How To Go Harness Shopping (by Stuart Hall)
I decided that I needed to upgrade my Advance Lightness for a Lightness 2 and Flybubble offered me a part ex deal. Carlo and Nancy also offer a setting up service, and with various sizes of harness/pod combinations I was keen to visit the shop. Unfortunately I live in North Devon, and Flybubble are in East Sussex!
Fortunately though I also have a PPL and part share in a Fournier RF5 motor glider, and so last September I hatched a plan called "Operation Harness Swap". The plan was to fly down to Sussex in the aeroplane with the old harness on the very small parcel shelf. Nancy told me about Ringmer gliding club and I got permission to land there. Carlo would pick me up, take me to the shop, do the deal, set me up and send me on my way!
The weekend in question for this approached, and the weather looked OK. I roped in my good mate, excellent paraglider pilot and all round top bloke Rich Osborne. Rich is great at weather and nav, so a great back up to share the workload. We were up late the night before doing a thorough met check and NOTAMS, which reported the Red Arrows performing around Southampton at the time we had planned to get there so some last minute alterations were needed.
We set off for Dunkeswell early and got there around 8.30am. It was blowing West 25mph+ with base around 1,000ft, the sky looked horrible with clouds scudding by and it was raining. The forecast was due to improve. but this meant a delayed departure. We had a cup of tea and bacon sandwich and discussed our options. We chatted to a couple of helicopter pilots who decided the day was a write off but hoped to just get a little hover practice in. Forecast was due to improve so we readied the aeroplane anyway, which takes about half an hour.
Around 10.00am black clouds were still rolling by and it was still blowing 25mph, but a Cessna 152 reported base at around 2,500…sod it lets get up and see. We actually got in the aeroplane as the heavens opened and we sat there with the rain beating on the canopy thinking is this a good idea? Its a long way on a motor glider.
Sod it, let's get up and see! So off we went and base was indeed around 2,500 and we quickly turned East heading towards Portland. With a strong westerly up the chuff our ground speed was around 120mph. From Portland we routed to Swanage and contacted Bournemouth approach, who passed us on to Solent Radar as we passed the Needles and flew up the middle of the Solent. By now the sky had cleared and we had a beautiful flight down the middle of the Solent, an area I know very well from sailing. Rich entertained me with his all his XC adventures and we scoped out lots of his landing spots close to the coast, which should help planning goals for 2016.
We carried on to Brighton and then headed up to Ringmer which we managed to find ok. We did have 3 Oudies (which we were dropping off with Flybubble for the update), the aircraft's Garmin, and my hand held Garmin…so we had plenty of help! Having Rich along to check the route (and fly the aeroplane most of the time) whilst I dealt with very busy RT approaching Bournemouth and entering the Solent, plus further down the coast at Shoreham where we got permission to transit the zone, which helped.
Ringmer gliding club were great, they let us park in the lee of a hangar as it was still 25mph and the Fournier's outriggers were bending over in the wind. Being a motor glider, they kindly didn't charge us a landing fee and were very welcoming. A call to Carlo and the Flybubble van/taxi service was there to pick us up. A quick drive to Flybubble HQ. tea and biscuits, hang in the new harness and full set up by. Carlo and Nancy were fantastic as ever, making sure that my harness was fully set up and comfortable. We agreed a part ex price for the old harness that was very reasonable, so many thanks guys! Much appreciated!
We routed back into wind which was much slower, and headed for Sandown Isle of Wight. Here we had tea, sandwiches and fueled up. The sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon. The wind had eased a little too. The flight down had taken 2 hours. The flight back, into wind, took 3. We had a great flight, landing back at Dunkeswell as the sun was setting. A lovely dinner in the Aviator café was had along with tea and medals. All in all 5 hours flying, around 500 miles covered, so definitely our biggest out and return day, and an unforgettable way to go harness shopping!