Saturday, 23 March 2019

Jaca 2019 week 2 Day 6

Another day in paradise! All six days of flying. With the best saved for last. John Simmonds flew to the Ordesa gorge twice once with Chris Golding and another with Derek Copeland. All at around 10000ft. The initial climbs were stunning all the way up to 9000ft. Chris Gibson went to Panticosa with the Blundells in the Duodiscus. All expressed great satisfaction with week wishing it would go on forever. Here’s to next year.

Jaca 2019 Week 2 Day 5

Yet another great day! Everyone flew to the top of the Pyrenees and went cross country some going to look at the views of the Ordesa gorge and Panticosa. It was Bill Blundell’s birthday so a great day for him in the Duo Discus. A stunning day with quick climbs to the top. And Saturday looks the same! Blue Skies amazing sunsets. Flying of all types, what could be better?

Jaca 2019 Week 2 Day 4

A thermal day without wave as there was no wind, just the tops marked by small cumulus. Again strong thermals right from stage one got us to the top very quickly and travelling along the top in thermals at nearly 10000ft made for great fun

Approaching the tops in 6kts down

Jaca 2019 Week 2 Day 3

At the start of the day some concern was felt by last nights driver as the gliders were surrounded by the men in blue and an arrest was thought imminent.

Is this your glider Sir......

 In the end we were much relieved that they were just curious about the gliders and so we gave them a guided tour. The pictures may look like an arrest is taking place but John’s lawyers have issued a statement of denial.

This gliding lark sounds like a piece of cake.....
Now the conditions have changed markedly, light winds, blue skies and thermals with no wave forecast. Thermal climbs over stage one to 8-9000ft enabled the fastest forays to the top ever! Where surprise! Wave! It took some  careful searching but it was there and with only 8kts of wind. Those that made it were in awe, the mountain views and how close we were positioned were stunning. Like a blind man with a stick staying in weak wave with blue conditions required sensitive butts, track trace navigation and a bit of guesswork. Bill and Andrew Blundell were surprised how rough the entry into the wave was but loved every minute.

A view from the unexpected wave.

Jaca 2019 Week 2 Day 2

Lots of sunshine with another northerly wind, this time a bit stronger and  again rotor and wave. The strategy changed with tows to the north and climbs in rotor over the second stage and finally at about 8-8500ft  pushing forward into the wave in the classic manner. Running along the top the Andrew Blundell and John Simmonds flew in the K21 reaching maximum FL195 then flying over the Yesa Reservoir to the East and returning in the valley with a very long final glide to the airfield. Morag downed tools and went out with Luis the Airfield big wig!  So we  were left to our own devices and set off to Jaca town centre. Bereft of guidance the evening started off badly with a proposition from a lady of dubious intentions! Then the restaurant was in darkness and finally on our return in the Lasham vehicle on unlit roads there lurked a couple of escaped black sheep which our driver John Simmonds saw at about 25ft! We screeched to a halt but the stupid beasts just stood there, fortunately the impact was slight and neither the sheep or the vehicle were damaged. Derek Copeland sitting in the back hardly stirred.
Sunset on a great wave day!

These lenticulars are all over the place

Jaca 2019 Week 2 Day 1

The day started with a fairly brisk cross wind from the north which played havoc with take-offs. The day was forecast as a wave and rotor day so most elected for a tow to south in front of Cuculo mountain bird reserve, a recent dispensation to gliders now allow us to fly in the area with limited restrictions. This resulted in strong rotor and ridge lift giving climbs to 8500ft with a push into wind hopefully got you into the wave just south of the airfield. Some were successful, others struggled heroically falling back on Cuculo ridge when all else failed. It was a case of finding a line of lift so that you were high enough when you reached the wave line. Conditions were strong and rough but all enjoyed the experience and landings were challenging or sporty. Bill and Andrew flew with Chris Gibson in the Duo made contact with the wave and were up at 18000ft in the gaps in the cloud.
Morag had given us all two days of fabulous meals of Spag-Bol and Roast Chicken on the Monday. Thank you thank you Morag 

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 6

Today's forecast was for another cloudless day but with light winds and the possibility of  higher thermals that might permit access to the main ridge of the Pyrenees which has been out of reach all week due to the strong northerly winds.
Glider ready all we have to do now is wait.
It was much busier at the airfield today with club members and the arrival of a group of Finnish pilots so there was plenty to watch as we waited for any indication that it might be worth launching. It was much hotter on the ground, especially at the launch-point with 25C being indicated by the glider instruments.

Once the decision was made it was slow going, with only one tug and it took 50 minutes to get a launch despite only being 4th in the queue.

The K21 with Charlie and Bob went first with Kevin and Merv in the Duo a short time later. Although there were strong climbs to be had, only the Duo made it up to the higher mountains with the K21 getting close but having to beat a hasty retreat after experiencing some prolonged sink.

The second sorties followed a similar pattern with the Duo fairing better than the K21 (Obviously Bob hadn't learned much from the first flight!)

Week 1 flying finished just need to put the K21 to bed.
After we had packed the gliders safely back in the hanger we retired to the bar for much need refreshment after a long hot day.

The end to a perfect week in Jaca.
Morag was the mastermind behind the excellent evening meal (much of it being prepared while everyone was drinking beer up at the club).

It has been a really enjoyable week for students and instructors alike with good weather,  interesting flying and some great meals. We flew every day for a total of 49 hours and 49 minutes in a mixture of wave and thermals.

Until next year....


Saturday, 16 March 2019

Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 5

As expected it was much warmer today with almost no surface wind, unfortunately the gliding forecast was only for weak thermals to just over 5000'. We got the gliders out as usual though and then relaxed in the sunshine waiting for any sign that it was worth launching.

In the absence of any clouds, the vultures were the only indication of what was going on aloft and these were noticeably missing for much of the morning. Also the tug pilot who had just returned from a very high tow didn't think it was thermic yet. Not very encouraging.

Despite this, by 1pm, Merv was getting twitchy with his FOMO on booming thermals, so he persuaded Ray to take a launch to Cuculo which is his new favourite place to fly. Ray did his best to delay the launch and there was much muttering under his breath as he was coaxed into the cockpit of the Duo.

Those on the ground followed their every turn as they gradually lost height in the weak lift, eventually returning to the airfield after 40 minutes.

The team offer encouragement to our
sacrificial offering to the vulture mountain

Ray doesn't look happy about it though....
Just after they landed Paul and Bob took a high tow in the K21 and found just enough lift on Stage 1 to stay airborne. It was hard work but gradually the conditions improved allowing them to gain enough height to explore further afield and they found some very weak and localised wave over the fire break. This topped out at just over 6000' but the 2 hours soaring was definitely worth the cost of a launch.

In the meantime Charlie and Merv launched in the Duo and headed up the Hecho valley also finding the wave and  getting to over 10,000'.

Taking off at 16:30, Kevin and Bob repeated the pattern of the previous flight but later on found stronger wave lift near the airfield and managed to get to 8,000' before they ran out of day.

Weak wave still working in the usual place.
Letting down over the valley as the sun set gave a new perspective on the topography of the hills to the East of the airfield.
Letting down over the valley just before sunset.
The day had turned out to be much better than we expected with surprisingly long duration flights achieved. However, this was something of a touchy subject with Ray as it is not the first time it has happened to him this week...

After a refreshing beer at the club we had an excellent dinner in the apartment which was very late due to the power going off as it was being prepared. It turns out that the electrics can't cope with having the ovens on in both flats and boiling a kettle at the same time.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 4

Another fantastic day of wave flying with everyone having to work pretty hard to contact the wave.

There was much less cloud today and it had stopped snowing over the high mountains making for some spectacular views, particularly in the afternoon when the high level cloud had cleared through.

Today Charlie and Merv went off first in the K21, quickly followed by Kevin and Bob in the Duo. It took over an hour working the rotor thermals before they managed to finally get into the wave. Which very conveniently could be found right next to the airfield. Getting high required patience to find and work the strongest pockets of lift which were quite localised. 

Kevin working hard in the rotor thermals a the south end of the Hecho valley

Much, much later looking north east from 15,000'
The second flights fared better with Paul and Bob in the Duo using the knowledge from the previous flight to get into the wave straight from their first climb. The lift at the lower levels seemed stronger but it proved impossible to get above 14,800' despite being very, very patient.

The instructor (aka bored passenger) spent the time constructively by trying to make sense of the ClearNav auxiliary unit. Nope I think it will require at least another couple of flights to work it out.

Ray and Merv in the K21 had an interesting flight ranging further afield from the lower slopes of Cuculo and west towards the lake and then north to main ridge.
Paul looking north towards Hecho from 14,500'

A sea of cloud to the west

The mountains above Hecho from the primary wave
Ray and Merv were determined to make the most of the day and landed just after sunset. For those on the ground it had been a very chilly wait, so they were relieved to finally get the gliders back into the hanger and head off for a much needed meal at the Hostel in Santa Cruz.

Fingers crossed that it will be warmer tomorrow.


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 3

The weather continues to be very obliging with the cold front passing through overnight. As I started to walk up to the airfield it was quickly apparent that it was going to be a very different sort of gliding day with a strong northerly wind and showers already visible in the west. All the warm clothing that we had been shedding on the previous two days and more was going to be required today.

The weather briefing confirmed our suspicions that it could be a very good wave day though there was always the risk of the showers to the north and west sweeping through at any time. On seeing the conditions at the airfield Ray thought we were joking when he was told we were planning to fly.

Google's attempt at a panorama view of the airfield
(Note the showers in the distance on the left)
To keep things interesting the instructors swapped gliders so it was Paul and Merv off first in the K21 followed quickly by Ray and Bob in the Duo Discus. There were plenty of strong and turbulent rotor thermals but the wave eluded both gliders. There was no clear pattern to the wave and the sky was continually changing with very variable amounts of cloud.

Ray experiences a rotor thermal and actually enjoys it...
The K21 did best, getting to over 7000' in front of Cuculo with the Duo oscillating up and down over stage 1 mostly between 5 and 6 thousand feet. Unexpectedly both pilots declared that they enjoyed the experience, despite not getting into the wave proper.

After a quick turnaround the gliders were ready to go again though the tug pilot didn't seem so keen as it was now a 25kt crosswind from the North West, making it marginal for the tug.

Charlie and Bob went first in the Duo followed by Kevin and Merv in the K21. By this time the sky had opened out over the main valley and it was possible to climb up to cloud base just west of the airfield. However it still took over an hour for the Duo to finally get into the wave and climb clear of the clouds. A case of perseverance and the luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Charlie working hard to get into the wave 
With no lenticulars marking the extent of the wave it took a while to find the strongest lift which peaked at over 7kts with the wind in excess of 45kts at 16,000'.

Charlie finally connects with some of the strong stuff
We finally got to use the oxygen which we have been preparing every day in expectation of wave.

Face mask and shades - essential items for wave. 

The view east from 16,000'
We flew about 10 hours in total today with the cold and personal comfort bringing us back rather than the conditions which were still going strong when the K21 landed at 18:30.

Kevin, Ray and Charlie were the hosts for this evenings meal. They upped the ante by providing 3 excellent courses and port to go with the cheese. Whoever cooks next will have a hard act to follow, fortunately the plan is to eat out in Jaca tomorrow.

Lovely meal at the troublesome next door neighbours flat
The weather for tomorrow is still looking good but we are hoping for a little less wind.


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 2

Another bright start on Day 2 but the weather briefing indicated increasing amounts of high cloud and less wind suggesting that we might have another challenging day of flying ahead. At least it was nice and warm on the ground with yet more layers of clothing being discarded prior to launch.

Ray offers Merv some advice on advanced flying techniques.
 We had a very pleasant morning fettling the gliders, eating cake and watching the diggers create a larger glider parking area at the west end of the airfield. It looks like the army have been subcontracted to do the work with large scale camouflaged Tonka toys. Fortunately the lack of wind meant that the dust they generated wasn't much of a problem.

The gale force winds haven't reached Jaca yet.

Morag on portion control duty of the impromptu
morning pastry courtesy of her friend Hillary.
After a leisurely picnic lunch it was time to go flying. This time it was Charlie and Merv in the Duo and Kevin and Bob in the K21. Increasing high cloud cut the flights shorter than planned but this cleared through quickly tempting the us back into the air again. Ray and Merv in the Duo then Paul and Bob in the K21. Most flights were around an hour long today but not through lack of trying to stay airborne.

At least the early finish gave us a chance to have a beer at the club Nimbus bar.

A welcome beer after a tricky days flying.
Paul was on chef duty tonight and he provided an excellent meal within the strict 5 euro budget set by Morag our chief auditor.

A gaggle of hungry pilots 

Paul slaving over a hot stove

The weather for tomorrow could be good or bad depending on which forecast you read so we will just have to wait and see if the next front has passed through overnight or not.


Jaca 2019 Week 1 Day 1

Conveniently a cold front passed through overnight so we had great hopes for day 1. The morning briefing offered the possibility of northerly wave but with blue thermals only going to 6500'. As a result the oxygen systems were turned on and pilots dressed for sub-zero temperatures.

As it turned out nobody found the wave and instead the first set of pilots gently roasted themselves as they worked hard in the tight turbulent thermals (gliding not underwear). 

Paul and Merv were first off in the Duo, quickly followed by Ray and Bob in the K21. Despite taking higher tows both gliders found themselves back down over the lower hills using the vultures as indicators of thermals. 

The second sortie with Kevin and Merv in the Duo and Charlie and Bob in the K21 had a similar experience though wearing substantially less clothing. 

Charlie particularly enjoyed his first view of the high mountains which were continually shrouded in cloud for the whole of his visit last year.

Gliders ready to go with Kevin holding the wing down

Cloudless crystal clear blue sky looking west
Duo over stage 1 with Paul at the controls 

Ray at the controls in the K21 sharing the thermal with the Duo Discus

An uncharacteristically shy Paul holding the wing prior to putting the glider back in the hanger
Sadly the restaurant at the airfield is currently not operational, so in the evening we had a trip into Jaca to buy provisions and have an excellent meal at the Biarritz. (To make up for not having any lunch)