Sutton Bank report 2023

PNGC exped to Sutton Bank, October 2023

Floating above North Yorkshire under a dazzling blue sky, it was obvious that the PNGC exped had ventured to a foreign land. Under the experienced leadership of a native, Adrian ‘Nobby’ Noble, a small team of six had travelled oop north to try summat different.

Sutton Bank, home of the Yorkshire Gliding Club since 1934, is renowned for ridge soaring and opportunities for wave flying, and has been a successful club expedition destination for several years. This exceptionally welcoming, friendly club is well used to autumnal migrations of Southern Softies (PNGC’s parachutes even boast of it). But with us this year came a swathe of high pressure and cool, bright sunshine.

Nobby, Elaine Bunting, Chris Hensman, Michael Monson, Enrico Steffinlongo and Barney Wainwright headed there from Middle Wallop on Saturday 14th October. Nobby towed the K21 LPV and Enrico the Astir, 480. Barney’s DG300, FDW, which he shares with Nobby, was already on site following an earlier visit.

The group arrived to find that the clear skies belied a moderate to fresh north-westerly and turbulent conditions at Sutton Bank. The wind strengthened through the day and the windsock on the top of clubhouse cavorted around its pole. Plans to fly that afternoon had to be scrubbed.

Instead, we decided to visit nearby Rievaulx Abbey, a 12th Century Cistercian monastery dissolved in 1538 and stripped of all its treasures, right down to the lead in the roof. We had an interesting walk among the ruins, then up the hill to Rievaulx Terrace, a landscape garden flanked by two 18th Century temples. From this high vantage point, the scale of the moors and valley can clearly be seen.

Afterwards we returned to our comfortable accommodation at the Yorkshire Gliding Club and dinner: Nobby’s chilli and rice, with garlic bread, followed by Elaine’s apple crumble, plus cheese and biscuits.

To Bagby and beyond

On Sunday 15th, the winds had eased off to become light to moderate. The three gliders were rigged, checked and made ready. After the daily club briefing, the launch point was set up on the short runway 24 adjacent to the clubhouse.

Clear skies and still air in the morning made ideal conditions for site check flights for Chris and Michael, the start of aerotow training for Elaine, and a first flight by Barney in FDW. Unfortunately, Enrico reported feeling ill and was unable to fly.

Taking off from Sutton Bank is quite an experience. As you get airborne, the steep-sided edge of Sutton Bank plunges away below. The famous White Horse of Kilburn is visible on the hillside beneath, and the land continues to descend a further 750ft into the valley. It’s an amazing sight.

From above, there is a wonderful view of the ridge winding around to form the main bowl, which cups Lake Gormire, before turning northwards to High Paradise Farm. To the west lies the town of Thirsk, epicentre of the James Herriot tales. Northwards is Middlesbrough and, to the east and across the moors, Scarborough and Whitby.

Points of note for the site briefing, aside from key points of the day’s right hand circuit, were landmarks along the ridge, RAF Topcliffe and the runway of the self-styled ‘Bagby International Airport’. This tiny airstrip two miles away is well placed for an outlanding if one were to run out of height for a return to Sutton Bank.

As the late morning progressed, there was some thermal activity and cumulus began to form. Barney, Michael and Chris with Nobby all soared locally, and Elaine began her aerotow training. Barney had one of the best flights of the day, logging 1 hour 30 minutes, while Michael had 1 hour 3 minutes and Chris managed some good soaring over Lake Gormire.

At the end of a full day, the PNGC team drove into Thirsk to Bianco restaurant where we had an excellent meal and were able to unleash Enrico to test the authenticity of our Italian waiter.

A little light soaring

On Monday, the day was still and calm, with high, thin cloud cover. Eventually some zephyrs filled in from the south-south-east and there was a busy queue for aerotows off the club’s long runway 20.

On a day when no one found lift of any note, the PNGC crew scored the longest flights of the day. Barney had a flight of 27 minutes, and another of 24 minutes. Chris with Nobby did some light soaring too, while Elaine and Nobby later explored some faint remnants of a wave bar in the same area. Sadly, Enrico was still feeling too unwell to fly.

Elaine completed aerotow training by returning from a wave-off by the tug at 300ft, and followed with a solo in the K21. Then the YGC’s DG500 was taken out of the hangar and the pair took a tow to 4,000ft to complete Elaine’s spin training. Despite Nobby offering a group from YGC the same golden opportunity, there were no takers. 

After a busy and interesting day of flying, the PNGC group went back into Thirsk to a Wetherspoons pub, The Three Tuns. The food would flatteringly be described as unmemorable, though Enrico did best with his ‘gourmet steak dinner’, a la-di-da affair with peas and three onion rings.

Tuesday was all change. As the high pressure moved away north-eastwards, the forecasters agreed it would soon be followed by Storm Babet. There would be strong winds and large accumulations of rainfall lasting until the weekend.

During the morning, the light to moderate east-south-easterly began to increase. Low, broken rags of cloud scudded overhead. The launch point was set up on runway 20, which gave a 90° crosswind with, at times, a smidgen of tailwind. It was going to be very good practice for take-offs and landings.

As the wind strengthened during the day, it also formed some tantalising streets with weak thermals. Barney again managed the soaraway flights of the day: 33 minutes in the morning; and 40 minutes in the mid-afternoon.

Towards the end of the afternoon, Nobby and Elaine set off on a final aerotow out over the White Horse. At just about 100ft QFE, the Pawnee was jolted upwards by a sudden, sharp gust. Seconds later LPV followed suit, causing an inadvertent cable release. Nobby immediately took control of the situation and turned right to assess whether to descend to the valley below or return back to the airfield.

Some lift helped take LPV to a giddy 150ft and Nobby guided it back on to runway 06, finally turning to float up the long runway towards the launch point and some very surprised YGC members. It was easily the shortest flight of the day – in fact, of the whole week. It was also, by Nobby’s own admission, the nearest he has ever come to visiting Bagby.

A further uneventful flight saw Elaine with Nobby mooching around the edges of a line of cloud to extend to a whopping 25 minutes in the air. And with this last flight of the day, the PNGC exped came to an end. Wednesday’s forecast continued to deteriorate. With strong and turbulent winds and rain in the offing, it was decided to de-rig the aircraft and put them back in their trailers to tow home in the morning. 

The crew had a final night out in Thirsk and a terrific curry at the Grand India, a known favourite of Nobby’s. Every Tuesday evening they have a ‘Banquet Special’, with 3 courses for £10.95.

The next morning we drove south and delivered the gliders back safely to Middle Wallop.

The weather at Sutton Bank in October did not oblige with ridge soaring or the wave conditions that lure pilgrims from the south. However, we did have some hugely enjoyable flying, much of it in beautiful late autumn sun and crystal visibility. And if we did not exactly soar sky high, we were privileged to float over one of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.

A very big thank you is due to Nobby for leading the expedition, for his meticulous preparations and planning, and doing his utmost to ensure everyone got all the flying they could hope for.

Thanks also to our hosts at the Yorkshire Gliding Club, where we had such a warm welcome. They do have the most excellent facilities and location perched up there on the roof of Yorkshire. Whenever you get the chance to visit, be sure to go!


Royal Navy Motor Glider Course Report

On the 24 July nine keen and budding aviators from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines
reported for duty at Solent Airport, formally HMS DAEDALUS to attend the Royal Navy
Gliding and Soaring Association (RNGSA) Motor Glider Course run by the Portsmouth Naval
Gliding Centre (PNGC).
The course is a once-a-year Adventurous Training opportunity introducing students to the
thrill of powered flight using Motor Gliders. Under the expert guidance of volunteer
experienced British Gliding Association (BGA) instructors the weeklong course provided
instruction in basic air safety, pre-flight safety checks, aircraft controls and handling, in flight
safety, navigation and to witness take-off and landing checks and procedures. The course
emphasizes the importance of adhering to strict air regulations, airspace procedures and
maintaining situational awareness providing the student with an appreciation for the
responsibility that comes with being a pilot.
With students assisting in all the necessary pre-flight checks and witnessing take off
procedures and parameters the students were given control of the German manufactured
Grob G109’s, a two seat self-launching motor glider in which the pilot and student sit side by
side, to pilot an aircraft which for most was a new experience. Flying over the Solent,
around the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, and the South Downs there were frequent photo
opportunities including the breath-taking Needles.
The power gliding course incorporates many practical applications of aviation skills. A cross-
country navigation exercise over the South Downs provided an opportunity for participants to plan and execute their flight routes, using strict altitude parameters, compass bearings and speed. Under the instructors’ mentorship, students learn to interpret weather reports,
calculate wind corrections, and navigate using maps and Visual Flying Rules. The exercise
over some of the best Hampshire and West Sussex countryside and villages provided a
sense of accomplishment as students successfully found their way back to base, honing
their skills as navigators.
The weeks individual training fee included a year’s membership of the RNGSA. This will
provide further opportunities to develop flying skills by attending weekend training with the instructors at Middle Wallop airfield, the home of the PNGC. Ultimately this could result in the proud achievement of attaining a BGA recognised qualification.

Lewis Crowe
Corporal Royal Marines

S/Lt Thomas LeClerc receives certificate from CFI Dickie Croker
Course Members at Solent Airport
Lt Ross Murray (RNAESS) at the controls
L/Cdr Jon Taylor (XSO HMS Sultan) received his course certificate.
Picture of the iconic Needles, Isle of Wight, taken at 800 feet in Grob109 Motor Glider

For the Attention of All Winch Drivers

Calling all Winch Drivers

Many of you who have been trained solely on the Heron Winch
will need to be checked out on and converted to the PNGC
winch. There are a few differences between them.

  1. Steel cable on PNGC Vs Dyneema on Heron Winch
  2. Different repair methods
  3. Tow out brake MUST be set on the PNGC winch – if you
    are driving the winch and retrieving the cable – Make sure
    you check the cable before attaching to the tow out
    vehicle to ensure that the brake is actually on – by pulling
    on the cable
  4. The YELLOW Parachutes must only be used with the
    Heron Winch – they are of lighter construction due to the
    lighter Dyneema
  5. Both sets of parachutes Must be placed in the ISO at the
    end of flying across the top of the bins(cover)
  6. The speed settings are slightly different as well – PNGC
    Winch is not as powerful as the Heron winch
  7. Please do not use wire loops to attach to the tow out
    vehicles – There are soft loops attached and a roll of new
    red rope in the log cabin
    If you have not driven the PNGC winch please inform the
    Duty Instructor – if asked to go and drive it – and see me to
    be converted to the PNGC Winch.
    Thank you for all your hard work in keeping the Club flying
    Richard Lovell-Butt
    PNGC Winch master

Sutton Bank Expedition 14th to 22nd October 2023 

This year’s club expedition to Sutton Bank will run from Saturday 14th Oct to Sunday 22nd October.  

Pilots who wish to go to Sutton Bank will need to confirm with me by 15th Aug so room allocation can be confirmed on a first come basics and as to your emails to me early in the year. There will be a deposit of £30 per person, like last year this will be used to help cover the cost of club gliders taken to Sutton Bank and on site charges for the gliders. Any other members who wish to come please email me and I will put you on the Accommodation waiting list. Or if you are planning you own accommodation / camping please let me know. 


Members who wish to go please can you let me know if you are able to tow a glider, or you need a lift, or you are able to give a lift to a member. The plan will be to meet at Middle Wallop at 0700 (officers car park) and depart together. 


There are 7 rooms, which 6 are single accommodation and one room with twin beds. All bedding will be supplied by Sutton Bank for a cost (Approx £10 for the week), and the room cost approx. £10 per night. 

Camping is also allowed on the site (Please let me know if you plan to camp) there is local accommodation which you can hire from. Caravans, B&B, Hotels. If you do not wish to have the accommodation below please let me know so it can be allocated to other club members who may wish to attend the Exbed. 

Members who have expressed an interest in the Exbed. 

Names Room Numbers 
Adrian Noble 
Neil Shaw 
Barney Wainwright 
Chris Hensman 
Martin Westwood 
Nick English 
Enrico Steffinlongo 
Michael Monson 

Catering / meals 

The club has a large member’s kitchen which we are allowed to use with fridges and cooking facilities & TV. The club bar is upstairs and is fully stocked and I know where the key is kept? 

Evening meals can be cooked on site or we can go to the numerous restaurants around Thirsk,  Wetherspoons, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Turkish, fish & chips. 


Depending on numbers we will take 1 x K21 and 1 x Astir. This will also depends on members who can tow the gliders. There is also the possibility of flying in the Sutton Bank club gliders with their instructors, I am authorised to instruct in these gliders as well. 

Private gliders are also welcome to come to Sutton Bank (Please email me if you wish to bring your own glider). Sutton Bank will make a small charge for you glider been on site for the week. For members who have not been to Sutton Bank the conditions can be very rough on the launching and landing. 

Flying restrictions 

All Solo Pilots Must have a minimum of a SPL or BGA Bronze badge and to have conducted training on Sutton Bank Ridge and Wave flying. Training will be given on the first evening after arrival as well as any flying training that is required before you will be allowed to go solo. Your log books will be annotated. This is compulsory training recommended by the BGA. If you do not have the qualification as above then you will fly with an instructor. 

Sutton Bank requires you to join the club as a temporary member to cover insurance; this is paid only on the days that you fly. Solo pilots, will also need to show your gliding licence and medical (copies will be taken on the first day) 

Check flights  

Will be conducted by myself, or the local instructors before any flying at Sutton Bank is authorised. Each day the weather conditions will be assessed and Pilots who wish to go solo will be authorised by myself depending on conditions, this may include a daily check flight. 

Flying costs 

All flying in PNGC gliders will be billed on time once we return to Middle Wallop, the Aero-tows and Winch launches will be paid to Sutton Bank on the last day before you leave. If you fly in a Sutton Banks glider then you will pay their hire charges. 

Please send the deposits to: 

Account Name:          Adrian Noble 

Sort Code:                 07-08-06  

Account No               05514239 

Reference:                Your name and Sutton Bank    

A more detailed plan / op-order, will be issued 4 weeks before we depart to Sutton Bank.

Nobby Noble

K21 Spinning

Hence, until and unless further evidence is evaluated, we’ve made a decision to prohibit spin-training and/or spinning in any club K21 with immediate effect.    

It is very unlikely anyone will enter a spin in a K21 unless trying very hard to, so as in all aircraft, spin-avoidance remains key.  

If you have any further questions, please discuss with myself/Tony/Nobby, or any other Instructor – the latter were all made aware in advance yesterday. 



Click here for more information.