|The Website of the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club - Avon Online Sites Guide||Sunday, 19th May, 2013|
Both our best soaring site and our worst, cos you can't go down, and you can't fly over the back because of the Imber Firing Ranges!
The cement works chimney is a handy guide as to the wind direction. The action of the smoke is a good guide to what the air in front of the hill is doing. Heavy sink is disclosed when the smoke hits the deck and rolls across the fields towards the hill, whilst thermals can be seen drawing the smoke upwards and to the left or right. On windy days, if the smoke initially pours down the top few yards of the stack, it is a fair indication that flying will be rough. On lighter days if the smoke splits into two distinct plumes it may be too light to ridge soar. If the smoke is hitting the hill to the west of the trees by the quarry, or if the wind is coming up the front of the hill to the east of the path just by take-off, it is probably too far off to soar.
Don't land on the White Horse, it is a national monument. We don't want to create a bad impression. It is very tempting when flying a paraglider I know, but don't do it!
There was a time when 3000' on a summers evening was a common occurrence; not so of late. Several pilots have flown out to beyond Trowbridge and back. Reaching the railway line is very common. If anyone flies as far as Bath before I do I'll be very upset.
Westbury town and the cement works can be good sources of thermals. Even in the winter large areas of lift can be found downwind of these two on occasion. They may not take you high but they will allow you to get out from the ridge. On a good day most competent pilots will spend more time thermalling out from the hill than soaring in ridge lift. A north-westerly airflow is very often unstable and with the many thermal generators and triggers out in front, this site produces some excellent local flying.
Watch out for fast jets and Hercs when flying out in front of the hill. Once beyond the railway you are in their stomping ground. Helicopters and light aircraft like to come in much closer, I've even seen a chopper land in the top landing area.
Kites are another hazard and have become even more prevalent of late. Watch out for them, they have as much right to be there as we do. The same goes for model aeroplane flyers. Hang gliders have been hit by both in the past.
When the wind is off to the north HGs should make sure they land with plenty of speed and in the western half of the landing area. Rotor is created by the White Horse spur and conditions just downwind of it in the eastern half can be very rough. A glider was inverted doing a slow approach in this area.
It may be better to use the north take-off if you suspect the wind may be coming over the spur. Take a walk up onto the hill fort to check. This is especially true for paragliders as the north face holds no real problems. For a hang-glider pilot it can be a major effort to reach the north side if you have rigged in the normal place. Top landing a HG can also be a little tricky on the north side if the winds are light. As a general rule in these conditions hang gliders pilots will usually try and launch on the north west take-off, fly down to the west end of the ridge to gain height, and then sneak over the spur to the north side. If you've never done it ask another pilot before you fly, launching in the rotor is a dangerous business. One notable Spanish exile managed to loose 100' just after take-off on such a day.
The area in front of the road is usually crowded with members of the public during the height of summer. When conditions allow, paraglider pilots should aim to land behind the road along with the hang gliders. We don't want any accidents. It isn't far to walk.
When a hang glider is flying in the bowl at 150' or less, it is a good bet that they are trying to get enough height to make a top landing (ie. 150' or more). If you are waiting to fly a paraglider please don't take-off until the hang glider pilot has safely landed. If there is a conflict sort it out on the ground not in the air.
Don't fly your hang glider close in front of a paraglider. The wake from the hang glider may cause the paraglider to partially collapse and lose height rapidly. The same applies to paragliders, don't fly close in front of hang-gliders, the effect may not be so dramatic but it is equally unpleasant.
If you are scratching, be aware that when flying down to the west end of the ridge it is lower than take-off. It may not look like you are losing height but when you turn around to come back you may find that you are below take-off!
The police have a firing range at the west send of the site, try not to fly low over it when they are using it!
Be nice to people and watch out for dog poo!