went to the Gorge de Verdon followed by Julian and Merv on the second sortie and again returning via the high ground landing back at just after six for a quick clean and de-rig. Last to land at 18:30 was John C and G having visited P-D-B for the last time this expedition. Morag had her longest flight of 8.5 hours without a comfort break! with Roger flying to Fayence, circumnavigating the Ecrins and venturing to areas forecast not to be particularly favorable. They finally returned at 20:15. We all enjoyed our meals at the Janus and now we are all packed and ready for the journey home.

Thanks for reading this far ... The Lasham Sisteron expedition 2013 is now over.

An early start

The middle bit
The Final approach of the expedition

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Week 2 Day 5

Merv and G were simultaneously woken up at 03:30 by a very strong wind and rain, both had the same thought and drove to the airfield to check on the gliders. On arriving we found another pilot doing exactly the same. By then the rain had stopped and the wind had subsided a little. Thankfully, the only incident that had occurred was the DG's canopy cover had blown off.
Another late start gave an opportunity for the crews to visit Sisteron. Julian and John P decided to have a rest day after their long wave excursions yesterday, leaving John C to fly with Merv and Tom to fly with G. Tom and G managed to contact the weak wave and climbed to 11000' and ventured south to the Gorge de Verdon. Meanwhile, John C searched every where on a clockwise tour of the valley for some usable wave, then tried the anti-clockwise route. Both directions were unsuccessful but resulted in some fun ridge running and a light shower.

A glimpse of tomorrow's weather on the horizon

After last night's rude awakening, even Merv was on the  ground by 19:15 much to everyone's amazement! 

Week 2 Day 4

A more than usual relaxed start as a quick moving trough line brought a light shower of rain as we prepared the gliders and appeared to deter everyone except the Lashamites. It was John P's turn to fly with Roger leaving Julian with a full day's soaring in the DG, and G to fly John C and Tom. The top cover associated with the front had a beneficial effect as it damped down the thermals which allowed the south easterly wave to set up from around 1500'agl if you were brave enough to try! Julian released from tow early and climbed to 6000' then was entertained by the antics of a rotor climb in the lee of les Monges with large variations in airspeed and the stick and rudder moving to the limits normally only seen in the preflight checks. It was strong and turbulent with the gusts opening the undercarriage doors in quick succession that almost sounded like a round of applause. Moving to the east a strong smooth climb was found that transitioned into the wave that Julian and Merv rode to 16500 and then embarked on a tour of the Mercantour national park with their confidence boosted by being 12000' above return glide to Sisteron! Later Julian returned to where we started and climbed to the ceiling of FL195 aborting the 4 kt climb to stay out of the airspace. Having not circled after the intial climb into the wave about 4 hours ago the wind readout was static on 149/24 we decided to head to the north west as we were too high to go back towards Sisteron/Serres as the air space is much lower. North West seemed a good idea at the time until we headed for home with 8000' in hand and 30k to go (required glide ratio of 7:1 to destination) at 80kts we discovered that we were only achieving 8:1 as we were now heading into wind that was clearly much stronger than 24kts indicated. Slowing down to best glide, the ratio improved to 12:1, Roger subsequently told us that the wind was around 40-50kts. Roger and John P also climbed to FL195, Tom and John C got to 14000' in seperate flights with G. All the high fliers, returned with cold extremities especially the feet. Nobody else launched on this initially uninspiring day but those who did had spectacular flights in the wave.

FL195 View to the south west

FL195 View to the east

John C was delighted that the rest weren't interested in dinner
and Morag was thinking what to do with the utensil......

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Week 2 Day 3

The weather that was forecast to deteriorate actually got even better and hotter! 37C. This promoted a further increase in the cloud base and a few isolated showers to the NW. John C and Roger flew for most of the day and got rained on. Julian had a long flight with G. Tom flew first with Merv and after a wrestling with the thermals in the 15kt SE was eventually rewarded with a short wave climb up to the airspace at FL135 and his first tour of the valley. Flying over the Parcours at 13000' is not quite the same - Tom has still to experience the true magnificence of running the Parcours! After a short introductory briefing to wave systems and soaring, John P was introduced to the delights of trying to soar the rotor in the lee of Le Pic De Bure - it was lively, after gaining 1000' we had had enough! and decided to return via a very pleasant and peaceful glide around the Ecrins and Dormilous arriving back at 20:30. By this time the wind had backed to the east and hopefully, that will slow down or even prevent the front, lurking to the west, from spoiling our fun.

View looking towards Ecrins

Glider videos were the evening entertainment

Monday, 17 June 2013

Week 2 Day 2

The one word that can summarise today - HOT! - 34C.
The bonus was a cloudbase 4000' higher than yesterday's 8000'. The forcast was predicting strong SSW winds 40kts in the Rhone valley but thankfully much less to the east. Julian occupied Roger's Duo spare seat giving John P exclusive use of the DG for the day. John C flew first in the Duo followed by Tom in the number two slot. Merv encouraged John P to release early at Hongrie in what appeared to be a good sized thermal that rapidly turned into sink. Eventually.... we climbed away in another set of tricky conditions. John P was delighted to fly over some of the ridges that he had previously skied, he was also treated to a close inspection of some of the lower slopes of the Ecrins national park just west of St Crepin and the compulsory soaring of Pic D'Bure. John P finished his flight with his first encounter of wave soaring, the 6kt climb was aborted under the  FL115 ceiling as we were running short of time we landed with 2 mins to spare. A change in the weather may be on
the cards as the low pressure, far to the west, moves our way.

One of the beautiful valleys of the Ecrins

The sun sets on another lenticular

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Week 2 Day 1

After rigging the Duo after yesterday's land away, we were forth and fifth in the queue when it was decided to change ends so a late start to the first day. Tom Newham flew with G and John Puchas with Merv for their intitial introduction to the delights of flying in the mountains at Sisteron. Both were suitable impressed with the scenery and the conditions. Also a slow change over to the Sisteron veterans - Julian Richardson and John Caton was effected between 16:00 and 17:00. John C and Merv had a tricky local soaring flight with thermals apparently side stepping at around 6000' and futile search for wave. Meanwhile, Julian and G had more success, finding the wave and most unusually landing after Merv for a change!

8000' cloudbase on Blanche

Cloudbase 8500' wave to 11500' Total hours flown today 11:45

Sisteron Rest Day

By 08:00 G headed south for a day on the Beach. Annie left with Adrian and Ed at 09:00 on their homeward journey. Weather appeared to be a repeat of Friday ie a bit of a struggle so Merv decided to have a rest day too and headed into the mountains with Morag. On the way back Morag spotted a glider climbing away from just above the ridge of Trainon, shortly after that there was a light shower of rain. On the way down while negotiating one of the tight haipin bends we met a motorcyclist going the other way well cranked over and as he tried to increase his angle of bank the front wheel started to skip towards us. Fortunately, he managed to maintain control with a slight wobble and continued round the corner, it was very close to having the motorbike sliding into the side of the van and the motorcyclist under the wheels. Later on while in Sisteron eating Lavender and Bueno flavoured icecreams, Roger Barber called Merv saying that he and Julian had landed 775 at Seyne and required a road retrieve as aerotowing was not allowed. So Roger had beaten Merv to be able to say 'I'm in Seyne"

Julian is also in Seyne

The trailer was collected and we arrived just after 19:00 leaving Seyne by 20:00. Rejoining the main road at Tallard we spotted a large hotel/restaurant with a glider trailer already in the car park so we pulled in behind it as Roger and Julian insisted on entertaining us. There was a large function going on with a table of 25 enjoying canapes outside. The restaurant was very upmarket and chic, the location was just of the end of Gap airfield's runway  so we were treated to a number of low fly bys by the parachute aircraft and a variety of microlights. The menu was varied and the quality of the food was excellent and it was also very good value for money. The only downside was we had a long wait for two of the main courses while the large group were served.

Pilots and crew enjoying their evening meal in Le Mas D'Estello it is well worth a visit especially if passing or even the 25 minuite drive from Sisteron.

Some rest day!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Week 1 Day 6

A very relaxed start as early morning cirrus kept the sun and the locals away, so after briefing the DG and Duo were prepared and polished. Then Mark flew his model aircraft. Ed and G were first to launch at 14:00 and struggled for 100 mins and returned. Julian decided not to fly so Ed took a relight. Adrian and Merv tiptoed west towards Monte Ventoux until the cumulus ran out and returned via the northern ridges completing a small circuit around the valley. Then Mark and Merv decided to go to Maloup to start with some ridge soaring which was working nicely in the light SSW breeze until a heavy shower migrated on to the ridge that prompted us to cross to Crete de Selles which was also working.  However, turning the corner around Aujour, which appeared a good idea at the time as the ridge was now directly into the apparent wind, produced heavy sink instead of lift. Moving quickly away from the ridge we were left short of height for a comfortable return to the ridge that was working. So we headed for the ridges at Serres which were in sun and producing small bubbles of lift just enough to sustain our height but not enough to climb away in at 18:30. So just as Ed and G were landing at Sisteron, Mark and Merv also landed, but at Serres! The airfield was very quiet almost a ghost town, so Merv wandered into the cafe and found a man behind the counter 'Do you speak english?' No was the reply - French, German or Spanish were the options. Donde el jefe de piste? Merv tried in his best pigeon spanish which appeared to work. The man called an english speaking lady on his mobile and handed it to Merv. After a short explanation the lady passed the phone onto Klaus Ohlman! Klaus soon appeared and explained that in south or south westerlies the local wind in the valley between the ridges actually blows in an easterly direction and a similar effect occurs when the wind is blowing from north or north westerlies . Klaus then gave us a short relight to Aujour that got us back on track and we eventually landed back at Sisteron at 20:30 (No change there then). So Mark and Ed both ended the week with two flights on their last day. A most enjoyable and fun week was had by all!

Total hours for today 9:31
Cloudbase 7000' best average thermal experienced 4.5kts

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Week 1 Day 5

A slow start to the day, starting with refixing the front Clearnav remote back into its housing in the DG and then just as we arrived at the front of the queue a change of end was required.  Mark and G were first to launch at 12:39 and headed north towards Grenoble. Julian and Merv did a short task to Monte Ventoux - Dormilouse via Pic du Bure which was working in a spectacular fashion.  Adrian and G flew within 23k of Genoble (just for a change) A quick pilot change and off again at 16:20 but this time towards Grenoble (by request) on the way back a large Cu nim obscured the sun but didn't affect the soaring conditions so Ed was off on a wave hunt which was eventually rewarded with a 4kt climb found in the lee of Gache and just in front of Hongrie and finishing the day with some ridge soaring on Maloup eventually landing a 20:35 (with special permission as end of flying occurs at 20:30!) Comme d'habitude, Julian and Mark were waiting patiently to help park the glider.

View routes flown

Todays total hours 12:38

Cloudbase 10500' best 20s average thermal experienced 9.5kts

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Week 1 Day 4

Another good day as the weather is improving everyday unlike at home. Everyone flew around 3 hours on average and covered many kilometres to the north south and east. Mark was delighted to have completed his second flight with no issues. The evening was finished with a few drinks and aperatifs provided by the club which we all enjoyed in the warm evening sunshine. Total hours today 13:11 Cloud base 11000'  best 20s average thermal strength experienced 12kts

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Week 1 Day 3

With box of fully charged batteries we set off to the airfield only to discover that the tailwheel of the DG was completely flat. Undaunted we joined the queue to launch in third place and changed the tailwheel assembly faster than a formula one pitstop. Julian and Merv were first to launch and had a super flight running the Par Cours,  Adrian and G had a very similar flight as the Duo met the DG running the opposite way. Mark was very pleased to make his longest flight to date having successfully conquered the airsickness and they manged to get to the Italian border and cloudbase at 11000'. Ed in the DG turned about 10k short of the border but couldn't resist the fun to be had on the Par Cours, we eventually left the peaks in seach of wave. After a very slow climb from 5500 to 7000 we moved on to find a slightly better area that took us to 7500 but by then it was 20:00 with only 30 mins left we flew towards the south and contacted 6-8 knots that tooks us back to 8000' with only 15 mins left. Time was running out, so to use up some of the excess height, Ed and Merv practiced some prolonged spinning which was most entertaining, especially the loop after the recovery that Ed wasn't expecting while he was videoing the spinning characteritics of the DG! We landed at 20:20 with 10 mins to spare, the tug pilot who had waited patiently for us yesterday had given up, only Julian remained to collect us. A great day was had by all. Total flight time for today 12:45

Monday, 10 June 2013

Week 1 Day 2

What a difference a day makes!  - a mediocre day for some locals who chose to wait for a better day (maybe tomorrow), but for us it was a good day but not without its ups and downs. The day started with no power in the DG as overnight we left the battery connected with the master switch on. Meanwhile there was corrosion discovered in the plug, socket and fuse of the fin battery preventing the current getting through. The spare batteries had no charge left in them so the first sortie was effected using one Clearnav running on the fin battery with a freshly cleaned connection which lasted the 1.75 hrs of the flight. Ed  Foxon and G were first to launch in the Duo and Mark Benhom and Merv followed sometime afterwards due to the lack of power in the DG. Mark's flight was challenging to start with but was curtailed by airsickness just as the conditions were improving. Ed and G had a good run from the Lure to Serres and back. Adrian Nettleship and Merv circumnavigated the Sisteron Valley and managed to get to 10700' in wave that was interfering with the thermals earlier. Although not first to launch Merv was keeping up his tradition of being last back at 20:00. Julian Richardson enjoyed his  3 hour flight with G bring the total hours flown for today to 11:45 - not bad for a mediocre day!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Week 1 Day 1

The briefing indicated that there was a small window to fly, but by the time we had prepared the gliders a slow moving thunderstom had developed the small window had disappeared. So G gave a briefing on mountain flying safety and how to avoid the pitfalls. Meanwhile the weather had deteriorated so no flying today. However, Morag's alternative expedition adventure provided a different perspective on the mountains having found a single track road with some very sharp and steep hairpin bends. So the high point of the day literally was at 3000'. Tomorrow's looking better...

The high point of the day!

Friday, 7 June 2013

The DG arrives!

At 18:00 we pulled into the airfield after a good second day travelling without any problems. Having been away for two years the airfield has undergone some changes. The entrance now has a series of flag poles flying various countries flags, our Union Jack was looking particularily shabby as a vertcal section was missing leaving a tatty frayed edge. Behind the flag poles, the entrance to the airfield has been fenced together with a sturdy iron gate finished in white. Behind the fence, a number of very smart hangars have been built including a linear style hangar. We were followed in closely by G and Annie, David Williams and his co-pilot Simon, Mark Benham and Julian Richardson also arrived tonight. At least we have a quorum for the rigging party in the morning! A short, sharp thunderstorm developed over the airfield while we dined in the newly refurbished 'Janus' restaurant. The evening quickly cleared into a very pleasant warm but humid atmosphere.

Sisteron 2013

Lasham's club expedition to the French Alps from the 9th to the 21st of June