More Tensions

More Tensions

After towing and winch launching from our inland sites became an accepted practical reality, team operation became even more de rigueur. The sailplane fraternity have had to live with this ever since they started clubs back in the 1920's. However, hang glider pilots did tend to be a rather more anarchic breed, and probably had been attracted by the most minimalist form of aviation. You needed (qualified) winch operators, bikers (motorcycles used to pull the static winch lines back across the field after each couple of launches) and launch marshalls (with radios, to talk to the winch operators).

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So you always required a minimum turnout of hopeful souls wanting to fly. And of course, you all wanted to fly (mostly - some of us, exclusively), so in fairness you had to devise a rota system. See the blackboard in the picture. The fly in the ointment was not difficult to imagine. If you did go XC then you wouldn't be on the field to do your stint later, would you?

At least the wind direction forecast didn't matter quite so much - you just went to the field and towed up into wind. If you went to the Lejair field, you had the added advantage that there were usually lots of people there; if Tony and Rona could fit you in, you could pay them for a launch with the School; and if you landed out, you might just be pleading (Lejair had a phone on the field by this time) for somebody to drive your car to wherever to retrieve you. You have guessed this is why I went to the Lejair field most flyable weekends. But there were plenty of members of the NHGC (it was a Club, after all) who wanted the Club operation to be self-financed because the cost of launches would obviously be less than the School had to charge.

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Then there was the knotty question of the field rent. We were using significant acreage of prime arable land. There was no way the Club could afford to buy it. Tony and Rona needed the security of a site for their School activities, and they had negotiated the lease with local farmers. To further confuse matters, Tony and Rona were also members of the NHGC. Looking back, I am amazed at how much co-operation was achieved in such potentially fraught circumstances with very marginal finance.

I'm a Winchman, man - and I'm OK! …

I obtained my winch operator qualification in August 1991 after having gven nearly 200 supervised launches. By this time other noble club members had probably winched up thousands of kites (and had supervised me as well). I enjoyed winching (and all the marshalling and biking jobs too) and was very happy to do it - but … (and it was a pretty big but) only when the sky didn't look XC-able. Given a straight choice I would always have gone to Lejair to pay for a launch. The other side of that particular coin was that Tony and Rona couldn't make a living from pilots choosing to turn up only when they thought conditions were XC-able. Compromise is a wonderful thing.

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