July 17th:  Saturday was a non-flying day and our Chief Flying Instructor Mike Morrison (now a born-again biker with a 650cc Kawasaki) mowed the runway in preparation for better weather. Nick Norman, assisted by Bill Anderson and Lee Mitchell who had brought his Nimbus back on site, worked on the Cirrus in the hangar, carrying out its annual maintenance. 

Sunday started windy and overcast but brightened up late morning as forecast. Miles Davies did another solo flight in the Puchacz two-seater after a check ride, landing after 50 minutes as he found the workload was high with strong lift and low cloud. A visiting pilot from Yorkshire flew for 45 minutes with Alister in Papa Kilo the other two-seater.  He saw our site from the air for the first time, and was suitably impressed.

Ian Carruthers self-launched in his DG400 motor glider for an hour whilst Nick piloted the tow plane, then landed so that Nick could fly his ASH before it was de-rigged. Nick flew with Miles and opened his eyes to life after the Puchacz, soaring the slopes of Braeriach near the top end of Glen Einich.  They reached 11,000 feet near Nethybridge, where they saw a KLM airliner passing by in open airspace, in other words not using the extensive areas of controlled airspace that already exist. Let’s hope the KLM pilots were keeping an equally good lookout!

Jan Ketelaar flew for four hours, Mike Morrison for two hours.  Ray Hill was prised out his fettling hangar to fly a lady with a trial lesson voucher who had been trying for months without a successful visit, and was able to give her a good flight.  Sadly for us, however, her life is too busy to commit to a new sport at this time. Our President Bill Longstaff spent the day preparing his vintage Dart for its forthcoming holiday at the Yorkshire Gliding Club in August.

Iain Marshall had a frustrating day as the weather was judged too strong for his Bronze badge check flights and he didn’t want to fly solo, and Ian Campbell also didn’t rig his V-tailed wooden glider in the strong conditions.  But there was a lot of club flying to be done had more members turned up, please note.  The two-seaters were standing unoccupied for some hours in the afternoon. 

 

 

A slightly blurry Nick cuddling a G & T (photo:  Mike Morrison)

 

 

July 10th:  Saturday looked to be a fairly busy day: bright sunshine, a south-westerly wind, one of the year’s better days for aviating.  Miles Davies, our recently soloed pilot from two weeks ago, surprised us all by arriving in a light aircraft piloted by his friend from Dingwall.  Nick Norman flew his ASH 25 with Alison Myers and almost got to Ben Nevis, getting to over 11,000 feet in the process.  Jan Ketelaar got as far as Pitlochry at 10,000 feet. The lack of a transponder prevented him going any higher into controlled airspace. There were reports of other pilots getting to around 8,500 feet. Ian Carruthers flew his beloved DG400 for the first time since last May.  Andy flew with a couple of visitors who had vouchers to fly, but sadly, another couple who arrived from Inverness and also had vouchers to fly, were unable to wait and so will return at a later date. That’s what happens when the good weather comes – everyone wants in on the act.   The last flight of the day was another visitor with a voucher. After a long wait, she was finally rewarded with a flight in Nick’s ASH.

Sunday started very dreich. Cloud level was low at around 1,500 feet, with little or no wind and lots of midges. Showers were forecast for later in the day, so it didn’t look like there would be much happening.  Miles started cutting the grass, but Nick had other plans for him. He had simulated launch failures to prepare him for such an eventuality. Two of them were on the take-off run at about 15 feet, then three ‘nasty’ ones at about 300 feet. Miles acquitted himself with aplomb, and went for a short solo flight to celebrate. John Whyte tackled the errant landrover which refused to start earlier.  A replacement alternator did the trick. Ian Campbell took out the strimmer and proceeded to tidy the place up a bit.

 

In the meantime, local lass Jane Gibbons from Kingussie arrived to claim her prize from a local fundraiser held last year in which she won a flight in a glider. Several weel kent faces from the Suie Bar were there to offer encouragement, though none was needed as Jane was keen to get in the air. By now the cloud base was over 3,000 feet, and there was a 10 knot south-westerly breeze. Despite the morning gloom, it had turned out to be quite a nice day. There were many smiling faces at the end of the day to confirm this. 

 

Jane ready for takeoff.

 

July 3rd:  We’ve seen the end of a very wet June, with airfield rainfall at 94mm for the month being more than twice the total for May and more than three times the total for April.  The weekend saw mediocre flying conditions, but some fascinating tales nevertheless.  On Saturday while Phil and Fiona were making their monthly visit to the spinning group at Knockando Wool Mill, Andy and Thomas were flying Phil’s two-seater DaisyETA. About fifteen minutes after takeoff the FLARM collision avoidance unit began emitting sparks and smoke!  They landed in a hurry to disconnect the offending instrument, which may or may not still be under warranty, and went on to enjoy another hour or so dodging the low clouds on the hill.

Sunday's weather was no better.  Only three flights in total between the extended showers and general driech, but a good turn-out of members carried out various maintenance tasks.  Jan Ketelaar did some strimming around the trailer park, while Nick and Dave were re-assembling the single-seat Astir CS after its fuselage repair.  We will no doubt see that flying again next weekend.  Bill Anderson was extracting his Cirrus from a borrowed trailer and parking it in the hangar for maintenance.  Ian Carruthers finally reached the end of a marathon paperwork battle to get his motor-glider through its 'annual' inspection, which has been going on since about last September!

A mole was spotted scrabbling around the hangar floor.  No, really.  They can’t really walk, they just sort of swim along on their tummies.  Phil and Nick rescued it in a bucket, but sadly Nick didn’t think of the obvious photo caption (there’s a mole in my bucket, dear Liza) until after Phil had released the wee beastie back into the sheep field!   Curses, one brilliant photo opportunity missed!        

June 26th:
 The club has successfully defended its title in the Scottish Inter Club League competition!  For the second year in a row we brought home the elegant winged trophy.  The champion team consisting of Nick Norman, Mike Morrison and Bill Anderson, supported by a small crew, made the expedition south to the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak airfield near Kinross.  It was very windy both days, but this didn’t prevent Nick with his co-pilot John Smyth making a 530km foray over the mountains as far as Keith on Saturday, at heights up to 16,000ft.  The weather on Sunday was less suitable, but when the scores were totalled on Sunday afternoon we had won easily.



The victorious team featuring (left to right) Bill Anderson, Nick Norman and team captain Mike Morrison.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins. 



















Meanwhile back at Feshiebridge the highlight of the weekend was a first solo flight by Miles Davies, pictured here with instructor Ray Hill on the left.  Photo by Ian Campbell.

Congratulations Miles!

  









Somehow we need to encourage more members to take part in the League meetings, not only pilots but the vital crew members too.  This weekend at Portmoak was a busy scramble getting three gliders rigged and de-rigged, towing them to the launch point and back again after landing, making sure the pilots had all the information and equipment they wanted, and worrying about retrieving them if they landed out.  Visiting neighbouring clubs gives new members invaluable experience of varying conditions, different gliders, new terrain, and the opportunity to make new friends.   Next year we need at least one support crew member per pilot!

On Sunday Nick flew with one of the local Portmoak juniors, in the absence of any other interested Feshie members.  John Smyth  was able to get a K21 ride with a local instructor, but helped out at the launch point afterwards.  Later in the day Jim McQuade also turned up, and was rewarded by a short flight with Nick on the Portmoak ridge (Bishop Hill).

Camping for crews isn't essential ~ there are always local B&Bs available and John managed to get a slot in the Portmoak bunkroom ~ but what better view could there be from the front door of the tent, than Bishop Hill on a summer day

June 19th:  A much warmer weekend but still the cloud is very low, hugging the mountains alongside the airfield.  Nevertheless we flew both days, Pete Thomson deserving a mention for his 3½ hour effort on Saturday squeezing his Shark glider into the narrow gap between the ridge top and the cloud base.  But it was a dull uninspiring day.

Somewhat brighter conditions on Sunday encouraged many visitors to the airfield including a group of young people from Mumbai.  Phil and Fiona Hawkins had an interesting flight in their two-seater ‘DaisyETA’ exploring weak lift at low level along the hill overlooking the airfield, and along the front edges of the cloud banks that remained stuck to the mountain tops all day.  Mike Morrison was taking advantage of the empty hangar to do a bit of wing polishing.

Next weekend the club will be defending the Inter Club League championship at Portmoak airfield near Kinross.  Our club won the trophy last year and we are keen to see it remain behind the bar for another twelve months! 

June 12th: 
The current run of showery weather continues
giving us a grand total of three flights over the weekend.  Saturday afternoon was sunny enough but the wind was too rough all day for safe flying.  On Sunday Bill Anderson picked the best hour for a flight in his Cirrus, and later John Smyth flew the Puchacz, but most of the day was spent listening to the rain on the hangar roof.

There are always jobs to be done on the ground, however.  A lot of winter firewood logs were cut by Andy Farr, John Whyte, Mike Morrison and others.  A slight problem with Papa Kilo was identified with the nose wheel tyre binding against the interior fairing, but John Smyth was looking at that later.  New member Gabriel Telerman had a useful ground school lesson on soaring techniques from our President Bill Longstaff. 

The highlight of the weekend was possibly not on the airfield at all.  It was World Gin Day, in case you hadn’t noticed, and Walter Mickelthwait’s gin party was held at nearby Inshriach farm on Saturday afternoon.  Live band, mobile wood-fired pizza oven and of course a lot of gin and cocktails were consumed.  The farm yard was sufficiently sheltered from the rough winds for the hot sunshine to be most enjoyable.     

June 5th:  After all the glorious weather in April and May we must now dodge the showers, but a new member (Emma Sandiford) enjoyed her first glider flight so much on Saturday morning that she immediately took up membership.  She has flown motor gliders before but never a pure glider.  A visiting Australian pilot from Alice Springs also flew briefly between spells of rain.  Jordan Thompson had a couple of instructional flights in the Puchacz towards the end of the day.    

Sunday’s weather was similar but Miles Davies flew three times, and a local resident called in to redeem a Trial Lesson voucher.  He flew with former Chief Flying Instructor Alister Morrison, and his family were so impressed with the hospitality and ‘craic’ they made a donation!  Andy Farr and John Whyte were the pundits of the day with a 1½ hr flight up to 4,000ft in Papa Kilo.  Sadly another visitor was not so lucky, having driven all the way from Ullapool only to be delayed by a puncture at Aviemore.  We had packed up by the time he arrived.  Selfie by Bernhard while waiting to launch Jordan. 

May 29th:  A second weekend of mediocre weather.  Repairs to the tow plane were still being finalised on Saturday, and a duplicate inspection of the work by the impartial Alan Middleton was awaited.   Out on the airfield some work was necessary to maintain the winch cable thanks to the efforts of Miles, Andy, Jordan and Bernhard.  The first of nine winch launches took place in early afternoon, all short flights but useful experience for our student pilots. 

On Sunday it was a slow start with everything being damp underfoot after heavy overnight rain, but in the afternoon more aerotow launches were happening from the south end of the airfield.  The fresh northerly breeze made a pleasant change from recent sultry days. 

We have another new junior member ~ Jamie Myers aged 11 from Fortrose, who spent the entire day on Saturday asking questions and watching what went on.  Luckily he was able to have his maiden flight by aerotow thanks to Ian's and Nick's great efforts in getting the tow plane back into action.  This week's photo (below) by Jordan Thompson. 

    

May 22nd: A quiet weekend on the airfield with continuous rain on Saturday, but a few short flights were made on Sunday.  The club’s Robin DR400 tow plane is currently out of action awaiting repair to its undercarriage.  Spare parts are scheduled to be delivered from the French manufacturers by the end of this week.

Meanwhile Pete Smith, Nick Norman, Dave Brown and a few more hardy enthusiasts were keen to try winch launching.  Rarely seen at Feshie, the winch was set up on Sunday morning.  Flights were of three or four minutes duration only, but new member Jim McQuade from Livingston (Edinburgh)  gained some worthwhile experience, flying with Nick and with Ray Hill.

The stranded steel winch cable needed some maintenance before it could be used.  At least two breaks were mended, using aluminium ferrules in a portable hydraulic press, and Phil Hawkins demonstrated how to splice the cable onto the shackle at the top end, near where it hooks on to the glider.  

May 15th:  The settled spell of fine weather meant that flying was possible on every one of the 16 ‘Mayfest’ days this year, although there was one day in which the only flying was done by a visiting motor glider.  Tuesday in the second week was particularly good with high cloudbases and sparkling visibility.  Several pilots visited Ben Nevis in the course of their cross-country flights.  Gordon Craig, a guest pilot from Oxfordshire, even brought back photos of the summit looking upwards from below!

During routine maintenance on our Robin tow plane, a problem was identified with the undercarriage.  This will ground it for a while until repairs are effected.  By the following day, however, a replacement Pawnee had been hired from the Deeside Gliding Club at Aboyne.  Paul Myers, one of our tow plane pilots who hadn’t flown one of these for 24 years, was delighted!  Hangar packing in the evenings with this big beast was a bit of a puzzle, though.

This week's photo is by Andy Farr. 

May 8th:  Beautiful sky-blue days and chilly clear nights featured in the first ‘Mayfest’ week.  Flying has been possible every day so far, and although the mountain waves have not been as exceptionally good as last year, nevertheless some remarkable  flights have been made.  Thursday was memorable with four different pilots visiting Ben Nevis at heights up to 12,000ft.  Visitors and club members alike enjoy watching the display screen in the clubhouse that tracks each glider’s GPS unit against a map of the highlands.

Highlight of the week was the big party on Saturday in honour of our President’s 80th birthday.  Bill Longstaff was a founder member of the club in 1966 and is still an active pilot and instructor.  About 100 members and friends had gathered to enjoy live music, local beers, a hog roast, the massive cairngorm sausages and desserts from the naughty cake shop.  Caroline Hayes is pictured carving the pig (photo by Robert Maclean).

Although we need to remember that flying is the main reason we are here, it isn't the only thing we do well!  

May 1st:  Our annual ‘Mayfest’ event is well under way in which we play host to visiting experienced pilots from other gliding clubs around the UK.  They come to sample the delights of flying among the mountains, providing challenges which most other clubs don’t have.

Thomas Eccles (15) had a flight of a lifetime with Nick Norman, mostly in that other world up there above the clouds at heights up to 18,000ft.   They navigated around Tomintoul to the east and Roy Bridge to the west in less than 2½ hours.  Try doing that in a car!  Thomas is pictuired in the back seat of the mighty ASH-25E wearing parachute and oxygen cannula.

For these two weeks the airfield will be active daily, weather permitting, and next week is of particular interest to the ‘Walking On Air’ disabled group who will be paying their annual visit.  Their gliders have modified controls allowing the rudder to be operated by the left hand instead of the feet, which gives wheelchair pilots total equality with the able-bodied.

Unusual birds spotted from the clubhouse windows this week include the osprey, wheatear, ring ouzel and red-legged partridge.  Hares with their characteristic black ear tips are also resident on the airfield.