The Wire September 1999

The Newsletter of Stratford Gliding Club

Issue 15, September 1999


The News Letter

The summer is coming to an end, and what started off by looking like a damp and disappointing flying season has turned into an excellent few months. It’s been a short season, but we’ve managed to pack rather a lot into it.

The Skylaunch has proved its worth, consistently giving higher launches and fewer interruptions. The early poor performance turned out to be caused by dirty fuel, to the great relief of a lot of people. Plans are afoot to build a garage for it.

The tractor fleet has been upgraded, with the arrival of a new BMC Mini. This will give us the chance to take other tractors offline for repair and maintenance.


The generator is working, after all sorts of hassle including the suppliers going bust.


Aircraft News

The Club Fleet

At the time of writing (which is very difficult to do with your fingers crossed), all the Club aircraft are serviceable. Thanks to everyone who didn’t break anything, and to Derek and Phil for keeping the aircraft up to scratch.

The Private Fleet

There have been several additions to the private fleet over the summer: a 20.7m LAK-12, a Standard Cirrus, a Pirat, and another LS8.



Safety Matters

Safety Evening

The number of avoidable incidents has been very low over the summer, for which we thank you. To build on the good record, we’ll be running a Safety Evening early in the new year.


The canopies have been allowed to get pretty filthy at times. We must get into the habit of cleaning them very regularly. The problem will get much worse with the low winter sun.


Club News


Members’ Guests

We offer a reduced rate for Trial Lessons for Members’ Guests. This rate applies only to the guests of Full Flying members.

Sorry to state the obvious, but this clarification is necessary because some 28-Day members have started trying to play this particular game. The price lists will reflect this in due course.

Open Day, June 20

The Open Day went reasonably well, although we didn’t get as many visitors as we’d hoped for. However, a steady stream of arrivals throughout the day meant that there were always visitors waiting to fly, but the queue was never very long. As a result, we were able to give reasonable briefings and reasonable flights to everyone, with no particular rush.

The weather was kind to us, although it was rather windy and quite turbulent as a result, and we didn’t get rained on until 17:00. However, there was plenty of lift around, enough to give all the visitors a reasonable flight. There was also plenty of time for Club flying, and some good flights for Club pilots.

We flew 27 visitors, some more than once. This was ample to make a profit on the day, although another 10 would have been welcome. However, out of those 27, four people took out 28-day membership, and five (!) people joined as full members.

We ran a four-cable operation for most of the day, which worked very smoothly, with a much better method than the last time we tried it. We’ll probably use this method whenever we decide to go to four cables, so the practice was well worth while.

Thanks to everyone who helped on the day, to the Open Day Committee for all the planning work that went into making the day run smoothly, and in particular to Penny for publicising it and to Jo for taking the responsibility of making everything come together in the right place at the right time.


Talking can damage your health

Checks and inspections. To recap last issue, they are vital for safety, but only if done properly. If you forget or skimp all or part of your checks you may – or may not – live to regret it.


Consider a summer morning (remember those?). A day with a good forecast, a clear blue sky, that crisp feeling of air that’s unstable; could it be the day for that elusive badge flight? Everyone rigging – DI – maps – barographs – loggers – declarations.

Just as you’re in the middle of the job: “could you just help me get my wings on?”, or “have you any barograph tape you can let me have?”, or “you’re an Official Observer aren’t you? Could you sign my declaration?”

Well. You like to be obliging, so you say “of course”. You stop what you were doing, you help to rig someone else, you find a pen, you seal a barograph, even simply chat about the weather, and then what? Do you methodically go back to exactly where you’d got to in the DI? Or do you get distracted by another job, so that you forget where you’d got to? Think about it now – and when you’re doing your DI.

Try another scene. At the launch point, a two-seater preparing for take-off, P2 doing the cockpit checks, P1 listening and watching to make sure the pupil’s doing it all correctly. Somebody comes up to talk to the instructor: “May I fly the K8?” or maybe another instructor “I’m going to take a break for lunch – can you hold the fort?” Or maybe even “Hello, haven’t seen you for ages, fantastic day, isn’t it …” And then a discussion develops.

We all do it. Every one of us. And while we’re talking, the pupil is distracted, the instructor isn’t watching, not properly, and what happens? Maybe nothing. But think about what may happen. (Or perhaps the instructor, realising that he hasn’t been paying attention, goes through the whole process again with the pupil, and in the meantime a cable sits idle, wasting soaring time for us all.)

It’s not only two-seaters. How many times have you been interrupted in the middle of your cockpit check in a single seater? Quite a lot, I bet.

Remember the awful facts – numerous people have had serious accidents through failure to complete their checks properly. Make sure you don’t join them or cause anyone else to do so!

What can we do to make a difference? I would like to suggest a Club protocol, where we all

  • Understand the importance of ‘vital actions’ such as: rigging and control connections; daily inspections; cockpit checks
  • Recognise the risk of being distracted from vital actions
  • Never interrupt other people in the middle of their vital actions. Wait until they’ve finished!
  • Politely discourage people from interrupting us when we are engaged in our vital actions. Refuse to be drawn into irrelevant conversations whilst doing rigging, inspections or checks.
  • If we really cannot avoid being interrupted, go back to the beginning and start the checks again. At the very least, run through in our minds and remind ourselves where we got to.

Diana King


CFI’s Corner


It’s that time of year again. Remember the BGA year ends at the end of September, so all rated pilots need to have completed all of the required flying by this date.

Green forms need to be with me no later than the 8th of November.


P1 and Basic Ratings

The winter is a good time to carry out training for these ratings. If you wish to be considered for one, speak to me as soon as possible.



In general, our Club insurance gives us blanket cover for Club members to fly. However, it requires us to identify any pilot over 75 years old who’s flying solo.

This point will eventually turn up on the annual return forms, but in the meantime, please inform me if you are, or are likely to be, in this position.


Club Flying

Who’s Done What

Phil Pain went solo on his birthday in June, Garry le Sueur went solo in July, and Tim Bradley went solo in August.

Bryn Floyd and Phil Collier both did their 5 hours Silver Duration at Sutton Bank in May. Dave Johnson did his Silver Duration in June, completing his Silver. Chris Wooller flew Silver Distance, and Penny Broad and Scott Dumbleton reached Silver Height, during the Badge Week in July.

Steve Brown flew Gold Height with a climb to 12500′ in a Libelle at Sutton Bank in May, and Barry Kerby flew a 320K Gold Distance in June.

Martyn Davies flew a 506Km triangle to Bury St Edmunds and Presteigne in June. The Diamond Distance took some time to ratify because of a problem concerning a turning point photo (the BGA description was at fault), but that’s all been sorted out. Martyn deserves particular congratulations because this is the first 500K flown from Snitterfield.


The Club Ladder

The Club Ladder closes, as usual, on 30th September, and so does the book, so after that you won’t be able to add any of your cross-country flights.

The total kilometres flown already stands at 15500, which is a Club record. This is despite the late start to the flying season: at the start of July, there were just a dozen flights in the book, and five of those were by Mike Coffee. Now we have well over a hundred, with more to come.

We also have more people than ever logging cross-country flights, more in fact than the capacity of the ladder board, so there’s a competition at the bottom of the ladder to stay on the board and not drop off the bottom back into the envelope.


Badge Week, 24-30th July

In the past few years, we’ve run Task Weeks and the weather has been consistently awful. This year, we held a Badge Week instead, and the change of name seems to have succeeded in fooling the Weather Gods, because the weather was excellent.

Here’s a summary of the flights, to give you some idea of what was achieved:


300Km + 6
200 – 300Km 3
100 – 200Km 12
50Km + 6
Silver distance 1
Silver height 2
Bronze leg 1
Bronze Cross-Country endorsement (duration) 3
Bronze Field landing endorsement 1
Off daily checks 1
Total kilometres 4925
Outlandings 6

Thanks to Diana, Phil, and Martyn for running the week. We’ve had many very positive comments from the participants, so extra thanks are due to whichever one of the three was in charge of the weather.

Banking On It

Okay, so how many of you decided that Sutton Bank wasn’t going to be worth it this year? The list in the clubhouse gradually diminished and we ended up with the lowest ever number of people on the expedition.

Well, you should have known what would happen. The windsock aimed itself at the east to the point of stubbornness and the ridge woke up with a vengeance.

Our pilots got themselves checked out and were soon busily rigging before being catapulted (come back Doris, all is forgiven) into some exciting flying. A little too exciting for older gliders to begin with, but not for long. Everyone managed to get airborne at some point, and we only lost one day to the weather.

Bryn and Phil nearly wore their K6 out, both achieving their 5 hours, and Phil managed to turn his into a spectator sport, as he clung to the last bits of lift at the end of the day. His audience sat along the path at the edge, placing bets as to whether he was lower than 300ft and would this be his last beat along the ridge. Gordon and Mark’s Oly also clocked up the hours on its first trip Up North.

Some aspects hadn’t changed from past years. The food was up to the usual Yorkshire standard and portion size, and the mist did roll over the Bank like a scene from The Fog on one occasion, but then it wouldn’t be Sutton Bank if it didn’t. The Raj in Thirsk had its annual invasion, with tradition being observed and us leaving with more than we took (those cloths at the end of the meal are very good for glider canopies, so I’m told).

On the whole it had to be one of the best expeditions, with everyone seeming to achieve some personal goal or other.

The award for the most gentlemanly conduct has to go to Barry Monslow for being so gracious when, having lent his Libelle to Steve Brown, he watched it vanish upwards, only returning 12,500ft later when Steve’s Gold Height had been securely registered on the barograph. He even helped Steve to download it.

What a gent!


HR> Club News


The AGM will be held a little later than usual, on 11th November. There will of course be the formal notification of the agenda three weeks before the date. Please make every effort to attend: it is, after all, your Club.

We’ve changed the details of our licence agreement with Richard and Valerie, and the details of the new licence will be announced at the AGM.

The Web Site

The Club web site is not just an introduction for visitors, it also contains pages for members. Apart from brief news items, there are

  • The Club diary
  • The Club ladder, often more up to date than the board itself
  • Copies of the rotas for Instructors and Evening Teams

The web site address is

Email Addresses

Email is playing a larger and larger part in the way we operate. To that end, Tony Murphy is collecting members’ email addresses. These will only be used for Club purposes, and nobody is under any obligation to give us this information.

Tony can be contacted at


The Mousetrap

The briefing room and store and piggery has been replaced by a new briefing room and store and mousetrap, donated to the Club by Phil and Liz.

The old building was shredded and burnt by a team of Club vandals, headed by Phil on the tractor, and not before time.

Main Gate Lock

Please make a point of always leaving the combination lock on the main gate scrambled, even when the gates are open.

This applies not only to whoever opens up in the morning, but also to anyone arriving later who notices that it’s open.

If we leave it open, anyone can find the combination just by looking at it. We’ve had our fill of fly-tipping, and there has also been evidence of intruders.




The View from The Back

“Service – work done for an employer; benefit conferred on or exertion made on behalf of someone; assistance or advice given to customers after sale”.

It seems to be a mark of the times: As we all seem to lead busier lives these days, we want to plan our lives and keep diaries. “I’ll see if I can fit you in” is a common phrase. It’s starting to come in to the atmosphere of gliding as a whole.

Many clubs are starting to find volunteers who provide their own services freely becoming a rarity. I’m sure many would prefer to take the launching service of the club and use of club aircraft as a true service, turn up at a prearranged time, fly and go on to something else more interesting.

Some of the larger clubs are starting to operate this way as they fear they are losing members and try to accommodate the changing requirements of their members.

All this has to be at some increased cost, of course, as taking some form of service implies paying someone to do for you what you could do yourself.

What would you be willing to pay to take the club as a pure service? It’s a good question that we may soon need to ask ourselves as more and more members do less and less towards the running of the club and helping the finances.

We still have a worthy core of members who seem to make things happen, like putting a new roof on the clubhouse, filling in the holes in the drive and perimeter track, or keeping the vehicles working, despite the best wrecking efforts of some!

These members reduce our overheads, devoting a great deal of their personal time often during the week to making it all happen. There are more people (often the same people!) who, through their efforts, bring money into the club during the summer evenings, in the form of the trial lesson teams.

A couple of years ago we had nine teams. We now have only six teams that operate the trial lesson evenings! That’s six teams of about eight people, a bare minimum. About 48 people out of a total membership of one hundred and thirty, just barely a third of the club.

Often through very good reasons of holiday, work and family commitments, an individual can’t make every fortnightly booking. So everyone left has to work that little bit harder entertaining the visitors, shifting sheep, retrieving the aircraft. It becomes less like fun and more like hard work and it’s a disincentive to continue on the teams – a bit of a vicious circle really. The less people there are, the less people want to volunteer.

These evenings bring thousands of pounds into the club. Without them we would all have to pay considerably more for our membership and flying fees, yet two out of every three members can’t or won’t make the commitment. Too busy? Don’t want to? Haven’t been asked so I didn’t think I was needed? Don’t see why I should? I’ve done enough for this club? There are probably 82 different reasons.

So are we willing to pay more to use a gliding services provider then? Pay and go, a bit like shampooing your hair. All we need to find is an equitable way to ensure that those who wish to take the club as a service are not subsidised by those who are willing to give up their time.

If I don’t want to spend an evening once a fortnight helping a group of people have a great time, introducing them to a sport that I actually find enthralling and boosting the club finances into the bargain, then I can, in some way, pay the difference to make up for the unpaid efforts of others. We can’t afford to recompense those who do volunteer, so how much do you reckon it’s worth not to make any commitments.

Frankly, we’re not that sort of club and never have been. We are a grass roots club, a teaching club, dare I say a friendly club, where we do try and help each other.

We are growing, if only slowly, whilst other clubs are contracting, hence they try to provide a service to attract the “new age glider pilot”, the user/chooser, who is willing to pay the difference, because they can afford to. In the end the user/chooser will choose something or someone else to use.

We are not here to provide a service, we combine as a group of equals to create an environment where we can share a common interest. That’s what a club is: Equal rights and equal responsibilities.



Thought for the month

Never proceed with a flight against your better judgement. It is much better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground.

Diana King

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