Eye in the Sky - July 2014

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Tue 29 Jul 2014

Report by Neill Franklin


Bell Hill - I arrived at the hill early afternoon. I didn't have any great expectations of flying, as I thought it would be a tad on the windy side for me. My suspicions were soon confirmed with quite a brisk breeze, some punchy thermals and a general feeling that the air wasn't particularly pleasant. So I did what I seem to do ever more often over the last couple of years, sat and watched other pilots who obviously felt comfortable with the flying conditions and their own piloting abilities. I am always keen to go xc at any given opportunity and I only ever fly for myself (this attitude has looked after me for 24 years of flying paragliders). There is always another day€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦€¦ Some will have heard about the horrific accident that happened on Bell Hill yesterday and I was a witness to it. Obviously, my thoughts are with the pilot and his family and I wish him a very speedy recovery.

I was surprised that when we tried to get two paragliders to land because the air ambulance was on its way, it seemed to take a lot of shouting and waving of arms. I appreciate that conditions were strong, so landing was difficult but in these situations, I feel the right course of action would have been for them to either land in the field behind or preferably, fly out and away from the hill thus landing at the bottom (I know it involves a walk back up the hill). Luckily, the sky was clear before the air ambulance arrived but it was on the scene incredibly quickly.

What continues to concern me, especially in strong and gusty conditions, are pilots taking off / landing in front of parked vehicles or performing manoeuvres (such as wing-overs) close to the ground and near people and cars.

Photo is of a tandem taking off and getting snagged in a pilotless glider. 

Report by Everard Cunion

Bell Hill - The wing-mounted shot is from my flight before the paraglider crash during the strongly thermic conditions in the early afternoon.

The other photos are of Steve W struggling to gain height (which he did eventually) are after conditions calmed down somewhat.

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - Loads of paraglider pilots plus Everard on his new WW U2 and later Steve with his Rigid were out on Bell Today. I arrived around midday. Conditions were at my limit of acceptability with very active flying required to keep the wing open and above my head. After half an hour I landed to chill out for a while. Once I'd forgotten how bad it was I flew again and was relieved to take a good solid climb over the back. I was joined by Pete Robinson plus one other and we climbed together to Stickland. After that We split up. Peter went in the direction of Crossways.

I was practicing with my flight instrument and had programmed it with a competition task to Durleston head with 2km cylinder waypoints at Bere, Wareham and Corfe. I got near Bere near base at 4500ft but had to detour to pick up the waypoint and was down to 3500 as I entered Wareham forest. I didn't find much lift at the usual places so headed for the quarry / municipal dump that often works. Nothing there either so I landed. Turned out I was in Stalag Luft 112B surrounded by 6ft high barbed wire fences and wandered around for a while trying to find someone to release me. Luckily a passing bee keeper let me out.

As we headed back to Bell I heard that there had been a bad accident requiring the air ambulance.

Once we got back the incident was over and most pilots were leaving or waiting on the ground but Dr Charles led the way and I decided to fly again. Take off was at 10 past 4 but it was still thermic and I took a nice climb over the back again. This time I tried to go North of Bournemouth airspace. 45 minutes later I was on the ground near to Kingston Lacy looking towards Badbury Rings. A very pleasant flight.

Report from Bell Hill


Thermals everywhere, then strong and gusty, then lumpy but quite a few wings in the air for a Tuesday. Three got away  Peter Robinson, Sean Staines & Quentin Rose lucky or what! Then everyone on the deck for an unfortunate interlude. Praise to those who helped, good teamwork.

Seemed to curb enthusiasm for most.

Sun 27 Jul 2014

Report by Grant Oseland


A very pleasant day at Bell Hill today. Lots of pilots out, some under instruction as well. The wind was not as strong as forecast and was flyable pretty much all day. Paul H and Dave W also went XC with their passengers on the tandems. Most of the lift seemed to stop at around 3500ft in front of the hill but some did go over the back.

Sat 26 Jul 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

After spending most of the day sat around on Bell with the occasional walk up from a failed flight and watching Ian H fly in huge circles seemingly wherever he wanted around bell area I finally got lucky and gained some good height late PM.

Once up a few hundred feet there seemed to be no shortage of available lift and fairly buoyant between the lifty bits.

I was beginning to work up toward a half respectable triangle (for Wessex area) but was being nagged by the thought that I was supposed to be taking the wife to a wedding reception and our agreed departure time was getting very close and I was still 30 odd miles plus a shower and change away from this.

I pushed my timing as far as I thought I could get away with before trying to land, landing was really difficult as there was so much buoyancy in the air after a couple of attempts I forced myself down.

It felt like I could have gone on much longer but sometimes it's better to avoid a domestic I guess ! None the less Peachometer 7.5 (marred by a lot of ground time earlier)

Report by Shamus Pitts

I thought it might be a little bit on the light side today and when I got to Monksdown about 10am my suspicions seemed to be confirmed.  It was okay to start with, a bit of a breeze and regular thermic cycles coming through which enabled Dave A, Andy F, Phil and I to get a few short flights in before the air warmed up a bit and the thermals dissolved.  It clouded over for a while but the sun soon came out again although by now there was hardly any wind at all.  About 1 o'clock a thermal came through which I managed to take up to about 450' then push out in front of the hill to find another one which I took over the back to 1500' ATO.  I thought about going with it but the sky didn't look great and the drift was from the NW so I decided to push back to the hill.  I didn't quite make it and had to settle for one field back and a short walk.  By the time I got back what wind there was had gone more off to the NW so Dave A and I headed off to Bell.

There were quite a lot of people at Bell but not much going on.  Ian H was just climbing out but no-one else was in the air and there was hardly any wind.  After one very short flight a breeze came through so I took off and flew in to the bowl.  The trees beyond the magic tree were rippling so I flew over to them and found a climb which I eventually managed to centre in and take over the back.  The air was buoyant and the drift was slow.  I was surprised to see Ian H approach from downwind, fly past me and head out towards Child Okeford as I tried to find the stronger lift that I seemed to have lost.

I found a bit of lift over the woods near Winterborne Clenston but soon lost it so decided to go on a long glide towards a likely looking cloud slightly cross-wind.  Sinking all the way I thought this might be the end of my flight but I could see a tractor working a field which I thought might be the source of the cloud so hoped I had the height to make it.  Just east of Milborne St Andrew I found my climb, taking me back up to 3500' ATO as I approached Bere Regis.  I lost the climb again and went on another long glide towards a cloud with a sailplane under it over Wareham forest.  I lost over 2000' on the way but was relieved when my vario started beeping again and the trees started getting smaller.  I lost the climb about 4400' ATO.  I was almost at cloudbase and the air seemed quite rough when I went searching from the last couple of hundred feet so I decided I was pretty high anyway and went on another long glide.  There were no clouds downwind now - I explored Wareham for a bit but couldn't find anything so went on a glide towards Corfe Castle.  Because of the Notam at Swanage I couldn't go that way but could see the airshow as I carried on gliding towards Worth Matravers.  My ground speed started to drop and I I realised I wasn't going to make it to St Aldhems Head, deciding on a field just outside Worth Matravers instead.  Thanks to Dave A for the generous retrieve.

Fri 25 Jul 2014

Report by Grant Oseland


I checked the forecast on RASP and it was predicting a good period between 11:00 and 15:00 in the Dorset area, then turning poor. This seemed fairly accurate for what actually happened at Hambledon. The sky started blue then gradually the wind picked up and cu's started to bubble up all around, but nothing usable came through for about an hour. Eventually after boating up and down the ridge for just under an hour I hooked into a Hoover of a thermal, straight to base. This highlighted the rapidly towering clouds from the east, but the sky looked ok going SW towards the coast. It was nice to get high and cool down at cloud base for a while, then settle in to the flight and enjoy the views. Despite the size of the ever building clouds I generally had to work for the lift until close to the base of the clouds as it all seemed a bit broken and disorganised. As I approached the coast Gary M gave me a text saying that Cu Nimbs are in the early stages at Portland, luckily for me I had reached my goal of Bridport and was now going towards Charmouth in a ESE thermal. Then as normal for me the sea breeze seemed to stop the climbs, ending my flight at Charmouth. The retrieve was also very easy, I walked out the field straight to a road with a bus going to Dorchester, no waiting, Got off the bus in Dorchester and got on bus going to Blandford, no waiting then got off that bus and got on a bus going to Child Oakford, again no waiting! By the time I got back home there was a massive lightning storm going on with flash floods, so I'm happy I got the best of the day. A 9/10 on Ali's peachy meter only because I had to work for the climbs.

Report by Alastair Florence

I had an unusual flight on Ballard late this afternoon, normally it's a case of wizz up and down the cliff, sometimes to Old harry, sometimes along the hotels. Today was more of thermic and out front day.

Driving home from work Hambledon was tempting, but the clouds were looking big inland and the thought of the walk up put me off.

Arriving home it looked to be SE and Hot and sunny with big clouds building inland.

I thought I may as well have a walk up Ballard, it felt light on top and had been pretty hot walking up.

Once in the air the cliffs were working ok but nothing spectacular so I tried the ridge.

Not much happening until I got to the West end where a steady flow of thermals were coming up off a mowed field.

I was able to get 300-800ft ato fairly steadily.

Keeping an eye overhead I noticed the big clouds behind and toward the Needles were now rapidly heading my way, so I thought i'd push out front and got almost out to Herston yard campsite which is I think the furthest out I have been from the ridge.

I got down fine but had the feeling there was some cloud suck now mixed into the thermals.

By the time I got back to my car the sky was black as Dantes furnace and rumbles of thunder could be heard.

better to be 1/2 hour early landing than a few minutes to late, Peachometer 7 on this one.

Tue 22 Jul 2014

Report by Andy Ward


With RASP giving a 5 star rating and a NNE forecast there was quite a gaggle of pilots on the hill at Monks Down waiting for good things to happen. Sadly the wind was a bit light and several of us managed a hot walk up the hill between thermals. Eventually patience was rewarded and after an hour of flying up and down the hill I found a nice juicy thermal to take over the back. 2 hours and one low save later I found myself on Portland wishing I had declared it as my goal after all...

Report by Martin Butcher


Monks - A very pleasant evening bimble to relax after work with Ali and William. (with honourable mention to Brian for sitting on the ground) It was a bit bumpy/gusty at first but after 6:30 it calmed down a bit and allowed a more comfortable  ride.         

Report by Sean Staines

Monksdown - Lots of pilots out today to take advantage of the promising XC forecast. I got away and managed 33k to Tolpuddle. Quite a high clench factor to the thermals today with a few moments of weightlessness and the odd asymmetric. Surprisingly rough considering how friendly the clouds looked.

Mon 21 Jul 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - I had a lovely flight to Swanage today. My best UK XC this year. I took a climb near the new mansion at Ibberton with a good 4m/s core taking me into the clouds at around 3200ft. Then I went on a glide towards Winterborne Whitechurch trying various clouds on the way without any success.

I thought it was all over, and was lining up to land when I hit lift and managed to climb out again, reaching cloud base near Bere Regis. I continued to climb without 360ing, topping out at 3600ft. I flew by compass bearing towards the campsite in the middle of Wareham forest, exiting cloud not far from the campsite.

I drifted on working very weak lift but maintaining until I spied some circling seagulls near a quarry and went over to join them. Being very patient I slowly worked my way over Wareham with some great views down on Poole harbour and the river Frome. Sorry no pictures.

From there I went  on a glide to Corfe, found another climb and made it into the valley beyond with Swanage beckoning. By now I was low, down to about 1200ft, and patiently hanging onto any lift I could find. I dribbled along being taken towards Dancing ledge. Eventually I had to leave it and set off on a glide towards Durleston but landed about 3km short on the outskirts of Swanage.


Sun 20 Jul 2014

Report by Everard Cunion


Bell Hill - In the early afternoon we experienced wide and smooth thermals. They extended far in front of the ridge, but they were weak and did not seem to go very high. Later they became more turbulent.

Report by Gary Pocock

A great way to end a weeks holiday with three and a quarter hours at one of Wessex's best sites. Bell Hill provided very boyant conditions today which allowed the mass of pilots that  flew plenty of seperation, good height gains in front and behind the hill. That gives me more than 8 hours excellent air time in one week. Only wish there had been an XC.

Sat 19 Jul 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

The electrical storms of Friday night were a bit of a non event around Swanage although this morning was overcast and brooding so I went kayaking in the Bay, I was thinking it would be nice to get a flight in as a sort of tribute to Derek S.

By late PM it had turned into a nice clear blue sunny day with a decent WSW wind blowing.

I thought I may as well have a quick waft at St.Aldhelms before supper.

The wind felt nice on t/o and no threatening clouds apart from a few well inland.

Once launched the air was incredibly smooth and soft feeling also pleasantly buoyant. I was keeping a close watch on orographic forming over the cliff backs as occasionally the landing zone disappeared under clag but came back eventually each time so no great worry.

I cruised comfortably over to Houns Tout again, loosing about 400ft, had a bimble on the Tout for a bit then flew back and landed near the car park, then home for chicken biryani and a cider to mark clocking up my 1000th hour.

Fri 18 Jul 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

I was glad to get away from work this afternoon and headed down toward Weymouth. No one was in the air at Ringstead but I could see a wing on White Horse so headed there.

The wind was well on the hill and fairly brisk but manageable. 3 other pilots there but cant put a name to em.

Nice flying was to be had with the occasional active bit but generally nice with sometimes broken thermals scattered liberally.

For a while there were low clouds blowing in from the sea at about 700ft ato with plenty of lift beneath, this gave the opportunity to push out a fair way and even taste cloud base again.

Nice afternoon after an unusually unpleasant week at work and needed to squeeze it in as the weekend does not look that promising.

Report by Gary Pocock


Ringstead -  Made the journey past White Nothe toward Lulworth with Grant, Russell and Graham. Bit of a grey day but nice to do a few more km here.

Wed 16 Jul 2014

Report by Gary Pocock


Eype finally came good mid afternoon with quite a few pilots enjoying the coast. We thought the wind had a more southerly element to it but once in the air it was clear it was more westerly and wind strength increased with height quite a lot. Heading toward Golden Cap required bar to get above 2mph, made it with quite a lot of height but again required a lot of speed bar to push forward and round the cap. Once the otherside I decided to watch and see what Nigel Rendel did as he was in front of me a fair way. I think he must have used bar to push forward toward Charmouth, I think he must have been at least two thirds the way there but had lost a lot of height getting there, he turned but landed on the beach shortly after.  I've always wanted to make the run to Charmouth but it didn't look like it was going to be today so I turned and headed back to the beacon then take off for an excellent hour and half flight.

Sun 13 Jul 2014

Report by Chris Hill

My first time there and flying the cliffs was really good fun! Many thanks to Grant and Russell for the briefings and all pilots for being so friendly! After about an hour soaring I decided to go and land as it was getting stronger.

Sat 12 Jul 2014

Report from Ringstead

We had a good day at Ringstead, some making the cliffs for the first time. Three visiting Pilots: German, Czech and Northern Ireland. Also Neil McCain allowing the new Sky Argos to be flown. Sweet wing indeed.

Report by Sean Staines

I went to Ringstead today to try out a new flight deck setup using my Samsung phone to run XC soar. Completely useless, because I couldn't see it wearing sunglasses in the bright sunlight. After 40 minutes flying around with the 10-15 other PG pilots I went to fly rig the hang glider. I was getting spooked by the unfeasibly smooth coastal air, being more used to the very active thermic flying I've been doing recently. Pulled a few 50 % asymmetrics and wingovers to liven things up a bit.

I had the sky to myself by the time the hang glider was rigged and enjoyed climbing above the orographic cloud and looking down on my Glory shadow surrounded by a rainbow. Very pretty. I chatted to an experienced Slovakian paramotor pilot who told me of his plans to fly from the UK all the way to Slovakia. His knowledge of the necessary permits and air law was clearly very good.

A nice calm day out.

Report by Alastair Florence

I arrived at St.Aldhelms car park a few minutes before Martin B. We walked over to t/o and found the wind nicely light and sort of WSW.

I was expecting it to pick up so we launch and got on with soaring the cliff.

Quentin arrived and joined in also.

As forecast the wind strength soon increased and we were gaining more height. Once we were getting around 400-500ft ato a trip to Houns Tout was on the cards.

The crossing was fairly stress free and I lost only about 300ft, Martin soon followed equally comfortably. I tried to push on toward Kimmeridge but the head wind was just to much to make sensible progress.

I was hoping for enough height back on St.A's to make the Square & Compass but had to settle for the car park

Fri 11 Jul 2014

Report by Paul Hawkins


Nice day out at Bell again today. Conditions good for thermic flights a little inconsistent early in the day. I Had blinder on the tandem with the Missis as co pilot. Loads of people out on the hill some XC's and loads of fun had by all.

Tandem peachometer 8.5.

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - Conditions were a bit strong and rough when I took off at 2:15 but there were climbs to be had. I thought I was on my way over the back but lost the first climb and pushed back to the ridge heading for the masts where climbs are more reliable. The drift was very Northerly so I decided to try and head towards Weymouth for a change to the usual Swanage route. Nice to see some different scenery. After 22k I lost my last climb and landed at Crossways. A lovely flight.

Thu 10 Jul 2014

Report by Paul Hawkins


Had a look at Bell Hill today. I was all on my own, I guess because it was blowing a hooley and gusting up nicely. I sat it out until John and Steve two of our hanglider pilots turned up.

I had a couple of flights both were seriously kick ass on my Little Cloud Goose. However I had some nice practice in proper thermals with this wing. Quite challenging conditions to fly but great fun when thermaling up. Not so great when getting a kicking in turbulent air and going down.

Mon 07 Jul 2014

Report by Paul Hawkins


Lots of fun on my 20 meter LittleCloud Goose today. Ringstead was working well and it was nice to put the glider through its paces with the chopped up thermic stuff you get on the launch ridge. I had a small collapse out on the cliffs which was fairly surprising but no problem. A small lick of rotor perhaps from the under cliff terrain.

Having squeezed out maximum fun at Ringstead. I moved on to a murky looking Hive. I jumped the gap from Hive to Freshwater then over the caravan site to West Bay. I had a little look at the Westbay gap but didn't fancy a walk so headed back to Hive.

A great days flying and nice to put the Goose through its paces on some of our larger cliffs.

Good to see Russell, Will and two others I didn't catch your names out on the hill.

Sun 06 Jul 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

The wind didn't look to strong early this morning and pretty much Westerly so I thought I may as well have a look at St. Aldhelms.

It felt fairly strong on t/o but quite manageable.

Launch was fine and nice and smooth and lifty along the cliff. 500ft ato was fairly easy going and after several bimbles up and down I flew over to Houns Tout.

This was quite a hard push with the amount of West in the wind but I arrived just above cliff top height, there was lift there but not that much, plenty enough to get back though.

After 40mins or so it looked like the wind was picking up with more white horses forming and the start of wind streaks. I felt I had done all I wanted and flew back to the car park.

Thu 03 Jul 2014

Report by Everard Cunion


RAF Ringstead, July 3rd, 2014/1944
A sink cycle forced me to head to the cliff from well below take-off height, so I was low when I reached the first cliff. The VB chord somehow looped itself round two fingers of my glove. When I reached the cliff, I let the VB off so as to maximize manoeuvrability. In doing so, my right hand was pulled towards the jamb cleat. I pulled my hand out of the glove. Great. This was only my third flight on the new wing. Enough was enough and I landed in the bail-out field (RAF Ringstead).

Shortly after I retrieved back to the hill top, an expert pilot in a borrowed old intermediate hang glider encountered more serious problems and he landed on the beach.

In my 'relight' a couple of hours later, I made it to the main cliff, although I did not gain much height. (No pics: My camera was full of a movie of grass stems in close-up.) During this flight, a 70-year time-slip revealed thick black haze to the east; the D-Day smoke screen, the remnants of which can be seen in Ali F's photo looking east down the cliffs later that day.

RAF Ringstead? The grass mound at the near end of the emergency bottom landing field contains a radar room used in World War II. Radar masts, long since turned into scaffolding to build the hi-rise apartments soared by paragliders along Bournemouth sea front, were sited along the fields to the west.

Report by Alastair Florence


Bit strong on arrival late this afternoon at Ringstead for PG but a couple of HG's including Richard M were making good use of the air.

So I had a walk up the cliff. About 1830 hrs the wind streaks on the sea and white horses were softening off and the Pg's were on.

Lovely conditions with a clear but soft mellow sort of light. Not sure if that's orographic cloud forming or smoke from the Wessex barbecue in the pictures ! A great evening and couldn't have wished for better conditions for a flight and a barbecue, not many of us there but t'was any absentee's loss, many thanks to Charles C-S for setting things up.

Wed 02 Jul 2014

Report by Paul Maidment


Barton on Sea - I arrived about 12 o'clock to find Christopher Sparham just disembarking from his car and the wind straight on at about 12mph, after setting up I watched Chris attempting to launch, one second the wind was from the left then the right and even from behind the wing, (this is going to be fun for me I thought). I gave him a hand and held his wing up, the wing went straight up and he walked to the cliff and away. Now it was my turn, after 10 minutes of moving the wing around trying to get it in the right place, I finally got it launched, turned to find a group of people stood where I wanted to go, I paused, the front lines went slack and the wing collapsed and I was back to square one again (bu@@er or words to that effect!). After a while, Chris landed and gave me a hand, in no time I was airborne (thinking as I left the cliff that's the only time I want to launch today). The flying was fantastic for a good couple of hours with great views, good clean wind, and sunshine, what more could you want?  Chris and I pushed down to Milford on Sea, I stopped at the beach huts but Chris went on to the end (not for me yet). Brian M turned up at about 2.30, then Brian and Chris flew towards Christchurch, I was happy flying from the cafe to the beach huts at Milford. At about 3 o'clock I was over the beach huts when I noticed  there wasn't as much  lift as before, I turned back into sink and was only about 10 foot off the beach, but I managed to scratch back up the bushes (and sometimes in them) to the ridge. OK, as fast as I can back to take off was my plan, after a couple more low saves I had made it back, on the way back I noticed Chris go down at Chewton Bunny. The next 1/2 hour I spent flying around take off getting lower and lower, OK, luck pushed far enough for one day, as I was packing up I noticed Chris flying back to take off.. no sign of Brian though. Fantastic afternoons flying with lots of new challenges for me €“ awesome.

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