What's in a name? Parafest? Penninefest? Whatever, the annual PSC piss-up fly-in gave the weather gods the opportunity to throw their worst at us. Again. Somebody must have made the right sacrifices somewhere as the strong winds that had us worrying about the marquee carrying us all on a mass XC never arrived. All we got was some rain. Lots of it. All day Saturday.
The working party assembled promptly at 9AM in the showground to put up the marquee. All went smoothly - Field Marshal Winterbottom's directions to the erection team included orders that all upright members were to be fully inserted and rammed home with powerful thrusts. Then he went round checking them anyway. Group Captain Jones offered advice and guidance and even managed not to get in the way too much. Air Vice Marshall Wood carefully carried in the beer kegs and connected the pipes, and once General Innes's barbecue was in place, we were good to go, amusing ourselves getting Wing Commander Scott's monkey bike as muddy as possible.
Aviation was committed by those with the foresight not to sample the amber liquids too early. The Wing Commander manfully carried up his hang glider and showed how it's done, while a couple of brave souls launched their floppy, flappy things - Air Commodore Maxwell even scraping into the show field with a low pass over the Brickhouse Caravan site (the bill for removing the boot prints from my caravan roof is in the post, Billy). Back in the field, tents were put up, caravans and motorhomes sited and beer was drunk.
The day dawned grey and evolved into wet as well. So no change from normal Penninefest weather then. Fortunately we had the Chipping village hall booked for bad weather contingency, and Ed Cleasby had graciously offered to switch roles from comp meet head to motivational speaker. While nobody in the room bought his protests of being 'only an ordinary pilot', Ed delivered an inspiring lecture/talk/discussion focussed on getting out of the comfort zone of local hills without the hassle of going abroad for adventures. His presentation - Flying in Scotland (Subtitled Broadening Horizons - You don't have to leave the UK to get the best flying in the world) was aimed at encouraging recent pilots to experience new places and conditions to expand their experience. Ed reckons we have the best diversity of conditions in the world and illustrated this with a sample of flights which left a lasting impression.
Tinto - one of his favourites, can be busy in a good forecast but promising a high cloudbase, good air. Important to be aware of the proliferating wind farms and the wide open spaces.
Sron a Gharbh Choire Bhig (HRA) NW Highlands. This was an adventure flight across Loch Shiel from Loch Linnhe. Plenty of intimidating wildernesses on this route unless you know where the roads are.
Carn Liath, Cairngorms. This was in the N-S Cup and the first time Ed had flown across the Cairngorms. A big walk in, even before climbing up to takeoff near the high summit, required a lot of commitment, given 7/8 cloud, almost no wind and just a small patch of sunshine. Dramatic improvement got everyone away to cross some of the most intimidating terrain in the UK. Phil Wallbank told of 4 hour walk out and of Mike Cav's low save when he frightened a herd of deer into releasing a thermal. Ed flew to Aviemore and along the Spey valley, happy at last to follow a road with big fields.
White Corries gives an easy approach via a chair lift. This was an early attempt at a triangle, crossingmagnificent scenery again, but a big storm just after landing was a reminder of the need to keep watching conditions in the big stuff.
There were even quizzes and tasks to keep us awake amused:
Part 1 This was 'Name the Sites'. 4 photos of UK sites, and name the odd one out & why. Only 3 pilots guessed even 1 out of of the 4, and to our shame, one of them was Pendle. Commander Baillie (Parachute Regiment) got the tie breaker, so won an instrument bag.
Part 2. Identifying six Manufacturer logos. Commander Baillie was on top of this too, getting 4 out of 6, but everyone else had a real life and hardly knew any, so Simon won the windsock as well.
Task: Navigation task to set up a route from turnpoints was a great lead-in to the afternoon's session focussing on instruments and how to use them.
Thanks so much Ed, for sharing your insights into paragliding and how to get the most out of it. I'm certainly inspired to get out among new surroundings.
Saturday evening saw the straw floor in the marquee disappearing into the mud. The recently-demoted Flight Sergeant Wallbank (decommissioned for insubordination: suggesting to the Group Captain that the curry night was an indulgence too far) remained on camp sentry duty to guard the bar. He and his loyal band of followers had the arduous task of sampling the beer every few minutes to ensure it remained drinkable. It's a tough job. . .
34 or so (including a scattering of WaGs) enjoyed an excellent curry (or vegetarian alternative) in the Sun, in the new Swallow's Nest extension. A great night had by all, which continued into the show field where the General's pyrotechnics kept all amused. A ton of wood disappeared into the firepits - apparently the IPCC have since issued warnings of a sudden spike in CO2 emissions and a 1 degree global temperature rise.
Sunday dawned with clearing skies, but even the most 'glass-half-full' optimistists couldn't predict any aviation today. Many hands made light work of taking down the marquee and clearing the field. Big thanks to everyone involved in rescuing what could have been a soggy disaster and turning it into another successful event; after all there are worse ways to spend a wet weekend in Lancashire. Special mention for the General - delivering the barbecue, firepits and pyrotechnics; the Air Vice Marshall for sorting the beer and the bar; Squadron Leader Ashley for taking the muddy marquee home to wash and dry; the Group Captain for fretting about everything - ensuring that it was all in place beforehand;
Well done all.
Private (2nd Class) Stewart