By Rob Julian
It’s August 13th, 2017. I’m on my first 200 km task in the club Astir, G-CHOT, and I’m getting low. Things are not looking good. For almost 15 minutes I have been on a glide and I know with every passing minute the odds of getting a thermal diminish. It feels like the air has packed up and gone home. I feel tense and a bit sick. I really don’t want to have to make my first field landing here. As we slide through 1000’ feet I remember my training, ‘by 1000’ AGL you should have a field picked out…’
Well there are fields here but I’m letting them slide under my wings as I press on ‘…..at 800’ AGL you should have started your downwind leg…’. Well now I’m at 1000’ and I’m still hoping to get something. There’s a couple of decent fields within easy reach ahead and to my right, and more to my left. But there’s a good field, a really really good field about 5 km up ahead if I can just reach it. It’s long and it’s got short grass. It’s got a windsock, there are picnic tables on one side and a kitchen in the clubhouse. It’s got people I know and like, and who will congratulate me on my flight if I make it. And it’s got my car in the car park.
But it’s 4.15, I’m in sea air and and I’m now at 800’ over Amberley and it’s time to make a really important decision. I’ve got no final glide readout, no electronic trickery to say ‘press on’ or ‘give up’. I‘ve just got my experience and the Mark 1 eyeball. I look again to my right at that closest field and it still looks good. Another quick scan for wires, stock and obstructions. All OK. I’m effectively on the downwind for it already. I look ahead at Parham. So close, but too high in my field of vision. At 700’ the decision is clear. I drop the gear, turn base for the field to my right and put it down safely. We roll to a stop and I pop the canopy open. The world I left behind four hours ago comes flooding back. 197 km flown.