12th May 2002 - 500k
Robert Tait explains in his own words how he completed 500 kilometers in his Astir (HSE) for a diamond distance claim.
Phil and I declared a 500K: Easterton to Callander to Dufftown to Pitlochry and back. We both Launched early at 10am and already the thermals were working well. Phil got as far as the Feshie area before getting stuck trying to cross the high ground. Phil returned to Easterton to complete 168Km.
I too made it to the Feshie area and with cloudbase at 5000' was a little daunted by the crossing. However, I managed it by going off track a fair bit by flying up to the head of Glen Feshie. From there I could cross half way and eventually had the legs to get into the next valley. It was a fast run after that to the first turning at Callander although cloudbase was lower ar 4000' there. First leg 179km in 3 hours. Heading for Dufftown I had a 10kt tailwind and went like a ballistic missile hardly stopping for lift and cutting straight across the top of the cairngorms as cloudbase was up to 6000' by now. As I approached Tomintoul I slowed down a bit as spreadout was becoming a problem and there was light rain in places. However, I discovered that there was still good lift high up and motored into Dufftown at 6000'. 2nd leg 169km in 1 1/2 hours. The spreadout was very bad by now and there were only very isolated patches of sunlight. However, debating with myself I elected to head for Pitlochry and see how I got on. By heading for any dark patches and staying high I found I made quite good progress culminating in a climb to 7200' over loch Morlich. That was the clincher as it allowed me a straight glide over the cairngorms again to Pitlochry. That is where I nearly came unstuck. As I was over the Linn of Dee at 5000' I heard the ASH calling 5 minutes to Feshie. They had bottled out of the turn at Blair Atholl due to bad spreadout. Blair Atholl is only 5 miles from Pitlochry so I was not filled with confidence about my chances. However, I was determined to do at least 400K and plugged on. Sure enough there was a large area of dead air with much sink and I wound up sliding down Glen Tilt with the mountains all above me! My one hope was a single patch of sunlight at Blair Atholl and a hopeful looking cloud. I arrived at 1800' and found 1/2 up. This quickly built into a 3 - 4 knotter and after climbing back up to 6000' it was a quick run round the TP and back to Blair to pick up the thermal again. This was still working and a little street had built up. At the top end of Glen Tilt again I was faced with going left into the Spey valley along a line of clouds or right into the Dee valley without clouds but with a single strong patch of sunlight on the ground. The fact that I could see rain in patches in the Spey valley swung it and I slid down into the Dee valley at 3500'. Sure enough a brand new cloud formed just over a hill next to Braemar and at 6knots took me to 6500'. Enough height with a tailwind to get me home I thought. Nearly so but approaching Tomintoul with 1700' above the glide in hand I realised I had a large area of rain to cross, IN AN ASTIR!!! I scrimped and saved and used whatever lift I could find to get as high as possible before getting wet. It was a tense time but luckily there was still reduced sink in the rain and I had plenty of height to burn off in the end.
The logger downloaded without problem and confirmed that I had correctly turned all the TP's to complete a task of 501.57KM to claim my Diamond Distance. I hereby award myself a crate of beer!!!
This flight was done off a 1300' winch launch in a beat up old Astir CS 77 purely in thermal. The flight took seven and a half hours at an average speed of 75km/H. Two of the legs were done at 90km/H. I hope it shows what we are capable of at Easterton.
Northern Scot article 24th May 2002
Press & Journal article 21st May 2002