Eye in the Sky - Mar 2009

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Mon 30 Mar 2009

Report by Andrew Hill



Ringstead About 10 paragliders and 1 rigid wing enjoyed a glorious sunny day on Ringstead. Light winds limited height gains to a few hundred feet but gentle thermals over the launch ridge boosted me to 900' on the Atos VQ alongside a friendly hawk. Took the train back to Wimbledon with a happy grin and sunburned face.

Report by Martin Butcher

Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeee its British Summer Time and I can fly after work.

I finish at 4pm so if its good or not so good and I am desperate I can get out and fly in the evenings. Today qualified on both the good and desperate fronts, so I high tailed it to White Horse ariving just before 5. The wind was a little Westerly and about 10/12 mph with a lovely clear blue sky. As I rigged I could see 4 or 5 gliders around the corner at Ringstead but there was no one else at the Horse.

I took off into a thermal and shot straight to 450 feet. Where was everyone? You could have gone XC if you had been there earlier it was so buoyant. After about 40 mins the thick bank of cloud that was being held back by the breeze started creeping closer and it eventually covered the sun killing off the lift, I noticed everyone seemed to have disappeared over on Ringstead as well so I landed and drove home to tea happy its summertime.


Sun 29 Mar 2009

Report by Nigel Bourn

My first xc in England (and only my fourth) was from White horse. Very similar to Shamus's only after crossing the A35 I turned east as the sky in front was a beautiful clear blue and the only clouds that looked as if they might give me lift were over Bere Regis. Unfortunately I lost the 3,000 feet I had in getting there and landed next to the bypass. A huge thank you to Martin F for helping me out on launch €“ without that I might have been tempted to sell the glide, and Karen and Shamus for the retrieve.

Report by Shamus Pitts


The weather forecast for today had looked pretty good, but when I woke up this morning everything seemed to have changed for the worse. There was no wind, it was overcast and RASP was indicating a large area of non-thermic activity over Dorset! About midday the sun was out and Weymouth Weather was suggesting that the wind was quite strong and southerly so I phoned Nigel B and we met up at the White Horse. We got there about 2:15 to find the wind pretty much on the hill and blowing 11 to 17mph, quite gusty. I got ready and took off to find the air very buoyant. I managed to push out almost all the way to the road a number of times and was tempted to try and get to the coast, but whenever I got near the road I found plenty of sink so gave up and headed back to the hill.

I boated about for about an hour, there was stacks of lift but I was a bit nervous about 360ing too much because the wind was pretty strong and I didn't want to end up being blown over the back. Eventually I found myself turning in a big, strong thermal which took me to 1000' ATO fairly quickly without too much drift so I stuck with it. By the time I was 2000' ATO I was getting near Crossways but I'd lost the thermal. I was tempted to head off over Dorchester and work my way home but the lift seemed to be further east than that so I headed to the quarry at Crossways and found a good climb. I was higher now than the cloud which was coming in off the sea, which seemed to have a ragged base a few hundred feet below me. It was strange, on the hill the wind was strong, but here over the quarry there wasn't much drift at all. I built up my height before heading towards Puddletown, sinking all the way. At Puddletown I found a big climb which took me to cloudbase, about 3000' ATO.

I crossed the Puddletown bypass and decided to see if I could get to Bell hill. I could see the TV mast at Winterbourne Stickland in the distance to my northeast so I slowly edged my way towards it. By now I had been in the air an hour and a half (including ridge soaring) and my hands were numb with cold despite my thick gloves. I topped up my height again but I was starting to get impatient. There wasn't a great deal of drift, there were some likely looking clouds ahead and I couldn't feel my hands, so I headed downwind towards Milton Abbey. I hadn't found any more lift when I flew over the lake at Milton Abbey and I was getting quite low, so I turned northeast over Milton Abbas and landed in a field just past the village, really happy with how the day had turned out! I phoned my wife who came and picked me up and then got a call from Martin F who had also left the hill, although he later got another lift. On the way back Nigel B phoned to say he had made it to Bere Regis so we picked him up and drover back to the hill. As we were leaving, Mark R arrived, having flown home! A surprisingly good day €“ my first XC from White Horse, 25.3km!

Tue 24 Mar 2009

Report by John Alder

Bell Hill. Encouraged by Eric Pearcy's sitephone message, I got to the hill at about 1.30pm to find Eric still there, grounded by the strongish breeze. Rigged up the HG and had a pleasant flight in mainly dynamic lift although there were snippets of thermal activity initially €“ I estimate I topped out at about 250m ATO. The lift got steadily weaker so I squeaked in for a surprisingly good top landing. We both thought the conditions now favoured PG and Eric prepared while I de-rigged but, by the time I'd finished packing the HG it had become too strong again so we called it a day.

Sun 22 Mar 2009

Report by Joe Mccarthy


Here is a photo from Sunday compitition at Bell! Sun 22 Mar 2009

Report by Peter Robinson

I was preparing to launch at the Dorset Gliding Club, and was looking for the tug pilot, when someone pointed out an orange/grey paraglider making its way down the length of the airfield at a few hundred feet.

I guess it landed at Monkey World, just beyond the field.

We had aerotow and winch-launch operations going on. Fortunately the paraglider flew across during an interval between launches but it drew disapproving comments.

I'm guessing that it was BCC visitor who had not been properly briefed or who had not been listening.

Report by Martin Butcher


Wessex had organised a round of the BCC today but Sean Stains our competition secretary was away learning to fly hang gliders so we could win the hang gliding rounds by being the only one to turn up so I was delegated to take over.

After some strong overnight winds the morning of the 22nd dawned blue with an excellent forecast for the time of year of Northerly going Northwest by lunch, so a briefing was held at 10:45 for the 6 teams present: Avon, Southern, South Devon, Wessex and two teams from the Condors. As usual the forecast wasn't quite right and the wind was more northerly than predicted but if you were able to get off it was flyable. With the promise of it going a more favourable North West we decided to stay where we were rather then move to the nearby Northerly site. The task for the day was open distance with the window opening at 11 and closing at 4:30.

Immediately after briefing pilots began taking off but conditions soon began deteriorating. The wind came round more west but the strength increased more than predicted. It was quite bumpy and thermic and when the cycles came through the wind was gusting up to 18/20 mph. Several large gaggles got away but many pilots reported difficulty in staying in the thermals and many attempted to make it back to the hill only to land one or two fields back from the ridge. However several people made around the 20k mark and a few made it to the coast around Lulworth, with many more around the 10 k mark.

Everyone seemed to have a good day even with the difficult conditions so.......

Sun 22 Mar 2009

Report by Alastair Florence



I had the misfortune of a car tyre puncture on Bell yesterday, and then even more misfortune this morning when another tyre also developed a puncture. Fortunately Keith B had directed me to a tyre fitters near Blandford Tesco that was open Saturday, missed Saturdays opening hours as it was flyable. But every cloud has a silver lining, I discovered they also open Sundays, hence the perfect excuse to have to go near Bell on Sunday, the wife realised it was easier to let me skip Mothers day lunch with the in laws and go flying, so made it to Bell just in time for the BCC round, nice looking sky, no inversion, cumulus, wind off North and strongish but do able. Plenty of thermals and a good turn out of pilots chasing them. Not that great on the hill but fine once over the back. Northerly element gave an unfamiliar flight track and had the choice of head straight for ranges, try for Swanage or try for Lulworth. 4 of us flying together two went for Lulworth, me and Alan D (Avon) tried Swanage only making Worgret though. The Staines collecta PG service turned up within minutes (many thanks Andrea) and we Came away happy.

Report by Shamus Pitts


Another cracking day at Bell Hill despite conditions varying from €œToo North€ to €œToo Strong€! I got to Bell about 9:30 and found the wind blowing at a reasonable strength but almost due North. I took off and found the spur to be lifting well, but the bowl was rough and sinky! I landed after about 25 minutes for the BCC briefing.

Once the briefing was over the take off window was opened but the wind was still almost due North and increasing in strength. A couple of students had got good height on their flights to the bottom landing field so I took off and flew on to the spur before it got too crowded. The air was pretty rough at times, the thermals coming through strongly but a bit fragmented. It wasn't long before the air was quite busy with 6 or 7 teams competing in the BCC with only the spur to play on, but the wind was increasing and the thermals brought separation so there was enough room for all of us.

As the wind was quite strong and off to the north, after a couple of 360's it was decision time as to whether to go with the thermal or try and get back to the ridge. I followed a cloud down the ridge to the west and had a real struggle to get back even on full bar. I was creeping along, half way down the hill about 10' from the ground and got to the spur very low! Luckily I managed to pick up the height again and took a thermal over the back, getting to about 1300' ATO before losing it. I could see a big cloud upwind so decided to head for it €“ big mistake! I wasn't really penetrating and was sinking quite quickly so I put on the bar again but could only find sink. In the end I landed 3 fields back near the woods €“ I was worried that I would get rotor off the trees so landed as far away as I could and although it was a bit choppy coming down, there were no problems! When I got back to the hill the wind was blowing quite strongly but there were people flying so I took off and speed-barred to the bowl! The thermals were coming through regularly but when they came the wind was gusting up to 20+ mph so I used the lulls to push out in front of the hill. Eventually I found myself circling with Paul H and we went over the back about 650' ATO. Near Winterbourne Stickland I found enough lift to get to 1300' ATO, which is the highest I got, and we drifted downwind trying to pick up thermals here and there. Paul found a good climb over Winterbourne Whitechurch so I headed over to him but all I found was heavy sink. I tried to fly through it, hoping that it was the edge of Paul's thermal but it wasn't long before I was setting up to land in a field by the A354. I buzzard glided past me at eye level and about 20' away, giving me a little hope, but all I could find were little pockets of lift €“ not enough to keep me off the ground which was now only a couple of hundred feet away! Many thanks to Roger E who kindly came and picked me up (and even gave me cake!), and also thanks to the lovely Andrea who was an angel retrieving everyone from all over Dorset today! Thanks also to Martin B who sacrificed a day of thermic fun to organise todays BCC at Bell.

Paul made it to a bog near Stoborough I think, about 26km; Ali F made Bovington for 22km and Sean S made it to somewhere near Warmwell (I think) for 15km (my little trip was 10.3km) so not a bad day all round, despite the €œnon-textbook€ conditions!

Sat 21 Mar 2009

Report by Neill Franklin

I couldn't get too inspired today at Bell. It might have been the inversion and lack of clouds or the fact that I have been paragliding for nearly 20 years and today I made the mistake of pulling my glider up as Ali was flying over it (albeit only 3 or 4 feet off the ground). It soon stopped him and luckily, there was no damage to persons or gliders! Nonetheless, an avoidable mishap and lack of concentration on my part. Once again, I am very sorry Ali! I switched my helmet cam on for a couple of minutes while I was sitting on the hill. I put it on Youtube for people to try and spot themselves.

Report by Shamus Pitts



Another thermic day at Bell Hill. Not as good as last weekend, there wasn't really any wind for most of the day and an iron-clad inversion at about 1500' ATO restricted any big height, but eventually me, Paul H, Sean S, Gill and Nick Le G managed to get away. I thermalled over the back with Paul H €“ we didn't manage to get much above 1000' ATO and then nibbled at lift as we drifted to Winterbourne Stickland.

I didn't find much else and landed just past Stickland but as I was packing up I saw Paul find another climb which would eventually take him to Winterbourne Zelston. Gill and Nick Legras also flew over and landed near the A354 and Sean landed in Stickland as well. Thanks again to Andrea who tirelessly came and picked us up! When we got back to the hill the wind had increased dramatically and people either looked a bit pinned or were landing. After a frustrating start it turned out to be an okay day, lets hope tomorrow is good as well. I videoed some of the day €“ when I get the time I'll upload it to Vimeo or Youtube, I'll post in the Photography and Video forum when it's done.

Report by Alastair Florence


Plenty pilots on Bell today, very light to start, then got nice, then got strong, loads of thermicish bits but inversion making it dificult to get more than around 2000ft amsl. but very pleasant for several hours of boating about between -t/o and 2000ft amsl.

Sun 15 Mar 2009

Report by Jerry Siddle

Turned up at Bell at 1200 to try out my new ebay special harness. Had a quick 20 minute flight in lightly thermic conditions (as reported by others). Landed to adjust new-fangled stirrup thingy I'd also bought (not convinced €“ I've managed 20 years with out one) and took off for another bimble around. After about 20 minutes I'd thought about landing as I wasn't terribly convinced that the airbag was inflated properly, but I then started going up again and decided to leave it until later. I ended up circling over the top landing field in weak lift, but as I was still going up I decided to chance it and went with it, thinking that a walk back from the cricket pitch at Winterborne Stickland would be a pleasant way to pass the time.

As I went slowly up and back, I was met by a gaggle of about 6 gliders heading back to Bell. Anyway, three of them changed their minds and wanted to share my thermal, which I graciously let them. We bimbled gently round the countryside (2 Gradient somethings, an Ozone Mantra and me on my Buzz Z). To my great surprise I found myself over my intended target with about 2 grand to spare, to my even greater surprise I eventually found myself on the ground south of the A31 after covering about 15k in broken weak lift €“ I'd spent most of my time circling in zero's and 1 ups. Due to a navigational error, I landed miles from the pub €“ I wondered where one of the gradient guys was heading when it all went a bit pear shaped.

All in all, a good day. I've been rather inactive over the last few years with family stuff (I managed 2 days out last year and a grand total of 2 hours, and not much more the year before), so it's good to know that I can still remember how to turn in lift and bu$$er off in sink.

Report by Neill Franklin

After two walk-ups, I managed to leave the hill at a very low 400' ATO. I only managed to reach 2000'ASL on my short flight to Winterborne Clenston. I have uploaded some video footage on Youtube for anyone who may be interested.


Report by David Franklin



The conditions were very light this morning but I was able to keep the model up in low thermals so it looked quite promising.

Once kitted up it was a bit like a light summers day with pilots in various states of readiness all around.The second reasonable cycle to come through had JimC hovering around on his own near the entrance.The air was soon full and I was pleased to soon be climbing out with Paul H and one other.The one other headed back to the hill leaving Paul and I to wrestle with the slow and broken climb.Sadly Pauls flight ended at Hedge End Farm leaving me on my own without a single cloud for company(although I believe he soon was back in the air with a bit more success).At about 2,700ftasl it was quite lumpy I think this was an inversion and it was like that every time I got a reasonable height.

The poultry farm on the kingston road seemed like my best shot as a ground source, I passed over it worryingly low but was lucky to see a buzzard starting thermalling even lower nearby.This was followed by a series of weak climbs which kept me going till the lakes in Morden park which were a good trigger and I was able to climb back up to the rougher stuff.The factories at sanford provided another top up at which point I was starting to see just how wet the ground was around the harbours edge.Not wanting to spoil a good day with a wade out I headed for dryer ground on the edge of Arne and what appeared to be a nice grassy field from the air turned out to be smelly and squelchy.On getting back to the hill people were very upbeat and it seems everyone had fun at some point during the day,and it it's not even spring yet.

Report by Andrew Fenton



Funny old day at Barton; a bit off to the West, then on, some lift, no lift and then some massive but gentle thermals pushing through allowing almost record heights above the cliffs and out to sea for a short period. I found myself high enough to see into Christchurch and needing full bar to push out over the sea eventually landing on the green the other side of the cafe unable to make any further progress West even on full bar. Nevertheless, great fun had by all!

Sun 15 Mar 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts


An excellent day was had by many at Bell today! When I arrived at about 9:45 there wasn't much wind and there wasn't any cloud, but as the morning went on the occasional thermic cycle wafted through.

By midday these cycles were coming through fairly frequently and pretty strong at times and a couple of gaggles left the hill. I thermalled up to about 1300' ATO a couple of times and drifted over the back but the thermals seemed to peter out/ It was nice to be circling without a lot of drift so getting back to the hill was quite easy, although I did use the speed bar once to cut a path through some hefty sink to get back to the hill.

The conditions eased as the afternoon progressed and the climbs became smaller and less frequent. The air seemed to get a bit rougher too, although it wasn't too bad.

I left the hill at about 4 o'clock and there were still people flying €“ this was the best flying day this year for me, excellent fun!

Friday 13th March

Report by Jon Harvey


Unlucky for some but lucky for others, Checked Westbay at 6.45am good wind speed and direction, but base was around 300 ft, and as forecast was for direction to go more southerly during the day, decided to visit Beer instead.

Had a call at 9 ish that beer was indeed working, so decision made. Arrived and several wings already floating around. Sea was flat calm but quite a wind gradient some 700 ft asl, with direction to the west.

Slow progress to Sidmouth, by most pilots, but pretty quick on the return, some pilots even venturing out to sea to view final Napoli salvage from above.

Some twenty pilots were at scene, so a good turn out.

Around 90 mins airtime, then decided to come back to Bridport and flew from Westbay as well only around 30 mins as wind was now well east of south, and definitely picking up.

John Pinchin, Keith Boniface so all in all, not a bad morning, and definitely not unlucky for some.

Sat 7 Mar 2009

Report by Shamus Pitts

I managed to get about half an hour in at Cowdown this morning about 9am. The wind was only about 11mph at takeoff but it was increasing fairly quickly so staying up wasn't a problem.

After half an hour I had to land because I had stuff to do, but it was probably still flyable for another half an hour or so, although the wind had increased a bit and gone round to the WSW. Coming in to land I probably crossed the power lines in the field at the bottom of the hill lower than I've crossed them before €“ it probably looked a lot closer than it was! The main purpose of the flight was to try out my new camcorder mounted on my flight deck, the video can be seen here

Report by Alastair Florence


I arrived at St. A's same time as Paul H, Quentin was already in the air.

As we trudged over the snow melt saturated field further churned up by tractors spreading a liberal dose of rotting cow sh 1 t Quentin landed as it had gone light.

I tried a beat and agreed it was too light. After a bit things picked up allowing a comfortable launch into an almost due West wind. Classic St.A conditions for the next hour with a reasonable wind speed to launch into then winds increasing to give a stack of height.Quentin landed to do a spot of bird nesting in a hedge but joined us again I made a few cruises toward Houns Tout but this time followed my own advice of not trying to connect with the Tout as it was to far West.

The wind kept increasing until we were all either struggling to get forward or were going backward, time to run for the waterlogged field past the car park.

Mon 02 Mar 2009

Report by David Franklin


After pretty unpleasant flying on sunday it was great to be out on a spring like day with much better conditions today.Cloud base was a bit low when we left the hill today at 11.20am.That was made up for by the many areas of lift.I left with my brother Neill and another pilot that I later found out was Paul Hawkins.Neill split off and headed south to land at Spetisbury and Paul and myself hung around eeking out all the lift we could find .At one point we had a light aircraft fly by and pleasantries were exchanged with a wing waggle and wave.To be honest i was just relieved they were aware of us.With the wind direction and the low base we ended a bit stuck against the airspace and being forced to go in the opposite direction soon had us on the deck.My tip for the day would be ,it is a bad idea to mount a small video camera on your flight deck as it severly interferes with the gps.All in all great first day of the season.

Report by Alastair Florence


I realised a few days ago that I had 4 days didn't use it so lost it leave from last year, so it seemed only fair to take a part day today and go flying.

A fair turn out on Bell with a nice sky but wind off West a fair bit.

Soon after launching a small gaggle got away, whilst I boated about. I clocked Pete C off North pushing back from an aborted Xc making slow steady progress a climbing. A big street was forming out front so I aimed at this after Pete and started climbing. Reached what looked like the street end and lost site of Pete (whom I hope gets a triangle out of his flight), turned back a headed for Blandford dodging in and out the lift until the clouds broke up. Didn't find much more lift and ended up near Badbury Rings. (One pic specially for Simon J, I can almost see he him scowling up out the window) Then luck struck twice as literally 2 mins after landing by the road I heard a honk and Roger E on his way to Bell picked me up for the easiest retrieve ever (Rog thanks, i'm glad you over sleep sometimes ! ) Everyone was packing up back at Bell as the wind was even more West so I went to St.A's. I almost didn't bother to leave a Sitephone message as it was late but did, I was then glad to Neil Mc arrive and have a go. Twas a bit dull and a bit gusty so did not stay up more than a half hour, but nice enough.

Report by Neil Mccain

Gutting to be in the office on such a peachy day, but, undeterred by the over-development and change in wind direction, I beetled down to St Alban's as soon as I was free. I'd read the site notes, but as it was my first time, I was glad to see Ali packing up, even though at first I thought I'd missed it for the day. He kindly ran through the site assessment with me before I launched into the grey yonder, for a gentle 30 minute waft over the cliffs. The breeze was surprisingly fresh, but smooth, and given the forecast for the days ahead, it was good to grab some airtime and make my first forays into a new site. Thanks for the help, Ali.

Sun 01 Mar 2009

Report by Roy Menage

Arrived at Bell to see loads of wings in the air. But it was clear that, as per the forecast, the wind strength was picking up. Spent some time chatting to Roger, Stuart and others then got the wing out when it looked like easing off.

I launched in what turned out to be a lull to find the wind rather strong and the air getting rougher, especially in the bowl. I decided that it really wasn't much fun so went for a landing in the back field. As I got there, I found the lift to be really strong and still no penetration (there's never any sink around when you need it). Even with ears in, I still was not getting down and now I was going backwards to boot. Full speed bar saw to that. I got down fine although the deflation of the wing wasn't as tidy as it could have been. Several others did the same although one or two seemed to manage to get dragged a bit.

A few brave souls carried on flying but eventually, all seemed to decide that the ground was a good place to be. Soon after, Stuart and Gary P took off on the tandem and although they didn't seem to make much forward progress at times, I think they enjoyed themselves - they were back on the top with big smiles on their faces although that could have just been relief.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I arrived at Bell Hill about 10am to find a reasonably strong breeze, an overcast sky and a few wings in the air. I quickly got unpacked and took off, top find the air cold, a bit gusty but quite lifty at times and I was able to get to about 400' ATO.

It wasn't long before more people had turned up (too many to mention) and the air was full €“ at times it felt a bit crowded but everyone flew sensibly so there were no problems. The wind increased as the morning went on, as forecast, so after an hour and a half I landed and had something to eat. After half an hour or so the wind seemed to have dropped down again so I took off again. There were more blue patches in the sky now, along with fluffy white clouds and ominous big grey clouds. The air was a bit rough at times and there were moments when I needed the speed bar to penetrate, but lift wasn't a problem. I took a thermal to about 600' ATO and was tempted to take it further but I was heading over the back a lot quicker than I was going up with each 360, and as cloud base only looked to be about 1000' ATO I decided against it. The wind was now pretty strong, so after an hour I landed.

Shortly after I landed the wind at takeoff was blowing 18 €“ 23mph, and although a few of us waited a couple of hours to see if it would drop it didn't. Just before I left it was blowing up to 26mph! A good start to March €“ 2 ½ hours in the air and some decent thermal fun!

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