Thursday 16th March

Two Thursdays ago we had a great start to March - a couple of weeks on and today was 'deja vu' from recent Club days with a less than positive forecast and actual weather of low cloud and light drizzle. So it was the prospect of a Groundhog (non-flying ) day, again, with teas and coffees being brought to the discussion table in the Clubhouse - and the next couple of hours were spent looking carefully at the Exeter Controlled Airspace proposals with the help of Pete Harmer.
After a discussion on airspace and radio talk a quick check on the weather (Jill Harmer)
With a keen group of members holding their nerve that there might be a break in the weather early afternoon the arrival of Zoe saw a steady stream of orders for late breakfasts/early lunches 'just in case' some flying might be possible in the afternoon. And then slowly but surely the cloudbase went up, the sky became brighter in places and with sufficient optimism and enthusiasm the decision was made to set up for winch launching to the North West.
A few cloud breaks developing after lunch (Mike Sloggett)
A K21 was brought out of the hangar and used for Instructors to complete a weather check and, with the weather not great but flyable, a total of 15 K21 and Junior flights were then completed before the cloudbase lowered and light rain re-appeared.

During the afternoon Gordon Hutchinson and Glenn Turpin completed solos in a K21, and Wooly and Ruth in K21 had the longest flight of 13 minutes, - there was also a competition for the shortest flight with the low cloud coming and going!
Wooly and Ruth landing K21 (Mike Sloggett)
So, the afternoon's flights were worth the wait and patience, again thank you to everyone for helping others to fly today. - Mike Sloggett

Wednesday 15th March

At last! a flyable Wednesday, it started quite foggy but with every indication that would soon clear so the gliders were got ready for the days flying.
Fog greeted the Wednesday crew (John Street)
The low cloud stayed put but it was high enough for launch failure practice so that was just what we did, there were several card rating checks to be done so the mornings flying was not wasted. At mid-day the cloud was still a bit too low to get a full height launch so an early lunch was called for.
Pete Startup and Andrew Logan rigged in readiness for the weather to improve, Eric decided not to rig.
A much better vista (John Street)
At about 1:30pm the cloud had risen enough to achieve a full height launch in the warm Spring-like weather but all flights only achieved circuits. 
Dick on his first solo for a while (John Street)
Still it was a very pleasant day and it was nice to see Dick Stevens solo again after a long break from flying, we finished flying just before 4:00pm as the cloud had come down to 600ft again, nevertheless  it was a very pleasant days flying.- John Street

Monday 13th March

Today was Nick Hine's funeral and Taunton Crematorium was full to standing with Steph and Nick's extended family. Nick's favourite music was played and tributes from Steph, JB and Bob were made. We will all miss him dearly.
Nick loved flying in DG505
and for those who missed JB's tribute to Nick:

"My first recollection of Nick was when he was a just small boy playing on the swings opposite the front door of the Gliding Club. He was a happy child and always had a big smile on his face,  - except when he fell over!

I remember back at that time his dad, Julian, telling me; “Nick doesn’t find learning easy – he’s not dim or anything, but he’s just …not normal.” 
And nearly fifty years ago there wasn’t much awareness of the Autistic Spectrum. Back then a child was either normal or not, and there wasn’t much help for the ‘Nots’.

We now know that Nick was very intelligent, but as he developed, maybe because he wanted so much to be able to express himself, he tended to ‘clutter’ his words, and despite elocution training as a child, this trait stayed with him throughout his life . Yet when he talked on the phone or radio – his diction was perfect!

Over time with support from Steph, Chris and some very good friends, Nick developed his independence and lived very happily on his own in Tiverton, with the Gliding Club becoming his second home and extended family.

Many of us only knew him through gliding, but Nick had a wide range of interests and lots of friends outside of gliding. Allegedly he was a bit of a demon at skittles too!

To me, Nick was Mr Cautious; Never one to rush into anything, his first response when asked to try something new would usually be “……No thank you” or just a stoic “I’ll think about it”.

In the land of Hares and Tortoises, Nick would have been in Team Tortoise!  But, like the good old tortoise, he was Determined and once he decided to do something, he’d persevere until it was done! This made him a successful fund raiser. He’s raised thousands of pounds for a number of charities over the years. But I think his most epic fund-raising event was the Parachute Jump. 

When he said what he was going to do, I was very surprised; 
 Why anyone would jump out of a serviceable aeroplane entrusting their life to a bag of rags beats me! – Mr Cautious? But he did it…. When he walked out to board the Jump plane he’d got on his ‘Nick the Stoic’ face.
But when he returned he was grinning from ear to ear! I asked “how did that go then?”  He replied  “Awesome!”   - He raised a £900 for Leonard Cheshire Homes with that one.

About 18 years ago he decided to join the Club expedition to Portmoak in Scotland.
He got himself to the arranged pick up point at some ungodly hour in the morning with his suitcase, sandwiches, drink and (as he put it)  ‘a grand assortment sweets for the journey.’ 

Pete Warren, realising that to get there on time he’d probably had little or no sleep said, “Nick, you must be knackered mate!  Why don’t you have a kip for an hour or two? - I don’t mind.”
To which Nick replied, “No way! I haven’t been to Scotland before – I want to see it all!”

He was probably the best log keeper that gliding has ever seen. He amazed the people at Portmoak with his faultless attention to detail and ability to remember who was who. Pete soon realised that his powers of observation were outstanding too. When they were flying, he not only spotted all the gliders, he knew what they were and the names of pilots too! – Including the Scottish pilots!

And on returning to North Hill when Pete was transferring their Scottish flights on to our Club’s computer, Nick was sitting quietly across the table, watching.
Suddenly he said, “No Pete - That’s wrong, you’ve missed 20 minutes off that one - he had 5 hrs 20!”

He could spot in an instant if something was wrong and I suspect most of us glider pilots here today have, at one time or another, been chastised over the launch point loud speaker for leaving a “canopy unattended!”  

He was awarded the Wiley Old Bird trophy for his uncanny Wileyness! Somehow he always knew what was going on – even when he wasn’t there! He always managed to get to where he wanted to go, despite having no transport of his own, And he always seemed to be at the right place to lend a hand, - except for the rare occasions when he felt that someone was taking the p…..  (Taking unfair advantage of his good nature), and then he got really wiley - and ‘went on strike’!

In fact, He was such a Wily Old Bird that when the year was up and the trophy had to be awarded to someone else, it was unanimously decided that Nick should be made the Grand Master - Wiley old Bird and carry out all future Wiley Old Bird presentations! I must say, he was very amused at this and with good humour wore his Grand Master – Wiley Old Bird Tee shirt and presented the Trophy at every AGM thereafter; Except the last one, when he wore it, but was too ill to do the presentation.

 I could go on, - but I don’t need to, - you all knew him

Observant - amazing memory
Generous – with his time, his kindness, his sweets and gluten free cake!
And latterly, so Brave

No, Nick was not normal,
He was very Very Special

He was the Unsung Hero of the gliding club

And when we remember him - It will be with fond smile . - JB

Sunday 12th March

There are times in life when one has to be patient, very patient and today was one of those days. The forecast suggested that there might be better weather as the day unfolded but as ever the uncertainty ensured that the Club was not particularly busy with members at the start of the day. With a high humidity level it was no surprise that the airfield was surrounded by low cloud meaning no flying for a while.

Some members fettled gliders, others ordered breakfast, some drank tea and coffee - everyone patiently waiting for the weather to improve. Mid-morning there was sufficient optimism re the cloud base for the hangar to be unpacked and ground equipment set up for launches to the North West. However after much looking at the sky a decision was made to have more tea and coffee.
Launching into a murky sky (Mike Sloggett)
And then it was thought that the cloud base had lifted sufficiently so it was up to the launch point to see whether the cloud base was as high as it seemed to be. Two launches of a K21 in to a murky sky and the answer was known - not high enough.
It was murky (Mike Sloggett)
So lunch followed and then with a steadily brightening sky, as well as a freshening Northerly wind, it was decided that the ridge might just be working in places so a decision was made to re-start flying.
A brightening sky (Mike Sloggett)
And the decision was endorsed with flights of various length during the afternoon by both K21s taking advantage of various parts of the ridge working well, balanced with other parts not working well.

With everyone who wanted to fly having the opportunity to maintain currency their patience was rewarded suitably. Thanks to everyone for working together to get other members into the air today. - Mike Sloggett

Thursday 9th March

It was another pleasant surprise with the sunshine breaking through contrary to the forecast today. The day started with some gardening as we were all a little sceptical about being able to fly today after such a wet few days and some jobs had been lined up. 
The sun soon started breaking through the cloud, and with a reasonable amount of warmth, the air dried out during the morning. There was still some concern about the state of the field and the risk of damage by the winch operation, but after a pitch inspection and using the old Disco with the low-pressure tyres for cable retrieve, we were flying before lunchtime.

In fact, it was so warm that we sat outside for lunch for the first time this year (seats were still a little damp though).
Smile please! (Jill Harmer)
Strangely, with a light north westerly, the ridge was not doing anything and most of the private owners that had rigged decided to fettle instead. There must have been some wave out of phase as there was significant sink in the circuit at times. 
Lovely blue sky (Jill Harmer)
Highlight of the day was an extended circuit by Pete Harmer and John Borland in K21with 16 minutes after getting a thermal straight off the launch, and then heading off to Broadhembury - but there was only reduced sink there.

So  a load of check flights ticked off, and solo flights for currency, 35 launches in total on a very pleasant warm unexpected flying day in March, - (you have to be there Mark Courtney!) - J&P

Saturday 4th March

A very blustery showery day but flying took place with Martin, Stuart and JP instructing. These are the days it is good to keep current ready for the heatwave we are all waiting for....

What a wonderful job Nick, JB, Matthew, Ruth, Stirling, JP, Phil and others did to provide a superb evening in memory of Matt last night, our hangar was truly transformed beyond belief and has demonstrated what a great asset we have for future club events. 
Fantastic makeover for the Ground equipment hangar (Mark Layton)
 It was lovely to see people who had travelled down to North Hill to participate in remembering Matt and seeing the wonderful cartoons and videos he has created thoughout his gliding adventures.
We have lost so many fantastic members over the past few years who are also remembered as the Club would not be what it is today but for their dedication and enthusiasm for North Hill.  Les Hill, our Winch expert,  Les Hill former founder and Chairman, Chris Heide, former Chairman and Instructor, Mike Robinson our maintenance guru and most recently our dear friend Nick, launch point ATC for DSGC.
RIP to them all. I sincerely hope this year sees the last of sad news and that we can look forward to a great summer and lots of happy times ahead. - Lisa Humphries

Thursday 2nd March

Well it's officially Spring and today it arrived in Devon! The forecast was going for a short-lived high pressure ridge in between rather wet frontal systems, with the Blackborough ridge  and thermals working for at least most of the day. The two-seater flying list was full of currency checks and the single-seater list was even longer.
Busy launch point initially (Mike Sloggett)
First launch was just before 10:00, with the whole of the club fleet ready to go and several private owners rigging. Launches were high and thermals were kicking off initially from the ridge, but within the hour becoming more widespread. The wind was a little stronger than expected at first, but as soon as it moderated the restriction on the early solo pilots was lifted. 
Plentiful thermals (Mike Sloggett)

Thermals were good and plentiful up to 4000ft above North Hill, and most flights were pleased to explore the local countryside again. 
Pete Startup  in 230 flew for 3 hours with O/R to Eaglescott, whilst Eric Alston in G29 found some wave at Cullompton and climbed up to the airway.
Even ENW got an airing from both syndicate partners (Mark Courtney)
What a super day, with 61 launches, (15 flights more than an hour) and 36 members flying. - J&P

Monday 27th February

Today around 30 members attended Mike Robinson's funeral in Exeter.
It was a very appropriate service for Mike, no hymns or prayers, just fantastic memories for a great man. I managed to speak to Shirley,  who mentioned that Mike did not depart wearing a suit but instead his DSGC clothes which was far more fitting. William spoke fondly and frankly of Mike's club activities, that was lovely!
A pleasure for all of us to have known him and to celebrate his life. - Lisa Humphries

And for those who missed William's tribute to Mike:

Mike joined Devon & Somerset Gliding club in 1985 and in over 30 years of membership  made a very significant contributions to the club.  I,  together with the rest of the members will find it difficult to envisage the future without Mike sitting on the 3rd seat on the left hand side of the club house table – together with a cup of tea and his stick repeatedly fall over and tripping up anyone walking past.

Mike was something of a mechanical genius. Not only was he the key player in keeping our ground vehicles going for many years. He also modified them for our needs using his talent with a welder and displaying a truly amazing design ability. This all culminated in his master piece which was the ‘Launch Point Vehicle’ which he fashioned out of an old bus by cutting away part of the roof and building an elevated control tower for the log keeper. He did the majority of this all on his own.
Launch Point Vehicle
Mike didn’t just work on the ground vehicles. When our K6 succumbed to glue problems he stripped the airframe right down and, under the watchful eye of Ian the inspector, totally rebuilt it including spraying it. While he did have some help, the lions share of the work was done by Mike.

Mike was also a pilot. Talking to the instructors it would seem that he was a lot better than he thought he was.. He seemed to prefer tinkering with the ground equipment better than flying – particularly latterly. He really didn’t like flying the modern plastic aircraft and much preferred to fly the older wooden gliders particularly his beloved K6. 
Mike could be somewhat outspoken and wow betide anyone deemed not to be treating club equipment with due reverence. They would be told in no uncertain terms the error of their ways! There can hardly be a member of the club who has not incurred his wrath at some time or another. I know I have. Having said that, Mike‘s bark was much worse than his bite. He was always pleased to help and encourage anyone struggling with their flying or needing help with a mechanical repair. You always knew when he was happy as he would grumble away gentle – if he was quiet someone had upset him!

I would like to leave you with a vision of Mike sitting on his cloud far more interested in modifying the harp with which he has been issued because he thinks he can make it work better. God will be looking on and shaking his head in despair that he will ever get his card rating to fly those new angel wings with which he’s had fitted. No real change there then!  - William Pope

Sunday 26th February

The weather forecast suggested that there might be an opportunity for some flying during the morning, ahead of rain and an increasing wind strength, which had encouraged suitably optimistic members to be at the Club. With overnight rain and some concern about the field surface, particularly with further rain forecast during the day, an early pitch inspection was completed. A decision was made to start flying with the launch point set up on the North East side of the field but with the winch more central to provide the best cable run to minimise damage to the field surface.
Rather grey and damp (Mike Sloggett)
Both K21s were brought out to the launch point and flying started for the day with various eventuality checks and currency practices being completed under a lowish cloudbase prior to the cloudbase rising sufficiently for reasonable height launches and full circuits being possible. Good progress was made with the flying list until the lunch break - then flying recommenced early afternoon during which flights there were continuing opportunities to find various pockets of broken lift enough to 'loiter around in' for extended circuits/flights.
More of the same (Mike Sloggett)
Then with everyone having flown, having had 'fun' with the Blue card flying conditions, and with increasing occasions of strong wind gusts on the ground as well as rain evidently moving in from the South West as forecast a decision was made to stop flying for the day.

Meanwhile on the ground gliders were being fettled ahead of the soaring season and various members were continuing to work on the MT hangar ahead of next Saturday evening's celebration of Matt Wright's life and contribution to the gliding world. - Mike Sloggett

Ad Hoc Friday 24th February

Good soaring days in February are like hens teeth and it looked like we were going to miss this one due to the tug being on maintenance. Step in Mitch, who as he was at North Hill working on the Pawnee and agreed to throw in a few tows around lunchtime using his Falke.

Taking advantage of the day were Pete 230, Tom DG1, Eric G29, Mike and Barbie F and Rick in the Junior.

3 knot thermals to 3,400' North Hill QFE were abundant and most enjoyed local soaring, 230 zig zagging up and down the cloud streets as far as Axminster in the East and Knowstone in the West for a total of 175km.

James Flory did some circuit training at Dunks in the Falke between tows, Fran was on site polishing KL like mad, Nick Jones was marshalling high lifts around the MT hangar in preparation for remembering M5 day, Phil was delivering beer and glasses for same and 877 was in the workshop.

A good day with many thanks to Mitch for making it possible.