Last year, the club members undertook an expedition to Bristol and Gloucestershire Gliding Club at Nympsfield, which was very successful but involved taking the gliders a long way down the road. For this year’s Spring expedition, Billy took the lead in organising something a little closer to home. The first week in April in Aboyne promises wave and thermal soaring before the Deeside Gliding Club starts getting busy over the summer period. So it was that a cheery band of pilots made their way over to Aboyne on Sunday 2 April. Billy and Phil had made all of the arrangements with Deeside so all that John, Adrian, Colin and Ella had to do was get themselves and their gliders from Easteron to Aboyne – only 60 miles away. R1, JYC, WP and JHN were brought across and Phil conveniently had his Duo, 3D already hangared at Aboyne.
The forecast for the week was mixed, with Tuesday looking like the best day but heavy rain due to come in on Wednesday on Thursday. However, if we learnt anything from the week, it was not to put too much trust in the forecast!
Monday wasn’t looking that promising for wave but all the gliders were rigged first thing, and Phil and Colin took R1 for a flight to see what was happening. A short tow up Glen Tanar led to weak wave from about 2,000 ft and they managed to climb away after releasing at 2,300 ft. After checking on Glide and Seek that they really were doing alright, it was time to launch the wing! Billy, John and Adrian followed in quick succession with John having the longest flight of the day at over 3 hours climbing to well over 10,000 ft. R1 landed after 1:45 to let Phil take Ella on her first flight from Aboyne to enjoy the stunning views over the Highlands – another 1:40 flight. We were also joined for the day by Roger and Julian, who both declined a flight but were invaluable with their assistance on the ground.
Tuesday turned out as forecast to be a cracking day. Phil and Colin again led the way in R1 and after Colin demonstrated a successful landing on the narrow strip, rolling to the end as required by local procedure, he was cleared for solo local soaring. Encouraged by this he then achieved the longest flight of the expedition at 3:20, reaching FL100. Billy and John also had great flights and Ella had another wave soaring trip, this time in the Perkoz with Geoff, a BI at Deeside. As it was such a nice day, Martin and Colin Conti took a day trip over in the motor glider from Easterton and their assistance on the ground was much appreciated. Wednesday and Thursday were forecast to be wet so the single-seaters were de-rigged at the end of the day but R1, resplendent in her new covers was parked up next to her trailer.
Wednesday started overcast and wet, but soon cleared up and the promised torrential rain never materialised, so it was off with the covers for R1 and Colin took it for another local wave soaring trip, returning after an hour and a half. Phil got 3D out of the hangar and with Ella in the back seat, set off down the runway behind the Aboyne Eurofox (which had been towing all week). Just after 3D got into the air, a fault with the turbo in the tug meant the take-off was aborted – another exciting first for Ella! Phil successfully managed to avoid running into the tug by steering off the runway and Ella discovered why we do the straps up tightly for take-off after a bit of a bumpy ride! After that, we were without a tug and flying came to a premature halt. The forecast for the next day didn’t look great, so Colin and Billy decided that there was little point in hanging around and went home for the night.
Thursday morning turned out to be much better than forecast, so with R1 being already rigged and the tug having been checked out, John and Ella took R1 for another nice wave flight. After checking in with Phil at 0900, Colin rushed over from home in time to see them land at 1300 and was all set for another flight but the Eurofox tug was still not performing as it should and the crosswind had picked up considerably. Discretion seemed the better part of valour at this stage and R1 was put into its covers for another night.
For the final day of the expedition the actual weather again turned out to be much better than forecast. It was a thermal soaring day but with an easterly wind, we were expecting the cloud to roll in from the coast later in the day. This suited us fine as we planned to pack up mid-afternoon and as we had the 2 Duos at our disposal, we didn’t bother rigging the single-seaters. With the Eurofox tug still under suspicion we opted for the Pawnee and Colin was the first to go, taking off at 1120. Mindful of the cost of the Pawnee, he released at 1500 ft and managed to climb to 3,000 ft quite quickly. However, at that time of the day the thermals were few and far between and he managed to loose the height as quickly as he had gained it, landing after 22 mins for the shortest flight of the week! John took R1 next, with Roger who had again come over for the day. They sensibly took a higher tow, for a 1:30 flight, sightseeing in the Dee valley as far as Balmoral. Phil and Billy took 3D for an hour, before Phil honoured a commitment to take Bob (known to all visitors as Grumpy Bob) for a flight in 3D. Adrian also had a flight in the Deeside Perkoz with one of their instructors to polish up his Aboyne landing technique. We then de-rigged R1, re-packed the Deeside hangar, paid our bills and set of homewards very satisfied with the week’s accomplishments.
Everyone on the expedition agreed that it had been a fantastic week which would have been even better if a few more people had been there to enjoy it. We had pretty much exclusive use of the airfield and its facilities and the clubhouse is well set up for visitors with a roaring wood-burner to keep us warm in the evenings and a gas barbecue out back to keep the catering costs down. Aboyne beckons for another expedition next year!