Eye in the Sky - March 2014

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Wed 26 Mar 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A good turnout at Monksdown today with around 15 PG pilots and 3 HG hopefuls. For the paragliders the conditions were nice but didn't live up to RASP predictions and I'm sure I'm not the only one disappointed not to get the first XC of the new season. Even so it was good practice. I managed to get a little higher today, 1650AMSL, and had a trip to Winkelbury and back. For the hang gliders conditions were too weak to make it worth rigging and launching.

Rain stopped play for a while early afternoon but there were a few more attempts afterwards. The showers had gust fronts associated with them making for unpleasant and turbulent conditions so I called it a day around 3:30. Another couple of hours in the air to shake out the cobwebs.

Tue 25 Mar 2014

Report by Sean Staines

The earlier hopes of a good XC day from Bell had faded, but there still looked like a window for some flying at Monksdown early in the day. As I arrived I saw Andy Dawson and Neil McCain getting ready to launch so unloaded the paraglider to join them. Conditions were very pleasant. Neil managed a very impressive climb out in the weak conditions and headed off towards Tollard Royal. Not connecting with anything substantial he eventually returned and landed a few fields behind take off.

I couldn't find any really solid climbs and topped out at 1500ft. Still very good practice in going round and round in circles though. After 1H25 I landed and packed up, arriving back at the car just as the light rain began.

Roll on spring time.

Wed 19 Mar 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Good flying to be had on the Burton Bradstock to Charmouth Run today. I flew the PG to start with, before deciding there was in fact an abundance of lift so went to rig the HG. Made it to the cliff edge on the 2nd attempt and had a nice run down to West Bay but, once again, it was very westerly so I decided against the crossing and went back to top land after 30 minutes in the air.

Richard M arrived and spurred me on to have another flight. This time the wind had come round a bit, and the west bay crossing was relatively straight forward. I followed Richard down as far as Golden Cap, which was not working particularly well. I could only get a couple of hundred feet above it. We both decided against going to Charmouth, particularly with no UK Border Agency boat in the vicinity to retrieve me from the beach again.

I parked at Thorncombe Beacon and with zero ground speed took a steady 0.4m/s climb from 1050 to 1525ft AMSL before heading back to take off. Really nice flying conditions.

Sun 16 Mar 2014

Report by Shamus Pitts

A game of three halves at Bell Hill today.  I arrived early because I thought it might get quite windy later and there were people already flying when I got there.  The wind was already strong enough for Craig B to fly his mini-wing but it wasn't blown out so I took off.  It was a bit gusty but perfectly flyable so I had a good hour chasing buzzards and playing in the abundant lift.  Eventually I started to wonder why no-one else was flying so I landed and the wind quickly picked up to 20+mph and people drifted off home.

As I had nothing better to do and I thought it might calm down later I waited for three hours while Sean S and co took to the skies on their hang gliders.  The wind was gusting up to 27mph now and I started to have doubts that it would drop enough but by 2 pm it was down to 16 - 20mph so I decided it might be worth another go.    "Lively" would be one word to describe it!  Sean said at one point my wing tips were flapping "like elephant's ears"!  Everything felt big - big wind, big lift, big gusts and after 20 minutes I'd had enough and landed again.  I was thinking about packing up but half an hour later the wind was down to about 12-14mph so I had one last go.  This time the air was lovely.  The wind had gone from WNW to slightly north of NW so a run down to the aerials with Sean S was on the cards.  We made it there and back reasonably easily although the nerves were still there but found lift everywhere and had a good hour exploring all parts of the ridge.  The sun was starting to get in my eyes and make it hard to see other pilots at times so I landed and had just started packing up when the day took a turn for the worse.  As I looked up I saw a pilot spin on landing approach and hit the ground hard in the top landing field.  I went to assist and called the air ambulance which arrived very quickly and took the pilot to Dorchester hospital.  If anyone else witnessed the accident please fill in an incident report form on the BHPA website and send a copy to the BHPA and the club PG safety officer.


Sat 15 Mar 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A good hang gliding turn out on Bell Hill today with 2 Rigids and 4 Flexwings out to play. The whole ridge down to the masts was soarable  First thermic flying of the year in punchy spring thermals.

Report by Shamus Pitts


After hearing that Bell was blown out I didn't have high hopes for Telegraph but I thought I'd have a look anyway, arriving just before 10am.  The wind was a bit off to the west but it felt okay, 12 - 17mph so I quickly unpacked and took off.

It was quite gusty and "up-and-down" but it was definitely flyable and there were buzzards and crows everywhere enjoying the lift.  After half an hour it felt like it was getting stronger so I landed, but it only measured a little stronger on takeoff so I took off again and had another go.

The wind was picking up now and after taking a thermal to 450' ATO it took a while to push forward (and get down!).  The wind was feeling "bigger" now (if that makes sense) so I landed again.  James L turned up just as I was thinking about packing up so I watched him demonstrate that the wind was a bit on the strong side!  He took off in the end and continued to show me how windy it was, before landing at the bottom!   An up and down hour, but better than nothing  - I went for a walk later and saw wave clouds forming over the A37.

Wed 12 Mar 2014

Report by Alastair Florence


I had to work from home today so thought I may as well take a flying lunch break as you do. Inversion still looks about 1500 ft so I didn't think XC would be on anywhere on our patch, Maiden Castle seemed a fair compromise plus I haven't been there for ages.

Wind was fairly light but on the ramparts so worth a try.

Once in the air it was ok and I worked back to the middle rampart, staying up required constant attention but using all the lift I could find seemed to work out fine. It was a good chance to test the Carrera's agility, which by the way is pretty good, still quite damped feeling but nice and responsive and enough feed back to not feel like flying a wet mattress.

I left a couple of sitephone messages but the system seems to be binning them at the moment.

Beats playing solitare or something through lunch any day.

Sun 09 Mar 2014

Report by Lawrence Toogood


What a day at last clear blue skies. Took the mountain bike over the Purbecks , wind was quite strong in the morning on top of nine barrow down probably blown out from the SE. As I approached Swanage from the priest s way I could see gliders above the pilots heads but not in the air , strange as up until then it seemed fly able. One brave soul chanced his luck and leap into the clear blue yonder but unfortunately the cliffs did not reward his bravery.

I eventually heaved my unfit body to the top of Ballard. I chatted to the ground handling posse, it turns out they had driven down from Surrey and North Hants to sample Dorset's delights as their sources told them inland sites were blown out. The brave soul who bombed out on the cliffs got brave once more and was rewarded with 5/10 soar at cliff height. Eventually they all gave up and had a TTB.

I meet local Poole flyer there by the name of Andy relatively low airtime pilot on his first visit to Ballard, he managed a few little hops and beats but nothing that convinced him to get brave and head for the cliffs, wise move my friend. Andy, feel free to contact me via tel you will find on Wessex site links web sites €“ Lawrence Toogood. I can pass on some of my knowledge and hook up kiting.

Report by Shamus Pitts

With a strong southerly forecast Friar Waddon seemed like a good bet today.  The wind was quite light and off to the east when I got there but by the time Ian McG turned up it felt a bit more doable and I had a couple of short flights.  There wasn't much lift about to start with but about lunch time the wind suddenly came on the hill and picked up to 15-20 mph and the whole ridge started to work.

The wind was gusty, particularly towards the eastern end of the ridge and at times it was almost too strong but despite the roughness it was fun and doable.  Dave A had turned up by now and took off easily, the strong wind not seeming to bother him at all!   Sadly, after half an hour, it switched off just as quickly as it had switched on.  The wind dropped a little and went off to the east a bit.  I tried one more ridge run but it didn't work and I ended up at the bottom of the hill half way down the ridge.  By the time I got back to takeoff everyone was packing up and we decided to call it a day.  It wasn't quite as good a day as I was expecting but I had an hour in the air and the sun was out so you can't really ask for much more than that!

Sat 08 Mar 2014

Report by Sean Staines

A lovely flight at Ballard down today with good lift along the whole of the main ridge as well as the cliffs. Should have taken the PG as well as it dropped off later on. Looked like Ali Florence was doing well on his Carrera.

Report by Alastair Florence


The day started off fairly windy and hazy, so it seemed like a good day to finish painting my gable end which I last had the weather for sometime last year.

I picked up Sean's messages from Ballard and now and again spotted the occasional hang glider through the haze.

The wind seemed to have dropped a bit by early afternoon so with painting complete I thought I may as well hike up Ballard.

There seemed little wind on t/o and it was deceptively off East, out on the end of the cliff I began to gain some decent height but there was a strong wind gradient thing going on.

Once over 100ft ato ish I was barely creeping forward at maybe 1-2 mph (or maybe these EN B's are just slow), I topped out at about 400ft ato and pushed down the seafront with plenty of height, the cliff down toward Old Harry was working too but with the wind strength I didn't push down far.

The wind was up and down a bit and seemed to be going more East which meant I did not seem to gain much height back on the cliff so seemed like time to land.

Richard M was back on the Hang glider and demonstrated a seat of your pants landing very skilfully.

A couple of other folks out on PG a bit later but the wind seemed to die off shortly after.

Had an interesting chat with a gentleman about rocket motors and subsea pipelines at my landing zone.

A strange day with the wind gradient but fun anyway's.

Report by Mark Tattersall

The morning haze partially lifted by mid day (enough to just see as far as Sandbanks, but not Bournemouth), and the wind settled down to 15-16mph SSE. A couple of hangies took off, and a chap on a Ozone Firefly speedwing buzzed around below the ridge, so I had a go on my Ibex 15, which was well matched to the conditions. An Atos HG ranged the whole of the downs, and to Old Harry and the hotels - on the Ibex the main cliffs were easily soarable about 100-200 feet above the ridge, but not the downs, and I chickened out about 1/4 of the way round the corner to old Harry as the lift was marginal at that stage.

Around 2pm the wind dropped to around 10mph, and slightly more East, so top landed, and trekked down and then up again with a normal PG wing, and was then able to fly round to the pinnacle (could probably have made Old Harry, as despite the drop in windspeed the air was buoyant, but in light air I find it a bit unnerving loosing height as the cliff height diminishes, and I'd just been having a conversation about water landings before takeoff, so went for the safe option). I then followed the Atos down to the hotels, but found no lift and landed there while the Atos just flew effortlessly back up the hill...

About 3 hours of stress free and very uncrowded flying (on a weekend, and despite leaving plenty of sitephone messages) in pleasant weather.

Fri 07 Mar 2014

Report by Alastair Florence


I picked up a Sitephone message from Harry D on my way back from work today which prompted me to take a slight detour home via Bell.

On arrival a couple of hangies were wrapping and Derek S and Harry were about to unwrap.

Harry was first up followed by Derek and then me.

It had felt like it could be a bit gusty from the ground but the air was ok. We had a bimble about for a while until the wind began to drop further.

Nothing epic but nice enough.

Thu 06 Mar 2014

Report by David Franklin


On the way back from Ringstead yesterday I went home via Bell hill to check the gate. The road still says "closed" at the top of the ridge but is fine down to our gate. Down by the quarry is a different story and at present I would recommend another route to get yourself up the hill.

Mon 03 Mar 2014

Report by Brian Metcalfe


Grabbed half an hour at Barton between the morning hail storms and the afternoon light winds. Light and lifty but getting lighter by the minute and I eventually hung in too long and landed on the bottom track.

The IOW seems to have a resident cu-nim these days.

Sat 01 Mar 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

A passable enough afternoons fly was up for grabs today at Ringstead.

St.Aldhelms looked do-able but I fancied some company today so headed West. 7 or 8 on the cliffs most of the afternoon with 15 plus on the hill, nice and sunny although biggish clouds inland. Nice to have some dry-ish grass to launch and land on.

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