Eye in the Sky - Mar 2011

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Tues 29 Mar 2011

Report by Gary Mullins

White Horse. Pitched up at half 3. T'was a tad challenging. Bit light, bit off, bit cloudy. But fun for an hour or so. Up and downy. No roundy roundy. But managed to get enough height to cruise back to the bowl to pack up....AND remember to put stuff in car! Barton.......pah. Winking smile

Mon 28 Mar 2011

Report by Grant Oseland

Having finally officially had enough of DIY this year I decided to have a look at this paragliding thing again this year.

Dusted off the cobwebs and went to ballards. Arrived to the sght of no one flying but walked up any way to have a look and found Jacko setting up. I wasted little time setting up and checked for a moth eaten wing! Not too inspired by the wind strength or direction Jacko pushed off first into little lift with a lot of east in it followed by me, we both pushed round to the end onto the easterly facing cliffs and down to old harry, which were working very nicely. It was nice to share the air with 3 Peregrine falcons who all seemed to want to have a closer look at these paragliders then embarrass us by performing steep dives for what looked like fun then convert the speed back upto the same height as before.

Started to get a bit cold after 2 hours in the air and I'm sure the wind at some times was coming from E-NE out at old Harry. Eventually tried the lower cliffs at swanage to little effect and landed. Sorry no site phone message as I had no phone on me and I did have my camera but left it stuffed in my glider bag which I then stuffed into the back of my harness so no photos either.


Sun 27 Mar 2011

Report by Shamus Pitts


I got up early and was on top of Hambledon by 10:30. The wind was blowing from the NE about 12-14 mph and visibility was about a mile although it was sunny.

Once I'd taken off I found the air to be very buoyant, particularly over the recently ploughed fields near the normal landing site, and I could push out a long way in front of the hill without losing any height. Gary P and Paul H turned up so I landed briefly then took off again. The conditions were much the same as before with the occasional thermal coming through and it was all quite relaxed and fun! Ali F, Simon, Roy M and Marcus W turned up over the course of the morning and they all got to fly, but the wind was starting to drop and go round more to the east, so by the time a few Avon members turned up the best of the day had been and gone.

We waited for a gust to come through and a few of us had a couple of short flights but it wasn't great so in the end I saw Marcus land at the bottom so I decided to join him (well, I had no choice really, I was about 150' below takeoff and going down!). While we packed up we felt the wind increase a little and saw a mass of paragliders take to the air, but they couldn't eke it out for very long and they were soon joining Marcus and I in the bottom field.

Tues 22 Mar 2011

Report by Neil Mccain

Serious playtime today: more than two hours in the air, height gains of 700ft, wagga over boulder-strewn slopes, a half mile ridge and a bottom landing field the size of Paris. Thermals all day, no airspace down wind for at least 50km to worry about, no pylons or buildings or anything to get in the way. And with only three other gliders (piloted by very friendly, helpful people) in the sky, it was hardly crowded. A half-mile easy walk in (just to get the circulation going) and stunning panoramas in every direction. Where was this, I hear you ask? A dream? A fantasy? Have you been mushroom picking again? No, no and thrice no! This was Belstone in Dartmoor, near to Okehampton. It's a South Devon site that takes an easterly wind and with light easterlies predicted for the afternoon by RASP, I arranged to go flying with an old friend who lives down that way. It really does have all of these points to recommend it, and on a sunnier day, I can't imagine anyone being left on the ridge - even in dull and overcast conditions the thermals were popping off along the ridge all day, in any decent weather the site would be epic! Sorry I've no photos to share, I'd happily fly there again to re-live the experience.

Sun 20 Mar 2011

Report by Roger Edwards

Warm, sunny, an ethereal haze over the sea, 10-13 mph on launch and bang on. Could there be a better day for flying Southbourne? Not by much, as in turns out. Once launched the air revealed itself to be optimally buoyant and actually a bit off to the west. Progress west was easy, if not speedy, and made setting off on the jumps over the busy piers mildly buttock clenching until you realised the buoyancy was minimising any height loss.

The super-moon was clearly having an effect as the tide was exceptionally far out for Bournemouth: oh, at least twenty yards further than the usual low tide. (If you are not aware, the normal tidal range is pitiful.) The exposed surf reef made for dismal surfers at the surf festival taking place at Boscombe. Sandbanks was duly reached with magnificent hazy views over Poole Harbour from an excellent 150 ft over the cliff at the very end. I've never seen it look so good and was cursing not having a camera, the CCD of mine having died. I'm afraid it shall remain for my memory only, but it was a great reminder of what makes flying here unique.

The westerliness of the wind was marked by it taking me 47 minutes outward bound and only 18 minutes to return. Pier gaps? Pah! I rocketed across coming back. And just as I arrived back Phil V was ready to launch, the only other pilot to turn up. Where were you all?

Report by Adrian Coombe


White Horse.

A brief visit to Ringstead, - where others were finding it a bit off and not easy to make the cliffs. So I headed over to the White Horse.

Photo shows Sean floating in for a pg type top landing.

Sean and I shared the air for sometime before others joined in.

The air on take off had a cool linear strongish feel but in the air I could easily go where I pointed and had a lovely time going way out and well up and well round and round too! The thermals were being kind and not at all whacky :) Base was at 600ft ato and looked about the same behind the hill. Nice and sunny though.

A visiting Sky Surfers pg Delta Pilot went over the back, to I don't know where...

Report by Shamus Pitts


What a grand day out! Although there was quite a bit of south forecast in the wind I decided to have a look at Ringstead in the hope that the cliffs down to Lulworth Cove might work €“ and as luck would have it they did! Having built up some height on the ridge I flew out to the cliffs, built my height up in front of the big house then connected with the cliffs. I got to about 300' ATO and could see people doing okay on the cliff just around the corner from White Nothe so I tentatively inched round. They were working well and pushing back to the Nothe was fairly easy so I decided to test my theory and venture on towards Lulworth.

I had plenty of height and seemed to be above the lift band all the way down past Bats Head towards Durdle Door. By the time I crossed Man-o-War bay I was starting to get to cliff top height so was glad to connect with the cliffs beyond. The lift wasn't great but as the cliffs rose so did I and I worked them for a little while to get as much height as I could. I was tempted to jump across to the ridge behind Lulworth Cove it looked to be facing more southerly and I didn't think it would work very well so I pushed out and connected with the lower cliffs in front of the cove. They either weren't working very well or I was above the lift band but I was losing too much height so once I'd got my picture of the cove I turned back and scratched my way back up the cliff. Once I had as much height as I could get I began the return journey.

I was a bit anxious about heading back €“ on the outward journey all the cliff faces seemed to be pointing the same way, but looking back there were a lot of sections that didn't appear to be facing in to wind! Fortunately my concerns were misplaced. I descended over Man-o-War bay, passing behind Durdle Door. The next section of cliff didn't do much for my height but didn't allow me to sink too much. Once I got to the cliffs east of Bats Head I was either low enough or the cliffs were working well enough to slowly climb and I hung around for a while building my height up. Going back this way Bats Head seems to stick out a lot further than coming from the other way so once I'd got as high as I could I pushed out to sea to try and go out and around it. As I got closer I realised I had enough height to comfortably pass over it so I changed course and glided to the cliffs beyond where I shared the lift with a pair of Peregrine falcons. The cliffs here were working well so I built my height up and flew towards White Nothe, gaining height all the way. I rounded the Nothe and cruised easily back to the ridge with ample height to spare. When I landed the wind was pretty much due south so after one more fruitless flight I landed and headed to the White Horse.

It was windy at the horse, 16 €“ 22 mph, but Adrian C and Sean S (on his hangglider) led the way and eventually I decided to have a go.

The dynamic lift was surprisingly hard to come by given the strength of the wind but thermals made up for that and height of 300'+ ATO was quite easily achievable. Eventually more people were tempted in to the air and we all had a good boat about. The wind slowly went round to the SW but it was still flyable when I left at 5:30 €“ two sites, 2 hours in the air, brilliant!

Report by Ruth Kelly

Report by Ruth Kelly Barton again - and almost exactly the same as yesterday, except that the air was like soup in comparison to Saturday's sparkling clarity. Wind was about 9-10mph and almost exactly on the cliff - just a little off to the east.

My first flight was just over 35 minutes, up and down between the cafe and the golf course. No great height, but no great effort either... and was followed by a pretty reasonable top landing. Gary P later pointed out that I had been hogging the ridge somewhat. It didn't seem like it at the time... what I was experiencing was perhaps the first flight ever in which I didn't have to fret about staying up, giving me time to explore the speed range: slow down, speed up, loiter in lifty patches. You experienced chaps probably all take this for granted! Flying at Monks I have been mostly worried about trees and rotor, worried about traffic, and worried about staying up. At Compton Bowl (where I learned) the beats were so short there was no time to relax. This was blissful, and helpful. However... with hindsight I can see what Gary was saying, so sincere apologies to all if my line was a little too determined. I have a track log if anyone would like to see it. The only other thing to comment on is... the enormous wake-turbulence from that tandem wing, Mr Puhl! I had a couple of quite amazingly severe bumps, with mighty rustling from one wing tip. But hey. I survived.

My second flight waqs a repeat of Saturday's... launch, scratch, bottom land. Oh well. Now I really know where the bottom is! But the winter flying drought is now well and truly over :-)

Sat 19 Mar 2011

Report by Ruth Kelly


For once the "internet connected anemometers" at Hurst and Highcliffe weren't lying, the sun was out and I wasn't at work. Too good, then, to miss the opportunity of my first flight since 22 November, and my first at Barton-on-Sea. Extraordinary as it may seem, this is only the second Wessex site I have flown on-all my other flights have been at Monks Down.

The wind was around 10mph and just a little off to the East. Visibility was fantastic. Launching under the watchful eye of Richard Davis proved not too difficult, and I was away: 20 minutes up and down in lovely smooth lift, disturbed only by wake turbulence from passing paragliders, followed by gentle top-landing.

My second flight, by comparison, was mildly rubbish. The wind had dropped a little, and gone further east, and I contrived to hurl myself off the edge in a slight lull. I flew below cliff edge for maybe 100m, but no welcome puffs of breeze wafted me back up. So down I went, with possibly the lightest landing I have ever experienced on the path. Ah well, it's always good to know where the bottom is.

More please!

Report by Shamus Pitts


It was difficult to know where to go today. I thought about Mere as it looked like it was going to be a bit thermic but it's a bit of a drive and with the wind light and the season early and spiky I ended up at the White Horse with Gary M instead.

The wind was blowing from the SE at 7 €“ 14mph which wasn't particularly inspiring but Gary had a couple of flights and managed to top land. I wasn't inspired enough to unpack but when Gary offered me the use of his wing I decided to have a go. After scratching around below takeoff for a while I managed to work my way west along the ridge and build up my height to about 100' ATO. The lift wasn't constant enough to allow you to take it for granted but there was enough there to get back in on top if you timed it right. I landed after about 15 minutes so Gary could have his wing back and I unpacked mine. Gary flew for a while before I joined him in the air. Conditions were much the same as before €“ height / scratching / height / scratching etc At one point I was scratching in close to the gorse, only about 10' above it, when 2 deer ran out of it and stopped dead, staring straight at me, their heads about 5' from my feet as I slowly floated by! I wish I'd had my camera out! Gary landed and went home to tend to his dog while I had another quick flight before landing and packing up.

The track is pretty bad so I parked by the road and walked to takeoff. When I was walking back I came across a paraglider bag right beside where Gary had parked. It contained a very similar glider and harness to the one I flew earlier so I picked it up and took it home with me. All in all not a bad afternoon out. Only about half an hour in the air but a close encounter of the deer kind and a spare wing and harness too, perfick!

Report by Paul Hawkins


Ballard worked today.

Thurs 17 Mar 2011

Report by Neil Mccain

Pilots at Bell Hill were today treated to a variety of wind and weather. A damp start, poor visibility and low base wasn't particularly enticing, and the early birds who joined me (Adrian, Ali, Nigel and Derek) preferred to sit it out for a while for a bit of para-bollox. Although the top end-ish wind was on the hill, Adrian showed the way with a classy launch and soon had several hundred feet above the far end of the ridge. The rest of us quickly joined him for some interesting soaring in the lively conditions.

Cloud base was lifting and the clouds themselves disappearing as the morning progressed and the air was choppy at times. Thermals were sometimes strong and had proper edges, but they were often too small to use, or they were broken up by the firm wind. It had remained pretty much on the hill and as others arrived (Simon, Paul G, Harry the faces I recognised, a couple of others I didn't) it strengthened. I decided it was time for a break and headed back to the hill. I'd been circling in some thermals with Nigel and thought the cycle had passed, but just behind the bowl at about 250ft my vario made sounds I didn't know it had in it and I spent a couple of seconds on an invisible roller-coaster, up and down, twisting and turning before it all returned to normal.

The day was now bright and breezy - we had 18-22mph on lift off - so we broke out the sandwiches and watched the Atos pilot's elegant moves across the contrailed blue. At this point many thought the day would be blown out for good, but it seemed to drop just a little and once again Adrian showed it to be do-able. For a while he whizzed about the sky at no more than ridge height (was this fun?) but when Nigel took off and the pair of them soared high, the rest of us shuffled to our stations and prepared to fly. However, the gale-hanging conditions we might have been preparing for didn't materialise. With about ten of us in the air, the wind seemed to give up, and for a while the main slope was full of pilots frantically scratching to stay up! I think that as the wind died it gave a chance for the thermals to establish themselves a little better. For those of us who'd managed to stay in the air, we quickly found themselves with some height. It wasn't perfect, but the day seemed to have some life in it yet. As Gary P, Chris, Sean and Marcus arrived, I had over 500ft, my best for the day so far and thought the air was more buoyant than it had been. I pushed out towards the digester. The air seemed much smoother than it had been, so I took the opportunity to adjust my vario's settings. Flippin' winter gloves! They made this task difficult but eventually I'd done it. I looked down and saw that whilst I'd been fussing, I'd also been gaining height and now I was pretty high (about 1000ft) and still way in front of the hill. Drifting back and turning in lift, I thought it was probably my best chance to leave the hill. My climb was weak and ragged but I stayed with it until I'd done a couple of 360's without a single positive bleep from my vario. I was only 1600ft ato and close to the inversion. I headed downwind towards Blandford, taking a track to pass above farms and other likely triggers. There were blips, but nothing worth hanging around for and I had that gentle sinking feeling that I was on a classic one thermal wonder. Surely the school buildings at Bryanston would work? No luck there either. I knew I wouldn't make it across the town, and set up to land in the playing fields of The Blandford School. If anyone had been there to watch, I spot landed on the centre circle of a football pitch (it's all good practice!) for somewhere close to 10km. Many thanks to Paul G for the retrieve. Back at the hill, the final weather conditions of the day (smooth and buoyant) made it a pleasant afternoon for everyone to get some airtime. Happy days.

Sun 13 Mar 2011

Report by Shamus Pitts


I got to Telegraph Hill early, about 10am and with the wind blowing 18 €“ 23mph got roped in to a bit of gorse clearing! With the gorse out of the way the wind could whistle up the slope uninterrupted so there followed a long period of para-waiting and occasional phone calls to Bell hill to be told that at was flyable and not too strong! Eventually a couple of people took off in a lull and weren't instantly blown over the back so I decided to have a go. The combination of a new wing, a new harness, strong gusty wind and spring thermals made for interesting flying conditions, not what I would describe as my favourite flying experience, more the sort of thing that you read about in the build up to an accident report! However, after about 25 minutes of trying to avoid lift I landed and started to relax. Eventually the wind lulled a bit and more people took off. They looked like they were enjoying it so I took off again and found it was still rough but not quite as bad as before. My hands were cold after 45 minutes so I landed briefly to warm up then took off again. It wasn't long before I hooked in to a reasonable thermal and stuck with it as I drifted over the back. I never got more than 1300' ATO and landed on a hill overlooking Cerne Abbas for about 6km but it was nice to get away from the ridge.

When I got back to the hill it was still blowing about 17mph so I had a quick flight as the sun went down. A surprisingly nice day in the end, with almost 2 hours in the air.

Tues 08 Mar 2011

Report by Neil Mccain


Lovely day floating about at Ringstead.

Sunday 6th March

Report by Sean Staines

Pandy, SE Wales. For those of you who haven't been there, Pandy is an Easterly ridge with a possible 13km ridge run in the right conditions. I arrived at take-off around 10am to find the wind on the lower launch 20mph gusting to 25. Perfect for me on the hang glider. I had the entire ridge to myself. With plenty of lift I cruised up and down to Black Darren Quarry, about 6k along the ridge. There were a few thermals to play in, and I made it to a very indistinct cloudbase, about 900ft ATO. After 90 minutes I was becoming tired and decided it was time to land. Heading back to take-off I saw one of the many paraglider pilots on the lower take off had launched on a very small wing. Loads of others were waiting and 4 more hang gliders were rigging. I flew out to the landing field and executed a perfect circuit around the field before a good nil wind landing. A very satisfying first flight for this year after many months of not flying.

Sat 05 Mar 2011

Report by Steve Whitfield

My persistence finally paid off today. After two unsuccessful foray's east to Bo-peep this winter, it was a case of third time lucky. I arrived at 9 am to find the wind was on the hill and 12-13 mph. I had a lovely hour boating about in ridge lift on my own before the cold forced me down to thaw out. A couple of PG pilots turned up for a look but were not tempted to unpack their gear. Hang gliders then starting appearing en mass. I have never flown with so many before. There were probably about fifteen altogether with about 8-9 in the air at any one time. The wind had picked up for my second flight and there were some punchy small thermals coming through despite the grey overcast skies giving good height gains for those with the skill to utilise them fully. I manage about 500ft ATO but some topless pilots were dipping into the clouds . All in all an excellent days flying and well worth the long trip.

Report by Shamus Pitts


I arrived on top of a freezing cold and windy Hambledon Hill at about 11am to find Paul H about to take off. He flew for a while then landed at the bottom saying it was a bit top end but we waited, along with Gary M, and it seemed to drop down.

I had a try and, despite the wind being a bit boisterous on the ground, found it pretty smooth and lifty in the air although there were a few gusts and lulls to keep us on our toes. Graham arrived and successfully launched €“ his first flight since qualifying €“ and fought bravely but was caught out in the end by a bit of a lull! The wind varied between NE and ENE with gusts up to 20 mph and the sky was pretty grey most of the time so it wasn't a particularly inspiring day but it turned out to be surprisingly fun, I had over an hour in the air and got to 400' ATO and even started to like my harness a bit! Well worth the walk up!

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