Good evening fellow aviators.
As an addition to our blogs usual flying updates, I thought I would share you with you a short story about a memorable flight I enjoyed on Sunday.
It was mid afternoon on a day that had seen some good soaring between rain showers. Chris Basham was on Winch duty, and duly bashing the winch throttle, launched me and the club Astir LPM to a respectable 1350 ft.
There were many cumulus clouds of potential in sight, but I feared the cloud cover may be too dense and overdeveloped, so I headed tentatively South West into wind to try my luck.
The vario was reading 2 knots down as I approached a large black cloud. A few minutes had past with no signs of workable lift, so I decided this was the last cloud I would try, and if it didn’t work I was heading home. I ventured beneath, and not wanting to stray too much farther from the Park, I tracked gently to the left and then right, feeling the pressure beneath the wings and waiting for any signs of lift. 1.5 knots up, and the vario chirped into life, aha fellow aviators this flight may not be over yet 🙂 .
Straightening and turning, I began to centre in the thermal. 1.5 knots up, became 2 knots up, then 4, finally peaking at 6 knots up just before reaching cloud base. The lift just below cloud base was plentiful, LPM staying aloft with ease in the bountiful thermic conditions. I adjusted my course to keep out of lower cloud areas that appeared to be caused by a convergence, relaxed into my seat and enjoyed having the sky to myself for a while.
In the distance to the North however was a rather foreboding, purple tinged, black cloud towering above all the other cumulus. To the North East a rain curtain drew its veil across the horizon. Hmm, I’m quite high, and that rain looks quite close, better keep an eye it.
I continued to turn and soar and meander beneath my generous cloud companion, and as the minutes flowed gently by I kept a watchful eye on the weather to the North. The towering Wizard of Oz like black cloud to the North appeared to hold station, although still a little close for comfort, the rain curtain to the North East however definitely looked to be moving slowly my way. Ok, I really don’t want to leave this abundance of lift, but I also don’t want to be this high up in rain. Time to head back.
With an abundance of height to lose, I eased out 1/4 airbrake. 2 Knots up on the vario, was the response from my trusty steed. Ok, lets try 1/2 airbrake. 1 knot down, good, were finally heading in the right direction. Lowering the nose a few more degrees and holding the airbrake 1/2 open, I made my way to High Key.
As I began my left hand circuit, the weather to the North still looked threatening, so I was heartened that my decision to give up all that height and lift was a good one. Down Wind leg and a few bubbles of 2 knots up were felt gently rippling through the airframe. Landing area clear, RP in sight, all looking good, trimming out ready for the diagonal leg.
I’m down to 600ft by Low key, a comfortable height as were landing over the trees today at the East end of the strip. Turning onto the diagonal leg, the vario sings into life, 10 knots up, and its sustained lift not a bubble! Hmm, that was unexpected but surely it wont last, right? Final turn, 750ft! Hmm, I’m probably well lined up if I want to land at Stourhead 😉 . I ease out 1/2 airbrake and check my RP. Nope, that wont cut it. 3/4 airbrake, looking better, but I like more of a margin than that. I take full airbrake, and lower the nose a few more degrees. Bingo, were back in the slot dear aviators, the ground wafting toward me like a welcoming warm summers breeze. Round-out, float, touch down! Rolling to a halt, half way down the strip, 1 and a 1/2 wing lengths from the edge of the field, both wings parallel, textbook landing 😎 .
I open the canopy and clamber out the Glider. Calm, clement weather greets me. There are clouds visible to the North, but at ground level, nothing that would give me cause for concern. Oh no dear aviators, have I been a fool, have I just given away sublime effortless lift for no reason! 😟 .
Chris Chappell roars toward me in a Gator in her usual full throttle style, flashes me her usual full throttle smile, “what happened Damien, you must of hit terrific sink, you looked well away”. “No”, I sheepishly reply, “I thought the rain was coming, so headed home”.
Head bowed, I hold the wing and start back for the hangar, its time to pack up, so no time to revisit my haven of soaring this day. I can feel the cheeks on my face still flushed hot with the thrill and delight of the flight, but I cant shake my dismay that I may have just thrown away something special 🙁 .
We park LPM on the grass, and go to help put the K6 away. Holding one end of the tail strop, we enter the cool shade of the hangar. My ears prick, is that a few taps of rain I hear on the corrugated hangar roof? The taps build in intensity and within seconds the heavens have opened. As the rain falls my heart sings. Yesss dear aviators!! I did make the right choice 😃😃 . I had ventured into the wild once more, enjoyed the thrills of soaring with mother nature herself, brought pilot and plane home in one piece, and given myself a 15 minute safety margin ahead of the coming rain!! What a tremendous flight dear aviators 🙂🙂 .
Recounting with delight the story of my adventure to anyone that would listen, I received two excellent pieces of advice for countering excessive lift experienced while in the circuit. The first was from Mike Jenks, “if that happens again, open your airbrake to counter the lift as its happening, don’t throw away all the extra height gained, better to be a bit too high, than a bit too low”. The second was from Nick Bowers, “right then, its time Damien for you to learn the art of Side Slipping”.
What a day dear aviators. Next job on my ‘to-do’ list, learn the art of Side Slipping 🙂 .