About A470 Soaring

This is the blog for a few guys who spend their time flying radio controlled gliders, or slope soarer's, from the many and varied slopes around SE Wales.

This usually begins at the northern end of Cardiff, driving north up the A470 up to the Heads of the Valley's and the southern fringe of the Brecon Beacons. But the A470 road continues its windy way all the way to N Wales.

There are many slopes available for most wind directions, the most famous being the area between Nant-y-Moel and Treorchi known as The Bwlch, which has some of the best slopes and flying in Europe with many F3F competitions being held there each year and visited by many fliers from Europe and around the world. At 1500 feet (450m) above sea level, there is usually more wind than not, and certainly more than at sea level.

If you require any further information, are new to slope soaring or are visiting the area, please contact Steve at steve.houghton59@gmail.com . I look forward to hearing from you.

Take a look at Page 2 (look below and to the left here) for Google maps of our most popular Flying Sites.

Monday, 22 August 2016

British Summer? You cannot be serious man!

Hi guys

Well Saturdays weather turned out as expected with rain showers, and boy were some of those showers heavy, and frequent too, so I don't think anyone locally to me went out flying.

Sunday morning was looking fine but I had to go out on a 10 ½ mile (17 km) training run as I'm taking part in the Cardiff Half Marathon on the 2nd October. This meant I wasn't going to get up to the Bwlch until about 1 pm, but that was fine as it would have given me a few hours flying time.

Before hand, a few of us had decided to make this a PSS day as none of us had managed to make it to the official PSS weekend in N Wales the previous weekend.

Upon arrival at the Bwlch, I unloaded the car and swung my rucksack containing my Hawker Typhoon onto my back, but I noticed that the sky was beginning to darken.

I know there was rain forecast to come in but it wasn't supposed to be until later in the afternoon or early evening, but I began my trek along the gravel track to Mickey's slope anyway.

By the time I had reached the south west facing slope, I could see the boys in the distance on the western slope but, it was beginning to rain, and I could see the cloud base had descended to a very low height, but I continued walking.

By the time I reached the lads, it was raining solidly and you could only see about 70 metres into the distance because of the clag. Looking at it, we all decided it wasn't likely to clear anytime soon and so the lads packed away and we began the trek back to the cars.

Previous to my arrival, the lads had managed to get some good flying in. Phil had brought along his recent acquisition of an AVRO Vulcan, as well as his Hawk. Josh also had a Hawk and Ron had his F16 Fighting Falcon. Mark doesn't fly PSS but he had his Baudis Pitbull F3F.

Thanks to Phil for the pictures.

I am away on vacation from Wednesday for 10 days so this will be my last post for a while, unless Phil wants to make a post in my absence? In the meantime, happy flying.


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Blanik L213 A from Valenta Models

I've finally bitten the bullet and ordered my first full mouldy. After a lot of trolling across the internet and watching YouTube videos, I've finally come up with what I want.

My criteria was something around 3 metres, it had to be fairly fast but aerobatic too, and eventually I whittled it down to two models from Valenta, the Volcano 3.7m and the Blanik L213 A semi scale, and the Blanik won.

So I've now ordered this and it is being built for me with extra reinforcement in the nose for those heavy slope landings, flaps and air brakes, in yellow with blue undersides.

So this is what you will see flying the slopes of S Wales this coming autumn.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Flying Forecast 20th & 21st August

Hi guys

I know it's only Wednesday, but the lads are already planning their weekends flying.

Saturday is looking like it could be a south westerly of around 28 mph and showery. If you were to fly at Mickeys at the Bwlch, your wind speed is likely to be in the high 30's or even 40 mph.

** UPDATE ** Saturday is now looking like it's going to be either, constant rain or, heavy thundery showers. So I shall be staying home and preparing for going on my holiday.

Sunday is looking dryer with a 23 mph forecast at Cardiff Airport, so we'd be expecting 30 mph plus on Mickeys.

On Sunday, some of us are planning to fly PSS models as we were unable to make the trip to   N Wales last weekend for the official PSSA meet, and with a good wind forecast, it could be a cracking days flying.

Everyone is welcome to come along and join us, don't be shy.

I won't be there until midday but I expect Phil will be there from around 10 am as he'll be itching to maiden a couple of new models.

If there is any major change to the forecast, or the PSS plans for Sunday, I will post it here.

I hope to see you there.

Until next time, happy flying


Monday, 15 August 2016

Thermal Soaring the Thermal Instinct

I bought the Thermal Instinct a year ago from a nice gentleman who due to medical reasons was unable to fly anymore, but he still enjoyed building models, but it was almost this model was jinxed as on my second flight I misjudged its height, and the height of the trees bordering the field and, well you can guess the rest.

Over the winter I finally got around to rebuilding the damaged wing and tested everything before taking it to the field, whereupon the motor decided it wasn't going to run and one of the four ailerons decided they didn't want to work. Doh!

I worked on the motor on and off and eventually it decided it was going to run again. I don't know if it was something I had done or whether the jinx had left it, but it does now run.

So with Sunday's forecast being for 2 - 3 mph winds, this was the ideal time to give it a blast. So I headed off to Manmoel Common near Ebbw Vale, where the air was very still, the wind turbines were barely moving and it was almost deathly quiet.

I set up the Thermal Instinct and everything was behaving as it should, except for that dodgy aileron, but hey, I still had a working aileron on that wing so I thought I'd be ok.

The first launch went fine and I took her up to height and spent a minute or two to trim the model and test the crow function, which turned out it needed a lot more down elevator compensation.

Two more powered climbs and then I was into a thermal, which wasn't particularly strong but then very slowly she began to rise until eventually she had become very small in the sky.

At this point I remembered that I hadn't set the timer, and I must have already been in the air for about 7 - 8 minutes, so I turned on the timer and managed to fly from thermal to thermal until eventually all the thermals seemed to have disappeared and I had to think about landing.

The landing was pretty uneventful and I decided not to use crow for this due to the elevator compensation. Ground effect came into play on my first two attempts to land and she just didn't want to seem to drop below about 2 metres, but then eventually, down she came.

I took a break before relaunching but I didn't manage another long flight. Most of the climb outs resulted in times between 7 - 10 minutes. Still, I had already beaten this years PB by 7 minutes so I was feeling pleased with myself.

So here is the video of this session. Unfortunately the model does look a bit small and maybe a little difficult to see so I would suggest you watch it in full screen mode. When the model was really high, you just can't make it out against the grey sky so it was pointless me including footage of this.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Flying Forecast 13th/14th August

Hi guys

Another weekend is almost upon us with more opportunities for flying.

This weekend is the PSSA Fly for Fun meet near Abersoch in N Wales. It was always doubtful that I would make this event as I have another event happening on Saturday. But the weather forecast isn't looking great from a flying perspective with Saturday being the best day with winds of 12 - 13 mph south westerly, which will probably be fine for just cruising along the slope. And Sunday looks like being 2 - 3 mph, so no PSS flying will take place in that. So because of that forecast, I'd have given the trip a miss anyway and saved myself some money.

So the forecast for S Wales is looking much the same as for N Wales. So if I were to fly on Saturday, Mickey's at the Bwlch would be my first choice with Meio second.

On Sunday, the 2-3 mph wind means that proper slope soaring will go out of the window, unless you have something that will fly in ultra light air, like a DLG or thermal soarer.

I was going to head to my local flat field, however Mike Grey mentioned to me last night that it's been ages since I flew with the lads, so I said I'd be happy to head up to the Bwlch. I can't help having a busy social life ;o) So I shall take the 2m Climax Compact and the 2.85m Thermal Instinct, both of which are electric powered. Fortunately the thermals are usually pretty good at the Bwlch so it could end up being a nice, relaxing session, and not high octane as is often the case up there.

So wherever you are flying this weekend, have fun and maybe I'll see you on Sunday.

Happy flying

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

PSS L39 Albatross

Andy Meade has been busy building about 6 models for himself plus, a couple of the L39 Albatross trainers for Phil & myself.

My model is finished and just awaiting collection now and Phil's is in the finishing shop. So I'm looking forward to getting them both up and flying together. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Flying Forecast 6th & 7th August

Hi guys, another weekend is upon us and the forecast is for dry and sunny weather. That makes a change eh, considering on Monday we had more rain in one day than in the whole of July.

So on Saturday we are looking at a light westerly up to 10 mph. With wind speeds that low I would head to the westerly side of Mickeys at the Bwlch, where you should get in some reasonable flying. Alternatively you could head to Rhossili.

Personally, I'm going to head to my local flat field, or maybe Manmoel Common near Ebbw Vale to do some thermal soaring with my faithful Climax Compact.

Sunday looks like being much the same as Saturday, with a westerly, except that the wind speed is forecast as 20 mph. This means the flying should be something like, Woo Hoo! Unfortunately I can't fly on Sunday as I have a wedding to attend.

So wherever you go, and whatever you decide to do, happy flying.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Slope Soaring at Rhossili Down

I've finally done it, I've finally flown the big slope at Rhossili, the last of the three premier UK coastal slope soaring sites, and it lived up to its reputation.

Setting off from home at 8:30 on Sunday morning, the sun was shining, there was a very light breeze, the roads were quiet and I arrived at about 10am.

Parking was easy as there were a couple of spaces left in the church car park, although just 300 metres down the road there was a big National Trust car park I could have gone into.

Already there were plenty of para gliders soaring the slopes as I made the slow, arduous trek up the path leading to the top of the hill. I say arduous, but I guess it really wasn't that bad, particularly if you take it slowly.

About 20 minutes later I was at the top by the Trig Point stone where I came across Paul Hampshire of Slope Soaring Sussex who is on holiday in the area with his family and flying his new Weasel Trek in the estimated 10 mph breeze.

We had fun cruising around, me with my Wildthing and Whisper and Paul his M60 and Weasel, and the para gliders kept their distance from us. Thanks para gliders.

After a couple of hours, the wind had gradually picked up to about 20 mph and Paul had to go and join his family, leaving me to my own devices.

Within the next hour, the wind had picked up significantly and was gusting to 32 mph, so I set up the Signal and had a couple of good flights with that. The Wildthing was loving the conditions and I was able to chuck that about in the super smooth sea air.

So for those of you who haven't flown this slope before, it has spectacular views of Worms Head, the 3 mile long golden, sandy beach, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The shape of the slope is just right to produce the maximum amount of lift from whatever speed of wind may be blowing at the time. And the lift goes on forever! You can push your model out, and out, and out, and it just doesn't seem to lose any height.

Landing is a doddle as the ground behind you is flat, generally rock free and covered in soft, spongy heather.

All the while I was flying and I was thinking that this slope is on a par with one of my local slopes, the westerly facing slope of Mickeys at the Bwlch. It's about the same height, same shape, the lift is about the same with very smooth air and an easy landing zone. And to be honest, I don't think there's much to choose between them. Having said that, Rhossili is only an extra 30 minutes drive away for me so, I will go there again when we have a lovely, sunny summer day as a nice change of scenery.

So now that I have flown all three coastal sites, which is my favourite? That's a tough question. I've made five or six, 4 - 5 hour long trips up to the Orme at Llandudno, and each time the wind hasn't played ball with only light to average conditions. Other people I know totally rave about it, which is fine.

But a slope isn't just about the quality of air and lift, it's also about access and the landing zone. The Orme has easy enough access but the landing zones leave a little to be desired as they are strewn with rocks that magnetically seem to attract your model to them, or are covered in gorse and other course vegetation. Also in some places, you are flying directly over the sea, so landing out isn't an option here, and in fact at one of the PSSA meetings I went to this year, there must have been about 3 or 4 models that went down on launch. Fortunately, there was a small ledge just below our launching position where these models came to rest, otherwise the sea would have claimed more victims.

St. Agnes in Cornwall is the other big coastal site, and I have flown this on a few occasions now. Access is easy and could be classed as a "park and fly" slope. The air is super smooth usually and the landing zones are flat, soft and rock free. The only down side is that you are flying directly over the water, and if that is something you are not used to, it can be a bit of a butt clenching experience the first few times you chuck your pride and joy off the cliff.

The only other thing I would say about Rhossili is that it looks like a slope that, if you were to land out, the model would be easily retrievable. Not so.

As I was walking back to the car park, a para glider guy called me over to him and told me that as he had been traversing the slope, he saw a black coloured model with yellow and red colouring on the fin, and pointed me in the direction of where he thought it was. So I headed off, and he came along with me. We spread ourselves out but we couldn't find it and we were eventually beaten back by the thick, prickly gorse and bramble which covered this part of the slope. I can imagine the owner of the model probably had spent several hours pushing his way through the vegetation to find it.

So back to the original question of which is my favourite slope? I think Rhossili and St Agnes have little between them to be able to say one is better than the other, and given the option for an away trip, I'd pick either of these two over the Orme, though I'm sure the Orme is good on its day, I just haven't experienced it at its best yet.

Enjoy the video.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Thermal Soaring the Climax Compact E

So the weekends weather forecast turned out to be pretty accurate, and after I'd done my chores on Saturday morning, I had to decide what it was I was going to do. Do I head to a slope where I knew conditions would be pretty light and I'd probably just be cruising around or, do I head to a local field 5 minutes from home to do some thermal soaring?

The thermal soaring won me over as I was planning a longer drive for the next day to go flying the big slope at Rhossili.

There really isn't a great deal to say about this flying other than there were thermals about and mostly they were strong enough to allow me to maintain a bit of height only, my flight times were mostly about about 5 to 6 minutes, except where on one flight I headed down wind to think about landing but ended up catching a low level thermal that took me way up for a flight time of 11:44 minutes.

Check out the video and you'll see.

Later on in the week I shall be posting more video and telling my story of my trip to Rhossili where I met up with Paul Hampshire of Slope Soaring Sussex. So until then, happy flying.