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"Mistakes wot I have made" by Dr Rex Hayden

Rex has: `A` Cert. at RAF Fairlop with ATC flying a Kirby Cadet, June 1945, on 19th slide/hop...course record!  ( Yes, I flew in the war).

Gold distance and Diamond goal 1974.

Intermittent gliding till joining EGC in 1970, then instructing from 1975 for the next 20+ years.

Full Gold with height leg at Aboyne 1990.


Photo (left) : checking parachute before flight. 1974. This is the lovely Skylark 4 which gave me my silver on the first cross country and the gold and diamond legs on the third, the latter, never to be forgotten, lasting 8 minutes under 9 hours


1945. First solo in a solo Kirby Cadet, open cockpit, no instruments. The ground instructor asked if one of us would hop in for him to show what the stick and rudder did. Guess who.  This was all the instruction we had, except he suggested we took note of the speed of the wind hitting the face after take-off and not to ever let it get less than that. And off we went. Piece of cake.

I don`t know why we have so many instructors these days.....they are really not necessary.

Looking at the other cadets I don`t think I was the only one lying about my age!



1. My first was probably in 1971. For a Bronze badge check in those days, I had to be observed from the ground doing a spin solo. I did one, in a Skylark 4, which was not too good, so I pulled straight up into another one which was really good! Feeling pleased I looked to return to North Weald airfield, but It was nowhere in sight. I did a 360 but being disorientated I did not know in which direction to look. So I had to land in a field and await rescue! My lesson was, the lower you are the less far you can see!


2. Soon after that, I was having a lengthy scratch in very weak lift. Eventually it began to improve and then became unbelievably strong and I shot upwards feeling very proud of myself. Then there was a colossal bang and flashes of light. Probably for the first time in the flight I took my head out of the office and found to my horror I was under the largest thunder cloud I had ever seen, stretching from North Weald right across London! I tried to come down by diving at VNE with open air-brakes, but was still climbing! I tried a spin but still climbed, and cloud base started looking a bit near. I radioed that by then I was being sucked up into Heathrow`s corridor. I raced away at right angles to the cloud, but not before being sucked into it for a little while, until regaining control. After about 30 minutes I was able to return and land. My lesson……do not only look at the instruments, keep a proper lookout. And always check the weather forecast.


3. My first cross country was for one part of the Silver badge, from North Weald to Ipswich airport in the Skylark 4. The weather was idiot proof (I thought). I got there very easily and since it was so easy to stay up I thought I would try a second leg in the same flight and stay up for 5 hours. After a while I thought why not try for the complete thing and do the climb bit. I then found that cloud base was low enough to stop me getting high enough. I knew how the artificial horizon worked so switched it on and tried to enter cloud. The first couple of times I fell out into clear air within 30 seconds. So I started flying on instruments before entering and this worked. It was magical to come out of the top into bright sunshine and look down on the Persil white clouds at about 7000 feet. Feeling really pleased with myself I looked to see where I was. To my horror all I could see below between clouds was water! I was over the North Sea!! First thought…glad I`m a good swimmer. I decided that England must be to the West, so looked at compass and flew accordingly.Fairly soon I could see the coast and picked out Felixstow. I landed at Ipswich airport after 5 hours 28 minutes and more than enough height on the barograph. If BGA knew what I had been up to they would probably not have let me have the badge. My lesson…remember that clouds move, and do not do something new without a briefing.

4. In wave over the Scottish hills one sometimes climbs with the lenticular cloud sitting right behind your tail, where it should stay throughout the climb, with both you and the cloud being stationary over the ground. On my first go at doing this, I was flying the Silene, and was climbing well in that wonderfully smooth air of wave when I noticed an occasional little fluff of cloud just in front. Before I could cotton on I was suddenly inside cloud in complete darkness! So I had to suddenly start flying on instruments (I was not quite so silly as not to have these running. But what if I hadn`t!). I began to dive quite steeply but went on for ages in the dark. I lost a worrying 3000 feet before emerging into clear air. Lesson…..keep a good eye on the cloud behind as it can overtake you! I later realised that by diving steeply my horizontal speed was reduced, so do not overdo that.

5. One sometimes accelerates forward to the next lenticular to get better lift. But this gap of 2 or 3 miles always means you fly through strong sink and lose much height. I saw a glider ahead going across without seeming to lose much height, so I sped the Silene forward and went and into the most awful sink! I had another look at the other glider and this time perceived a propeller.

6. I was at Aboyne again, flying the Silene solo in wave at about 14,000 feet when I got hungry for lunch and opened the brakes and put the nose down. When down to about 5000 feet the whole canopy suddenly froze over! I peered through the clear vision panel and thermalled. It all unfroze after 15 minutes and I went in and landed. I told the local instructors about it and they asked what speed had I descended at. I said as fast as allowed at near VNE. I was told the glider was still at minus 40 or something when we hit humidity near cumulus clouds! Lesson…come down slower.

7. Just a curiosity….While flying in a snowstorm just under cloud base, I saw snowflakes floating inside the cockpit. I couldn`t see how they were getting in. Then I realised they were forming as I breathed out!

8. At height one evening over Aboyne in the Silene I had a wonderful view of the sun going down above the clouds. The ground far below looked very dark so I asked what it was like down there. Now perhaps I misunderstood in thinking I would have to start coming down in another 10 minutes. It took 20 minutes to get down to circuit levels and it was night!! They were very kind and used car headlights to show up the runway. Lesson….when at height you can still see the sun, while at ground level it is below the horizon. Also it takes a long time to descend from height.

9. During a cloud climb at Aboyne in an October, the instruments in the Silene ALL froze and stopped working. I expected to lose control but went through the motions of levelling off and listening to wind noise and luckily emerged safely quite soon. Lesson…..the locals said to ask what height the temperature falls to zero at before doing a cloud climb in October. But this seldom happens anyway.

10. At 9000 feet over Wales, flying the Silene from Shobden, I was looking down at a series of wave clouds, when the gaps between them all suddenly filled in and I could not see the ground. We had no GPS then. I turned into wind, opened air brakes and descended as slowly as possible to minimise ground speed should I meet earth. I entered cloud and lost a lot of height with a bit of worry about hilltops. I emerged at 3000 feet so no worries but had to land in a field and buy rescuers the beers. Lesson……I don`t know!

11. Finally, a few years ago, I took a K13 up solo on the wire. The speed suddenly increased to 70 and I did a brisk too fast signal to the winch. The canopy suddenly shot open. I grabbed the retaining string to try and stop it departing and hitting the tail. This was difficult due to it`s enormous size. The glider was extremely difficult to control and it wallowed all over the place. I worried about it spinning at 500 feet. I realised it must have back released from the cable and I was able to close the canopy by sideslipping to the right. But I could not lock it so had to from now on fly with only the right hand while the other held the canopy down. So I did a short circuit and did a `no air brake` landing, using side-slip. It was my luck to have a glider sitting right in the middle of the airfield, right in my way. I missed him but then flew on and on and on the way it does. The winch at the other end began to look a bit large so I made a grab to open the brakes and then grab the canopy and all ended well. I was very upset later when nobody had thought there was anything wrong with my landing. Do I always land like that! Also, someone said they were glad I was the one it happened to! Lesson……we found that the canopy bolt had been greased ( not to do) and I remember putting my left hand against the side of the fuselage to steady myself when giving the too fast signal as I was being thrown about.

PS. I may as well admit to my most embarrassing moment not to be mentioned to anyone. While thermalling with a good steep bank, I decided to have a drink. I looked at the ground below and the sky above, tilted the flask appropriately and filled my ear with water!


Safe flying.




Ken and ? someone Clark near the Skylark 4


Ken and Thelma Durno obviously find gliding pretty hard work!


Well, I didn`t want to have to walk the glider back!  No discipline those days.

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