The Latest News from Southdown Gliding Club
These past few days have shown that when there is a northerly wind the South Downs of the UK are the place to fly your glider. Ridge flying at Parham started on Monday of this week with a few intrepid pilots getting together and organising a tug pilot to get them on the ridge with average flights of 3-4 hours reported. A further few flights were reported on Tuesday. However, yesterday (Wednesday) was a great day with 53 launches (average launch height 1000’). The club DG505 was put to full use and did several runs along our ridge (Parham – Lewes North – Parham – Butser Hill – Parham) with experienced pilots introducing ridge flying to Southdown Club members – all reported the trips as fantastic experience. We had visiting pilots from Kestrel Gliding Club and Lasham who thoroughly enjoyed their day. Come again folks!
A number of pilots completed the Southdown Club Task of 334kms (LWN Lewes NW – BUT Butser Hill – LWN Lewes NW – BUT Butser Hill – Lewes NW – HAR Harting) at speeds ranging from 90kph up to 155kph – WOW!
Those of you who follow Southdown’s Facebook Page will have already seen the fun had by many glider pilots last Friday (1st Dec) on a classic Ridge day. The wind was northerly around 15-20kts and the ridge offered great lift conditions between Butser Hill (near Petersfield in Hampshire) to Lewes (in East Sussex) ….. some even reached Eastbourne! Many pilots (Known as the ‘Ridge Rats’) did between 300-400k batting up and down at incredible speeds whizzing just above the trees along the whole length. We had many visitors from other clubs including Lasham, Devon & Somerset, North Hill and Booker. A special mention goes to Angus Buchanan who volunteered to be the Tuggie that day and launched 34 gliders that day! On behalf of everyone who flew that day, massive thanks Angus!
It was that classic, even the local newspapers are interested so look out for us in the Argus and the West Sussex County Times!
Here’s a few comments from a few of our visitors and members:
“Nice day out on the South Downs, the extension to Eastbourne slowed things down a bit but the views more than compensated.”
“Great day on the South Downs. Thanks to PS for the first lead / follow – showing me the way – , and Phil for the briefing. Definitely worth the drive and thanks to the team at Parham for the welcome and smooth launch . If this is winter – looks like so far its been better than the summer.”
“A great day on the South Downs. All a bit too easy today 🙂 P2 was TD.”
“Best ridge day for months. Oudie played up and did not log our start at HAR so no trace to enter. With GS who enjoyed the Duo for a change from his DG 300.”
“An excellent day on the South Downs The reality matched the forecast.The actual flight was PAR BUT LEW BUT LEW BUT LEW PAR So 420 km in good time Thanks are due,as ever,to the friendly and very efficient team at Parham I*ll sleep well tonight.”
“Awesome day on the Southdowns! Should’ve put water on but still faster than I ever did the task in the DG300. Thanks to Parham for getting us launched so quickly”
“A classic ridge day !!”
“Superb conditions between Lewes and Butser… but VERY tricky to Eastbourne. Could only get 1200′ for the push back from Firle, and made it low onto Caburn… whereupon it started to rain heavily… I thought… This is not fair!.. But eventually it stopped and I just made enough to get back across to Lewes. The Oudie said ‘Task Finished’ at 128 kph, but this only calculated 127kph… Not bad for 400km in December…”
“Excellent conditions with wind 13 deg/24 knots”
“What a great way to spend a December day as ridge working really well, and at the end of the flight, I even caught a small thermal over the field climbing to 2000 ft. Thermal soaring in December that’s a first for me. ”
“I had actually declared ENW, so not really a scoring flight.. plus i might have *cough* accidentally pressed the boost button at one point. Good to see the what the ridge rats can do – been a while since i’ve been down.”
A lovely video from Damian Leroux, one of our more experienced members…
“A great little adventure. The forecast wind strength and direction made it look like there would be strong ridge lift of the first 2 or 3 hours after sunrise. So the idea was to launch before sunrise to get to a start point 30km to the east before the sun rose. That way the first 70km leg of the task would be going west to avoid being blinded by the sun just above the east horizon. Unfortunately things did not go to plan! We took the covers off the wings and tailplane just before take off and I got airborne with a very thin layer of dew on the wings. My mate Paul got stuck in soft ground at his first launch attempt. A few minutes later the dew on his wings turned to ice. Thereafter ice formed on the wings as quickly as he could remove it, and it was not until a couple of hours after sunrise that the ice melted and he could launch. I arrived at the start point just as the sun was rising which was pefect. However, although the wind was 25 knots from the north which is straight on to the ridge there was very little lift! There appeared to be a deep layer of cold slow moving air almost up to ridge height so there was actually very little air going up the slopes. What a nice little flight it was anyway, beautiful and interesting, well worth getting out of bed early for.”
For those that couldn’t come to club last Sunday, you missed a pretty good ridge day (with occasional thermals) with some of our pundits achieving over 350km whizzing between Butser Hill in the west and Lewes in the East. We had around 10 visiting pilots with their gliders from other clubs and we did around 50 launches. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves with some of our younger members getting their first experience of ridge flying!
A couple of Sundays ago on the 15th October it was misty and low cloud. The SSW wind didn’t bode well for a great day’s flying. Cloudbase of about 1200′ initially meant aerotowing was a waste of money, and it didn’t lift and start to break up until mid-afternoon. On these kinds of days it’s not unusual to sit about in the club house, get bored and fed up by lunch time and then go home. Fortunately this didn’t happen on Sunday. We winched most of the morning and early afternoon practising our low circuits and cable breaks. When the cloud base had lifted to about 1800′ and started to break up a little, we tried an aerotow. The small gap in the clouds turned out to be a wave slot and we were then able to enjoy a couple of hours in the sunshine above the clouds.
We find it very hard to predict when wave will set up over Parham. On this occasion it seems that we have the approach of hurricane Ophelia to thank. This gave us a cold front out to the west, strong winds at altitude, and a SSW wind sweeping up over the downs. We wouldn’t have found the wave if two things hadn’t occurred. Firstly we had stayed at the club winching instead of going home in disgust, and secondly, we had pupils keen to take an aerotow launch at the first sensible opportunity.
Let’s look out for the next hurricane and hope it delivers more wave.
James Davis on going solo on Saturday 30th Sept …… just over a year since he joined the club. The weather was changeable throughout the day but a suitable slot appeared in the skies and James was sent forth on his own! Well done James and we look forward to you achieving further milestones!
Tony Fowler who went solo last Wednesday evening. Looks like it was a perfect evening for you Tony. Well done!
John Bell, or should we say retired Wing Commander John Bell DFC, is shown seated in the K21 below. He’s a veteran from WW2 and served in the famous 617 squadron of Dambuster fame. He flew as a bomb-aimer in Lancaster bombers and, according to a 617 Sqn website blog, was in involved in raids on V2 rocket bases and the German battleshipView Post Tirpitz using the massive ‘Tallboy’ bomb. In total, he served 34 years in the RAF and it was huge pleasure and honour for us to fly him.
He is 94 and last flew in a glider when he was 24, 70 years ago.
(With John is Dave Clews and David Batcock (Chairman, AirACES) on the right)