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News archives from 2023

Weekend 11/12 November

After a disappointing Saturday of low cloud and slack winds, Sunday was once again much better. Mountain waves were likely together with their associated turbulence and rotor effects. A rotor can be imagined as a wine bottle on its side, an invisible cylinder of wind rolling along, either between two different layers in the atmosphere, or along the ground in the lee of mountains. Flying through a rotor often means you get strong lift and strong sink in quick succession, and that can be alarming if you are not expecting it, especially whilst on tow.

We welcomed two new members, John and Goshia from Newtonmore who flew with Alison Myers one after the other. They both experienced some of the exciting stuff and weren’t discouraged, signing up as full members later in the day. Remember, John and Goshia, that every day is different so we look forward to seeing you back soon for more lessons!

If rotor turbulence is experienced, this is often the precursor to a completely different type of flying, namely cruising the silky smooth air of the mountain waves. Several other pilots including Craig, Nick, Andy, Phil, Jordan and Stewart enjoyed climbs up to 10,000ft in brilliant sunshine and sparkling visibility, under azure blue skies. The views included milky white cloud tops in superb flowing wave shapes that blended into the snow covered peaks and the murky shadows down below. Winter flying at its best ~ this is what we want!

Photo 1:   Just above the sculpted cloud tops, by Craig Chatburn.

Photo 2:   Harnessing the impressive power of the mountain waves. The mechanical variometer (left) is showing 9 knots up, while the electronic Cambridge (right) has its red needle on the stop at 10 knots up. That's 1,000 feet of lift per minute! This instrument also incorporates a digital altimeter showing 9,264 feet. The instrument at lower left is a transponder which many gliders use to communicate position to air traffic control whilst flying in the upper levels. The 'squawk' code 7000 is a default that shows up on ATC radar screens, whilst 3622 is an example of a specific code that may have been requested by ATC in the past. The same instrument also gives the current flight level as FL095 or in other words 9,500 feet. These heights are above sea level, not above the airfield.  Photo by Nick Norman.

Photo 3:  An unusual perspective of the aerotow take-off over the river.  Wave edges to the clouds are clearly visible, tumbling down over the hill to the left, and rising again somewhat raggedly to the right.   Photo by Ewan Thorburn.


Weekend 28/29 October

Another unflyable weekend due to low cloud, rain, and a waterlogged airfield. The monthly rain gauge reading was 148mm, which is moderate compared to the deluges suffered elsewhere, but heavy when compared to our monthly average of about 70mm.

A small crew at the airfield on Sunday did manage to clear a few useful jobs including welding the frame of a broken workshop table, washing a caravan, and cleaning out the spare fridge. Always something to do, to keep the club running!


There are several amateur astronomers within the club, and the airfield is a good dark-sky site well away from street lights, with a clear view to the north whenever the aurora is visible. No remarkable sightings lately, but planet Jupiter is well placed for viewing just now, being high in the sky for most of the night, and much brighter than any surrounding stars.


Did you know that you can see Jupiter’s moons with ordinary binoculars? Hold them steady on a fence post, against a tree, or maybe rest your elbows on the roof of a car. With luck you will see several of the moons looking like little stars on either side of the planet. You can even identify and predict the positions of the moons by using this handy web site calculator:


Jupiter is a giant planet more than 11 times the diameter of the Earth and 1,300 times the Earth’s volume. Being completely gaseous it has no solid surface and is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. For such a large body it has rapid rotation (10 hours) giving rise to weather belts and enormous storm systems.  Photo credit NASA from the Juno space probe.


Weekend 4/5 November

A very autumnal weekend with virtually no wind at all. The fog took some time to clear on Saturday morning but around noon Pete Thomson and Craig Chatburn tried their luck in ‘Papa Kilo’ the club’s two-seater. Once through the rough air beneath the rotor cloud they had no trouble climbing to nearly 4,000 feet very quickly, but at that height their view of the airfield was obscured by the stationary cloud. Down on the ground Mike Morrison (chief flying instructor) was concerned about the imminent return of the fog. He advised Pete and Craig by radio to land immediately, which they did, in the nick of time. According to Pete it was "18 minutes of fun" but he was thankful for the timely radio call because the airfield was then fog-bound for the rest of the day. Attached photo by Stewart Hills.

Sunday’s flying was rather better with unbroken sunshine until mid-afternoon, and weak thermals rising from sunny slopes. Small amounts of snow remaining on the peaks, and once again the autumn colours were just stunning.

The ‘Prefect’ vintage glider has gone to a new home. Once owned by John Young, one of the club’s founder members in 1966, this had been stored in a trailer on the airfield for many years. It last flew in 1986, but it has now been taken on by a group of enthusiasts from the Heritage Collection at the Scottish Gliding Centre. The fabric covering was rotten with the passing years but it’s new owners say the wooden frame is in good shape and they hope to restore it to flying condition.


Weekend 21/22 October

Saturday was not flyable due to rain, but Sunday made up for that many times over! It was a quite beautiful sunny day with crisp visibility, the golden tones of autumn at their best on the slopes, dazzling snow on the peaks and deep blue skies. No-one climbed much above 4,000 feet but all agreed it was a memorable day. As Craig Chatburn remarked later, it was a privilege to be flying in these conditions. Several pilots came back with wonderful photos, a selection of which is shown here. Thanks very much to Nick and Ian for flying the Robin tug.


As well as the ‘awesome’ flying (quote from Miles Davis who was still walking around with a dazed expression hours after he landed) there were, as always, other routine tasks going on in the background such as splicing tow ropes, aircraft maintenance, and checking tie-down points on the trailers after the storm winds. Jordan Thomson had further training with Paul Myers towards his ‘Basic Instructor’ rating, and his younger brother Jared (21) was also with us, enjoying two instructional flights with Paul’s wife Alison. Being a university student he takes advantage of our Youth membership scheme but only manages occasional visits. Sadly for us, he has other competing interests such as sky-diving at Strathallan near Perth.

Photo 1:  The view from the back seat! Phil Hawkins (hats knitted to order) and 'Gaby' Telerman flying in the famous DaisyETA, on tow behind the Robin tug, heading towards the white stuff.   Photo by Gaby.

Photo 2:  Golden eagle on the ridge, captured (digitally) by Stewart Hills from the Astir.  He said the eagle had a bit of a surprise to be overtaken by a big white monster!

Photo 3:  Superb panorama of Loch Einich by Stewart Hills, proving that it really does have a little beach at both ends. Taken from above the clifftop ridge, not far from the Sgòr Gaoith viewpoint. Dappled sunshine and afternoon shadows on the slopes of Braeriach both above and below the snow line.  


Octoberfest 2023

Each year during the first week of October we play host to visiting pilots from other clubs around the UK who often bring their own gliders with them.  This year’s event has been affected by heavy rain at times, but there have been notable good days too.

Several pilots found lift from mountain waves on Sunday afternoon.  Alison Myers reported a flight that began fairly slowly with hill soaring but developed into a steady climb more or less directly over the airfield to a maximum of 16,500 feet.  Our chairman Pete Thomson managed 18,000 feet and visited Loch Tummel, while Nick Norman flew to Blair Atholl and back in the ASH-25 two-seater.  His passenger (Peter Garbett) took this stunning view, in which the instruments are showing an altitude of 14,000 feet, a forward speed of 52 knots, and a rate of climb of about 300 feet per minute.  Note the tubes which are part of the pilots' oxygen system.

Impressive as these flights are, we must not forget that all pilots had to start somewhere with basic lessons.  We were pleased to see that Una Ramsay (Kincraig) has returned and is now a full member with her own flying log book.


Octoberfest 2023 (part 2)

Amazingly we flew for six days out of nine, which isn’t bad for this time of year, with a total of 63 launches and coincidentally 63 flying hours too. Our average flight times are among the longest of any gliding club in the UK and this week was well up to standard. After midweek rain there was a short break on Friday allowing flights to over 10,000 feet once more, but the major story of the weekend was of course the biblical downpour. Over 48 hours of continuous rain from Friday night to Sunday night in the local area.

Fortunately the airfield collects only relatively small puddles that will drain quickly once the weather improves. However, access routes to the airfield were much more severely affected with several local roads becoming impassable. The basement of the Loch Insh boathouse was flooded for a while, and the river Spey at Kincraig bridge peaked at 3.5 metres on Sunday night. This is a mere whisker below its highest ever recorded level back in 1993. The graph shown here updates hourly and is available on the SEPA web site.  Click photo for magnified view.


Weekend 16/17 September

The big event of the weekend was the Kincraig Fun Day, for which we exhibited a glider in the car park field. The Astir CS is a German single-seater design dating from the 1970s and is ruggedly built, very popular with UK gliding clubs. Early solo pilots look forward to flying this after they have done a few solos in the club’s two-seaters.

On the Fun Day it was completely static, of course, but was an object of fascination for many children and more than a few adults! Thanks to our chairman Pete Thomson, assisted by Craig, John, Oscar, Ray and others for answering questions and chatting to visitors of all ages.


Saturday’s flying was somewhat limited owing to the low cloudbase and the fact that only a few members had remained at the airfield, but tug pilot Stewart Hills (Kincraig) made sure to tow gliders over the village just in case people were watching down below!  Thanks for that, Stewart!  He provided the attached aerial view of the Fun Day grounds.

Flying on Sunday was also limited, this time by the weather, which was (to put it mildly) very lively. Craig Chatburn was amazed to reach 4,200ft in a wave gap between clouds with lift strength “off the clock” only to find the gap was closing up underneath him, then flew through a “rotor” which tried to turn the glider sideways, and was back on the ground within 17 minutes. Operations were abandoned soon afterwards with the onset of stronger winds and heavy rain. Exciting stuff! 


Weekend 23/24 September

Saturday was a beautiful sunny autumn day with light breezes and good thermals, but sadly very few members turned up. Once again we were severely short-handed for routine airfield operations such as pushing gliders, towing them back from their landing positions, keeping the flying log up to date and operating the radio. Where was everybody?

Doug Mackie and Howard Thompson were the only students on site, and were out-numbered by instructors, including Alan Mossman. He was impressed by the late season thermals, and subsequently flew his own glider around Laggan and Glen More in conditions that he described as “very gentle.” Phil and Nick flew the big ASH-25 two-seater, rock-polishing around upper Glen Feshie and the south-facing slopes of the Monadhliaths in the warm afternoon sun. Lee Mitchell also enjoyed a quiet afternoon in his Nimbus 2 at heights up to 3,700 feet.

Sunday was unflyable due to strong winds and rain, although Mike Morrison was amusing himself by stringing up remote controlled lights to decorate the shelves in the clubroom.

The club has received an enquiry about a vintage glider that has been stored in a trailer on the airfield for many years, a Slingsby Prefect. This design dates from 1948 and was based on a pre-war German glider, the Grunau Baby. We are trying to track down its current owner because a vintage group based at the Scottish Gliding Centre (between Edinburgh and Perth) would like to acquire it, airworthy or not. The photo shows Dave Weekes about to fly one of his own vintage machines, the 1968 Slingsby Swallow. It has an optional bubble canopy but he says this is the cabriolet version! Flying goggles definitely required!


Start of Flying Week
2/3/4 September

Three days of moderately good conditions for flying, possibly the best sequence of weather since about mid-June. A number of visiting pilots from other clubs will be taking advantage of our forthcoming flying week (4th – 8th September) and had arrived early for that.

Saturday’s weather featured mainly hill lift, generated simply by the wind blowing up the slopes, with occasional boisterous thermals. Heights of about 3,500ft were possible with hazy sunshine, woolly clouds coming and going, but quite good visibility.

Sunday was a good day for wave lift. Standing waves are generated by a steady wind blowing over the mountains, and can propagate upwards many times the height of the peaks. Our pilots and visitors were reaching well over 10,000ft. Adrian Loening for example flew north almost to Inverness and south to Aberfeldy using waves up to 11,500ft. Variable amounts of cloud, becoming sunnier towards evening.

Monday’s sky was mostly blue after early clouds had burnt off, and temperatures were correspondingly very warm. Plenty of invisible wave activity still going on overhead, though. Competitors at the Mountain Soaring competition currently taking place at Aboyne near Ballater were tracking all over the Grampians at heights above 16,000ft, and our pilots were also finding useful climbs to well over 5,000ft which is fairly unusual in “blue” conditions.

Dave Bennet (Kincraig) has sent us the attached fine view showing the Bear’s Paw with Loch Insh and distant heather banks in the background.


And the rest...
5 - 10 September

The club flying week was a great success and the weather was good enough for us to fly every day. A quick summary:

Tuesday: hot and completely blue from dawn until dusk. Lack of clouds indicated “stable” air, and thermals were slow to start, but there were a few flights done in late afternoon.

Wednesday: much more wind, leading to rough conditions in places, but good-looking wave clouds decorating the sky. As you may have heard, one of our pilots flopped onto the top of the hill near Loch Nam Bo, but he was unhurt and walked down the hill to meet the rescue team. The glider was retrieved the following day. Other pilots had a much more successful day, for example Paul Maddocks who climbed to 10,000 feet and made a return trip to Ballater.

Thursday: once again the thermals were slow to start, but the day became hotter, and wave climbs to over 7,000 feet were possible under a hazy sky in the afternoon. No fewer than three vintage gliders were flying today, the Swallow, the Skylark and the Phoebus. The afternoon ended abruptly with the arrival of heavy rain and a thunderstorm.

Friday: possibly the hottest day of the week with temperatures nudging 30 degrees and no wind at all. In these conditions the Robin tow plane struggles with heavy two-seat gliders, and for much of the afternoon only single seaters were being launched.

The weekend saw fresher and cooler conditions with more low cloud restricting flights to about 3,500 feet on the ridge, but we flew both days. Club statistics for the whole 9-day period reveal that we did 104 flights totalling 109 hours flying time. Since we average 750 to 800 flights per year, this is a significant chunk of flying!

Photo of the week contributed by Anne-Marie Phimister (Glenfeshie Hostel) shows the braided bed of the Feshie river, and the airfield tucked up against the forest in the upper right corner.  Thanks, Anne-Marie!  


Weekend 19/20 August

On Saturday we had the remnants of storm ‘Betty’ rattling the hangar roof with 30-knot gusts and keeping everyone’s feet firmly on the ground.


For the fourth consecutive weekend Sunday’s weather was better, although it still didn’t live up to the forecast.  Both of the Club’s two-seat gliders were active, and at least five new members had instructional flights, including first-ever flights for father and son Jason and Taegan Wheeler from Grantown.  All our new members now have their own log books, which were being industriously filled in later with date, flight times, which glider they flew and who taught them.


Chief Flying Instructor Mike Morrison did several flights with trainee instructor Jordan Thompson, which was good to see.  We’ve not had any new home-grown instructors for many years. Phil and Fiona Hawkins flew together in DaisyETA, Club Chairman Pete Thomson flew his jet glider, and many flights were around the one-hour mark although no-one was able to achieve great heights.  The heather colours on the hills are intense in some areas, but were not being shown off to best advantage this weekend due to shortage of sunshine.


Photo by Bernie McGee shows the jet Shark under full thrust.


Weekend 26/27 August

For much of the weekend relentless rain drummed loudly on the hangar roof, but the weather gods did give us a consolation prize on Sunday afternoon. The partial clearance caused a number of keen pilots to appear as if by magic. Doug Mackie from Kingussie has now joined as a full member, and Jordan was doing spin practice as part of his instructor training schedule. The lift was weak, and the longest flight of the day was only 30 minutes.

However, while the rain fell there had been important maintenance tasks under way. Our technical gurus Dave and Ian were modifying the tow release mechanism in the single-seat Astir. This had failed an independent audit by the British Gliding Association earlier this year, due to it being somewhat slack in operation. The pilot must be able to release the tow rope instantly without fumbling in an emergency, and that is a crucial safety issue, which therefore had to be addressed.

Also, the Puchacz two-seater was weighed. All gliders have a precisely specified centre of gravity in the region of the wing root, and the weight of the pilot(s) in front is balanced by the tail boom at the back. There are complicated calculations for each glider type to give the maximum and minimum pilot weights that are allowed. The available range in this glider had been somewhat limited, but in order to reduce overall weight we have replaced heavy instruments and batteries with less bulky equivalents.

Hence the re-weighing, and we now have an extra 3.7kg (8lb) available for both pilots combined. This may not sound much, but it will make a significant difference. We are able to sign off this important paperwork “in-house” due to the diligence of our resident experts who have the required Inspector rating from the British Gliding Association. Many thanks to Nick, Dave, Ray, Paul, Alison and Lee for a rainy-day job well done.

The Puchacz was built in Poland in 1990, and you may notice a small owl cartoon on the side of the cockpit. We understand that puchacz is the Polish word for the eagle owl. The correct pronunciation may be something like “poo-hots” but club members usually refer to the glider as the poo-chats or merely the pooch. In this photo (credit unknown) the glider is being flown solo by Andy Farr. It seems a long time since we’ve had blue skies like that.

Andy Puchacz.jpg

Weekend 5/6 August

On Saturday we welcomed two new members ~ Jim Gatenby and Dave MacLennan. The forecast had been for wall-to-wall rain, and indeed some parts of the strath were very damp (including the Highland Games at Newtonmore) but at the airfield conditions were sufficiently good for both Jim and Dave to enjoy their first flights. Between them, they offered to set up a presence for the Club on Instagram, which we have not had before. Craig Chatburn was grass cutting after flying stopped, and Technical Officer Ian Carruthers carried out maintenance work on the oleo suspension units on the Robin tow plane undercarriage. A number of members visited the Suie Bar in Kincraig to round off the evening.

Sunday’s weather was much drier with light winds and gentle thermals. The most adventurous flight was by Paul Myers at 1hr 54min, who turned for home at Laggan beach. The famous DaisyETA was flown three times by Phil Hawkins with various guests, and Alison Myers flew with a potential new member, Doug Mackie. We’ll look out for him next weekend as he wants to return for another lesson, taking advantage of his one-month temporary membership. It’s good to see so many new faces popping up at the club, so maybe our local awareness campaign is working.

Dave Weekes returned from his visit to the International Vintage Glider Club’s 50th anniversary rally in Gloucester-shire. His 1962 Skylark glider can be seen at the head of this colourful line-up of vintage machines.


Weekend 12/13 August

The persistent jet stream gave us yet another weekend of sunshine and showers. Saturday saw blustery 20 knot winds from the SSE, which from our point of view is the worst possible direction. We can get difficult low level turbulence in these conditions, and Chief Flying Instructor Mike Morrison eventually decided it was a no-flying day. Duty Marshall Miles Davies replaced an inner tube on the mower, assisted by Ian Carruthers, and later donned full protective gear to do a bit of strimming around the edges of the hangar yard. Doug Mackie from Kingussie appeared for his follow-up lesson from last week, but was sadly disappointed by the weather.

On Sunday the outlook was much better. New members Jim Gatenby and Dave MacLennan both had instructional flights with Alan Mossman, and there were two junior visitors taking advantage of our £30 youth membership scheme. Flying conditions remained fairly bouncy but the afternoon thermals were improving. Phil and Lyn Bennet flew in DaisyETA up to 4,500ft with stunning views of the heather-clad mountains. The sweeping banks of heather below the cliffs in Glen Einich were particularly striking. Lyn’s photo shows glorious sunny clouds over upper Glen Feshie, the Bear’s Paw (Uath Lochans) and drainage channels in the Spey marshes.


Weekend 22/23 July

Saturday was flyable, Sunday was not! Sadly the much-anticipated flypast by the RAF Lancaster bomber was cancelled. They looked at the forecast and flew back to Lincolnshire overnight instead, but in fact Saturday was beautifully sunny. Our pilots had a reasonably good day, the longest flight being by Paul Myers at 3hr 9min during which he encountered unusual sea breeze frontal clouds at Grantown. He also flew west as far as Creag Meagaidh to complete a cross-country triangle of around 150km. Afternoon winds on the airfield were annoying, changing direction several times and causing turbulence at low level on launches and landings. Fortunately our instructors and tug pilots are experienced in dealing with these issues. We also had a visit from our President Bill Longstaff.

Despite wet weather on Sunday various “fettling” jobs were done around the clubhouse including changing an inner tube on the mower, and kitchen cleaning. Photo shows the club's "Robin" tug aircraft.

Weekend 29/30 July

After a bright start, Saturday became barely flyable between damp interludes, and we were very short-handed on the airfield. Operations were brought to a halt when the undercarriage of Ray Hill’s ‘Ventus’ glider collapsed prior to takeoff. Many modern gliders are fitted with retractable landing gear to reduce drag and maximise performance in the glide, but they aren’t supposed to retract by themselves while you are on the ground! The locking mechanism will be carefully checked by one of our inspectors and signed off before Ray’s glider can fly again.

Sunday’s weather was much better, with little wind or rain, and good spells of sunshine. From mid-afternoon there were large dark masses of cloud lingering over the ridge at times, but from the air there were also stunning views of the cloud shadows on the mountains. With all the recent rain the strath seems very green just now, and the heather is beginning to colour-up, especially on south-facing slopes. New member Una Ramsay was thrilled with her very first lesson (22 minutes in the air) and found fellow pilots at the launch point very welcoming. We aim to please, and we look forward to your next visit, Una!

Photo by Paul Maddocks shows the placid Loch Einich, as seen from the slopes of Braeriach on Sunday afternoon.


DaisyETA ~ a potted history

by Phil Hawkins


My beautiful glider "DaisyETA" is 40 this year, and has taken me and Andy Farr to 10,000 feet in wonderful thermals on the afternoon of Friday 16th June. I couldn't believe we had climbed so high in clear air. In this spell of very hot weather it was actually a delicious feeling to be cold ~ the temperature at that height may have been 20 degrees lower than at ground level. In nearly 30 years of flying over the Scottish mountains I've never encountered a day like it.  The altimeter read 9,300ft above site when we hit FL100, and we were still an estimated 500 feet below cloudbase.  This must represent a new record for Feshie.

Built in Germany in 1983, the glider was initially owned by the Essex and Suffolk Gliding Club before passing into private ownership in the midlands.  I first bought a share in her about 2002 when we still lived in Oxfordshire, and did many successful cross-country flights from the Oxford Gliding Club, some of them with Fiona in the back seat. Together we visited fine landmarks such as Ely Cathedral, and easily exceeded 300km on distance flights. I became the sole owner of this lovely machine when we moved to Scotland in 2011, and since then she has lived at Feshiebridge, the home of the Cairngorm Gliding Club.                  (photo by Rachel Higgins).

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