WINTER FLYING 2017-2018

 

Weekend of  11/12 November (Andy Farr):  On Saturday morning Thomas was first off at 1041, staying aloft for 41 minutes, mostly on the front hill.  Stewart flew the Astir and found wave up to 5000 feet.  Ray took Jamie Myers in PK and also contacted wave but even Ray’s secret weapon (his mints) were alas no good for keeping them warm.  After lunch and a little flurry of rain/sleet I launched with Ray in PK. Towed by Nick we hugged the cloud all the way to Coire Garbhlach and beyond, but couldn't find any lift on the way back!  On the ground again after a mere 36 minutes.  Jan had decided against flying the Astir (because it had ice on the wings - editor) and it had been returned to the hangar.  Young Thomas decided he wanted one last go, and this time he managed 43 minutes. So a good day – 5 flights totalling 3 hrs 56 mins and hangar doors closed about 4pm – dark o’ clock!

 

On Sunday it was again bright and sunny, with a north-westerly wind which got stronger as the day progressed.  In the morning DB and I went to Kincraig for the memorial service. When we got back Bill Anderson was just launching in Cirrus GCD and Iain Marshall was making ready to follow in the Astir.  Both contacted wave, and both got to around ten thousand feet, with Bill flying for 2hrs 14 mins and Iain for 1hr 49 mins. Special congratulations to Iain who claimed his Silver height today. Yay!!!

Jan Ketelaar flew in Puchacz FYA (been a while since flying FYA, eh Jan?) while John Anderson and I reached FL100 in wave before snow showers stopped play.  A nice day with 5 flights in all totalling 5hrs 26mins, and hangar doors closed by 3pm.  Dave Brown and I tried to get the new Puchacz trailer into the blister hangar, but it is a bit of a beast, and the tail recess will have to be removed before we can do that.  Missy Bitchy is still attached to the trailer ‘down the hole’ until next weekendThanks to Nick for tugging both days, and pushing us into flying.

PS by Bill Anderson:  "The latter part of the climb saw the big hand of the altimeter sweeping round like a second hand on a clock, but the descent was made tricky by the low sun and cloud cover over the airfield.   After flying around in rough air and snow flurries I managed an arrival on 03, an exciting end to a challenging flight.

Saturday 4th November (David Weekes):  The blessed Ian had the tug up and running early. Those present and eager to fly were Thomas (the Famous Eccles), Gabby, Stuart Hills, Ollie (a visitor from Shenington), his friend Helen and myself. Fractionally later arrivals were Bill Longstaff, Ray Hill and Jet Pete.  Bill flew Gabby and after giving Stuart a check ride I took Ollie, who expressed shock/horror at being towed so close to the hill. I guess they don’t do that at Shenington!  He did appreciate the scenery and the site in general despite having to dodge a lot of incoming low clouds.  The middle hill was working all day but the back hill was marginal.

Ray flew Helen, who apparently enjoyed it despite feeling queasy for much of the flight (conditions were actually quite smooth).  I gave Thomas a check ride and after a brief pause for clouds to pass through he went off solo in PK for nearly an hour. Stuart went in the Astir also for an hour or so.  Conditions picked up in the afternoon although the back hill had acquired a bit of snow during the morning. Pete stayed up for over two hours in JET but didn’t contact anything spectacular.   Ray and Bill did a couple of voucher flights but we had to turn down one casual arrival as it was getting dark by 4pm.  Not a bad day all things considered.

 

October 30th:  No flying to report at the weekend.  The weather was dry enough but Ian Carruthers was busy repairing a brake pipe failure in one of the undercarriage wheels on the Robin tow plane, with help from Bill Longstaff, Alister Morrison and others. 

This will be the last weekly press release from the airfield until the start of the new duty roster in March.  We will be flying throughout the winter as weather permits, providing enough eager members show up, and any reports received from members (including photos) concerning winter flying will be uploaded here. 

Don’t forget the Christmas dinner event in the clubhouse on December 16th, which will be combined with the annual trophy awards.  More news of this nearer the time…   

October 23rd:  A disappointing weekend for some, especially tow plane pilot Ian Carruthers.  He had travelled from Carlisle for his weekend duty, to endure the frustration of perfectly flyable weather but not enough members turning up to fly.  Saturday had been more or less calm, dry and cloudy, but Sunday produced a light north-westerly breeze, and a ragged blue gap in the cloud over Loch an Eilein.  It tempted Bill Anderson (Cirrus) and Pete Thomson (Shark) to try their luck.  Pete Smith had also prepared to fly, but decided against at the last minute, re-packing his glider into its trailer.

He came to regret that decision later, as the so-called “A9 wave” developed further, extending the blue gap over Loch Insh.  Bill and Pete both enjoyed over two hours in the afternoon sunshine in that gap, at heights up to about 10,000ft.

Chairman Dave Brown reminds us to visit Alastair Robertson’s memorial seat on the airfield, near the position of the old windsock.  Alastair died in 2014 and the seat was erected with permission by his family after the ash-scattering ceremony the following year.  Among his other contributions to club life we remember Alastair for organising and fitting the excellent log burning stove in the clubhouse. 

 

photo by Bill Longstaff 

 

October 16th:  Storm Ophelia hadn’t yet made an appearance over Scotland at the weekend, and we were able to do a certain amount of flying on Saturday, as described by our correspondent Miles Davis:

“Strong winds, lots of cloud, some wave visible high up, so it looked like it would be an interesting day.  The Glasgow boys (Alasdair Mackenzie and friends) brought some youthful energy and first flight was away at 10am.  Rain and overcast arrived conveniently around lunch time but we were able to get going again after 3pm to make best use of the day.  11 flights in all and a rough total of 11 hours flown so a pretty good day out.”

Sunday afternoon was beautifully sunny and warm, but the southerly wind was just too strong for safe operations, rattling and banging the hangar roof at times.  We had a brief visit from Terry Slater and two fellow pilots who were staying at the Highland Gliding Club near Elgin (who weren’t flying on Sunday either).  Terry was a former Senior Regional Examiner for Scotland and later Chairman of the Instructors’ Panel.     
 

October 9th:  The Octoberfest flying week was dogged by rain and strong winds, but we still managed to do at least some flying every day except one.  Pete Smith’s Vega became suddenly engulfed in cloud in Glen Einich, and he made an emergency landing at Black Park just off the ski road.  It was a good field and the glider wasn’t damaged, but the access track was extremely difficult. It took about ten members in three vehicles to return the glider safely to the airfield in its trailer.  Conditions on the following day were extremely good for long-distance flights starting from other gliding clubs in Scotland, just not from ours!  While we suffered the incessant showers in the northwest winds, the air to the south and east was drier, allowing several flights of over 750km and at least one exceeding 1,000km.

During the week Iain Marshall completed his Bronze achievement badge, and John Smyth claimed the height segment of his Silver badge after a solo climb in the wave to 9,200ft.  Planned BBQs this week suffered from the rain, but the week was rounded off nicely with a communal dinner on Saturday evening.   Most of our visitors seem to have gone away happier and heavier than when they arrived!

Retrieving the Vega from the pasture above Black Park.  Left to right:  Yvonne Stott, Henry Stott, Phil Hawkins, David Weekes, Mike Morrison, Peter Smith (pilot), Peter Hadfield, Alister Morrison, Iain Marshall.  Photo by Paul Hurst.  The glider is shown with its tailplane, cockpit canopy and one wing removed.  It was undamaged and the components were carried down a steep inaccessible track by sheer manpower.  Or personpower (sorry Yvonne).   

 October 2nd:  September rainfall was 86mm on the airfield, which is the second wettest month this year (after June).  Our ‘Octoberfest’ event is now in progress, and has provided flyable weather on most days, despite the relentless winds and showers.  The week actually started on Friday evening with a ‘welcome to Feshie’ BBQ.   

   

Nick Norman finished the annual inspection on the Puchacz two-seater, and it was later test-flown by Ray Hill and Jules Anderson.  Nick had a particularly good day on Tuesday, flying twice in the mighty ASH-25 two-seater.  On the first flight with David Weekes he covered around 200km across the mountains, visiting Killin and Ballater mostly above cloud at heights of 13,000ft and more.  Alasdair Mackenzie joined him on the second flight at similar heights, while the rest of us were dodging around the cloud and showers barely above the ridge.  Most pilots had to be content with this distant view of the upper waves (photo by Andrew Cluskey):

  

Iain Marshall also had a useful day, flying the Astir single seater as well as getting the last exercises of his Bronze C badge signed off after a flight with Chief Flying Instructor Mike Morrison.

 

 

 

 

 

September 25th:  Paul Myers’ club flying week was fairly successful, with a small number of pilots taking advantage of gentle autumn thermals on the Tuesday afternoon, and wave lift up to about 6,000ft the next day.  The week was punctuated by periods of heavy rain, however.

 

The mountain waves were much better in the strong winds on Saturday morning.  Dave Weekes and Miles Davies made an early start, launching before 10am, then Nick Norman and Roger Fothergill flew the ASH-25 two-seater to within three miles (vertically) of Fort William.  Their best height was 19,500ft.

Sunny cloud tops over Lochaber.  The altimeter reads 17,900ft.

(photo:  Nick Norman)

 

Later that day the winds became too rough for safe operation, and Sunday was persistently wet.  The local orienteering club were using an adjacent field for car parking, but they had a soggy Sunday meeting in the rain.

 

Annual inspection work on the Puchacz two-seater is nearing completion, and we are now looking forward to the club’s “Octoberfest” week, which begins on Saturday September 30th. 

 

September 18th: The weekend definitely belonged to Thomas Eccles of Nethy Bridge, at the age of 15 one of our youngest members.  As a final part of his training program he had intensive lessons on ‘eventualities’ with Nick Norman, learning what to do in the event of a launch failure such as the tow rope breaking at an awkward height.  Having passed these tests he was rewarded with his first solo flight on Sunday afternoon.  Well done Thomas! 

 

The grin says it all!  (photo:  Nick Norman)

 

This coming week we will be active most days with informal club flying organised by Paul Myers.  Annual inspection work on the Puchacz two-seater is also proceeding in the hangar during unflyable weather.

 

 

We have bought new silicone water-wipers for removing rain from glider wings.  These will replace a motley collection of old worn-out wiper blades from members’ cars, and are likely to be much more effective.  With the current run of showery weather it is very important to fly with clean wing profiles.  Raindrops sticking to glider wings can seriously degrade flying performance, in extreme cases resulting in a reduction of safety margins. 

 

       

September 11th: A small number of launches were possible on both weekend days, the better weather being on Saturday.  Ray Hill was pundit of the weekend with a flight of 1½ hours.   Anne-Marie Ranft, a visiting pilot from Australia, flew with Alister and was delighted with our mountain views.

 

Loch an Eilein in shadow.  Photo:  Anne-Marie Ranft.

 

 

 

The Puchacz two-seater was de-rigged at the end of the day so that Nick Norman can work on its annual inspection before Octoberfest.

 

Sunday’s weather started on the lively side and deteriorated still further during the afternoon.  After an unsuccessful hunt for wave lift Pete Smith had ‘interesting’ landing in the curlover wind coming off the mountains.  The hangar doors were closed by 2pm, and heavy rain was falling again soon afterwards.

 

Items discussed at the Committee Meeting include the discretionary bursary scheme for youth members, from which Thomas Eccles (15) has recently benefitted.  Also we will in future be obliged to carry out “annual” maintenance work on the Robin tow plane after every 100 flying hours.  Until now this has always been scheduled for a specific week during the summer, but this will no longer be possible, due to the recently-introduced Self-Declared Maintenance Program.

 

September 4th: The warm autumn sunshine on Saturday brought many visitors and spectators to the airfield, once again outnumbering the club members.  Mike Morrison and Ray Hill were kept busy with no fewer than six voucher holders plus three casual visitors who had not previously bought vouchers.  All of these are temporary members of the club for one month, entitled to further flights within that time at normal club rates.  One such temporary member (Eric Campbell) who had flown the previous week came back for another go.

 

Gliders from the Deeside club at Aboyne were also flying in our local area, having transited the mountains to the east.  Best flight of the day among our members was 2hr 35min by Pete Smith.  It was a long day with the hangar doors not closing until 7pm.  Thanks are due to Bob Forrest and Ian Carruthers for flying the Robin tow plane, Gabriel Telerman for running the airfield often single-handedly, and Thomas Eccles for doing a “heap” of glider retrievals in the Land Rover.

 

Sunday was a non-flying day owing to the rough south-easterly winds spilling over the mountains to the east of our site.  John Whyte, Ian Marshall and Dave Brown were under the bonnet of the Mitsubishi (which has multiple problems) for several hours, and that's still a work-in-progress.  In the afternoon we had a brief visit from the Coastguard helicopter.  The mountain rescue team had picked up a lady hill walker with a badly twisted ankle, who was being transferred to a car for onward travel.


Kicking up a cloud of dust.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins.  


 

 

August 28th:  Saturday’s weather was again poor, with low cloud, a light northerly drift and lots of midges!   Only four club members turned up, and that includes the tow plane pilot and the duty instructor, but five short flights were done in the calm conditions.  Tony Cresswell from the Edensoaring club flew twice and is a potential new member.  The Mitsubishi retrieve vehicle ran out of fuel but there was insufficient know-how on the airfield to get it going again, and being an automatic it could not be towed from its stalling point. 

 

Funniest moment ~ the Puchacz radio appeared to be stuck on ‘transmit’ at the launch point, leading to general puzzlement for a while, until it was realised the instructor (who shall remain nameless) had hung his cap over the stick in the rear cockpit, neatly depressing the push-to-talk switch.

 

Sunday saw a much higher cloudbase and a breeze on the hill.  Sixteen flights were made using ridge lift, thermals and mountain waves, the longest of which was 3hr 23min by Jan Ketelaar, but there were five others exceeding two hours.  Pete Thomson possibly made the best of the weak wave, reaching at least 6,500ft.  The cloud conditions varied hugely during the afternoon from almost overcast to almost clear at times.

 

The ‘Mitzi’ could not be re-started but John Whyte our vehicle guru is promising to bring a suction pump next weekend. 
    

August 21st:  Saturday’s weather was poor, allowing only two launches for the day, but Jan Ketelaar did manage 4,000ft in his Cirrus during a 47 minute flight.

 

Sunday by contrast provided lots of sunshine and zero wind.  Several experienced pilots including Pete Thomson and Bill Anderson enjoyed the afternoon thermals, while Andy Farr, Mike Morrison and Ray Hill were kept busy flying the many visitors.  Some came in a mini bus from Feshiebridge Lodge, also 13 year old twins Hannah and Hamish from Aviemore, who joined the club as youth members.  Andy’s favourite flight was with the driver of the mini bus, a jet pilot from Lossiemouth.

 

Iain Marshall has posted some superb photos on the club's Facebook page, one of which is reproduced below.  Final word from Caroline Hayes who flew with Ray Hill and no doubt appreciated these spectacular heather colours on the mountains at present:  “so special, what a magic thing we do.” 

       

 August 14th:  The glorious twelfth has not been particularly glorious on the grouse moors this year, and neither was it on Feshiebridge airfield.  Annual maintenance work on the Robin tow plane had been proceeding in the previous week, and tug master Ian Carruthers delivered it back to the airfield on Sunday.  However, after a good forecast the weekend weather was very disappointing, and there was no demand for aerotow launches.

 

Once again the gas-powered winch was in action both days, driven by Iain Marshall, John Whyte and John Smyth among others.  The brand new steel stranded cable, fitted last weekend, was performing well and there were few problems with cable breaks.   Launches to more than 1,000 feet were possible, the record for the weekend being 1,250ft.

 

Pete Thomson flew his LS7 glider “FB” for the first time in four years following its recent overhaul and re-certification.  Usually he flies his jet-powered Shark “ET” but we often forget he has this other little beauty hidden away in its trailer.

   The gas winch (photo by Mike Morrison) 

 

August 7th:  Our Robin tow plane is away for its annual maintenance, but activity at the airfield continues.  Michel Mulder our occasional Dutch visitor had arrived during the week in his Cessna 172 and on Saturday morning took young Thomas Eccles for a short spin before disappearing off on a lunchtime visit to Mull with Jan Ketelaar.

 

A visitor arrived from Eden Soaring who wanted to fly, so the winch was prepared for action.  Easier said than done amid continuing rain showers and problems with frayed steel cable, but after drying off the glider wings for the second time all was ready for launch.  Sadly it was not to be, the cable had broken before the glider even moved, then there were interminable problems with connecting the gas cylinder to the winch, meaning the winch wouldn’t start again.  A very frustrating day for all concerned, followed by more and more rain!

 

A small number of flights were done using the winch on Sunday, but the decision was taken to scrap the entire cable and replace it with a new drum that has been waiting for just such an occasion.  A time-consuming job in itself.

 

Meanwhile over on Deeside Ian Carruthers and Nick Norman were scratching their heads over the ever-changing paperwork requirements, whilst the unskilled labour in the shape of Phil Hawkins and Bill Anderson were doing various menial tasks.  Fiona just sat in the corner and heckled!   

The maintenance team at work.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins.

July 31st:  Heavy rain at the weekend, but this didn’t prevent a limited amount of flying on both days, such is the enthusiasm and patience of club members and visitors alike.  There were only about two hours of useful weather on Saturday afternoon, but the gliders were ready to go as soon as the skies cleared.  Pete Smith and Jan Ketelaar both flew their own machines, and Andy Farr flew with a visitor who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

 

Sunday’s weather began much more promisingly.  Bill Anderson, Bill Longstaff, Pete Smith, Pete Thomson  and Ray Hill flew in the moderate thermal conditions, thanks to the efforts of tug pilot Ian Carruthers, but the south-east winds were producing little or no lift from the hill slopes.  Heavy rain arrived again in mid-afternoon and we all retired to the clubhouse to await developments.  A late afternoon clearance allowed one or two final flights.

Thanks to Bill Longstaff for capturing these rainbows over the Bear's Paw. 

July 24th:  We flew both days at the weekend, although conditions were not particularly good.  It was mainly overcast on Saturday with a very light northerly breeze, which varied a lot over the length of the runway.  Thomas Eccles and Jamie Myers, our two youngest members, both flew with instructor Bob Forrest and generally made themselves useful driving the Land Rover on the airfield.  A visitor from Wisconsin bought a trial lesson, and returned wearing a big happy grin.

Apart from the Puchacz two-seater the only other glider to be flown was the Shark by Pete Thomson, who recently returned from a visit to the Edensoaring club in Cumbria.  He initially tried the only visible sunny patch over the Monadhliath mountains near Aviemore, but that produced no lift and he needed jet power assistance to get back to the ridge behind the airfield.  Somewhat unexpectedly there was a strong wave hole developing here, and he climbed to 10,000ft between large hazy masses of cloud.  This is currently the maximum height we are allowed without officially registering an airspace notice 24 hours in advance, which nobody had thought necessary in this case. 

It took a turn for the worse on Sunday, though, with very low cloud and a lot more wind.  But Andy Farr still managed to do three more visitor flights, once again with Bernhard van Woerden at the controls in the Robin tow plane.  It was a useful day for spreading goodwill and making a little money for club coffers.  We have only one more weekend with the Robin before it goes away for its annual maintenance at the beginning of August.

Unusual birds seen recently include sand martin, red-legged partridge, raven and osprey.  Snipe were also occasionally heard. The local ospreys have two well-grown chicks now, and the parents could be seen taking in food to them.  Supposedly they only eat fish, but at least one fresh meal looked suspiciously like rabbit!