DDSC 2006

Peter Stephenson

Caboolture Gliding Club (CGC) is a near coastal gliding club with mainly local soaring.  Every year, we conduct a week of gliding at the Darling Downs Soaring Club (DDSC), an inland site, to allow our members to spread their wings and experience the joy of cross country flights.  Usually the week causes the rain to fall but this year, it did not happen this year and rain was not a problem.  The following is an account of the 2006 week November 13-19 to encourage others to organise and participate in a similar week.

After a few members falling by the wayside, CGC members Len & Al Borowski, David Higgs, John Sharman, Kim Houghton, yours truly and a ring-in Neville Wilson from the UK, assembled at DDSC, near Oakey Queensland at 6pm on Sunday 12th November 2006.  Our first priority was something to eat so we relocated to the close by Bowenville Hotel for an excellent feed.  I had the barra and such a huge specimen was delivered that I really do not know how I finished it.  The following night I took my camera to take a picture of it to show my local fish supplier what I now mean by a barramundi dinner!  We all had huge meals for the whole week and my son commented when I got back that I had now lost my six pack!  At least the added weight is useful for reducing the load on the tail when fitting the tail dolly.


Left to right: Kim Houghton, Gary McMahon, Author, John Sharman (he was awake!),
Neville Wilson, David Higgs at the pub. Check out Kim’s barra.

On Monday, we prepared the aircraft and had a briefing on the control space, DDSC local procedures and the basic principles of cross country flying from Robert Hart, our principal L2 for the week. It was a reasonable day for soaring but not really a good one for a cross country as Kim Houghton found out, outlanding at Dalby on his return from nearly getting to Miles in the Ventus.  He kindly got an aerotow back @ $105.00 instead of getting us to come and get him with the trailer.  Neville Wilson, after a check flight in a Puchacz, had a flight in the Hornet but could not stay up.  He made the mistake of letting me have a go in it and conditions improved and I could not come down for his second flight in her.  As it was, the tug had gone to Dalby for Kim so I hangar flew it after an hour.  The others all got checked out in the Puchacz by Robert Hart and Jeremy Thompson.

Tuesday was a similar day.  I timidly ventured out to Dalby in the Ventus not getting above 7500' there so I came back and mooched around within gliding distance of the airfield, landing after a flight of 3.5hrs.  Back on the deck, I found out that (father) Len and (son) Al Borowski, (affectionately known as the Borowski Brothers) had had a great time (see later).

Wednesday was quite different with a strong westerly wind with fair weather cumulus clouds.  I penetrated the wind to McAlister to inspect where I had my first outlanding years ago.  I then went back to Kaimkillenbun with the wind to inspect an interesting cloud.  In that morning’s briefing, Robert Hart had spoken about sheer wave near clouds in strong winds and how clouds sometimes have a concave under belly.  This particular cloud had a base a 1000 feet below the others and getting under it I noticed it had the curved under surface so I went under its upwind side and there was the shear wave he was talking about!  Up I went in front of the cloud-most exciting considering we had been talking about this very phenomenon that morning.  I returned the field at a groundspeed of 100knots plus 25knots of wind, turning back to punch back into it to Tipton and another race back to land after a three hour flight of sheer exhilaration.

Whilst descending in the circuit, I got a real fright from the FLARM.  The proximity warning sounded loudly and four red lights were showing. Two directional lights and both the above and below lights. You should have seen my head swivel and my steep turns!  I eventually found a Puchacz high above me descending with full airbrakes but I could not find the aircraft below me except the tug on the ground stationary beside the fuel bowser.  When I asked David Higgs in the Puch whether his alarm had sounded, he said that it had not so I presume I must have had a collision trajectory to the tug on the ground.  What an amazing machine that FLARM is.

Thursday was a blow-out!  Fair-weather cumulus but a 15-20 knot gusting cross wind from the south on the ground so who knows what strength it was up stairs.  We had a ground school for the morning and called it a day.  Our poor tuggie Fran Ning had come up from the Gold Coast especially for us and she returned that afternoon not having had a flight either.  I had to leave that evening as I was going to see Circque du Soleil the next day, something I thought would be that was well worth returning to Brisbane for.

However, returning to DDSC on Friday night, I ran into Rob Murphy on Saturday morning who told me that he had just lazily completed his 500klms in the Mozzie the day before.  Was the Circque du Soleil worth it ???????.  Not to be out done, I had a go that morning at the 500 klms, DDSC-Miles-Kaimkillenbun-Goombi-DDSC in the 18metre Ventus.  It was the first time that I had water on board, kindly instructed by Barry Daniel on how to go about it.  The tail tank valve was leaking so we were not able to use too much but we put 60 litres into the wings.  Soon after release, I started to dump it because I was unable to find lift but I had a reprieve after a minute or so, so I think I still had some water on board.  The late Alan Latemore had always encouraged me to use water ballast but I had never done so because of my perceived hassle of doing it.  Alan told me: "if you use water, you give yourself easily another 50klms".  I flew out to Miles and back to Kaimkillenbun uneventfully, getting low a couple of times.  I then heard on the radio about many outlandings so I just came back to DDSC in a final glide, nearly landing out myself in the process but managed to do a circuit before landing.  I think I was saved by the dumping of the water at 10 nm.

Sunday was my first flight in the 15 metre Mosquito as Barry Daniel was using "his" Ventus for another go at 750klms.  At the briefing, I said that I was going to "finish off my 500klms"  Pez Mitchell pointed out that I had to do 500 klms in one go, which caused much laughter at my expense.  After a comprehensive briefing by part-owner Pez Mitchell, I went up and had a check circuit and landing.  Yeh, well; I bunged off at 1300' AGL as usual with the vario screaming, only not to find that particular thermal again.  No water to blame either!  I felt better when I heard a few other far more experienced pilots needing relights that day.  With a 15knot tail wind, I reached Miles with some difficulty as it was not a good day.  I think the averager managed 6knots very briefly but I managed to take a picture of it.  Coming back was a real struggle against the wind, with the wind reaching 22knots around Chinchilla at 7500' QNH.  I was flying at a comfortable 100 knots indicated with minus 2 flap but still not going very fast over the ground at all.  I was trying to keep high as I had heard Robert Hart outlanding at Dalby after his initial call "overflying Dalby at 3500' with no intention to land".  Actually when I got lower as the thermals weakened, the head wind abated and I started to make some ground.  I started to 4S2W (size, surface, slope, surroundings, wind and wires) the paddocks and at 4pm., as I had no hope of getting home before dark, I decided to land choosing a very nice paddock landing into wind, along the furrows parallel to the Dalby-Chinchilla highway and railway line with a gate at the end of my proposed landing roll.  

The circuit was typical with the usual tempting thermal on turning base, rigorously ignored for safety reasons and memories of Paul White’s fatal accident where he attempted to thermal at a low level.  My second ever landing in the Mozzie was perfect, even if I say so myself.  I recall on final that I had cars passing me on my right and I wondered what the car drivers must have been thinking.  I managed to get within 50 metres of the gate and called up DDSC to announce my safe arrival on the mobile phone.  I walked over to the gate to find it heavily pad-locked to my chagrin.  Pez and Keith Allen soon arrived with the trailer.  We found another way into the paddock via the adjacent one which had one of those dreaded SWER power lines running through its middle.  After pushing the Mozzie the 50 metres, we loaded her up into the box and as the light faded, we closed the lid.


Mosquito VH-GQD between Warra and McAlister.

As we drove back to DDSC, I was elated with my second ever outlanding, ending a reasonable week of soaring, and as Keith said: "only your second outlanding: you are not really trying!"

So I hope that those of you reading this and who have never soared cross country before; have a go; it is well worth the effort!  I will be going again next year. Have a read of what the other participants wrote:

Len Borowski writes:

Al (my son) and I arrived at DDSC on Sunday evening. This was our second visit to DDSC, the previous being a year ago, a day visit. We were impressed with the club facilities; full kitchen, TV, lounge, reasonable beds, a meeting / briefing room, many gliders and wide open spaces 

As we only planned to stay 2 days we were hoping that the weather would be on our side. Our aim was to achieve 2 one hour flights in order to obtain our "C" certificates.  A one hour flight was somewhat of a new concept to us; we were used to 15 or 30 minute flights with little or no thermals.

We woke Monday morning to find it blowing a gale; something like 26 knot winds...what a bugger! Robert Hart indicated at our morning briefing that there probably wouldn't be any thermals today.  He was right. I suppose the good news was that we would get some practice landing into 26 knot winds in the Puchacz, at a different club.  The more serious bad news was no one hour flights on the first day and only one day to go.  I made a bet (a bottle of wine) with John Sharman on Monday afternoon, that Al and I would not get our one hour flights.  I hoped that I would lose the bet.  I figured that given my usual not so good luck, that the bet might translate into a good flying day tomorrow.

Dinner was down at the local Bowenville pub with the rest of the guys.  What great value for money meals; a piece of Barramundi the size of a man's shoe.  They must be used to feeding hungry farmers.

Tuesday dawned and there was no wind and no clouds either.  Later we found out that there were thermals everywhere.  I was hoping to fly the Astir Jeans however this was assigned to Al.  I got the Puchacz.  We were surprised that we each had an aircraft for the full day.  I was told by Jeremy Thompson not to come down until the hour was up!  Wishful thinking I thought. I decided to get an aero-tow to 3000 feet AGL; that way I would have maximum chance of getting my first hour.  I later found out that the more experienced pilots couldn't understand why I aero-towed so high.

I released and then searched for a thermal.  It didn't take long to find one.  20 minutes went by and then I lost the thermal and hit sink; disaster had struck!  It didn't take long to find another thermal, 40 then 60 minutes passed and I decided that by the time I landed, I would have the hour without any question.  What a difficult job getting down; all lift and hardly any sink to be found.  This was a strange concept.  I looked for sink everywhere but kept hitting thermals.  Full airbrakes all the way down through 5000 feet!

One more hour to go.  This time on my second flight, I released when I saw the vario go to +6 for a few seconds, and at around 1500AGL.  Off into a thermal and up to 6600AGL I went; close to the allowed ceiling.  This thermal was incredible, and so were all the rest that were around.  Many times the vario was off scale; that rapid R_R_R_R sound on the vario sounds fantastic.  Nearly two hours later I was getting a sore backside and feeling hungry.  Off I went looking for sink again.  It was hard to find.  My flight was 2 hours and 7 minutes. I could have stayed up all day.

Peter Stephenson asked if I wanted to try the Astir Jeans.  Great I thought; after all my son Al had just got his 2 one hour flights in the Jeans!.  A check flight was required in the Grob first in order to transfer to the Jeans.  I was a bit nervous as I had never flown either the Grob or the Jeans before.  As I was told that the Jeans was prone to PIO, I was worried about zig-zagging or bouncing all the way down the runway.  Off I went only to find that the Jeans was a piece of cake to fly.  I stayed up for around half an hour and decided I had better come down as everyone was putting all the aircraft away. What a beautiful aircraft to fly; far better than any other glider I had flown before.

What a great 2 days. I certainly enjoyed losing the bottle of wine.

Al Borowski wrote:

The first day (Monday) was a bit of a mixed bag. The weather was pretty disappointing. The wind was quite strong and the sky was clouded over.

The first goal I had was transitioning to DDSC's aircraft (at Caboolture I've only flown Blaniks). I was also worried I'd be rusty since I hadn't flown a glider in over a month. I guess I mustn't have been too bad, because 2 check flights later I was endorsed in a Puchacz.

Unfortunately the conditions were very difficult for soaring. I found a number of weak thermals but the strong wind stopped me taking them.  I was a bit discouraged – half of our time had gone, and I hadn't had a decent soaring flight yet.  That's life.

The next day, conditions looked more promising.  The wind had died down a bit and there wasn't a cloud to be seen.  After an interesting briefing on out-landings I was allocated the Astir Jeans for the day. I had never flown a single seater before and was a bit nervous.

DDSC policy is to do a check flight in the Grob 103 to qualify beforehand.  Admittedly this wasn't my best flight.  We released fairly low (1100 feet AGL I think?) to chase a thermal that wasn't there.  This made the circuit a bit 'interesting'. My speed control was pretty sloppy to begin with but I eventually got it sorted.

I was then given the all-clear to take out the Jeans.  Kim warned me that the controls are very sensitive and it is easy to PIO on take-off and landing.  No problem, I thought.  I'd be careful and everything would turn out fine.

That lasted about ten seconds.

On take-off, the ground roll was simple enough. TheJeans became airborne fairly quickly and got a bit high behind the tug. "Just a gentle correction" I thought and nudged forward on the stick.  The glider bounced before I had time to swear.  It took another bounce or 2 before I forced myself to stop over correcting.

As we climbed higher it was obvious it was going to be a good day.  The tow was fairly bumpy and I jumped off at about 3000 feet agl to give myself lots of time to learn to fly the thing. 

It was still early in the day and the thermals weren't fully developed.  Just to make things tricky there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  That said, I found a 6 knot thermal fairly easily and rode it for a while.  I soon noticed a glider joining the thermal below me and approaching too quickly for my liking.  I chickened out and went looking for another thermal.

Unfortunately I didn't have much luck finding a decent one.  There was a ton of sink around and I found myself eventually approaching 1500 feet AGL after only half an hour.  So much for my one hour flight.  I positioned myself in a good place to easily join the circuit and hoped for the best.  Luckily there was some scattered 2 or 3 knot lift and I eventually clawed my way up to around 2500 AGL.

I used my new height to go exploring and found an 8 knot thermal, occasionally pegging the vario at 10 knots.  I rode this to 6500 feet easily. I then had a minor problem – the airspace above 7000 feet belongs to the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, and I was still climbing.  Even when I flew in straight lines it seemed on average I wasn't losing height.  It didn't seem possible but I had to work hard to evade the lift.

My hour was up and I was invited to land and be re-launched for my second one-hour flight.  This was harder then it appeared.  I had to actually circle in sink to come down – what a change from Caboolture!

My second flight was a bit of a non-event.  The take-off was fine and I got off at 1500 feet into what I thought was a weak thermal.  It turned out to be 6 knot sink. Bu**ger. Just my luck, the only good lift I found was as I turned base to land.  This lift made me lose my concentration and I landed way too fast.

My third take off was a bit embarrassing.  I managed to PIO on the rudders and my ground roll zigzagged repeatedly.  The Jeans is a fun aircraft to fly but I was still having some teething issues with it.

By now the thermals were in full swing.  They made the tow very tricky and I kept jerking the rope.  The poor tug pilot found himself caught in a heap of sink – it was the first time I've found myself unintentionally descending on tow!

We eventually got out of it and I jumped off into some nice 7 knot lift.  This flight was just amazing.  It seemed that no matter where I went I couldn't lose the lift.  I was tempted to make a radio call with the vario blasting continuous 10+ knot lift in the background but couldn't think an excuse to do so.

My hour went by very quickly.  I only decided to land because I felt like a break.  I think I could have easily stayed up for a few more hours. I had the same problem as before - I was at 6000 feet and not losing height.  Actually it was worse this time. I couldn't find any sink, and I was slowly climbing towards the 7000 feet mark.  Believe it or not but I had to use airbrakes almost all of the day down.  How many people can say they've had that problem at Caboolture?

"Caboolture Week" at DDSC was a fantastic experience and I'd recommend all Caboolture members give it a try. The club is superbly equipped and the weather is a world of difference from Caboolture.  I'd like to thank everyone who organised it and helped out; I'll definitely be back in the future.

David Higgs wrote:

I arrived on Sunday afternoon as a solo student still on daily checks.

Monday I did three familiarisation flights with Robert in the Puchacz followed by a solo flight. I didn’t record my release time and when I returned I was told it was 55 minutes so I missed out on a one hour C certificate achievement.

Tuesday was another Puchacz check flight after which I was signed off daily checks. I then took the Puchacz up for a one hour and then a three hour flight - that finalised the 2 x 1 hour C certificate requirements.

On Wednesday Robert said to take the Puchacz up and see what the conditions were like. Five hours later I touched down, to be greeted with congratulations from Robert for an “unofficial Silver C duration flight” because nobody expected that I would stay up that long, especially me, and I didn’t have a logger on-board. Oh well – there was always tomorrow. Oh no there wasn’t – strong cross winds saw to that.

Friday’s first flight for me was in the Grob, for conversion to the Astir Jeans. After that I took the Jeans up and completed my 5 hour Silver C duration flight plus Silver C height gain, with logger verification this time (actually achieved 5000ft+ height gain).

I had planned to leave Friday night but I was keen to take advantage of being there to start my extended flying by making my “initial cross-country” flight. So, with instructor on board late Saturday morning, we took of in the Puchacz and headed out to Jimbour and return. Once we crossed back over the field to keep the logger happy with a completed task, the instructor pressed me on past the point of no return so that an outlanding was required. The “paddock” was suitable for an aero retrieve and a 10 minute hop saw us back on the DDSC strip.

Overall, I was very impressed with all of the facilities available to us at DDSC, and the pub meals were excellent too. The daily pre-flight briefings by Robert were very comprehensive and covered a lot of detail that was very relevant to the flying we were doing. His enthusiasm and willingness to assist played a big part in my achievements. My total flight time for the week was 19 ½ hours – my total time before that at Caboolture was 8 hours.

I thoroughly recommend those pilots within travelling distance of DDSC who haven’t been there take a weekend visit and experience the hospitality, facilities and opportunities on offer. I will certainly be revisiting shortly to finalise my hat-trick with a Silver C distance flight.

As a postscript, the day after my return I was rostered at Caboolture as a second duty pilot and managed to score a flight during the day. My flight time was 1 hour six minutes, my personal best there. I know what I can attribute that to.

Neville Wilson wrote from  Derbys & Lancs G. C. ,   UK

On my family visits to Australia I take the opportunity to enjoy some great gliding weather and few airspace restrictions. On the current visit my contact in Australia put me in touch with Peter Stephenson who was organising the Caboolture G. C. cross country week at the D.D.S.C. so I was able to join them.

I'd previously flown at Jondaryan but started the week with a check flight in the Puchacz - we launch by winch only at my Club so a dual aerotow was an essential.  After that I flew the Hornet but weatherwise the week was a bit of a disappointment and I didn't achieve anything more than a few useful hours in my logbook.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the week - flying, new friends, good accommodation, pleasant evenings and good food at the local pub and particularly the excellent briefings from Robert Hart.

I'm now going back to winter weather in the UK and five minute circuits off the wire -  though we do have ridge lift with the right wind direction and sometimes we have wave up to FL 65 where there is an airway sitting on top of our airfield - but definitely no 10kt thermals !!!


Post Script:  Many Thanks to Bob Flood, president of the DDSC, Robert Hart, Jeremy Thompson and tuggies Gary McMahon, Fran Ning and Mark Bagshaw for making our week happen, and of course to Pez Mitchell and Keith Allen for coming to get me.