Eye in the Sky - May 2011

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Tuesday 31st May 2011

Report by John Alder

Bell Hill. This is chiefly to record that there was some flying done on this beautiful day, Richard Mosley and I both had nice flights on our hang gliders in the late afternoon / evening. Earlier the sky was decked with ragged cumulus, which looked too rough for the likes of me! I actually took off at 7 o'clock (so I didn't expect it to be thermic) and topped out about 160m ATO. It was still rough at times but the visibility was excellent and the landscape looked superb in the slanting evening sunlight. Martin Butcher, Ali Florence and a Sky Surfer named Stuart were there to represent the PG contingent but none flew. Many thanks to the kind soul(s) who left the morning Sitephone messages €“ helpful to know that the wind was smack-on.

Tue 31 May 2011

Report by Sean Staines

It was quite gusty when I got to Bell today, and although I rigged straight away I hesitated to launch. When I did take off it was ok though, with some punchy thermals, and I flew around the magic tree for a while. Venturing out above the quarry I hooked into a great climb and stuck with it. At 3350ft ATO I was getting close to cloud base. Unlike on a paraglider it is very inadvisable to enter cloud on an HG so I decided it was time to leave. There were great looking cumulus all around, although fairly well spread out. I aimed for one above Winterbourne Kingston but failed to connect with the lift before I got there, and landed just short of Kingston for 12.8km. In hindsight I think I should maybe have lurked around in the vicinity of my first climb, moving in and out of the lift and going with the drift. Nonetheless an excellent flight. The sky looked like one of those 100k days Richard Westgate talks about.

Wed 25 May 2011

Report by Gary Puhl

An excellent flying day at Broken Bones on Sea.

Chris S (CP + 130 hrs) started the day before I had even drunk my coffee.

When I arrived the wind had picked up and we went for breakfast in the hope it would drop later. It did, but launching into 16mph winds on the edge of rotor needs commitment. First task, push into the SE wind heading for Milford.

Overflying the beach huts was a bit hairy but managed to reach the blue hut, turn and return more easily. Continuing past take off to Chewton Bunny, gained sufficient height to jump the gap. The beach was producing thermic lift to give views of Highcliff Castle. Brian M topped up as much as he could before charging off beyond the cliff, beach huts and towards the sailing club. He had to walk back and relaunch on the sea wall and lower cliff. Coming back it was easy gaining height into the slight headwind but most of it was lost by the time we reached the Bunny.

We all just made it back, teasing the wing up the cliff below the holiday camp.

I did this run several times during the day and estimate flying over 60km.

Report by Alastair Florence


There are 2 things I enjoy about training days at work, free sarnies and buffet lunch and finishing early. Conditions looked good for an evening flight on Ballard. Perfect wind strength and direction for an after work chill out cruise on the Whitecliffs. Simon H also enjoying the pleasures of the evening.Flew as long as I wanted then back to revise for Crane lift supervisor exams.

Report by Paul Hawkins


Having had an 'interesting' morning at work and not before sending a strange text message to Roger Edwards, I felt I needed a de stress flight, so headed for Southborne in the hope it was not blown out! Luckily for me it was ok but well off to the east.......The cliff run was on! I made the whole run down to Poole harbour and off the end of the cliff with relative ease, interestingly it was off to the east at Southborne end and off to the west at a little at the Canford Cliffs end. The run was interspersed with thermals from the beach was fun.

Steve A and I met up at the Poole end and did the return leg together only just making it back over Boscome pier due to the head wind. Steve had a helping hand in the shape of a thermal half way across topping up his height and making it with ease to the bushes above the goats field.

We both landed as Grant was launching he was still enjoying the air as I left.

Great fun but what with Saturdays cliff run from Hive to Charmouth I feel I need some decent inland thermals and maybe an xc to satisfy my flying habit! Thanks to Steve for the photo's.

Sat 21 May 2011

Report by Grant Oseland


Some more photos from Ringstead taken by Mr Stuart Martin on his new camera with a wide screen setting.

Report by Marcus Webster




Report by Neil Mccain

Ringstead on Thursday, Whitesheet on Friday, Friar Waddon and the Champagne Run today. All with friends, all learning stuff and always an adventure. Lucky me! Gopro on order, so maybe next time I'll have some photos to go with the words.

Report by Alastair Florence


An early start was in order today and Friar Waddon seemed logical. Base at approx 900ft and wind off to the west, still flyable and fun, Nige R & B on site plus, Paul H, Shamus, Neil Mc, base lifted and the site blew out.

So headed for Hive (Burton Bradstock) felt strong on take off but Shamus the brave went for it and Paul, Me and Neil followed suit, the Nigels unfortunately missed a cracking flight to Charmouth (apart from Shamus who got part back but I reckon he will tell his own story). Too windy really past West Bay especially at over 1000ft amsl over Golden Cap, I think I used bar continuously for about 3/4 hr as did all of us.

Ice cream on Charmouth beach then taxi back to cars. Peachometer 8.5, Terrormeter ? think it may have jammed as zero reading but I think it should have shown something.

Report by Shamus Pitts


What looked like a possibly small flying window turned in to a cracking day today.

I met Paul H, Ali F, Nigel B, Nigel R and Neil McC at Friar Waddon about 9:30am to find the hill clagged in and the strongish wind off to the SW. After a while it cleared enough for Paul to lead the way and it wasn't long before we were all enjoying the gusty thermic conditions. There was plenty of lift to be had and the whole ridge was working on and off. I managed about 440' ATO but the wind was too strong and the cloud was too low to do much with it but it was fun anyway. After an hour the clag had gone but the wind felt stronger so we landed. About 20 minutes later the wind was blowing about 24 mph so we made the right decision! We decided to head to Hive and have a crack at the €œChampagne Run€. The wind was strong and off to the south so I thought it might be possible.

When we got to takeoff the wind was indeed off to the south and averaging 17 or 18 mph. I was nominated wind-dummy so took off to find the air smooth and not overly strong. I made it across to the west cliff quite easily and waited around for Paul to join me. We then scooted down to Freshwater Bay where we built up our height then crossed, arriving quite low on the other side. More height building and we had West Bay under our belts and then crossed over to Thorncombe Beacon. The wind seemed pretty strong now, especially when I got higher. I found myself on ¾ bar as I headed down the cliff towards Seatown but didn't lose much height until I pushed out to sea to get around Golden Cap. As I now appeared to have a bit of a head wind I was nervous about being rotored behind Golden Cap I pushed out and arrived at it quite low, only to find the wind blowing up the face and I got hoovered up it! The air was so smooth that I pointed out to sea then set about deleting all the photos on my camera that I didn't want while I quickly climbed to about 900' AMSL.

The wind strength was starting to worry me a bit so I pushed on the bar again and inched my way towards Charmouth. There were some grey cliffs that ran along the back of the beach with some higher cliffs further back. I tried to keep out over the beach and keep away from the higher cliffs because the wind was stronger the higher you went and even on ¾ bar I wasn't exactly rocketing along! I got to Charmouth then turned back, thinking the return journey might be a bit quicker €“ wrong! I kept on the bar, pushing towards the sea so that I wouldn't get trapped behind Golden Cap and eventually arrived there quite low again. Once I rounded the point I was hoovered up to 950' AMSL which I thought would be plenty to get me to Thorncombe Beacon. It was very slow going again and I lost a lot of height pushing out to sea to get round Doghouse Hill but when I connected with Thorncombe I built my height up to 1100' AMSL €“ surely enough to get over West Bay...? Nope! I almost made it across West Bay but the headwind was just too strong, I landed at the foot of the eastern cliffs. I kited my wing along the beach hoping that it would get sucked up the cliffs but the wind was too far off and it didn't work. I walked down the beach to Freshwater Bay, feeling a little overdressed in flight suit, helmet and ski gloves! I found a slope by the cliffs on the western side of the bay and took off, connecting with the cliffs. I built my height up and almost made it across but the headwind foiled my plans again! Thanks to Ali for picking me up from Freshwater and taking me back to my car. 3Hr20 airtime, my best day this year!

Report by Grant Oseland


Early Start at Ringstead this morning, at take off for 08:30 only to be greeted with no wind and lowish cloud but the Nothe was still clear. So waited for a while to see if things improved and as is so often the case with Ringstead they got a lot worse as the cloud lowered and the vis came down to about 30 meters, I blame this on Allan W as he had turned up and laid his wing out ready to fly not 1 min before this. Eventually the weather gods smiled on us and slowly but surely the sun came out and the cloud dispersed little by little and what followed was Ringstead at its best.

Report by Andrew Fenton


I debated going to Mere today but the forecast suggested that it would be blown out by 11 o'clock so I headed to Barton-on-Sea where the forecast was for sun and nice South Westerlies. Well, I wasn't disappointed and neither were the 12 or so others who flew there (including most of the Committee); I managed just over 3 hours in total and even got beyond the beach huts at Milford for the first time. The wind on launch was strong for most of the day but with bags of lift out front. All that said, there were two serious incidents during the day; the first was a pilot blown across the road behind launch narrowly missing parked cars and resulting in a dislocated shoulder; the second involved a €œvisiting€ pilot who ended up in the sea. Timely reminders that Barton is not the easy touch some think and the combination of rotor, the public and the sea can be quite toxic! For me though, an 8 on Ali's peachometer.

Fri 20 May 2011

Report by Sean Staines

After a long wait since June last year, I finally got to fly Ringstead again on the hang glider. Everard had been through the theory side of low speed flying and stalls with me for my pilot rating task, and given me the task of actually doing some stalls. Ringstead is ideal for this sort of thing with hundreds of feet below you down to the sea, and very smooth air.

It was with some degree of trepidation that I slowly pushed the bar out to its full extent and held it there to see what would happen. The nose gently dropped without any drama and recovered. The next stage was to pull on some speed and then push the bar out quite rapidly. This was altogether more exciting and felt a bit like a ride at Alton Towers. The glider converted all the speed to lift, seemingly stopped and then dived towards the sea before pulling out of the dive all by itself. Good fun! I also pulled on a bit of VG and tried the same thing. Again a well behaved dive and recovery.

Having done numerous stalls I set myself the task of seeing how high I could get. 994ft ATO, the highest I €˜ve been at Ringstead.

Once again I had the whole site to myself which is happening quite often.

Thu 19 May 2011

Report by Martin Butcher

Bell Hill :Arrived after work about 5 to see Dave Franklin big earing down from 2000 feet because he couldnt stand the cold anymore. However it was very light on take off. Had several flights and on the second i managed to time it right to connect with a thermal to get enough height to boat around to 45 mins watching others sink out. Very satisfying! After about a hour it went very westerly and everyone had packed up so I thought I would too. But then it came on again.

Report by David Franklin


Well all the sweaty walks back up Bell were soon forgotten this afternoon when Roger and a few others made the move to the Ringstead,this kind sacrifice sometimes works and today it certainly did.I have always wanted to fly home from Bell(a few miles up wind) but have never made it until today.The lift was so good that when I eventually got there I couldn't bring myself to land .So I flew around the house took some pictures then dawdled back.On approaching Bell I saw Adrian C climbing out behind the hill so I thought it would be good to join him but by the time we had reached the top of our climb I was shaking so badly with the cold I thought it best to land so a long B' ears followed, all the way down to the lovely warm sunny take off.

I hear Ringstead was working well so at least everyone had some fun after the dodgy flying weather we have had this spring.

Report by Andy Dawson

We waited all day but a big thermal took Dave Franklin and myself off the hill and on our way at about 4pm. Not much wind so scooted off to Sturminster than back to Bullbarrow all at about 4-4,200 ft. Finally got too cold and landed in big pile of cow poo at bell. Great day,

Report by Roger Edwards

We went to Bell Hill. It was rubbish so we went to Ringstead where a wingman (R) said it was flyable. We got to Ringstead and it was flyable just as he had said. We went to the cliffs and we came back again. We did it some more and then we went home. It was Ringstead. It was pretty, it was sunny, but it was not exciting. I came home with a tent. It's not mine even though I paid for it. It is for Paul. I hope he gives me the money for it. The end.

Report by Alastair Florence


With an abundance of sitephone messages from Ringstead I guessed Kimmeridge must also be working, it was after work. I had a pleasant hour and a half bonding with my new mount and was impressed how solid it felt in the typical Kimmeridge thermic chop. Plenty of rough thermals and some not so rough, easy height up to 450 ato and a lovely bright evening, had the whole place to myself.

Report by Grant Oseland


Have got a bit of a headache tonight, so to sum today up Bell Hill looked very good = Rubbish, Ringstead = Good.

Sun 15 May 2011

Report by Everard Cunion


Although this photo was taken in overcast conditions and there was a smudge on the outer lens in the middle, it shows the extent of the ridge to the west. You might also make out the impression of the wide track from the back of the top landing field to the front that the farmer used to leave for us. You cannot now discern it at ground level.

It was fairly turbulent with some strong thermals and plenty of sink too.

Another thing you cannot see in this photo is Sean Staines nearly 3,000 ft above me on his first hang glider cross country flight. For those who do not know, Sean is an expert paraglider pilot who is relatively new to hang gliding.

Tony Blackburn launched later than any of us, by which time it was completely overcast and the wind was steady and strong. He encountered strong lift. It looked more like classic ridge lift than anything.

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill: Wind speed at take off was around 20mph and gusting. Steve had just launched and Everard was rigging and kindly helped me off as a noseman. I headed straight for the bowl and was too busy trying to do up the harness causing an unpleasant dive towards the magic tree. I sorted myself out and cruised up and down to the right of take off for a while watching Steve flying towards the masts.

I found a good climb over the trees past the magic tree and stuck with it, eventually working my way up to 3200ft above take off. Way the highest I have ever been. If I didn't go XC now I never would. Once the lift had petered out I turned towards Pimperne, The GPS was registering a ground speed of 80kmh. Mostly it was just a glide after the first climb but I did find another thermal somewhere near Pimperne. I was concerned that it was taking me towards Blandford camp and foolishly left it, following the main road towards Salisbury. I landed in one of the fields used by the steam fair. Total distance of 14.8k, including turn points and straight to number one of the Wessex HP XC league. Brilliant!

Thu 12 May 2011

Report by Ruth Kelly

A fanatical focus on RASP, XC, synoptic chart and the Met Office hatched a plan: Wednesday at Whitsheet. Ruthless rescheduling of meetings opened a hole in my diary, and all was set. Wednesday dawned grey, wet and suspiciously southerly. No! A storm of direct messages on Twitter over breakfast resulted in rapid revision to Ringstead. Driving through a heavy blatter of rain in Christchurch we had little notion of the fun in store... but we kept the faith and drove into on into the sunshine.

Meeting with Neil and Russ we enjoyed an extremely comprehensive site briefing, and got ready to launch. My intention was to stay firmly fixed on the take-off ridge... but after ten minutes boating about, Russ coaxed me to the eastern end of the ridge , and with some nifty airbourne coaching I built up to maybe 50m over take off. The cliffs beckoned, and - swallowing the thrill of fear at the unknown - I set out on my glide. Staring with ample altitude made it easy and I arrived with plenty of height at the house on the corner, turned left and ascended the 'elevator' - with mounting excitement - to the White Nothe. Cue an hour of glorious soaring... my first 360s, first use of the speed bar... first time, perhaps, to really experience the thrill of free flight.

Return to take off was a breeze. After tea and sandwiches I did it again... but the wind had swung further west, and picked up sufficiently to make the speed bar necessary on my return trip - so I cut short and returned to take off for a very sweet top landing.

Actually swear I could see Ali's peachometer from over the White Nothe - 269m, according to my tracklog - and it was definitely reading 9. Big thanks to Neil and Russ for their help and encouragement!

Thu 12 May 2011

Report by Sean Staines

There was just me and my trusty nose girl/ retrieve driver on Bell hill today. The wind on take-off was fairly light, at around 14mph, but it was buoyant and I spent some time cruising around the bowl around 500ft ATO before pushing along the ridge as far as the church at Ibberton. There were 8 buzzards soaring the hill and marking the thermals. Two joined me as I thermalled and were within 20ft of me at 1000ft ato. Excellent. They didn't seem bothered by the hang glider at all today. Last time I flew the paraglider here they attacked me. Andrea said she saw one apparently soaring the bow wave of the hang glider. After an hour I found myself scratching low in the bowl down to 45ft ATO. In the sometimes gusty conditions I decided to press forward and landed in the bottom field. I am sure that any of the experienced HG pilots could have done some big distances today. There were cloud streets way out towards Yeovilton.

Wed 11 May 2011

Report by Neil Mccain


Report by Neil McCain Ringstead. Despite dark and threatening weather inland, despite the weather forecasts predicting the wind would pick up and go westerly by the afternoon, and despite the wind streaks on the water suggesting it was quite off to the west, actual conditions in the air at Rignstead were both quite benign, and remained consistent all day. So a whole bunch of fun was had by about ten of us (Derek, Russ, Ian G, Si H, Gordon, Graham, Will, Ruth and Ruben). Enormous smiles graced the faces of red ribbon pilots who had fun boating all over the sky - if Ali's peachometer had been handy, it sure would have scored an 8, possibly a 9. Sweet!

Tues 10 May 2011

Report by Steve Whitfield

I arrived about 10am to find a low cloud base and wisps of orographic intermittently obscuring the Nothe. The wind was on the ridge about 14-18. A couple of intrepid PG pilots,( Ali F I think), flew out to the cliffs and got some good height, but I wanted to wait for the cliffs to clear slightly, which they did by midday. I had three flights and nearly two hours in the air. John A arrived mid afternoon for a flight but by then the wind had dropped and the cliffs were not working as well. John managed to get enough height to top land but I ended up on the beach on my final flight. Having carried a hang glider the length of Ringstead Beach on a previous occasion I made an early decision this time and landed right by the steps! Highlights of the day can be found below.


Sun 07 May 2011

Report by Alastair Florence

It stopped thundering in Swanage fairly early and the sun came out. At home it seemed pretty windy, the sea outside the bay looked pretty wind swept too. But on the beach it was almost dead calm SSE.

I decided to take a stroll up Ballard and found a fair breeze on top.

After pulling the wing up it became apparent the wind was a lot stronger than it appeared.

I struggled to push forward to launch and then just got sort of pinned over the cliff gently going up.

This was the first time out on a different wing and the air was a bit turbulent or the wing is a bit twitchy.

I reckon there was a sort of wind shear or something and I was maybe in the middle of it.

Anyway I decided it was maybe not best conditions for getting to know a new mount so speed barred away from the ridge for a smooth bottom land in a very light wind, strange ! Terrormeter reading 2 More thunder this evening, probably another reason the air was a bit odd.

Thurs 05 May 2011

Report by Neil Mccain

A terrific day of aviation all round! I arrived at Southbourne early to find the wind off to the east and too light to soar, but I was convinced it would come good soon. So much so that I persuaded a good natured Paul H to join me. It wasn't long before his patience was tested, since the wind, whilst picking up a little, was clearly revealed to be well off. Charming to the end, he bought coffee and cakes, whilst we mulled over what to do. In the end we decided to go and have a look at the scenery elsewhere, and I left a downbeat sitephone message saying I'd given up. After a little mooch about, Paul left for work.

All the flags indicated the wind was coming round, so about lunchtime I headed back to Southbourne with site novice Ian H, where we learned that Phil V had been having a fine old time, only coming down to go to work. We took off, and found enough lift to skim 20ft above the cliff top fences. Express-train on the downwind leg, sedate on the upwind beat and great fun. After a while the new boy had beetled down to the new block of flats at Boscombe. I'd meant to tell him about the rule of thumb for telling if you're high enough to cross the chine and set off after him but as I arrived he took his chance. Luckily, his Delta has twin dark matter engines and he was soon across the gap and climbing towards the big block of flats. I followed, pimping a ride from his upward vortices (it's another feature of his wing: the Delta apparently only produces upward vortices) and once on the inter-pier slopes, sprinted to join him. We mucked about over the hotels for the benefit of the cameras. I noticed that drifting back over the road was good for my height and loaded up with feet and metres. There might be enough to cross the Bournemouth Pier and I knew that Ian would go if he had the chance. This time I led the way and arrived at the BIC with 70ft or so to spare. The Marriott was working well, so we topped out height back up there, as unobtrusively as possible, before taking on the next little tricky section over the series of chines before getting to the main cliffs at Branksome. Soon enough we were passing the hotel at the end of the cliff and soaring above the fancy house that marks the 'Done it!' point. We turned back and immediately found ourselves slightly into wind - would we be able to jump the gaps on the way back? The first few were a doddle, even for Ian who'd flown over the beach for a while and so took them all lower than I did. But at the little series of chines (Durley chine?) I made it across on a straight glide only because I'd kept my height on the first bit of the journey back.

Ian was forced to pause to top up on the main cliffs, but this worked well as I arrived at the Marriott well below roof top height, and so I was glad to have the space in front of the hotel to myself. I climbed to about 180' ato and jumped the gap easily.

Both now back between the piers, it really felt as though the challenges were over but as I approached Boscombe, I was disappointed to find I was heading earthwards a little sooner than I wanted. I stopped at the big block of flats and cruised them (at a discrete distance) to build height. I was soon looking down on the roof of the building, eventually launching my glide at a whopping 288' ato. This was plenty to get me to the other side and I flew straight to the official take off and landed in the gentle breeze. Ian was less lucky at the flats, so presumably had to open the throttles on the DM engines because before I'd had a chance to begin packing up he arrived too, a smile on his face like a rash! In the final analysis, it doesn't matter whether it's coastal or inland, xc or not. When you can't stop jumping around for the excitement of having had a great flight, nothing beats flying for sport, nothing!

Post script. In case I hadn't had enough flying for one day, I joined a load of other members at the elm Tree to listen to our guest speaker, Keith Dennison, give a fascinating talk on flying old aeroplanes. It doesn't get better than that!

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