By Craig Lowrie
Since the last Newsletter it is hard to believe that only three months have past. I say this as so many things have happened and so much work has been done.
In the last newsletter I mentioned that we were close to signing an agreement with Farnborough to allow us to access their new airspace and also to provide equipment for many of our gliders. Three months on and in this newsletter, I am pleased to announce that we have concluded this agreement and have obtained substantial funds to allow us to begin equipping our glider fleet and to begin to transit the airspace in a similar way to what we have done for several decades. The granting of this airspace to Farnborough by the CAA could have been so much worse had we not secured this agreement and indeed could have spelt the end to long thermal cross-country flights from our great airfield. The challenge now is to install a significant number of transponder units into the glider fleet and indeed that work has already begun, but your patience is requested.
Elsewhere in this newsletter you will read of Damian’s experience as the first pilot to use this new letter of agreement (LOA) and done using a transponder that we have fitted ourselves at Parham.
Coronavirus impacted our club significantly with no flying at all from 22nd of March until the 16 of May with the exception of 1 maintenance flight of our Super Cub just ahead of our club reopening. the decision of the government to reopen GA flying was somewhat unexpected and resulted in an extremely hectic afternoon and evening of the 15th of May where procedures had to be documented, videos made and communicated to the membership following many phone calls and discussions with our club insurer, CFI, committee and BGA.
The glider fleet had been preserved to avoid rodents and bug contamination and a very early start on Saturday the 16th meant that by the time members arrived to fly the components had been removed and some additional functional checks performed on the fleet allowing the gliders and tugs to go into immediate use and indeed we had a busy day and much flying was done.
Unfortunately, this partial reopening on the 16th of May did not apply to all members.
Only pilots who were experienced and/or current enough to fly solo were able to get airborne and begin to refresh their skills. This left a significant number of early solo and pre-Solo pilots still unable to fly due to social distancing restrictions.
I had seen this problem looming and had begun to work on a project to allow separation of cockpit environments on our K 21 training gliders. As is normal with the Aircraft industry, the engineering was only a part of the challenge and this was no different. Getting approval once the hardware had been developed was a significant challenge and I worked this with the British gliding Association and formulated an approval process with them. Having completed this I worked with a local company to produce a production version of the screen from my prototype design and we elected to check the function of this barrier on the 26th of May and these checks went well with Duncan and his son flying in the glider. Consequently, this system was also installed in our other K 21 and we began two seat flying with early solo pilots on 27 May.