Well, it’s been a while since I wrote anything, so I thought it was time for an update. I’d intended to write about days 3 and 4 of the Northerns, but that was so long ago now that it no longer seems relevant. Better to write about what’s happened recently instead.
I didn’t fly the Kestrel again after the Northerns until a week ago. A combination of the weather and being really busy with work, family and stuff meant that I seemed to miss all of the good days (which have generally been during the week, when I’ve been stuck in the office.) However, last weekend we decided we’d rig and both of us would fly, just to get a circuit in. We’re intending to put her away for the winter so our opportunities to fly her are getting fewer.
We rigged on the Saturday, and just as we put the last bit of tape on, it started to rain. We didn’t even have the covers with us. So we taped up the static ports and the Brunswick tube, and headed off for lunch. Sadly the rain didn’t clear until the early evening, so we went home to get the glider’s covers out of the attic, and left her out for the night.
Sunday dawned looking brighter, but with some low cloud around. Chris and Elliott went swimming, and I hung around at the club in case the weather improved. The clouds lifted around lunchtime so I went and got the Kestrel ready to fly. Andy and Nora gave me a hand to remove the covers, and I lined the glider up at the launchpoint shortly after.
My timing was perfect. Cloudbase was low, but there were reports of weak wave to the north west. I asked Dave, our tuggie for the day to tow me to it if he could. Part of me still expected a sleigh-ride down to the ground, but we were lucky. Dave towed me right into the best part of the lift! (He told me later that the club’s new tug had no vario or VSI, so he’d guessed perfectly at where the lift would be).
The lift was weak, and only in a small area, but it was there. The gaps between the clouds in that area were small, and the clouds were towering Cu and not particularly wave-like. It was quite unnerving climbing in weak wave,m in a small gap with towering Cu both up- and down-wind of where I was climbing. I felt small. But it was beautiful, and thrilling.
Those clouds moved downwind, so I flew further west towards Thirsk to see if I could find better lift upwind. But all I found was sink back down to 2,000 feet above the site. I resigned myself to landing back shortly. But no! The instruments started to indicate weak lift. I turned 90 degrees to the wind, and parallel to those lines of cloud I could see upwind. The lift continued. It was weak – only about 0.5 knots. I felt my way along it until I reached the ‘end’ of the bar. The sky above me was totally blue, so I flew a reciprocal course and found the lift again. I managed to keep going like this for about 45 minutes, then finally I lost it and sank back towards the airfield. The whole flight time was 1:21, the second longest flight of the day by 2 minutes. I had the biggest grin!
Less fun was washing the mud from the underside of the glider, then putting it away and hurting my back in the process. The Kestrel is very heavy!
This weekend (15/16 October) had a good forecast for wave in prospect. We had to hedge our bets on which day to fly as we owed our son some time to do things he liked. Saturday initially looked like the best day, but as the weekend approached, the forecasts changed. On Saturday morning it was clear that we wouldn’t fly until later in the day, so we decided to go do the things with our son.
Sunday’s forecast was mixed again, but we decided that we’d rig. It was a pleasant morning in Thirsk, with blue skies and hazy sunshine. The airfield was a different matter!
After 23 years of gliding at Sutton Bank, I shouldn’t be surprised to see Orographic cloud sitting on the hill when it’s a lovely day elsewhere. But it never fails to catch us out – and we ended up rigging in the fog! “It’ll clear” I said, with my fingers crossed.
Lunchtime came and went… and it was still foggy. 1pm came, and the cloud suddenly started to break up. It rapidly lifted and broke up, leaving quite a hazy situation. Several two-seaters ventured into the sky, with me close behind. I asked Jim the tuggie to take me to the wave if he could, and he towed me to a hole west of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe. There was lift there, but the visibility was truly awful, and I also noticed that the cloud-hole was closing up around me. I dropped the flaps, pulled the airbrakes and dropped 500 feet, back below cloud, just as the hole neatly sealed itself above me. The Kestrel doesn’t yet have any cloud-flying instruments you see; even the turn-and-slip doesn’t work. It makes a lot of noise but doesn’t move at all. I had been in lift, so I might have risked a cloud-climb IF I’d had some working cloud-flying instruments. Another of our experienced pilots did just that… and eventually climbed to 15,000 feet.
I spent another 30 minutes or so flying around in the weak lift and sink, gradually losing height until I joined several gliders on the ridge. But the ridge wasn’t working very well, and the visibility was so awful that I decided to land shortly after.
So… guess I need to get a decent cloud-flying instrument sorted ASAP. There goes another £2K or so! The choice at the moment seems to revolve around the LX suite of instruments, but do I go for an S80, an S100 or LX8080. Choices, choices indeed!