Many less experienced pilots were left feeling disappointed as they were confronted by some tricky conditions on the hills around the UK. And this is often the case in good conditions for cross country flying. Rather than the meteo wind blowing smoothly up and over hill, the thermal activity causes some quite big variation in strength and direction. Launch conditions can become really tricky at times. In the air, new challenges present themselves. In between the thermals the sink can leave the ridge unsoarable despite there appearing to be plenty enough wind. As thermals release and build behind the hill the inrushing air can pin pilots above the hill, unable to penetrate forwards. And by no means least, the air can of course be pretty turbulent.
So how can pilots tackle this?
- Pick your moment to launch. The ideal is in the relatively calm air just before the next thermal cycle really gets going. You will probably feel the wind starting to increase, but don't wait too long!
- Be really practised in launching in all conditions.
- Gradually build up to fly in increasingly challenging conditions. The aim is to incrementally increase your experience, build skills, develop judgement and become more at home in thermic air.
- Be prepared to stand down for an hour or more. Often conditions calm down in mid to late afternoon, but there can be lots of XC potential left in the day. You can go along way between 3pm and 8pm!