The Wire December 2005

The Newsletter of Stratford Gliding Club

Issue 32, December 2005



From the Chairman

Doesn’t time fly? And perhaps because we are now using Dyneema instead of steel we will be able to fly more this winter. There’s more about this development later in this issue, but so far it is proving very successful and has already allowed us to fly on days when we would have been otherwise thwarted by a soggy field.

Having driven the winch I have noticed a considerable difference in the amount of work the winch was required to do during a launch. Less strain on the Skylaunch will ultimately will reduce our overall running costs – less LPG per launch, less diesel used retrieving the cables and less repair bills for the Skylaunch due to wear and tear. Providing we do not hit any major pitfalls with the new cable over the next few months I have no doubt that the Committee will be asked to purchase a reel for the second drum ready for when we can revert to a two-cable operation in the spring. The transition to Dyneema has been very painless – this is entirely thanks to a huge amount of effort carried out before we installed the cable by David Searle, and to prompt and effective winch driver and retrieve driver re-training by Martin Greenwood and Jonty Boddington.

The more perceptive of you will have noticed a small mountain (or large pile) of soil has been created near the entrance gate. We are not trying to create our own ridge, this is to be used to start repairing the field next year when the weather conditions are right. This large pile (or small mountain) has cost us nothing! You may remember some months ago we bought a single lorry-load of graded top-soil so that we could effect some small scale repairs. This single load cost around £400 and has now been used. Can anyone spot where the fifteen tons of topsoil has gone? This should give you some idea of the scale of the problem and why we need so much material.

Repairing the field is a long term project that will take perhaps two or three years, and we will need much more top-soil than we already have, as well as heavy plant machinery, careful and effective project management, coordination with the Flying Committee and the cooperation of all the membership.

Top-soil is a strange commodity – buy it from a ‘stockist’ and it costs a fortune, but if it can be sourced from a local green field development project, it can be obtained for nothing – the site developers are only too happy to deliver it locally rather than transport it many miles to a stockist or waste site. Having obtained the material for nothing we can then use the site repair budget on hiring the appropriate plant machinery for the job. We will need much more material than we already have, so there will be more as and when we can source it – we have to be opportunistic.

As and when the time is right, we will need manpower as well the plant machinery. Any volunteers?

Before we start to move the material we need to know which areas require attention. You may feel that this falls in to the ‘patently obvious’ category, but we will need to decommission areas of the field for several months to allow the repaired areas to recover, but we also need to be able to continue flying. If anyone can help with the surveying of the field and the planning of the repairs, we need your help right now. This is a major project that will ultimately benefit everyone. Sorry for any inconvenience that all this causes.

Finally, I’m sure that you are all aware that Peter Fanshawe is standing down as C.F.I. after seven years in the post. Steve Brown will take his place as of 1st January. I’m sure you will afford Steve the same support that you did Peter.

I would like to thank Peter on behalf of all the Club members, past and present, for the service and dedication his has given to the Club. The role of C.F.I. comes with the ultimate responsibility – that of being singly responsible for all flying operations at the Club. Peter has carried out his duties with complete professionalism. Not only has he the respect of the instructor team and members at SOAGC, he has also earned enormous respect within the gliding fraternity and the BGA. Pete Stratton, the Chief Executive of the BGA, told me: ‘His passion and commitment for Stratford on Avon Gliding Club is legendary….’.

In addition to his duties as C.F.I. Peter has also been extremely influential at Committee meetings where, although not a Committee member, he used his business and common sense to steer us clear of pitfalls and bring some sanity to the proceedings. We are a better Club as a result of him being C.F.I. – he has made a difference! Thanks Pete.

And finally finally: Have a great Christmas, don’t forget to fly, have fun, but be safe!



The AGM 2005

The AGM was held on 27th October in the Snitterfield Village Hall. 57 members attended, with another 10 apologies for absence.

Treasurer’s Report

The accounts for the year ending March 2005, showed a significant loss. The main causes were a £15000 drop in income and a £10000 increase in costs. Visitor flying was down, as was member flying although this was compared to a good 2003. Costs included planned refurbishment of HSM and the Skylaunch, and the purchase of JXS.

Normally, fees for the following year are set at the AGM. However, given the problems in 2004/5 and the probable recovery in 2005/6, we’ll set the fees at the Spring Meeting, when we’ll have much more information.

We’ve increased the Visitor Flying fee to £35, as of 1st November, in time for the Christmas Voucher sales. The Member’s Guest rate remains at £20.

Chairman’s Report

Finance. 2004/5 was a disappointing year, but 2005 has already turned the situation round. The last six months, compared to the same period a year earlier, shows: Visitors +25%, Evenings +105%, Flight income +17%, 16 new members (most of them active flying members).

7-Day Operation. Thanks to Phil for DI and Mowing (19 cuts). There was some difficulty finding winch drivers. Overall, club flying was down this year, in particular Friday flying was about half that of the year before.

Insurance. We have new insurers, who don’t impose arbitrary restrictions based on the pilots’ age. We feel we have a duty to our members to insure so that everyone can fly, subject to the usual checks and balances.

The SkyLaunch. We suffered a spate of wrapups last season, so we planned a major service for the SkyLaunch. However, the gearbox failed just before it was due to go off to Wem. It was repaired by a specialist, and it lasted four weeks before it failed again. In all, we suffered four failures. It is now working smoothly again, largely thanks to David Searle who involved himself with all the suppliers. Doris kept the Club flying during these problems, and most of the Club’s engineers worked hard on keeping it running.

The CFI’s Report

The Year. In the Club year to October 2005, the weather was variable, especially at weekends, and the first 300k was not flown until July. Flying was slightly down, although we flew over 22000k cross-country. The club ladder scores were down, but the best flight of the year was better.

The Airfield. This is the second year that we’ve been free of sheep. The grass and the surface of the field is in much better condition as a result, although this comes at a cost of a great deal of mowing.

Expeditions. The expedition to Sutton Bank in May had one exceptional day, resulting in six badge claims and twelve flights over 10000′. The expedition to Camp Hill was a social success, but the flying was iffy.

Task Week. Task Week was a washout, with only local flying. This was disappointing, since there were over thirty pilots signed up, the highest ever for a Task Week.

Airspace. Negotiations over Class D airspace in the vicinity are scheduled to start in January, and the BGA and Stratford will be involved. Contacts in the ATC report that the expansion of BHX is currently on hold.

Pilots. There have been no new instructor ratings during the year. Trevor Tibbetts is standing down. Bronze C lectures will run in the spring, but the experiment of running them at weekends proved unsuccessful.

The Future

The Chairman discussed his expectations for the Club’s finances over the next five years. Assuming that the number of members stays static, and that our costs continue to increase at the current rate, there is unlikely to be much opportunity for capital expenditure.

We will be starting on the vehicle shelter over the winter. The next project will be the glider workshop. A new clubhouse and a retrieve winch are off the agenda.


The CFI and Chairman presented the Club trophies, for flying achievement and for service to the club. Cross-country achievement: Barry Monslow. Most Progress: Emma Sharp. Best flight in a Club glider: Richard Ellis. Andy Coffee Trophy for flying excellence: Phil Pickett. Club Ladder: 1st, Phil King; 2nd, Mike Coffee; 3rd, Phil Pickett. Badge Ladder: Emma Sharp. First 300k of the year: Mike Coffee. Winch Cup: Humphrey Yorke. Contribution to the running of the Club: David Searle. Long and meritorious service: Peter Fanshawe.


Synthetic Rope

The recent introduction of rope on the winch is of great interest to us all. Maybe The Wire will become the The String in future? What is this stuff? Its trade name is Dyneema, and it is an Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene fibre. Basically it is a very long molecular chain version of the polyethylene used in plastic bags, which is then remelted to align the molecules along the length of the fibre. It is the strongest fibre in the world for its weight, and is also used in bullet-proof vests.

The 5mm diameter braided rope we are using has eight strands, and when new it has a breaking strain of 2.6 tonnes. This compares with the black weak link setting of 1 tonne. When spliced it retains between 95% and 100% of its strength, so even after that it is still stronger than 4.5mm brand new steel cable. It weighs 19.6 Kg for the 1500m we had delivered, which means it’s a doddle to carry around instead of using the trailer for the steel cable.

Unbelievably, it is much less elastic than steel. At its breaking strain, our steel cable extends by about 10%, whereas the rope extends by around 2 % at its (higher) breaking strain.

The net result of all this high technology is that the synthetic rope is much safer during a break, as the lash back is estimated to have around an eightieth of the energy of a steel cable break. It is also much nicer to handle, doesn’t have a memory of how it was coiled, and doesn’t want to unwind as we put the load on it. With luck (or good retraining), wrap ups should be rarer, and easier to sort out, and easy to splice (Just ask your friendly local winch instructor!).

What does this mean for pilots? With a winch driver who is familiar with the material, there is a slightly higher initial acceleration due to the lower weight of cable, and less drag as the rope lifts off the ground much earlier. The combined effect can generate a tendency to over-rotate, which should be recognised for what it is and handled accordingly. The acceleration into the full climb may also be a little quicker. With a lower weight to lift, the glider climbs better, and one pilot compared it to having left the other person out of a two seater. (I don’t think we have any pilots who are as heavy as a drum of steel cable!)

The net result should be a gain in height of 200′ or so depending on the wind conditions. In these early days, for both pilots and winch drivers, we haven’t always noticed the improvement, but we have had a sufficient number of exceptionally good launches to show that it can be done when we’ve all got our act together.

What does it mean for the winching operation? Not a great deal, no changing of settings. We must be wary of the initial opening of the throttle, but we must also not slow it down from the steady progression of four seconds from the all out to reaching the full power required. When the glider releases, we may have to open the throttle a little more to open the parachute, as the relative weight of the Dyneema and the shock rope with its strop has altered, and it is easier to allow the parachute to collapse. In summary, all it takes is just a little more finesse. During the towout, the driver must be prepared for less drag to slow him down as he approaches the launch point, and, providing that it is done progressively, he may have to use the brakes after he has dipped the clutch. With single cable operation in the winter, rope is much nicer, as most of the bow on the ground will pull out during the towout or the up slack, and any residual bow will pull out in the first second or so of the ground run.

All that remains is to find out what the wear life will be, and then we should have a full picture of this promising innovation. At of the time of writing, no one in the UK has suffered a break while actually launching with rope, with one club having done in excess of 1000 launches. The only breaks to date have been caused by – er – cock ups!

David Searle, Project Engineer


CFI’s Corner

As you know, I pass the mantle of CFI to Steve on the 1st January 2006. I therefore am taking this opportunity to say my goodbyes.

I have really enjoyed my time as CFI. It has of course been at times hard work, and at times emotionally demanding, but the majority of the time it has been very enjoyable and has given me great pride and pleasure.

This was only possible because of the excellent support that I have received from the Management, Instructors and you the Membership. For this support I thank you all most sincerely. There are some Clubs where this support is not forthcoming, and there the job of CFI is close to being a nightmare. I know that you will continue to support Steve in the same way.

I am of course not leaving the Club, and I look forward to us all enjoying some excellent flying in the coming year.



CFI’s Corner

If you had said that I would be doing this job, this time last year, I would have said you were MAD!!! Well, now who’s the mad one?

I have enjoyed my time as Pete’s deputy and it was nice to have someone to pass the buck to, but I can’t do that any more and now its stops with me. Now that’s a scary thought!

As you all know, we are now launching on the new synthetic rope, and initially it seems to be performing very well, giving higher launches, and is much more pleasant to handle than the old cable. But a word of caution! Whilst the winch drivers are getting up to speed on launching with the new synthetic rope, you can expect the speed on the launches to be unpredictable, and overspeeding can be a problem. If you feel you are going to exceed the placarded speed, the use of the too fast signal is permissible. During these early days with the new synthetic rope, please give the winch drivers feedback on how the speed was on the launch.

A note to all you budding Bronze badge pilots; the new BGA Bronze Badge Examination program will be loaded onto the club computer early in 2006, and you can practice answering questions on screen, to see if you can get your glider up to cloud base. You will understand what I mean when you had a play with the program. When you’re ready to take the bronze paper for real, a Full Cat instructor can print a randomly selected set of questions for your examination.

I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Pete all the best for the future and many thanks for the last seven years in his role of CFI and the way he has looked after the Club’s interests. I will do my best to carry on Pete’s good work.



Club News

Christmas Dinner

We held this year’s Christmas Dinner in early December at the Stratford Oaks Golf Club. This was by far the best venue that we’ve used, even if you go back to the days of The Falcon in Stratford.

The Christmas social event faded away for a few years, because there was not enough interest to make it worth booking a room. It started again five years ago, as a speculative pub meal with no organisation involved, and as interest has grown, we’ve moved to bigger pubs. This year marks a return to an organised evening, and very well organised it was too.

There were 56 people there, and the evening included a cameo dance move by John Travolta. Most people seemed to enjoy themselves, and the food was above par for an evening like this.

Thanks to John and Jo for doing the hard work that makes an evening like this a success.

Winter Flying Rates

As usual, winter flying rates apply from December to the end of February. The rates are a snip at £5 per launch and 10p per minute. The before-noon reduction for single seaters is still in operation, too.


At the AGM, the Chairman explained about our application to the Inland Revenue for status as a Community Amateur Sports Club, CASC.

Negotiations had been tortuous, protracted, and circular. At one point, the Tax Inspector made a recommendation about the wording of our Rules, which we implemented at a previous Club meeting and submitted to him, only for him reject our submission.

With the new wording of our Rules and Articles, as agreed at the AGM, the tax man has finally confirmed that “the amendments are sufficient for CASC purposes”. Hurrah!


Ground Equipment

Wind Socks

Both wind socks need to be lowered at the end of the flying day and stored in the hangar. They take a fair beating in the winter weather, so it’s wasteful to keep them flying while we’re not. We’ll review the situation in the summer when the weather is calmer and we’re flying more.

Land Rovers

Following representations, we have decided to re-instate fully operational handbrakes into the Land Rovers. The Gas Rover has been completed and the Left Hand Drive Diesel is in progress. Please note that Land Rover handbrakes operate on the transmission, not the wheels, and serious damage will result if handbrakes are applied when the vehicle is moving.


Aircraft News


CBW, which was damaged in a landing accident in the summer, is back with us, following a lengthy repair to the wing and tail plane by Richard Kilham in Peterborough. It’s been test flown and is in good shape, so the Club fleet is back up to full strength.

The Committee

The Club Rules require a third of the Committee to stand down each year. They can seek re-election if they wish to, and this year, all four did so. Steve Brown stood for the Committee as CFI, and Lee Ingram stood to rejoin. Given that there were sufficient seats available, no election was necessary, and the committee is now:


 Chairman  John Dickinson
 Secretary, Aircraft  Andy Balkwill
 Treasurer  Chris Wooller
 Vice Chairman, Insurance  Nick Jaffray
 Membership Secretary  Richard Maksymowicz
 Engineering  David Ireland
 Marketing  Andy Sutton
 Site  Chris Bingham
 Publications  Geoff Butler
 Safety Officer  Stephen Farmer
 Liaison  Jo O’Brien
 Bursar  Liz Pickett
 CFI  Steve Brown
 Lee Ingram

Weak Links

There’s been another change in our weak link rules, following guidance from the BGA: The K13s are now being launched on brown weak links. The K21 remains on a black weak link.

Over the years there have been a number of changes to the strength of weak link to be used for the K13 and this had lead to some confusion from time to time. The changes have been made in an attempt to improve winch launching safety, and have not been made without the necessary re-calculations being carried out by some rather clever mathematicians.

A K13 which is being launched on a brown weak can now be launched at up to 65kt. The BGA allows a K13 to be launched on a black weak link, subject to a 60kt limit, but it is not Club policy to do this.

Inconveniently, brown is not a standard colour for 2-cm rigid pipe. We are currently using black pipe with brown tape, so extra vigilance is required at the launch point. If a better alternative presents itself, we will switch to it.

Winch launching safety is high on everyone’s agenda and a briefing note will be made available by the BGA in the New Year to help all pilots ensure that they have a full and correct understanding of the winch launch.


Safety Matters

Safety Issues

A number of members have approached me with concerns that certain safety procedures are not being adhered to by others in the club. Also, when approached and reminded of the correct method, a few have responded negatively. Remember that safety is everyone’s responsibility, and anyone can highlight a potentially dangerous situation at any time. A negative reaction could put people off from saying anything next time and that’s when someone might get hurt.

These points were raised, I repeat, by other members, not by the committee, CFI or myself, and are procedures that should be second nature to all but the newest recruits.

1) When towing a glider back to the launch point with another glider already on line, the retrieve vehicle should bring the glider behind and at ninety degrees to that aircraft. With the towrope released the glider should be turned by hand into line. No attempt should be made to tow the retrieved glider into line as things happen fast when towropes are at an angle, resulting in possible damage to aircraft or people. If no other glider is on line on that side of the launch point then the glider may safely be towed into position.

2) After cables have been retrieved and left at the launch point, only the first cable to be used should be moved over to the glider nose area in readiness for attachment. Leave the second cable well clear of the other on line glider and any people around its nose.

3) With a significant crosswind component, the downwind tip should be held during launch instead of the usual upwind tip. This reduces the likelihood of the glider weather-cocking into wind during the initial seconds of the launch.

Please accept this gentle reminder in the spirit it is intended, which is to ensure the activity we all enjoy is as safe as possible for all of us.

My thanks to those of you who have talked to me and please continue to do so. If you have questions about these issues please talk to me or one of the instructors.

Stephen Farmer, Safety Officer


The Wire

Ten Years On

Issue One of The Wire was published in the winter of 1995, ten years ago. At the time, we knew that we needed a way to communicate important information, and the only means available to achieve this were the unreliable methods of word of mouth and morning briefings. This was clearly rather unsatisfactory, and unacceptable from a safety viewpoint.

At the time, there were strong constraints on finance, limited technology available, no experience in producing a newsletter, and most importantly no volunteers to do it. Eventually, the CFI and Chairman succumbed to their sense of duty, and set about producing it themselves, which meant that The Wire was also competing for the time of two already busy people.

Over the intervening ten years, many of those constraints have been eroded, and The Wire has passed through several incarnations to its current format.

Issue One, in its Safety article, urged members to tow gliders straight behind the tractor, and to leave the second cable alone during the launch of the first. Ten years on and we’re saying the same things. Ho hum.

Many of the articles that we publish are the opinions of Club Members, and we take no responsibility for those opinions. Indeed, we welcome submissions and, within reason, print them verbatim. Some articles, however, represent an official Club position: in particular, the contributions of the Chairman, CFI, and Safety Officer. It’s important that all Club Members are aware of these things, and this is the reason that we personalise each edition: so that nobody can get away with “Nobody Told Me That“.

The YR

Within a few months of the first edition of The Wire, we saw the first edition of The YR (Tag line: Why Are we waiting for The Wire). There were four editions in all, ranging from the scurrilous (a parody, leaning heavily on Old Jokes) to the seriously weird (Black Magic and Satanic Orgies!).

To this day, nobody knows who produced The YR. Secrets in a Gliding Club rarely last more than five minutes, but this one has lasted for ten years. The first two, scurrilous, issues shared a common style, as did the last two, weird, issues. It seems quite possible that there were two independent authors, unless it was a single very devious mind at work.

We’ll be printing a few snippets from The YR over the next few editions. If you feel like complaining about breach of copyright….

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