XC in a Duo Discus

From CUGC Wiki
Recovered from old website (author and date at the end), but a good read!

As part of my reward for crewing at the European's Mike promised me a flight in 72, a privately owned Duo Discus. So on the morning of the 16th we eagerly set out to the airfield and started rigging. The day didn't look promising, but first impressions can be deceptive. Other club members looked on in surprise as we merrily stuffed water into the wings and were perhaps shocked as Mike declared a 400km task - Devizes - Olney - Bury St Edmunds - Gransden. The day started looking more and more like it ought, and before long we were on the winch queue ready to go. We're off, screaming up the winch wire, not pulling quite so hard, and remembering the day before when I broke the cable. Before long we hook our first solid climb and then head off down track to see what it's like. We fly as far as Bedford and back without turning. It looks pretty good, certainly the best day I've flown on so far, with 7,8,and 9-knot thermals. The ASH25e "IM" is flying the same task as us. They start before us.

Mike demonstrates the starting technique, diving to Vne and crossing the start line with maximum energy just under the gate. We pull up to cruising speed, about 90kts, and before long Gransden is far behind. The task is well suited to the day as our course runs parallel to the cloud streets. Unfortunately there's some high cover heading over form the West, so we hope we can reach our turn before it kills the lift. Milton Keynes slips under the right wing as we dolphin our way westwards. We pass a motor Falke Thermalling with the engine stopped (MUST be a good day then!) and push on to join an ASK23 out of Dunstable. A couple of turns in his thermal and we're off again - no time to hang about.

I become temporarily lost - unused to travelling at this speed (you get plenty of time to navigate in an Ka-8!). However soon I've got it sussed as Didcot power station looms over the horizon and Oxford materialises on the right. We see the ASH a head of us turning in a thermal, but don't stop ourselves, as we're still high. Threading our way between the controlled airspace we take a climb or two and as we pass over Avebury ring look down to see the white horses and crop circles in the wheat. We've left the ASH behind now (all 25 metres of it) but the high cover is beginning to take all the oomph out of the thermals. We Turn Devises as low as we dare and head back out into the sunshine. Climbing in the first decent thermal we come to, we see IM heading the other way.

Once at height we're off again, trying to connect to a street that'll take us to our next turning point at Olney. The thermals aren't as good now, but it's down wind, so we make good progress. I follow a cloud street slightly too far and before long I've strayed a bit too much to the South. We dogleg north around the East Side of Milton Keynes to reach Olney. This detour has let the ASH catch up and they're only a few kilometres behind as we turn Olney. Our next leg takes us straight over Gransden. Mike's flying now (so don't blame me for what happens next). We push on along the track, the well-defined streets have gone now and we hop from cumulus to cumulus looking for the strong one that'll take us back up to 5000'. We pass over St Neots. I comment "at least we'll get back to Gransden if all else fails". Hmm we'll see about that. As Mike rejects the 1kt at 1500', I start thinking "push on, push on, round out".

We get low. Very low. Our shadow on the ground gets bigger... and bigger. I start dumping water ballast. Round and round we go in some near Zero sink. The field below us is cut crop, could that kick of a nice thermal for us? Is that a surge? Mike centres on it, re-centres and just one short eternity later we're climbing in 5kts. With half our ballast gone we're limited to cruising at 70-80kts. The thermals are dying now, as the end of the day draws near and the high cover cuts out the sun. However, we still have 100km to run.

The ASH has leapfrogged us while we were in the weeds and is ahead of us once again. We follow in hot pursuit. Taking a weak climb over Cambridge ("look that's my college down there" "shut up and concentrate on the flying") and abandoning it for a better one near Duxford we make good time. We climb in 5kts just before the downwind turn point, which we reach still behind the ASH. "Right then, I'm going to shut up now; see if you can get back without turning" says the voice form the back. Ho hum, here we go then. Seemed rude not to top up in the 5kts we'd just left, then I headed off homewards. Going south of track (again - must be gravity) I find a nice line of lift in the evening thermals. Throwing a few turns in ruins my chances of not turning, but does put me 500' above glide. Is that enough? Fingers crossed. We pass Cambridge and I start looking for the landmarks around Gransden. I've never seen it from this low angle before, but I know it's got to be there somewhere (hasn't it?... HASN'T IT?). My nerves make me fly a little too fast (why does that always happen?). I've now only got 200' over glide. Mike starts briefing me on the finish. Trees and fields start whizzing by under the wings, I can see the finish point now. I quickly check around to see if there's anything else in circuit and as we cross the line, I pull up and pull the water dump. BIG wobble as I forget to trim before changing hands to lower the wheel. A steep approach and we're back on terra firma. 10 minutes later the ASH showed up. "What happened to you?" "Ah, we went the direct route and spent 10 minutes scratching over Newmarket" TINSFOS? I think not. There Is No Substitute For ... ... water in the wings and a national champion in the back seat. Hmm doesn't quite have the same ring. (439km, 101kph).

Iain Butler
2012-05-15 11:20:38+00:00
2015-01-22 11:24:06+00:00