Firebird UK  
[ Home ]  [ About the Flying Circus ]  SIMON'S BLOG  [ Articles ]  [ Contact Us ]  [ Vintage gliders ]  [ Shop ] 

Not Much Flying....

14.1.17: When the flying is a bit thin, we all look to other things to fulfill our interest in flying - or to replace it temporarily. In my case, one such distraction is radio-controlled model aircraft, and over the winter I have been slowly fettling this 8' span ASW28, scale motor glider to get it ready to take to the air. All it needs now is a careful adjustment of the C of G, and then there will be nothing for it but to try and fly the beast. I wonder whether it will fly?


29.12.16: A sunny day drew quite a lot of pilots to Beer Head in the hope of a little flying, and that is all we got - but what a great day out in December. Good company with some fun banter while we waited for the wind to pick up. I grabbed about 20 or 30 minutes of pleasant flying during a good spell (that is me on the green Skyman glider) but then went down when it dropped off abruptly. No matter, the walk back up the cliffs through the jungle is always fun in itself.

Another Grand Day Out. Roll on 2017 - let's hope for lots of good times.


When I can't fly my hangies or paragliders I like to fly radio-controlled aircraft - usually motorised sailplanes or scale warplanes. Just lately I have been flying this lovely Minimoa, which has a span around 6 feet. At first it felt like a bus, and I think it is too heavy to thermal effectively on anything other than strong days, but now I'm really enjoying trying to fly it in a manner appropriate to the original aircraft. It is majestic in the air. May be for sale soon - I have other things to fly. Want to learn? I may be able to help!


23.12.16: My last job before the Xmas break was to strip and rebuild a carbon Litespeed RX. These things are so gorgeous - and a delight to work on!

Lanzarote, third flight

The third and last flight on the trip was at El Cuchillo, a tricky little site with typically unforgiving surroundings. I was lucky with my timing, and climbed out in what may have been the best thermal of the day. But I then managed to lose the lift while zipping up my harness and making a radio transmission when at 2500 feet!

After floundering around for a while and losing quite a lot of height, I decided to fly to the rim of a volcano in the hope that it would trigger another thermal. That failed, and soon I was finishing my Lanzarote trip with a landing in between two volcanoes!

What a great winter holiday! Thanks to Paul, Colin, Darren, Steve and Peter for making the trip asuch fun!

Lanzarote, second flight

Next time we went flying (we had a day riding motor bikes off-raod in between) I did the Famara run again. This time it was much windier at altitude, and rather a lot of orographic cloud that needed to be negotiated. When I finally got to the Mirador end of the ridge I was able to fly out to sea under the cloud and almost reached the island of Graciosa.

The return journey was slow, and slightly nerve-wracking because the wind had certainly strengthened, and it is a long way back to an easy landing area. The glider performed fine, but penetration was limited. It was only after landing that I realised this is a 21 year old design, so it was actually doing an excellent job. Another lovely flight!

Lanzarote revisited

It is fifteen years since I have flown in Lanzarote, so when the chance came to go back on a trip flying with the lads from Norfolk, it was a no-brainer. Paul "El Cuchillo" Leary put the whole deal together, and it was a very enjoyable week in good company.

The first flying day resulted in a very pleasant trip along the Famara run. I was lucky in that Carsten Zuelch, a customer who lives in Germany, had offered to lend me a glider he keeps in LZR, a Bautek Sunrise. It handled really well, and climbed like the proverbial dingbat. It wasn't the fastest hang glider, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of this most spectacular route.

Upottery Aerotow Syndicate

21.10.16: Our aerotow syndicate has had a much better year in 2016, and there is a great atmosphere whenever we go out. Sam Jeyes, our next CAC, needs to accumulate more tows to get his rating, so we went out and towed him until he was nicely tired!

There are three available shares in our syndicate, so it may be worth joining us to get more flying, and some extra time at cloudbase. People think our greatest asset is access to good runways on Smeatharpe Airfield, but I think it is the camaraderie in the syndicate. We have fun, so why not come along and join in?

We have the technology!

It isn't often that I repair my own gliders, but I felt my Litespeed RX deserved a full strip after having had to stand almost four years of my abuse. Two things greatly impressed me - first that the glider is still in such excellent condition (ahem - apart from the A-frame!) and secondly the elegant simplicity of the frame design.

Well done Gerolf and all at Moyes Delta Gliders, she is still a beauty!


2.10.16: Bad things happen. It's all very well blogging when I've had a flight that I'm pleased with, but sometimes things don't go so well, and it is only right to mention the bad stuff, too. The photograph shows the aftermath of a downwind landing attempt....failed! I walked away unhurt, and have since stripped the glider down for a thorough check. So far, I have found no damage apart from the obvious uprights and one end fitting. Moyes build strong gliders! But I have to sort out my landings, PDQ.....


30.9.16: We've had a couple of days to enjoy the glorious sound of Rolls Royce Merlins, as two Supermarine Spitfires cavorted around the skies above Turfhouse. I nipped over to Dunkeswell to have a close look, and take a few photos. The sign on the gate said "No Unauthorised Access beyond this Point". So I walked through and took some pictures. My dad used to fly these things, and I'm very proud of him. A good friend gave me a pair of silver Spitfire cuff links a while ago, and I'm proud of them, too.

Another epic day at Beer Head.

23.9.16: When we arrived the sky was dotted with small cumulus, so I said that my aim for the day was to take off, climb to cloudbase, and then to fly home, setting my goal as Smeatharpe airfield - our aerotowing site. It is only about ten miles from Beer Head, but I don't think anyone has flown downwind from this coast since I flew my Cyclone a mile or so back to the main road - about 37 years ago!

Fly Away Home

By the time I was airborne, however, the clouds had evaporated, and I spent two hours patrolling the magnificent cliffs, waiting for something unusual to happen. This is a spectacular site at any time, but the visibility was crystal clear.. I had the feeling there was still hope, and then it happened.....clouds were forming again.

It took another half hour before I hooked a worthwhile thermal, and I left the hill with about 1200feet above take off. Before long I was at cloudbase (only 2400') and the wispy little cloud had grown considerably. I had to keep flying out from under the cloud to avoid the white-out. The lift was plentiful!

Eventually, with a little bit of cross-winding between the clouds, the familiar disused airfield at Smeatharpe became visible on the plateau just to the north-east of Turfhouse. It wasn't long before I could set off on an easy glide to landing in familiar surroundings. Great fun!

Thanks go to Dave Tombs for persuading me to forsake the office in favour of going flying, and for giving me the all-important lift! And of course, to my wonderful Litespeed RX.


September 17 - 18th: The first ever British Vintage Hang Glider Rally took place at Jocky Sanderson's Flight Park in Keswick, and I wasn't going to miss it, even though it was a long way away from Devon. I took six of my collection of old gliders for display, and had a great time with lots of friends and customers from way back in the past.

This was the perfect opportunity to rig my Fledge 2, which I had never managed to complete until now. Paul Timms and I had rigged all the other gliders, but were struggling with the Fledge, so I roped in Johnny Carr to help - he used to fly one back in the 70's. He struggled, too, but in the end (with some more help from Bill Bell!) we got it looking as it should. Which is....marvellous!

As a final touch to the weekend, Steve Pionk presented me with an engraved glass tankard because.... well, I think it was just because I was there! Steve, Pete Sonderskov, Christo Tracey and Johnny Sacre put on a great event - they deserve all the prizes!

Back to Top