The Missing Sense and a Close Shave!

Summary of flying for Monday 11 November 2013
Total Hours1h 36m
Best Height Gain500 feet
Total Flights2

It was an incredible sight when I arrived at the Dyke and saw so many hang gliders - I believe there were 27 on the hill! Some rigged, some were being rigged but no one had yet taken to the air as the wind was top end and blowed from a north westerly direction. It was however, forecast to drop off later.

The sun was out and the Devil's Dyke lived up to its reputation of being a popular destination. Model aeroplanes, kite flyers, walkers, mountain bikers, sight seers, everyman and his dog was out to enjoy it. I was glad I arrived mid-morning, as, by the time I had rigged, the car park was full!

Luke had taken to the air and throwed his glider around above the paddock performing some chandells. I'm sure he was enticing others into the air and sure enough, one by one, more and more pilots joined him. It wasn't long before the airspace started to look busy. With a prominent westerly component in the wind, no one had yet ventured along the Truleigh Ridge.

As I readied my glider, I contemplated the strong wind strength and thought a run along to Truleigh must be on. As I looked outwards towards Truleigh, I observed a couple of flex wings had pushed towards the pylons but returned without venturing further. I considered the fact that Truleigh probably wasn't on.

After I launched, I was quickly in the established flight pattern over the pub. Annoyingly, I had forgotten my vario so I missed a much relied on 6th sense. Later, I discovered Scott had done something similar!

As the traffic increased, I decided to explore the Truleigh Ridge and the free airspace that came with it. I considered the lack of vario a handicap, so focussed intensely on the feel of the glider, the air around it, and visual cues. I progressed westerly along the ridge painfully slowly and after a good climb shortly before the pylons, I pushed on towards Truleigh.

As I progressed towards Truleigh, I constantly monitored the bottom landing options should I need to call upon one. After what felt like an exceptionally long time, I arrived at Truleigh Hill. The reward was twofold, clear air and lift! Somehow, Truleigh always seems to be a magnet for thermals (even in November). Finding them wasn't a problem however, once I was established in them, and without the use of a vario, staying in them proved to be more of a challenge. I constantly referred to the transmission towers to determine if I was climbing or sinking (parallax cues against the horizon).

It wasn't long before I was joined by other pilots. First to arrive were two rigids, then shortly after a flex wing. I had set myself a goal of an hours flight duration and this was almost my un-doing. As 1pm approached I was still at Truleigh Hill and I waited for that one last climb! It failed to materialise and for 10 minutes I scratched around at ridge height trying to find an elusive climb. The vario would have been useful!

Fortunately, through some luck and determination on my part, I climbed to around 300 feet above Truleigh Hill and set off on my return journey back to the crowds over the Dyke. The return glide was epic and I covered the ground in no time at all. As I arrived back at the Dyke I was at the perfect height and position for a top landing in the paddock. There was a hole in the established procession of gliders, so I nipped through it and gently touched down in the centre of the paddock.

After 45 minutes, the wind strength had dropped and I decided on one last flight (against my inner voice I hasten to add). As I took to the air for the second time, it was evident that I was uncomfortable with the traffic and conditions. Some gliders were flying a little erratically and others just didn't seem to be following any pattern. All this I can normally cope with, however, the sun was getting low and reflected off the sea. As I reached the end of the pub ridge and looked south I was practically blinded by the glare! I considered there could very well be one or more pilots obscured by the intensity of the light. To add to this, some of the modellers flying their gliders were evidently getting annoyed and attempted to buzz pilots at this end of the ridge. One black and orange striped model was a particular offender with this regard!

With the historical knowledge that a previous hang glider pilot had been killed when colliding with a model, I decided it was time to fly another day and headed for the paddock.

I was a little low as I started my approach and David was smack bang in the middle of the paddock, man handling with difficulty, the tandem he had just landed. I decided to land just to the left of him, probably a little in the shadow of the fort. Being low, and with less room to land than normal, my margin for error had decreased and I had committed to landing. It was at that point an additional variable was suddenly introduced! Cue the large family that decided to walk straight across the paddock into the point I was destined to land in. Cr*p! I distinctly remember seeing two young children, a woman and an older man (and I'm sure there were a few others). I didn't want to mow them down (although, in hindsight, this may have been the preferred option) so contemplated my limited options.

I considered landing on the tandem, the family or, then a thought came into my head, 'nudge the glider to the left?'. That thought became action, however, as I simultaneously transitioned from the base bar to the uprights and tried to turn the glider the glider nosed up, stalled the left wing and the right wing entered the accelerated airflow. The glider responded with a diving turn towards the earth works!


For some strange reason, memories of Nicos' landing video sprung into my mind - perhaps it was the similarity of what Nicos had done and that I was about to replay it! Quickly my focus returned - if was going to crash, I was going to do it into wind, not downwind! I dived on the right upright and pulled in hard. The glider immediately responded and swung back through 100 degrees to face into wind. My feet had now touched the ground and began to skid along the grass towards the fort and tree. I pushed up hard to decelerate and flare the glider and hoped this would be enough to reduce the impact of the tree that approached. It did and as the glider came to rest, the nose of the glider gently tapped the tree! I had landed (in a fashion!).

Unscathed and with no damage I recomposed myself; I voiced a recommendation to the family that I narrowly avoided that perhaps they could have chosen a better place to stand (of which they positively acknowledged). I then carried my glider back to the rigging/de-rigging area where I packed up.

David apologised for hogging the landing field. This of course, was completely unnecessary, as all this was a result of my hast to get down.

After a much needed coffee, I returned to my car to collect my new Myth harness from Aeros. I hadn't flown with it yet, but took full advantage and attached it and myself to the glider for a hang! All appeared to be good although I did feel a little close to the base bar - some more hanging in the garage before its first debut flight!

Flying Log(s)

TypeHill Launch
DateMon, 11 Nov 2013 - 12:00
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
SiteDevil's Dyke
Duration01h 15m
CommentsNW, strong to start with. Everyone flying the pub hill so I ventured along to Truleigh and spent most of my flight clear of traffic. Good top landing in the paddock.
Height Gain500 ft
Total Hours63h 52m

TypeHill Launch
DateMon, 11 Nov 2013 - 14:15
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
SiteDevil's Dyke
Duration00h 21m
CommentsNW; but strength dropping off from earlier. Lots of traffic over the pub. Hard to see with low sun, so top landed. Landing field was obstructed with glider and a family and I stalled a wing trying to dodge. Somehow got glider back into wind, skidded across ground, flared, tapped a tree and landed.
Height Gain200 ft
Total Hours64h 13m

Total Flying Statistics

The total flying statistics up to and including 11 Nov 2013:

Total Hours64h 13m
Longest Flight1h 20m
Gliders Flown4
Unique Sites Flown20
Best Height Gain3,000 feet
Total Distance30.2 km
Furthest Flown13.4 km
Total Flights244
Hill Launches118
Winch Launches105
Aerotow Launches21