Eye in the Sky - October 2014

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Mon 27 Oct 2014

Report by Mike Drew

A nice evening boat around Ringstead. Very southerly but despite that it was very buoyant and silky smooth. Sunset at 5pm, winters here€¦

Sun 19 Oct 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

Just as a follow up to my previous report on my recent crash I would like to just clear up a couple of inaccuracies.

After a further debrief with John, he actually made it across the gullies and Bottom landed probably not far from where I began to turn out myself rather than top landed.

He thought he heard the sound of a collapse as I disappeared around a slight corner on the ridge, he would not have seen me go down as he was busy landing sensibly.

I think quite possibly the turbulence that hit me was actually rotor caused by the bush I had flown behind, the rotored air would have been rising behind the bush and to the East of it as it followed the hill contour and is probably what whacked my wing.

I do not think wing rating had any contributing factor to the accident, I firmly believe that I was so low that even an EN A wing would have moved enough to cause me to impact the hill even had it not collapsed, the M4 is a very solid wing and rarely collapses without good cause anyway.

My angle of impact was such that in an open harness I would have still impacted flat on my back rather than legs first, the Genie Race has 170mm foam protection and is a solid (and heavy, just ask John) harness but with that weight comes a bit more protection for which I was gratefull.

John did not see me crash and assumed that I had made it onward and was back at Knitson, until I phoned him at which point he could actually hear my voice through the air as well as the phone as he was actually quite close.

I had unclipped and was walking about quite freely although uncomfortably probably for about 10 mins when John got to me. Hence he had very little ground to force me against my will to call out emergency services. He made several attempts to persuade me to let him call emergency services or at least to take me home to ensure my wife took me direct to A&E. I can be a stubborn bugger when I want to be and I strongly declined his offers of my own free will. Shock was no doubt a major influence in my lack of rational thinking. Short of him knocking me out he had no chance of influencing my own decisions.

I finally got home from Southampton General last night sporting a couple of permanent metal rods and some pins bridging from L1 - L3 vertebra to relieve weight on my damaged l2. I was called in for surgery the day after I had the brace fitted as on further examination the x-rays revealed that L2 was unstable and had put scoliosis (Curvature) into my spine which would increase in severity without surgery. That phone call certainly shook me up a bit.

Upshot is the metal work means I do not need the brace anymore which is good news as they are pretty uncomfy, I am pretty mobile already and managed about a mile walk up the seafront today and have had several hours on my feet, not quite ready to drive yet as the 6"gash in my back is pretty sore but hope to get out and see ya'all on a hillside soon.

To put the risk thing in perspective a bit, the guy in the bed next to me had 3 serious fractures in his left ankle which will require at least 2 sessions of surgery to sort out and a similar recovery period to me. His injuries were sustained whilst ironing at home, if your going to get hurt may as well do it doing something a bit more exiting eh !

Tue 14 Oct 2014

Report by Mike Drew


After all the recent rain and wind it was hard to think it would be flyable today but looking at the forecast it looked like Portland West might work early on. Despite having flown for over 11 years I had never flown at Portland so was hoping to get my maiden flight. Met up with Russell on take off where it seemed to be strong and off to the north. Once in the air it was pleasant enough but obviously off to the north, and this became more apparent as the flight continued. In the end the lift became patchy and a windsock in Underhill showed pretty much due north so in we both came. Had a look at another site but it was pretty wet and miserable inland so called it a day. Back to the rubbish weather again€¦..

Wed 08 Oct 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

I wanted to put this report on EITS in the hope that a few folks may heed some points that I wish to make that lead to me having an accident on 05.10.14.

Ironically I had sent Ruth an article for Airmail the day before highlighting a few safety points that I then went on to break and had I not broken them would have almost undoubtedly avoided me crashing.

To set the scene, finishing Sunday lunch at home I spotted John S launching on Knitson and beginning to get some good height as the Southerly wind picked up. I made a bee line for the hill as soon I could after lunch and joined John in the air.

Conditions were great, strongish and gustyish wind on the hill and decent thermals giving good height gains of several hundred feet.

I found a climb that took to about 2000ft amsl I think the highest I have ever managed at Knitson, John joined me. I headed off toward Corfe with John, leading each other on.

Approaching Corfe John was lower than me and we were not finding any thermals at that point which we needed for the return trip. I turned with a couple of hundred feet over the hill as I knew there are 11kv powerlines to cross about ½ mile East of Corfe and wanted the height to do it. John followed me back but lower. I crossed the powerlines with about 80ft to spare, John had to fly out around them as he was lower.

Next there is a shallow ridge for about 150m followed by about 150m of gullies with no ridge to speak of.

I gained a small amount of height on the shallow ridge and looked back to see John taking another beat on the ridge behind me, I decided that I had enough height to cross the gullies as I knew shortly after the ridge improved and I did not want to crowd John unnecessarily. This was big mistake 1, I normally use lift wherever I find it to the max as you never know when you may need a few extra feet, I turned my back on the chance of gaining a bit of extra height.

John meanwhile was top landing as I pushed on across the gullies.

Nearing the end of the gullies although I was only maybe 20m from where the ridge improves I had lost too much height and could just have cleared the bottom hedge to land safe in an empty paddock. I turned to fly out and land. At this moment I flew into turbulent lift which threw me around but gave me maybe 15ft. This is where I made mistake 2, I had the opportunity to land but thought I had a chance of connecting with ridge lift and turned back instead of giving up whilst I could.

I passed behind a low bush and onward for maybe 15m then things happened very fast. I was no more than 10ft off the ground. I hit more violent turbulence, John thinks he heard a collapse and I think my left wing tip collapsed as the wing was lifted on the right side. I pendulumed to the right, the left tip reinflated sponteaneously and lifted sharply as it did plus I think the wing bit forward into the turbulence.

This had the action of swinging me straight into the hill landing flat on my back, the wing fell straight back behind me and stayed down.

Mistake 3 was then that although winded and obviously knowing I had smacked in hard on my back I got out my harness and began moving around. John found me and wrapped up my wing then carried both wings down to the nearby lane. I was suffering mild shock but assured John I was Ok walking down, which to be fair I did. I really did not feel to bad although I was obviously feeling pretty battered and persuaded John I was OK to drive home which again I did. I should have just gone straight to A & E and not worried about inconvieniencing anyone.

Mistake 4 was asking my wife to take me later to Swanage A & E which is only a minor accident unit, ok they maybe should have sent me to Poole straightaway but I was telling them I was not that bad.

I talked things through with my GP next day.

Eventually I decided on Tuesday that I was not comfortable and needed reassurance I had not done more damage. I was thoroughly examined, x rayed, ct scanned and as a result found I have broken some bits off L2 vertebra and possibly some fractures in L3. I am now in a brace for 2 or 3 months. I should have gone straight here on Sunday but being stubborn and not wanting to impose on anyone didn't, how stupid is that.

So if you don't want to join me take a few tips €“ If you find height somewhere use it, height = safer most times, if you think your flight is getting sketchy give up and land don't push your luck and if you do have a crash don't be afraid to call on emergency services immediately, it's what they are there for.

Sun 05 Oct 2014

Report by Ruth Kelly

With the wind forecast in the south, with a very light start and picking up around midday, we hatched a plan to try our luck at Durdle Door. Sean and Andrea pick us up at about 1145; Brian and Chris made a similar  arrangement, and all we arrived almost simultaneously in the car park just before One.

The wind was too light, so we ate lunch; then Sean and I went looking for a suitable takeoff. We soon found a likely spot, about 100m to the west and pretty much out of sight from the car park, with smooth grass and a decent slope. As the wind picked up we took off, one by one, Sean in the lead. Inflating the wing was straightforward, but I got a line caught in a small but tough thorny twig, and as the wing surged into the air the port side was brought up hard. Dumping it back onto the ground it then gift-wrapped a nasty little gorse bush stump. Once disentangled I asked Brian if he could check the sail as I built a wall: it looked fine. I hauled it up without further trouble, and took off. It was pretty rough in the air, and I found out later that everyone flew into the same turbulence - most probably from the wind breaking over the Door and rolling up the hill. For future reference we wouldn't recommend it as a takeoff in anything other than lightish winds.

I followed the same line as everyone else - tracking westward across Scratchy Bottom (!) to Swyre Head (there seem to be lots of Swyre Heads in Dorset). All of the others had managed to fly on from there, either west across Bat's Head towards Ringstead, or east towards Lulworth. Having not flown much this year I decide to hang about on Swyre Head, enjoying the view. As luck would have it the wind dropped off a bit, and I spent about 20 minutes boating up and down and losing about 150 feet in the process. After a few minutes Brian joined me, and then Will and Chris floated back. As the wind picked up again I decided to push west across Bat's head.

The run from Bat's Head to the White Nothe has no bottom landing, so you need to be sure you can stay up. Actually there is a beach at the bottom, but there is no access to it on foot. There are a few top-landing options, although all are likely to suffer from rotor away from the cliff edge. Staying up presented no problems, however, and I worked my way past Middle Bottom and West Bottom before arriving at the Nothe with more than 500 feet above the Durdle Door takeoff.  I decided not to go past the Nothe - the normal Ringstead cliff trends very obviously off to the north and I didn't want to find out the hard way that it wasn't working. So after floating about a bit with Sean and Chris I headed back east.

The return trip to Swyre Head was a breeze - there seemed to be an upper lift band which, one you had connected with it, made it very easy to stay up. So with barely a pause at Swyre Head I carried on across Durdle Door and then worked my way up onto Hambury Tout. From there it was easy to push forward onto Dungy Head and then track east to Stair Hole. As well as the ridge lift there seemed to be sea thermals, with Dungy Head - which is really just a large rocky outcrop - working especially well.  Will was making repeated forays to the end of the sea cliff at Lulworth Cove, and finally abandoned his attempt to jump the gap, before gaining height and crossing to the ridge behind the cove. He found the ridge quite turbulent so turned around and barred his way back to Stair Hole, and then off westward again. I decided to draw the line at Stair Hole.

Meanwhile, Sean and Brian had also crossed onto the main ridge, but taking a more direct line from Hambury Tout. They then pushed off eastward, to Bindon Hill and Flowers Barrow. Sean made it as far as the Gad Cliff.

Meanwhile I had enjoyed myself shuttling between Stair Hole, Dungy Head and Hambury Tout, before heading back across the Door to Land. Chris had already landed for a short break, not very far from our take-off and I headed for the same spot. It was horrible - really very turbulent - and I had real fears for a low-level collapse. However, tracking just a few metres further east - a bit closer to the car park - the air seemed a bit smoother, and having got my legs down good and early I floated in for a gentle touch-down.  As I mushed my wing I discovered that one of the seams on the underside of the wing near the port tip had been torn open, and some of the internal reinforcement had come adrift. I think the damage was done on that aborted takeoff - the C line round the twig had ripped the seam. I can't say that it affected the performance of the wing at all - I suppose the main effect would have been to reduce the internal pressure slightly. But the damage was beyond repair with tape, so I decided to quite at that point.

Meanwhile, the wind was picking up and Will tracked across, also considering landing. But having experienced a small collapse shortly after takeoff he decided that it wasn't safe - so he headed off westward to land on the beach at Ringstead. Maybe half an hour later the others converged back at Durdle Door and with Andrea I watched as Sean also tried his luck at the top landing. With big ears in it was clearly very turbulent over our take-off: he was rocked back quite severely and got what looked like a 50% collapse on the port side. Pushing forward he flew out over the sea to lose height there, before beach landing just west of the door... soon to be joined by Chris and Brian.

All in all a great day - none of us had flown the site before, and everyone achieved something new. It's not an official site of course, so I can't recommend that everyone rushes down there to try it... and it would be good to find a better takeoff spot. But well worth a look if you get the chance.

This link should take you to a map showing the various place names: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?x=380702&y=80543&z=115&sv=380702,80543&st=4&ar=y&mapp=map.srf&searchp=ids.srf&dn=584&ax=380702&ay=80543&lm=0

Report by Alastair Florence

Some excellent but bumpy flying at Knitson this afternoon in company of John S. Got higher than i ever have here and both got to Corfe. I pushed my luck to far on the return and spanked in hard on my back following, i think a stupidly low level collapse and pendulum into hill. Dont think anythings broken just badly bruised but more by luck than judgement if thats the case. Will write a bit more detail and some pics of the flying when i can move.around it bit less painfully :'(. A million thanks to John for wrapping up my wing and carrying both wings off the hill then driving me back to my car.

Fri 03 Oct 2014

Report by Alastair Florence


Day 4 of mini flying break - Ringstead - was expecting SSW and increasing to blown out by late morning, in the event it stayed flyable all day apart from the occasional light spell.

I arrived soon after Grant and RW and got flying soon after.

Following a warm up on the cliff I followed Grants lead with a run down to Lulworth and back.

The ranges were due to open at 12.30 but the wind had gone a bit light.

Soon after it picked back up and the many pilots now assembled began to make the most of the conditions.

Back down at Lulworth again I waited for Grant to come back for the 3rd or 4th time, Steve A also made it down and presumably back.

Grant and me pushed onward into the now open ranges and made a fairly uneventfull trip to Flowers Barrow. I shouted to Grant that I would follow him over to Gad cliff as it seemed safer (for me) to let him go first and see if he could stay up.

He did so I followed and qualified for my Gad Cliff Club badge.

It looked to me like going any further would make it a one way trip and I fancied the challenge of getting back to Ringstead so I ran back onto Flowers Barrow and began building height to leap Arish Mell.

The wind seemed more Westerly now making it a hard push back until at least Lulworth with several butt clenching sections.

We both made it with no real problems.

Major irritation of the last few days has been plagues of daddy long legs everywhere that seem to have one purpose in life of flying into or onto your wing, i'm sure somewhere in the eco system they must serve a usefull purpose but I cant figure out where. Peachometer 8 for the week.

Report by Grant Oseland


A nice little coast run today at Ringstead. The wind was no where near as strong as forecast, and at times not strong enough, It remained SSW most of the day which allowed for a few runs down to Durdle Door and back, from the more adventurous. Ali Florence and I pushing on to Gad Cliff and the edge of Kimeridge bay with a very slow return leg.

Thu 02 Oct 2014

Report by Alastair Florence

A slow start to the day but looked like it was coming on around lunchtime so headed out toward Kimmeridge.

It felt light and a bit Southerly but looked doable, I couldn't find any lift and ended up half way down the hill which was dis-pleasing.

So wrapped up and thought Knitson might be a bit better. Mike D texted and said Knitson was light but little lift.

I arrived to see him scratching the ridge, I had a go and found some thermally bits that got me up to around 350ft ato, Mike had a bit more luck after that.

I had a bit over 35 mins in nice smooth (for Knitson) thermally patches before I found a prolonged dead patch which put me back on the deck.

Nice enough though, and a very pleasant day by October standards.

Spotted someone giving Kimmeridge a good scratching whilst we were flying.

Report by Mike Drew


Got up to Knitson early afternoon to find a nice breeze on the hill and thermic cycles coming through. Nice Cu were forming so thought I was in for a classic day. Sadly not. No matter the wind strength I could hardly get above take off and spent the next two hours dodging gorse bushes and sweaty walks up. The wind had no €œoomph€ in it! Ali turned up and I found out it was the same at Kimmeridge. After a bit of chatting we gave it another go with the intention of bottom landing. Ali launched first and of course he went up! I followed behind and managed a nice little flight which made the earlier efforts worthwhile. The gully to the west of take off was working well and I went over to the bowl to the east of take off, which didn't work too well! Ali was still working the lift and managed to stay airborne a while longer. Not the classic day at Knitson that I used to remember but fun nonetheless.

Wed 01 Oct 2014

Report by Alastair Florence


I took another look at St. Aldhelms again this morning, all appeared flyable to start but as sson as I was ready to launch I noted the wind had increased to 22mph gusts so waited a bit.

Soon things settled back down and seemed stable so I launched.

Once in the air all was fine, not over strong but strong enough to give some white caps on the sea.

The direction was around WSW so gave a fairly hard push onto Houns Tout.

I made a few attempts to get onto Smedmore Ridge but with the amount of West in the wind Eldon Seat was the furthest I could get. This gave 6.

something km coastal flight on the league.

All in all a nice little waft about, but it would be good to get a direction that suited another site soon, the log book seems to have a lot of St.A's entries lately !

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