Winter 2009

During the holiday period, Imperial College Gliding Club visited Portmoak, Scotland to sharpen up our skills. Whilst visiting Scotland during the winter may sound stupidly cold, the airfield we flew at has certain features which recommend it: notably the two ridges of Benarty and Bishop. For the record, it was stupidly cold. Now, it may not sound like a sensible thing to fly around large crashable hills, however gliders can use them to stay airborne for far longer than any possible at our home airfield of Lasham, in Winter. There is some method to our madness. Portmoak is also incredibly pretty. The tour started with an excessively long journey and boring journey on the 27th of December followed by the ritual visit to Mr Chan’s Chinese restaurant. We can but recommend it. The next day saw our first flights, with our instructor, Andy Cockerell , taking the lion’s share for his instructor check-flights. During the evening, we watched the film Avatar at the local cinema. Not to ruin the plot, but nice graphics, pity about the plot: although I appear to be in a minority in my judgement of this film: apparently glider pilots are the jackdaws of aviation with great love of shiny things. The 29th saw the first flight of the club members – weak wave conditions over Loch Leven allowed us to fly most of the students – offering flights longer than most had ever had before… indeed in this day we managed to fly for longer than the sum of all last year’s flying. Regrettably, the next day was unflyable as a result of strong winds: to occupy ourselves, some of the club decided to climb the Bishop – and feeling that the path was too horizontal, we opted to ignore it and take a more vertical route up the hill. Sadly, some of the members of the group opted not to climb through the metre or so of snow at the summit: Ryan, man up. Those that opted to climb up had the fun of rolling down – and that much at least made the ascent worth it; although the random gentleman wearing nothing save shorts at the top of Bishop at least reinforced just how strange Scotland is: I would like to draw attention to just how cold it was. In the evening, the group chose to see yet another film, Sherlock Holmes… where club members spent time checking the historical accuracy of the buildings featured in the film: never go to the cinema with Imperial students. New Year’s Eve saw more flights, and a visit to the Edinburgh Hogmanay festival. This was an interesting experience – with the most unlikely person in the group getting groped by ladyfolk of Scotland, police kettling and a disappointing lack of alcohol (amongst the students) who were all keen to fly the next day. The highlight of the evening, midnight, showed us the true depth of humanity: Old-Lang-Syne was sung, fireworks went off, and some random person in the crowd got hit by a bottle of human waste. Much fun was had by all. New Year’s Day was another day of excellent flying, where everyone was able to fly and Miles was able to get a free, two hour flight: he’s not remotely smug about this. The next day, we made our journey black to London, which was excessively long (due to traffic) and very dull. Broadly speaking, we had a superb tour in Scotland. The club managed to get at least 3 times as much airtime in compared to last year, visited a very pretty area of Scotland and celebrated the New Year in style. Special thanks must go to Andy Cockerell (our instructor), Rory Condon (our guide) and John Davey (our driver) and the University of Edinburgh for lending us their glider for a week. The club had a lot of fun, flew a lot and can heartily recommend Portmoak (and gliding!)