Bulletin April 2014


Well, yet again another ‘interesting’ month! I seem to remember Dredgie saying something along the lines of “Yeah, it’s really easy … practically runs itself … turn up once in a while … etc”. Then I woke up.

Hard on the heels of the BHPA proposals to change the PG CP syllabus we now have ‘that letter’ in the West Briton. There’s been enough said about this already however, it does serve as a reminder to us all that there are people out there who are quick to criticise what we do without understanding anything about free flying. Naturally we all have a responsibility to behave responsibly and not endanger the goodwill of the landowners who we rely upon for access to our sites.

Come on Andy, lighten up (I hear you cry)! Here’s the good news:


  • Wyn has really set the XC bar right at the beginning of the season with a brilliant flight from Carn Brea to Ruan Minor, just short of the Lizard. I believe that he could have flown to the Lizard but decided to land early just to leave the competition open for someone to raise the bar further.


  • A small band of die-hard Kernow pilots are currently in France having a great time at Dune de Pyla. They’ve written a great blog of their exploits that I’m hoping Sam will be able to cram into this fun-packed bulletin.

The Cornwall Challenge is now up and running but I’m yet to see any entries. I’m sure that this is just an initial lull (you know, a bit like when you go to a disco or night club or music hall, depending upon your age and you don’t want to be the first one to dance) but come on, don’t be shy, no-one else is watching. If you have any bother with how to enter please let me know.

Of course, at this time of year when we travel to strange sites and the thermals are stronger than we’re used to we need to keep an eye on our own (and other’s) safety. Here are a few wise words from the past:


  • The danger? But danger is one of the attractions of flight. Jean Conneau, 1911.


  • Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect. Captain A. G. Lamplugh, British Aviation Insurance Group, London. c. early 1930’s.


  • In flying I have learned that carelessness and overconfidence are usually far more dangerous than deliberately accepted risks. Wilbur Wright in a letter to his father, September 1900.

Safe landings, Andy R

Kicking off this weeks bulletin is king of the jungle Mr Phil ‘The Tiger’ Lyons with his report and video from the land of France. It sounds like they had a blast and got some great flying in to boot.

Report from Dune de Pyla from Phil Lyons.


Day one …Good Friday

Dawned early…..Guest, Keen and Nettlefold were waiting on the drive…4.15 am..don’t think they had even been to bed….too excited. Steve and I loaded gear, we headed to the ferry port, without full paperwork, hoping they would allow us on board. All well we walked the ship, Phil was sent off to the colouring comp, we listened to the choir, and trashed the quiz…disembarking we all had to be quiet as Uncle Arthur negotiated the first round-about …that completed we proceeded on the correct side of the road to Steve’s mother-in-laws….she offered us a bed for the night. Off to the local beach hoping to fly…Elephant Rock….well….well off Steve launched…top to bottom 5 seconds.. We unwrapped the new zero with chat of vietnamese seamstresses…sweet…ground handled in the setting sun….nice.
Pizza, small beers and chitterling sausage in the smoky local……mmmm

Sand Blasted Balls Dune de Pyla April 2014

Sand Blasted Balls Dune de Pyla April 2014

Day two Sat

Steady drive south the skipper eventually finding 6th gear, east then west to Oradore sur Glane…( worth a visit)..via map, satnav and the sun negotiating the napali conveniences at air du temps. Uncle Al chatted about his various occupations especially the massage. “we could have been at dune de pyla by now”…
Arriving at the dune…a mountain….people black specs on summit..everybody quiet…Few beers great meal and lots of noise…few complaints following day….anticipation high.

Day three Sunday

Early doors…wind offshore we breakfasted and gathered gear, tiny toilet working overtime…I blame the water.. Apologised for noise. Spent an hour working out speedbars, knots, and balls on break lines, Stevo confusing us with the swans neck knot…..turned out to be a bowline…waited for wind to do 180 and pull on to beach…Heading to beach, unpacking gear…gotta be in it to win it…we waited painfully.. Eventually Tron got off….few beats, small area of lift he top landed with a bump…what were we waiting for ? “We come half way across the world for this”… Where’s the wind ? The goose, painfully colour coordinated, unpacked…partially. Stevo left the hill…across the face and down, down….kiting back up…we waited…missed the slot…Acro Al pretending to be Germanic lay his glider over the piste, eventually decided to ground handle and launched….downwind across the face like an Exocet and down..at least he had been off…wind and sun dropped we took the long walk back to the chalet. Talk of the Rumbelow’s bomber , terry toweling underwear, vertically challenged women, metal theft and dunky rhubarbs, we caroused til sleep time….tomorrow…..

Easter Monday Day four in the big brother house.

All up early…why….?..after all that wine…..how…? Breakfasted, full ablutions, ….we went for a walk…..offshore wind again…but sunny…positive…Climbed the dunes to look at a lizard trail..and to exercise Al’s ankle…after paddling through the primordial soup of time…”why you brought me all the way up here to look at this” . Back to the digs for cheese, onion and tomato rolls, “a’ la Chergwin”, deftly prepped by Al…tears in his eyes from slicing onions…thanks Al…Wind sock having swung 180 degrees….FLYABLE ..what wings to take ?…headed to main dune. Geared up ready to fly, deciding to kite to main dune…lost the goose on the way…catch up dude.. Few flying, Phil decided to give it a punt…round the corner and up, up, up, top of the stack, wing overs, and spirals..never gonna hear the last of this…Stevo and Bare headed Adie followed him into the blue, Al and me missed the slot as the wind continued to rise…gliders pinned and dragged, we decided to empty the half hundred weight of sand out of our gliders via foo foo valve, and sat waiting for the massive black cloud inland to move away….” It’s gonna mellow”. Freeman, Hardy and Willis returned on their mini wings…plenty of scary wash from the Frenchies….Al and myself ground handled, slid and scooted across the dune…all good experience.., Al getting away flying around and after three attempts top landed at the campsite…”Mushing” for the first time…euphoric …all on film…sweet. I, having “walked” back to campsite launch, was coached, cajoled and eased off the hill…..thank goodness…”beast me beast me”. Meanwhile Stevo hooned across launched on his cloud…well we think he was under the wing but have no photographic evidence…Al…Great food, beer, wine and stories of the bearded lady, kebab shop and nights out in “Shit Lane” Redruth…stolen fruit, cake and skateboards….my childhood was so sheltered..
Same again tomorrow ?……let’s hope… Just how long was that pilot trying to launch….?….he seemed to be there most of the afternoon….Phil flew my buzz just to show him how …but on film review we all flew before him….Tomorrow tomorrow…again please…

Tuesday 22/4/14….day 5…

What’s happened…we all too knackered to remember…zzzzz Earlyish doors…wind on the hill….wings up already…maaaannn Light breakfast…big wings… The famous five walk to launch…2 mins.. Uncle Al, rigged and off ” like a pig at a tater”… Hooning the ridge but slope landing as it switched off.. Slow ones sorted lines and launched…four flew, Steve heaved in the bushes…where were the crowds?….at home Peachy …mushing …to land almost on the back of an old buffer planting dune shrubs. Flown out by 11 we headed to the supermacardo…Another big shop. Back for cheese and onion sarnis…Stevo feeling a little better, we all return to launch and head for the big dune.. “Dune gooning”…what a blast The goose and Tron showed us how to plough a strait furrow and fill harnesses with sand….kiting, flying, scraping and catching the rays, what a perfect holiday. Deciding to fly back…or try, Peachy headed for the sea, packed and made “the walk of shame”…the others made for the corner, but walked home on the beach.
Massive salad, strawberries and cream…no words spoken…only “mmmm”…phrase of the day.
“A clean caravan is a happy caravan” How knackered are the 5 stooges…?

Dune de Pyla April 2014
Wednesday …day 6 of uncle Al, Stevo, Tron, Peachy and to Goose’s great adventure…

Eventually wake from peaceful sleep… All stiff…including offshore breeze… Decide to drive down Coast with all gear hoping for a spot… Nice little promenade …mile or two, then back to digs to eat…still offshore…still stiff…apparently. Decide mini wings choice of the day… Tear ourselves from Nora Jones…difficult…walk to the front…1 min Head left down dune and decide to air the zero…Adie pilot of choice…”prima nocte” granted. No lift , plenty of rotor…decide to wrap and walk along beach to main dune….well…the fun starts.. We rig low and kite up…just like that….goonin big style.Cannot put the fun into words…just gotta look at vids…you couldn’t do this anywhere else and get away without major injury…a good dragging for peachy …apparently leaving three grooves in sand as he is dragged face down to the dune summit… Much to the amusement of German pilot on acro wing…female…hot…suntanned..”it is so funny “…German accent…whatever… We all got a dragging …Phil riding a escalator at times…buzzing and bouncing over us.. Al tasted the goose (glider not Phil), and the little cloud.. Enjoyed the ease of handling….gliders not owners. All flown out, and rain shower starting, we wrapped and headed back to the digs… Chat of arson in “shuffly bottom” ( near Redruth / Cambourne)….and dwarfs ..again… Barbecue started, salad made, meat on the menu..unfortunately we hit the beer, otherwise there would have been an evening flight as the sky cleared and the wind was on..with loads of local lift. Again, all suffering from aches and pains…trying to decide an area which does not hurt from the beasting we have given ourselves….sweet….

Thursday day 7

Sand in everything, everywhere. Wind offshore, rain…technical pants limp and wet on the line..Which one of you lot in the deepest south west has cursed us with this? Just cos you are all jealous . Slow rising especially for Adie, his first poor nights sleep, as Al slept through…his first night of solid sleep…he found the earplugs issued on day one…lost on day two. Did Adie moan… “Kettle and pot “comes to mind. Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Titch decided to take Beaky shopping, …decathlon, explored the merchandise ….purchased more technical pants. Adie found the experience truly stimulating, he is looking forward to a trip to Trago, Morwellam Quay and “the Asda”…may even reduce his flying… Looked in at macdonalds…decided to pass as most of Paris was inside. Ordering was too technical, and a coach party from Brownhills arrived, including a hot teacher…only good point. Returned to luxury chalet, weather brightening. Talk was of glide ratios, benefits of ground handling, quality of photos in cross country, the vinegar stroke, mallions, dwarves, bush trimming, arson, but no mention of “dunky rhubarbs”.
Adie caught up on a little shut eye, in preparation for tonight, Phil edited photos, Steve slept, Al and I chatted on the stoop, setting the world to right. A trip to the main dune with other holidaymakers, searched for souvenirs….pencils, sharpeners, rubbers and key rings ….brill. Back for big spaghetti Chergwin. Weather predicted good for tomorrow. ” a tidy garden is a happy garden and a trimmed bush is a happy bush”

2 Dune de Pyla April 2014

2 Dune de Pyla April 2014

Friday…fly day 25/4/14

Wake with anticipation, wind on, strong, wet, frikkin raining, last day…..nooooo way…
Famous five subdued, Timmy gagging for a walk, George parading naked around luxury chalet.. Gonna be a testing day… Breakfasted, eggs…heaven help us later.. Wind sock wrapped around pole…George again… Well what’s the plan?, flying boat museum, zoo…Phil suggested La Rhune…panoramica railway, or something to do with donkeys for Al, parachuting , but canning everything, we walk to front…acro Hans gooning around launch…as ever. Wings low down, even a pink one…gotta be a girl…what we doing….?
Return to digs…let’s get lunch out of the way…10.30… Why not…? Eating finished..thank goodness, we decide to wait for second rainstorm to pass, opt of mini’s, and head to dune…bit top end to fly across.
Sheltering behind trees, The goose rigs and is coaxed to front…France waiting for this move, Phil gets off and the world follows… WHAT AN AFTERNOON……… Dune gooning 11.30 till 7 ….big style …big big style…sunshine and favourable winds….epic, epic. All good until Steve trapped his talliwacker in his harness and had to take a break…he looked more than a little pale… What a final day…you will never know.. Back to digs, the three stooges opted to fly, Al ( who had left wing in digs and peachy opted for easy return on foot) All flown out, we ate everything in caravan…including smoked sausage from barby…and tried to finish the beer, Al started the cleaning as we emptied the beach from the gliders for the final time. Go pro review evening, Phil ate his breakfast to save time tomorrow. Fantastic week, thanks to Steve for organisation and catering, Adie for the van and coaching, Phil for his new found prowess at sweeping and his general gung -ho attitude to getting off the hill, Al for the sanity and stability and peachy for the blog, and excessive entertainment on the hill, and for everybodies contribution to a very memorable week…massive fun.. Adie was the only one to complete full helico landing, and his caramelised onions were second to none… But…” He might be able to roast a chicken, but he cannot handle the goose” Home tomorrow…video to follow…

Saturday 26/4/14

Time to go ….all cleared up, a “clean caravan is a happy caravan”. If you sat still for a moment you were risking being wiped down or carried to the van. Nearly forgot Adies anti-dandruff shampoo…yes…laugh, a little wee nearly came out. The strawberry flavoured soap was Al’s….brings out his feminine side..
Phil branched out into wet sweeping…or “mopping”…he’s gonna stay and be a caravan inspector….so somebody gonna need a new accountant… Just waiting for the hotel inspector to give us the once over….
All mopped, FCUK sport spray in caravan…”A fresh caravan is a happy caravan” Satnav quickest route home…..Over and out…

To round off an excellent diary of the trip Phil has put together a video.


Risk and its Assessment.

It occurred to me that I have badgered others to write articles for the bulletin but have yet to contribute myself. The following is an attempt to encourage more people to contribute as if you don’t I will be forced to write yet more dry and overtly analytical pieces like the following.

When heading out flying Vicky my wife said to me ‘have fun and don’t take any unnecessary risks which got me thinking! This would imply that there are necessary risks that are worth taking, because the benefits outweigh the low probability of adverse consequences. A simple illustration of a necessary risk is the action of launching, we must do this if we wish to fly, done using the appropriate technique in benign conditions the possibility of something going wrong is low, and benefits clearly outweigh consequences. In opposition to this are risks that may well deliver benefits but at the cost of a high probability of adverse consequences. Consider launching in conditions that are far from benign, a forward launch in a katabatic wind from an Alpine peak, if you pull it off you will get to fly but arguably the risk is unnecessary. It is our ability as pilots individually and collectively to distinguish the necessary risk from the unnecessary risk that keeps us safe and injury free.

The next logical question to ask would be how do we distinguish between the two? Unfortunately what separates these has no distinct boundary. It is blurred because it is subjective; it is subjective because it is a matter of personal interpretation.

Collectively as a group of individuals we have developed a culture where many of the unnecessary risks can be addressed. The BHPA, club membership, Air Navigation Order and Rules of the Air Regulations provide structures which function to promote common codes of safe practice. Helmets are a simple example; we are encouraged/required to where them, and they should be EN966 certified, and collectively it is agreed to fly without a helmet is an unnecessary risk. A social scientist studying our sub culture of free flight might conclude we have developed structural functionalist approach to risk mitigation.

Consider gliders, to fly an uncertified glider is clearly an unnecessary risk and it is in contravention of our culture and legislation regarding safety. ‘What certified glider should I fly’ is a more ambiguous question that blurs the boundary between the necessary and the unnecessary, and introduces the element of subjective assessment on the part of the individual. A pilot wants to fly XC with distance being the ultimate goal, should they jump on an EN D after 50 hours of thermic flying and a 25k XC? Hopefully our club culture will step in and diplomatically point out that this is an unnecessary risk. The ambitious pilot however decides flying a D rated glider is a necessary risk to enhance the probability of achieving a goal. The function of our club culture and legislative structure in this instance fails to mitigate what the majority deem to be an unnecessary risk.

The following model helps me when assessing the level of risk which I feel comfortable taking. Imagine a straight road with a white line running down its middle disappearing off into the horizon. This road represents your flying career, every time you think about flying, prepare to fly or actually get off the ground you start walking down the road parallel to the line. Keeping to the left of the line you are in safe territory taking only the necessary risks with a low probability of adverse consequences for your actions. Walking on the right is deemed to have stepped over the line into territory where accidents or death become increasingly probable.

At the moment we have a nice simple model we can see the line and keep as far from it as we feel comfortable. Unfortunately we all know flying is not that simple. The line has two characteristics we must be very wary of. Number one; remember subjectivity the line is blurred it can sometimes be hard to see exactly where its edges lie. Line characteristic number two; it moves of its own free will and we have no control over it, just as we have no control over the weather. The closer we walk to it, the greater the chance that if the line does move we will find ourselves on the wrong side of it with little or no warning. Walking as far to the left of the line and taking only necessary risks is no bad thing, however, we would make no progression if every flight took place at Perranporth in a steady 14 mph WNW on an EN A glider. So let us explore some new sites, we can still walk parallel to the line at a safe distance, but we do have to accept taking a step closer than if we were on and a familiar site in perfect conditions.

You are now standing on launch at Carne Brae, the wind is gusty and thermic, the sky looks reasonably unstable; you assess the risk as necessary as you want to go XC, if you decide to launch you must step closer to the line (in comparison to smooth coastal flying). Last XC flight you got away in a gaggle, but bombed out at five K on your EN B, other pilots on EN C gliders go further. As a result you decide to upgrade to an EN C for the performance gain. You now need to step closer to the line. You carry out all pre-flight checks, put on your harness double check the buckles build a wall and inflate, the air feels lifty you spot two buzzards thermalling, not wanting to miss the opportunity you launch. The flight is going well, you’re over the back but hit a blue hole, ahead are cumulus clouds but you’re not sure even an EN C will make the glide. It’s two pm the sea breeze front has pushed in; you opt for this, it looks easier to connect with the convergence. The air is ratty the wing pitches and yaws, the glider suffers a frontal collapse, the SIV course last year pays off, brakes up catch the surge the glider recovers. At this point you have not moved towards the line, turbulent conditions dictate that it has jumped closer to you! Missing the re-pack this year now seems like an unnecessary risk as the glider continues to be handful, you step closer to the line. You now feel closer to it than ever before in you’re flying career, so close it’s hard to make out where the edges now lie. You’re 90% sure you’re on the left but hope it stays where it is or moves away of its own accord, luck is on your side today you land safely with a personal best of 25k.

Using this model thinking about the line and its two characteristics one ambiguous and the other unpredictable helps me when assessing the overall risk to which I am exposing myself. I try to consider minimising what I feel are unnecessary risks that provide room for when the line unexpectedly moves. Remember we all have a difference of opinion about what makes a risk necessary and unnecessary and this can and should change as we progress. Bear in mind the structures and culture that function to keep pilots of different abilities and experience safe. If you operate with little regard for this you are probably taking too many unnecessary risks and the line will eventually bite you on the backside! If you are too enveloped perhaps you have ample room to step closer to the line, over cautiousness or a lack of confidence can sometimes be detrimental to your development and enjoyment as a pilot.

And finally well done to Wyn for winning the XC trophy he is having a great start to the flying season!