26 April 2012

Impressions of the Impress 3 and Artik 3

At the start of the year I swapped harness to an Advance Impress 3. It marks the start of a new generation in competition and XC harnesses with many innovations. Read the detail here:

Attached to my Impress 3 is a very nice Niviuk Artik 3. I have it on loan for the for review for Cross Country Magazine. It is a wonderful XC glider with great handling and performance, but you'll have to wait for XC Mag to read the detail. I have just fitted the optional race line kit, (which is still certified EN C) and am waiting for the next flyable day. Scotland at the weekend maybe?

19 April 2012

Decision Making in XC Flight

What would you do next?

a) Head for the sunshine?
b) Continue to follow the line of cloud?
c) Something else?

The added consideration, not obvious from the photo is that 20km downwind from this position over Sheffield, is some pretty major airspace. This cloud line, plus the wind are leading right to the centre of it! Planning ahead for obstacles such as this can make a big difference. On this day (16.4.12) some pilots chose to cross wind before this point, whilst still in the Peak District. Others (me included) tried to take advantage of the 6000' altitude at this point to make a crosswind  move. The final option was to carry on and make the crosswind move later in the flat lands and it was this option which yielded the best distances on the day. In fact no one actually was able to continue after the airspace probably not helped by poorer thermal conditions to the east. If this proves anything, it is that XC flying is not an exact science!

07 April 2012

100km+ flights start to come!

The UK XC season is getting going. There have been great flights from Brendan Reed, Alex Butler and quite a few others. Given the number of pilots who have been out in recent days (lots), it highlights the achievements of those doing the big flights. The start of this season has also reminded us of one of the age-old truths about XC flying: the margins between success and failure can be very fine.
Lots of elements go to make a successful XC flight and get just one of them wrong enough and it is game over. This can feel daunting for the developing pilot, however in many ways it is a percentage game. This is one of the reasons why many pilots experience a threshold in their XC flying: they do lots of short flights before suddenly posting better distances on a pretty consistent basis. So how do the less successful pilots up their game? Possibly they make lots of subtle changes which stack the odds in their favour. Alternatively they hit on something really significant. Common changes that pilots make:

  • They resist the temptation to charge off down-wind as soon as sink is encountered.
  • They have plan B and plan C ready to use.
  • They make more of their own decisions and don’t just follow other pilots; particularly higher ones.
The successful pilots get many, but by no means all of the elements right. With skill, determination and experience they often manage to recover from ones they mess up.
Happy flying!
Finding a lifty line underneath the inversion to glide into wind and over Kinder Scout