PTT, Dave Un­win

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Pi­lot’s Flight Test Edi­tor op­er­ates a Jodel D.9 from a farm strip and has logged stick-time on ev­ery­thing from ul­tra­lights to fast jets Dave Un­win

A glo­ri­ous glid­ing day en­gages new stu­dent re­cruits

The brief­ing room is as packed as I’ve ever seen it, while the dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of young faces means it must be Fresh­ers’ Week at Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity, and the Lough­bor­ough Stu­dents’ Union Glid­ing Club is out in force. Club stal­warts Ben, Lucy and Emma have clearly done an ex­cel­lent sell and there’s been a grat­i­fy­ingly large up­take of stu­dents ea­ger to sam­ple soar­ing flight.

New CFI Lyn is keen to put as many air­craft on the launch point as pos­si­ble, so to in­crease the num­ber of two-seaters avail­able I’m man­ning the pri­vate­ly­owned K-7, which owner Les kindly al­lows me to fly. This gives us four two-seat sailplanes and two mo­tor glid­ers, and as the fleet is ar­rayed on the run­way it’s good to see such a full flight­line so early on an au­tumn morn­ing. Most of the stu­dents have ea­ger, ex­cited ex­pres­sions (mixed with a lit­tle trep­i­da­tion) so I shrug on a para­chute and get fly­ing.

The launch­point is bustling but well or­gan­ised by the ex­pe­ri­enced stu­dents, and the launch rate is slick. By mid-af­ter­noon I’ve flown more than a few winch launches and aero­tows, and although not tired could do with a break. How­ever, the poor old tuggy has been busy too and, as my old granny of­ten used to say, ‘a change is as good as a rest’ so I hand the K-7 over to Les, jump in the Euro­fox and fly a few tows, un­til ev­ery­one who wanted to fly has flown.

It’s been a long, tir­ing but fun day (even the weather co­op­er­ated), and all the fresh­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced a winch launch, an aero­tow, and a flight in a mo­tor glider. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done, but the high aero­tows have granted the stu­dents a splen­did vista across Lin­colnshire, Le­ices­ter­shire and Not­ting­hamshire, while the winch launches got their full at­ten­tion. In­deed, with an ac­cel­er­a­tion of around two sec­onds from nought to sixty, and climb rates over 2,000fpm it still ex­cites me!

The weather next day is sig­nif­i­cantly less be­nign. There’s a con­sid­er­able cross­wind on the main run­way and heavy show­ers forecast. The K-7 isn’t mine, is tricky in a cross­wind and I don’t want to get it wet, so with re­gret I tell the stu­dents it’s not a K-7 day. “No prob­lem Dave” says man­ager Roy, “we need a driver for the T-61.” This proves to be the cat­a­lyst for an­other fun day and, as the T-61 Ven­ture (Bri­tish Mo­tor Falke) is self-sup­port­ing, I can take a bit more time with each stu­dent.

My first cus­tomer is Elaina and just like all the stu­dents she is smart, per­cep­tive and en­gag­ing. With its fab­ric cov­er­ing, big monowheel and spindly out­rig­gers the T-61 looks−and is−quite an el­derly de­sign, and if I’m hon­est ‘Fox­trot Romeo’ is a lit­tle tatty, but if Elaina has any reser­va­tions she hides them well. We’re soon rolling down the run­way and one of the great ad­van­tages of the mo­tor glider man­i­fests it­self. There’s a big blue hole just down­wind of the Belvoir ridge and, while I wouldn’t fancy it in the K-7, the as­sur­ance and as­sis­tance of the engine al­lows me to ex­ploit the weak wave that’s form­ing the hole and climb above the clouds. It’s quite gloomy low down but it’s a dif­fer­ent world up high, very pretty and ex­tremely smooth. Elaina seems to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and quickly picks up con­trol­ling the air­craft in pitch and roll.

Each stu­dent is lim­ited to thirty min­utes in the mo­tor glider so we head back to Saltby for my next cus­tomer. Randa is wait­ing, and while strap­ping in ex­cit­edly re­veals she’s never flown, not even in an air­liner. When­ever some­one says they’ve never left the ground I al­ways want to make their first-ever flight un­for­get­table, and we’re quickly mo­tor­ing con­fi­dently back to­wards the wave gap. The weak but steady lift is still there and soon we’re soar­ing above a flaw­less white cloud­scape il­lu­mi­nated by the golden glow­ing orb of the au­tumn sun, which is set like a yel­low topaz in a bril­liant sap­phire sky. It looks amaz­ing, and as we sail serenely along the face of the cloud with the engine barely tick­ing over I sud­denly spot one of the best ‘glo­ries’ I’ve ever seen and hur­riedly point it out to Randa, who is en­chanted by the shadow of the T-61 seem­ingly sur­rounded by a seam­less cir­cu­lar rain­bow.

It re­ally does look fan­tas­tic, but glo­ries are by their na­ture tran­si­tory and it soon fades. I reef the mo­tor glider round in a fast (for a T-61!) 180 to port, fol­lowed by a swift re­ver­sal to star­board but it’s gone. Be­cause a glory is al­ways cen­tred on the an­ti­so­lar point (which is, by def­i­ni­tion, di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed to the sun’s po­si­tion in the sky) and be­low the ob­server’s hori­zon, they’re of­ten a short-lived spec­ta­cle. It sure was a good one though, and along with the stun­ning cloud­scape has made this a mem­o­rable flight for me, as well as Randa! I fly some more stu­dents, but an ap­proach­ing cold front has made the weak wave sys­tem col­lapse and the driz­zle turns slowly but in­ex­orably to rain, wet­ting wings and mist­ing canopies.

We de­cide that pru­dence is bet­ter than pre­cip­i­ta­tion and pack up. But what a fab cou­ple of days! The club has made some money, but much more im­por­tantly all the stu­dents flew, and sev­eral have said they’ll be back. And me? Fly­ing above the clouds with Elaina and Randa re­ally was spe­cial, and I just hope they en­joyed it as much as I did.

I sud­denly spot one of the best 'glo­ries' I've ever seen

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