This is a work in progress. My intention is this: to create a resource for all those people who care about how the air moves. Primarily for glider pilots, but, I hope, interesting for paraglider pilots, hang glider pilots, even light aircraft, mountain and bush pilots, the modellers and the sim guys - anyone who is interested in what the air is doing around them. And critically, what it is likely to do next!
There are many books on soaring, plenty on "how to fly gliders" and even some on flying across country or racing - but few on this specific subject. I want to engage those people who are passionately interested in the way sun, wind, terrain and the airmass combine to create all the varied patterns of air movement that we collectively call "lift". Ridge, thermal, wave and convergence lift are all familiar to soaring pilots, but to look ahead at the sky and predict what will happen as you fly through it has always been a hard skill to acquire.
Fear not, it isn't a black art and no talent is required - except for a hunger to know what is going on. There is a solid, well understood body of knowledge and a set of well proven techniques that you can employ to play the great game of soaring successfully and safely, in all kinds of terrain, and in all types of lift. Unfortunately although this knowledge exists, it isn't widely disseminated. Yes, there are books, videos and magazine articles, and plenty of stuff on the internet. But is difficult to dig out the information in any coherent way that hangs together as a set of lessons, any scheme that makes it easy to learn and to make progress with your flying.
I was always taught that you should should teach (and learn) in a sensible fashion - from the easy to the more difficult, from the known to the unknown. Straightforward concepts and easily remembered, clear images help this rather abstract stuff stick in the mind, to be recalled when you need it. And when it comes to the science of how the air masses behave it's important not to get too deeply involved in the maths and the physics. Leave that to the meteorologists: we only need to find the rising air.
So the first part of the project is to publish three simple text books. The first volume is a primer on the most common forms of soaring: ridge and thermal, flatland and mountain flying. The second volume gets a bit more technical, covering the less well understood areas of wave and convergence flying. The third volume is about "the inner game" - how to learn to make the right decisions to fly fast and reliably in all the circumstances you may experience.
Once the books are in circulation the next step is to create an online resource. I'm regularly coaching mountain flying in one of the most interesting soaring environments in the world - out of Omarama in the South Island of New Zealand - and this gives me great opportunities to explore almost all of the soaring phenomena that you are likely to come across anywhere. It's quite easy to construct lesson plans to show things like carpet winds triggering thermals and sea breezes sneaking up to wash you down the side of mountains. Even the hydraulic jump underneath a wave system can be explored, demonstrated, filmed.
With luck (if I'm spared, as my grandma used to say) I'll be able to illustrate the content from the books using short videos filmed at Omarama - and indeed, from all the other places I am lucky enough to work.
So it's quite a project, this will take some time! You can help me by taking an interest, buy the books, let me know what works for you and what doesn't, tell your soaring friends if you like the content, help me to create a "Soaring Engine" community and some momentum to move this thing forward.