Heroic failures

pat’s cross-country (silver attempt)

The gliding forecast for Sunday 20th August was quite reasonable – decent thermals from late morning right through to 5pm. A 30 mile cross country trip to Trent Valley Gliding Club might be a possibility, or optimistically  maybe even there and back. The negatives were that it would be  a 10/12 knot head wind and the forecast cloud base would only be around 3,000 feet.
At 11.20 hooked up the glider and the winch launch took me up to 1200 feet. The next 10 minutes were spent scratching about in weak thermals and I  only only gained 100 feet. Then a turn for the better, a strong thermal which took me right up to cloud base at 3,600 in just a few minutes. Things were definitely looking up! By this time I had drifted 2 1/2 miles downwind in the opposite direction to my intended route.
Passing back over Strubby I soon pushed on for Louth picking up lift on the way but  just west of Louth I was down to 2,000 so decided to head back to Strubby again hoping to pick up some thermals on the way which I did. Back up to cloud base another 180 degree turn and back on course. Just past Louth at 3,500 feet I decided to press on as this should give me sufficient height to cross over the  Wolds even with a head wind and if the worst came to the worst I would be able to  put down in a field where it wasn’t hilly.
That’s exactly what happened. I found no more decent thermals, the sky filled in with cloud and I slowly descended. I chose a large oil seed rape stubble field the other side of Tealby and 1 hour 20 minutes after launch I made my first ever field landing. Phew, what a relief.
By 5pm, thanks to Kevin and John retrieving me, I was back at Strubby the glider having been dismantled and towed back in its trailer. It wasn’t quite that simple, actually it was quite eventful. I had landed in the field with what appeared an easy access to the country road. The only trouble was the field gate was padlocked and I couldn’t find anyone with the key. There was no mobile phone signal at this point but a tractor appeared in the field spreading manure. Fortunately the driver was able to direct me to another access but it turned out to involve  over a mile of fields, tracks and crossing through a ford into Tealby. I also had an interesting reaction when I walked into the local pub with a parachute on my shoulder but no money asking for a pint of water. Gliding can be an eventful hobby!

Phil’s diamond height (almost)

It was a failure, but it was a hell of a trip.

It was my first solo launch at Aboyne.

I rocketed up to about 17000 feet, and then realised I hadn’t put a low point on my barograph, so there was no point in doing another couple of thousand feet to get the diamond. So I pulled the airbrakes, came all the way back down to about 4000 feet came back into wave again where the good conditions were but it didn’t take me high enough. And I ‘ve got a barograph trace that goes bzzz up, then bloop down then bleugh.

And when I landed I went over to the tuggy pilot and he said “How did you get on? It looked pretty good where I left you.”

And I said, “I went up and realised I hadn’t put a low point on my barograph, and came all the way back down again and couldn’t get as high again.”

And he said,  “My signature would have stood [as evidence of your low point].”

What made it glorious – it was such a fantastic view, and my first time in wave, and roaring up to an enormous height, and the excitement of putting the oxygen on and seeing the aircraft come up above the granite city, Aberdeen. and seeing them way down there.

Katharine’s 4 hour 35 minutes

Less than a week after being cleared to fly following a non-flying accident, still buoyant from completing my first cross-country flight I tried for the final stage of my Silver badge – the five hour flight.

It’s got to be the hardest stage to achieve. People talk about the cross country because of the fear factor of leaving the home airfield for the first time, and stories of field landings abound, but the sheer physical demand of flying for 5 hours continuously was what I was dreading. The need to stay alert, the risk of conditions changing, the lack of conveniences aboard – and at the end of it, the risk of getting over-tired and cocking up the landing.

Still, I made a bold start, picking the right moment, hitting a thermal and rising away – even remembering to raise the undercarriage after 20 minutes or so…
My urge to fly cross-country had abated, all I wanted to do was hang on in and get that five hours clocked up.

About half way through my bladder began to protest.

About four hours through the sky flattened off. Nice clouds inland, but I’d stayed near the coast. The K13 was staying up – ish, but lower than I was. I tried picking up lift from a patch of woodland and hit something scrappy, but was drifting faster than I was climbing. I headed back into wind, found the lift again, but still nothing strong. In desperation I tried reaching the lift that the K13 was using, then realised how low I was and that the wise thing would be to get into circuit and land. Preferably somewhere private…