Spring Thermals

It’s spring again, time of rough, broken bullet thermals popping off from a hill near you. Do be especially careful on those sunny days after a frosty night when the lapse rates will be extreme and you can get caught by these ground-to-air missiles, particularly after a long winter lay-off. Turbulence close to the ground can lead to unrecoverable situations, so active flying is essential. If you are rusty or have limited experience, avoid the roughest times of the day – seek advice from coaches and more experienced pilots

Thermalling behaviour

Sites are going to be busy, with hordes of keen pilots itching to get up and away; old-timers and newbies mixing in close proximity. We’ve already had a very near-hit between a hang glider and a paraglider on Parlick (video on Flight Club if you haven’t seen it). I’m aware of some sub-prime thermalling techniques too, and while the individuals concerned have had discussions there are some lessons for us all as we polish our flying skills. Without going into the rules of the air (you know them off by heart, don’t you?) the ultimate responsibility is for all pilots to avoid a collision.

Joining thermals: turn the same way! Always. No exceptions. Approach around the outside and merge in well behind other gliders at your level.

Observation: swivel head, swivel eyes, look around constantly, anticipate others’ manoeuvres. If someone is flying unpredictably, then the smart thing to do is to get out of there, and try to educate them over a pint later.

Converging thermals:, if your thermals start to merge, this is a moment of extreme danger if you are both turning the same way; as your circles start to overlap you will be flying head-on to each other! You need to be hyper-aware of circles closing like this and be prepared to straighten up as you approach the other circle, to merge around the outside. Don’t blunder on thinking ‘this is my thermal, I was here first!’

Jacob shared this video (not his own!), https://youtu.be/8Mcm5QvYsds neither pilot was hurt , but there are so many learning points to take away from this, and the discussion following.

Changing conditions:

Last Friday was a good day on Parlick, once the inversion lifted but there were traps for the unwary. One pilot got caught behind Wolf Crag in the east bowl with too little altitude and had a turbulent landing on the moor. Wolf can be a rough place even in front of and above the main ridge, and is almost certain to generate rotor and rough air behind the edge. The moors at the back can be great sources of lift, but you need the height to clear the rotor.

Later there was an outlanding to the west of the official landing field, when a pilot, trying to find some forward speed in the increasing wind went too far west of the hill, and couldn’t get back against the easterly component. We’ve all been there, but it’s vital to keep your eye on conditions as they evolve, and have plenty of options.

Tight lines, everyone.