Sun, 12 Nov 2006

1Target 16 : Devil's Dyke (H) Duration: 00:37, Gain: 262 ft, Distance: 0 km, Light'ish north west wind. 2 top landing attempts, landed 2nd.
2Target 16 : Devil's Dyke (H) Duration: 00:23, Gain: 0 ft, Distance: 0 km, Wind swung to west, tried top landing, went too far back, landed behind pub.

Devil's Dyke

Sunday morning and I'm driving down the A23 with my wife and glider. Heading south towards the Devil's Dyke it doesn't look too good, there's an inversion and the air is grey and motionless. I press on as I've seen this sort of thing before and the conditions have been ideal for flying.

As we get closer we can't see anyone flying but on arrival, around 10.30 am, there is a buzz of activity as other pilots are assembling their hang-gliders. The wind is perfect, 10-15 mph and blowing from the north-west; however the forecast is for the wind to swing more westerly, so now is the time to fly.

High Above the Devil's Dyke
High Above the Devil's Dyke
Dan flying his Aeros Target at the Devil's Dyke with the Truleigh ridge in the distance.
12 Nov 2006

Flight 1

It isn't long before my glider is rigged and I'm hooked in. There are 2 other hang gliders soaring the hill in front of the pub and some paragliders are looking like they're readying for launch. I launch, gain around 50 to 100 feet, then start beating back and forth along the Devil's Dyke pub spur. The lift band is marginal and the airspace feels more crowded than it actually is.

The Aeros Target
The Aeros Target
Dan flying his Aeros Target at the Devil's Dyke.
12 Nov 2006

It isn't long before the two paragliders launch and join the rest of us. This makes navigation a little more interesting although I find the paraglider flight paths more predictable than the hang gliders. There is also a pheasant shoot or something going on beneath us, hopefully not in our direction, but it does add to the atmosphere!

Eventually I decide it's time to try for a top landing in the paddock. In preperation I start gaining height ready for my final approach. Somewhere I read that 150 feet above takeoff was required, so I scratch back and forth until my vario registers the required height. My downwind turn is not the best and I'm way too high (see the photograph below). In an attempt to loose height I start beating back and forth, but this is futile. I manage to get my toes on the ground before the inevitable overshoot occurs!

Too High
Too High
Dan trying to top land at the Devil's Dyke - this is a very high overshoot!
12 Nov 2006

After overshooting I return to my previous flight pattern until I'm high enough for a second top landing attempt. This time I successfully land, collapse the glider and retreat into the pub for a hot cup of tea.

Flight 2

After being refreshed with a cup of tea I decide to squeeze a second flight in. Normally I say to myself, 'quit whilst you're ahead', and pack-up after my first flight, but today the conditions are still okay. I've probably lost some quality flying because of this in the past, so this time I am determined to fly... famous last words!

Soaring at the Devil's Dyke
Soaring at the Devil's Dyke
Soaring at the Devil's Dyke on an Aeros Target hang glider.
12 Nov 2006

The conditions seem a little weaker than my earlier flight, but the glider launches happily and I start beating back and forth. The lift isn't as good and several times I drop beneath takeoff height. Keeping the glider close into the hill I am able to scratch my way back up before loosing height again and having to repeat the whole process. After 10 minutes of this I decide to call it a day. All I need is enough height for a top landing. That takes another 10 minutes to achieve!

I am now setting up my top landing approach. Before I know it things start going wrong. My initial approach is totally off and I end up flying downwind directly over the paddock. I then start to turn into wind, but something isn't quite as it was before, the glider isn't turning quickly enough and I'm going down fast - right on top of the trees at the rear of the paddock, a well known no go area! There is insufficient time to turn back towards the paddock and besides, I know my glider will not penetrate enough - I would have just dropped where I was, right on top of the trees!

Soaring with others at the Devil's Dyke
Soaring with others at the Devil's Dyke
Dan soaring his Aeros Target at the Devil's Dyke with others.
12 Nov 2006

At this point my brain goes into overdrive calculating that a tree landing looks feasible, although I would probably need to be recovered by a fire-crew and would never live it down! I'm sure my wife wouldn't have wanted all the stress of watching this drama unfold. That decision takes 2 milliseconds to be overruled, then I see a patch of green behind the Devil's Dyke pub. I think to myself, 'there's bound to be rota there', but it looks better than the inevitable tree landing! 1 millisecond later I am decided, I pull the bar in and dive, crosswind, towards my chosen landing spot. The hope is, with plenty of airspeed, I can reduce the influence of any rota that I may encounter.

I am now flying cross wind and following the contours of the hill. Fortunately there is no noticeable rota. I start to turn up the slope when the wheel on the bottom left of the A-frame lightly touches the ground. It makes an amazing whizz sound as it spins up to speed! This is now a nil wind landing up hill. I flare and land. No damage to myself or glider and my heart rate starts to return to normal.

At this point I knew there'd be several concerned pilots heading my way. I unclip as fast as possible, drop my glider ready to signal that I am okay. An old lady then walks past and asks, 'was that a crash landing?', to which I reply, 'more of a desperate landing'. At that point one of the hang glider pilots arrives. I signal with a thumbs up that I am fine.

Take-off
Take-off
Dan launching his Aeros Target at the Devil's Dyke.
12 Nov 2006

Lessons

I made a point of speaking to other experienced pilots after this incident to see where I'd gone wrong and what I should have done differently. Oz and another pilot that I didn't know were great and gave me some valuable tips. The most important was my set-up and approach. It was totally wrong and required a last minute tight turn into wind. Also, the wind had swung to the west making my chosen approach even more difficult.

The best advice was not to put the glider where big sharp turns would be required. My approach should have been a gradual turn into wind, keeping my eyes on where I wanted to land. By keeping my attention on my chosen landing spot, I could have easily judged when I was going wrong and changed my approach accordingly.

One of the positive points of feedback was that I held my nerve and didn't panic. Although as I pointed out, I shouldn't have been so stupid to get myself into the situation in the first place!

Flight Details

Flight TypeHill Launch
GliderAeros Target 16
SiteDevil's Dyke
Launch Date/Time12 Nov 2006 / 00:00
Height Gain262ft
Flight Duration0h 37m
CommentsLight'ish north west wind. 2 top landing attempts, landed 2nd.

Flight TypeHill Launch
GliderAeros Target 16
SiteDevil's Dyke
Launch Date/Time12 Nov 2006 / 00:00
Height Gain0ft
Flight Duration0h 23m
CommentsWind swung to west, tried top landing, went too far back, landed behind pub.

Flying Statistics to Date 12 Nov 2006

Total Hours :
15h 53m
Longest Flight :
0h 52m
Glider Models Flown :
2
Sites Flown :
9
Best Height Gain :
1,056 feet
Total Distance :
0.0 km
Max Distance :
0.0 km
Total Flights :
52
Hill Launches :
50
Winch Launches :
2
Aerotow Launches :
0

Total Flying Statistics

Total Hours :
95h 58m
Longest Flight :
2h 25m
Glider Models Flown :
5
Sites Flown :
21
Best Height Gain :
3,000 feet
Total Distance :
67.9 km
Max Distance :
13.5 km
Total Flights :
286
Hill Launches :
156
Winch Launches :
106
Aerotow Launches :
24
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