What an incredible weekend so far! It’s been a hot weekend in the UK with a high pressure firmly established over the country.
22 April 2011
On Good Friday, as I had only just arrived back in the UK from Canada at 06:30 that morning, I judiciously decided that it would be best not fly that day due to jet lag. So instead, Steve flew the Mosquito on what turned out to be a pretty good day. He flew from Sandhill Farm to Didcot, Edgehill, Birdlip which was a 171km around the Brize Norton Zone at 85kph.
23 April 2011
After a good night’s sleep, I was able to plan out a reasonably sized cross country for Saturday 23 April. I took off shortly after 13:15 and initially struggled to stay airborne over the Uffington White Horse. Almost immediately, the trim on the Mosquito failed. This meant that I was now having to push and pull the stick constantly with no respite for the whole flight, but more irritatingly, there was a constant noise with every single movement that I made with the stick as the trim uselessly rubbed against the ratchet on the stick.
Several other gliders were heading from the M4 up the ridge at Uffington towards Didcot, and I could hear others calling out good climbs in the Oxford area, so I knew it was soarable. Eventually I was able to work out which side of the developing clouds the lift was on and I climbed through 3000 feet and headed back towards the airfield to go through the start line. I started at 13:40 (rather late for the time of year and the size of task I was planning) and headed off towards Didcot Power Station which was the first turning point. Another pilot from the Club, Peter Scheiwiller in an LS4, was also doing the same task and had started about 5 minutes ahead of me. I soon caught up with Peter and spent the next 20 km leading the way from Didcot North towards Bicester. The thermals were good, some at 5 or 6 knots, and before long I lost Peter.
I was aiming to fly at 85 knots between the thermals and all was well until I flew past Buckingham and then became concerned about the Daventry airspace. The cloudbase now being above 5000 feet, parts of the Daventry airspace are at 4500 feet and 5500 feet and it would be very easy to bust the lower part of the airspace. I think that whilst worrying over the base of the airspace, I lost some valuable time in the area South of Daventry. By now I had been airborne for some time and I was beginning to find that I had an increasing pain in the left side of my little toe as the pressure of the side of the rudder pedal pushed hard against my toes. I changed my seating position, lengthened the rudder pedals, but I could not relieve the pressure. There were times over the next couple of hours that I literally screamed out in agony. As I neared Husbands Bosworth, the second turning point, I have to admit that I was very tempted to land in order to relieve the pain, but I became more determined than ever to complete the task. Just before I reached Husbands Bosworth, I came across Peter again in a thermal; so he had overtaken me somewhere along the second leg. I turned Hus Bos and headed South. Ahead it looked less promising with fewer clouds, but those that were around were now towering cumulus, so I stayed further to the East over Northampton.
I left Northampton and gradually descended to 2000 feet near Silverstone; this was the first time that started to look around at the fields in case I need to land out. Ahead there was a good looking cloud and as I searched well below the case, I found a fantastic 5 – 6 knots of lift and took this to cloudbase with many more gliders coming in and joining me. This gave me the incentive to really push on faster now and I found another very good climb at Oxford.
I was heading towards Lasham and the time was now past 16:00, so I needed to start to think whether Lasham was going to be achievable. At this point, Peter called me to ask whether I still intended to carry on and I encouraged him to continue as there was an excellent climb at Oxford, and I would take a look further along track and let him know what the conditions are like.
There was another good climb at Harwell, but I could see that ahead there were fewer clouds and potentially less thermals, so I called Peter and said that I would turn Chieveley and then head for home. Peter replied that he would turn Didcot, which is a slightly shorter task, before heading home.
I turned Chieveley and took a climb just past the turning point before setting the heading for Sandhill Farm. I now had sufficient height for a glide all the way back (around 30kms). I completed the task which was 262kms at 81kph and landed just before 17:00. Peter found himself in a bit of a hole at Didcot and struggled to climb back up. He eventually succeeded and landed 45 minutes after me at Sandhill Farm.
It was a great flight – I was in agony with my left foot three quarters of the way round and also had no trim on the glider, but I could have done better at finding the best lift first time and making sure I left the weaker thermals sooner, and perhaps I could have increased my speed to 85 – 88kph. This is what I must work on the next time I fly as well as making sure I’m much more comfortable. Now it’s time to fix the trim…