Remarks: Instructor R. Davis – Circuit Experience and Turns
Won’t say more at this stage about gliding per se other than dear Roger Davis opened my eyes to the magic of the atmosphere and I was hooked!
It wasn’t long before I understood that old saying that you can always tell a glider pilot at first sight – because they have scar tissue on their chins from repeatedly walking into fixed objects. Why? Because a glider pilot is always looking up at the clouds.
It is certainly true that some thirty-seven years after that first flight I still adore reading the clouds in the sky.
We stare at clouds all the time, whether trying to figure out what they look like or if they’re bringing rain. Yet most of us know very little about clouds, let alone how to identify them.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) keeps a cloud atlas that divides clouds into genera, species and varieties. Some clouds have multiple “varieties” and some have “accessory” clouds that appear with or merge with bigger clouds. Specific conditions can even create special clouds of their own.
In short, clouds are a rich tapestry in the sky that changes every day. Cloud genera
These are the 10 most typical forms clouds take. The WMO notes that the definitions don’t encompass all possible cloud permutations, but they do outline the essential traits to differentiate one cloud genus from another, especially those having similar appearances.
We were in Reggie and Chris’s villa in the village of La Croix des Luques inland from the Cote d’Azur, Southern France.
I quickly realised that their villa was not far from the world-famous sailplaning airfield at Fayence. Or LES PLANEURS DE FAYENCE as it is known. Reggie gladly offered to take Jean and me across to the airfield.
Many years ago, when I was living and working in Colchester, Essex, I became a very keen and active pilot with the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk eventually qualifying as a gliding instructor. So when Reggie suggested that I see about getting a dual flight at the Fayence Club I didn’t need asking twice.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate my wishes before we had to leave France so that opportunity had to be let go.
Another opportunity, this time for Jeannie, was taken advantage of. Chris was a member of a local art class and while we were going to be there the class would be meeting at the villa. Would Jean like to take part?
Jean is a good amateur artist, as many of her paintings and sketches around our house attest to. So that did take place and it was a wonderful afternoon for all concerned.
Then on a subsequent day Reggie and Chris took us for a drive along the beautiful coastline that is the essence of the Cote d’Azur.
To reach the coast Reggie took a route that went down towards Frejus and Saint-Raphael and then joined the coast road just west of Le Dramont.
I found this was stirring up very old memories. For my father, a Chartered Architect, had a passion for this part of France and every summer back in the 1950s took the four of us (Mum, Dad, me and my sister Elizabeth) for a month’s holiday. Thus many of the coastal town names had echoes from over 60 years ago. (Father died in December, 1956 of cancer.)
As we drove along, I reminisced aloud to Reggie and Chris that when I was 15 my mother decided that it would be a good thing for me to do a student exchange with a French boy. It was arranged and in the early part of the summer of 1959 in to our house in Preston Road, Wembley came Philippe, whose home was in Paris.
Then in about 4 weeks it was my turn to accompany Philippe back to Paris. It was a very ornate apartment with an air of luxury living and I felt very lost in the place. Apparently, Philippe’s father was a director with Air France.
Anyway, the father announced just a couple of days after I had arrived that all the family the following day would be flying from Paris to Nice airport, (with Air France, of course!) to then spend a month at the family’s French villa in the coastal town of Antheor.
On me mentioning Antheor Reggie immediately exclaimed that we were just a few miles from going through Antheor and that we should stop there. I wondered if I would remember anything of the place.
Well I did!! To my amazement when we stopped to look down at the beaches below the level of the road I thought that we were very close to the beach in front of the villa at Antheor where I used to swim, frequently on my own, every day that I stayed there.
I told everyone to stay where they were and ran on to the next beach.
It was the same beach that I now recalled so clearly.
Even more amazing for me was that the iron gate and steep stone steps down to the beach were still there, albeit no longer being used as a more modern set of steps was in place.
By this time, the others had arrived at the head of the new steps and were looking down at me as I became truly lost in days so very long ago.
I have no recollection why back then the rest of the family so rarely came down to the beach that was so close to where their villa was. Indeed, it was just a case of crossing the coast road, much quieter in those years, and descending the steps to the beach.
But for this London boy it was bliss beyond measure. Maybe at some level it reminded me of family holidays for our, as in sister Elizabeth and me, father’s death was still a painful memory.
I stood still and just looked at the beach and at the sea and was transported so very clearly back to the times when I swam around the rocks, wearing a face mask and snorkel, just lost forever in what one could see underwater.
Then it was time to return to the car and resume our delightful drive.
Soon after we stopped at a small beach cafe for an afternoon drink of something cool.
Everything, well for me at least, still seemed a little unreal; a little larger than life! I think that’s what inspired me to take the photograph above of the cafe proprietor and her cat!
Then we moved on again.
In due course, to another delightful evening meal somewhere local. The French expression “en famille” says it all!
These wonderful days were going by far too quickly!
In a flash it was Tuesday and Jean and I were being driven to Nice airport for another easyJet flight. But instead of returning to Bristol we had booked an easyJet flight into Gatwick. Because the last 36-hours of our vacation were being spent with my daughter’s family.
Maija’s husband, Marius, who is employed by The Royal National Theatre, near Waterloo Bridge on the south bank of the River Thames in London, frequently is working evenings but in order to spend time with me and Jeannie he had taken a day’s holiday on the 25th.
Our last day of our vacation dawned bright and sunny. It was a school day for Morten and after he had left for school Marius and Maija suggested going for a walk along the South Downs. Perfect!
For those unfamiliar with the South Downs let me quote a little of what may be read on Wikipedia.
The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles (670 km2) across the south-eastern coastal counties of England from the Itchen Valley of Hampshire in the west to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, East Sussex, in the east. The Downs are bounded on the northern side by a steep escarpment, from whose crest there are extensive views northwards across the Weald. The South Downs National Park forms a much larger area than the chalk range of the South Downs and includes large parts of the Weald.
The South Downs are characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys, and are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England. The range is one of the four main areas of chalkdownland in southern England.
It is a beautiful place to walk.
It was a magical way of spending our last day.
Again, I was aware of stirrings in my old memory box from many years ago, possibly when I might have taken young Alex and Maija for a walk along the Downs, or something along those lines.
But today it meant so much for Jeannie and me to be with Maija and Marius for this gorgeous walk.
A couple of hours later we found a place to have a late lunch and asked the lady serving our table to take a photograph of all four of us!
Obviously, we had to be home in time for Morten’s return from school.
Those last hours of that day were focussed on keeping Morten company. What else mattered!
So the last photograph of the whole vacation is the one below. A picture taken of Morten planting some seeds that were bought while we were out that day.
We arrived back in Portland, Oregon around 6pm on the 26th and too late to drive all the way back to Merlin.
So after we had collected the car from the long-term parking we stopped off at the first motel that we saw heading though southern Portland.
Then around 11am on Friday, 27th April we pulled up in front of the house to be greeted by six very loving and contented dogs. Well done, Jana!
That evening those contented dogs demonstrating their happiness did more than anything to communicate a precious message.
Apologies in advance for this being possibly of limited interest to others.
A couple of years after I left IBM UK and formed my own company, Dataview Ltd., based in Colchester, Essex, I formed both a personal and business relationship with a Roger Davis.
That relationship exposed me to gliding, or sail-planing in American speak, for Roger was a volunteer instructor at Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk that flew from an ex-wartime aerodrome of the same name.
Thus on the 7th June, 1981, I was taken up for two air-experience circuits in a two-seater glider known as a ‘K7’. I was immediately hooked! Those experience flights leading to a 4-minute flight (flight number 46) on the 6th September, 1981 that has the remark in my pilot’s log book: Solo!
Now fast forward to October, 1984 and my log book shows me attending a gliding instructor’s course at Lasham, resulting in me being issued with a British Gliding Association (BGA) Assistant Instructor Rating on the 14th October. (105/84).
A few days ago, Roger sent me a link to the following video.
It’s a compilation of photos, cartoons from the pen of dear Bob White, and videos. A little over eleven minutes long I do hope some of you find it of interest.
Published on May 29, 2017
Slide show produced from photos and images produced by Mark Taylor for Rattlesden Gliding Club’s 25 anniversary in 2001. Shows a collection of members involved from those early days, including some cartoons produced by Bob White whenever there was a notable event, or incident as well!
Let me close with this photograph!
(All those years ago, Roger and Sheila had a beautiful Old English Sheepdog. His name was Morgan and he was a wonderful, loving dog.)
So is there anyone reading this who has experienced gliding?
Yesterday, I offered the account of physicist Paul Dirac falling in love with Margit Wigner, the sister of a Hungarian physicist. It was my way of opening a window into the mind of one individual, albeit a very clever one, falling in love. However, the conclusion, that won’t surprise anyone, is that the state of love in us humans is more mystery than fact!
Dogs have no such problem in showing their state of love!
A few days ago, in comments to a recent post, the author, John Zande wrote:
We were so heartbroken after losing Arthur so unexpectedly (an astonishing dog we found with a massive tumor in his eye) in Sao Paulo we literally moved cities. I couldn’t stand being in the same neighbourhood. Too much reminded me of him.
Then in response to my reply went on to say:
They are amazing creatures. The dog across the street from us died almost a year ago to the day. Beautiful dog, not so good owners (never paid her any attention, fed her crap… we’d sneakily feed her mince and chicken and treats every night). She had many male visitors (they never neutered her), but one in particular, Hop-along, a crippled dog from a street over considered her his wife/girlfriend. When she died it was only us and Hop-along who grieved. It was amazing. He held vigil outside her house for 2 weeks solid after she died, day and night. He never left. He just stood there.
More than thirty-five years ago, when I was working in Colchester, Essex, England, I met Roger Davis. It was Roger that introduced me to gliding (sailplaning in American speak!) courtesy of Rattlesden Gliding Club. Roger and I have stayed in touch ever since including, of course, keeping in touch with Sheila, Roger’s wife, and much of the family.
Yesterday, in an exchange of emails, Roger sent this:
Just back from taking Ralph (now 89) to day surgery at Broomfields.His companion since Freda his wife died two years ago is Sasha, a blonde Alsatian. He always had Alsatians so no surprise when this one appeared.
I was moved equally by John’s love for Arthur, Hop-along’s love for his female canine love, and the love of Sasha for Ralph.
Yesterday was heading to be a very hot day in Merlin, Oregon with top temperatures forecasted to be around the mid-90’s, or 34-36 deg. C in ‘new money’. The light westerly wind must have been generating some up currents, aided and abetted by the rising hot air, for there were a number of black ravens soaring in a thermal. Watching the birds circle and climb in the thermal current without needing to flap their wings took me back too many years.
It took me back to a June day in 1981 where I experienced my first glider flight (sailplane in American speak) at the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk, East Anglia. I’m delighted to see that the Club is still an active one, as their website confirms. Although I subsequently went on to gain my private pilot’s licence (PPL) there are still times when I miss the magic, the pure magic, of gaining altitude in a glider in a beautiful thermal.
So what prompted this flood of flying nostalgia!! An item that was published on the BBC website earlier in the year.
Fly like a bird: The V formation finally explained
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News
The mystery of why so many birds fly in a V formation may have been solved.
Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College fitted data loggers to a flock of rare birds that were being trained to migrate by following a microlight. This revealed that the birds flew in the optimal position – gaining lift from the bird in front by remaining close to its wingtip.
A previous experiment in pelicans was the first real clue to the energy-saving purpose of V formations. It revealed that birds’ heart rates went down when they were flying together in V.
But this latest study tracked and monitored the flight of every bird in the flock – recording its position, speed and heading as well as every wing flap.
This was possible thanks to a unique conservation project by the Waldarappteam in Austria, which has raised flocks of northern bald ibises and trained them to migrate behind a microlight.
The aim of this unusual project is to bring the northern bald ibis back to Europe; the birds were wiped out by hunting, so the team is retraining the birds to navigate a migration route that has now been lost.
Fitting tiny data loggers to these critically endangered ibises showed that the birds often changed position and altered the timing of their wing beats to give them an aerodynamic advantage.
Lead researcher Dr Steven Portugal explained: “They’re seemingly very aware of where the other birds are in the flock and they put themselves in the best possible position.”
This makes the most of upward-moving air generated by the bird in front. This so-called “upwash” is created as a bird flies forward; whether it is gliding or flapping, it pushes air downward beneath its wings.
“Downwash is bad,” explained Dr Portugal. “Birds don’t want to be in another bird’s downwash as it’s pushing them down.” But as the air squeezes around the outside of the wings, it creates upwash at the wingtips.
“This can give a bit of a free ride for the bird that’s following,” said Dr Portugal. “So the other bird wants to put its own wingtip in the upwash from the bird in front.”
The other really surprising result, the researchers said, was that the birds also “timed their wing beats perfectly to match the good air off the bird in front”.
“Each bird [kept] its wingtip in the upwash throughout the flap cycle,” Dr Portugal explained.
In a sidebar to that BBC article there is this explanation about Flapping and Flying:
As a bird’s wings move through the air, they are held at a slight angle, which deﬂects the air downward. This deflection means the air flows faster over the wing than underneath, causing air pressure to build up beneath the wings, while the pressure above the wings is reduced. It is this difference in pressure that produces lift.
Flapping creates an additional forward and upward force known as thrust, which counteracts the weight and the “drag” of air resistance. The downstroke of the flap is also called the “power stroke”, as it provides the majority of the thrust. During this, the wing is angled downwards even more steeply.
You can imagine this stroke as a very brief downward dive through the air – it momentarily uses the animal’s own weight in order to move forward. But because the wings continue to generate lift, the creature remains airborne. In each upstroke, the wing is slightly folded inwards to reduce resistance.
The BBC piece also included this wonderful short video:
This piece has nothing to do with dogs unless one extends the mindset to the magic of the complete natural world.
This is a photograph of George Ball hang-gliding – see his reply below.
He [my father] was an RAF pilot during the war and through to the early 1960’s. He test-piloted the Vulcan and Victor, though started on what he called ‘string bags’, by which he meant Tiger Moths. In between he flew the Spitfire, Lancaster, Meteor and specialised in flying in electrical storms, about which he wrote a manual for the RAF.
I took my father to see Vulcan XH558 fly what was then thought to be its final flight (it subsequently was overhauled and took to the skies again). It flew along the length of the runway at a 45 degree angle with its bomb bay doors open. On the inside of the doors in huge letters was the single word ‘farewell’. It was really quite an emotional experience both for my father and myself.
I thought it would be nice to include some video of XH558; that will be tomorrow’s post. For today, I wanted to reminisce from my own private flying days.
My first exposure to private flying was on the 7th June, 1981 when, at Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk, I was taken up for two air-experience circuits in a two-seater glider known as a ‘K7’. I was immediately hooked! Those experience flights leading to a 4-minute flight (flight number 46) on the 6th September, 1981 that has the remark in my pilot’s log book: Solo! Now fast forward to October, 1984 and my log book shows me attending a gliding instructor’s course at Lasham, resulting in me being issued with a British Gliding Association (BGA) Assistant Instructor Rating on the 14th October. (105/84).
Over on the power side of things, in March, 1984, I started Private Pilot training at the Suffolk Aero Club at Ipswich Airport and gained my PPL on the 9th November, 1984. Subsequently, gaining my Instrument Rating in July, 1999 when I was then operating from Exeter Airport and flying frequently for business purposes. For that ‘serious’ flying I used a Socata TB20, a French retractable, single-engined aircraft, based at Exeter. A very fine, long-distance aircraft.
But the aircraft that I had the most fun flying was a dear old Piper Super Cub. Here’s the background to the aircraft.
Piper Super Cub, L-21B, R-151
A/C Construction No. 18-3841, Frame No. 18-3843
Original Engine, Lycoming 135 Type 0-290-D2, 54/2441
Romeo 151 was one of a batch of 298 L-21’s delivered in 1954. There were 584 L-21B’s produced by Piper for military use, the ‘L’ standing for Liaison. The L-21B’s were PA-18-135’s with civil Lycoming 0-290-D2 engines, glasswork as most L-21A’s and L-18’s and a gross weight of 1760 lbs.
This aircraft was delivered to Koninklijke Luchtmacht, Dutch Air Force, on the 1st July, 1954 and registered R-151. After various homes R-151 transferred to the Dutch civil register as PH-GER, 1st April 1976 with 4,458 hours and shortly thereafter was registered to Vlieclub Hoogeveen, Certificate Number 2380.
On the 27th March, 1981 the aircraft was delivered to the UK with a total time of 5,043 hours and in September, 1981 became G-BIYR; ‘YR’. In April, 1983 YR was the first of type to be given a Public Transport CofA (Certificate of Airworthiness) and was used for training at Tollaton. YR reverted to a Private CofA in January, 1984 when purchased by Mike and Barbara Fairclough. The aircraft had by then accumulated 5,120 hours.
In 1992, YR was re-engined with a Lycoming 150HP, 0320-A2B No. L49809-27A (zero hours). Finally on the 2nd June, 1995 the aircraft was repainted in her original Dutch insignia and given CAA (UK Civil Aviation Authority) permission to use the original call-sign: Romeo 151.
The aircraft was based at and flown from Watchford Farm airstrip in South Devon, England.
Now forgive the nostalgic photographic memories!
Every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. As the next picture shows, there was absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First, I did some taxying around Watchford’s large grass airfield to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
But then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Piper Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or became agitated it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh sitting in the seat behind me. So, in the end, I abandoned the idea. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
Thus we elected for taxying all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with full doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
So enough of my recollections for today – tomorrow the Vulcan XH558.
Please indulge me with this purely personal reflection.
My Uncle Peter died in his sleep at 1.30am UK time on Monday, the 21st May, 2012. He was 91 and had been suffering from declining health for a while.
As my parting gift from across the seas, I just wanted to record the great inspiration that he was to both me and my son, Alex.
Peter was a great gliding fan (sailplane in American speak!). He must have started gliding not many years after the end of the war in 1945. Anyway, when I was a young lad, back in the mists of time, my Uncle Peter took me for a glider flight. That left a memory in me that lay dormant for many years until the late 1970s when a colleague, Roger Davis, introduced me to the Rattlesden Gliding Club and that started a 25-year interest in gliding and later power flying.
My son, Alex, also when he was a young boy was taken up for his first flight in a glider by Uncle Peter and later flew with me many times both in gliders and power aircraft. Today he is a Senior Captain with a British airline.
So, dear Uncle Peter, what an aviation inspiration you have been for two generations.
As it happens, 1.30 am UK time on Monday the 21st was 5.30pm Arizonan time on Sunday the 20th. At that very moment, well 5.26pm to be precise, Jean and I were watching the solar eclipse and I took the photograph below of what was the partial eclipse here in Payson.
A tribute to a wonderful family man with a great sense of humour.