September 18th: The weekend definitely belonged to Thomas Eccles of Nethy Bridge, at the age of 15 one of our youngest members.  As a final part of his training program he had intensive lessons on ‘eventualities’ with Nick Norman, learning what to do in the event of a launch failure such as the tow rope breaking at an awkward height.  Having passed these tests he was rewarded with his first solo flight on Sunday afternoon.  Well done Thomas!


The grin says it all!  (photo:  Nick Norman)


This coming week we will be active most days with informal club flying organised by Paul Myers.  Annual inspection work on the Puchacz two-seater is also proceeding in the hangar during unflyable weather.


We have bought new silicone water-wipers for removing rain from glider wings.  These will replace a motley collection of old worn-out wiper blades from members’ cars, and are likely to be much more effective.  With the current run of showery weather it is very important to fly with clean wing profiles.  Raindrops sticking to glider wings can seriously degrade flying performance, in extreme cases resulting in a reduction of safety margins. 



September 11th: A small number of launches were possible on both weekend days, the better weather being on Saturday.  Ray Hill was pundit of the weekend with a flight of 1½ hours.   Anne-Marie Ranft, a visiting pilot from Australia, flew with Alister and was delighted with our mountain views.


Loch an Eilein in shadow.  Photo:  Anne-Marie Ranft.




The Puchacz two-seater was de-rigged at the end of the day so that Nick Norman can work on its annual inspection before Octoberfest.


Sunday’s weather started on the lively side and deteriorated still further during the afternoon.  After an unsuccessful hunt for wave lift Pete Smith had ‘interesting’ landing in the curlover wind coming off the mountains.  The hangar doors were closed by 2pm, and heavy rain was falling again soon afterwards.


Items discussed at the Committee Meeting include the discretionary bursary scheme for youth members, from which Thomas Eccles (15) has recently benefitted.  Also we will in future be obliged to carry out “annual” maintenance work on the Robin tow plane after every 100 flying hours.  Until now this has always been scheduled for a specific week during the summer, but this will no longer be possible, due to the recently-introduced Self-Declared Maintenance Program.


September 4th: The warm autumn sunshine on Saturday brought many visitors and spectators to the airfield, once again outnumbering the club members.  Mike Morrison and Ray Hill were kept busy with no fewer than six voucher holders plus three casual visitors who had not previously bought vouchers.  All of these are temporary members of the club for one month, entitled to further flights within that time at normal club rates.  One such temporary member (Eric Campbell) who had flown the previous week came back for another go.


Gliders from the Deeside club at Aboyne were also flying in our local area, having transited the mountains to the east.  Best flight of the day among our members was 2hr 35min by Pete Smith.  It was a long day with the hangar doors not closing until 7pm.  Thanks are due to Bob Forrest and Ian Carruthers for flying the Robin tow plane, Gabriel Telerman for running the airfield often single-handedly, and Thomas Eccles for doing a “heap” of glider retrievals in the Land Rover.


Sunday was a non-flying day owing to the rough south-easterly winds spilling over the mountains to the east of our site.  John Whyte, Ian Marshall and Dave Brown were under the bonnet of the Mitsubishi (which has multiple problems) for several hours, and that's still a work-in-progress.  In the afternoon we had a brief visit from the Coastguard helicopter.  The mountain rescue team had picked up a lady hill walker with a badly twisted ankle, who was being transferred to a car for onward travel.

Kicking up a cloud of dust.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins.  



August 28th:  Saturday’s weather was again poor, with low cloud, a light northerly drift and lots of midges!   Only four club members turned up, and that includes the tow plane pilot and the duty instructor, but five short flights were done in the calm conditions.  Tony Cresswell from the Edensoaring club flew twice and is a potential new member.  The Mitsubishi retrieve vehicle ran out of fuel but there was insufficient know-how on the airfield to get it going again, and being an automatic it could not be towed from its stalling point. 


Funniest moment ~ the Puchacz radio appeared to be stuck on ‘transmit’ at the launch point, leading to general puzzlement for a while, until it was realised the instructor (who shall remain nameless) had hung his cap over the stick in the rear cockpit, neatly depressing the push-to-talk switch.


Sunday saw a much higher cloudbase and a breeze on the hill.  Sixteen flights were made using ridge lift, thermals and mountain waves, the longest of which was 3hr 23min by Jan Ketelaar, but there were five others exceeding two hours.  Pete Thomson possibly made the best of the weak wave, reaching at least 6,500ft.  The cloud conditions varied hugely during the afternoon from almost overcast to almost clear at times.


The ‘Mitzi’ could not be re-started but John Whyte our vehicle guru is promising to bring a suction pump next weekend. 

August 21st:  Saturday’s weather was poor, allowing only two launches for the day, but Jan Ketelaar did manage 4,000ft in his Cirrus during a 47 minute flight.


Sunday by contrast provided lots of sunshine and zero wind.  Several experienced pilots including Pete Thomson and Bill Anderson enjoyed the afternoon thermals, while Andy Farr, Mike Morrison and Ray Hill were kept busy flying the many visitors.  Some came in a mini bus from Feshiebridge Lodge, also 13 year old twins Hannah and Hamish from Aviemore, who joined the club as youth members.  Andy’s favourite flight was with the driver of the mini bus, a jet pilot from Lossiemouth.


Iain Marshall has posted some superb photos on the club's Facebook page, one of which is reproduced below.  Final word from Caroline Hayes who flew with Ray Hill and no doubt appreciated these spectacular heather colours on the mountains at present:  “so special, what a magic thing we do.” 


 August 14th:  The glorious twelfth has not been particularly glorious on the grouse moors this year, and neither was it on Feshiebridge airfield.  Annual maintenance work on the Robin tow plane had been proceeding in the previous week, and tug master Ian Carruthers delivered it back to the airfield on Sunday.  However, after a good forecast the weekend weather was very disappointing, and there was no demand for aerotow launches.


Once again the gas-powered winch was in action both days, driven by Iain Marshall, John Whyte and John Smyth among others.  The brand new steel stranded cable, fitted last weekend, was performing well and there were few problems with cable breaks.   Launches to more than 1,000 feet were possible, the record for the weekend being 1,250ft.


Pete Thomson flew his LS7 glider “FB” for the first time in four years following its recent overhaul and re-certification.  Usually he flies his jet-powered Shark “ET” but we often forget he has this other little beauty hidden away in its trailer.

   The gas winch (photo by Mike Morrison) 


August 7th:  Our Robin tow plane is away for its annual maintenance, but activity at the airfield continues.  Michel Mulder our occasional Dutch visitor had arrived during the week in his Cessna 172 and on Saturday morning took young Thomas Eccles for a short spin before disappearing off on a lunchtime visit to Mull with Jan Ketelaar.


A visitor arrived from Eden Soaring who wanted to fly, so the winch was prepared for action.  Easier said than done amid continuing rain showers and problems with frayed steel cable, but after drying off the glider wings for the second time all was ready for launch.  Sadly it was not to be, the cable had broken before the glider even moved, then there were interminable problems with connecting the gas cylinder to the winch, meaning the winch wouldn’t start again.  A very frustrating day for all concerned, followed by more and more rain!


A small number of flights were done using the winch on Sunday, but the decision was taken to scrap the entire cable and replace it with a new drum that has been waiting for just such an occasion.  A time-consuming job in itself.


Meanwhile over on Deeside Ian Carruthers and Nick Norman were scratching their heads over the ever-changing paperwork requirements, whilst the unskilled labour in the shape of Phil Hawkins and Bill Anderson were doing various menial tasks.  Fiona just sat in the corner and heckled!   

The maintenance team at work.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins.

July 31st:  Heavy rain at the weekend, but this didn’t prevent a limited amount of flying on both days, such is the enthusiasm and patience of club members and visitors alike.  There were only about two hours of useful weather on Saturday afternoon, but the gliders were ready to go as soon as the skies cleared.  Pete Smith and Jan Ketelaar both flew their own machines, and Andy Farr flew with a visitor who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


Sunday’s weather began much more promisingly.  Bill Anderson, Bill Longstaff, Pete Smith, Pete Thomson  and Ray Hill flew in the moderate thermal conditions, thanks to the efforts of tug pilot Ian Carruthers, but the south-east winds were producing little or no lift from the hill slopes.  Heavy rain arrived again in mid-afternoon and we all retired to the clubhouse to await developments.  A late afternoon clearance allowed one or two final flights.

Thanks to Bill Longstaff for capturing these rainbows over the Bear's Paw. 

July 24th:  We flew both days at the weekend, although conditions were not particularly good.  It was mainly overcast on Saturday with a very light northerly breeze, which varied a lot over the length of the runway.  Thomas Eccles and Jamie Myers, our two youngest members, both flew with instructor Bob Forrest and generally made themselves useful driving the Land Rover on the airfield.  A visitor from Wisconsin bought a trial lesson, and returned wearing a big happy grin.

Apart from the Puchacz two-seater the only other glider to be flown was the Shark by Pete Thomson, who recently returned from a visit to the Edensoaring club in Cumbria.  He initially tried the only visible sunny patch over the Monadhliath mountains near Aviemore, but that produced no lift and he needed jet power assistance to get back to the ridge behind the airfield.  Somewhat unexpectedly there was a strong wave hole developing here, and he climbed to 10,000ft between large hazy masses of cloud.  This is currently the maximum height we are allowed without officially registering an airspace notice 24 hours in advance, which nobody had thought necessary in this case. 

It took a turn for the worse on Sunday, though, with very low cloud and a lot more wind.  But Andy Farr still managed to do three more visitor flights, once again with Bernhard van Woerden at the controls in the Robin tow plane.  It was a useful day for spreading goodwill and making a little money for club coffers.  We have only one more weekend with the Robin before it goes away for its annual maintenance at the beginning of August.

Unusual birds seen recently include sand martin, red-legged partridge, raven and osprey.  Snipe were also occasionally heard. The local ospreys have two well-grown chicks now, and the parents could be seen taking in food to them.  Supposedly they only eat fish, but at least one fresh meal looked suspiciously like rabbit!               

July 17th:  Saturday was a non-flying day and our Chief Flying Instructor Mike Morrison (now a born-again biker with a 650cc Kawasaki) mowed the runway in preparation for better weather. Nick Norman, assisted by Bill Anderson and Lee Mitchell who had brought his Nimbus back on site, worked on the Cirrus in the hangar, carrying out its annual maintenance. 

Sunday started windy and overcast but brightened up late morning as forecast. Miles Davies did another solo flight in the Puchacz two-seater after a check ride, landing after 50 minutes as he found the workload was high with strong lift and low cloud. A visiting pilot from Yorkshire flew for 45 minutes with Alister in Papa Kilo the other two-seater.  He saw our site from the air for the first time, and was suitably impressed.

Ian Carruthers self-launched in his DG400 motor glider for an hour whilst Nick piloted the tow plane, then landed so that Nick could fly his ASH before it was de-rigged. Nick flew with Miles and opened his eyes to life after the Puchacz, soaring the slopes of Braeriach near the top end of Glen Einich.  They reached 11,000 feet near Nethybridge, where they saw a KLM airliner passing by in open airspace, in other words not using the extensive areas of controlled airspace that already exist. Let’s hope the KLM pilots were keeping an equally good lookout!

Jan Ketelaar flew for four hours, Mike Morrison for two hours.  Ray Hill was prised out his fettling hangar to fly a lady with a trial lesson voucher who had been trying for months without a successful visit, and was able to give her a good flight.  Sadly for us, however, her life is too busy to commit to a new sport at this time. Our President Bill Longstaff spent the day preparing his vintage Dart for its forthcoming holiday at the Yorkshire Gliding Club in August.

Iain Marshall had a frustrating day as the weather was judged too strong for his Bronze badge check flights and he didn’t want to fly solo, and Ian Campbell also didn’t rig his V-tailed wooden glider in the strong conditions.  But there was a lot of club flying to be done had more members turned up, please note.  The two-seaters were standing unoccupied for some hours in the afternoon. 



A slightly blurry Nick cuddling a G & T (photo:  Mike Morrison)



July 10th:  Saturday looked to be a fairly busy day: bright sunshine, a south-westerly wind, one of the year’s better days for aviating.  Miles Davies, our recently soloed pilot from two weeks ago, surprised us all by arriving in a light aircraft piloted by his friend from Dingwall.  Nick Norman flew his ASH 25 with Alison Myers and almost got to Ben Nevis, getting to over 11,000 feet in the process.  Jan Ketelaar got as far as Pitlochry at 10,000 feet. The lack of a transponder prevented him going any higher into controlled airspace. There were reports of other pilots getting to around 8,500 feet. Ian Carruthers flew his beloved DG400 for the first time since last May.  Andy flew with a couple of visitors who had vouchers to fly, but sadly, another couple who arrived from Inverness and also had vouchers to fly, were unable to wait and so will return at a later date. That’s what happens when the good weather comes – everyone wants in on the act.   The last flight of the day was another visitor with a voucher. After a long wait, she was finally rewarded with a flight in Nick’s ASH.

Sunday started very dreich. Cloud level was low at around 1,500 feet, with little or no wind and lots of midges. Showers were forecast for later in the day, so it didn’t look like there would be much happening.  Miles started cutting the grass, but Nick had other plans for him. He had simulated launch failures to prepare him for such an eventuality. Two of them were on the take-off run at about 15 feet, then three ‘nasty’ ones at about 300 feet. Miles acquitted himself with aplomb, and went for a short solo flight to celebrate. John Whyte tackled the errant landrover which refused to start earlier.  A replacement alternator did the trick. Ian Campbell took out the strimmer and proceeded to tidy the place up a bit.


In the meantime, local lass Jane Gibbons from Kingussie arrived to claim her prize from a local fundraiser held last year in which she won a flight in a glider. Several weel kent faces from the Suie Bar were there to offer encouragement, though none was needed as Jane was keen to get in the air. By now the cloud base was over 3,000 feet, and there was a 10 knot south-westerly breeze. Despite the morning gloom, it had turned out to be quite a nice day. There were many smiling faces at the end of the day to confirm this. 


Jane ready for takeoff.


July 3rd:  We’ve seen the end of a very wet June, with airfield rainfall at 94mm for the month being more than twice the total for May and more than three times the total for April.  The weekend saw mediocre flying conditions, but some fascinating tales nevertheless.  On Saturday while Phil and Fiona were making their monthly visit to the spinning group at Knockando Wool Mill, Andy and Thomas were flying Phil’s two-seater DaisyETA. About fifteen minutes after takeoff the FLARM collision avoidance unit began emitting sparks and smoke!  They landed in a hurry to disconnect the offending instrument, which may or may not still be under warranty, and went on to enjoy another hour or so dodging the low clouds on the hill.

Sunday's weather was no better.  Only three flights in total between the extended showers and general driech, but a good turn-out of members carried out various maintenance tasks.  Jan Ketelaar did some strimming around the trailer park, while Nick and Dave were re-assembling the single-seat Astir CS after its fuselage repair.  We will no doubt see that flying again next weekend.  Bill Anderson was extracting his Cirrus from a borrowed trailer and parking it in the hangar for maintenance.  Ian Carruthers finally reached the end of a marathon paperwork battle to get his motor-glider through its 'annual' inspection, which has been going on since about last September!

A mole was spotted scrabbling around the hangar floor.  No, really.  They can’t really walk, they just sort of swim along on their tummies.  Phil and Nick rescued it in a bucket, but sadly Nick didn’t think of the obvious photo caption (there’s a mole in my bucket, dear Liza) until after Phil had released the wee beastie back into the sheep field!   Curses, one brilliant photo opportunity missed!        

June 26th:
 The club has successfully defended its title in the Scottish Inter Club League competition!  For the second year in a row we brought home the elegant winged trophy.  The champion team consisting of Nick Norman, Mike Morrison and Bill Anderson, supported by a small crew, made the expedition south to the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak airfield near Kinross.  It was very windy both days, but this didn’t prevent Nick with his co-pilot John Smyth making a 530km foray over the mountains as far as Keith on Saturday, at heights up to 16,000ft.  The weather on Sunday was less suitable, but when the scores were totalled on Sunday afternoon we had won easily.

The victorious team featuring (left to right) Bill Anderson, Nick Norman and team captain Mike Morrison.  Photo by Fiona Hawkins. 

Meanwhile back at Feshiebridge the highlight of the weekend was a first solo flight by Miles Davies, pictured here with instructor Ray Hill on the left.  Photo by Ian Campbell.

Congratulations Miles!


Somehow we need to encourage more members to take part in the League meetings, not only pilots but the vital crew members too.  This weekend at Portmoak was a busy scramble getting three gliders rigged and de-rigged, towing them to the launch point and back again after landing, making sure the pilots had all the information and equipment they wanted, and worrying about retrieving them if they landed out.  Visiting neighbouring clubs gives new members invaluable experience of varying conditions, different gliders, new terrain, and the opportunity to make new friends.   Next year we need at least one support crew member per pilot!

On Sunday Nick flew with one of the local Portmoak juniors, in the absence of any other interested Feshie members.  John Smyth  was able to get a K21 ride with a local instructor, but helped out at the launch point afterwards.  Later in the day Jim McQuade also turned up, and was rewarded by a short flight with Nick on the Portmoak ridge (Bishop Hill).

Camping for crews isn't essential ~ there are always local B&Bs available and John managed to get a slot in the Portmoak bunkroom ~ but what better view could there be from the front door of the tent, than Bishop Hill on a summer day