1000km flight


Although 1000 kilometers had been flown by a world renowned German pilot Hans Werner Grosse, from Mt Newman in a 26 meter glider, no West Australian had achieved the feat.

The Gliding Club of WA has been well known in the West as a club that pushes the distances and speeds.

Andrew Repton's 1000km flight

This flight had been in the planning for four years and James Cooper Russell Brieley and I had made four previous attempts at the 1000 kilometer distance. All the four attempts had been made with launches between 8:45 and 9:00 Western Standard time and resulted in flights up to 915km with no early out landings.
Early in the week of December 16th James rang to say that the Met office had not suggested good conditions over the weekend but believed this not to be the case. Our preparations were in place and the met man declared that the day would not be suitable for a long flight. My suspicions were completely the opposite but not being sure we decided not to attempt the flight on the Saturday. The first Cu's went up at 9:50 and the realization that we had missed the day set in. The clouds proceeded to develop with climbs to 8,000ft, and four five hundred km flights were flown from the club, so I called James and we decided to be ready for an early launch on Sunday. With the gliders prepared the met man still said not a good day, 6000ft climbs predicted. With much early activity four gliders were ready for a launch by 8:00 CQI DG 200 Andrew Repton, XIF SZD 55 James Cooper, GUX Pic 20E Bob Smoothy, XJE Jantar 3 Richard McFarland Our ever reliable tug pilot Jim Paynter who has launched us on all our previous attempts was ready as usual. I launched at 8:55 with the hope of early thermals and a release height of 2500ft AGL, then a glide straight out to find the first thermal. This was to enable James to launch straight after and pair up quickly. However at 1500ft after a very smooth launch the first bump was felt so I asked Jim to turn. coming around I released at 1800ft in 1.5 Knots, this toped out at 2500ft after a struggle, by then Bob Smoothy in the Pic and James in the SZD were above me by 400ft so a decision was made to start 9:15. Five kilometers at 1500ft a reasonable climb began. James and Bob left the climb at about 3000ft whilst I continued to climb. Each time I was about to leave with the thermal running out it gave another burst on two occasions and I eventually left at 4500ft 3.2 knots average. The glide was smooth with more sink than to be expected for an early start so hopes were up for some strong lift. The next climb was back to 4500 at 3.5 knots and on leaving this thermal the first climb appeared 5 km in front and dead on track 9:40 and ten minutes before the previous day. James had unfortunately already passed this thermal and view it as he took a thermal at about 800ft AGL, a few K behind him. Flying at 80 knots to the cloud that gave a climb of 5.8 knots to 6000ft with the cloud still above. I called Bob in who left a 5 knot to join me he was delighted and stayed close by for the next 100k. In the mean time James was still in the weeds till 10:45.
The rest of the leg 258K to Perenjori was straight forward with no significant low points and heights around 6000 for an average speed of 85 kph with 4.5 knots average climbs, not all Cu's giving predictable climbs.
After turning Perenjori the speed increased dramatically with the trip back to Dalwalinu (100k) averaging 150 kph 6-knot climbs going to 9000 with some good pull-ups. The total length of the second leg was 365 k to Corrigin with an average speed of 143 kph. Having turned Corrigin and heading north the sea breeze could be seen 75k to the west preparing to ruin the day for us (The met man had said no sea breeze today.) North of Shackleton I saw two Beverley gliders thermalling in front and hoped for an easy center and good climb headed for them at high speed only to be disappointed in their thermal choice, it was not even worth a pull up. Crossing the highway at Tammin with 340 k to go I heard the Beverly gliders I had passed scurrying for home with the sea breeze now at Beverley. With the average still over 120 kph it looked as if the task was achievable with a flight time of 9 hours, so there would be no problem with the length of the day.
Conditions were now beginning to deteriorate with a mass of cloud forming over the task area and particularly to the west on the sea breeze. May be we could run the sea breeze at high speed, this was not to be the case. With climbs only under every third of fourth cloud. Bringing the speed back to 110. The sea breeze was now getting close to the next turning point Dalwalinu and was moving in fast. I got into Dalwalinu at 6300 with the last cloud as the sea breeze was to cut it off and signed the end of the day for James who was some considerable distance behind me.
With 170K to get home it was time for some major decisions do I risk running the sea breeze front that appeared unreliable and confirmed by James. So I headed further off track to the east to obtain better trough conditions. After a glide of 30 K with no lift and the feeling that this may be another failed attempt from nowhere I stumbled into 5.8-knot climb that went to 11,000 ft and cloud base for the first time in the day. This was enough to get the 1000k but not enough to get home. I would take anything that would give me the extra 3000-ft to get home. The track home took me 40 k off track passing over Cadoux where 1.8 knots gave me an extra 4500ft plenty to get home 1500ft in reserve so I thought. I decided to best glide home and save the 1500ft just in case as the sea breeze was lifting dust. The final glide went well until just past the 1000k mark when James who had had to fly 35k into the sea breeze and try to get back under the cu radioed to say that he was out landing at Kalannie about 60k???? east of track, achieving 922K and breaking his old standard class record. had kept the 1500ft extra until 36k out when the head wind from the sea breeze began to take effect. I used up 1600ft of my 1500ft and floated over the strip at 600ft, and straight into circuit after nine hours and forty-four minutes on track.

Flight statistics:

Total time 10h 9min

On task 9h 44min

Distance 1033km

Best average climb 8.8 knt

Average for the day 4.4knt

Speed 106 Kph

Wing loading 42 kg/sq/m

Ballast 80 liters all the way

Flights from Cunderdin 15 -16 December

298km Astir CS - Gina Rocket

300km Ka 6BR - Kevin Saunders

4 x 500km

600k Jantar Std.2 - Denis McNeil

750km Pic 20 E - Bob Smoothy

922km SZD 55 - James Cooper

1033 DG 200 - Andrew Repton

A lot when the met man said stay at home.

Lessons learnt on the day.

1) Vital that you get a climb early to ensure progress when other gliders are higher up, in other words stop and be patient to gain extra height reducing the probability of being in the weeds early on and thus being forced to take anything.
2) Don't give up unless it is really obvious that the sea breeze is going to stop thermal activity. James and I flew for four hours after the Beverley gliders went for home.
3) Turn the radio off as over a long flight on a good day the excessive radio chatter can flatten the battery at a time when it is most required.
4) Don't have a too height wing loading as it will not gain later in the day what is lost early.
5) Be ready to launch early, very early. Be in the air by 9:00 latest.
6) Be prepared to land on the first glide out.
7) Top up with small irregular climbs early in the day to keep the pressure off in needing to spend a long time in one thermal that makes you feel you are not making progress, this keeps a rhythm going.

Andrew was the 27th Australian pilot to achieve this task no mean feat.


SZD-55 in action

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