Saturday, 8 April 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 6

At last, a great day. We have flown every day under intense sunshine and so the average has been very good, but I would sacrified a day to get a brilliant day, but it happened anyway. After quite a late start the thermals were really popping. It was the classic technique: transfer from Stage One to the Firebreak ridge then up the Stage Three, dodge a blizzard of paragliders and then along the snowy stuff to Ordesa in the K21. Jim had to go early and so lucky Nan was able to fly as long as she wished. Weighing up the performance of a K21 again the conditions further on, we turned back and headed as far as possible west. We drifted down to the start of the firebreak ridge again which suddenly generated a thermal to 9000ft, so we explored the dragon's teeth ridge to the east before coming back to de-rig.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 5

As usual the day started with brilliant sunshine. After a while, it seemed a shame not to have a launch. Both Lasham gliders and assorted Finns took off and fell down. After a pause further attempts were made. Athough the inversion was strong, a huge tow or a inching your way up the "firebreak" ridge would get you to the high stuff. Towards the end of the day, when hangar packing seemed next, Jim volunteered for another tow, and managed a further 1:30hr on Stage One in the Duo while dicing with the local vultures and Astir. The airfield restaurant put on a sumptuous feast which left us all staggering away and doing deals from the local pushers of Gaviscon.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 4

The wave was predicted to need a long tow and so the tug trundled up the Hecho valley at a height which required the tugees just to hang on through the usual rough and tumble until it was safe to release. Passing the normal hot-spot near Hecho village the height still seemed rather low, so we and the tug carried on up the valley where it became even rougher. After casting off in some rotor we discovered how to lose all weight in 1 second. We went back to Hecho and after some messing around in some better-behaved rotor we eventually climbed up into the smooth lift and cruised about serenely. After feeling highly superior for a while, it was time to find somewhere to go down. Tricky, but we made it back, though there was a place where we were going up at 4 knots with half air-brake. The same trick on the second flight was not possible. We never connected and after valiant attempts in fleeting surges, we declined to the point where landing back seemed probable. At this point Jim Pritchard revealed his avian ancestry by climbing up in the valley to the inversion layer with his fellow vultures. A few fruitless attempts were made to get back up into the lumpy bits, but eventually the flight became local soaring. On one sortie northward, we hit a gust so strong that we even thought that we might have hit a solid object. Dinner and De Colores at Toya's tonight

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 3

Every day seems to start the same but ends differently. There was more of a north-easterly coming from the mountains and it got stronger during the day. The start was the earliest so far (1pm) and led to much wolfing of tapas. If you connected with the thermals low down, it was possible to climb up to 3000m downwind of Collorada and just cruise about. The second flights were supposed to be where the first flights left off, but they never are.  Mid-way through the day you are trying to find some descending air to get back for the hand-over. Half an hour later you launch telling P2 how easy it has been and then you struggle to get away and so appear totally incompetent. We eventually climbed up again in the middle of the valley and tried to get into the high stuff again, but there was a long blue gap to the Pyrenees because the wave was going down there. Suddenly every thermal shut down and there was a mass landing. Even after waiting for the rush to subside there was still a surprise in store for us. The down wave in the valley was there on the downwind leg as well. OK it was probably started 100 feet lower than recommended, but normally you always end up with too much height on the base leg, except for today. Blimey! That was exciting. El Porton tonight for eats.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 2

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wave...This was another day that dawned bright but with some cloud that took until 1pm to disperse. The wind was stronger and so there was the possibility of wave. The usual surge near Javierregay in these conditions rewarded the brave who pulled off tow at 1500 above the site. The problem was where to go after that from 7000 feet. Various excursions up the Hecho valley resulted in scuttles back to almost circuit height before the K21 cruised off to the the ridge running up to Canfranc from Jaca. At just the right moment the cumulus that had been cycling burst forth once more and it was possible to climb up to 8700 and then up to the snow-line. Having learned how to do it, the next flight should have been a repeat. However the trip up the Hecho valley caused the same scuttle back to exactly circuit height and so the K21 landed. Everyone had long flights and the day was finished off at Anaya at Puente la Reina.

Jaca 2017 - Week 4 Day 1

This week's team includes: the variably named Nan Appleyard/Worrell, Jim Pritchard, John Caton and Jon Bareford with David Williams and John McCullagh as instructors. The weather was brilliantly sunny and after scraping ice off the windscreen, it seemed like the cloudbase would be awesome. It wasn't. Firstly there was no cloud, except in the distance, and secondly it was difficult to get above 6000 feet. Jav in his K6 disappeared for the rest of the day after two attempts with extremely high tows but the rest of us could only just stay airborne, though fortunately for long periods of time. With the ground only a few hundred feet below most of the time, there was little opportunity for photos. Most of us headed off to Casa Fau for a unending selection of tapas selected by Mike Evans. JM

Friday, 31 March 2017

Week 3 Days 3&4
Day 3 High pressure is still in command. A largely blue day anticipated  with a slower start. No wave expected. As forecast largely blue except the top of the Pyrenees where there were a few wispy cumulus clouds. It was better than expected, although difficult to find initially once located it was strong thermals +6kts average and remained active in the same locations all day going to 8300ft  at the second stage allowing easy access to the mountain tops. Once at the top soaring  along  in ridge/thermals lift could be done at speed without turning for miles. Graham  McKiddie and Paul Hicks claimed that one flight alone such an experience it had made their week. Sometimes one looks back in disbelief thinking, did we really do that! Is it really legal!

Day 4 The high pressure has finally been edged away to the east and fronts are anticipated with rain and thunderstorms towards the end of the day. It was thought a no fly day. However there was just a glimmer of hope that some flying might be possible. High cloud covered the area to the east and directly over head but to the west some signs of a clear area appeared. It all looked  like it was never going to get started before the high level thunder storm clouds went bang. We sat on the ground uncertain and indecisive until the tug pilot asked if he could go home. That was it, we launched. Suddenly lift was everywhere, in the valley in the hills and at the tops. The strength of the lift was at times of the clock. The main problem at times was avoiding getting sucked into cloud  which was at about 8500ft at the top. Very fast runs were possible at max rough air. However this party ended with a bang. The promised storms arrived very quickly, suddenly there was a flash to the north west! Game over, everyone rushed back to get on the ground before the conditions became too bad. Now lightning strikes were frequent and getting close with rain beginning to hit the airfield. Everyone landed safely in time to avoid the final downpour with hail and the expected thunderstorm right over the airfield. An exciting day for all particularly for John Caton and Graham McKiddie. Wow! what next! 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Week 3 Day1-3

Day 1
8/8ths cover with rain virtually all day. Great day to get the domestics done. Tomorrow looks better with high pressure over central Spain holding fronts at bay over the Atlantic.
Day 2
Light winds from the west with cloud base at 7500ft. Some convergence lift was found between stage 2 and 3. Mainly thermic with such light wind conditions. All the expedition flew throughout the day until about 1900hrs.
Getting to the snowline was achieved with a little care but once there staying at the top proved harder. However those new to mountain flying found the practice to locating lift and centering very instructive.
In such benign conditions launching on aero-tow and circuits followed by landings proved no problem.
John Caton and Jon Cox flew with John Simmonds, you can't beat a common name for confusion
An evening with those well know socialites and mass catering hosts really polished off the day. Thanks to Morag who created magical menus of sumpteous succulent meat balls and salmon for those with delicate constitutions

Day 3
It was  a slower day getting started with fewer narrow thermals low down. As there was a bit of a wait at the start, expedition members were treated to a discussion about wave, mountain thermals and how they can all combine.
Virtually no wind was forecast and a largely blue day. Thermals topped generally at 7500ft in the blue but further to the east some isolated cumulus went to 10000ft.
launching started at about 1400hrs and flying continued untill gone 1900hrs. It was hot and hard work for all, but thermalling skills are really being honed.
Everyone expressed themselves satisfied with the day and are looking forward to tomorrow. Another great evening was had with Merv and Morag hosting.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Jaca 2017 - Week 2

Some of us went to the mountains...

Some of us went to the fields....

But most of us stayed in the bar...

Anne Knight: Peter Fenner: Paul Wheatcroft; Alex McAtamney.

And leading them astray: John Brooke and Bob Johnson.

The week started well with flights to stage 3 for Anne & Peter in the Duo-Discus, although Alex's first flight in 775 was shortish & rather spoilt Paul's day.

In Alex's own words:
The conditions were beautiful. Perfect for flying. Myself and John Brooke instead enjoyed the day with sheep 6km east of the airfield. Total flight time 11 mins. I soon learned that pulling off aerotow with 10kts on the vario doesn't count for much if it's not there after turning to reconnect. We had to rapidly consider plan B as the vario sang out 6knts of sink. Oh. What plan B. Within moments I was looking up at the ridge line wondering how we were going to hop over to reach the airfield. As one does in situations like this, you have control John. He weaved  down the ridge very close to the bowls trying to find the slightest of lift.  The vario kept singing 6kts down. I was looking at fields out in the valley rising up the canopy. John spotted a field down to our left deep in the river gorge. Our remaining altitude was disappearing rapidly. We hopped over the last tip of the ridge and around to the front face, still sinking. Power cables straight to the left. No height to get over. Field straight ahead sloping upwards. 100 ft remaining. airbrakes open. Hello sheep. Luckily they kept themselves to the lower half of the field under the power cables  What a great day. I probably learnt more in that 11 mins  than I would have cruising the beautiful peaks for 3 hours.

This is what it looked like!

Tuesday was a challenging day which started late and ended early. As an alternative BJ provided an evening cultural tour of Jaca town which included the walk past the gay knight (don't ask) and a visit to Tasca de Ana - tapas to die for and, if you get there early, a table to sit at.

Wednesday had cloud over the mountains but was thermic to the south so to the south we went. We had some nice (and  very close) views of Cuculo and Oroel.

We woke on Thursday to several inches of snow and the team where convinced they could have a day off. We did nearly 8 hrs flying. Paul was definitely seen to smile.

Friday was dull and overcast, Anne took a launch with BJ asleep in the back. Found a thermal off the home hill at some ridiculously low height, climbed away, flew up to stage 2 looked at it and carried on up to the tops,  looked over into France and came home. 


The forecast was for rain and it was right. Some of the rain was frozen. We didn’t get the stuff out of the hangar.
We had lunch up at the airfield, it was going to be dinner but the weather was even too bad for sightseeing. Very good lunch, three courses, wine and coffee for 18 euros.

And so the week ended. Five days flying out of six, all the flights interesting, even challenging at times which is just the way it should be. If it’s too easy  it’s no fun!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Jaca 2017 Week 1 - Day 6

It was another bright start, but the forecast warned of increasing cirrus as the day progressed with a stronger inversion than on previous days. This was likely to mean that a higher than normal tow would be required to contact usable thermals.

This was demonstrated by Mark and Bob in the Lasham Duo by releasing lower than planned over stage 2 and then descending slowly back to the airfield.

Derek and Merv had more success in T1 with a long tow to stage 3 which enabled a 2 hour flight along the main ridge.

Having been spoilt by the good weather all week Ray and Mark opted not to fly but James flew with Merv to get more video footage with his GoPro. Despite their best efforts they didn't quite manage to get established in the wave which set up at the end of the day.
Mark provides the on site catering whilst waiting for James and Merv
There was plenty to entertain the non-flyers as there was an ultralight fly in with about 15 aircraft arriving for lunch.

A perfect sunset to finish 
The Lasham K21 has arrived safely so hopefully the rest of the expedition will be as lucky with the weather as we have been.

One tired instructor

Another fine meal cooked by Morag in the apartment ended a fantastic week of good weather,  food and company.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Jaca 2017 Week 1 - Day 5

As promised, the weather briefing today indicated stronger thermals over a wider area with cumulus in the high mountains. Although this turned out to be accurate it was still tricky at times and the main ridge didn't work as well as on the previous day probably due to the lack of wind to organise the thermals.

Ray cleaning the Duo
Today was the first time that we were able to retire to the clubhouse for a drink in the shade whilst waiting for convection to start. The birds and cumulus were notably absent so we opted to launch at around the same time as the day before.

This worked out ok though the new tug pilot has taken to arriving at stage 1 below the summit and then scraping the ridges up to stage 2 making assessment of the conditions more difficult. That said there were no relights with everyone making it to stage 3 and beyond.
View east from Jaca
By mid afternoon cloudbase was over 11,000' with superb views along the Pyrenees and down into France.
Mark flying East at 10,000'

Looking into the Ordesa gorge no fly zone

Returning west along the Tendenera
The clubhouse restaurant is excellent but has been closing at 16:30 so there has been no opportunity to have a post flight debrief in the bar. However tonight they stayed open for us especially and we were treated to 7 varieties of Tapas for a starter, a choice of steak or fish mains then chocolate mousse or cheesecake. All very good.

A cold front is due to pass through tonight but there is some uncertainty about the prospects for tomorrow.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Jaca 2017 Week 1 - Day 4

Another fantastic day of flying with stronger thermals and higher cloudbase than yesterday allowing everyone to experience wings level cruising along the main ridge of the Pyrenees.

We now have a well established routine with Merv's south hanger team preparing the Club Nimbus Duo "T1" and Bob's north hanger team doing the same for  the Lasham Duo "3". With everything ready to go at the launch point there is time to relax and wait for indications that convection has started.

A slightly earlier start was possible today with E6 leading the way as usual, then T1 with Derek and Merv followed by Mark and Bob. The better conditions made the transition to Stage 3 quicker for most but the south easterly wind meant that the thermals were not always in quite where we were expecting.
Mark enjoying the approach to the distinctive peak of Collerada.

Looking down on Jaca on the way back from the first sortie.

The second sorties were back in the air by 15:30 allowing enough time to explore a bit further than has been possible so far this week. Merv seemed quite keen that James and Derek should have their passports with them so I wouldn't be surprised if he visited France...

Ray cruising along the ridge going West.
Toya gave us another excellent roasted lamb dinner which was enjoyed by all.

Another good day in prospect for tomorrow but Saturday is less certain with a cold front due.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Jaca 2017 Week 1 - Day 3

The weather briefing promised a higher cloudbase, stronger thermals and a light wind without the troublesome cirrus of the day before. However the only chance of cumulus would be over the main ridge of the Pyrenees. The best news was that the weather should continue to improve over the next couple of days.

Merv must have a really good glider supply contract as he had yet another glider upgrade today and is now flying the Club Nimbus Duo Discus T1. This was possible due to the earlier than planned departure of the Booker pilots, John and Nick.

Merv polishes T1 whilst Derek supervises.

Further fettling required...

.... whilst Ray and James keep out of the sun.
As we waited for the thermals to get going, we watched the new tug pilot being put through his paces with quick turnaround launches to 1000' of a Spanish pilot who needed 15 flights to revalidate his licence. We marked the accuracy of the tow rope release which improved steadily with each attempt . 

The Duo launched first with Ray and Bob followed a little later by T1 with James and Merv, both opting to be towed directly to Stage 2. Even so it was hard work to make the transition to the main ridge, taking 1 hour of sweaty circles for the Duo. The reward was spectacular views over to France and a cloudbase of over 8,000'.

It was another great day for bird spotting with further sightings of migrating cranes and black kites. The highpoint was numerous sightings of the rare Lammergeier vultures.
Ray in the Duo takes a good look at the main ridge.
The second sortie also found getting away tricky, with the ridge to the east of stage 1 proving the best option. Mark and Bob in the Duo managed to make the transition to Stage 3 whilst T1 with Derek and Merv explored the lower reaches of the firebreak.
Mark heading back to the airfield at the end of the day.
A fantastic day's flying for everyone with more in prospect for tomorrow.

Morag prepared another super meal of Lemon chicken for the team, though all this flying means that supplies are now running low particularly the cellar.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Jaca 2017 Week 1 - Day 2

The sharp eyed among you may have noticed that the entry for yesterday had a slightly more exotic location than was intended thanks to Android auto-correct. So I can confirm that we are flying in the Pyrenees and not on an island between Sumatra and Bali.

Another bright start looked promising but the weather briefing warned of cirrus increasing in thickness in our area which was likely to make soaring tricky.

Merv upgraded to a K21 (from a broken DG1000). Some described it as penance for yesterday's events.

The week 1 team admiring Merv's new hot ship
Whilst waiting for convection to start we were treated to the spectacle of flocks of migrating cranes/storks heading north and to huge gaggles of vultures climbing slowly close to the airfield.

By 13:30 both gliders were airborne, taking high tows to stage 2 where E6 was marking the lift. Derek and Merv in the borrowed K21 and Mark and Bob in the Duo.
Mark over stage 2 in the Duo
The second sortie followed a similar pattern but the cirrus was getting thicker cutting off the heat source. Fortunately the gliders were able to stay aloft as the cloud drifted south and the thermals picked up again allowing the Duo to investigate the lower reaches of stage 3.
James in the K21 over the fire break

Ray taking a close look at stage 3
We had a very nice meal in Jaca at our 4th choice restaurant as the first 3 had all clearly been warned of our arrival and were closed.
Extended team having dinner in Jaca
The forecast still looks good for the rest of the week.


Monday, 13 March 2017

Java 2017 Week 1 - Day 1

The majority arrived without any problem but Ray had a few "difficulties" which started when he missed his flight from Bristol airport. He finally got to Santa Cilia at 2:30am which was remarkable given the number of times he had got lost enroute.

Fortunately Monday had a leisurely start as the weather briefing is now at 10:30 but at least this allowed time for all the paperwork to be done at the office. Although the weather was bright and sunny, the forecast wasn't that promising with a maximum cloudbase of just over 6000' and some wave that was likely to weaken as the north easterly wind went even more easterly later on.

The plan was for Bob and Ray to fly in the Duo, and Merv and James to fly in the DG1000 on the first sortie with Derek and Mark to fly afterwards.

In nearly all respects the day didn't turn out as planned...

E6 launched first followed immediately by the DG and Duo into tricky wave affected thermals requiring perseverance to stay airborne as the conditions slowly improved.

E6 were unlucky to find heavy sink ending up in an excellent field just to the west of Jaca which attracted the attention of the local police. Morag, Nick and John eventually managed to extricate both the pilots and glider.

The out landing in E6 was all too much for Jeff (Nice field though)

Meanwhile Ray and Bob worked their way up to just over 8000' with Mervyn and James getting to 14000' further to the east before returning for the second sortie.

View North from the Duo
The plan changed when the DG1000 undercarriage collapsed after a gentle landing, blocking the main runway so the priority became getting the glider back in its trailer and clearing the runway.

Putting the DG1000 away after yet another undercarriage failure

Once the glider was on the trailer it became obvious that the undercarriage lever was no longer connected to the main wheel. Further investigation is planned for tomorrow but a K21 is available, so hopefully everyone should get a flight.

In all the chaos Mike stepped in to cook and excellent chilli for everyone in the instructors apartment. The other highlight was Morag's challenge to get a cork from inside a wine bottle using only a plastic bag. There were plenty of suggestions with Jeff the first to succeed but he was marked down for using the "wrong" technique.

The forecast is better for tomorrow so we are hoping for a less eventful day.


Sunday, 12 March 2017