Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December Soaring

I had my first December thermal soaring flight in New England on the 4th.  I almost didn't go.  Peter offered to pick me up on his way to the Mohawk Trail since I couldn't carry gliders on my car.  I was hesitant to blow off hunting new clients for yet another day of ridge soaring.  Although it was a longer drive, Peter was game for trying West Rutland since the computer models hinted we might have usable thermals.

We got a late start which can be a joy-kill in December with its limited amount of daylight.  We met Art, Jeff, and PK in the soggy, muddy, cold parking area out front.  Even though the doctor forbid him from flying until his shoulder mended, Bob came along to shuttle us up the mountain and help us launch.  Major thanks Bob!

Did I mention soggy?  The mountains are normally snowed in by December, but warm heavy rains kept the snow away.  Waterfalls were transparent liquid instead of solid glittering blue and the fields below were reflective lakes instead of expanses of dry white.

Where is the ice?

LZ is the island along the highway!

No place to land in the gap either.

Although the wind was light when we arrived on top, it slowly increased to soar-able velocities as we rigged.  That, the cold, and the quickly passing day encouraged us to rig quickly.




Art was the first to launch.  Although the velocity was nice, the wind was blowing across launch at times and caught Art.  His right wing almost touched the ramp as he tried to level the glider during his run.  Needless to say, the rest of us were extra cautious and had clean launches.

Art on launch.

Note the right wing.  What happened?

The air was unbelievably smooth and buoyant.  It felt coastal.  There was just enough wind to ridge soar and the 1 - 1.5 m/s (200-300 fpm) thermals were big and as soft as pillows.  I had climbs to 1100m (3600 feet); about 150m (500 feet) below cloud base.  I flew upwind reliably connecting with thermals below dark clouds and circled in thermals with VG settings from full loose to full tight.  PK and I shared a couple runs upwind, including one were we zipped along at 80 kph (50 mph).

I grabbed some pictures of the low-on-the-horizon sun lighting up spots on the barren hillsides.

I was excited for Art and Jeff when they got adventurous and made long glides upwind as well.

Although it was still "mid-afternoon" I could tell it was time to land unless I wanted to break down in the dark.  PK and I started a long upwind glide to burn off altitude before running back downwind to land.  I watched Peter land in the sloped field behind Bird's Eye and decided to land there as well.  I arrived over the field about the same time Art did, so I threw in some dirty spirals to quickly lose altitude.  The smooth air allowed me to do a fast and tight approach along the power lines, over the house, and deliciously close to the trees before dropping into the field.  Ah, a sweet way to end a season of flying.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:34