Low Experience / Low Airtime Coaching Day - by Stan Bennison

Stanley Bennison - 08/03/2006

LOW EXPERIENCE / LOW AIRTIME PILOT COACHING DAY - The first event was held on Saturday the 4th March. About 15 or 16 of us turned up at Castlerigg Stone Circle where we were met by ‘Dangerous’ Dave Ashcroft.

The weather was looking perfect, cold, clear blue, with the odd bit of cumulous appearing. High up it looked N-Westerly , on the ground it was S, S-West, then nothing. A phone call or two later and Dave sent us confidently off in our cars towards Clough Head.

I’d never flown Clough before. By the way people scattered and drove like mad to the site I had already guessed that car parking might be a problem. It really is a long walk up from the lay-by down on the road, not quite Cross Fell, but a long walk. As we got to take off a couple of gliders were already in the air. It looked good, 9 to 12mph where I was stood, perfect.

Dave explained that it was expected to blow up later so suggested it was best to get away now and have a talk about flying, the CSC, etc later in the Swinside. He then went on to explain the best places to take off, where to fly, where not to, where to land, hazards etc, and then helped everyone to get away.

We ranged in experience from 2 weeks to several years, but in all cases, with very little current airtime. Having someone helping us to fly a ‘new’ site, giving advice and enough leadership to save any wasted time was a real boost. If I had been there ‘on my own’ I would probably have sat around for ages watching the ‘experts’ and telling myself it was maybe still a bit too windy for me to fly!

I had a brilliant flight of 1 1/4 hours in the air, initially using a couple house thermals near take off then getting some real height out front, and then a trip down the ridge towards Thirlmere. At this point Dave and a couple of others wings were high up behind me above the ridge from Clough heading south.

To me the wind seemed to be getting stronger, the thermals less solid, so I headed back to takeoff. Once there it was clear that it was getting windier. I was moving forward, but very slowly, and very high above take off. So, in with the big ears, on with the bar, and I moved nicely down and back out in front. When I looked round the big ears had spread like a rash, most people were now heading out front to increase their margin of safety. The wind was increasing, but gradually, nothing serious, so I experimented with big ears out then in, up then down, down then up until my arms got tired and I decided to fly down.

That was not easy. A few feet from the ground each time and up the glider would go again. I’d spent an hour doing all I could to stay up, and now it looked like I might spend the next trying to get down! The next time it’s like this I really will land with the big ears in. As I folded the glider I watched a guy take off … absolutely vertically … just like an accelerating lift but without a building attached! The wind speed at ground level was 12 to 16 mph but clearly quite a bit more at canopy height.

Dave by this time had landed in Bowness. He got a lift back and met a group of us at the Swinside, as arranged, and gave an excellent and interesting talk about paragliding and safety.

It was a great way to end a great day for the low airtime crew, getting to know other paragliders and talking paragliding. Thanks to the CSC for arranging it, and a huge thank you to Dave for pulling it all together … and for making full use of the weather.


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