GLIDER CHRONICLES 2011 – June 25th : Vintage Beauties

The Saturday evening youth group had a real treat on this day because it was a Vintage Gliding Club memorial day for Chris Wills – a VGC founder. This meant that there were lots of stunningly beautiful old gliders about which, due to the inclement daytime weather, were flying later into the early evening.

A flypast had been organised so we had to hold operations later in the evening for this to happen, followed by an aerobatic gliding demonstration flight.

Due to the bad daytime weather I did not fly, but still got to the club early enough to get some pictures of the vintage aircraft. The first one I came across was an immaculate example of that old powered training and aerobatic biplane, the Tiger Moth. So my evening of picture taking started with these shots:

Rear shot showing the lovely curves of the tailplane.

An immaculately turned out G-EMSY.

It was also the perfect opportunity to try an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image – this being one where the camera takes 3 images at different exposures and combines them into one. It basically allows you to see the darker cockpit interior well, despite the bright ambient sunshine.

Tiger Moth cockpit showing the lovely old instruments.

Close shot of the wing of the Slingsby T-13 Petrel.

I then returned back to the club hangar and found one of my favourite looking gliders – the Slingsby T-13 Petrel. This shot shows the internal ribbing of the wing. This glider has neither flaps nor airbrakes so you need to get your side-slipping sorted out or else judge your approaches really well.

Explanation: Side-Slipping (or How To Turn Your Glider Into A Brick)
A number of older gliders either did not have airbrakes, like the Petrel, or had very weak ones. This is a problem when landing since you can fly on for a long way in a glider and may need a very long field indeed. Thus we are taught to perform what is called a side-slip.

Normally when you fly you try and harmonise the turning and banking of the glider. So if you bank to the right you also turn to the right with the rudder. Thus you are coordinating the controls. A side-slip involves purposely crossing the controls.

So in a side-slip if you bank to the right with the ailerons you use opposite rudder to the left. This then makes the aircraft turn its right side to the airstream and you go down slightly sideways – quickly! (See my Adverse Yaw Exercise in this post to get a feel for this attitude) This is very useful if you find you have too much height on approach. Needless to say you straighten the aircraft up before you actually land.

Great fun, as I usually say. However, there is a knack. The problem is that the instrument for measuring the airspeed – an Airspeed Indicator, or ASI – will give an accurate reading when the airflow is head on to the measuring tube, called a Pitot Tube. When you side-slip the airstream goes sideways across the tube and usually makes the ASI under read, meaning you cannot trust it. So you have to adjust the attitude of the glider by eye, keeping the view out the front correct so that you keep the airspeed constant, which you usually only find out when you stop the side-slip! Hence the training. We had a good session of that in my Solo to Bronze week.

The EoN Primary awaiting the intrepid pilot.

The other glider that I saw on the ground – well… I hesitate to call it a glider since it really does come down like a brick, even when flying normally – was the Primary trainer or SG38.

In the early days of gliding this would be used for initial training, when two seater training gliders were not available, and it would be towed behind a car – so I have been told. Nowadays you can get one of the slower tug aircraft to give you an aerotow to 3000-4000ft. Apparently it takes longer to go up on the aerotow than it does for the Primary to glide, or should I say fly-ish, down.

But imagine sitting on the front of it with almost nothing around you but thousands of feet of air. Definitely on my todo list.

I can hear some people questioning my sanity.

Please form an orderly queue – others got there first.

A set of beauties and a really lovely atmosphere.

After some of these initial ground photographs, it was over to the launch point to get ready for the evening, and to see some of the vintage gliders being launched. It was a lovely atmosphere with more of a sense of the slower tempo of yesteryear. Do you remember when people used to think that all this modern technology would give us more leisure time? Not sure what happened to that.

The right hand picture below is of a Slingsby T45 Swallow being launched. For those in the know I have left the 2 people in the front of the shot. The person chatting with his face to the camera is the great Derek Piggott, a past CFI at Lasham from 1953 to 1989.

The beautiful gull-wing Steinadler
waiting for a cable.

Slingsby T45 Swallow being launched
with Derek Piggott chatting in the foreground.

Vintage gliders being aerotowed ready for the flypast.

The daytime group winch launching gradually subsided, allowing the youth group to take over the evening launch point. Then later it was time to orchestrate the vintage glider memorial flypast.

This involved 4 tug aircraft launching 4 vintage gliders and performing an aerotowed flypast followed by the gliders releasing and landing in pairs. Vintage gliders tend to fly slower than their modern counterparts and thus have a very graceful bearing. I also admit to having a soft spot for the beautiful gull wing shapes.

The flypast was followed by an aerobatic glider display and then Gary flew the Primary to end the day of memorable and memorial vintage gliding fun.

Tug landing after the aerotowed flypast.

Super Cub Tug landing into the sunset.

The beautiful Petrel coming into land after the flypast.

The Steinadler catching the evening sun as it turns finals.

A perfectly executed loop.

Gary on approach in the Primary, subsequently heard to shout "I need a buggy!".

So after Gary and the Primary were retrieved the youngsters finished the last flying of the evening, put the gliders to bed in the hangar and retired to the clubhouse for logbook signing, eating and drinking before returning home.

Once again a fantastic, wonderful and beautiful evening that will be remembered by all for a long time to come.

See you soon…

The last light of the day, just before driving the launch point bus back to the hangar.