Friday, 25 February 2011

Weather forecast weekend 26th-27th Feb "updated"

Well it looks as though the weekend could still go two ways now we have a developing low pressure system out to the east.

Most of the models are in agreement that Saturday will be the worst of the two days, but how much worse is still really not known, we will have to wait and see what the developing low pressure system does over the next 12 hours

generally Saturday will be cloudier and wetter as the low develops just off of east anglia and then slowly moves eastward Cloudbase will be between 1000 - 1500ft, temps around 7 degrees with dew point not far behind, winds will be out of the North averaging 14 - 20kts with gusts upto 35kts.

Sunday will more than likely end up being a lesser saturday, cloundbase between 1500 -2500ft temps around 8 degress with the dew point around 3 degrees, winds will be Northly around 15 - 20kts steady

Everyone face east and start blowing.

UPDATE - Saturday was basically a washout with very little activity around the airfield. Sunday morning saw a rather bright and chilly start and we managed to get about a dozen or so flights in before the rain stopped play. We did manage to get OUGC's K21 (GAM) derigged and into its trailer ready for inspections, not settled with that we quickly derigged and put the Astir (DFR) away aswell as it will be inspected after the glass two seaters.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Passenger to pilot, Windrushers style - FEB 2011

As we near the end of a short February I'd like to note that it has been a relatively quiet month for flying at the club, due mostly to the weather.

I flew right at the end of Jan and then again on the weekend of the 12th of Feb where I had 3 flights in the K8. The day looked promising but with the cloud base stuck a few hundred feet above the launch altitude there was nowhere really to go. I spent the flights practicing thermalling turns and stalling off the turns as the soaring season is now approaching. none the less we had quite a busy day on the field and managed a respectable number of flights even if we were down to a single cable on the winch (mechanical failure of the other drums drive shaft)

On the 19th I took my bronze theory exam along with Andrew preece and John potter, 90 questions on airlaw, airmanship, navigation, radiotelephony and meteorology. I am pleased to say we all passed and owe thanks to Danny Lamb for the very informative lectures. I also want to mention Robin Matinus, well done on passing your pre-solo exam taken at the same time.

I flew on the 27th of Feb, the weekend had been a washout but there was a small window on Sunday morning in which we could fly. As both of the Glass two seaters had been taken offline for inspections I decided to start my bronze practical work with none other than Danny Lamb. We took JXM (K13) and Danny briefed me on stalling, with out CB SIFT CBE and HASSLL checks completed we hooked on and went for a launch. As suspected Danny gave me a simulated cable break half way up which was handled ok except for the bend in the ground run due to the wind weather cocking the tail. we then took another launch in which we abandoned 2/3's the way up as it was a little fast, Danny used this one to do some mush stalls and put me in an out of position on the downwind leg as we had some height. We completed the session with a gradual power failure on the winch. I nabbed a quick solo flight before the rain front arrived and had a very quick interesting circuit in mostly 4-6kts of sink, I usually start high key at 800 and arrive at low key around 600 but tightening up the circuit running through sink I arrived at low key around 450 and luckily flew the diagonal and base leg in steady to make it back for a normal approach, otherwise it would have been an early turn in and long walk back to the launch point.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Mid week forecast for 26th 27th Feb

As we pass through mid week the forecast models are still in disagreement as to what will be happening this weekend, over the last few days however the trend has been moving toward one scenario.

Saturday is looking as though it will be the worst of the weekend, with 7/8 cloud cover and showers through out the day, there is even a small risk of storms in the afternoon. Winds will be from the west steady around 10kts gusting to 20kts

Sunday is forecast to be the better day with wide sunshine until late afternoon, winds will be coming out of the north west at 12kts gusting to 18kts. The afternoon calls for 2/8 cloud cover and the possibility of showers.

The uncertainty stems from how much the Azores high will affect our weather this weekend some models show it pushing quite far over the UK and others show a lesser influence, updating this on Friday I expect there could be some changes.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Passenger to pilot, Windrushers style - Dec 2010 Jan 2011

I managed to get 20 solo flights into December and January interlaced with check fights to make sure I was not getting any bad habits.

Two notable items, I managed to convert to the K8 single seater and have made 11 flights in it. An old ship probably older than me it handles similar to a K13 but being lighter will climb on almost no lift. Being 6ft tall and over 200 pounds its not the most comfortable aircraft for me to fly and is better suited to a slightly smaller and lighter pilot.

With that in mind and also looking forward to getting in the Astir (single seater glass body) I got myself converted to the K21 (GAM) owned by Oxford Uni gliding club. I had three check flights with my Chum Oli B and he sent me solo the very same day. Now it was a nothing day, thin overcast at 2000ft near the end of January, I took a launch and pulled the bung (release) at 1300ft. I headed out into a small patch of sunlight over a little village, feeling some slight bumps I thought I would practice some thermalling turns. After two complete circles I noticed the Vario was reading a big fat zero and I had not lost any altitude, result I thought and for the next 10mins I circled at 1200ft. Then slowly but surely the Vario started to indicate 1 1/2 knots up, then nearly 2, I looked at the altimeter but it still read 1200ft. I reached forward slowly and tapped the panel and it jumped up 150ft, I could not believe it my first solo in GAM and I was soaring. 20mins later I was climing through 1800ft slowly but surely and not very well centered, by this time I had been joined by Gail stevens and student in the Acro and we climbed to just under cloud base at 2000ft all the time watching others trying to join us from the air field but not being successful. Then all of sudden I was into massive sink and it took me only a few minutes to drop down to circuit height. Landing a few minutes later I had achieved 41mins and was massively chuffed as Max the Duty instructor was kind enough to sign off my first bronze leg.

With Danny Lambs winter lectures well under way I am going to be aiming to take my Bronze theory exam at the end along with a couple of the other early solo pilots, I will report in once we are done at the end of Feb.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Passenger to pilot, Windrushers style - part 2

September and October 2010 where the busiest of my short flying career so far, totaling 24 flights spread over five or six weekends. To this point I had only flown with Matt and Dave but on my first weekends flying in September I was to fly with an instructor called Robert King, Bob, as he is known around the airfield. Now I had been used to a softly softly approach from Matt and Dave, lots of demo's followed by you doing the exercises, Bob on the other hand works the other way round, you fly and he corrects when necessary. My first brief with Bob he asked me what I had been up to and I had explained that my general flying was coming along and I had been allowed to fly the second half of the launch, so after a thorough briefing on winch launching Bob had made it quite clear that I was going to be flying the entire launch where he would only take over if I made a complete stuff up of it. we carried out our preflight checks and hooked up to the cable in one of the clubs ASK13's. What followed were two launches that started out ok, nice ground run and a gentle rotation into the climb, it was at this point I messed up, after several clear and rather stern commands from the back seat to increase back pressure Bob took control and increased the angle of climb as we were no where steep enough. The second flight of the day resulted in the same scenario with Bob taking over about halfway up the climb, by the third attempt however I had it and after pulling the release at the top I heard "that was much much better" come from the rear, I was beaming. Bob then ran through an in flight brief and demo'd some stalling from mushing to steep stalling. The mush is nice and easy the glider just seems to float downwards rather quickly, the steep stall on the other hand requires a higher nose attitude and the stall is a lot more pronounced, the nose falls away and you are left swallowing your stomach during the recovery. Bob let me do a couple and then it was time to join the circuit for landing, I made a good effort of it and manage to land the glider not to far from the bus.

So that was it, my first three lessons with Bob, the instructor that would eventually send me solo. Windrushers has plenty of instructors and I enjoy flying with all of them and with a multitude of different teaching styles any pupil will be able to find the right instructor for them.

I then spent a day in reasonably poor weather (low cloud base) circuit bashing with Matt. he spent the time and gave me a really good run down on circuit planning and then let me fly my own circuits. the comments I had placed into my log book simply said "prefers to be a bit close" Dam right I was going to be a bit close, flying a contraption without an engine there was no way I was wandering to far from the landing area and it would take a little while for me to get used to the right distance to fly during the circuit, it depends on a lot of factors but when you get it right it makes life so much easier.

A weekend later the weather was great with broken cloud at around 2500ft. I was introduced to another instructor I would make good progress with Oli Bosanko. Oli suggested after looking at my log book and training card that we should take advantage of the good weather and go and do some stalling and spinning. These exercises require an aerotow to around 4000ft so we made arrangements with the tug pilot and got ready, as I had not done any aerotowing Oli took control for the launch and climb to 4000ft letting me take control every now and then to carry out some exercises in flying behind a tug. To be completely honest I was so blown away by the view as we climbed up between the clouds that I was finding it difficult to follow the tug. Reaching 4000ft we released and turned away watching the tug dive back towards the airfield, we were ready to begin. we ran through our HASSLL checks (which stand for Height, do we have enough? Airframe, can the glider cope with what we are about to do to it? Straps, are they tight? Security, is nothing going to float around in some of the manoeuvres? Location, are we in a safe place? Lookout, is there anyone else that could get in the way?) to make sure we were ready and then we started with some normal stalling and recoveries, these I flew myself and Oli seemed pleased with them. Oli then demo'd the spin, he explained that spinning in off a final turn was one of the biggest causes of accidents amongst glider pilots and the cause was a slow, low and over ruddered turn. With this in mind he set about showing me a slow over ruddered turn and the result was dramatic to say the least, at first you can see the nose is slightly high for your speed and that the bank angle is quite shallow, then with the premise of not making a turn we added more rudder, this caused the inside wing to stall first and drop away behind us, within a second I was staring at the ground which was now rotating quickly below us. Oli had time to explain that the rotation speed was high but the g loading and airspeed remained reasonably constant, he then took corrective actions and we recovered. So that was my first serious departure from normal flight, not to bad, next up was the spiral dive. This manoeuvre is a lot harsher on both pilot and aircraft, it starts out in a similar setup to a spin but can also result from a highly banked turn, with a wing down the nose drops away and speed and g loading build up very quickly as the glider enters a diving sprial. Oli demo'd and explained that the spiral dive must be corrected immediately otherwise it is easy to overstress the glider. I managed to get the glider into a few spins and a spiral dive before it was time to hit the circuit for landing. During the debrief Oli said I was flying well and only certain aspects of the departure recoveries needed to be "finessed" overall I was really happy with how my flying was coming along.

I flew again in mid October with Dave Morgan, but as the cloud base was low on that day we were confined to circuit practice. A worth while day however as it keeps you currency up and the practice coming along.

Towards the back end of October my flying had gotten to the point where the instructors were happy with my general flying skills and we had begun to concentrate more on launch failures and stalling/spinning exercises. I flew with Bob again and we did a full brief on launch failures and I flew a simulated cable break, which is quite obvious, you get a loud bang and the glider begins to slow down rapidly. Speed is of the essence when recovering from a launch failure of this type, you need to get the nose down to regain any lost flying speed and then decide whether you can land ahead or switch to one of the options discussed in you eventualities brief. The cable "broke" at around 200ft so with plenty of airfield left ahead after the recovery we landed ahead. I then flew a gradual power failure and I can see why it catches people out, you don't get any bang or really clear warning, simply that the airspeed begins to reduce slowly at first and then more quickly and any delay in spotting this and taking action brings the glider very close to the stall speed. The power was rolled off at about 600ft, after the recovery and deciding we could not land ahead and acting on what was discussed on the eventualities brief we turned downwind to get us into a position to have available the best options for landing, in this case we were high enough to land into wind further up the field from the launch point. Bob seemed happy and his comment in my log book simply said "well handled" we then took a 4000ft aerotow to do some more stalling and spinning exercises, these were actually more difficult to do with Bob as our all up weight was near the upper limits for the glider, what this meant for spinning was that we were in effect nose heavy and the glider would drop a wing and begin to rotate "incipient stage" but would get very nose down and recover itself before I could take any action. After the flight Bob and I discussed what had gone on and how ballasted limits for a glider give you a range of weights you can fly in but even when inside those weights you still have an affect on the handling.

I had six flights at the end of October, three with Alan Twigg, instructor and CEO of windrushers which were more launch failure practice with the added too fast signal and abandonment. I then had three flights with Richard Chapman who introduced me to the art of side slipping. This is where you present the glider to the airflow at an angle and is achieved by full rudder deflection to one side, dropping the wing that is foremost slightly and picking up the nose with gentle back pressure to maintain track over the ground The result is that the glider can be flown down an approach slipping with no breaks and the speed remains manageable due to the increased drag on the aircraft, that means a landing can be executed at the end of it without too much speed. With brakes a much steeper shorter approach can be flown which is useful for field landings later on in your gliding career. Richard had me do a couple of practices in the air and then let me fly one down the approach and by more luck than judgement managed to get it down where I wanted.

As November arrived I was into my last four weeks before my membership ran out, I had completed 30 flights for around 4 hours of flying. I managed to squeeze in three flights at the start of the month around a busy work schedule. I flew with Debbie Thomas, whose small frame meant it would be much eaiser to carry out spinning exercises. We flew two winch launches and Debbie had the altimeter covered so I was relying on my judgement in the circuit, Debbie comments in my log book "2 good winch launches without altimeter - nicely judged" We then took an aerotow to do some more spinning and stalling Debbie was happy with my attempts and also let me fly the entire aerotow, which was good for my confidence.

A week later on the 13th of November I had planned a whole day of flying to try and maximize time in the air and to brush up and complete the remaining exercises on my training card, I had also got my medical sorted and pre solo exam in time for the possibility I might just get to solo at the end of the month. I was teamed up with Graham Bambrook in the morning and we did some launch failure and out of position practice to get some of my training card exercises finished off. After lunch I was teamed up with Bob we did some stalling and Bob flying the aircraft into unusual attitudes and saying "right you sort it out" Bob also pulled the airbrakes and held them out round the circuit to simulate high levels of sink, the result was an early turn in and landing up the field. We then took a launch and flew a normal circuit, well what I thought was a normal circuit to end the day, after a nice flight around, chatting about lookout and the weather I turned onto final, after a short assessment of my position I pulled on the air brake lever, it did not move! I looked down and pulled again and Bob said from the back "they are stuck" I did the only thing I could think of and tried to side slip in, not as successful as previous attempts but I got it down about half way up the field. We jumped out and turned the glider round and while waiting for the car to tow us back to the launch point Bob began to look around the sky he then turned to me and said "so is your medical all in order" "ummmm yesssss" I replied slowly as I waited for what seemed like an eternity "ok then, I am going to send you solo, you will only have time for one due to the light fading now but your ready" This was it! my time had come! I had at least ten minutes to get used to the idea walking the glider back to the launch point I even text the wife to tell her what was going on and that I would fly over the house as we only live across the street from the club. Bob helped me get ready securing the back seat and giving me a brief on how the glider would handle without him in it. I ran through my checks and called for the cable all the time trying to convince myself that I could do it. I heard the all out and I was off, the glider was much more eager to climb and had to be checked a little but the launch was uneventful and I released at 1300ft, silence.... I was now acutetly aware that I was by myself and it was all up to me, I made a right turn and headed for my house, after a few circles over the house I headed for the circuit all the time talking myself through what I was doing, the approach and landing was one of the best ive done and Bob was waiting to congratulate me as I stepped out, I was on a massive hi.

That was it!!! I had gone solo on my 40th flight and just shy of 3 months. All thanks to a great team at windrushers and especially Bob King who saw fit to declare me safe to fly by myself.

Look out for updates as I report on my progress towards single seat conversion and my Bronze.

Forecast for 19th & 20th

Not much has changed from the midweek forecast for Saturday, a band of rain will move through tonight bringing persistent rain throughout tomorrow morning and into early afternoon which will then be replaced by low cloud and fog. Sunday will be dryer than than predicted earlier but a low inversion will cause a low cloud base and reduced visibility.

The weather held to the forecast this weekend with a day full of rain on Saturday and low cloud and mist on Sunday meaning that there was very little activity out on the field.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Mid week weather forcast for weekend 19th/20th Feb

Various sources are calling for a rather wet and windy weekend at the moment.

low pressure systems sitting in the Atlantic are causing us issues, the one to the south west of the country will move away to the south east and make way for a deeper depression moving in from the north west. This depression will begin to influence our weather late on Friday afternoon. Winds will then steadily increase from the south east moving to a more southerly direction later in the period bringing Low cloud and persistent rain with temps around 7-8 degrees for most of the weekend.


I will update on Friday.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Passenger to pilot, Windrushers style - part 1

Growing up I think that most small boys dream of becoming a fighter pilot or airline captain at some time or another, for me that dream slowly faded amid a youth mis spent day dreaming, drinking and chasing girls. The only brush I had with aviation was a very short aerotow glider flight at Bicester gliding center as part of a school run trip in the mid 90's, Fun? yes, definitely. Cost prohibitive? probably. A little more research would have revealed a very cost effective way to get your wings.

Anyway, fast forward 15 years, a wife, house and a small child I would once again have an opportunity to go gliding thanks to my newly acquired extended family. My wife's father and oldest brother are into their gliding with her Brother Richard being an active member at windrushers. Over a family dinner Richard asked me if I would like to come down and have a few flying lessons at the club which I duly accepted, the dream was reborn, a little tamer than before but reborn it was.

August 2010 - First flight - 3 lessons

Richard and I arrived at the club early and after a few pleasant introductions made our way into the office where Carol, who oversees all things admin, had me fill out a temporary membership form and also a medical form that allowed me to declare myself fit to fly. Richard then took me through to the hanger which was crammed full of different aircraft, he showed me to the clubs training ships (ASK 13) explained a little bit about it and then set about doing the daily inspection as I watched on. Once it was finished and all signed off we dropped the parachutes into the cockpit and then wheeled the glider outside to the edge of the field where a car was waiting to tow it out to the launch point, Richard explained a little bit about ground handling the aircraft as they can do strange things if caught by a gust of wind. With it hooked up to the car we walked it out to the launch point, which is an old single decker bus come cafe, come briefing room, I was introduced to the duty instructor (the guy/girl that runs the show that day) and my name was added to the flying list.

When my turn came up I was introduced to Matt Turnbull who is a member and instructor at the club and a guy I would fly a lot of my early lessons with. Matt showed me over to another one of the clubs ASK 13's (they have 4 in total) and gave me a brief on the aircraft covering what the controls do, what the instruments are and what we were going to be doing. Matt then had me jump in the front seat and showed me how to adjust the rudder pedals and strap myself in, while I was busy getting comfortable Matt jumped into the back seat and while strapping himself in asked me what I wanted to get out of the day. Now I'd not really thought about it up to that point and was not sure what I was supposed to say so I simply responded with "I want to learn to fly" "great" he said "CB SIFT CBE you will need to learn it and remember it" very quickly I learnt that this was a mnemonic for pre flight checks which allows the pilot to ready the glider and themselves for the flight. Once we had gone through the checks and discussed what we would do if we were not launched high enough for a normal flight, we were ready to go. Matt called for the cable and we were duly attached to 3000ft of wire cable and about to be towed into the sky in what I can only describe as one of the most unique and thrilling methods of getting a glider off the ground. Our wing runner lifted the wings level and I could hear the duty instructor calling the winch to "up slack" with that the cable began to creep forward until it was pulled tight, at that point the "all out" was called and what ensued I find quite difficult to put into words. Imagine sitting in a high end sports car that is capable of achieving 0-60 in under 3 seconds, Ferrari, Porsche I hear you say, try a 30 year old glider attached to a huge length of cable and the other end being wound in by a very large American V8. Within a few short seconds we had achieved flying speed and Matt rotated the glider steadily into a 40 degree climb, a mere 15 seconds later we were slowing at the top and Matt levelled off and pulled the release. I now had time to relax a bit and look around and to this day I maintain that the view from a glider cockpit is one of the best you will ever see. You have great vision all around and with a little tilt of the head one can see straight down to the ground which was now 1200ft below. Matt explained the controls again and demonstrated what they did, now I have flown a lot of simulators before so I had a rough idea and when Matt asked if I would like a go I jumped at the chance. Taking the stick in my hand I followed Matt through on several turns and attitude adjustments, he then let me have ago for myself. Soon he was showing me how to feed in rudder to help coordinate the turn better; however being a car driver he explained causes a common problem, I was being too soft with the right rudder pedal when in fact quite coarse movements are required in the training gliders. Soon it was time to enter the circuit for landing at 800ft and as I had got on quite well Matt let me fly the glider round the circuit and took over at the Final turn for approach and landing. We had a quick 5 minute debrief/brief before running through the checks again and hooking up to the cable, I was much more prepared this time around and managed to follow Matt on the controls up the launch to release. Matt then let me have control immediately and we did some more turning exercises, this time however my sim flying was catching me out as I was being a bit twitchy on the controls (something I would take time to get rid of) During this flight Matt began to stress the need always for a good effective look out as glider pilots rely on a “see and be seen” method of avoiding coming into conflict with another aircraft. I flew the circuit again and this time Matt let me fly it all the way down to the round out before taking over to land. The third lesson took pretty much the same path as the other two with even more emphasis of look out and before I knew it, it was time to land and my flying was done for the day, I was then told that there was plenty still to do and I should feel free to get stuck in helping launch other people and I was also shown how to drive the retrieve to pick up cables and other gliders that had landed out of position. After the day had finished and all the equipment and gliders were packed away time for a quick drink in the clubs bar and then off home knowing full well that I had been bitten.

Remainder of August 2010 - Learn to glide! and 3 more lessons

It would be two weeks before I could fly again but to be honest I'd thought of little else in the mean time. I had decided on the learn to glide package as it gave me three months membership to the club and a sum in my flying account to use as I saw fit. I really liked this package because it allowed me to get a real taste of club life and whether I'd be able to cut it or not with out the large outlay of a years membership. I had three more lessons during the latter part of August and these were flown with another instructor, Dave Morgan, Dave asked me to run through what I had covered already with Matt and the three lessons were spent consolidating what I had done before. Dave also let me fly the second half of the winch launch on my last lesson of the day, which was cool. One bad habit I had was a tendency to "stir the stick" as Dave called it, this was down to me playing to many flight sims where constant correction is required, a K13 however is like a trusty old bus, lots of little inputs do little more than waggle the control surfaces and create some extra drag. I found my flying was coming on quite well in spite of my little bad habits and my instructors were now introducing lookout exercises and circuit planning which aims to get you into a pattern for landing starting at a high key area followed with a down wind leg running parallel to the runway in use, then abeam the launch point you reach the low key area and begin a diagonal leg which allows you to keep an eye on the launch point and goings on, you then turn a base leg which brings you to a final turn for approach and landing. It sounds reasonably straight forward but when you throw in wind, lift/sink, other traffic it can get a little bit interesting.

So with my first six flights done I was well and truly hooked and I had made the decision to try and get solo before my membership lapsed at the end of November.

Look out for part two to see if I made it of not.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A new perspective

Hello everyone.

Being a relatively new pilot, I solo'd in November 2010, and member of Windrushers I thought it would be a good idea to put up here for all to see my experiences as I navigate from ab-initio to fully fledged glider pilot. I have always liked reading stories and anecdotes about peoples experiences before trying out any activity and I hope my posts will make useful reading for anyone thinking about venturing into our sport.

Having kept a journal of my flying I will be back filling with the first post or two and then as I and some of the other "newbies" progress add material as we go.

As Mike and John have very busy schedules I will also help out posting general news and events info, so if you have any feel free to send em my way.

Lee H

Friday, 4 February 2011

Showing Dad How It’s Done

Windrushers junior member Charles Jessop recently got a visit in New Zealand (he's there on a gap year, lucky boy, not that I'm jealous...) from his father Paul, who was taking time off from a round-the-world business trip.

The weather wasn’t brilliant but they flew a couple of days with Charles as pilot in command, exercising the privileges of his NZ Qualified Glider Pilot status.

Inevitably, with dodgy advice coming from the back seat, they landed out on a back-country strip but an airborne radio relay scrambled a tow plane with Omarama’s chief tuggie at the controls. That arrived just as the duo (who claim they landed out because they weren’t flying a Duo but rather a Twin Astir) had pushed their mount to the (slightly) uphill end of the strip. The tuggie decided he preferred the other direction and used the Pawnee to tow them to the far end of the strip, where after much sucking of teeth and throwing of grass into the air, decided the earlier assessment was right and towed them back. An old tyre substituted for a wing runner and once airborne they had another few hours of cross country soaring (without landing out again).

They didn't have gap years when I was young. Honest, I'm not jealous about him flying in NZ. Not one bit... Honest, sob sob.