Specific achievements for the LGC group;
Ed Downham 1004km for first 1000km flight and British 15m Free Distance record (LS8)
Robin May 1004km for first 1000km flight. (ASH25)
Carr Withall 1004km for first 1000km flight (Nimbus 3)
John Reed 930km, his longest flight ever (LS6)
Steve Lynn 780km his longest flight ever (LS8)
Tom Rose 535km for Diamond Distance (LS4)
Mike Abbott 315km for Diamond Goal plus the rear seat in the ASH for 1000Km!
Paul Watson completed Bronze C, X/C rating, then Silver Distance and Height.
It was an exceptional week with Ed, Carr and myself averaging 40 hours and 4000km each for the week.
The result was a terrific week's gliding, in a great atmosphere created by Dick Bradley's "Soaring Safaris", in the great temperatures of the South African summer. The bonus was 3 members gaining their first 1000km flights. Accounts of these amazing flights were written for S&G and the London Gliding Club magazine.
Paul and Mike combined to write the article for S&G, Carr wrote a pilot's account of his flight.
Below is a trace of the flight completed by Robin and Mike in the ASH 25, though Ed and Carr's flights followed the same route in a similar manner.
THREE by 1000 KM FLIGHTS
4 December 2003 was a successful day for three out of five London GC members who attempted a 1000km out and return task. The flights by Robin May, Carr Withall and Ed Downham were not without some nail biting moments as nightfall rapidly approached their temporary base at New Tempe airfield, Bloemfontein, in Free State, South Africa. Attempts by LGC members Steve Lynn and John Reed didn't quite make it but ended in creditable performances of 780 and 930kms respectively – there being no landouts.
Release took place at 6500 ft and the condensation level is discovered to be scarcely 10000 ft. For long distance flying this translates into a smallish band, but is expected for this time of day. An on board policy had been devised, for the purposes of oxygen conservation. GPS distance along track is already being appraised at fifteen minute intervals:- 153kph - 125kph – 156kph - 124kph - we don't need too many in the 120s range or we'll fail. The expected light westerly wind is just as expected - good old Dick! It is blue to the West of track, and the Cu's to the East are looking to be too much on the boil for us - the plan is to squeeze between each of these less than ideal areas - good old Ed, who has masterminded the chosen route, to precision! He's along with us, and so are the others.
As the distance between gliders on the task increases, and we're clear of TP3, we realize and acknowledge the real hazard of flying straight - sometimes at 115kts - between thermals. In Robin's front cockpit - the final glide computer dies on us. Robin thinks a final glide is possible from here, at 100kts. Rashly, I suggest maybe 120kts. I am insisting on an arithmetical check every few kilometres, and to our surprise we discover that we only have 1300ft above final glide with no allowance for a circuit, and 95km still to fly. Back to best L/D airpseed, we are hitting -2.5kts and even -3.5kts - uncertain thermal sources ahead - Robin is now really beginning to feel fatigued - have we cocked it up? The tension is quite immense - we make a straight-in and land on RW18, but the airbrake is only used passing 400ft., quickly followed on by the loud but reassuring clonk of 'gear down'. We know nothing of Ed's whereabouts.
On the ground back at New Tempe in the late afternoon all flights except the ‘1000Ks' have safely returned. For anybody on the ground, a working day started, took place, and is already over. Attention turns to the northwest and the entry corridor access through Bloemfontein's Class ‘C' CTR. Steve and John land safely with some disappointment and incomplete tasks, but solid performances nonetheless.
Rumours abound that the other three are inbound but have fallen short of the 1000kms target as well. The sky reddens as it sinks slowly ever closer the horizon. Robin calls New Tempe on 124.8mhz: “New Tempe this one-six-two on final glide at sixteen kilometres – request runway in use”. It's RW18 or 36 and Robin completes his 8 hours 23 minutes flight with a typically immaculate touchdown. He confirms over the R/T that he has completed the task and impromptu applause erupts as his ASH comes to a halt opposite the hangar line. He also confirms that Carr is not far behind but has not heard anything of Ed for some considerable time since his radio packed up some 4 hours into the flight...
With Robin and Mike too exhausted to leap out of the cockpit, the ASH is manhandled clear of the strip as he confirms that Carr is still in with a shout, but not too flush on altitude in ‘sinking air'. Carr appears in the northwest sky – the sun is just setting – and his water ballast dumping makes his craft have all the menacing look of a B52 approaching low and fast. Carr has no spare energy to engage in a competition finish and creeps in over the northern field boundary for a smooth touchdown on RW18.
With the sun below the horizon hopes for Ed's successful arrival dwindle and thoughts turn to perhaps a long retrieve at night or a night landing on New Tempe's lighted tarmac strip on the western side of the airfield. Disappointment turns to elation as Ed appears as if from nowhere crossing the airfield at high speed dumping the last of his water ballast – and finishes off with a victorious loop to position for a landing on RW36. After landing Ed confirms problems with battery life and had had to turn off his radios to conserve what little power left for navigation equipment hence the self imposed silence. Ed falls wearily out of the LS8 cockpit onto the grass soaking up the congratulations of his colleagues. Light fading rapidly the gliders were tucked up for the night and everyone repaired to the bar for the usual celebration of a job well done.
The Group picture;
Standing L to R; Ed Downham, Carr Withall, Robin May and Mike Abbott - All 1000kms with Mike P2 in the ASH with Robin
Kneeling L to R; John Reed and Steve Lynn 1000km declared achieved 930 and 780 respectively.
Sitting L to R;Walter from Germany, Nick from Booker, Tom Rose 500km, Michel from France and Paul Watson
Header picture; another dusty take-off for John Reed in "JCB"