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.

April 24th:  The flying week organised by Paul Myers was very successful.  New youth member Thomas Eccles had an intensive training day, visiting pilot Graham Alexander in his Ventus glider made several excursions into the mountain waves, all the local slopes were soared in varying wind directions, and we experienced some lively thermal activity mixed in with snow showers. Social evenings included chilli and BBQ as the weather permitted.

At the weekend Bill Anderson, Pete Smith and Nick Norman were defending the club's honour in the Scottish Inter Club League competition  at the Highland Gliding Club at Easterton just south of Elgin.  Only the novices flew on Saturday before deteriorating weather set in, and Bill Anderson was justifiably proud of his score of 7 points.  The winner on that day was junior pilot Amy-Jo Randalls from Portmoak, whose other achievements include feelgood videos such as this one.  Weather conditions were somewhat better on Sunday and all pilots flew.  Full results are not yet available but Nick flying his ASH-25 two seater with Jordan Thompson was still at 11,000ft somewhere over Deeside when the competition was drawing to a close on Sunday afternoon.  They probably won the day.....

Jordan has contributed this superb drone photo of the airfield at its busiest during Mayfest last year.  

April 17th:  The Easter weekend produced good flying weather, at least on Saturday.  It was the 50th anniversary of Roger Fothergill’s very first glider flight, and he celebrated the occasion by flying with Andy Farr in the newly-refurbished “DaisyETA” two-seater.  In fact all four two-seaters at the airfield were flying for the first time this year.  Nick Norman and Alison Myers had a particularly successful excursion to 12,000ft in the evening waves, exploring Loch Ericht and Rannoch Moor.

Roger’s 9¾-year-old grandson Thomas McKenzie was the star guest of the day, enjoying three flights and also learning how to drive the Land Rover.  Definitely a future junior member!

This week there will be (unusually) daily flying available thanks to Paul Myers who is camping on site and flying the tow plane as necessary. The weather conditions on Easter Monday were much colder with the wind gradually changing to the north.  Good sunny spells, and several pilots enjoyed brisk thermals particularly over the Feshie river.  The Easter Sunday rain had fallen as snow on the  high ground, meaning the peaks are currently much whiter than they have been for much of the winter. 

April 10th:  Fine spring weather continues at the airfield, especially on Saturday.  No fewer than 24 launches that day, with Jan Ketelaar, Andy Farr and Roger Fothergill achieving heights of 10,000ft in the mountain waves.

Wildlife photographer William McNeil sent in this great photo of Andy flying the Puch over Loch Insh.

At the AGM in the evening Dave Brown was elected our new Chairman, to take over from Mike Morrison who continues as Chief Flying Instructor.  We need more instructors trained up for next year, and it seems Andy and Pete Smith might be persuaded to take the plunge. 

We also badly need new youth members to combat our ageing membership, and a bursary scheme to benefit suitably qualified youngsters has been proposed.  The details are yet to be decided by the Committee, but it will be aimed at encouraging recipients to turn up regularly and contribute to club life.  

April 3rd:  We welcome Papa Kilo back into service after its 3,000hr inspection, which has taken many months over the winter.  Full credit to Nick Norman, Dave Weekes, Ian Carruthers and anyone else who has contributed to this lengthy project. 

Sunday was a day of many ‘firsts.’  New youth member Thomas Eccles (age 15) of Nethy Bridge made his first visit to the airfield, it was the first time Caroline has flown Papa Kilo solo, the first time Dave Weekes has flown his vintage Skylark this year, and the first time Jan Ketelaar has flown his Cirrus this year.  His was the longest flight at over four hours although two other pilots logged over three hours.

We also had the first sightings of the Feshie ospreys, returning from Africa after the winter, with especially good views of one individual flying low over the airfield and calling piercingly from nearby trees.  Their nest tree sadly toppled into the river after a flood last year, but hopefully they will find another nest site.

Student pilot Miles Davies (front seat) and instructor Ray Hill prepare to fly the Polish-built Puchacz (owl) two-seater.  We believe the correct pronunciation is something like ‘poo-hots’ but perhaps a Polish-speaking reader can confirm.                                                                          

March 27th:  Beautiful weather at the moment, here in the Costa del Scottish Highlands.  In the past three days we must have had 36 hours of sunshine.  Unfortunately this type of blue-sky weather isn’t particularly good for gliding.  There hasn’t been enough wind to make the hill lift work properly, and pressure is too high for good thermals to form.

But this didn’t stop a lot of fun flying.  Despite the difficult conditions Pete Thomson managed over three hours in his Shark, allegedly without using the jet engine.  Alasdair Mackenzie was signed off for single-seater flying and took his first launch in the Astir, discovering for himself how snappily it flies compared to the ponderous two-seaters.  Caroline Hayes did a solo flight too (she wasn't expecting that) and new member Miles Davies logged three flights on the same day.  Pete Smith flew the Vega briefly, which helped to fix teething troubles with his new radio.  Two visitors from Strathclyde University flew twice each, and seem keen to visit again.

The club’s beloved two-seater Papa Kilo was rigged (i.e. had its wings attached) for the first time since about last September and its first flight of the season now depends only on EU paperwork being sorted. 

March 20th:  Feverish activity in the hangar last week as Phil, Paul and Henry worked on the two-seater ‘DaisyETA’ for its annual inspection.  It has a rebuilt instrument panel with a new radio to comply with EU regulations, and other gadgets including moving-map GPS displays.

Meanwhile Dave the inspector is currently in Norway with Mary and Shaun (right):

Weekend weather at the airfield was mediocre, but John Smyth and Ray Hill had an enjoyable one-hour flight on the ridge above Loch Nam Bo late on Saturday.  It was somewhat spring-like on Sunday afternoon too, but by that time Phil was transporting horse poo and planting out the first onions at Kingussie. 

 

 

March 13th:  A useful weekend.  The mountain waves weren’t working to any degree, but several pilots who hadn’t flown over the winter were ‘checked out’ and are now officially in flying practice once more.  Andy had his first flight with his new bionic knee, and two student pilots (Grant and Miles) had good training sessions.

On the admin side we have a new white-board in the launch point vehicle for pre-flight briefings, and Phil’s two-seater ‘DaisyETA’ was de-rigged at the start of its annual inspection.  Paul and Henry have started re-wiring DaisyETA’s forward instrument panel, and Paul is also now flying the tow plane again after a winter lay-off.

Our photographer has submitted this picture of a winch gnome, alerted no doubt by clouds of black smoke from the other end of the airfield.

 

March 6th:  Unexpected late winter snow covered the airfield at the weekend.  The duty roster for the 2017 summer season has officially started, but the services of the tug pilot, instructor and airfield marshal were sadly not required.

However, indoor activity was (as usual) brisk. The two-seater Papa Kilo is coming towards the end of its 3000-hour inspection, and we expect to see it flying again before the season really gets going. Parachutes are being couriered off for their annual checks and re-packing.  For those who don’t know, glider pilots do wear parachutes as a form of insurance, but of course they are almost never used. Admin paperwork and catering plans are under way for the AGM in April, and there will also be a big ticket event in May to celebrate our President Bill Longstaff’s 80th birthday, featuring a pig roast and live music.

We may have solved the firewood re-stocking problem by an arrangement with Laggan Community Trust, but perhaps more details about that next week.