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Nick's Airtime 2017

18/05/2017 - Merthyr

A testing day in changeable conditions.  Arrived around 11:30 with Chris D and Steve J.  Aaron, Evan and a few others were already there.  The wind was already a tad brisk on launch and a few km downwind, the skies were black and threatening to overdevelop into showers.  We waited a while but anxious to get in the air before the wind strengthened, I launched at around 13:00 and joined Aaron and one or two others in the air.  The thermals were not working very well and after a while, I decided to probe further along the ridge to the south where I managed to work my way up under an active line of cloud.  Downwind did not look good so I pushed into wind along a lifty line and was pleasantly surprised to make it over the hilltop in front and into the Aberdare Valley.  Managing  to maintain a good height, after a few attempts,  in  tricky  conditions with cloud forming and dissipating very quickly,  I made  enough headway for a nice triangle then headed back northeast towards the big opencast near Fochriw.  A weak climb kept me aloft here but the wind had increased and backed a little south of west and not having enough altitude to push back to Takeoff, I dropped  onto Fochriw  and headed south past Bedlinog but couldn't climb enough to push forward and had to scrabble back to Fochriw.  A good climb there got me back up to 3500' amsl but again drifting too far away to the northeast.  I tried a full- bar glide back to Merthyr and felt I was going to make it but ran into strong sink as I approached the north end of the hill and had to turn back.  An increasing wind under  a milky sky put paid to any further attempt and I landed at 16:00 after 3hrs 10 mins in the air.

The triangle would have been my best to date if I had managed to complete the course Tongue

Another great day out over the valleys though 8)
Many thanks to Steve for driving today!

13/06/2017 Merthyr Common

Arrived early afternoon to find largely cloudy skies and a light breeze from the west or southwest.  There were a few paras and a couple of hangies waiting patiently on the takeoff area.  After a while, the skies started to open up from the west with some sun shining through although to the east, it  remained overcast.  Viv and me launched at around 14:30 and almost immediately ascended to around 4000' in a real beauty of a thermal. I headed north hoping to tag along under a couple of active clouds but this did not work out and I scrabbled back to takeoff after about a half hour.

  More cloud cover overhead switched things off for a while but I launched again after 15:00 and immediately found a great climb up to 4000' and headed off to the south to find  a lifty line  across into the Aberdare valley but progress out to the west or southwest was limited by the incoming seabreeze so
I turned northeast and enjoyed a good glide  along  the ridge top up towards the Heads of the Valleys road before losing altitude whereupon I decided to head back to Merthyr as I had a tandem flight pending back at launch.

I managed to get back to takeoff with the help of a lucky save as cloud cover had largely switched things off again.  As hoped the sun shone through during the early evening and we enjoyed some wonderful restitutional lift which was ideal for a tandem flight with my passenger Karl.  Also up on tandems were Kate and Evan,  Martin Cray who had been doing some filming for television and Peter Cooke who we hadn't seen out on the hill for a while. .  We packed up and left the hill at around 20:00 after some beautiful flying on a balmy summer's eve.  The first time I've felt warm since coming back from Spain more than a fortnight ago!

Summer is here at last Smile

17 /06/2017 Merthyr Common

A far from classic day at Merthyr today but a nice warm day out on the hill.  Arrived at 11:00 to find only a few on the hill and could see a few over  at Fochriw.  The sky was cloudless and the wind light.  I launched at 12:00 and floated around for one hour gaining a few hundred feet here and there which was pleasant enough but not usable for an XC.  At 13:00, I decided to land for a break just as a convoy of wagons from the Combined Services arrived for a competition practice day.  Within minutes the wind picked up strongly on launch and pilots had to wait a while for lulls in the wind to manage to launch.  The sky became quite crowded as the wind seemed to break up the weak thermals leading to minimal height gains for most.  Watching from the windy hillside, I declined to relaunch and part-packed my wing away with a view to trying again later in the afternoon.  As the afternoon progressed, groups of pilots  left the hill with not a lot of height and scraped their way over the valleys attempting to get to a goal at Raglan.  I relaunched at around 16:00  but did not really enjoy the conditions so landed and packed up - try again tomorrow!

Nice to chat with everyone on the hill though Smile

18/06/2017 - Fan Gyhirych

The good days are worth waiting for 8)  After the previous day's poor conditions, an improvement was anticipated.  We arrived at the hill and were up on launch  in good time after meeting up with Aaron, Anna and Pembrokeshire Paragliding in the layby at 10:30.  Fluffy cu's were forming further to the east coupled with  a faint upslope breeze on the southwest side of the hill and the outlook was promising. A possible fly in the ointment could have been the arrival of a seabreeze at some point in the afternoon.

With this in mind, some of us were already clipped in and ready to go by midday(early for Fan G!) while other were still arriving.  It was a bit like an Algodonales reunion up on the hill(Steve W, Aaron, Anna, Mike T, Jon M, Dave, Stein, Viv and Rob Szarlat) plus Chris D.  A few exploratory inflations and  short hops detected no lift so a little parawaiting ensued.  At around 12:45, Viv showed that there was a bit of lift in the air so  I launched and found enough to work up a bit of height and was soon gaining enough height to drift back above the hilltop.  The drift was stronger than I expected and I needed to push back into wind a few times before getting to  a position to leave the hill.

A few of the others had launched but were not gaining much height and not wishing to squander an opportunity, I left the hill, circling away towards Heol Senni where I found a good top-up climb above the hilltop.  Downwind, good clouds beckoned and the going seemed easy at first but then...... :o near Brecon, I found myself looking for a save over some sunny fields.  Patience was rewarded with a slow but steady climb out...phew!

Back on the case,  I passed over the town heading northeast but again, I was soon in need of another save and this became a pattern in the flight - transitions from around 4500' going well at first but then having to slow right down and patiently search  out a save from ground sources below.  This time, I headed for a few large hayfields together and in one of them - a tractor cutting hay......hay which I could smell coming up in the breeze - a textbook save 8)  High once more, I headed north towards good looking clouds which worked initially but again another save was needed over some sunny slopes.  I then headed up towards Builth Wells getting some luck over the  southwesterly facing slopes above Erwood.  I had been looking at the ground for trigger points and could feel that there was a thermal somewhere nearby when I glanced around and saw a gaggle of birds circling a few hundred meters away from me - I booted it over and whoopee, a climb right back up near to cloudbase Smile .  I then found an abundance of lift, easily clearing the high ground above Forest Fields then headed north, avoiding areas of  decaying cloud.  Further on, I managed to latch on to a nice cloudstreet and enjoyed some straight line cruising while enjoying some inflight refreshment of Fig roles and a tangerine(easy peelers in flight they aren't!)

I could now see the Long Mynd in the distance and active clouds pointed the way towards it.  However,  I still needed to grind out another low save over some ploughed fields near Churchstoke before setting off on a triumphant glide to the south end of the hill where I found an abundance of weak lift and ascended slowly up towards a magnificent cloudstreet which had just formed overhead.  There followed, a glorious straight-line evening cruise passing over the gliding club and heading towards Telford beyond during which I reached my highest point in the flight(6500'amsl).  A while later, after 18:30, I sensed that the day was winding down but punctuated by further bursts of weak lift, my final glide took me past the Wrekin and on to a nice cut hay field next to a village a km or two north of Telford, touching down at 19:10  Smile

6hrs 25mins and 133km(126km straight distance) A new UK personal best for me and a new Site Record for Fan G!
Good ol' Fan G Smile

And the retrieve.......a pint sitting  outside  a nice village pub while I contemplated my options.  Setting off to hitch into Telford,  I soon picked up a lucky lift to the railway station and quickly caught a train
to Shrewsbury where as it was sunday, I thought I could  be stuck for some time.  Apparently, the line south was closed but there was a replacement bus service going to Cardiff so I hopped on board, arriving in Cardiff at 02:00.  Here, Viv came to the rescue picking  me up by car thus  saving me from a long night at the station(many thanks there!).
Absolutely jaw dropping, and a beautiful write up!  New Site Record too!  Retirement is suiting you  Wink  !

20/06/2017 - Ebbw Vale

Viv and me were heading for Pontlottyn but  windmills in the vicinity were pointing from the east so we went on to Ebbw Vale.  Cloud o/d was already in evidence further inland when we arrived at the carparking area at 12 :30.  Above us, skies were blue so we ate some lunch while watching some gliders bobbing up  and down over at Pontlottyn  and shortly afterwards, the first cu's above us were starting to form.  We made our way over to the launch area and took to the air at 13:20 .  Heading along towards the highpoint along the ridge, I spotted some birds circling up a little way out and flew into a really nice thermal.  Unfortunately, Viv did not manage to connect and got sunk back onto the hilltop.

The lift was fabulous and I wafted around up aloft for a while, waiting  for Viv to relaunch and  come up to join me.  Meanwhile, a great cloudstreet had formed stretching away  back to Pontlottyn and seeing Viv stepping out of the harness back on the ground, I set off on a little out and return.  The cloudstreet was lifting beautifully along the sunny side and in no time at all, I had passed Pontlottyn and was turning around for the return.  Progress was a bit slower on the way back but not difficult in the plentiful lift until the last crossing where I needed a save in the valley behind Ebbw Vale. 

Approaching the last ridgetop, I hit a strong headwind from the south east and found it quite difficult to get into the Ebbw Vale valley as the  thermal lift became weak and broken -  sea air had arrived from the southeast :o  All I could manage thereafter was a slow glide along the valley to the south and a return to the launch area for a toplanding and completion of a small FAI triangle(34km / 1hr 35m) Smile .

A great  flight while it lasted but I did not expect a seabreeze to arrive so soon and there was no prior indication of its arrival. Viv had packed up because of the strengthening wind so we sat around drinking tea for a while keeping cooler on the breezy hilltop on a real scorcher of a day Smile 


02/07/17 - Llanddewi Brefi

Ventured out to Mid Wales for the day to stay clear of  forecast strengthening wind further south plus any aerial activity connected to the Airshow at Swansea.  Arrived at midday with Viv and Chris D to see Rhun and John Walker in the launch field.  Conditions were very light so nobody was in a hurry to launch.  We were soo n joined by Steve J, Dave Stein,  Aaron and Anna. 

Small and not well defined cumulus clouds faded to blue and conditions remained weak(sea air incursion) but pleasant enough and we enjoyed a nice afternoon flying at this gem of a flying site getting some reasonable height gains but not enough to attempt an XC flight Smile

05/07/2017 - Tal y Bont

Arriving at the carpark at 11:00, I met  a group of XC hounds from the Avon Club and joined them for the long walk up to takeoff.  Up on top,  triangles were planned over sandwiches.  Conditions seemed to be a bit weak so there  was  no rush to launch.  At around 13:00, a few of us took to the air.  Staying up was easy but getting to a decent height  proved a challenge.  The early clouds did not look convincing and base was not great at just over 4000'.  Nevertheless,  a gaggle of Avon pilots set off towards Pen y Fan.  I tried following but sank down on two attempts and had to skuttle back  for more height and start again. On my third sortie, I could see a few scratching around low near Pen y Fan so opted for a sunnier line further to the south.  This worked well and improving thermals made for a fairly straightforward flight over to Heol Senni.

However, decaying cloud soon left me scrabbling around for a save and I abandoned my triangle ideas  for a more straightforward out-and -return flight which proved to be not straightforward at all :o .  Getting back was quite a challenge and involved a series of low saves but I managed to stay off the ground and  made it back after 3.5 hrs of proper mountain flying, landing back  on the coll near the carpark at 16:40  8)

What a fabulous flying season this is turning out to be Smile
I was walking on Carmarthen Fan, just after 3, someone flew over heading west, not at great height but maintaining.
Did they takeoff from Tal-y-bont?

I would think so Glyn.  There were quite a few pilots at Talybont and some were aiming for Fan Brycheiniog as their first turnpoint in a triangle flight and then heading northeast towards Sennybridge.

Very challenging!

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