After weeks of forecasts featuring good thermals but with towering Cu and Cb, the forecast for Friday 7th May was looking much better with normal sized Cu for once! Whilst the BPRA skygods headed to the Elan Valley to chase big distances, most of us mere mortals headed to Worcester Beacon at the northern end of the Malvern Hills where big distances are still possible, just not as big as from further west. Thinking reasonably big, I’d set a goal 180kms away at Ely, perfect for an easy retrieve by train back home to Bath…
I headed towards the brown fields on the far side of the River Severn and was rewarded with a gentle climb up to 4800’. The other pilots who left the hill a bit lower than me didn’t connect with it and ended up landing a little further on, so I tried (and failed) to catch up with Greg Poole who was a few kms ahead of me at this point.
However at 60kms in, the climbs were taking me very close to the 4500′ Daventry CTA airspace – I came out of this climb with 300’ to spare but carried on flying into more lift so avoiding action was required! Thereafter I left a 500’ margin, but it’s tough coming out of climbs at 4000’ when you know base is at 5500’!
The 35kms spent under the 4500’ airspace was definitely the trickiest part of the flight, so it was a massive relief to get under the FL75 airspace as I approached Northampton! Only trouble was I was down to 2500’ again!
I flew over Huntingdon with barely a sniff of a thermal, and I was getting pretty desperate as I approached St Ives. Landing in one of the parks in St Ives for 155kms would have been pretty respectable, but disappointing all the same given that the sky ahead was still good. I’d spotted two sailplanes circling above the town so that gave me some hope, but I was still down to 700’ agl before my XC Tracer started making positive noises!
I reached my maximum height of 7100’ just before Ely (in the sunshine on right hand side of the photo) but with me being so high and with the magical 200kms in my sights I decided to press on rather than land.
The trouble was that there was quite a lot of shade on the ground ahead of me and I didn’t find any thermals along the sunny strip that I followed. Ideally I would have flown towards the better looking clouds on the right but they were right over Mildenhall and Lakenheath US Air Stations. Of course they were!
By now I’m down to 1000′ with 2kms to go to make the 200! Luckily the ground is only a few feet above sea level so 1000’=300m=at least 3kms glide. I landed in the village in the upper centre of the pic, Hockwold, at 1644 for 202kms straight line! It had taken me six years to fly my second 200km flight – let’s hope it’s not another six years before the next one!
I landed in a field next to a house on the edge of the village and was welcomed with much incredulity and a nice cup of tea and the very kind offer of a lift back to Ely Station – thanks very much to Logan and his mum!
I think the 2102 from Paddington must have been one of the last Hitachi trains out of Paddington before they were all grounded to inspect for cracks in the chassis!! Phew. Home by 2230… Once again it takes the same amount of time to get home as it does to do the flight! What a great day!!