Sat, 19 Mar 2011

1Sting 3:168 : Plumpton Aerotow (A) Duration: 00:15, Gain: 2200 ft, Distance: 0 km, Light winds; N (tailwind take-off)
2Sting 3:168 : Plumpton Aerotow (A) Duration: 00:11, Gain: 2000 ft, Distance: 0 km, ESE 5 mph

Aerotow on the South Downs

After completing my aerotow endorsement with FlyLight back in November, to say I was a little apprehensive about embarking on this activity again was an understatement! The night before the Southern Aerotow Group email banter had confirmed that today would be the first aerotow session of the year, so Saturday morning I loaded the car and headed towards Plumpton in East Sussex.

Aerotowing at Plumpton
Aerotowing at Plumpton
Aerotowing in East Sussex with Falmer Stadium just ahead.
19 Mar 2011

I will confess to not actually knowing where I was going, I had a vague idea where the airfield was and through some random navigating I ended up at shed containing the tug and aerotow launch trolley. Being the first there, and it being my first time out, I decided to wait for the arrival of the others before I started moving equipment around.

Unknown to me, the first challenge was getting to the airfield. It involved a slippery muddy off-road track up a hill into a field. Most cars were not designed for this and after watching most cars ground out and get stuck I decided upon the physical challenge of carrying my own gear rather than risk damage to the car.

Ozzie, the chief aerotow coach had broken his hand, so his efforts were around training. There was plenty of tug fodder for him too train and they were all looking apprehensive. After two demonstration tows, the training began along with some YouTube 'moments' involving lockouts and some interesting un-intentional acrobatic manoeuvres!

Aerotowing at Plumpton
Aerotowing at Plumpton
2000 feet above Ditchling Beacon.
19 Mar 2011

Eventually my turn came around. Sitting on the launch trolley and ready to go I was a little concerned about the mild tail wind blowing. Aircraft are supposed to launch into wind! I decided to wait for the wind to drop a little, it did, but it was still tail when I called 'All Out'.

The initial acceleration that caught the earlier trainees out by surprise was as expected, much to the credit of FlyLight and I quickly lifted off the launch trolley and into the sky. I was towing with my Kock release which had prematurely released on my previous aerotow flights, so I was a little concerned about this happening today, especially with the difficult landing options ahead of me! After around 500 feet I began to relax and concentrated on keeping the tug in the correct position. Horizontal position wasn't a problem, but my height above the tug was a challenge and I found it difficult not to climb above it.

High Above the South Downs
High Above the South Downs
High above the South Downs, looking towards Brighton.
19 Mar 2011

After what seemed like an eternity, the tug pilot waved me off and I released. Glancing at my vario it read an altitude of 1,958 feet QFE and I yelped out a childish 'Woo Hoo'. To be almost 2,000 feet above the South Downs was a real experience and the views were simply amazing!

As I then started boating around the sky my vario started to beep and I responded with a gentle 360. This continued until I was now at 2,200 feet QFE. Looking down I could see another hang glider speeding to my position - I was marking a blue thermal and extending the invitation to any soaring pilots. It wasn't long before I lost it and realised I was a long way from the tow field. VG on, toes pointing, I started to glide upwind back to the tow field. Some minutes later I arrived with plenty of height and landed (I will confess to it being a very sloppy landing - a severe wind gradient caught me out!).

After touching down and parking my glider I started to help out with the launching and training. Before I knew it, it was my turn to launch again.

Back on the trolley, things were starting to feel more familiar and I was determined to do a better job of maintaining the correct vertical position behind the tug. The wind had now swung around so that launching was more into wind. The launch went well and even though my vertical position behind the tug still oscillated, I did a far better job maintaining correct position. It wasn't perfect, but an improvement but my arms were hurting, a good sign that I was experiencing some high bar pressures (note to brain, try more VG next time).

After releasing I boated around the sky soaking up the amazing scenery. I will confess I wasn't concentrating on the flying as much as perhaps I should have been! This time however I didn't connect with any significant lift and after a brief search I turned tail and headed back to the airfield.

My final landing of the day was interesting, I ended up flying down the slope of the field in ground effect and had to aggressively flare. This resulted in me floating up higher than I would have liked, expecting the worst I held the flare and parachuted to the ground landing heavily on my feet but all in all, a successful landing. As I turned tail to return to the airfield I noticed another pilot embarking on the same landing technique as my own. Unfortunately his flare was a little earlier than my own and I watched him float up very high, then watched the wing drop shortly followed by the glider. End result, one bent upright!

Flight Details

Flight TypeAerotow Launch
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
SitePlumpton Aerotow
Launch Date/Time19 Mar 2011 / 00:00
Height Gain2200ft
Flight Duration0h 15m
CommentsLight winds; N (tailwind take-off)

Flight TypeAerotow Launch
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
SitePlumpton Aerotow
Launch Date/Time19 Mar 2011 / 00:00
Height Gain2000ft
Flight Duration0h 11m
CommentsESE 5 mph

Flying Statistics to Date 19 Mar 2011

Total Hours :
43h 04m
Longest Flight :
1h 15m
Glider Models Flown :
4
Sites Flown :
19
Best Height Gain :
3,000 feet
Total Distance :
7.0 km
Max Distance :
7.0 km
Total Flights :
183
Hill Launches :
87
Winch Launches :
82
Aerotow Launches :
14

Total Flying Statistics

Total Hours :
96h 29m
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 :
288
Hill Launches :
158
Winch Launches :
106
Aerotow Launches :
24
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