Bicester Gliding Club

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5th September 2009

The ‘Fly Out’ for Saturday the 5th September was planned with something a little different in mind. Having flown into the very historic airfield of Bicester near Oxford earlier in the year to pick up the new mode s transponders and been given a tour of the excellent facilities, yet another plan formed for a fly out day. With the help of John Delafield who runs LX Avionics and is a director of the Bicester Gliding Club, we organised a ‘Gliding Day’ for up to 20 members of the group.
The morning dawned with surprisingly good but not brilliant weather after the previous two day of extremely high winds which had actually snapped several tie downs at North Weald. It was still somewhat breezy, but with great visibility and an overcast cloud base of around 3,000ft, very flyable.


The day had proved very popular and I had two aircraft from the HFC joining us. I’m very grateful to Bob Chapman and Peter Wilkinson for letting Darren Foss and Kieran Hardiman back seat down to Bicester with them in their aircraft as I had run out of seats in the North Weald Flying Group aircraft.

With Phil Fellows and myself slipping in a little late from High Cross in the Archer, it was a quick refuel, brief and then a group departure for Bicester. Routing was totally straightforward, west out towards Bovingdon then up towards the NDB at Wescott having due regard for RAF Haltons ATZ. The big, green, and very well kept airfield was visible on the edge of Bicester town from 20 miles out. A call to Bicester radio gave us the landing direction as 31. There are no specific runways at Bicester just a general landing direction in a very big field which is slightly odd at first. We had also been briefed to avoid and land left of the winch launch cables that run all the way across the airfield when launches are taking place.


As it was basically straight in for 31, things became a little congested on the approach with several aircraft all arriving at the same time and being slightly spread out horizontally due to a lack of a ‘proper’ runway and clear final approach. This resulted in a couple of go arounds or breaking off the approach. It would appear, and we saw it later that other aircraft actually land in the same direction but to one side or the other of the field at the same time. It works very well but for us pilots used to landing on a defined runway it was a bit odd at first to be told ‘it’s the big green field’. Landing was also made slightly more difficult with the suggestion on the radio to land left of the winch cables and the bus. Several of the group assumed that ‘bus’ was possibly a technical term used in gliding but on short final was revealed to actually be a large blue single deck bus parked on the field which serves as the mobile cafe! Never mind.

All in safely and after being greeted by John Delafield it was off for coffee and bacon rolls. My type of visit! We were then taken to the briefing room where we were given a welcome talk from the Chairman of the club Cris Emson with a full briefing and slide presentation by Mike Pettican.


The group were split into smaller groups and we were then taken out to the launch site. Three very modern Grob gliders were being used and the instructors gave each group a further briefings including on the use of the parachute that is worn on these flights. I’ve got to say there were a few apprehensive faces at this point.

Throughout the morning our group members were donning the parachutes, getting strapped in and being dragged across the smooth(ish) grass by the Piper Pawnee tug which slowly but efficiently dragged up the amazingly aerodynamic gliders to around 2,500ft where they managed to stay for at least half an hour and were then only brought down because the time allocated had run out. We watched as others were being winch launched with some simulating cable breaks and returning in a steep descending glide from low level. The winch launch accelerates the glider to 60mph in some three seconds and allows an incredible rate of climb.

The morning session ended with an incredibly low, fast and almost silent pass by one of the gliders which then zoomed up at about 60 degrees, banked sharply and returned for a very smooth landing.

A very good cold meat buffet was provided for lunch and the remaining group members glided that afternoon whilst most of the others sheltered from the now rather cool breeze in the bus. What was evident were the great comic book smiles of those that had experienced this aspect of flight as they stepped out of the cockpit, not only for the first time but even those who had tried it before.

A great day all round with another interesting aspect of aviation explored and a great insight into just what a superbly efficient flying machine the modern composite glider is. There is life without an engine! It was also a day to better understand and respect glider pilots as well as the importance of keeping clear of gliding sites and especially winch launches.

Thank you to all those that took part and a very big thank you to John Delafield and all those involved at Bicester Gliding Club who made us so welcome.

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Contact us

North Weald Flying Group operate out of the Squadron at North Weald Airfield.

The airfield is 10 miles south of Stansted and can be seen from the M11. Follow signs from the A414 and on entrance to the field, follow the perimeter track all the way around the field until you arrive at the distinctive Squadron building.

phone: 01992522090