Tuesday 28 June 2011

Serres Expedition 2011 - Back to Blighty

Well its back to a bit of reality after the very successful Booker Club Expedition to Serres. I am very pleased to update you all that John Herman is back at the airfield at Serres with his wife Christine and enjoying a few days R&R in the sunshine before he comes back to England. If I know him he will probably be off fishing again - whats on the menu for supper tonight John - poached trout?

315, KCZ and 580 all returned to the UK on Sunday, a 1200km XC. 315 had a low scrape with a puncture on the M25 but climbed away for a safe return, KCZ landed out about 50km short of Calais and had to finish the trip on a low loader. 580 would have won the day for speed, but picked up some penalty points for a motorway lane bust. All 3 gliders are safely back at Booker and ready to fly.

Back at Booker over the last couple of weeks things have not stood still, there have been first solos for Matt Hocker (who only recently had a trial lesson, liked it so much he bought an intensive course and has now joined the club - welcome Matt), and a first solo for Booker Cadet Peter Richards. Adrian Hegner has also re-soloed after a longish layoff from gliding in 318 - its good to have him back gliding again as he has been a really long standing club member! Sally Longstaff converted to 318 and Booker Cadet Will Hilton has exercised the privileges of his recently acquired BI rating. Congratulations to them and to anyone else who has achieved anything that I have not found out about

There is a Vintage Gliding Club Weekend at Booker this weekend as well as some better weather so put it in your diaries to be here, lots to see and do.
Mirror formation after the thunderstorms today

Sunday 26 June 2011

John Herman

The Serres expedition ended with a little extra excitement yesterday when John Herman, with his new HD quality camera, decided that he wanted a new glider. Rather than persuade Steve to part with some cash he decided it was easier to dispose of the glider in multiple pieces across the mountain top . He also wanted wanted value for money from his PLB, which he set off with the air ambulance promptly arriving. After sampling a number of French hospitals, none of which knew what to do with our tame plumber, he eventually ended up in Grenoble. Thankfully I can use this jovial tone to describe yesterday’s events as John is only slightly battered and bruised, sat up chatting as usual and with his wife Christine. We hope he will be out very soon.

Friday 24 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 14

A long hot scorcher of a day. Big tasks were planned with destinations such as Grenoble, Mont Blanc and Fayence being mentioned but as it happened the strong Mistral didn't materialise and several pilots reported varying wind directions and strengths - not what the briefing forecast. This didn't stop the main gaggle doing around 400km going north to Aubenasson, east to Lac de Serre-Poncon, south to Mt Ventoux and then north again via the Ecrins/Parcours.
It was a big mix of ridge, thermal and wave. Flights were made by T6, GA, AJ, JH, JRG, 580, A9, 768 and Booker Club Gliders 315 and KCZ. Most pilots flew in excess of 5 hours and the K21 put in over 7.5 hours (possibly its longest single flight?) and only coming down as plumbing facilities had been exhausted.
And the forecast for next week is even better!
Looking south east from the K21KCZ into the wave at Mtgne de l'Aup

T6 alongside
Pic de Bure from the wave looking north
KCZ in the wave approaching Pic de Bure
Mont Ventoux from 768

580 following 768 down the Ecrins

Thursday 23 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 13

Mixed day of weather without a good forecast having woken up to an overcast sky and light rain - as Klaus Olhmann said at briefing "perhaps you should fly where the weather is good?"
As it turned out the day improved with a mixed group of pilots, those who had already flown a lot having a rest day and the newer arrivals flying from about 14:00 to 18:00 but mostly not venturing far away today and with a forecast of good conditions tomorrow with a strong Mistral wind.
Opportunity was taken to refill oxygen and try fishing for supper. On this occasion we can confirm the tale of "the one that got away".
There was a short period when we got worried about the Chairman and the CFI after they didn't return from their short walk on Saint Genis and were late for dinner, but it may be better if they describe the tale. Suffice to say they considered it good news when they found a sign post saying the car park was only 5km away.
Likely to be an early start tomorrow???
Refilling KCZ's oxygenJohn with his new fishing mate - "CluckCluck"
Glider over St Genis
T6 - the smile says it all

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 12

The thunderstorms came last night with heavy rain and lightning (and car alarms) to disturb the nights sleep. The aftermath was a day that dawned with significant cloud cover and still raining.
The briefing was optimistic (as ever) about possibilities later in the day and sure enough the air cleared and temperatures rose along with a southerly air flow to enable launching to commence at 16:00 local to Aspres about 9km to the north.
Flying continued until 20:00 local in ridge, thermal and wave to 11,000 ft.

View back to Serres from Aspres
Running into the circuitEssential maintenance
Packing up at the end of the day

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 11

Phew - so hot, so far. The longest day with sun set at 21:21 on the 21st meant long tasks had to be flown. All 9 gliders that are here (315, KCZ, 768, GA, JH, 580, A9, JRG & AJ) flew around 5 hours (again!). Forecast was for light winds with little dynamic lift but thermals on any of the ridges facing the sun and possible showers/thunderstorms. The main team did over 320kms going deep into the higher mountains.

Good runs were encountered running down the Parcours and everyone arrived back having had a brilliant day out with KCZ managing 130kms.

Another day finished in the pool!

Waiting to launch
GA and JH on Parcours
GA getting stuck into the ridge

Lac de Serre Poncon
Today's task

PS - As I type this at 21:48 an ASW15 has just done a finish to land before being illegal - who knows how far he went?

Serres 2011 - day 10

Today was a scorcher - 29 degrees and blue with a light north westerly breeze.
Launching didn't start until 13:30 local but fabulous lift was encountered off the sun facing slopes (which is just as well as the tugs seem to have a negative rate of climb a lot of the time)

Tasks were flown to the Grenoble valley to the north via Pic de Bure where some wave was encountered again and then south to Malaup. Landings didn't occur until around 19:00 local except for 580 who made a safe outlanding in the Col de Cabre about 25km to the North West.

Debrief and pre-dinner drinks in the pool.

Soaring before gridding

Launching into the blue

Wave over Pic de Bure

KCZ in Wave

580 safely on the ground at Col de Cabre

Monday 20 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 9

Another different day at Serres. Woke up to a stiff northerly breeze which was later forecast to become much stronger (50kts at 3000m) and the day to go blue. In the end the wind wasn't quite that strong but did mean the day was set up for wave.

Most gliders flew in excess of 5 hours with 315 amassing 8 hours. Wave was contacted with several getting to 15,000, 580 broke of his climb at 19,200 (just under the airspace). Getting into the wave meant working the very rough rotor and all pilots came back having been well battered. Cross countries were achived with a mix of wave and ridge soaring. Approaches to land were done with pleanty of speed and then time for well earned beers!

Sunday 19 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 8

A late start today due to the lowish cloud and rain in the morning but which allowed for the new arrivals to get a site briefing (and catch up on sleep). The day later cleared up with brilliant clear skys and a gentle southerly on the ground and a westerly higher up.

315 and KCZ were launched to familairise this weeks team with the local area and local ridges. 580 and AJ also took launches with both landing out - 580 at Aspres-sur-Buech (an airfield about 8k away), AJ needing his engine to ensure getting back from Sisteron after being hit by a prolonged period of 8kts down.

It was also a chance to refill to oxygen on 315 and KCZ -always an exciting experience!

Ben with his new found friends at Aspres - not sure about the Agincourt salute though

Saturday 18 June 2011

Serres 2011 - day 7 (a day of rest)

As predicted Friday was a rest day. A chance for some essential food shopping,
minor modification of kit, checking out fishing opportunities and seeing local scenery.

Friday also saw most of next weeks pilots arriving (well those who hadn't already arrived on Wednesday or Thursday).

Soaring around Pic du Bure

Return from Italy
Dodging showers
Not dodging showersaghhh horribleMoon Eclipse

Thursday 16 June 2011

Serres? There's fun to be had with Booker evenings

Here's another testimonial from Brian O'Sullivan on the fun to be had after sitting in an office all day:

Stolen moments...

What a cracking flight! 2000ft over High Wycombe in the 3000ft space, climbing in a 2kt thermal with the Junior above for company and Graham in the other K13 in a downwind thermal... at 7pm! I can't believe how often I look out the window at work during the day thinking, "No - you can't fly in that. Or if you can, there will be no lift!". Then I get to the field, and not only is it flyable but there is often lift around too!

As an early solo pilot, I spend most of the day before a flight worrying about the day's challenge. Be that high wind, no wind, cross wind, too much lift, too much sink, wrong colour glider paint, dirty rudder pedals, an insect on the leading edge of a K13 destroying the glide angle etc... Today the condition "out to get me" was the 8kt, 90 degree crosswind from the South. So with rope on, full right rudder in anticipation of a swing, and ready to stop the left wing lifting we set off with no complications: Turns out all the training works!

I managed to climb 600ft before I ran back upwind to high key... but dammit, I climbed 600ft on my own! These modest gains feel like winning gold medals as a low airtime solo pilot. The K13 and Junior were also on the way back, and each time I looked to the airfield, I saw different sides of Graham's K13 as he looped into the circuit! As I turned into finals, the K13 and Junior presented me with a landing challenge. I suspect there were some intakes of breath and perhaps the helpers at launch point had already started to fill in the paperwork for glider damage - however I had a secret weapon....

Steve had taken me up in the Falke on Saturday and joked, "okay I've messed up the altimeter. Have a crack at landing Lewknor" to which I had replied, "Erm... I can't see any airfields. All I can see is that bizarre straight public footpath through the middle of a field". Steve grinned in a way that was impossible to misunderstand. That is a runway! Gulp... still on the second attempt it lined up nicely. And with that in mind I told myself the gap between the gliders was significantly bigger than Lewknor is wide, so down we plonked in the middle and rolled to a stop nice and early.

What a cracking couple of evenings we've had. In fact, so far there has only been one evening I haven't flown in couple of months of flying. Even when the conditions are 'challenging' I've had some great accompanied flights - two Fridays ago Paul Clarke and I in the K21, and Symeon and another in the K13 engaged in a 45 minute battle to stay up the longest. The wind was 20kt+, but the lift was stonking!

Roll on the next one: I reckon with a bit of practice, there's a 1 hour bronze flight in there somewhere...

Serres expedition 2011 - day 6

A late evening last night looking at an eclipse of the Moon by the Earth, shooting stars and watching the International Space Station pass overhead.
A different and challenging day with forecasts of 28 degrees, showers and potentially thunderstorms which required some careful route planning and escape plans.
GA, 768, JH and 315 all decided to head off to the high mountains to the north east to make the best of the weather. Getting out of the main Serres/Aspres valley into the higher ranges required some courage but it was well rewarded. 768 made it to Italy with a final 7.6kt climb in a convergence to 13,500 feet. GA and 315 also hit the convergence with climbs to 12,000. The return to Serres had some challenges as showers started to move in from the north west and JH used much of his experience from earlier flights in the week and watching other local experts to work his way back.

Enjoy the photos - they probably give a better idea of what its all about than words can describe, tomorrow may be a rest day - the 2 seaters have already done 25 hours flying each this week!