20:30 Wednesday 6th June, Phil Colbert chucks a post onto Pennine Flight Club group asking if anyone fancies some XC coaching on Thursday. That day I'd walked about 8 mile with my 20Kg pack looking for non existent wind. I was planning a day off & had a course to go to. However, XC coaching with Phil.... had to be worth a go, course can wait.

Meeting up there were 5 of us - Me, Phil, John O, GJ, and another pilot off on sick. We shall call him Dartanian to protect his job. Whilst driving, Phil was giving me loads of tips as I sheepishly admitted I've not left any hill yet - but he was great and said that is exactly what this day was about. Note to all other pilots thinking the same!

I've had 3 knee ops in last 2 years & just started flying at the beginning of the month so I march off early knowing my muscles have deteriorated. Westy's IOTA in my pack - first real outing. On the way up, I am passed as expected. My poor limbs screaming as I attempted the steep incline. I was ready to admit defeat when a bay-watch style body came bounding toward me. Phil grabbed my pack (ooerr) and like a mountain goat took it to the top (I wasn't too far off in my defence).

Anyone who carries another's pack is alright in my book.

Holding back the puke I rested whilst the others got ready. The wind blew through in bursts as the thermals raced through. John O gave comforting words - thx. GJ took off near vertically. "Told you it would be easy to stay up" says Phil as GJ disappears.

Pukey feeling still there, Dartanian suggests I eat something. Really? I did eat a scotch egg but struggled to keep it down. But then I started feeling a little better.

GJ off, Dartanian off, John O off, Phil, off, me.... questioning my frame of mind - in hindsight that was a good thing to do. Decided the walk down was not an option so pulled up the new wing easily in a lull and effortlessly glided off the hill.

All 5 of us were up & down, thermals strong at times but a little narrow. Wind slightly off the hill. We got the first thermal but pushing out front for second thermal seemed more problematic until Phil, GJ & Dartanian seemed to cadge a lift off a cloud. Maybe not Dartanian actually but Phil & GJ left the hill.

John O cunningly waited whilst Dartanian bombed out way behind take off somewhere. All safe. I'll stick with John O was my not so cunning plan.

However, eventually I decided not to push things so I went to land. At Mach 2. What's this wing all about?

Of course, almost immediately John O went up in the strongest, widest thermal of the year - skies were looking great now as opposed to when Phil & GJ set off.

He already had his grin ready for when he passed Phil & GJ in the air.

Meanwhile, Dartanian had returned to the lip. Blown out! He (or she) had to walk half way down to take off into a crappy air mass.

Meanwhile, John O's grin was rapidly fading as all the fluffy clouds seemed to be missing him! He bombed short of Phil & GJ!

The retrieve procedure used Phil's airwhere & live tracking webpage.

Clicked on him then selected "directions to pilot" and job done.

Everyone picked up & returned to cars.

This day was a great learning experience & huge thanks to Phil for organising it. If you are just starting XC or are thinking about it, come along if he does another one - you don't actually have to go XC but you see how it can all work smoothly with a bit of planning & the right software. Airwhere tracking for android is worth getting (from play

store) - you can say you are hitchhiking or anything & it appears on a map.

Whilst I didn't get away, I was taught a load of stuff by Phil (& John

  1. O) which only made sense when I was on the hill looking to get away.

It's a totally different perspective between planning to soar & planning to go XC.

I just need that one big thermal & I'm off.

Paul Hester