Eye in the Sky - September 2014

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Tue 30 Sep 2014

Report by Neil McCain

Ringstead, someone asked me today if I was reviewing my demo glider for Skywings...

The first thing you notice when you open the bag is that there is a paraglider in it. It's little details like these that make you smile knowingly - the designer clearly knows his stuff. (A word or two on the bag: hellishly comfortable, but only if you use it as a bag. As a tent it's poor and as a suit, next to useless.) The glider itself features all the latest technologies. The leading edge is tailored in five dimensions, allowing pilots on full bar to tessallate from one place to another instantly*. Mini ribs have been replaced by spare ribs (for vol biv provisions) and to reduce drag all lines are made of spider silk. It features Bluetooth launch technology (BLT) - after pairing my phone with it I simply sent it a message containing wind direction and speed and the wing rose majestically into the air, stopping perfectly and evenly above my head. And what a colour! It is bio-luminescent meaning that in low light levels it glows, providing enough light to read a book if you are flying at night or helping you to see the centre of a cloud if you happen to be sucked into a Cb.

The glide is phenomenal, easily achieving over 680:1, although I understand that the lite version will take this even higher, the penalty being that you must sign the Official Secrets Act before taking delivery. And it is agile too - reprogramming the BLT to Active Piloting via the dedicated app means that you need only speak your commands and the wing will adjust accordingly. At the coast, murmuring "Silky smooth!" will allow you to take your hands from the controls and relax as it banks elegantly and efficiently, eking out whatever thermals there are to give unparalleled views of the coast. In turbulent air, a sharp intake of breath followed by the cry "Holy Mother of God!" will cause it to self big-ear and aim for the largest field within three miles of your position. Of course, for days when you fancy a bit of wagga, mixing up your voice commands can be a lot of fun. "Bleedin' 'eck!" followed by "Wahooo!" and "Eat my shorts!" will produce, from 50 feet, a Death Spiral to be proud of. Although at 40 feet the cry should be changed to "Save my shorts!" What's really astounding about this glider is that in tests it was certified as an EN B, perfect for weekend warriors, XC hounds and occasional flyers alike - who'd have thought that this level of safety could come from a glider with an aspect ratio of 15:1 (higher than the Deathblade).  This surely is THE glider of 2015 (at least until they bring out the updated version in three months time) and at a very reasonable £47,500 (less £30 for your traded-in Delta, Carrera or Tala), just the wing to be seen under for those hazardous runs to the cliffs and back.

Meanwhile, the half dozen pilots who showed up at Ringstead enjoyed a full day of bimbling about at the cliffs.

*Did anyone else read "A Wrinkle In Time" as a child?

Report by Alastair Florence

I had planned to get out around midday today after doing a bit of work at home.

My plan was disrupted some what as Southern Gas were working on my neighbours house to remove his gas meter. unfortuneatly they picked the wrong gas pipe and cut off mine instead.

The repair involved taking out my gas meter and part of a kitchen unit and digging a hole in my front lawn so I was delayed a bit, it looked a tad strong so I was not that bothered.

With Southern Gas out of my hair I set off for St.Aldhelms. The wind was suprisngly light and well off South. It was flyable although nothing that exiting, also very dull and overcast.

I got bored after half an hour and landed back at the car park. Jacko had just arrived and carried on to fly after I left.

I think Kimmeridge may have been a better bet in the event.

Sun 28 Sep 2014

Report by Sean Staines

I was keeping a close eye on the Highcliffe weather station and figured that by the time I'd finished another recorded episode of Farscape it should just about be flyable. When we arrived there were a number of wings layed out and pilots chatting, the usual suspects plus a few Thames Valley visitors. Apparently it had been flyable for a while but the boys were giving up and heading to the pub. I went for an ice cream but it didn't improve the flying situation so we gave up and went home.

Not having had my flying fix for the day was unsatisfactory, so I came up with a plan and wheeled out the paramotor. After a delay to gather all the bits and pieces and a trip to the petrol station I was ready on launch at 5:30.

The first effort failed due to lack of commitment as did the second but the third effort worked and I was greatly relieved to be off the ground.

One climbout loop at take off had me 600ft ATO so I set off at a gentle rate of climb passing Sway tower and heading back towards Barton. The Shooting ear plugs in combination with the ear phones made the engine noise tolerable with the only discomfort being the burning sensation in the middle of my back from the heat of the engine.

As I arrived at the Barton take off I saw two wings layed out for packing a little over 1000ft below me. Those Thames Valley guys had certainly been persistent. I carried on along the coast off shore with one eye on the view and one eye on the GPS showing the airspace. I reckoned it would be possible to fly to Hengstbury head remaining within an emergency glide from the shore but turned back and headed for Milford. As I passed the beach huts I throttled back into a gently decent hoping to fly along Hurst Castle spit dragging my heels in the shingle, but the late evening promenaders enjoying the last of the sunshine meant that wouldn't be possible, so I cruised down the spit at 600ft AMSL to the castle. The outline of the old Tudor castle is very clear from above, embedded in the more modern fortifications.

I turned back in a gentle climb heading across the Pennington marshes and the old saltings to Lymington. Very picturesque with the Isle of Wight ferries crossing mid channel and the setting sun casting shadows.

At Lymington I passed the high street at 1300ft and from there straight back to my launch field. I killed the engine 2km out and enjoyed the noise free moment on the final glide. The Dew was already making my wing damp as I packed it.

Fri 26 Sep 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - The BBC weather forecasters actully showed the synoptic chart for a change, showing a cold front passing through by midday. It's often great flying conditions once its passed, so despite the gloom en route it looked quite promising when we arrived at 1 O'Clock.

Neil McCain arrived and we chatted waiting for the wind to pick up and come on. When it did it got better and better and after 40 minutes I landed to change from my light wind setup to the XC wing.

Height gains to 1000ft ATO in gentle thermals and very buoyant conditions in general allowed me to make the run down to the masts and back quite easily. John Alder had his first outing on his new firebird wing and appeared, from my perspective at the masts, to be cruising around way out over the farm at around 1500ft for ages.

Around 8 pilots out to play all in all.

Report by H Dike

Bell briefly came good between 3 and 4 in the afternoon and a bit light for the two hours either side. At times it was very lively and quite novel to be on full bar over the back field at 700 feet and barely getting forward.

It did give me time to look at the field: the cattle are back. About 50 Red Devon, a "gentle" beef breed. Specialist breeds are usually kept by farmers who care, so apologies to Gary and the farmer for my previous criticisms. Now we have more than grass to worry about there is a real reason for avoiding the back field. At the moment the cattle are fenced off into the western half by an electric fence, other posts, unwired as yet, form avenues, not quite at random, but similar to those put up to hinder German paratroopers in world war two, perhaps inspired by the bomb crater, another memorial...

Nothing is forever, missing Derek very much.

Thu 25 Sep 2014

Report by Sean Staines

Burton Bradstock - It was too westerly when we arrived at Burton Bradstock so we drove into West Bay for a mooch around. I was at least 20 pence up on my 6p stake at the 2p coin cascade machines in the arcade, but my winning streak eventually failed and I lost everything (6p). When we came out we spotted a PG on the cliffs at Burton Bradstock so we raced back anxious not to miss out.

It was quite strong and still a bit Westerly so a beach take off was sucessfully executed. As I made my way down to West Bay I couldn't figure out why my GPS said I was only 135ft AMSL. It seemed a lot higher. Some fidling later I'd switched it to ft from meters. 450ft seemed enough to cross West Bay so I went for it connecting with the old take off and climbing up again.

I crawled round Golden cap and inched down to Charmouth on half bar at an amazing 6kmh. So slow the GPS kept insisting I'd landed and restarting the flight.

When I turned back I zoomed along at 45kmh, pausing at Golden cap to climb to 1300ft. Pretty good I thought but at Thorncombe beacon I topped out at 1425ft. I still had over 1000ft after crossing West Bay but it became clear from the slowing progress and foaming white horses that the further from Charmouth I went the stronger the wind became. Pretty much what RASP had predicted.

I decided to land in the fields at Cogden rather than risk being dragged at Burton Bradstock and came down vertically for a good landing.

A great flight and nearly 2hrs in the air.

Wed 24 Sep 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

I stopped off at St. Aldhelms this evening on the way back from work.

Wind was somewhere around WSW and 12-14mph.

There were small lifty bits here and there allowing height gains to around 900ft amsl. Too much West to push over to Houns Tout but all the cliff was working well.

Mon 22 Sep 2014

Report by Alastair Florence


I stopped off at Kimmeridge tonight after work for my first flight since August.

Wind was fairly light but the air was smooth and buoyant with narrow rivulets of lift that were workable up to about 200ft ato. Some lovely soft pastel shades of orange as the sun went down, a peachy bit of chilling out after work.

Report by Gary Mullins

Another Monday at White Horse. The forecast of a pm sea-breeze was right. Stacks of lift. Very nice, but again, no-one else there. It went a bit SW at about 3 so popped over to Ringstead. Light and thermic on the ridge and light on the cliffs......but just about get backable. Phew. No other members there either. Strange.

Sun 21 Sep 2014

Report by Everard Cunion

This post-frontal day at Monk's Down turned out to be disappointing. The wind was from the north-east, the air turbulent, and the lift scarce.

I managed to climb above launch height, but not by much.

Report by Grant Oseland


A brief flight at Maiden Castle today in buoyant but unpleasant conditions. Easy to gain 1200ft above take off in the thermals coming through, but in the type of air that when you go to take a photo, you hold the camera up, then drop it straight away to control the wing over head. It probably was flyable for a bit longer than we did hang around for, just not very pleasant in the air. Still the sun was shining and the air was fresh.

Fri 12 Sep 2014

Report by Brian Metcalfe


Got to Mercury at about 11.45 expecting the wind to have dropped as per the forecast. Instead it was strong and gusty so I didn't even get my kit out. After waiting for half an hour it was no better so as I was over that way I left to visit a friend in Hamble, intending to go back later.

Mid afternoon, having heard nothing from Mercury and feeling that the wind was a bit more SE at Hamble I checked Highcliffe Sailing Club web site and sure enough it looked like it was going SSE so I made my excuses and left for Barton. Got there about 4.30 to find it blowing 12mph and only a little off to the east. No one else there but I had a pleasant waft around in good lift for an hour and down to Milford and back before it started to go more easterly. I tell you, Barton works in all wind directions ;-) I hear Gordon was flying at Southbourne too but I don't know whether anyone eventually flew at Mercury or Whitewool.

Some new drainage pipes have been put in by the Cliff House Hotel where the big landslip was and the old pipes were broken. Looks like they might have made a new girly take off for us, or at least a way back up the cliff if you land on the beach on the way back from Highcliffe.

Mon 08 Sep 2014

Report by Gary Mullins

Not been out for a fair bit, wind veering nicely round to the south in the afternoon.

Easy decision. White Horse it is then.

Conditions were quite light and nicely thermic along most of the ridge, which made for a few hours of wafting pleasantage.

No-one else there €“ just me and a couple of helpful buzzards.


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