Instruments and Camera

Instruments and Camera

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In the Lake District I had fitted a vario: the Makiki pellet vario - quite a bulky item to strap to the upright, but at least it gave a visual indication of my rate of climb, or more usually, sink. Soon after acquiring the Comet, I attached a small plastic dial altimeter to it as well. This had an optimistic scaling up to 10,000', so most of the time its microscopic reading wasn't much help! From the earliest days I had possessed a Ventimeter for hand-held wind speed checks at take off.

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A couple of months later I devised a stalk to mount this on the upright too. After all, the Comet was alleged to have a top speed of "50 mph" and I always wanted to know what airspeed I was doing. Other pilots didn't seem much bothered. The Scorpion's top speed was probably about 25 mph, but I never measured it. Affordable and practical electronic instruments for hang gliders had not yet appeared. Despite the growing Christmas tree of "draggy" instruments sprouting from my left upright, I dearly wanted to take photos from the air, and so fixed a camera to the right upright. For me the fascination of flight was largely the view of the ground - from above it! The camera mount wasn't terribly easy to handle, but it could swivel through a range of forward angles. I had to guess where it was pointing when clicking the shutter with my right hand, whilst attempting to control the kite single-handed with the left. Unorthodox manoeuvres often resulted. It was of course a film camera - so no instant viewing of the results, but an anxious wait till the film was used up and sent away for development.

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This was an example from my first photographic mission in mid December at Dunstable. The knoll at the north end of the site should be recognisable to pilots who have flown there. A corner of the London Gliding Club airfield is at bottom left, showing the scrub that I landed in on my first horrendously memorable Comet flight there.

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