The first climbs over QuestAir were disorganized but the four of us met at base before heading south towards the Seminole-Lake Gliderport. Davis and Dean flew southwest along the eastern edge of the swamp, while Greg and I preferred to keep upwind along Route 33. However, Davis found a good climb and we quickly gave up our hard-earned position and joined him.
Davis and Greg continued on, while Dean and I stayed for a full climb. Dean and I had a fun glide together. We slid close together for a photo-op, but the air got choppy just as we were wing-tip to wing-tip.
Dean in the foreground (Photo by Dean Funk)
I couldn't see Davis and Greg in front of us until Davis reported he was just a little north of the airfield. Um, I thought, that's right in front of me. I finally looked down and saw Davis very low working hard to stay airborne. Greg, although low, had enough altitude to maneuver into a good climb. Dean kept pushing south, while I stopped for a moderate climb.
I was impressed with Davis' tenacity. I could see his shadow dancing along the ground and knew he was low. Even so, he was following the shifting warm air and if not climbing, at least not going down.
I soon pushed upwind towards Dean's last position and once again I couldn't see the glider that I knew should be in front of me. I looked down at the airfield as I flew into strong sink and saw Dean landing, with style, on the runway. Um, Dean just landed, Davis is fighting to stay in the air, and I'm sinking like a stone. I flew directly to a large field at the intersection of 33 and 474 just in case. Still on glide, but planning my landing approach, I slammed into a 500-700 fpm climb with no warning. It wasn't surrounded by turbulence and wasn't weak at the edges. I banked into a steep turn and didn't even need to center. Just what the doctor ordered!
Greg joined me in that climb to base. We flew back upwind to snag the turn point at the intersection and headed southwest along the swamp. Once again, I thought I was done when I arrived at the edge of the swamp low and in the shade. I flew as deep into the trees as I dared and slowly started piecing climbs together. Greg, who was higher, led the way to the southernmost turn point. He decided to push further south towards what he thought would be a climb. Although I wanted to grab the turn point and head downwind, I stayed with Greg because two heads are usually better than one.
We groveled in numerous broken climbs until Greg beamed out and left to avoid the clouds above. I couldn't find his escalator until I climbed to the magic altitude and then I too was escorted to base. Meanwhile, Davis landed near the southernmost turn point.
Then my brain turned to mush. I routinely take calculated risks that don't pay off, but I rarely make major bone-headed strategy mistakes. I approached the third turn point much higher than Greg. Instead of grabbing the turn point and heading on course, I veered off course to Greg's position. Not the best decision, but not unreasonable. I climbed to base, still above Greg, and needed to leave to avoid the controlled airspace directly over our heads. I lost a lot of altitude beating back upwind to the turn point. For some unknown reason, instead of continuing on to a line of clouds over the swamp, I turned back downwind to "top off" again in that climb. Dumb. Of course I lost altitude gliding back and when I realized the climb was too far away I had to turn around and lost even more altitude coming back. Sigh. By now I was much lower than Greg and spent most of my remaining time low drifting across the countryside from LZ to LZ.
Greg continued on as I played with vultures and anything else that looked like it might be going up. I called in twice to report I was close to landing, but managed to find something weak to drift in. As Greg took off for the last turn point over the swamp, I finally found a series of climbs that got me high enough that I could choose where to go. Since the day was dying, I made a "Hail Mary" move by flying deep into the swamp towards a single cloud. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough altitude to fully search the area and had to retreat to a large field near the intersection of Route 50 and 301.
Davis suggested calling Belinda for a ride earlier in the flight, but since she had already driven south to pick up Davis, I thought I could "spread the pain" by finding someone "hanging around" at the flight park that could drive my car over. I called Mark and few minutes later he called back to tell me Andre was on his way. About that time, Greg, who was on final to QuestAir, told me to call Belinda. I soon found out that Davis was also on his way to pick me up. Wow, two retrieves! Since I didn't have Andre's number, I quickly called Davis to thank him and to have him turn around before he got too far down the road. (Again, thanks Davis!)
I chatted with a motorcyclist and enjoyed the spring flowers while waiting for Andre.
On our way back I learned Andre was waiting for evening air to get a checkout flight on the DragonFly. (Thanks Andre!)
Andre preparing for a checkout flight with Jim
I didn't get much video footage during this flight, but here are a few raw clips that show how nice the sky looked.
Davis posted a description of the flight on the Oz Report.
Flights: 1, Duration: 3:43, Distance: 48.1 miles (on task), 57 miles