Eye in the Sky - February 2016

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Mon 29 Feb 2016

Report by Shamus Pitts


Yes!!  Finally - I've flown!  For the first time in 6 months I took to the air and it was great (but cold)!  Eype was the venue for 90 minutes of clifftop wafting - I got to about 550' ATO but it wasn't enough to get to Golden Cap or cross West Bay... nice to get out none the less!  Only 2 pics because the camera battery went flat :-(

Thu 25 Feb 2016

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - The good forecast had a few keen pilots on the hill when we arrived, despite the cold. A quick chat with Marcus had us declaring Durleston Head as a goal. While I was typing the declaration message Mark took off into great lift and immediately started climbing. I got ready as soon as I could in a state of great expectation.

When I launched I wasn't disappointed, and within 5 minutes I was in good lift and climbing out, drifting slowly past Ibberton. At around 3000ft amsl the lift weakened and I knew I would need to be patient and stay with any lift I could find. After a further 20 minutes of continuous circling I had clawed my way up to 4000ft over the forest just before Winterbourne Whitechurch and set off on a glide heading for Bere Regis. Half way there, and back down to 2800ft, I found another weak climb which slowly took me into the whispies of cloud base at around 4200ft and just at the beginning of Wareham forest.

I was under a cloud street and went on a glide down the road to Wareham bumping along at base. After a km or so the vario got very excited and the ground disappeared. I wasn't overly concerned but didn't want to cloud fly, so pulled on big ears and speed-bar, exiting the edge of the cloud street more or less on course. I topped up again to base just before Wareham and was then faced with a decision. My cloud street appeared to be heading towards Studland across the heathland and didn't look very active. There was another street with good clouds off to the west and although I could probably have reached it, I didn't want to cross the danger area because as far as I knew it was active.

I set off on a glide into the blue heading across the Wareham swamp aiming for Stoborough heath, which often has a good thermal (Grant found it on his flight a little later on). There was nothing when I got there though, so I carried on heading for Corfe. I found no more lift and landed just after Corfe, 6km short of my goal at Durleston head.  A great flight. Grant got to within 2.5km of Durleston a little later on.

Report by Grant Oseland


It's been a good week so far for February, flying three days in a row can't be bad. Looking at the forecast this morning I decided not to bother with going flying as it looked very light. Yet somehow I found myself driving to Bell Hill. Surprisingly on reaching Bell, Mark R was to be seen a couple of hundred feet above take off. Shows what I know about weather forecasts. Once in the air there were some particularly sharp edges to some punchy thermals, nothing like full frontals tucks to blow the cobwebs of winter out. Sean Stains went over the back first, then Marcus Webster and I started climbing out together over Ibberton way, eventually the lift disappeared and Marcus pushed back to the hill and I stuck with it and went down wind with no real plan. Landing down near Swanage way, so not too shabby.

Wed 24 Feb 2016

Report by Grant Oseland


A pleasant hour at Maiden Castle today, enjoyed by Russell, Russ and me. It was the normal up and down affair that the castle is known for with difficult to find centres to any lift.

Thu 18 Feb 2016

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill. As we passed Bulbarrow we saw a wing take off and appear to be gaining height in smooth conditions. I thought it a good time to try my new 777 Rook 2 glider. I spent some time on the ground giving it a thorough pre-flight check and some ground handling. I launched around 11:30 into a smooth 12mph wind but anticipated, based on recent hang gliding flights, that it would become pretty lively later. I had a chance to familiarise myself with its flight characteristics and found it a very easy glider to fly with apparently no hidden vices.

As I had expected the smooth conditions became gentle thermic conditions that progressively strengthened and became more demanding. There were probably 20 other pilots enjoying a rare flying opportunity. I'd had a couple of reasonable climbs to 2000ft amsl or so, but it didn't really look like a very promising XC day I thought. I spotted a wing that looked familiar and recognised at as Ian Hobbis' APCO Zefira. He was climbing out at the Okeford end of the ridge and appeared to be on his way. I was pretty envious as I hate to miss any XC opportunity. However he pushed back to the hill and out front and I spotted him get into a climb in the flats out over the bottom landing field. Pimping is good and I barred it to get into his thermal joining it about 80ft below him.

Ian drifted over the back with it and I stayed further forward, stumbling into cracking core. I love the feeling of hanging out the harness with the brake buried and feeling like I'm spiralling upwards in strong lift. This one peaked at 3.3m/s on the averager but was stronger in places. PACO was in it too but quite low. Another glider (Yellow BGD Base maybe?) was about 100ft below me and I couldn't out climb him. I thought we might stick together but he left it and landed a couple of fields back from launch. I wasn't surprised to hear later that it gusted up to 23mph during my XC.

I thought that with a 3.3m/s climb cloud-base was a sure thing, but at around 3000ft I lost the core. Both brake lines went very slack which I took to be a request to perform a full frontal. A quick symmetric dab on the brakes re-pressurised it and denied the request. I then started a very slow climb all the way to Winterborne Stickland topping out around 3100ft. A considerable way from base.

I was under a cloud street but it would have taken me into the Badlands between Winterborne Kingston and Sturminster Marshall. I didn't fancy a long walkout, so turned south along the road to Winterborne Kingston. I did find a very weak climb that kept me moving in the right direction but it didn't come to anything and I ended the flight with a glide to land just beyond Winterborne Kingston.

It was really nice to see the sun glinting on the sea all round Portland and Pool harbour.

Report from Bell Hill


Bell Hill - A cracking day, doesnt anyone work?
Some brightly coloured, pyschedelic wings being put through their paces today, Sean S making Kingston Russell. Too many others to mention but good to see some red ribbons giving it a go.

Tue 16 Feb 2016

Report from Southbourne


Southbourne - This was the only option for Coastal Flying in Wessex today.

On arrival, several parawaiting and talking parabo***cks, as it was too light.

Suddenly it was flyable and Gary P & Chris S were off to Sandbanks followed by Uncle Brian.

Several areas of thermals allowing easy crossing of the piers. Time for lunch followed and several still parawaiting. Then it was swiftly off again, nice playtime. As forecast it started to increase and when the windstreaks appeared it was time to land, Uncle Brian showing his expertise. Then off to the Commodore for more paranonense & a cuppa.

Those in attendance; Gary P, Chris S, Gordon C, Brian M, Steve A, Russell W, Andy D, Neil Mc, Paul M, Jules, Rodger E & Simon J.

Report by Sean Staines

Ringstead - Richard K, Ian, John Alder and I all enjoyed the great conditions at Ringstead today on our hang gliders. The wind was SSW allowing the run down to Durdle Door to be made on a number of occasions. In addition to the dynamic lift there were some sea thermals as well allowing me to climb up to 1950ft AMSL and drift over the back with it a little way before pushing forwards to the cliffs. Much smoother than the rough spring thermals on Monksdown the day before.

Thu 11 Feb 2016

Report from Ringstead


The day started light and variable. Ringstead started to work around 1230hrs and Pilots were still flying at 1700hrs. Interesting thermals on the cliffs although it never went SSW as forecast , so no coast run. A great day when the sun shone if not a little on the cold side. Gordon C christened his new Advance Iota and Rafa T christened the barbed wire fence with no damage other than a torn outer sheath on one line, lucky boy. I counted 12 Pilots at one point even the XC hounds turned up for a classic Ringstead day. Of course William the flying Jack Russell  harassed all for some ball throwing.

Wed 10 Feb 2016

Report by Sean Staines

Bell Hill - The forecast looked pretty hopeful for some hang gliding at Bell around midday. I thought it would become a bit too light later in the afternoon so we arrived on the hill around 11 o'clock and spent a while attempting to get to the top of the hill in a loaner 2WD car. I gave up and parked just off the track and started rigging. Pete C arrived and we had a little chat about whether it was ok for ordinary paragliding as it wasn't really very strong at that time. I stuck with the Hang Glider plan and Pete decided to go for the mini wing.

My take off was a bit wobbly after such a long break from flying, but once in the air I soon settled down and cruised around a couple of hundred feet above take off with conditions steadily improving. Pete joined me on his mini wing and we flew together for half an hour or so. I saw Steve Whitfield approaching with his ATOS rigid glider driving along the foot of the hill and knew he was going to be pleased he'd come.

The wind steadily strengthened and cloud streets started to form, with some nice workable thermals. Pete had landed as it was a bit too much even for a mini wing by then, but Steve and I had some lovely climbs to over 2000ft working the ridge all the way past Ibberton and drifting over the back with them.     After a while I saw Steve go in for a bottom landing, and as I'd already been in the air for getting on for 2 hours I thought I might join him. Then I thought it might be months more till I flew again, with the weather being so bad, so I'd stay in the air as long as possible and make the most of it.

I got a nice steady climb in the bowl to around 2500ft AMSL and decided to push out front under a cloud street. Progress was slow but the street was working well in patches and as I pushed past the farm I thought I might make it to the forest beyond but when I got down to 1600ft I called it a day and turned to run back to the hill. On the way back I stumbled across a thermal in the flats with a nice steady 1m/s climb and stuck with it. By the time it had drifted back to Ibberton I was at 1900 ft. The lift strengthened peaking at 3m/s and I found myself drifting over the back approaching cloud base. It would be crazy to ignore such fantastic conditions so I decided to commit to going XC and stuck with the climb into the whispies with a base now up to around 3400ft.

I was under a cloud street and glided onward to the next cloud around Winterborne Clenston. The lift was easy to find and easy to work and I followed the street past Winterborne Kingston heading towards Wareham Forest. A few km to the West I saw a parallel cloud street that looked better than the one I was under and had an idea to try and return to Bell hill under it. I lost about 1500ft to get to it, and when I got there and looked back at the street I'd left it looked much better than the one I'd flown to. It soon became clear that I wasn't going to get back to Bell so I positioned myself for landing options and started searching for lift. I found the house thermal around Bere Regis and drifted back with it to base over Wareham Forest.

I decided to make this cloud my friend and stick with it. Several times I climbed up to the whispies before leaving it, only to return and climb back up. I followed this tactic several times letting it take me over Wareham forest and should have stuck with it but I let my impatience get the better of me and left it half way across the forest at base at around 3400ft. As I emerged from the front of the cloud there was nothing in front of it to head to but a pathetic little cloud above Wareham itself. Surrounding Wareham looked like paddy fields and I didn't fancy landing in Wareham forest on the Hang Glider either. I set course for Stoborough heath which often works well. I arrived there about 500ft above it. For me on the Hang glider that's low enough to be setting up my landing rather than looking for lift so I called it a day and landed on a dry bit near the road to wait for Andrea to pick me up. 35km XC on the 10th February is fantastic.

It turned out that the bottom landing where Steve had gone was extremely muddy so I'm extra glad I chose to go from the hill.

Report by H Dike

The forecast was right, a strong NW until 4 pm when it got pg flyable and Carl B and I had nearly an hour soaring in the sunshine. We had missed the HGs (Sean will hopefully tell us shortly of his XC) and Pete was bravely flying the goose in very strong conditions, but gave up when it got too gentle.

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