Gliding

GLIDING

One of the exercises which had to be undertaken by RAF section was the functioning of a primary glider.  To do this properly one had to have one’s AB license to glide which meant doing 3 solos. I spent three weekends going over to Ruffoth air field where the gliding school put them through the paces and got me some 21 launches and then my final 2 solos. We used a training glider called a Sedbergh which probably had some connection with the glides which landed in Normandy in 1945 because it was made at the Slingsby sailplane factory in Kirbymoorside.  The glider was attached to a long 300 yards of steel wire which was run onto a winch located at the end of the airfield in a large lorry type vehicle. The ring at the end was fitted onto a little tongue beneath the nose of the glider but some 6 feet from the tip.  as the slack was drawn in there was a signal given to the winch and then power was put on and the glider rolled forward as it lifted off the stick was  kept back and the  glider climbed steeply until it came to some 800 feet as I remember. One felt the pull before less and the nose dropped and then one pulled the release, Of course if you did not then the glider would be dragged down as the wires was rolled round the drum s.  the noise stopped the glider righted itself in a slightly nose down position and all was peaceful, a wonderful feeling like nothing one can every experience elsewhere.  I had to fix my eyes on the altimeter because the next part was to swing across wind (we were of course flying into the wind to take off and land) so the cross wind leg had to e flown to edge of the airfield at 600 feet you turned right again for the downwind leg and flew the length of the airfield until 300 feet. at this point one turned across the wind again to the final approach at about 100 feet, the  end of the  airfield slipped under the wings and you readied everything for the touchdown.  You touch the rudder to straighten up the nose on the runway and then the ailerons to keep the wings level and just as the glider was about to touch you raise the nose slightly and  the  slides hit the ground.  If you were any good you landed a the place where the glider would take off without having to be manhandled back.   From my  point of view this is the best thing which I got from the time in the RAF.  It was rather tiresome for them because it meant I hogged the launches when some of the cadets who had come there were wanting a turn.  I then went to a training course to discovered how to string/rig a primary glider :a primary glider is fully open, has a frame and wings and tailplane but with nothing in front except a simple control column.  It had many wires and fasteners, was very heavy and was propelled by bungy (in the 1990s this material became famous for bungee jumping (cf. the Bond film Golden Eye which begins with a bungee jump).  The glider was genuine but so inefficient that it barely flew and if towed to a great height came down very quickly.  It was part of the system that 10 slides had to be made before the glider could become airborne.  Since a slide took some 10 minutes with 20 boys pulling the bungee – it was very difficult to give the boys a go each and get one to reach the magic 10.  Towing behind a land rover was immensely frowned on because the glider tended to take off and then crash into the landrover.

Fr. Leander Duffy who had preceded Fr. Bernard some years before had got the juniors to pull the primary glider – he sailed far too far, having very enthusiastic juniors pulling the bungee and narrowly missed a bench near the cricket field which he descended on – Fr. Peter’s comments about the state of the cricket field afterwards have not been recorded.  .

RAF Catterick was the HQ of the fire fighting services in the RAF and also that of the RAF Regiment which guards airfields.   At one time Fr. Bernard and I were very close to this aspect of the RAF since their army direction rather harmonized with the needs of the boys – the cops and robbers aspect.  Their airfield on the AI with its old fuselages for fire fighting training also played host to a gliding school.  So we visited it for Field days and camps.

Gliding at Sutton banks was a possibility but it never took off though one or two boys would go up there during Saturdays.   the Chief instructor Henry Doktor was supportive, but it proved too difficult and expensive for the boys to get involved with.  The site is a tricky one and the club insisted in a large number of  launches before solo.

On occasion I would help with the army section.  We had a memorable camp in the Spring in the Lake District near Lake Coniston – I think.  It snowed heavily one day, and we left the tens near a tarn on a hanging valley and went up the mountains returning to pick them up later in the day.   This was the time when one of the tents caught fire – there was quite a problem getting this written off by the army.   Someone had lit a stove in it.  The army stoves were petrol flame throwers and very difficult to light in a wind !  Fr. Aidan was on this camp, and I remember being in the 3 tonner which we could drive in those days when he took off part of a house which was overhanging the road.  Another camp was in Scotland with Fr. Rupert.   During this camp we went to Kingussie to see Fr. Cyprian Broomfield who had retired there and was later  to die there looking after some nuns.