Archive for the ‘East Scotland’ Category

Morrone or Moron?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Did anyone else read the comments added to Duncan’s post from Morrone last week and the subsequent article in the adventure blog? Did you wonder if you were really on the same hill? Full of tales of broken lines and ground handling errors. Advice heard by no-one but the head-honcho himself. Unseen maps and weather info. Saving a pilot by talking him down on the radio. Tales of heroic flying in wind shear that no-one else could have possibly survived – and not so much as a bead of sweat crossed his furrowed brow. Mmmm me thinks a certain canoeist isn’t the only one with selective memory problems. Certainly does make for interesting reading though and, personally speaking, I can’t wait for the movie.

Maybe I have a poor-ground handling doppelganger that was out defying gravity on Sunday. With both my and Iain’s recollections of the main events of the day seemingly at odds from those of the ‘senior’ club member it would certainly appear so. Nothing new there then! Just for the record though – I didn’t actually break any lines due to bad ground-handling and certainly have no memory of being ‘advised’ not to set up there – unless of course you count ‘building a wall’ as ground-handling. In essence, while waiting to launch, the sheath on 3 lines was in fact damaged by a small sharp rock. End of story. It was an easy decision after that not to take off. So, it’s difficult to understand the motivation for the critical comments made in response to Duncan’s post. Butt covering perhaps?

Alas poor Iain however was not so lucky. He did indeed fall victim to a short scoot across the top of the hill. Granted, that part of the day is actually true. True, but not the full story. Unfortunately, because his ability sometimes takes a good kicking from his confidence, he does occasionally ask for a little assistance in high winds. Nothing wrong with that. Is there? Pity for him though that, this time, his ungainly assistant happened to trip when a large gust came through, which in turn caused him to land unceremoniously on his right buttock and be dragged 20 feet across the slope. Is that bad ground handling or just plain bad luck? However as we all know that was nothing new and nothing any of us haven’t been victim to, or seen happen to other guys both in the ESPC and other clubs. It really was nothing of consequence, considering that there are no sudden drops anywhere within 3 miles. Something we had checked ourselves before setting up – no advice needed, but thanks for offering.

Once he had picked himself up; dusted down his pride and dragged his hitherto unflappable self-esteem out from behind a rock, we talked briefly about a quick repack and fly down. But, being frequent flyers on the big tops, we had both been in situations like this before and knew from previous misadventures that it was time to call it a day. Adrenaline flunkies that we are, the decision was quickly made that the window of opportunity had long since gone and we jumped unceremoniously into the first truck back down. Yeah right! More accurately, discretion was putting up the fight of its life and kicked the shit out of valour, so in reality we just looked at each other and said what we should have said over an hour ago, ”feck this fer a game of soadyers. Let’s get out the £*&” of here before it really goes tits up! ‘Rather wisely as it turned out.

On a more serious note, what I do wonder is, why every single person who did launch on Sunday suffered at least 1 big collapse? Some reportedly took 3 or 4. So, I’m not too sure if it says as much about the skill of the pilots on the day; the inherent safety in modern wings, or if it was just plain good fortune that allowed survival in such adverse conditions. However, thankfully lady luck was smiling on them and everyone made it back safely and gratefully to mother earth. Allegedly Nairn’s first words on getting back to terra-firma were, ‘Does anyone want to buy a wing?’, ‘One careful owner, complete with harness, and pre-installed brown stain!’

On an even more serious note (For those that haven’t been paying attention, that’s two serious notes in one article. One more and it’s called a rant) there does seem to be a difference of opinions as to the cause of the problems. Call it what you will, rotor, wave, wind-shear, whatever. There were definite wave patterns over the cairngorms. I definitely saw 2 pilots being forced down in their initial attempts to get over the back. Yes, there was a lot less wind in the valley than higher up on the ridge. That tends to be a major feature of being in the lee-side of the hill. Personally, I reckon there were indications of all three. But, what do I know? Air-detectives make your own mind up.

Also, I wouldn’t imagine for a minute that ‘ he who wants to be obeyed’ would intentionally put anyone in harms way. However, the decision to allow a very low airtime pilot with less than a months experience to fly in such conditions of extreme wave and on the lee side of the hill in rapidly deteriorating conditions was, to say the least, questionable and it is hoped lessons will definitely be learned there. If that was not bad enough, to allow him to do so without a reserve 1500ft agl – especially considering he had as yet no knowledge of descent techniques such as ‘big-ears’ etc borders on incompetent. Apparently, at one point conditions were so strong that even with big-ears on the poor guy was still going up! Talk about throwing some one in at the deep end. Hope it hasn’t put him off flying? I can only imagine that allowing a pupil to launch in such unfavourable conditions was due to either a total miss-interpretation of or gross ignorance of air conditions. A worrying thought, either way you look at it.

When you consider that trying to teach a beginner how to do big-ears via the radio is hard enough but to do so in such extreme turbulence and rapidly failing daylight and then have them attempt steep 360 degree turns with big-ears pulled in to get down, it really does call into question ones sanity. What is even more staggering is, that having done so, to then claim credit for ‘saving the day’ If I’m teaching someone to swim and throw them into a raging torrent and have to jump in to save them – am I a hero for rescuing them or a villain for putting them in harms way? Perhaps both? I can’t say I have ever been a big fan of these sink or swim techniques and can only hope that lessons will be learned and that student’s safety will, in time, be put before ego.

Although, despite appearances to the contrary, we are NOT actually paid up card carrying members of the ESPC club, Iain and I have always been happy to meet up when invited and have had many a good day with some of the guys in the club. After this post, I doubt that it will be happening again any time in the near future. However, it is hoped for the sake of safety, especially the fee paying publics’, that lessons from the day will be taken on board. Murray is a good instructor when he sticks to what he knows. As I’ve always said, ‘if you want to develop your ground handling Murray’s yer man.’ For everything else you have to make your own mind up.

Just a suggestion, perhaps actual training activities should be kept to smaller hills where local knowledge is greater and the conditions more forgiving. At least until the CFI has a little more experience on the larger hills.

Right I’m of in search of some new lines so I’ll just leave you with the thought for today.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and can be a valuable learning tool when used constructively. And, for the more prosaic amongst us; when all around you seem to be flapping in the wind – Bugger of – sharpish!

See you on the dark-side.

Joe/Iain KMRT
(not affiliated to any paragliding clubs)

P.S I was going to include some photos of the day but everyone I looked at had Murray in them. How does he do that?

Logistics and other animals….

Friday, December 7th, 2007

As usual with club meet days the ‘day’ started for me a few days earlier, building to a peak the evening before with several hours on the mobile to try and ensure all those attending would be singing from the same hym sheet! As well as collecting Nairn’s wing in case he ended up with a walk up as family commitments ment he would be arriving late morning.

A lot more ‘mobile’ time on the morning followed on from the normal (FIVE THIRTY… AM!) MET office weather check and printing out, along with ensuring enough maps were printed from the Memory Map software of the flying site and landing locations for members new to this site (including ME!) this is done with an eye to the wind directions & forecast conditions.

Final equipment loading & checking all done and it was on the road to Braemar with enough spare time avaliable to drive around Morrone to assess the landings at first hand to the NE valley, an area I was not familiar with.

With the first batch all on location the estate Landrover driven by Barry and the club pickup loaded with wings and a couple of bodies started up the track, the plan being to get the first group sorted, checked, test flown on tandem (new site) where needed and then back down for Nairn, Joe & Ian etc. who were arriving about 11:30 – 12:00 ish, as it happened Barry did the second drive as I was teaching his older son Ryan on G-BZJI.

With the second group all on the hill top and Nairn, Ian Archer, Jonathan having had a check flight on the tandem, solo flying & training was the order for the rest of the day in very nice light smooth (and sunny) mild conditions, till just before sundown when, as forecast, conditions quickly started to pickup.

With solo flying underway Ryan, Barry’s older son to started tandem flying, getting two 15-20 min flights with most of the time on the controls (his first flight while Barry was driving the ‘second batch’ to the hill top).

Barry’s youngest (photos) son Lee up on the Philou 29 rigged as a tandem, as Joe who had had the wing on loan had brought it back which was perfect as Lee being only three would have been too light for the normal tandem gliders! Once Lee had flown a few times his dad, deciding he could not go home without having flown it was back to G-BZJI then a LOT more retrive driving and fitting in a few solo flights on students and my own wings.

 The final BIG fly down was delayed by a few problems (mentioned elsewhere!) so with Nairn high out front and starting to feel it was getting ‘intresting’ as soon as the Vertex was off the ground it was one quick beat to gain just enough height and cut back low over the hill… flying through the wind shear (NB. not rotor) and often passing instructions on the radio made for (I am told!) some ‘very intresting’ views of the TOP of my wing by those down on the ground at the LZ… still no Murray adrenaline was released (is that a scary thing?) but for safety I sent Nairn over to the far side of the valley (lift but better air) while I punched down to the river ‘jumped’ the water just and no more at tree level (don’t try this at home!) and ‘spotted in’ to a nice clear field suitable for Nair landing in.. on the radio and it was Big Ears and turns/360* for Nair to work his way down, at one point after letting the ears back out he was going up again showing just how good the performance of his wing is!

But pulling in the ears again and he did a very nice job of getting low,  so once below the wind shear (upper wind V very light/nil valley wind.. boundary)  layer he had a sweet approach to a nice nil wind landing… still buzzing, glad to be on the ground but very pleased with the Big Ears and turns… a short walk to ‘chill’ while Alan C drove me with the wings back to the parking at the bottom of the track 5 mins away..

Sunshine and Snow on Morrone

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Last Sunday 2nd December saw a large contingent of ESP Club members and Precision Paragliding Trainee’s up on the slopes of Morrone, one of the hills overlooking Braemar.Light winds were forecast from the NW. After phoning Murray for an update on the forecast I headed out the North Deeside Road. The temperature was -2.5degC at Aboyne. Mist had formed on the banks of the Dee, but Lochnagar was clearly visible when I got closer to Ballater.I was low on fuel and none of the petrol stations were open. This was 9.00am on a Sunday morning! I made my way to the Old Military road past the Braemar Golf course and waiting for Murray and Alan Coffin to appear.Ian Archer arrived with his friend Barry from the estate and also Jonathan in his Westfield Sports car with Nova wing on the back luggage rack. He must have been cold in an open top sports car!

We headed up the hill in the comfort of 4 x 4 vehicles. Walkers on the track looked on with envy. I shouted to the leader to “Get the Tea on when they got to the top” when we passed them on the track.

Barry, Ian and I were in the lead vehicle, Barry’s land rover. We stopped near the mast at the top and Ian and I got out and checked conditions on the ridge. The wind was blowing square up the face. I said to Ian that this would be the take off point. Murray had stopped behind us and popped his wing up to test the conditions. We headed back down to where Murray was parked them came back up to the same spot on the slope.morrone-temp.gifA few wings lifted off into the air. People were correctly shouting “Launching” on taking off. Alan Coffin got away early and maintained a good height above the slope. I took off and started my beats. I stayed in the air for around 40 minutes and only slope landed as my hands and fingers were very cold.

Murray was flying tandem and I remembered the rules of the air and always to look before turning. I was also looking above and below me. Remember the lower glider has right of way!

Joe and Ian turned up as well so there was Murray, Ian Archer, Alan Coffin, Joe, the other Ian, Jonathan (PUT) and Nairn (PUT). Also Ian Archers friend Barry and his two sons.

Everybody got some airtime (even the boys on the Tandem with Murray) and managed to stay high on the slopes. The vehicles were busy doing retrieves from the lower section of the bowl.

Later Alan and I decided to head down to where the cars were parked. I needed to catch a flight to Heathrow and conditions had eased. We took off almost at the same time. I headed round to the right of the hill and above the northern slopes. I did not get good height and had a tuck and tumble “arrival” near the telephone cell mast on the east facing slope. I made my way down through the soaking ground and saw Alan approaching with bags of height above the valley. He landed safely and we saw Ian Archer and Murray fly down from the bowl. Alan had got height above the Northern slope. I should have waited another 10 minutes…..

The others started to fly down. Murray had a few large frontal collapses as he had cut back very low. So the air appeared to be very ‘mixed’. Ian Archer approached the ground and Alan and I shouted up to Ian to look for the power lines close. Ian landed safely.

We saw Nairn who had been high out front of the hill approach well overhead and he appeared to be going up! We saw a significant collapse on one side of his wing and were all concerned as this was a Pilot Under Training (PUT). Alan jumped in his car and headed over to the area where Murray had landed. Nairn landed safely and Alan advised that Murray was in touch with Nairn on the radio and had received instruction, doing a number of 360* in Big Ears to drop below the lift area.

Murray advised me that Ian and Joe had an incident on the slope where Joe’s lines had got snagged and Ian’s reserve had accidentally come out of his harness as he was being ‘helped’ during a ground drag, both had been previously advised to set up for launch clear of the hill top location they actualy used. They opted to drive down in the pick up.

So a number of issues on the last flight down. Perhaps an earlier call to pack up would have been a safer and better bet.

I headed off looking for a Petrol Station. The Braemar Garage closed at 4.00pm and it was 4.05pm! I was committed to running on a very empty tank. I drove in 5th gear and kept my speed to a reasonable 50mph. luckily a garage outside Ballater was open and the tank was filled up again.

A good day was had by all but a few lessons were learned as well.

Take care and fly safe. Always check the forecast for the whole day….


Wave at the Knock of Formal…..

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Early last Sunday morning 25th November I spoke to Murray to agree on where we would meet up for some much needed Paragliding activity. Windsor Street Dundee was the agreed planned rendezvous point. The TT was already packed with my Nova Aeron, fuelled up and ready to go. The prevailing wind was from the North and when I looked out the window. The clouds were travelling fast across the ground. I had a feeling that on the hill conditions may be blown out.

I headed over the Cairn O Mount and the heather and grass was blowing very strong at the Viewpoint Car Park. I continued on South.

I made a call to Ian Archer and a change of plan. Ian was heading to the Knock of Formal and rang me back to say conditions were very light at the parking spot for the Knock.


I pulled up and agreed with Ian’s prognosis. He suggested going to the Cairnwell or Morrone. I suggested that we wait and see if the wind picks up. We did not have to wait too long and Ian’s wind sock started to flap to the south. A steady Northerly wind started up.

Ian was keen to fly a demo wing, a Ozone Rush. We headed up the hill and conditions were fairly strong. Ian measured 14mph on his wind meter. Ian pitched up close to me and waited for the Wind Dummy to take off. Yes me again!

I pulled up the wing and walked forward slowly. I launched and almost immediately got a asymmetric collapse on the left side. I was side slipping. I did not panic and did not look up at the wing but I knew it was a large collapse. The wing recovered very quickly without pilot input. I took the decision to bottom land.

Ian flew down on the Rush and had a similar story about rough air. I looked at the clouds and there were snow falling o the hills to the North. It did not dawn on me that we were experience wave. The shape of lenticular clouds was not obvious, but on my second flight it was very obvious I was flying in wave.

Having landed, gather and walked up the hill I spoke to Ian and we agreed that the North facing bowl at the Knock could be worked. I warned Ian that he should have speed bar connected but he did not have this set up because he was on a new wing. Lesson to be learned there…..

I set my wing out and pulled up. I pushed forward and took off. I set out and did several beats on the Northern slope. I was also going up very fast. Ian got smaller and smaller and I could see well beyond the top of the hill. Big regret was no Vario and no video camera.

I then started to get pulled up and up and suddenly I was very high about the hill. I put my speed bar on slowly and started a straight line flight from the summit of the hill. I was still going up and I took the decision to land. I now realised I was not in ridge lift. This was something very different and very powerful. I was flying in wave lift, created by the air passing over the southern Grampian Mountains and I was in the lee side.

I was high above the heather to the North of the landing field and did a 180 degree turn to get back over the landing field. I landed safely and watched Ian pull up his wing and eventually he took off. Again he made a top to bottom flight and landed safely.

This was not my first experience of Wave. Murray and I experienced wave at Forrett Hill but this was very interesting indeed!

Thanks to Murray who has put together the photo collage and thanks to Ian for his wit and humour!

Take care and Fly Safe!


Alan Coffin’s first flights on a DHV 2/3 wing.

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Having first started flying with a ‘EP’ summer spent at a BHPA school in Scotland, Alan had a “grand total” of about two hours airtime when he decided to get back into the sport and chose to re-train with Precision Paragliding almost one year ago in late 2006.

After his first afternoon at Precision Paragliding with a mix of Dual Control tandem flying and then solo flying on his own Nova glider, Alan was soon averaging over 3 hrs per training day!

Now after almost 12 months flying of with the club and close to 100 hrs airtime he was well and trully up to speed for some serious aircraft airtime on a DHV 2/3!

Murray Hay
With thanks to Ian Archer for the still photos of me flying Alan's Nova (red wing) with Alan on my white Nova Vertex 24

Late Sept Training Weekend

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

The last training weekend of September started with early flying at some of the sites on the south bank of the river Tay for Jonathan (first short solo’s), before moving on to Forret Hill NE face, Alan & Ali flying the main face while Jonathan was joined by Andy, both doing some ground work and ‘hops’. As the conditions were now looking spot on for East Lomond the last swithc of site for the day was made and phone calls sorted out the location for other students & pilots to meet up, retrive transport sorted and all the pilot to the top carpark…

After Dual Control tandem flights it was time for Jonathan to do a number of short solo flights with radio instruction to just below the hill top then the “Biggie” with Ali and Alan already down in the ‘Ruin’ landing field JR was off flying the tasks with radio from above till the change over to Ali talking him through the last circuits and final approach to a perfect landing!

After another GV pilot up to the hill top with his folk’s had a quick taster tandem flight (they are booked for another day, but wanted to meet up to watch/perhaps get in one flight) time for Andy (booked for Sunday flying) to start the ‘practical’, having spent much of the day watching/listening in to JR’s instruction we were able to get straight to flying giving him a head start for Sundays training.

Andy’s first flight was the 1,000+ ft tandemed down to join the others before heading back up for one  last sunset flight, joined by Ray (borrowing the Sigma) to fly, the wind having switched to SSE on the Tandem to the bottom path near the car park, Ray landing near the top path.

Sunday saw Andy getting in a lot of time on the Dual Controls at the south bowl at Glenshee before one DCT flight at Backwater then ground work to finish the weekend at The Knock, Murray giving his wing a quick test flights after runing a ‘line length’ check.

St Cyrus (the site that has always eluded me…..)

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

I’ve been to St Cyrus several times where on each occasion the conditions have not been suitable for flying. Last Saturday I got a call from Scott Rigg to say that he was heading for Morrone, near Braemar. I checked and the wind was 12MPH from the South East at Aboyne.

I thought it would be too strong on the hill and Scott call me back to confirm that this was indeed the case. With a South Easterly he mentioned St Cyrus. I thought “This is it!” and headed down the A90 to Stonehaven then on to the Coastal Road.

I called Murray who was doing a Wedding Photo Shoot and he said good luck and to be careful. I know this is a site not for the faint hearted as the drop is very steep. The wind has also to be spot on to the slope. About a mile North of St Cyrus I saw a couple of paragliders up so I knew conditions were flyable. I phoned Scott back to advise and then parked up at the Public Car park to see three paragliders on site. One I knew was Bill Connon from the Aberdeen Club. The other two pilots were unfamiliar but when they landed I introduced myself to Terry Stubbs and his friend. 

I spoke to Bill to get his feeling for the conditions. He had been flying on and off for a couple of hours and said that conditions were very smooth. I told Bill this was my first time flying at St Cyrus, the site had always eluded me. Scott arrived as I was setting up and laying out my wing. I watched Terry’s friend take off, then pulled up the Aeron. No double bounce (sorry Murray you were right!) but a smooth transition up. I made sure the wing was solid, not looking up, and then I stepped off the cliff edge Into the first beat and into the busy traffic! I stayed up for well over an hour only coming down to take on some fluid! 

Scott took off and joined in. 5 gliders in the air and all working the circuit. Terry performed a death spin (I think?) and landed in the barley field. I shouted down and he replied that he was okay but claimed he was out of practise! The second flight was similar as was the third. A few lumps only when flying over the car park and the views were fantastic. I had to pack up early to pick up one of my boys, but the wind was strengthen as per the forecast and I know I made a good call. Other folks arrived from the Aberdeen Club. Simon Lucas and John Newton. I’ve posted up a video with the photos I took on to search for Dunc1261. 

A good day at St Cyrus indeed! 

See you on the Hill or on the Coast!

Fly Safe 


Who would have thought yesterday was flyable :-)

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Fantastic day yesterday. Even although while looking at the weather
In the morning I thought this was going to be a DIY day.
It was still worth the drive down from Aberdeen to Fife as some time could have been spent on theory if conditions were poor.

On arrival at East Lomond conditions were humid , hazy with very light winds. This turned out to be a very  educational day. By the time we reached the top the sun was although not breaking through was managing to heat the ground as small thermals were popping through.

Murray: “IR passes through the clouds, like certain types of glass IR can pass one way (in to the greenhouse/room) but not out… the reason for this is the ‘frequency shift’…. IR direct from the sun is (from memory) a higher frequency than the IR radiated back to space from the ground, hence on a cloudy night the local air temp/world remains warm while on an otherwise identical night but with no cloud cover the temp drops rapidly and a frost can occur, all due to the (lower frequency) IR radiated from the ground being reflected by the cloud cover back to the ground i.e. ‘trapped’ … on the clear nite it simply radiated back into space and is lost..

So in summery, cloud cover (daytime when out flying) will reduce the temp ‘contrast’ so it feels LESS hot in hazy sun than if it was direct sun this generates thermals low down/ground level but far less punchy. As the PG pilot gets higher the strength of the RISING thermal is more to do with the actual (environmental) lapse rate, so thermals rising into cooler air speed up ‘get stronger/puncher’.” :END    

I spent some time testing the air and trying to get a feel for the thermals and
Change in wind direction prior to take off. It was surprising how in such
Light conditions ( ridge lift that is ) how much the wind direction and strength changed
over such a short period of time swinging from south easterly through to southerly in seconds. 
Meaning standing on the top plateau my Nova Pheron was nodding left to right almost like a
Metronome. In addition tension on risers were changing so much that I had good practice
At reversing and controlling frontal collapses. Although not perfect at this I’m sure My DHV 1 Nova Pheron was not helping. ( think I need to cut the wing tips off –  Murray get the old Singer looked out  )

Murray :”This yaw of the wing (and on low DHV wings significant roll due to tip curving down) is a classic indicator of a light wind lifty thermal condition and required a diffrent approach to launching TIMING than a variable wind ‘ridge lift day'” :END

Most flights were generally short from top with hill side landings just below the plateau.
( even Murray on the odd occation didn’t manage a top landing )
At about 2pm The sun managed to squeeze through for 30 mins and the cycles changed for a while with increased thermal activity. 

One specific flight, where my launch timing was right ( more good luck than judgement )  I flew straight into a decent thermal which took me up about 100 ft I rode out about 3 or 4 punchy small thermals which allowed me to stay about at take off height until a large cycle ( large for the day that was ) came through which took me to approx 600 ft above take-off for a nice 20 minute flight.

Who would have thought yesterday was flyable 🙂

Alan c

‘Black Sat’

Friday, June 1st, 2007

With the conditions getting WAY too punchy inland by eary afternoon (a couple of PG accidents involving heli rescue etc! at other sites in Scotland) Duncan (thanks for the pics 😉 and myself headed to the sandy bay at Elie which is always a good option when Fife main sites ‘blow/thermal out’…. a great site to work on launch/landing and general ground control/safety stuff, with the potential for some exclent technical flying.

Using the wing to jog up the hill, plus the usual playing about on the poles & blocks (war time tank traps), with a lot of the lift (west component to the wind at times) along the ridge out to the point short (!) ‘out and return’ flights even over the water were on.

The bay is also a good site when the wind is right and the air is ‘lifty’ for extended tandem flights, even with heavier P2’s, in fact Alan Littlejohn started with his first flights here..

Yellow Alert

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

Ali and myself having a blast with some close quarter flying over the main quarry at Forret in a mix of ridge & mild thermals, by the end of the evening one gorse bush had been half garoted and a couple more squashed…. 😉

The AWACS did three take off and landing practice ‘circuits’, but instead of over flying the hill (normal) was braking left early so not making as good a photo op for us PG pilots!