Planning for this event started in February after the power GIA event at Sleap seemed certain to go ahead. Lasham seemed always to be the obvious choice of venue given the central location and the outstanding facilities the club have to offer. The September date was chosen because the soaring season is largely over by then and, even with six hundred members, the general club activity is much reduced.
Colin Watt (CFI) and the Lasham committee were exceedingly generous and offered a deal which guaranteed that we would have plenty of participants. The cost of flights was reduced by 20%, and fees for camping and reciprocal membership were waived. This represented a considerable level of support from Lasham itself. As well as that we were given a free hand as to the way in which we set things up.
Promotion was by way of a small ad. in the Sailplane and Gliding magazine and attendant article by one of the Lasham juniors. The limit of 25 pilots was quickly oversubscribed. Eight instructors agreed to give up all or part of their weekend to help out. The Friday evening get together was well attended by most of the youngsters and all of the instructors and proved a success.
Aircraft used were three ASK21’s and a DG1000 supplied by Lasham. Dan Welch (Instructor) brought a further ASK21 from the Bristol and Gloucester Club and Maz Makari brought his Fox from Bicester. Tow planes and tow pilots were supplied in abundance by Lasham.
The event itself was marred on the first day by very unhelpful weather and a cloud base of 1500’ for most of the time, with the occasional clearance allowing the odd flight up to 4000’ through gaps in the cloud. We soon got used to taking short flights to 1500’, sometimes using the winch. I was surprised how much we got done in this way and even the minimal progress was appreciated by the youngsters and their spirits remained high.
The second day brought no improvement in the weather initially and the down time was used by Dan to give a talk on Flight Envelopes and Human Performance. The cloud base rose to about 3000’ during the afternoon and we were able to proceed at a good pace. Everyone on the course had at least two flights and three pilots gained their BGA Standard Aerobatic badges. Coming from winch launch sites, many of the pilots were experiencing aerotows for the first time which was an added benefit.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of all was the continuing smiles and good nature of all of the youngsters, several of whom were only 14 and 15 years old, in the face of the disappointing weather. Everyone improved their handling skills and gained in confidence, both in themselves and their aircraft. They will be safer pilots as a result.
Special thanks to the instructors, Graham Saw, Roger Barber, Maz Makari, Dan Welch, Alex Harris, and to Sue Harris who helped with the management on the ground.
Thanks also to the Staff at Lasham GS, particularly Colin Watt (CFI) and Sharon White (Secretary).
Paul Conran (Sept 2016)