Dave McEwen

Dave first appeared on the hang gliding scene in 1986, as a student at Lejair. The first things we noticed about Dave, was a nervous twitch he had developed after a recent divorce, The constant fiddling with his NHS hearing aid and his uncanny knack of being able to get at least 3 three greens and four reds in any given sentence (colorful language). Oh.. and what we thought was his daughter.

Dave soon progressed in his flying, and joined the Norfolk Hang Gliding Club with his Calypso Glider. He enjoyed going on club trips and was very successful. Dislocated shoulder at Merthyr and a “Clapped Hands” rigging incident in the Peaks readily spring to mind.

Travel abroad was his favorite. It was at Annercy in France that members discovered that it wasn’t his Daughter. Many nights were spent sitting around Dave’s tent watching the Picture show whilst the Tilley light was on.

You will be glad to note that the twitch has gone, and the NHS has given him a new hearing aid. Alas he has kept the talent of being unable to utter a sentence without at least 3 greens and 2 reds. Reds and greens increase dramatically when Phil goes XC.

Phil Chett has been heard on more than one occasion to say.. “The saying goes: You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends Therefore Dave must be my Brother……….RED!”

DOB 26/02/1945

Where were you born?
Hitchin Hertfordshire. My mothers Family moved there from Horsford Norfolk for the duration of the second World War. My parents house on Holt Rd Norwich was Occupied by the Army.

Where do you live now?
Happypigstyhouse, Sprowston, Norwich.

Self Employed Window Cleaner thanks to Bob Cogman.

Previous Occupation ?
HGV Driver, Household Removals, Fish Fryer, Lumberjack, Livestock Farm Worker, Labourer (various) Northsea Gas Rigs, Cross Channel Ferries, Steam Cleaner

When and where did you start flying ?
7th June 1986 Low Farm, Fransham, Norfolk.

(if) Why did you stop ?

Which Pilots most influenced you?

  • Tony Webb and Rona Webb for teaching me. Gary Hume who I didn't get to meet for yonks, cause on arriving at the field being told Garry was there, but he wasn't. He had always gone XC.
  • Edmund Potter for his positive attitude and setting the Bench Marks. Ed Bowman for his love of Flying. Phil Chettleburgh for his dedication in getting things done which over the years has covered ALL aspects of getting people in the air. And I do mean ALL aspects.

Gliders you have flown ?
Polaris-Clubman-Calypso-Magic4-Kiss-K2-Antonov C14


Where have you flown in the UK ?

  • Norfolk and Suffolk Coastal Sites including Sea Palling (inland side)* and Tow Sites including Norwich Airport, RAF Coltishall, Banham Zoo, Northrepps (AllOut) and Tibbenham.
  • Merthyr (Wales), Rushup, Bradwell Edge, RAF Kembel (AllOut), Long Mynnd, Cemmaes (Mid Wales), Drayton St Leneod (AllOut) and The First AllOut at (I think) Bourton near Milk Hill.
  • Dave had tired of waiting for a North Easterly and had decided to Soar the Coast in more of a WS Westerly airstream. After this short flight lasting 30 seconds at Sea Palling witnessed by Bob Cogman and Micky Brouse,all that was required was -2 L/Es, 2X Tubes some Patches and Glue!

When and where was your most memorable flying experience in the UK ?

Been Sooo many! one of the first was on my first XC taking of from Hill Farm behind Phil Chettleburgh meeting him under a cloud over Dereham then watching him bomb out at Mattishall while I climbed out and continued to Norwich.

28th April 1996 Sculthorpe being on the wrong side of the Perimeter Fence and not being able to get back onto the Airfield. I was working lift on the up wind side of a large Wood at 400 feet hanging in there not wanting to traverse the Wood for fear of landing in the rotor on the downwind side if I had to .
Not wanting to land a few hundred yards from the Airfield perimeter as the only entrance back in involved a 2 mile journey, and not wanting to be laughed at as I was still in view from Launch. Crabbing to one side of the Wood still at 400 feet I started to drift over the Wood, as I now had the option of landing to the side of it. Arriving at the downwind side I felt more relaxed having gained 30 feet. I was now on my way to what was going to be - yes I suppose this is one of the most Memorable- a very interesting exciting flight.
I was covering ground rapidly as the wind was 10-16mph that and being close to it enhanced the visual effect. Landing options where numerous but where left behind as soon as they came. I didn't expect to get far.
Great Massingham Airfield although decommissioned, Missiles still pointed meanancily in the direction of the USSR. I was clear of the Airspace if it had still been operational. West Raynham was dead ahead, fortunately for me still below 700 feet it too was deregulated. At the time this seemed where this flight was going to end. I had a very close look for any ground or air movements and passed over part of the airfield still in lift which was pretty amazing, since leaving Scullthorpe I had not been below 400 feet, also I had not been above 700 feet either and had covered about 4 miles.
I was approaching the A1065 Fakenham Swaffham Rd and continued along the west side of the highway with landing options being the priority all the time which they had been since leaving Scullthorpe, if I could see 700 feet on the altimeter I would relax. This was achieved during the next 4 miles as I approached Castle Acre. I had covered 8 miles below 700 feet.
Out came the camera to take some aerial photos of the historic ruined Abbey and Castle. I was almost above the old Moat and part of the walls. It was here that I really started to core it up topping out at 1700 feet approaching Swaffham with RAF Marham off to right and the Fens ahead. I had been in lift ever scince leaving Scullthorpe but here it stopped, passing on the NW side of Swaffham on a glide I was not concerned until I was down to 700 I was hoping (expecting) to carry on as I had began but it was over.
I selected an area to land where I could some people and landed in a meadow next to a pond and wooden bridge in the grounds of the Iceni Village at Cockley CLey where I spent a very pleasant 'Free' afternoon looking at the exhibits while waiting for my retrieve however I did have to pay for refreshments in the Tea Rooms. Angie and Ed retrieved me we then went to Hill Farm to retrieve Phil who had had a similar experience however I am Delighted to say I flew 6 miles further than him.
Flt time 1hr, Max Ht 1700 feet, distance 17.78 miles I would love to do that again including beating Phil of course.

When and where was your most Horrid flight in the UK ?
There have been too many nasty moments during so many Flights which last only a few seconds although the actual Flights overall were OK. Like Oct 2006 I locked out on tow actions from Richard on the winch and 11 stone on one upright sorted it. 29th April 1989 I dislocated my shoulder attempting to top Land at Merthyer but at the time the flight was one of the best.

The most Horrid flight was at Corton on the 1st of July 1994 at 7pm. Flight duration 14 minutes.
Barry Freeman persuaded me to go with him. Paul Whitley had flown but Barry was in no hurry and decided a trip to the local Chip Shop a higher priority. We both rigged when we returned. Paul was still there I wanted to get off first as it meant I had 2 ground Crew. The wind was gusting 18 to 28 mph, take off was OK but it WAS horrible.
Comment in Log Book "Bloody Horrible Barry's fault". Not dangerous or frightening just bloody horrible I just wanted to get down BUT more than that I wanted Barry to have some of it too. I thought if I land he may not take off. I had only been airborne for 3 or 4 minutes Barry was on T/O. As soon as his feet leave the ground I'm Landing I told myself, come on Baz I don't want to stay up another minute longer, after 9 minutes of willing him and cursing him for persuading me to come to Corton Baz took off. 1 minute later I was on the Beach, soon to be followed by Baz who's opinion was the same

Where have you flown OUT of the UK ?

  • FRANCE 'Col De La Forclaz' Annercy, 'Plan Plas' ' Plan Joux' Chamonix, Aspres, Semnoz, La Croisette, Dune De Plya, 'Brunas' 'Puncho d Agast' Millau.
  • SWITZERLAND -'Sonchaux' Villanueve, Suchet, Ollon.
  • ITALY 'Monte Cucco' 'Castelluccio'.
  • SPAIN -'Mont Sec', 'Mont Sec Rubbies' Ager. 'Sierra De Lyre' Lumbia.

Where and when was you most memorable flying experiance outside the UK ?
I have loads of memorable flights, In the early days I wanted to be able to stay up for as long as wanted without trying i,e not themalling or in ridge lift just to be able to go where ever. The first time this occured was my first Flying holiday with Tracey in Spain at Mont Sec Rubbies the north side of Mont Sec 22nd March 1989 I had been soaring with Dutch, German and Swiss Pilots for around an hour when I realised I was all alone all the rest were 3000 feet below heading for landing. 1830hrs Being on the north face of the ridge the valley was in shadow below and darkening by the minute, I flew out into the valley to join them but did not loose any height where ever I went I was in lift. This was brilliant this was FLYING but it was getting dark on the ground 3000' below. The circleling gliders below looked like multi-coloured moths round a candle unforgettable, it was easy to get down that time,but——. Ager again 7th Aug 2001 I had gone up with Colin Benson and Allen only the three of us were there conditions were strange Allen decided not to fly, Colin and I rigged it was around 1600hrs wind about 20mph and of to the west, 2hrs later Colin was thinking of de-rigging when Michelle a Frech girl two Spainish guys and a German came up.
Around 1900hrs the wind had dropped off, Colin launched flew straight out into the valley not turning or loosing any height he headed to the village to land. I took off at 1935hrs and found it smooth and soarable and still thermic and made several climbs to 1000' ato. After 45 minutes the German on an Extacy rigid joined me for want of something to do I followed where he went as I was getting a bit bored, the flying was so easy.
I couldn't keep up with him of course then I spotted a glider taking off that went straight out into the valley, thinking they were a novice doing a TTB I was going to follow them down using them as a wind direction indicator for landing, so I cruised along the ridge but when I turned back they were nowhere in sight.
My attention returned to the Extacy again until the next Pilot launched then the same thing happened again, the last Pilot launched and this time I thought fuck it I'm going to land what ever happens. I turned out into the valley couldn't see any gliders. As I passed over the lower ridge I realized I was still about 200' ATO and hadn't lost any height as I had expected to, it was now around 8.30pm. Then I spotted a glider 1000' above me "How the fuck" beeb beeb beeb a thermal "Right, I want to land but first I'm not letting you get the better of me amigo". Crank it up easy peasy, gain a grand cant see him, the the sun is getting low in the sky and almost sunset 5000' below. Down we go pull out of (thermal?) straight and level Bar in Lindsay Ruddock says 560 feet pm up. No, I want to go down 'this is not a themal'. Restitution, Magic Lift, now I can see some of the other Pilots. The Extacy is 3000' below on the ridge the other side of the valley continually circleling, some one else is a mile away at my altitude this is great but I cant loose height, side slipping does'nt work, bar to knees doesn't work either.
Cruise for a while the suns setting the whole valley is in shadow, soon it will be dark on the ground I dont know what way the wind is at ground level or if there is any. I'm getting tired, then I hit some really rough stuff everything goes loose I dont know what the glider is going to do next I'm getting a little scared now but I loose some height. I'm out of the rough its smooth and I climbing again.
Michelle is half a mile away 500' lower I fly towards her we pass at the same height the Atos is still circleling below I hit the rough again and feel for the handle of my Chute and mentally go thru the deployment procedure I'm out of it and climbing again. Wow this is an experience to tell if I survive it is amazing I have never experienced anything like this before I 'm scared its gone nine I'm over 5000' above the valley still going up and its getting dark, the sun is sinking behind the mountains.
I try to relax and calm down , I decided not to land at the Camp Site as the field is realitivitly small and slopes I decide on the big field a mile or so out of town where it is completely uninhabited IF I can get DOWN. I head for the Extacy Pilot who is still circleling and beat up and down for a while I loose around 2000'. Still at 3000' I head for the Lake at Corsa to the west passing over my chosen L/ Zone at 2000' and circle for a while slowly loosing height. At 1200' I am desperate to land its twilight the field is huge but slopes. I fly circuits round the feild at 900' for ages the wind sock shows an easterly I am really having to force the glider down. At 400' I make a wide turn down wind pulling in with all I got, finally the ground is within reach I cover the whole length of the field landing on my knees. I kissed the earth.
It was 9.20PM Tracey retrieved me derigging in the dark. The next day Allen said "You really pissed that extacy Pilot off you were specked out and he was doing everything to get up to where you were". I talked to the Extacy pilot who told me he was doing everything he could to get DOWN his Spanish friend who also flew said he was scared. Michelle told me the first Pilot to land was as white as a sheet and his family asked if he was ill, he replied "No I'm just scared". Michelle said they put on the headlights of the cars for her to land and that she was "Very frightened ". So was I!
That was one Flight I am really pleased to have had moreover still here to tell, do I want to repeat it? —Yes.
When and where was your most Horrid flight outside UK ?
There has been a few like in Ager with Phil a soaring/thermal flight we were in sight of each other both thinking I dont want to land before him, to say it was not smooth was an understatement. We both landed within 1 minute of each other and Phil came over to me and said "How was you flight" I glared at him removed my harness helmet rolled a fag had a drink then replied "That was fucking horrible" very much like the one at Corton Not particularly rough or scarery just, Horrible.
Again in Ager the only time I felt air sick. We had arrived the day before and I had not acclimatised, thermalling I began to feel really bad, not sick as such but ill. I left the thermal and flew straight and level for a few minutes and recovered enough to start thermalling again, as soon as I did so it came over me again. I repeated the sequence a couple of times but began to feel worse. As I approach the landing field I did not give a toss which way the wind was from I simply wanted down and I did not care how I arrived back on Earth. As I lay in the shade of the glider some prick asked if I wanted a lift up for another flight, all I wanted was to die. I'm sure it was a combination of fatigue and heat stroke.
Time to brag ?, What was your "finest hour" ?
See Phil Chettleburgh's "Favorite Flying Story"
Who do you most admire in the sport ?
Paraplegics, Steve Vardon anyone who is handicapped.
What Trait do you most deplore in yourself ?
Doing things first that don't need doing and then not having time to do what needs to be done.
What trait do you most deplore in other people ?
When not flying what do you do for recreation ?
Not much, bit of fishing but mostly stuff I don't want to do and with a Family there is too much of the later.
Favorite piece of music ?
No favorites but Sixties mainly
Favorite book ?
As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me , don't know the author.
Favorite Film ?
Back To The Future 1,2 and 3
What is your greatest fear ?
What is your perfect idea of happiness ?
Having enough money to never have to work again and a Time Machine!
what would your motto be ?
If you dont do it when you are alive you are not going to do it when you are dead, if you die in the attempt at least you tried.
How would you like to be remembered ?
Dave would come out to the Field, Rig and on his ONLY flight of the day piss off XC!
Whats your favorite flying story ?
Monte Cucco 1999 with Phil Chettleburgh the first time we flew there. I had launched first the German pilots Klaus, Heinz and Jerk were assessing my capabilities. Phil was still on the deck, after a successful flight and top landing to applause from the Germans, Big Head Phil took off and went straight down to the bottom landing field thousands of feet below accompanied with laughter from the Germans, and a slight smirk from myself. Actually I was elated and laughing hysterically, even though it meant I had to go all the way down to retrieve the Shrunken Head and as we were camping on top I had to come all the way back too, but the smug way I was feeling would be worth it.
In the field at the bottom I tried not to laugh tooo much. Phil was relieved to see another pilot landing there also, thinking he couldn't stay up either, now he could blame the conditions for his failier. His relief quickly turned back to embarrassment when the other pilot explained that, his wife had taken him up and left him there to fly while she did some shopping and he had intended to land at the bottom as he lived in a house a short distance from the field! Oh how the mighty have fallen!
The Next Day.
I took off and was flying with the Germans and others. Phil was still on the deck. After landing Phil still had not launched, he was sitting under his Glider clipped in. He did not look well, his face was drained of colour and he was trembling, I asked if he was ill, he replied "No". "Whats wrong " I asked, "I'm frightened" he said. "What are you frightened of mate?" " I'm frightened of going Down". he sobbed. AGAIN! I added silently to myself, turning away so he couldn't see the amusement displayed on my face.

Notable achievements ?

  • Invited to apply to join The League.
  • Currently 2nd in the All Time Winch Tow League.
  • Duration Flight of 5 hours.
  • Has flown more XC miles Than ANYONE on the winch (certainly in the UK, very possibly in the world.)
  • Was a founder member of the North Norfolk Hang gliding club.
  • Has achieved Senior Tow coach rating as well as AP rating.

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