Sunday 19 July 2020

Article for HB & EC Aeroclub Newsletter July 2020

Gliding Hawkes Bay - Sunday 12th July 2020

The gliding forecast for Sunday 12th July was for improving, but “average” wave lift from early afternoon. Here in Hawkes Bay, wave lift is normally caused by westerly winds from the Tasman Sea reaching the ranges that run down the centre of the North Island. With suitable conditions, the wind lifts over the ranges and then comes down the other side and “bounces” off the ground and repeats this movement causing a “standing wave” much like large waves in a river flowing over the rocks. Clouds often form along the lines of lift with higher level wave shown by “lenticulars.” Depending on conditions, there can be multiple lines of wave that weaken further from the mountains but can continue well out over the sea as can be seen in the satellite photo below which was taken on 18th April 2020.
Satellite photo 18th April 2020
Wave systems contain areas of lift (which is often silky smooth), areas of sink and turbulent rotor as in the diagram below.

 Pilots in Hawkes Bay have climbed to over 33,000ft in wave.

With the sky starting to match the forecast by early afternoon, Jason and Brian Kelly launched from seal runway 019 in their ASH25M motor glider and reached a line of wave at about 1,500ft just west of the airfield. This was “blue wave” as it had no cloud marking it. It was also broken (not continuous lift in lines) and weak (up to 5kts / 500 feet per minute climbs) so they continued west into the next wave line. This had a few cloud scraps marking it and was also broken and changing rapidly but stronger in places. After shutting the engine down and retracting it, they utilised the lift to climb to almost 8,500ft before diving west to the next line.

The next wave line was well marked to the south and much stronger. Climbs of over 13kts / 1,300ft per minute were recorded as they headed south. As oxygen was not being used, they limited their height to 9,500ft and turned around once the cloud started to block their progress which was south of Flemington.
Tracking north, stacked lenticulars were visible over Te Mata Peak. 

Closer to home were great views of Hastings and Napier.

Having to land and be back in the hangar before dark, the glider then headed back to land at Hastings Airfield into a blustery SW. So after the use of around 5 litres of petrol and just over two hours of flying, the flight was completed. More than 200km had been flown at altitudes of up to 9,500ft feet and the flight was in what glider pilots would call “very average wave”. As a comparison, the world record is now over 3,000km for a glider wave flight (in South America) and the New Zealand record is over 2,500km, including a double crossing of Cook Strait.

To learn more about wave, the “air pockets” and other sources of lift and sink you fly through in powered aircraft, come and visit the gliding club for a soaring flight. As members of the aeroclub, you are entitled to fly with the gliding club at gliding club rates for a trial flight - this is just the cost of the launch which is typically around $70 - $80 for a 2,000ft launch. For youth members, we currently have funding available from an Eastern & Central Community Trust grant which allows us to offer free gliding club member subscriptions and half price tow fees of just $4 per minute for those youth members who want to learn to glide.

While soaring flights are weather dependent, once you have experienced one, you will want to join us. Further details about the club and learning to glide are on the gliding club website at

Friday 16 December 2016

Sunday 22 November 2015

Five plus five a day

Being both a cyclist and a glider pilot, I set myself a goal several years ago of a possible world first sporting double by completing a five hour bike ride in the morning followed by a five hour glider flight in the afternoon. This required planning and the right weather conditions. The forecast for Sunday 22 November 2015 looked promising for good soaring conditions with wave lift likely.

Arising early, I was on the road on my bike before 6am and headed out around the Tuki Valley and then headed out west to the end of the hilly Salisbury Road and back before heading out and back to Aorangi Road into a blustery westerly. While riding, I was constantly looking skyward and assessing the likely gliding conditions. These changed constantly from not good at 6am, to promising, to very promising and then back to marginal to poor during the ride. While the bike ride was not a race and was done at a gentle pace, it included over 1,000 metres of vertical climbing and the westerly wind made a strong head wind on the outward journey. By the time I completed my five hours on the bike, the sky was mostly blue with just the odd sign of wave which was not promising.

After eating and drinking, loading my car with the required equipment for a five hour glider flight in wave – flight computer, food, water, oxygen system etc, I headed out to the airfield to find no one was flying due to strong winds on the ground. However, these abated a little and the tow pilot was happy to tow me.

After preparing the glider for flight, I launched from Hastings Airfield at Bridge Pa in a single seat LS4 glider. Asking the tow pilot to take me to the wave seemed a little presumptuous under a virtually clear blue sky. At around 4,500ft, a line of wave seemed to be there so I released from tow. Once off tow, I had to use the energy in the sky to stay aloft. This was provided by upper level winds and suitable atmospheric conditions causing wave lift. As a secondary goal, I hoped to climb to over 20,000ft to claim an FAI diamond badge leg.

Finding strong lift initially, I quickly reached 15,000ft near Hastings airfield. However, with no clouds marking the lift, large areas of sink in excess of 2,500ft per minute and the wave lift randomly moving, it took skill, determination and a little luck just to stay aloft and I rapidly reached a low point of 2,200ft. The maths at being 20km from the airfield, crossing the ground at 4 kilometres a minute, being at 6,000ft and losing 2,500ft per minute did not give an appealing answer and I was looking at paddocks to potentially land in if required. The areas of sink were so pronounced that the air traffic controller noted that a commercial airplane was affected by it. After some struggle, further lift was found I managed to regain sufficient altitude to comfortably continue the flight.

After inching my way south to Waipukurau, a further struggle was endured as I sank to 5,000ft and again the maths to make the 45km back to Hastings did not work with over 2,000ft per minute sink all around. Reaching Waipukurau Airfield just a few kilometres away was also no certainty. Eventually, scrambling back up to 9,500ft, the only consistent lift of the day was found and I raced back abeam of Hastings Airfield in about 10 minutes.

With my five hours almost up, to finish off my flight, I completed the gliding club’s local 33km speed triangle from Bridge Pa to Maraekakaho to Paki Paki and back to the airfield in 12 minutes 43 seconds at an average speed of 157km/h.

Landing after 6pm, my total flight time was 5 hours 34 minutes and ended up covering from north of Patoka to Waipukurau with almost 600km traversed over Hawkes Bay.

It is these type of gliding adventures that await new gliding club members like recently first solo pilots 13 year old Alexandra Thompson and 14 year old Ryan Maney.

While a five hour bike ride in itself is nothing special, combining this with an over five hour glider flight on the same day, which was achieved under extremely challenging conditions, it was a unique achievement.

While my diamond badge claim will have to wait for another time, it was a day to be remembered.  
Blue sky above Hawkes Bay with no clear signs of wave

LS4 glider and pilot Jason Kelly (file photo)

Monday 26 January 2015

Omarama 2015

Photos taken January 2015 during the National Gliding Championships held from Omarama.

Omarama 2014

Photos taken in November 2014 during the 50th South Island Regional Gliding Championships held from Omarama.

Sunday 13 January 2013

Omarama December 2012 - January 2013

While the late Peter Lyons was a regular visitor to Omarama, it has been a good few years since Gliding Hawkes Bay & Waipukurau last visited as a club. With encouragement from Graham White, four other members joined him in the trip south to coincide with the National Championships. James Foreman took his LS3a (MF), Jason Price the club’s Grob 103C Twin III SL (HB, a self launching two seater), Jason Kelly took a LS4 (NJ) and Graham had his LS8 (XS.) David Davidson completed the group and he flew with Jason Price on three days in HB.

After the long road journey south, visits to possible safe outlanding airstrips were made prior to flying and some of these were looked at further as the first flying day was spent in familiarisation of the local area and conditions. Graham decided not to fly due to a head cold. With thermals, ridge and wave lift to use, good local flights were had by all.

With a non-flying day the next day, further safe outlanding airstrips were visited which also showed some of the different types of terrain that could be flown in.

The next flying day saw Tony van Dyk lead James and Jason Kelly around until James had a problem with his aileron tape and Jason a problem with his radio while all were climbing in wave with oxygen. Meanwhile, Graham in his LS8 was giving Jason Price and David Davidson advice as they flew HB.

Staying in the camp ground, the meat supplied by James was eyed with envy by other campers and devoured by hungry pilots. The van Dyk's also graciously assisted with cooking facilities when torrential rain hit the area. Water bombs on otherwise dry evenings from a number of parties were met with retaliation with Terry Delore attracting a personal dousing even though most of the water bombs missed their targets.

All too soon our time was up and it was time to return home. Despite the weather giving us all four seasons during our visit of summer heat, snow, rain and electrical storms, we managed some good flying with Jason Price teaming up with Graham in HB for some one on one tuition while James and Jason Kelly explored the area further. The weak conditions on one day saw Jason Price and David become the first pilots in New Zealand to outland HB in the South Island. With a good number of flying hours clocked up in a short period of time and the potential of the area barely scratched, all agreed it was certainly a trip worth repeating.

Photos taken during December 2012 / January 2013 Gliding Hawkes Bay trip to Omarama.