Gold Up North

Report from James W from the Millfield expedition:-

The SG team at Millfield in October was Phil, Carol, Alex, Andrew and Laurie (I hope I not missed any one).

Started the week with heavy rain. Best of all strong winds available but not much good if it not safe to take off. Generally, the winds were 20 to 30 knots on the ground, gusting to 50 knots plus. Not for the faint hearted. My glider as rigged and left out ready for the opportunity to fly.  The week’s flying was not great – 10 flights average flight times 25 to 50 minutes some check flights were only 12 to 16 minutes, Rather disappointing but that was what the weather dictated. I stayed to fly on Saturday as the only flight I had was a flight a check flight.

Normally, the first two K21 launches would find the wave or other lift and others would follow. This Saturday was different, both K21s were returned reporting no lift, as did the club Astir. The Perkoz, in 20 metre mode, was on his way back – not surprising if you pull off at 2000ft. Launch number 5 was me, but where do I go? I could not believe I was launching with no club gliders to follow. The sky appeared to have thermals and clouds but no wave or rota clouds to be seen. The local hot spot Wooler was not working either.

The tug was coming to pick me up, decide to take a high tow, but where to? Radio call to tug “Langleeford valley 3,000ft” – here we go. Easy part being tow but to a location you never seen or been to? At 3,000ft in the valley the air was still with no movement on vario time for a radio’s call “some more height please”. At 3,500ft I pull off tow
I was surprised no there was no beep on vario. A quick look round to see which way the tug was going back to airfield and my location. Turned away from hill but no lift so back towards hill and still no beep beep. Just a little push into wind and I am in lift weak lift. From 4,000ft it was ok.

In wave or not? Lower down doing a thermal turn there was only lift in about 10 degrees of the turn and the average on vario was showing just 0.1 knots. I may have been push out of lift by wind or in wrong place. Then, the altimeter shows positive gain and I put wheel away. From 5,000ft to 9,000ft good lift strong of 4 to 6 knots at times. Oxygen on at 9,000ft. This causes me a small issue as on the ground I had turned the oxygen on and off lightly which was easy but cut my hand at breakfast. Now at 9,000ft and a sore hand and a cold cylinder it was harder to switch on.

While climbing towards 15,000ft, from 10,000ft, my the question was, do I climb to diamond height or just settle for gold? Checking lift at 15,000ft the views were great but no wave clouds anywhere to be seen. Looking west the cloud cover had changed and street of clouds in long lines into the wind now appeared. I was in big bit of blue sky going up


At 15k I had gold in the bag. I turned the camera on took a few pictures. At 16k good lift of 3 -7 knots. Decision time, down or up? No other gliders either climbing below me or in any other parts of sky around same height which I could not understand why. It was well tempting to climb higher. The wave box above 19.5k was open and only 4k more was needed for diamond. I estimated about 15 mins more would do it. There was no frost on wings or canopy and the only issue I was aware of was that my glasses were misting up from the vented gas from my mask, also my right foot was cold. Inside the cockpit the internal temperature was indicating 12 deg c and outside 35. With Gold in bag it was time go home and landed after 2 hours.

Height gain of 3,800m for gold badge. This was the highest I have been so far with a maximum height of around 16,300 ft just about a diamond height.

About the Author: StephenO

Flies an LS3-17 (occasionally when not sitting in the back seat).
Promoter of gigs at ACE Space and presenter of Folk Ace on Kennet Radio.
How was it ever possible to fit in paid employment?

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Shalbourne Gliding

Shalbourne Gliding