Too High To Milk. 1991
The following is a reprint of an account by Rod Smith of his Diamond Height gain at German Hill in the Blanik IS that first appeared in the June 1991 newsletter. The 19th of May was good too, with ten flights to 10, 000ft or better.
Arriving at the strip at 9.45am you would expect to see a queue a mile long as the SW wave looked as though it was developing quite well. The place was deserted but after a while Struthers and Spence arrived, no disrespect for using their last names, as there are a couple of Bobs and several Johns in the club. Looking up at the humungous roll cloud over German Hill, I said "should be a good day", the only comment was, "oh yeah, could be".
After the D I's were done and Murray Farr had arrived a tow to three grand was ordered, oxygen mask fitted, the O2 turned on and tested, it was all go. Its quite good when the rotor is over the strip as taking off to the north is not a problem.
This flight was carried out in the Blanik, Golf India Sierra as our other high flying machine, the Astir, was having elevator hinge repairs done. Just as well we had a Blanik with gas. Towing to 3000ft was not a problem as the rotor was not too rough. After releasing and dipping to notch the barograph, the rotor seemed to shift, this seems to catch a few pilots out. Pushing forward towards the ranges, the lift was located again and working well. The initial climb to 10,000ft wasn't too hard except that the forward penetration of a Blanik isn't as good as the Astir and if you don't keep the nose pointing south and the speed up, you would soon find yourself out the back door and fighting to get back into the system again. Not a problem for some pilots but I prefer to fly on my own rather than with others….. no need to have a group conference as to what to do next.
Getting to 20500ft wasn't too difficult, but it was cold and interestingly enough, at that height, 65 knots on the ASI was needed to stay in the lift which appeared to top out at that height. Convert that 65 knots into true airspeed you have about 92 knots, so you can imagine what the wind strength was like.
I thought it was about time I returned to earth and let another pilot get a diamond height gain. I pointed the glider towards the sink and down we came at just over 2000 feet per minute and that was with the brakes hanging out. Oh boy that was the worst thing to do, my right ear was bloody painful. A burst eardrum was the last thing I wanted. If you suffer from very slight ear problems, they become major ones if descending too fast, so make your descent a gradual one.
At 13,000ft, just north of Egmont Village, looking for German Hill was not a problem, I knew where to look but I couldn't see it as the roll cloud was still over the strip and topping out at about 10,000ft. Things go through your mind like, "is that bloody great cloud descending right to the ground? Where are the other blokes, I can't see them, it certainly is still working so why aren't they flying. Is the wind strength on the ground too strong, is it persisting under the cloud?" Still sinking like a brick at 6000ft and thinking "why the hell am I here after that smooth ride up there, the rough stuff sure gives you a rude awakening". Bang, thump, "hell we are climbing again, no we are not". "Ah! That's a good sight, I can see the strip, a glider on the ground. Wind speed not too bad, 5 to 8 knots NW, still sinking at 11 to 1200ft per minute though. Will start my downwind leg at 1500ft, Blaniks are good at getting rid of extra height if its not needed".
After landing, I enquired why they weren't flying? "Oh we had a couple of flights, bombed out, so gave up. How high did you get?" "Twenty thousand, five hundred." "Oh nonsense. Let the OO have the barograph, barographs don't lie."
Postscript: Rod Smith got his Diamond Height and his ears gave him hell for days afterwards.