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Flight Details

Pilot name:Carl Wallbank
Glider:litespeed S
Date / Time:2004-08-21 12:00:00
Takeoff: Llangollen witnessed by shedsy and others
Landing:Aylesbury nr Luton! SP836133 witnessed by Andy henderson 01296421724
Distance (Km) / Score:205.56 / 205.56
Max alt.(ft) and Duration:6700 340 mins
Flight track: Earth icon View or Fly in Google Earth™
Comments:Having been on top of the National XC league all summer my over confidence of winning this year fades on the 7th August as Nick Pain (U.K open distance record holder) does a massive triangle and I only manage a 40km open distance from Moelfre to Denbigh. Thus putting Nick only 60km behind with one flight in hand!! As the summer is getting close to ending I know I need one more big one and on 21st August weatherjack is offering us a #4. It is a Saturday and I know all the XC hounds will be out. I wake a little late, but to blue skies and a lot colder/fresher air mass, I check all relevant weather conditions and decide Llangollen is the site. All you Paragliders pilots must of miss read something to go to Accre. I arrive at Llan just on eleven under what has to be said as a perfect looking sky, only to find Martin already nearly rigged. I rush around like a fool trying to get ready as I know I should already be on route. I try to plan a route through all the airspace at Oxfordshire but all the rushing makes it difficult to plot an accurate turnpoint so I decide for the first time in a long time to tape my air map onto my upright. Shit I've forgotten my tape! Luckily for me Martin has not yet taken off and he spares me some. Martin takes off and the initial climbs look good. I get in my harness and it starts to rain!!!! Only had to wait a couple of minutes and with a slightly wet glider I launch. The air felt bitty but I blame it on the wet glider. Slowly I climb up above take off and I can see all the others now turning up. I get about 700ft and see Martin getting sunk out on the ridge, i make a guess something has just popped off in front of the hill so i push out to the bump in front and just on the lea side I'm rewarded with a nice three up. I'm trying to talk the boys on the radio but no joy. This climb appears to going nearly west and not too much drift. Whilst climbing I can see that there is severe over development up wind an it will be raining very soon, I make the million dollar decision and go for a death glide towards chick castle were there is good sun on the ground. I was a lot lower than I would like to be and the clouds don't look half as good as they did one hour ago. Over the castle I find zeros but the rain cloud seems to be catching me up, so I glide on to the wood chip factory and don't find anything. I headed back into the hills a little and near Steve Kyneston's house I find more zeros, "this will have to do!" Down to less than 2000ft my zero fades and I'm gliding again. It looks like I might just make Oswestry and at about 500ft just east of the old Fort there's some sort of Army convention going on and lots of large wagons driving around a field, a good warm trigger and off it pops a good 4up!! The drift takes me along the A5 and soon I hit base at a poor 3500ft. Gliding in strong lift at 70km this small street quickly gets me to Shrewsbury were it goes blue for a bit so I top up at the side of the cloud and glide from around 4500ft. The best route looks towards Telford as the rain seems to be coming in strong from the west (from the Mynd) but I'm a little unsure of airspace restric tions on the eastside of Telford. (My map is folded in such away I can't see) so decide at this point that I must now track south on glides until I find Bridgnorth or Kidderminster. Just Southwest of Telford I pick up the aerials and get a slow but steady 3up nearly to base. A long uninteresting glide now towards Bridgnorth and my mind goes blank as I can't find any triggers, the harder I look the worse this route appears. I start to question my ability on why I can't see a trigger at all, the clouds are too far above to use so I really do need a good ground feature. I fly under the clouds that look good above but no joy! I start to shout at myself and at the rest of the world on why and were is the trigger but no good I keep doing 4/5 down, probably less than 1000ft now I pick group of suitable fields in the distance to land in if I don't climb. I suddenly get awakened as I fly straight through the middle of a stack of maybe 60 or 80 seagulls in a monster thermal!!!! I'd been looking so hard at the ground features that I did not see this mass tower of seagulls which I'm sure any other pilot would have seen from 10km away!, 4up from 900ft to base now at 4500ft.Thank god for that! (I'm sure someone from heaven had just done that for me) Once over Bridgnorth I find the river seven and figure the west component will trigger all thermals nicely and hey presto is works a treat. The next 30/40km is fast, I just follow the river seven and straight line it all the way to Kidderminster and base has now rose to over 5000ft.(I believe big strong rivers are the best cold triggers) At long last I'm now on my air map and I can relax about the airspace. Here the wind is a lot more west so I glide off towards Bromsgrove and get a little low over the M5 were its now gone blue again. A good climb over the aerials on the southwest of Bromsgrove with a sailplane beneath gives me a good feeling, I top out at nearly 6000ft. From this height I get a true wind direction and it seems due west 7or8mph. I work out if I do go down wind I will still hit the south side of Birmingham CTA so I must still push southeast. The next 30km in this direction look quite blue probably 1/8 Cu at best so I carefully make my way but I'm surprised to find lots of good climbs. I take five minutes to myself here and enjoy the sight all around me, too my left I can see the jets entering Birmingham approach from Daventry CTA circle and start on finals into Birmingham (looks very interesting from this height and only 15/20km away). Too my right I can see the Malvern's at the 110km mark were I've landed many times before from all different parts of the country (this was my sub conscious goal for today) and then a little further the seven bridge and the Bristol channel sparkling in the sun light and behind I can still see the left overs of the mountains of mid Wales and of coarse the chasing rain. Believe me when I say this is one of the most amazing sites I've ever seen, it makes U.K look quite small. In the distance I can see lots of sailplanes all cranked up so I pull the bar in race to their climb. I went a little too fast as I end up at less than 1500ft when I approach the motorway north of Evesham, the sailplanes are probably 3000ft above. I soon find a 4up off the river and ring road. I'm very aware the danger/restricted area next to me and my climb is going to go straight through it, on the map it says R204 and I try to rattle my brain as to what this means as danger areas begin in a "D" I do notice that the three sailplanes nearby are also in the same position I am in and this softens the pain. Then at low level a flexwing microlite passes straight through the middle of it! Now at base at a stunning 6200ft I follow the two sailplanes due east were a cloud is building rapidly over long Marston airfield. They disappear quickly in front of me but I know were there going. I arrive near the airfield and hit the climb a strong 6/7up all the way to 6700ft. I can see the jets leaving Birmingham and climbing up the N859, I'm pretty confident I'm away from there corridor by the ground features below. It feels weird having this size of aircraft below you and only a couple of km away. Soon I'm under the 7500ft corridor and can see the M40 and Banbury in the distance to my left. It really does feel like I'm fighting a cross wind here but I'm starting to get very close to the end (fold) in my map. With not properly planning or knowing this area I'm concerned about going off the map. My lesson for this flight is always plan for every occasion; this would make life a lot easier now. Because I have flown further than I expected, I did not look at any airspace restrictions. So I will keep going in the direction of the map that I can see! (Quite crosswind). I approach upper heyford aerodrome and the mass of new stored motor cars would make a great photo opportunity if I had put my camera in! I must travel east now as Weston on the green intensive parachuting in just south of me and this is confirmed with people littering the sky. I'm also surrounded with sailplanes at all heights and the confidence that it must still be work ing everywhere I push on over Bicester sailplane airfield and crank one up wing tip to wind tip with sailplane. We were that close I felt like I could touch him, I wonder to myself if this sailplane has flown half as far as I have today! Airspace is now 5500ft and with the sailplane we both leave the 6up at 5500ft and I follow him southeast. Crunch time now as I've just gone of the end of my airmap! Gliding in good air I have a good look around and try visualise were I can and can't go. True down wind will be towards Luton airport, to head right towards Oxfordshire will nearly be into wind, and to continue on the same crosswind track is taking me straight towards London city, I can't believe I can actually see all the skyscrapers in London!! God it must be very close. I want to rip my air map off and have a look but I'm scared I will end up dropping it. There is still many sailplanes around me so I make the decision to fly only were the sailplanes are and to utilise their good airmanship. As I glide it does become apparent that with one or two more climbs I would probably be over London, and despite the shear amount of sailplanes still around, it 17:30 and I make a wise decision to final glide to the next town in front. Aylesbury. I have a number of options to land in but I've got it into my head that I want to land as close to the centre as I can. A big, one field school teases me in as there does appear to be many people their to tell of my tales, Normally I always pick fields with a number of alternative landing options should I miss something, but something about this field looks good. I manage to circle over all the local houses a make all aware that there's a scouser on the way in! A good approach but my legs have gone to sleep and I fall on my belly (fool). Quickly there is people around and I'm very aware of there cockney accents, I'm sure they're already locking up there houses as they have now heard mine! One particular family,(Andy and Pam) are quick to offer to look after me, and who could refuse when Andy passes me a cold beer before I've even got my helmet off (heaven), I'm gagging for a pee but all the fame and questions is delaying my meeting with nature. As soon as I get a minute I do my duty! Lots of phone calls now to find out that Llangollen went rubbish as I left and remained so. The rest of the evening got better as Andy and Pam had me as a guest at their barbecue and took good care of me till my retrieve arrived at 23:00hrs. Luckily for me I have good friends and had a few offers for retrieve, thanks Steve Kyneston and Jamie. And of coarse Shedsy. Many thanks Shedsy for taking out the time and an excellent retrieve and I was home by 0300AM, One day I hope I can repay and collect you guy's from 100+ miles! Also one unsung hero Martin Holmes who if I didn't borrow that little bit of tape to tape my airmap on this flight would not have happened. A lesson for everyone, when the weatherman says its going to be unstable, I.E isolated showers or may over develop and rain later (certainly when weatherjack say's a #4 with cold dew points), you must be on the hill early and if you can launch early you must do so as its a lot easier to avoid the overdevelopment when on route, please don't get confused between a little overdevelopment and rain with big Cu nims!. At the time when I left I knew Llangollen was about to be closed down and you guys may have been only 2000ft below and 20mins behind, but in real life you were a lot further. It's so easy to say "I will stay at home and see what happens"; it my well rain were you live and you think you have made the right decision. But if this doesn't happen then you have just missed you're 100miler. So many off.... Safe flying, Cheers Carl