If it hadn’t been for the medical profession interfering with my person again during the first part of 2017 I might have done a touch more soaring. Anyway, the good thing was that after doing a nosedive in front of my garage like one of those Walt Disney characters with their legs whizzing round in a blur, I was fixed up with a brand new hip to replace the broken job. Then my right eye was fixed after which miraculously, I could spot a fly on a pigeon’s rear end at three hundred yards. Then my favourite maxillofacial surgeon thought it would make me a happy bunny if he shaved off a bit of my neck so that I would be able to look up and around more (good recipe for gliding). That’s my excuse for my late start to the season’s flying (but you probably didn’t want to know that?).
There had been a few days after that which had looked promising, but each time I bottle out within striking range of Parham. I was a bit miffed when on returning from one bottled flight with little to show for it bar a few log book hours, I bumped into Damian who happened to mention he had done a 500k. Bugger!
Resolving to pull my socks up a bit, a rather nice cumulusy day arrived and surprise, surprise, it was my day on the Shark. RASP had forecast lift from midday onwards which fitted in with my idea of a respectable hour. So the machine was hauled out of the hangar, checked over and the jet fired up: all good, I was committed! I entered a 300k task on the LX just to show willing and please Paul, our chief coach. I was launched into the wild blue yonder about midday-ish.
Throughout my years in aviation I had always flown a long way above the ground, that philosophy has remained with me into my gliding. I like giving the ground a wide birth except for necessities such as landing. My soaring practice is stay high or come home. I am not one who aspires to punditry and cannot convince myself that gliding serves any useful point for a 77 year old save staving off dementia. Besides, I still find travelling by `stick and rudder’ therapeutic.
I digress! My secret plan was to fly PAR/MEM/BAS-E/AVE/PAR and confound those who thought that I could only fly around the circuit and hold forth over tea in the clubhouse. I got to LAS pdq so was encouraged not to give up and pressed on towards MEM, assuming I would chicken out before getting there. The cloud base was rising which was a pro but dysfunctional cu’s were a con and I turned back a couple of times (wasting valuable minutes). But then the tenacious stubborn aspect of my psych kicked in and said “no, b****r it!” So turning point number one was crossed in sink with a dash back to my `life saver’ cu. Heading for Basingstoke East then and happily pointing in a homeward direction.
Turning point two past and the sky didn’t seem too bad to the west. Although I thought it was a bit late, I trundled in the general direction of AVE for the hell of it and to claim in the clubhouse that the attempt had been made. A short distance from AVE I bottled due fading lift and late hour, turning back towards a nice safe Cu. Then that feeling cropped up again. No, b****r it! “There is only 9k to the turning point and I have a motor”. AVE passed and the LX said Parham, all down hill, ha!
Approaching Midhurst the sky ahead looked blue and it was about 4.30 pm. The ground was approaching faster than Parham, so I decided that `discretion was the better part of valour’ and returned home by jet! Not for me the nail biting final glide and triumphant zoom across the airfield ejecting water to rapturous applause, but simply slope in quietly for a pee, a welcome cup of tea and to wallow in the cosy feeling that even this old pensioner is still a proper glider pilot.