23 - 29th March - A Spring trip to Barcelonnette

Flight booked and the weather looking flyable .  Marie and I headed to Barcelonnette , for me to have  a week of gliding while there was still snow around.
Monday 23rd March 2015 Day 1 Flying in the DuoDiscus.  Getting back to mountain flying and a fairly overcast day – so stayed very local, for a few hours soaring.

Tuesday, we were told of an “accident” just to the south and that there was a No Fly zone established, which kept us to our local valley in the South, while we were free to explore to the north.

That was the last day of flying from Barcelo, until probably Easter. The details of the Crash are still unfolding – but sufficient to say visiting pilots from Germany and UK were saddened and stunned as various details unfolded  over the days we were there.
Wednesday was overcast in many ways . Very “sombre”. Marie and I climbed a local mountain.

to the snow line and got back to the news the airfield was closed until further notice.

Thursday we drove north over the Col De Vars to St Crepin, with the possibility of using their gliders. Rewarded with an early afternoon flight in their Janus over the busy ski resort at Vars.

Friday had the Mistral gusting 45Knots and too rough to launch, so a drive to Briancon to see 3 “landout” fields.

Saturday started with a crystal clear sky. Drove over to St Crepin with the lenticulars looking stunning.

But - by the time we launched the sky was overcast. 

An Aerotow  to the North and a climb up the mountain. The wave was there, but try as we may, we (I) managed to totally avoid it. Climbed to just over 3,000m and enjoyed glances of the Glacier Blanc from a new perspective.
Followed by a fast return to the airfield at the edges of Les Ecrins National Park.  

A big thanks to Vivian (and all the teams at Barcelonnette and St Crepin) for their  hospitality, and making the best arrangements for all visiting pilots, that they could, under the circumstances.  I hope they can open very soon. - Wyn

Sunday 29th March - more fettling

James, Mark and Simon L complete the Flarm installation for DSGC fleet by fitting the final unit in the Pawnee. - Mark C
Pawnee with Flarm fitted - Mark C

Saturday 28 March - Fettling

There was no flying, it was showery most of the day with 2.2 mm of the wet stuff falling. The wind is picking up and there's a weather warning out in the Bristol Channel for tomorrow.

In the hangar, 4 people watched Simon L fettle ENW.

Meanwhile, Andrew L had fettled his caravan.

Thursday 26 March

Mark C was keen to get airborne after sunning himself in Lanzarote for a week, so the kit was out early, although after the overnight rain, the cloudbase took a little while to lift. 
Don't break the weak link.....(Mark L)
The forecast was for the wind to increase and peak just after lunch. It was a rather gusty north north westerly, but the bonus was that strong thermals were kicking off on the ridge. Some good cloud streets developed at 2300ft and the lift was off the clock at times (as was the sink) and most of the flights explored to the motorway and beyond.
Chris W and George with the challenging wind gradient (Mark L)
 Pete St 230 got as far as Bampton, and Martin and Stu in DG505 'could see' the lakes on Exmoor.
Pete's secret device for thermal detection (Mark L)
 With a blue card limitation, Aston had a Junior to himself and managed 5 flights with the longest being 1:46mins. Pete St took the prize at just over 2 hours. More than 14 hours of soaring from 27 launches. - J&P

Wednesday 25th March

A day that promised much, but was very reluctant to keep its promise, we were expecting North westerly wind but got a Northerly with a bit of East at times, this made it difficult to get away due to the low launch heights and the huge amounts of sink.
Well done to Ray B who launched into a nice thermal early and had over an hour whilst most launches ended in very short flights with a quick return to earth. In the meantime, Eric, Tom, Robert, Pete S and Tim J rigged their gliders undeterred by everyone falling out of the sky, but as the day progressed the conditions eased and most flights ended with good soaring flights with climbs to 4,000ft. Pete St 230 completed a 129 kms task around our new turnpoints at Lapford, Bampton and NH2.
In the afternoon the wind backed to a light Westerly and the conditions became easier, (unless you were flying KEK  because the varios were not working correctly.)
Chris converts to the Junior
Also well done to Chris W who converted to the Junior. - JSt

Sunday 22nd March

"A day of two halves"
A reasonable forecast, and perhaps some optimism around potential thermals at some stage during the day, saw members turn up bright and early at the Club. The launch point was set up at the western end of the field, a little more central than usual to allow for the re-levelling work currently taking place, and both K21s and a Junior were soon being walked down under an overcast and chilly sky.

With the sun struggling to break through, the morning saw mainly circuits being flown but as the amount of blue sky steadily increased as the morning went on so did the optimism for a better afternoon ahead.
Michael F enjoying his first soaring flight of the year (Michael)
With the DG505 also in use and with several instructors available, flying continued through lunchtime and by early afternoon there were good thermals up to around 2300' QFE being used to practice evident rusty thermalling skills (A number of buzzards were seen showing glider pilots how easy it can be when one finds the centre of the thermal!)

The Pawnee was also in use as pilots refreshed their aerotowing skills ready for the soaring season ahead.
Launchpoint in the afternoon (Mike Sl)
By the end of the day there had been 49 flights and Henry took the prize for the longest flight (from the winch) in the Junior -40 mins.

With limited flying on the previous two Sundays a good day all round. - Mike Sl

Saturday 21st March

A nice sunny day at the club although still very cold. Whilst Mark C was sunning himself on yet another holiday, James covered his shift during the morning. Only a few members today all of whom flew, plenty of launch failure practise for James F who then filled his boots getting his solo flights in. And also today, one of those very rare real cable breaks, only one member on site was able to splice so maybe we need to have another training session on that prior to the summer activities.
Field levelling progress from 2000ft (Peter SM)
Last to fly was Ray R, who I promised a hangar flight to make sure that he didn't go home disappointed, he took full advantage and we ended up with some soaring too, so big grins from him.
Ray and Lisa on hangar flight - nice to see the clear views again (Lisa)

Thanks to Ian M who managed to get another starter motor for the Pawnee and fitted it with help from Stu and James H - and it started first time with gusto, so should be OK for tomorrow.
All in all, a grand day out! - Lisa

Thursday 19th March

The thick cold foggy haze was slow to clear this morning, so the gliders were left in the hangar to stay warm and dry. The morning was spent on weather, notams and cross-country briefings and following an early lunch the skies improved. 
Congratulations to Mark W for passing his Bronze exam paper.
In the afternoon, the flights were all rather short in the cold but sunny blueish hole in the haze, but at least everyone who stayed flew if they wished to.
Thanks to Pete St for completing the Flarm installations in all the Club gliders, (just the Pawnee to do now) and for upgrading all of them to the new version. (Please note that once gliders have been upgraded to the new version they do not appear on Spot the gliders - this is a temporary situation we hope.)- J&P

Wednesday 18th March

A reasonable forecast brought out a large number of hopefuls but an early start was hijacked by the poor visibility nevertheless, we walked the kit up to the S/W corner in readiness.
John Si flew a weather check with Vince but decided the visibility was too poor so it was back to the clubhouse for coffee.
We started flying at about 11:30am with an improving visibility, there was plenty of sink about so all the flights in the morning were quite short.

Jonathan contemplating his yellow card checks (John St)
In the afternoon, conditions improved a bit and there was some thermal activity, Pete W had the best flight of the day and Tom and Jonathan enjoyed multiple launch failures in R37 to complete their yellow card checks, meanwhile Nigel was seen fettling his new DG 300. - JSt

Saturday 14th March

It was forecast to be a cold, easterly, and it certainly was.... cloudy for most of the day but base high enough even for some aerotows. At lunchtime there was a lovely sunny burst of sunlight for about an hour but it quickly filled in again.
Congratulations to James F for converting to the Junior, and Alan T for the longest flight of the day from the winch. 
James converts to Junior
We welcomed back David after his trial lesson a couple of weeks ago, complete with family and friends and a second group from Wellington School enjoyed their trial flights. 
Mark, Simon, Dave W and Oscar struggled with the weight of the DG505 trailer lid to replace the gas struts
.- J&P
Trailer fettling

Meanwhile Matthew W couldn't pass up the opportunity to fly with Trevor Stewart at Nympsfield, yet again Trevor managed to show off the best that the day had to offer.
Under 8/8ths cloud an aerotow to 2500 ft cloudbase was high enough to glide to the Malverns, after plenty of high speed passes up and down we went onward to the snowcapped Black Mountains. Near Talgarth the Pandy ridge was working well and we managed the run down past Pontypool. 

The picturesque Pandy ridge (Matthew)
After a very enthralling flight we returned to Nympsfield under the iron thermal. Thanks again to Trevor! - Matthew

Thursday 12th March

With poor weather forecasts on both Wednesday and Thursday, it was surprising to see so many members today. But under direction of Mark C they got stuck in to clearing out the M/T hangar extension ready for the conversion to the Simulator room, and clearing out the Tunnel as well. 
What a great job they did....... - J&P
The back of the tunnel seeing the light of day! (Mark C)

Sunday 8th March

Several members visited for cups of tea and breakfast but the hill was shrouded in fog, with a front forecast to bring rain around lunchtime many people started leaving and JB, the afternoon duty instructor, was cancelled.

There were still those who hung on for the forecast clearance, the clouds started thinning out around 14:00 so we rushed to get the kit out and contact a hibernating Simon L to authorise flying and fly the tug, of course it's his favourite past time, so not much persuasion was required. The duty instructor was invited to come and help.
Aerotow amongst the clouds (Henry)

Our first launch was Liam V and Olly OB in the K21 at nearly 15:00. The second was Henry in the Junior, both picking their way up through the cloud to take advantage of the extended 1000 ft aerotow.

Henry achieved an hour and many flights were nearing 30 minutes in the weak thermal and ridge lift. Oscar was checked out by JB and flew solo in the K21.

The last landing was shortly before a gorgeous sunset at 17:50. During the 3 hour flying window, 7 flights were made. The two K21s and Junior flying just over 3 hours of airtime.
Soon be sunset (Henry)
Bottom line, if you're there and it's flyable, you will fly. Thanks to those who stayed on and helped out.

Saturday 7th March

It was a bright start  with a southwesterly wind but with some low cloud, those who launched into a gap got into some wave, but others had to pull off the launch early. During the morning, the low cloud disappeared, and nearly everyone got into the wave that was filling the Broadhembury valley (thanks Dartmoor!)

The bank of cloud that was on the South coast due to the very moist airstream slowly moved inland but kept to the south of the A30 leaving North Hill in a beautiful sunny warm slot all day.

The Wellington School group visited on their second Saturday and this time they enjoyed extended flights.
Wellington School group (Neil E)

Piers and father Andrew enjoyed wave flights on their trial lessons, we hope to see them again soon.

It was good to see Dick and Roy for the first time this year, and  Mike and Barbie back from their South African  holiday.

Congratulations to Peter B who successfully  navigated his way to the Park with Stu in VG, and has now completed his cross-country endorsement, and is waiting for his 16th Birthday tomorrow when he can put the application in the post.

Longest flight of the day went to Alan Turner in the Junior 1hr 41, but thanks to all those who came down voluntarily to make sure that everyone flew. The wave topped out just short of 4000 ft above North Hill.

Meanwhile, on such a good day in the south west,  Chairman Lisa was representing DSGC at the BGA Conference in Nottingham. - J&P

Mendip Miracles - Don't trust the forecast!
Undeterred by the pessimistic forecast the Plymouth gang had their earliest start of the year. Arriving at the club shortly after 7, James' pipe dream of the South coast started to fade away with the clouds above the field heading SW. The decision was made to decamp to Mendip GC for the day, a 'small' group of North Hill pilots made their way up: H5 Matthew, Mark C, James Hood, Tom Sides, Paul Summers, Henry Ford, Steve Westlake, Simon Minson and Nick Hine, upon arrival it was found our very own Ian Mitchell was DI for the day.

Despite all the forecasts giving overcast it was sunny all day, a few members have been seen to be sporting rosy red noses! Early on conditions were difficult, morning wave interference the culprit, not even SM or NW could keep it up! After what seemed like an eternity of moaning, by Mark C, and looking at the stationary clouds, H5 Matt was sacrificed to the gliding gods for the first soaring flight of the day. This set the tone for the rest of the day with everyone soaring for as long as they wished! Paul S and Tom S each had a check flight with Ian to familiarise themselves with the site.

Mendip Gliding Club  from SM (Simon M)
The local ridge was working well and soon became very busy with NHL traffic. The extended ridge was working all the way down Wells, albeit at around 450' QFE as H5, SM & FER (Steve Westlake) found out. Throughout the day there was weak wave upwind although topping out at around 1400', come the end of the day when everything had settled down it became well established and allowed higher climbs, SM & FER claiming top prize for up to 3000'.
View from Mendip hills (James)
A fantastic day out and a great thank you for the kind reception and weather from Mendip GC.- Matthew H5

Thursday 5th March

The forecast was for another spring start and for the cloud to spread out during the day, but with a lighter wind than yesterday. It was clear early on that we might be short of  Instructors / Tug Pilots today due to holidays and sickness, but a quick call for help on google groups brought some helpers - thanks to all for responding.

It got nicely soarable about 11:30, and cloudbase rose to 3000ft and through the day the spreadout settled down into several streets and blue gaps. It stayed soarable til the end of the day.

Steve from Broadhembury enjoyed his Birthday present of a Mile High Trial lesson. There were 41 flights with a total flight time of more than 19 hours. Longest flight was Pete St with 2 hours visiting the normal upwind turnpoints.

Congratulations to Josef who was cleared to fly the Junior.
Josef flew the Junior (Jill)
Another lovely spring day - J&P

Wednesday 4th March

A perfect forecast for today promising a brisk N/W wind with excellent weather, what we got was an almost Northerly gusty strong crosswind. Undeterred, Mike Fitz & John St took the first blustery launch and set sail for the West ridge wich was just about working with odd bit of weak thermal thrown in for good measure, the other K21 and a Junior soon followed - it was not too difficult to stay up and as the day progressed it got much better.
Cloud streets in abundance (John St)
 As the first three gliders stayed up you could  see a flurry of gliders being rigged to join in the fun, the first K21 launched stayed up for 57min after airbreaking it down.
The second Junior was rigged and back on line after the protracted wait for some spares. Thanks to all for helping.
Eric flew the two Trial lesson flights before rigging his own glider and Pete W flew the tug, all the flights in the morning were soaring flights and some pilots found their thermalling a little rusty but soon got into the swing of it.
Eric ready to fly G29 (John St)
FLARM has now been fitted to most of the Club fleet and following the excellent briefing presentations from Pete, members are starting to get used to flying with it (no substitute for lookout). 
Martin W found wave the other side of the motorway and invited everyone to join him but most were at lunch! He climbed to the base of the airway then headed west and reached 6700ft and also took the prize for longest flight of the day at 4 hours.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a Hercules flew through our circuit at 300ft - CFI Pete is investigating.
The wind slackened in the afternoon and the soaring continued all afternoon, Eric, Martin, Ron, Tim J, and Tom flew their own gliders, today was a nice start to spring. We managed 28hrs soaring with 36 flights. - JSt

Monday 2nd March - Wind, Snow and Ridge Runner Cake

Not that I'm suspicious or anything but every time we've made a last minute trip to Nympsfield and  there has been rain on the journey up we've ended up having an great day. Well this time heavy sleet cascaded from the heavens as I left home to meet up with 230 Pete and JB on our next Nym adventure. It was going to be epic!

Rigged and ready by 10 but we still joined the back of the grid. Nympsfielders, seem to chuck their wings on and then rush to get their gliders on the grid before taping the seams and finishing their DI's, Germans and sun loungers spring to mind! The wind was howling and as butterflies couldn't cope with the gale they seemed to take refuge in our stomachs. Watching the first gliders go off you couldn't really blame them. The launches were sporting to say the least with the winch driver trying his best to account for the gusty wind gradient.
                                 The view South West from over Avonmouth

We had declared a double out and return from Nym to Bath and with the wind howling at 260/25-35 kts. It was an easy jaunt down to Bath and back. By lunch time and with the task almost completed the sky was looking awesome, cloud base was nearly 5000' QNH and great streets lined up across the Severn estuary and into Wales. The North Hill massive finished the task and left the other Nym pilots who were still collecting ridge turnpoints to go and explore these empty streets. 230 Pete has long imagined turning the Severn Bridge turn-point and made that his next mission.

Eastern tower of old Severn Valley Bridge
                                                       And here it is - turnpoint SEV

 I convinced JB that we should try and claim the million cheesy grin points by going to soar the Talgarth ridges. Despite the mega headwind we made it to Abegevenny and with Talgarth tantalisingly close the proliferation of showers gave us pause. JB jumped to a black as Hades street to the north, hooked into another 5 knot climb up to almost 5500' topping out as hail started to fall on him. I was following about 5 minutes behind and arrived low into the hail and not a lot of lift. I turned downwind to search the edge of the shadow and soon felt that reassuring kick in the pants. Dodging the rest of the showers we were soon back at Nym and enjoying tea and Ridge Runners cake made especially by Trevor's better half. A brilliant day in the company of good friends, definitely epic.

                                                          De-rigging in snow showers
M5 Matt

Sunday 1st March

A modest number of members turned up first thing today, no doubt the forecast of showers arriving in the early afternoon putting some off.  Spring is definitely in the air if you're an optimistic sort.  Those setting off from deepest darkest Devon now do so in the light, and the view from the clubhouse definitely looked 'spring like' this morning.  That was until you stepped outside the door and the full force of the west/south west wind could be felt.  People could be seen retreating to the clubhouse at various times for additional clothing.  That or bacon butties.  

As well as spring, love was also in the air today.  John P and Matthew W could be found doting over their beloved SF27 'Sophie', prepping 'her' for the days flying.  Oscar was also busy doting over his new romantic interest.  They could be found taking a tour of the field together looking for sheep, towing gliders, offering to carry out cable retrieves, hanging out together at the launch point (slightly separate from everyone else) and generally finding any excuse to be alone.  Hopefully he'll be ready for the inevitable heartbreak experienced at the end of most teenage romances when the lovely Gator gets returned.
Oscar driving the Gator, and horizontal windsock (Mark E)
After some discussion as to the best place for the launch point on a soggy field, all the toys were set up and ready to go.  Ron J and James H began the days instruction.  Matthew W could barely disguise his disappointment as he narrowly missed out on a half price launch.  This was soon forgotten after his first flight lasted 90 minutes, and he declared it his 'best flight at North Hill'.  Conditions were described as 'sporting' with some ridge lift helping to generate thermals and also some possible 'rotor' making for some challenging flying.  Most people were managing extended flights (unless your glider was suffering from the 'flappy sellotape' bug) meaning the hardy souls on the ground had a much reduced workload.  John P returned the club Junior, and hopped straight into 'Sophie' to show Matthew how it's done . . 
Chair - Lisa and Vice-Chair - Stu (Lisa)
Simon L and Paul S had the privilege to carry out today's trial lessons.   Lukasz and David seemed to enjoy their experiences, after their weather cancellation yesterday and they will be back, they have also booked on a course later in the year.

A brief stop for lunch, and with the forecast rain optimistically judged to be passing to the North of us, Simon M joined the launch point in his own glider.  The wind had picked up, and strong lift could now be easily found.  These conditions were enjoyed for an hour or so.  The dirty looking rain clouds could be observed to the north west, but they weren't getting closer . . were they?  Even if they were, they appeared to be quite a distance away.  For those in the air, this train of thought was interrupted by a radio message reporting gusty conditions on the ground.  So gusty in fact that one of the cables had been lifted into the air by its parachute.  This was closely followed by a further, slightly more urgent sounding message reporting  a line squall developing on the radar image .  This sent everyone scuttling back to the airfield.  Some 'interesting' approaches were experienced, with some instructors being put to good use!

Once all toys were returned to boxes, Pete H took the opportunity to give us his presentation on Flarm.  The details of what it can and can't do and hence it's limitations were demonstrated.  The main message being 'it's no substitute for good lookout'!  The rain had passed by the time we'd all been briefed, but alas it was too late for more flying.  Not too late for more cake eating and tea drinking though :)

John P did indeed show Matthew how it was done with the longest flight of the day - 2 hours 36 minutes. Thanks to everyone who worked hard in the muddy, windy field today, especially those unlucky enough not to fly.  Next time . .  - Tim P 
Congratulations to James who has completed his NPPL with Ian M in Rotax Falke.
James trying the Pawnee for size (Simon L)