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Programme and Project Management by Ed Johnston

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EGC 2011 Pociunai

Training: 25-30th July

25 July: Smashed up thermals

We were all a bit slow getting going, but with a divide in weather overhead, it looked like we might get a decent day’s flying. No briefing but the organisation came up with a task sheet and off we went.

However the sky, though looking good on track, was completely smashed up, with huge surges all over but no good climbs. Operating up to 4000 over the ground at best, we had a few difficult moments, got round the first TP then called it a day.

The fleet of Wilga tugs that were remarkably effective- at turning Av Gas into noise! very slow tows, forward speed and climb rate Flying with Russell, we got a feel for the place; very flat with some huge areas of forest, low lying damp areas and very small fields in between. Not a single cloud worked where I expected it to, and we eventually packed it in when the bad side of the divide started to let go with rain showers which developed into proper thunder storms later that evening.

Then a team meal at the pizza place that had no pizzas and home, unfortunately with my crew leaving the lights on over night, which slightly curtailed activities the next day.

Unofficial Practice Day 1

The Clubhouse: small and very friendly with decent food and excellent serviceWhen breakfast at the hotel opened at nine o'clock I gulping down a breakfast of pancakes (the other option being omelettes) and rushed to the airfield in order to get to the 1000 briefing. At the airfield there was not a lot of activity and we were told that briefing was postponed to 1100. This was then delayed again to 1200 before being cancelled altogether. The weather was hot and humid but thermal activity did pick up in the afternoon and a 200km task was set and we got some of our pilots airborne. The bulk of the competitors have not yet arrived, so things are still very quiet. This allowed us to bag the better tent and trailer parking spots.

The pilot's didn't manage to go round the task. Conditions were a bit weak around a turning points positioned over an allegedly never-ending forest, so the flight was aborted. General description of the terrain is loads of trees and forests and small fields. With the lack of landable fields, it sounds like having a getting home device (engine) will pay off around here.

Lithuania, like many eastern-European countries has a rule that dipped headlights must be on all the time. Does it make the road any safer? I don't know how keen the Lithuanian police are at catching and fining people who have their lights off. My experience in Poland and Slovakia is that other drivers will flash you if you don't have your headlights on. I haven't seen that in Lithuania, so I'll have to remember to turn them on when I go around.

Evening dinner was in pizza restaurant in the local town of Prienai, population 10 and a horse. Pizza was off the menu. The soup of he day was a cold vegetable soup. Unfortunately, it turned out that vegetable was beetroot, so I ended up with borscht again. I also had a steak grilled to the consistency of boot leather.caption: A fleet of Antonov An-2 biplanes parked at Pociunai airfield. Described by Baldrick is being the most efficient converter of AVGas into noise.

During the day the weather became increasingly hot and the clouds increasingly tall. This culminated with in extremely impressive thunderstorm accompanying a deluge of rain, leaving us stranded in the restaurant. As time wore on, and no sign of a respite, I made a dash for the car. The hotel bar was closing at 1000.

26 July: Dead Battery

Car wouldn’t start, then scrabbled around for jump leads (I had left mine behind deliberately thinking we wouldn’t need them...) Eventually the hotel manager took the battery home to charge it as his leads were not quite up to the job. That didn’t do the job either, but in combination with some better leads and revving engines, we got going.

For us turned out to be a good day to complete scrutineering, signing forms, weighing gliders and jumping out of them to see how long it might take to bail out, some data for a research project.

As it turned out, the promised thunder storms were late coming. Those that did fly had some good condition in late afternoon, charging up and down good lines of well organised energy.

We finished the day with a great meal overlooking the slowly meandering local river. Chris, in his hired van with no back windows, was taking some time to park safely when Gary was herd to say ‘I don’t know why this is taking so long. There are plenty of ditches round here’.

Unofficial Practice Day 2

Having previously remarked that it is important to remember to turn the car headlights on all the time that you are driving, it is now necessary to add the corollary: it is necessary to turn off the headlights when not driving. As I have now discovered, failure to observe this will result in the car battery becoming flat.

After the huge storm last night my tent was floating in a small lake. I didn't notice since I was sleeping at the hotel. Fortunately, the tent was drier inside than it was outside, so I am happy that, despite appearances, it is sufficiently waterproof and serviceable. I still moved it to higher ground.

Morning briefing was missed thanks to efforts to jump start the car, but flying conditions were not very good due to the high level of moisture and humidity. I managed to grab a booking in the pre-competition process known as scrutineering, where the pilot and glider are scrutinised, particularly to check that the maximum weight is not exceeded when the wings are filled with water. A new aspect was added this time where the time was measured for the pilot to unbuckle themselves and climb out of the cockpit. The organizers said they are doing some research and will give the results later; it will be interesting to know if they find anything useful.

Weather was very hot today, and extremely humid. Since there was not much to do after scrutineering, I made use of the pool which has been built by the club house. I was refreshingly cool and I expect that I'll be making frequent use of it during the course of the event. The pool is also conveniently located within line of site of the bar and briefing room, so I think everyone will get a good view when the top pilots and inevitably thrown in on the last day.

Dinner was at a nearby restaurant with a beautiful outdoors patio overlooking the nearby river, the Neman. This was slightly spoiled by a thunderstorm breaking out. A very small one, in comparison to yesterdays epic outburst. Soup of the day was "cold pink soup". I skipped the soup course.

27 July: More rain

Dawned to a downpour with steady rain until about 3pm. After briefing, we all had a bit of organising and shopping to do, getting bits for the camp, glider, maps or selves. A new generation of airspace files and TPs gave everyone the chance to be a little bit more confused than they were before, and with less flying to do, an opportunity to debate the merits of finish lines over finish circles, and whether the circle should be smaller or larger. Rain storm gushing fom the hangar

Best pizza in town this evening, the same day as the glider contingency was completed and only Steve and Pete due to fly in that evening. It was also the only pizza in town...

Official Practice Day 1

This morning started with a huge thunderstorm, much like that of Monday, which kicked off while I was enjoying a breakfast of Lithuanian pancakes. I suppose that the mild thunderstorm of last night wasn't sufficient to clear the air; conditions were still ripe for a big storm.
Downpour on the airfield
Briefing was postponed to 1200 and, unsurprisingly, with the ground still sodden the sky blanketed by thick clouds, no task was set.

The British team have a portacabin which is acting as a base camp for the crew and an office for the pilots to prepare their maps and flight computers. It's conveniently located in close proximity to the bar. The Team Captain, Shaun, also has his own personal log hut in the forest, behind the camp site. It is less a hut and more a dilapidated pile of timber. Rumour is that it is haunted.
Evening gliders in the mist
Otherwise the day was very rather uneventful. The restaurant I went to for dinner didn't seem to have soup on the menu, so there wasn't even a soup of the day. Late in the evening a heavy fog settled over everything, giving the airfield and forest an eerie aspect. Hoping for some better weather tomorrow so we can get some gliding done.

28 July: More ground work

The dawn didn’t so much break as fight its way through the fog. Despite a 2 hour session with the team managers and organisers yesterday, the organisation managed to still publish turn point names on the task sheets for briefing while the maps were printed with numbers, and the turn point file had different numbers for each named turn point... Practice week is more for the organisers than the pilots!

Devin wins the prize for funkiest footwear on the airfieldIt is always amazing when you arrive at a competition with completely ready kit only to find a constant stream of minor jobs to do. We did our tinkering, found landing fields near the club and waited for the forecast weather to come true (which none of us believed would happen), then slowly wound down to down with the promise of some flying weather tomorrow. Maybe!

Official Practice Day 2

Woke up to very unremarkable day. Very dull and overcast. In briefing the longest task yet set was given, about 250km. Despite the optimism of the organizers, the weather didn't suddenly improve and no one bothered to try flying it.

In the rest of the day we sorted various admin tasks including, setting up the antenna for the radio at base. The union flag is now proudly flying over the team GB office, although we still need to replace a few bits of electrics to get the radio itself going.

Giant Bug Attack!In the evening there was a small thunderstorm. This was a surprise because the day had been completely flat, overcast, with no heating or convection to kick it off.

Since there's not much to say about today, I'll mention the fauna. Although there has been heavy rain the drainage on the campsite is pretty good so it hasn't yet turned into a bog. But trying to give the swampland ambiance are the vast quantities of insects. When driving at night, all the tiny reflections from the headlights make it look like it is snowing. Even the “Wilga” tug aircraft look like giant insects. Inside the toilet blocks the walls are covered in mosquitoes waiting to catch you unawares. I am being eaten alive!

Image 2: Even the Wilga tug aircraft look like insects.

29 July: Flying! Good training

Another grey start and rain in the morning, but some promise of 3000 ft in the afternoon, which duly arrived. The organisers made a half hearted attempt at a grid, which ended in a bit of a free for all. I launched 2nd and went through the engine drill as usual, but it all went a bit wrong and I had to relight with the thing partly up and not able to go down or up.

We did go off on task as the thermals got better than a knot and cloud base up to 3000 above site. Slow and careful was the name of the game, with both the 15m and 18m teams turning short of the first TP, located in the middle of a vast forest. Later we heard this is the local hot spot, with locals pressing hard to get over the forest where the best lift is meant to lie. However today, both Open pilots went to the TP and lit their engines to get home.

Finished the day with a great barbq in a large custom made building, the French doing their thing in one half, us doing ours in the other. A good social time with the whole team now ready to go to the opening ceremony tomorrow.

Official Practice Day 3

Woke up to another dull and overcast day to find my pilot wanting to get his glider, G9, rigged quickly. I volunteered that this seemed a bit optimistic, but Ed was enthusiastic so we managed to get the wings attached just in time to get rained on.

Briefing as usual was at 1000, but the organizers scheduled a re-brief at 1200. In light of the poor weather this was then postponed to 1300. The weather started improving by this point, or at least it had dried up, and a 200km task was set for the 18m class. Today is the last practice day; without any decent flying this week everyone is keen to aviate and make sure there are no problems before the competition starts.

Conditions on launching were very weak. There were many relights and, for those lucky enough to have them, much use of engines. G9 had to relight due to some trouble with the engine. During the post-launch tests it didn't deploy or retract properly, so Ed had to land with it partially out. When we arrived in Lithuania and checked the glider the engine had partly raised during the journey. I hope this is not going to be the recurring problem of the competition.

There was one glider flying near the airfield, making a loud, high-pitched whine. My initial guess was that it was a Grob, but there aren't any here. It turns out that it was something equipped with a fancy jet-turbine sustainer engine.

Team GB Base: the migthy erection! Leaning to the left desipte being held together with bodge tape and cable tiesHad some more fun setting up the British team base-camp. Radio is now powered and can receive fine, but transmission doesn't seem to work. We also have a pleasant little gazebo out the front. The Dutch team have set up their base of operations, which is a radio mast with a parachute attached and pegged out to make a sun cover. Seeing that its purpose in life is to catch the wind, I am waiting for one of the many storms to blow it and the mast away.

In the evening the weather changed dramatically and the sky became clear. A new air-mass has moved in and finally rid us of all this gloom. This bodes well for tomorrow, when the opening ceremony takes place, and hopefully for the competition days that follow.