A few people have asked me about my recent flight qualifying for Diamond Height, although the flight didn’t take off from Talgarth, a quick report on the Forum seemed in order. Plus, it’s chucking it down with rain this morning, so what else is there to do? Tidying the garden will come later!
My first Diamond (Goal) came in August 2000 thanks to Robbie and his Task Week, so you could say I’ve been chasing the Height badge since then. Trips to Scotland where it rains a lot, expeditions to France where FL 195 is fairly easy but a suitable low point is not (well done Mike T on that one) and now my fourth visit to Lleweni Park. Each time I’ve been there someone has obtained their Diamond, but not me. The second Diamond (distance) came at Bidford in 2009, it appears to be 9 years between each Diamond, I’m glad there are only 3!!!
It seems to be an exercise in logistics, having everthing in place and knowing what is required. A moving map display, my flight was above 8/8ths cloud apart from the wave gaps at the Conwy Valley and The Vale of Clwyd, plus an Oxygen system that will last the duration of the flight, three and a half hours in my case. The Diamond Height requires a gain of height of 5000 meters, what’s that in feet, the answer is 16,405 so call it 17,000 for a buffer. If you can go only to FL190 (again a 500ft buffer in case the pressure is low) how low must your low point be. Lleweni has the advantage of being only 200ft QNH, a winch launch to 1100ft, loose 150ft getting to the ridge and a low point of 1050ft means you only have to get 18,050ft QNH for the badge. On weekends airspace can be opened to FL245 if you are feeling brave, during our recent visit, someone was at FL240 and still climbing at 5kt.!!! Lleweni have recently started using a Eurofox for launching, so be careful not to tow too high and scupper your low point. The same applies at Talgarth.
On my flight, the wave gap had been stable for some time with a further gap upwind, I was first to launch that morning, so no one else to follow. The edge of the gap was just a few kilometers upwind from the airfield and a tow to 2000ft was all that was needed followed by a decisive low point to mark the trace. A broken 2kt climb took me to about 5000ft then a push upwind to Conwy where local knowledge says the best climbs are. The climb improved to 3kt up 12,000ft. Oxygen on by 8000ft. Way above there was yet another system that would be certain to go up to 19,000 but the edge was a long way to the west. The wind by now was 45kt and the temperature down to 2 degrees. Ah well, nothing ventured……. push on. Ten minutes later I was down to 7000ft and headed back to the Conwy gap. Now I am not so adventurous, I stay put, milking the hot spots and being patient. FL190 comes eventually, the wind is now over 50kt and the temperature is -6 degrees.
Mindful of my newly refinished gel coat I didn’t want to come down too quickly so I use the height to visit Snowdon, not that there was much to see apart from the cloud tops. The return to Lleweni had a ground speed of over 200kph with the tail wind but it all seemed quite serene at that height. The serenity came to an abrupt end once down to circuit height and keeping the glider on the tarmac at the airfield was a task too much and I left tyre tracks on both sides of the strip!!!
The trace downloaded and paperwork sorted by Chris Gill the Lleweni Park manager / CFI, now we wait while the BGA go through the verification process. Fingers crossed.