Saturday, 22 July 2017

Upping the Ante...

It began on Thursday. A series of cheeky ‘shout outs’ intended to goad Paul and any others daft enough to bring along their mouldies to Newhaven cliffs today. No response. But the gauntlet had been laid down. I realised that I had to put my money where my mouth was or risk Paul’s comical chicken impression (again).
Slopehunter warns that “the worst aspect of these cliffs is the lack of large landing areas. It’s all a bit narrow and backed by brambles. It isn’t terrible, but it would be a challenge to land a 4-metre scale glider here.” OK, so the Ascot is a 3 not a 4 meter ship, but the words ran round my head on repeat as I loaded it into the boot of Paul’s car.
Never one to heed warnings, I passed up my last chance to chicken-out and slung the Ascot in its carry case over my shoulder and plodded up the steep road from the lower carpark to the NCI lookout – a weather-beaten structure that sits 175 feet above sea scanning “in excess of 400 square miles on a clear day”.
Paul and I met Rob, who was flying his trusty Ninja, and Ian, who was belting around with his M60 “hooligan machine”, with his orange Starjet waiting closely in the wings. Paul brought along his now fully-ballasted Gulp 60” racer “bling machine” and I tested the air with my increasingly battered Wildthing.    
After a short flight with the SAS wing, I rigged the Ascot – still secretly hoping someone would talk me out of it. Ian and Paul were strategizing landing options, which included identifying areas of long undergrowth that could be used to “ditch it”, worst case, if it failed to slow it up enough on the short approach.
Figuring that I’d worry about “the details” at the other end of the flight, I checked all the control surfaces were functioning correctly and Ian hurled it over the edge of the cliff. The lift was mind-blowing and incredibly smooth – the type of lift that you only really experience during cliff flying.
With the prospect of this being both my first and last flight, I threw caution to the wind and tried my first loops and rolls with the Ascot – after all, if the landing was to prove fatal, I didn’t want to have squandered the opportunity to really enjoy the fantastic conditions and experience a bit more of what the Ascot’s capable of.
Eventually it was time to face the inevitable – the batteries in the TX and RX weren’t going to last for ever and this thing wasn’t going to land itself! A few circuits to test the air behind the slope and suddenly I’m on my final approach.
The Ascot was extremely stable and, with full flaps deployed, it slowed up to a complete standstill and almost floated down. The most turbulent air seemed to be just a few feet above the ground, which certainly kept it interesting but was nothing like the fierce rotor-effect that I’d been sweating about.
Worried that the first landing may have been a fluke, I thought I’d really better try another! So lobbing it off from a second time – this time both Paul and Ian having a go on the sticks – we put the Ascot through its paces once more. After another epically fun flight, I brought it back round for a second event-free landing.
Probably one of the most thrilling and rewarding days flying since I first got into the hobby. But guys seriously, next time I propose something crazy on the blog, just talk me out of it!!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Saturday looks good for the cliffs!

Hello all
I know a lot of us have been away or busy over the last few weeks but this weekend offers us all a chance to go and enjoy the smooth lift found over the cliffs at Newhaven.
The wind is forecast to be 14 - 23mph SSW - S which should be perfect for the cliffs.
I know a lot of you don't feel confident with the idea of flying on the cliffs but if you don't try you will never know what's it like. There are plenty of us who can land models for you or even the idea of flying the cliffs scares you just come along and watch. It's really all in the mind.
At least for me if it all goes wrong (again) I shouldn't need a cherry picker to collect my model.
Let me know if you can make it to the cliffs at Newhaven on Saturday morning?
I will confirms timings tomorrow.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A jolly good reason to move to Dorset?

On our last family holiday to Dorset I spotted an excellent slope near where we were staying, so this year I fitted a roof box and took a bundle of models, the luggage went inside and the family came in grandma's car. The roof box is about 50 inches long, so that limited my selection to small and split-wing gliders - still, I found six models that fitted the box.
First we looked at the west-facing Portland cliffs accessible from Grangecroft car park. They looked promising with a good landing area north of the car park:

I hadn't flown from cliffs before and as there was nothing else in the air except birds I decided to let discretion be the better part of valour and leave this spot for a future excursion.
Maiden Castle hill near Dorchester appealed as a good all-rounder, i.e. it should suite all wind directions. When I arrived there was a brisk south-westerly blowing and I positioned myself accordingly.  The problem is the ramparts - as I threw the model it passed over a very deep ditch before the first rampart, I guess the wind formed a powerful vortex because the model sank straight down into the ditch. So I scrambled down and up to the first rampart and tried again with much better results. I achieved a few short flights but the retrievals always involved more scrambling which was tiresome and risky.
A few days later the wind swung round to the south, the sun shone once more and I was given leave to try another slope. Ringstead Ridge this time which overlooks the bay where we stayed. I was very impressed; this National Trust hilltop has a long free-parking area to the left of the track, while on the right side of the track is the launch site! The wind was reported as 8-9mph southerly, which was fine for this SSW facing slope. Fortunately this was Thursday, at the weekends there is a lot of hang/paragliding activity, but on this afternoon there was just me and this guy with an R/C foamy chuck-glider conversion from Lidl. A very satisfying three hours ensued. It's a near perfect spot, the only thing to worry about (according to my companion) is the prevalence of ticks in the long grass, so sturdy boots and trousers are recommended to avoid the risk of Lyme disease.

 That's the Isle of Portland on the horizon. As Slopehunter suggests the lift is smooth as it blows up off the sea...
Happy landings
Russell H

Variable Itford

Mark and I met up at the top of Itford hill.  I arrived on the hill around 10.15 and there was already another flier there. He was lying on the grass and occasionally checking the wind speed with his anemometer.  The wind was only around 8 mph and veering between SSW and SW, not the ideal conditions for his overweight glider which only saw a couple short flights. 

Mark arrived with his glider (sorry I cannot remember the model) after walking the same “hard man” route as me up the side of the hill.  Unfortunately or fortunately depending how you view it, Mark was just about to launch his model and one of the servos decided that wasn’t going to take instructions from the receiver and did its own thing instead so Mark was unable to fly it!

Another flier arrived with a 2 mtr moldie and after some surveying of the wind conditions launched his model.  At this time the wind was a little stronger but as it had moved more SW the lift was not great.  The model flew a few times and made it back down safely but with some very shaky moments when the wind dropped.

Not wanting to be caught out I tried to take as many models as I could carry which included the Weasel, Vagabond and e-hawk.  I also took my Mamba but left it in the car as I could not carry it!  The Weasel was in its element in the not ideal conditions and probably saw the most flying.  The wind was a little light for the Vagabond and it had a few flights but nothing spectacular.  I was hesitant to fly the e-hawk as I had never flown it before and after the others had left I decided to give it a go, not wanting to take it home unflown!  It flew very well a but it is quite light and by this time the wind had picked up a bit.  As I had been on the hill for 3 hours I decided it was time to land the e-hawk.  It seemed to fly so well that it did not want to land and on my final attempt it got lower to the ground and a gust of wind caught it and it went out of sight down the hill.  I picked up all of my gear and went to find the errant model expecting to find a heap of scrap balsa wood.  As I got closer I could see that the tail was intact and then the wings came into view and they looked ok.  To my surprise it had nosed into the long grass which had saved it.  It wasn’t the cost that would have bothered me as it only cost £30 but would have been a shame to have had only one flight with it!