23 December, 2014

World War 1: Aviation comes of age

World War 1: Aviation comes of age  is 3 week long course that is intended to take up about three hours a week but I found the optional further reading unmissable and so I had to allow more time.  
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ww1-aviationThis also meant that having started the course late I was even later finishing it - it took me about 5 weeks in total and I really enjoyed it. Just shows how flexible the the cours is. It's a free online course from the University of Birmingham’s Centre for War Studies.

The course cover many aspects about the early days of aviation and how it evolved raidly through WW1 bring about the formation of the Royal Flying Core before the war and the Royal Air Force by the end of it.

There's many other intersting courses like this available via the Future Learn website so it's well worth a look.

22 December, 2014

SS Great Britain

We went to collect my son from Bristol just before Christmas and made good time on the journey, in fact with time to spare. 

Bristol is a fascinating city with many old buildings blending in reasonabley well with the modern, it's harbour and just the general atmosphere a being alive and well, thriving in fact. Faced with an hour or two burn it wasn't difficult to think of a good number of places to visit; in the end we went for SS Great Britain.

SS Great Britain was designed by brunel and was launched at Bristol in 1843. It is one of the most important historic ships in the world being the first steamship built of iron and also the first ocean going ship to be driven by a propeller and not paddles. More information is on their website.

The few hours turned out not to be enough time to do the visit credit but that's okay, the ticket is valid for as many returns visits as you like for a year, so next time we go to Bristol we can finish off of our tour properly.

19 December, 2014

Would You Visit Middlewich Museum?

Image from Middlewich Heritage
Middlewich has a long history readily traced back through modern history, Norman and Roman times. So why not visit Middlewich Museum? Simple, you can't there isn't one. 

You could be forgiven for thinking Middlewich is that little place that the A54 cuts through however locals can tell otherwise and that's part of the problem. Locally there's a huge amount of articles and data that is inaccesible to the public. Well Middlewich Heritage and other local groups are hoping to this right. Plans are in early stages though it seems that a trust managed museum may be the way to go. To this end a survey is being carried to try to establish what the public feeling is and what would be liked and your participation would be appreciated:
  • You don’t have to be a resident to have a point of view, the survey is for all to fill in. We need the public’s point of view on heritage and on heritage in Middlewich to enable us to work in a more focused way, bring new projects online and make decisions on how we can best serve the public’s needs.
  • The survey will be on line until 6th February and is mainly tick boxes so it will only take a couple of minutes to complete.
  • The more responses we get, means we have more information to guide us with any future plans or fund-raising for the town and the surrounding parishes.
Please use the link below to load the form and pass on the link to others you feel would be interested to take part.
Thank you in advance

As part of the preparations a visit to Ribchester museum was arranged to see how a relatively small museum can be succesful. I was pleased to be involved in this along with half a dozen or so other representaives of local groups. We gleaned a lot ideas and in keeping with the plea above completed a questionare whilst it was all still fresh in our minds.

Archaeological Timeline - Middlewich Heritage

Salt Hot House - Middlewich Heritage

Wardle Canal - Middlewich Heritage

Community Dig Finds - Middlewich Heritage

ARP Wardens - Middlewich Heritage

29 October, 2014


At our club's open day I was fortunate to win a fantastic raffle prize, a flight in one of our member's aeroplane.

Hilary & I Ready To Fly
This was a Jodel DR1050 and the flight was from Wellesbourne airfield in Warwickshire on 25th October 2014. The day had started quite breezy and wet and though the rain subsided by the afternoon it was still quite breezy; if I remember correctly it was blwoing at 20% to the strip. My wife Hilary came along too and after our pilot, Steve, had completed all the ground checks we set off down the strip. I could certainly feel the breeze as the aeroplane worked up towards take-off speed and then off we went in the general direction of Evesham. Soon after that Steve asked me if I'd like to take control, hah, can a duck swim!

Jodel DR1050
We passed Stratford on Avon on our right, Evesham on our left and continued in the general direction of Pershore until we reached the Stensham Services on the M6 at which point we turned back towards Wellesbourne. Well, I’ve had my hands on the controls of an aeroplane once or twice before but bouncing around in the breeze was a new experience and I have to say I quite enjoyed it. Of course Steve landed the aeroplane, which in the conditions was, erm, rather attention grabbing.

It was a great flight and I'd love to do it again.

27 October, 2014

Great Orme Re-visited

Last week I revisited the Great Orme for some more sloping. The “rock” is a slope glider’s paradise with lovely smooth lift to fly in.

If I recall correctly the wind was around 25mph which is fine and gave me the opportunity to fly my "Sailplanes International Secret Weapon". It a bit of a mouthful so I just call it my Sloperider. I've beefed up some of the control wires and I was keen to see how it behaved. It behaved very well indeed and I enjoyed a good long flight, the time always comes for a landing though and all seemed to be going well for a nice landing in the designated landing area. Just as I expected it to touch down it floated for a moment, just enough to stop it's forward speed an few inches off the ground and a minor stall followed. No great problem really, just that it sheered of one of the aileron servos arms ending it's flights for the day in the process.

No problem though, I had several other models with me. My fairly new Wicked Wing and my now old faithful SAS Fusion. The both behaved as expected and several hours of flying followed.

Thee several other slope flyers at various times and I had arranged to meet my friend Tim Mackey who as usual had something special with him. On this occasion it was a maiden flight for his model of an AVRO Vulcan XH558 which had a little surprise of it's own. It flew very well and produced a noticable but not in anyway loud whine fron the air passing over it's surface; amazingly realistic. Think I might end with one of those!

On the whole it was a really nice autumn day. It was a little cool when the sun when in but in the sunshine it was pretty comfortable really.

The day ended with another beautiful sunset and happily an uneventful journey home.

28 September, 2014

SCRCS 2014 Open Day

Our open day this year was on 21st September during a period of quite unsettled weather but on the day we were fortunate to have light winds and some sunshine too.

We had a fantastic turnout of show pilots and some of our own pilots flew too. As a club member I would like to thank all those that helped make the day a success. There's insufficient space here to feature all of the pilots and aeroplanes but I'll try and feature a few. Full details will be published on out website www.scrcs.co.uk .

Liam Swarbrick, Andy Ellison and other pilots from Tyldsley Model Flying Club flew a variety of gliders and aerobatic aircraft. Being more of scale type myself I really enjoyed watching Andy flying a Super Decathlon. Andy Pace gave a very lively display with his Vision 50 helicopter and another of one our members, Andy Wiggins, flew his rather good looking Mustang. Simon Cocker and co. make aerotowing gliders look easy but actually there's a lot skill involved.

Gordon Whitehead flew several machines but my favourite was his red and silver Tiger Moth looking absolutely splendid despite it's many years of service. Nathan Farrel-Jones pleased spectators with his amazing displays including his jet powered L39 Albatross.  It's absolutely amazing and mind boggling how Chris Martindale manages to fly his high speed Voodoo models, most of us can't even keep track of them from the spectators line, needless to say I didn't get any photographs of his fast flights. More SCRCS members made flights too, Martin Kynder, Martyn Coles and Pete Jeffries all put up aircraft and acquitted themselves well. I was not too well at the time but I did manage a couple of flights with my DG1000 glider. Sounds like a lot of flying, indeed there was and many more models and displays than I have mentioned here.

As usual we had one of brilliant raffles. I was fortunate enough to win a flight in a full size Jodel and Andy Ellison's son one an almost complete SAS Venom flying wing, so nearly complete that before the day was over it had been towed into the air. Prizes has been donated mostly by members but I should also mention that local model shops had also donated prizes, including Barnstormers.

On a rather sad note I have to report that Tom Doyle insisted that this really was the last time he was going to do the catering. His bacon butties and beefy burgers will be truly missed.

It's a great way to see model aircraft, join in and fly or just get to chat with the pilots and we will almost certainly do it again in 2015. All I can say to that is that if you fortunate enough to get an invite, don't waste it!


10 September, 2014

Shangai'd in Middlewich

Steering Maria
Every year in Middlewich there is the Folk and Boat Festival and my wife Hilary usually helps out with stewarding. This year Sue Day from the Horse Boating Society was demonstrating how to harness a horse for towing a nearby wooden narrow boat "Maria" and Hilary duly assisted in holding the horse still. At the end of the display Sue asked for people to come forward to crew the boat the next day as she didn’t have anyone. I was watching and both Hilary and I declined at first but Sue can be quite persuasive so we were (slightly willingly actually) shangaid. It turned out Sue was short of crew for much of the journey ahead and to cut a long story short, both Hilary & Emma ended up crewing the boat too and through a large part of the Cheshire Ring from Middlewich to the centre of Manchester. This included the first time a horse drawn boat had been in the Anderton Lift for 60 years, legging through Preston Brook tunnel and polling (like punting) along the parts where the horse and towline couldn’t be used. Steering a horse drawn boat is a lot different from one with an engine, so is stopping one too!

Maria under tow from Bilbo
A little about Maria:
* Built at Marple in 1854 so in 2014 she was 160 years old!
* Oldest wooden canal narrowboat and does not have an engine.
* Until around 1950 she was un use for carrying goods and repair materials for canal repairs.
* During the 1970s she was raised after having been sunk & abandoned sometime in the 1960s
* Restored and owned by the Ashton packet Boat Co. and now operated by The Horseboating Society.

Sue Day and the narrowboat "Elland"
Hilary and I have also helped out at at a demonstration at National Boat Museuem, Ellesmere Port and crewed "Elland" on the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Burnley.

Maria at the Anderton Boat Lift

10 May, 2014

Another Narrow Escape

After months of one problem after another the time arrived for another cruise, this time on the waterways of England!
Last time we embarked on a similar venture we picked up a Narrowboat at Mercia Marina, Willington, Derbyshire and headed off west along the Trent and Mersey canal towards Shugborough. This time we went east and it was going to be a bit different: double width locks, two rivers and the threat of cold wet weather.

In addition to last time's crew of my wife and daughter my brother and his wife joined us on my birthday which unfortunately turned out out to be full of the wet weather we feared. All the same we made the best of it and ended up reaching the outskirts of Leicester where we turned around for the return journey. We left my brother at Barrow on Soar and carried on to Loughborough where there was a boat festival in full swing so we spent an hour or two there - enjoying the sunshine would you believe!

Yes we actually caught the sun because apart from that one day the weather was quite good to us. The double locks weren't a problem and both the rivers Soar and Trent were flowing very gently. All in all not too challenging at all. We enjoyed the venture, places to visit, the countryside and the wildlife. When the time came to return the boat we really didn't want to do it, still at least that means we can look forward to doing it again sometime.

15 March, 2014

Mixed Events

After the maiden flight and not a mark to show for it.
Sunday 9th March will be a very memorable day for lots of reasons and I'll start with the glorious weather. It started with light winds that were forecast to become even calmer as the day went on. Just what I needed to try out my latest slope model that I intended for just such conditions. The model is a Wicked Wing which I believe is a Windrider Bee2 chevron flying wing clone. Happy with the weather and feeling in reasonably good health I loaded up my trusty Ford Mondeo. The car had served me well for 8 years only recently requiring two new springs on the front. In went all my cold weather clothing (which it turned out I didn't need), my camera two normal gliders, the good old SAS Fusion and of course the new Wicked Wing.

Just short of an hour later I arrived at the Edge Top slope where I had expected the wind to be just right and indeed it was. The gentle breeze was blowing a little too strong for the paragliders that were there too and they were waiting for the wind to drop. With the help of a fellow model pilot a few test glides showed that I had too much reflex on the elevons (the waggly bits at the back of the wings were sticking up too much that means). 
The paragliders looked magnificient

After some trimming we went for the launch proper and off she went as smooth as could be. A little more trimming on the elevons was needed but I soon had it sorted out. The wind had started to die down too and at one point I got caught in some sink; then I found the thermal that had caused the sink! Great, I was getting really good height from the rising air of the thermal and it looked like I could have stayed up there all day but there comes a point when the model gets so high it's too small to see so I had to break out of the lift and bring the model lower down. I flew around for another minute or two and decided I was happy  with that for a maiden flight and decided to try for a landing which needed to be to my right as by now the paragliders were behind me and to my left, preparing to get airborne. Once more I wasn't disappointed with the handling and the model easily landed as planned. By this time the wind was fine for the paragliders and that put an end to my flying at that site as they were flying in front of the slope and a conflict with a manned craft would not be good. That rather spoilt the occasion but we decided that the Pool site wasn't far away and might be flyable even though the wind direction wasn't all that good.

28 February, 2014

Another week, another slope

inthehollow.jpgA week after my last visit to the slopes and I find myself there again, this time flying from "The Pool". 

A good blowy though slightly milder day but all the same standing exposed to the wind made it feel pretty cold. There's a nice thing about this site though, the pits is in a hollow behind a bank which is so sheltered from the wind that even wing bags don't get blown around. So we nip up the bank for launching and landing and in the mean time carefully step down the bank to fly and shelter from the blow.

Actually some of the time I was able to have the sky to myself so I stayed on top of the bank to get in much needed practice. If anything I seemed to need it more than ever with what seemed like a very twitchy model on launch even with the lowest rate setting. That situation wasn't helped when I forget to pull down my goggles and my eyes soon started streaming. Not the best idea I've ever had but I decided I could pull them down over my glasses whilst I was still flying. So I found my self with my glasses dislodged, the goggles half on and the twitchy model somewhere out there. I quick moment of panic and I found the model and brought it in for a landing pronto. I'm happy to say the remainder of the flights that day were without incident. It was only in conversation when packing up that it became apparent that my nose balance weights were missing . I'd put them there as a temporary measure months ago, liked the effect and planned to do the job properly at a later date... in the mean time I forgot all about it and didn't notice the absence in my preflight check. Huh no wonder it was twitchy !

Anyway it had been another good day with lots of practice at flying a tail heavy wing in a strong wind, next time can only be better .


17 February, 2014

First proper slope of the year

I set off for The Pool because of the forecast SW wind but it turned out other flyers had already settled on flying from "The Gate", though on checking "The Pool" site a short distance down the road the wind seemed to be more full onto that slope but I was happy to go with the flow of the more experienced flyers.  I had arrived at 1.30pm and I was surprised by the number of cars present though I Iater found out some had already left as the wind had started to weaken. Anyway I found a recently vacated space in the line of cars, nipped through the gate and there I was in the pits. Not much of walk that and though there's marsh land around the flying site the pits and flight line were surprisingly firm underfoot.

SAS Fusion
Having noticed the wind speed dropping on the weather forecasts and being told I'd missed the best of the wind I quickly gave the SAS Fusion a heave out and off it went at the first attempt. I was quite pleased with that. Last time I'd flown it was about a month ago but that was into a turbulent 32/48mph wind - took several efforts to launch in entirely different conditions, prior to that it's months since I've flown a model of any description let alone chucked one of a hillside. The lift was still fairly good and I enjoyed about 15 minutes worth of experimenting with it to see how well it would hold up in loops, rolls & inverted and it was okay. So, having had my settling in flight I went back to the pits for a butty & coffee and was approached by Keith Rathbone (L&MMGA Membership Secretary) and welcomed to the club as this was the first time we'd actually met. That was nice, being newish in a club can be a bit isolating and it's good to have a welcome and a friendly handshake. A quick hello to a few others and another good  flight was embarked on. The third flight was okay but the lift had decayed somewhat and it took a couple of launches to actually get airborne and at times it was quite obvious that the fusion was not getting as much lift as before. Further evidence of the decaying lift was that the vast majority of flyers were packing up. I checked the wind speed on my mobile phone anemometer (not wholly accurate but okay for what I currently need) and that showed the wind mostly between 6 and 15mph with a very occasional gust to 23mph, not really enough for my Fusion. With most people having departed that left me free to have another flight preceded by a lot of practice at launching and landing ;o) however I did catch one of those stronger gusts and once a little altitude had been gained I was able to stay up for about ten minutes at which point I thought I'd try a lowish pass or two then rise on the same patch of lift. It worked twice, the third time was converted into a landing - the usable lift for me had gone.

Not today for the Secret Weapon
I had taken my Sail Planes International Secret Weapon sport glider with me too but neither I nor the decaying lift seemed to be in the best form to venture out with that.

That's about it. A very worthwhile trip out of about 25 miles each way, some good flying, lots of much needed practice and neither my boots nor the car was covered in mud. That's thing with this type of sloping, setting up, flying and packing up is the quickest and easiest possible, no messing about fitting batteries or starting engines, refitting fresh batteries or refuelling. Just get the model out of the car (check the battery of course) chuck it and fly as long as I like all day on the fitted NiMh pack. Then at home time chuck it in the back of car and the job's done.



12 February, 2014

Even a hobbit would have found it tricksy

We've just been for an overnight stay at The Borrowdale hotel at Grange in Borrowdale, Keswick. We decided to go back to see if it had changed since we last stayed there, about 30 years ago!  

Linked from Hotels.com
The decor has changed but the rest seemed very familiar: welcoming, comfortable and good food. We were very pleased to find that it was unspoilt but hadn't overlooked a few modern implementations like WiFi. So all this meant that on arrival we settled into one of the lounges with crumpets and a glass of warm orange & Pimms. That might seem hard to imagine but actually it was lovely and warming which with the bitter wind blowing outside was just right.

We then settled down to studying online and paper OS maps to plan a walk the next day. We had hoped to just take a low level walk across the bottom of Derwent Water towards Manesty then back through Grange Village but the high water level of Derwent Water made that route impassible, so we decided to follow a path around Greatend Cragg then up Kings Howe and back to the car at the hotel via the Bowder Stone.

Having sorted that out it was time for dinner and very good it was too. I had duck and my wife had roast beef washed down with a bottle chateau bottled beaujolais, the last measure of which went very nicely with a generous helping of cheese, biscuits, celery and grapes. Needles to say it was a good night and we slept well.

Not too steep... yet.
So the next day was time to spend some energy. We were surprised as we left the hotel to feel a few raindrops in the air because the weather forecast was very favourable: cold (feels like 1.2 degrees) dry, light winds and sunny spells. Thankfully the raindrops soon disappeared and that was the end of it, though the wind still felt very cold on our faces and our exhaled breath floated away down wind in a cloud of vapour. Still we had come prepared, dressed in multiple layers of suitable warm clothing, hats and boots so of we set. 

Once we left the road we were on sodden ground that just about supported us if we picked our way carefully and once the ground started to rise a little this improved immensely. The walk didn't get any easier though as the path became steeper and was formed by rocks in layers like steps which were wet. It required a great deal of care and effort; even a hobbit would have found it tricksy. We soon found we were too hot. Yes too hot, the wind had disappeared completely, we were working hard and getting very, hot! Hats, fingerless gloves and jumpers were soon removed as the labours of the climb went on; it was worth it though because the wonderful views around us were starting show.

30 January, 2014

What's In The Attic?

It will look something like this
There's so much in our attic the floor is creaking under the strain. Well okay it's not actually creaking, small wonder though. I've decided that it's time it for it all to go but some of the stuff does have value so it might be worth  putting on eBay. Hmm, not really keen on that though, I want more control of the price and the time items are listed for.

There's only one thing for it, sell it all myself. So I'm busy developing a website to sell it all and it should be finished soon. Think I'll call it "Stashed In The Attic" !