Early in 2016 Jamie took a visit to Pat Dower’s XC workshop in Derbyshire and came back to Scotland extolling the virtues of everything he had learnt during the day away.  Obviously all the old and new pilots at Wingbeat listened to the tales of daring do but, after the April highs, settled into a fairly miserable summer of flying.

Then autumn arrived, the local flying improved and Jamie quietly hatched a plan. During winter 2015 we had invited Tony Spirling to give a talk on ‘wave’ which was well attend, so why not invite Pat up to Scotland to hold a full day workshop explaining the skills required to go XC flying.  Dates and venues where discussed, opinions sought  - was Wingbeat now large enough to host a workshop and should we extend an invitation to the members of surrounding clubs?  Time for Jamie to create an online survey and find out……

Folk were keen so dates where discussed and the plan moved to phase 2.

Jamie organised for Pat to visit and Chris C kindly suggested a local venue in Selkirk so on Saturday 7 November a group of 23 pilots from Aberdeen to Lockerbie, Fairlie to Brazil (yes – the Brazil in South America) with 1 to 1000+ hours of airtime met in the Connections hall to sit and listen to Pat – or at least that’s what we all thought ..sit and listen!!

I think entertaining and informative would not do the day justice.  Pat started by asking everyone to write down one thing that they wanted to learn, what stopped them going XC?,  how can they improve XC flights? …all to be written on a Post-it note each.  The reasons were numerous  - don’t know how to thermal, I feel tied to the hill, the retrieve is a hassle, how do I use a GPS efficiently, how to use a gaggle….and more.

Reading the notes Pat formulated the workshop – and started talking thermals as he ‘beeped’ around the room…



beep beep beep…straighten up..


explaining how many million cubic meters of air where required to give lift, strong lift, weak lift, no lift….the best way to turn in the thermal, how to deal with strong broken thermals…drifting.

Then it was our turn, split into pairs, a piece of A4 paper with a circle on it and a pen, one with eyes closed, the other beeping like a vario…the object of the exercise – see if you can core the thermal.  It may sound simple but it was a very effective way to put into practise what we had just learnt.

And so the day continued …

  • when ridge flying stay in the air, don’t keep top landing
  • Think about step climbing if the wind is strong
  • Stay in front and learn how to make short flights long.
  • Learn how to break the ground, ground focus and move to air focus once you are away from the hill on the first XC. 

Google images came out – where would you look on the ground for thermal triggers as the XC moves from the first to second thermal. Slowly we learnt, Pat answering our questions as the day progressed to the first break and lunch.

Simon had kindly driven slowly from Glasgow with a large pan of Malaysian curry so lunch became a foodies delight, curry and nan bread before we all settled in for the afternoon session. 

Think about the weather, always, not just on flying days. 

Evidently this is how Barney Woodhead starts his day, checking the weather maps for the day, even if it’s not flyable today there may be an opportunity 2 or 3 days later and so time to make plans. 

When the XC bug bites then every flyable day becomes an XC day but the big days need experience in identifying the ideal conditions. 

There was talk about speed to fly, using the speed bar effectively to glide through sink. 

Looking at clouds, those that have dark bases and fluffy tops and are working and giving lift and those that are decaying. Using cloud streets, jumping across to the next street before one ends, looking for patterns in clouds and so it continued for the afternoon. 

Using instruments, vario settings, always flying with an airmap but not trying to fold it in the air!

Using SPOT or satellite tracking devices if you go into the boonies.

It was probably the most informative day on flying that I have ever attended and Pat’s ability to keep the workshop interesting  for the day really says it all ..everyone is now itching to get out flying and put into practise what they have learnt.




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  • Post-it-notes
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  • simons curry
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  • standing
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  • Thermaling
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  • quick-quiz
  • Dave and Tommy checking everyone has paid
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