14/08/03 - Ken Wilkinson, 77.2km from Leckhampton

XC from Leckhampton to Stoke St Michael, in the Mendips.

Pilot, Ken Wilkinson, on a Vibe ML

Got to the hill early, bumping into Howard, and Garry, already to go. Eddie Colfox, and Sean, on a Boomer arrived a few mins later. With a strongish N wind, the main worry was if it was going to be blown out.

I took off in a lull, and went straight down. I was amazed, it had been blowing so strongly. After a struggle up the hill, and a fight with my tangled glider, we saw, Eddie and Sean climbing out. (Eddie did 15, and Sean 35 after a low save). Still the day was yet young.

We all (Garry, Howard and self) took off, and soon were climbing in light lift. There was a tiny bit of cloud, but the day became blue, which are my favourite flying conditions. Blue in an unstable day does not necessarily mean a sink hole like on a cloudy day, and thermals are easy to spot by looking at the milky areas. The thermals are so predictable and easy in unstable air. We got stuck for ages at 1000ATO and I thought we were on for the shortest XC of the year.

Climbing out with Garry

Eventually we got well up, helping each other, (thanks a lot Howard), and I immediately realised I should have checked the airspace, as Kemble, and Aston Down were approaching, and I did not know the status. Garry yelled that Aston Down was OK, and we were at 4000 ft. Howard went to the East and got drilled at 10k. We had a short fly with sailplanes, and the lift started to die. I saw a bit of milkiness to the east, and as there was nothing else to go for, headed for that. I was rewarded with a patchy thermal, and Gary followed me. He went down at 25k, with me climbing well. He was gutted! I know the feeling well!!

I was still a little unsure of the navigation, not wanting to bump into Lyneham air space. I spent a lot of time with the map, as I am out of practice, but realised a path S was the best option, between Bath and Bristol. The lift was getting better and better. Flying over large areas of harvested fields (thanks Alex, its good to know someone is working) gave lift, and ANY milkiness in the inversion layers was pumping like a good un, most thermals being over 6 up, and VERY smooth. I had a low save N of the motorway, but a couple of buzzards helped me into a scorcher of a thermal. I took photos of the Compass Inn, and headed to a line of milkiness to Bath.

The Compass Inn and M4 Jn 18

Quick photos of Stafford’s house, and his mum in law seeing me up high, and I contacted the mother of all thermals S of Bath, 8 to 10 up, and as smooth as silk!!! to 5500 ft. This meant I was surely not going to go to Westbury, to help getting a retrieve. I did think of Tim P in the office, and prayed he would not look out!

Bath, looking south east

More lift followed, above Radstock, and I went for a final glide to the top of the Mendips for 77.2 km, after 3.5 hrs over the back. Getting back took ages, and I got to the club meeting at 8.30, having dropped home to get my laptop, to an ovation! (standing next time please). It was a slide show evening and I downloaded the camera and was able to recount the day with top quality digitally projected pictures.

The retrieve of vehicles is now used as a training exercise in logistics by the SAS, and is subject to the official secrets act.

The good weather continued on Friday, and at least 15 pilots did 50k+ from the Malverns. ( Gary did 74k, I did 63k, and Stafford did 58k), and we went to the Skirrid on Sat for 27k(me) and 17k (Staff). I felt pleased till the mobile informed me Gary had done 68 from the Malverns. That’s the place to go in an Easterly!! Look at the XC results.