Next weekend, I have to return the Cirrus to its owner, for him to fly it prior to flying the Club Class Nationals at Pocklington near York, at the end of May.
So, last weekend was my last chance to fly her for a month or so, until I get her back and fly the Northern Regionals myself.
Having only had 2 flights in her so far, totalling 3 hours or air-time, I was desperate to get in the air and do something. I’d spent most of the previous week poring over long-distance weather forecasts, then as the weekend got closer, it appeared that Sunday would be ‘the’ day to go flying.
Saturday was taken up with family stuff, but the gliding weather wasn’t great so I didn’t mind! Snow and hail showers from some impressive-looking cu-nims swept across the airfield for most of the afternoon.
However I opened the curtains on Sunday to see a glorious clear blue sky. A little frost on the ground in places indicated that it had been cold overnight. With the clear blue sky, and the cold airmass, it had the potential to be a very good day. RASP indicated that it might overdevelop in the afternoon however, leading to some showers. This is the North however, so it was after 11 am when it got going. That left plenty of time to polish the glider, mess around with the Oudie, fit some new tape to the stick, etc.
Around 11.30 it became clear that it was time to launch. Lots of puffy Cumulus were filling the sky to the South, and even the club’s two-seaters were staying up for more than 20 minutes #sarcasm.
The inevitable stampede for the launch point began with the Duo Discus XL (pictured). We literally ran to the car and the glider, ready to take our place in the queue.
Unfortunately, we’d parked in a rather wet area of the airfield, and our Audi is useless at towing gliders through mud. We got the car stuck, and the only way to get it free was to take the glider off the tow-ball, and push. I must be stronger than I thought, as I managed to push it out by myself! She-Raaaa!
Resorting to the club’s Kawasaki 4×4 buggy, we managed to tow the glider out of the mud, and around to the queue at the launch point.
People were really starting to champ at the bit, as the sky looked glorious. With lots of pushing and shoving (of gliders) – and a bit of shouting – we managed to get the gliders into line to launch. Gliding launch points can get quite fraught – all of those pilots desperate to launch, combined with all of that testosterone – non-glider pilots can imagine how it gets. Actual glider pilots know.
At last, I put on my parachute and settled into the glider. A minor panic happened as I found I couldn’t declare my task to the Flarm logger from the Oudie, but I intended to fly around the club’s 100 Km pre-declared milk-run, so it wasn’t a huge problem.
The Eurofox arrived, and we towed off into a really cracking looking sky. Jim McLean, the tug pilot headed straight for a really juicy-looking cloud, and he wasn’t wrong. At 1300 feet the vario started to indicate strong lift. At 1400 feet above Sutton I couldn’t stand it any longer, and I released and turn hard left, straight into a strong, smooth thermal. That thermal showed 7.5 knots of lift on the vario’s averager, touching 8 at one point. I quickly found myself at cloudbase, which was 3,400 above Sutton (4,200) AMSL. Thinking that maybe it was a fluke, I flew around a little, sampling some other local climbs, and they were all strong – averaging 5 or 6 knots on the vario. So I thought I’d better get on with this! I circled back around behind Sutton Bank, logged an official start time over the line, and headed towards my first turn point at Pocklington.
With the wind behind me, I made rapid progress towards Pocklington, stopping to sample clouds and top up my height twice on the way. Conditions were very good, and I felt like a superhero charging down towards POC. It was interesting to note how much water there was on the ground near York; the winter floods and recent heavy rain still making its presence felt. Turning POC, I took another short climb to 5000 feet AMSL, as the next leg was into wind, heading towards Rufforth. Flying into a 15 knot wind slowed progress a little, but I soon reached RUF.
The sky to the North for the next few miles looked less good than it had, but I could see some more reasonable clouds near Easingwold, so I headed for those. I began to feel low south of Easingwold, having got down to around 2000 feet AMSL (less than 1000 feet above Sutton). I really needed to gain some height to get home, so I took a (relatively) slow climb of 2 knots, which petered out. I headed over Easingwold town centre, where I could see a patch of sunlight striking the ground, and bingo, I hit another 4-knot thermal. I spent a few minutes climbing in that until I had enough height to make sure I got back to Sutton… and from there on it was easy.
The slow section around Rufforth and near Easingwold cost me time though – my average speed around the task had reduced to 68.9 Kph, from a previous 85 Kph. Disappointing, but still, we got home safe and didn’t end up in a farmer’s field! And I suppose, it wasn’t a bad speed for my first cross-country flight in the Cirrus – which was also my first cross-country flight in 3 years!
The landing was the worst bit. Remember me saying we’d got the car stuck whilst towing the glider out? That was due to some heavy rain and snow showers the previous day, and it had left some wet and boggy patches on our already-saturated airfield. Gliders being towed across the airfield forced me to choose a landing line which went into some of the wet areas, and no sooner had we touched down than we hit one of them. The glider noticeably slowed in the first, then skidded in the second and came to a sudden stop in the third. I’d ploughed a furrow in the airfield without even trying, and covered the glider in mud at the same time! I now had a nice cleaning job to do before putting the glider away ready to take back to Jeremy. A dirty end to a nice flight!