Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fixed Wing Aircraft

Since the forecast called for increasing westerly winds and a relatively strong sea breeze by late afternoon, I saddled up for a noon-time launch from QuestAir.  Cumulus moved overhead, but were low and widely spaced.  Jim Praul towed me to cloud base at 2300 feet (700m).  Um, now what should I do?

I bounced between a couple clouds until the sky blued-out upwind of the field.  I could have taken off downwind, but was waiting to fly with other pilots.

I glided upwind as far as I dare and then returned to the field, groveled a bit, and in the process dragged Amy back to the field as well.  While holding on, I watched three planes land on the runway, including a show-ready red Waco bi-plane.  After a whopping 30 minutes I was back on the ground.

A sweet red bi-wing Waco flew in while I orbited the field

It was almost 4pm before we started towing again.  I was first up and once again Jim dragged me a nice climb to the southwest of the field.

I steadily climbed as I watched Jim pull Matt up to the north.  I thought about waiting, but once I reached base and saw all the blue upwind to the north, I flew crossing upwind to the southwest to much better looking clouds.

Maybe not!

Much better...

I flew with sailplanes as I flew around the Seminole-Lake Gliderport.  Kevin and another pilot treated me to a sweet fly-by that I could even hear as they passed.  They were even nice enough to mark a climb.

I continued to exchange greetings with sailplane pilots as I passed through the area.

The sky started getting congested with clouds as I headed south.  However, little bits of cumulus would mark good lift under the stable shade.

The winds started increasing as predicted (19 mph / 30.5 kph) and streets started forming perpendicular to my general course line.  I would easily climb to base at 4500 feet (1300m) and then lose more than half gliding across the sinking air between.  Even so it was a drama free flight to Wallaby Ranch, where I landed shortly before the sea breeze scoured the air clean of cumulus.

Welcoming committee

Jason Williams was exceptionally kind and offered to drive me back.  Thanks Jason!  We stopped by QuestAir and loaded up with pilots before heading out for Mexican food in Groveland.

I didn't fly with any flex wing pilots today, but was kept company by pilots in all types of fixed wing aircraft (and my feathered friends).

Here are a couple clips of glider fly-bys,

Flights: 2, Duration: 1:38, Distance:  22.5 miles

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Better Late Than Never

The sun rose over a cold QuestAir, (41F / 5C), this morning.  Given the moderate wind and strong lapse rate, I decided to hold off for a late afternoon flight.  One pilot didn't want to wait and gave us a scary flight and landing on the runway after releasing early.  The show also included ambulances, firetrucks, and a large helicopter.  The last I heard the pilot was ok but was being held for observation overnight for a concussion.

Needless to say no one wanted to fly for a couple hours after that.  Eventually the wind backed down and the tugs started pulling pilots into the sky again.  I was helping others get ready and didn't make it to the flight line until after 5PM.  I was prepared for a sledder, but squeaked out almost 1.5 hours in small, weak, and blown apart thermals.

Settling in for a long slow climb

QuestAir off the front of the base bar

Turning onto final

The flight was a unexpected early-evening bonus; nice tow, mellow lift, and a sweet landing.

Flights: 1, Duration: 1:21

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


A small group of us, (Daniel, Dave, Davis, Greg, George, Larry, and myself), decided to fly a small triangle that included QuestAir, the intersection of Route 33 and the turnpike, and Kokee.  (Davis wrote about the task and his experience on The Oz Report).

Jim towed me to a weak climb that I shared with Dana and then Dave Williams.  Dave and I eventually moved on course after reaching cloud base.

Larry, who launched last, caught up with us as we approached the Grass Roots Airpark.

I arrived at the same height as Larry after the next climb, but couldn't find consistent lift and eventually lost Dave and Larry.  I floundered awhile, but made my way to the turnpike and then headed to the next turn point at Kokee.  I got very low (700 feet / 215m) but found bits of lift that eventually turned into a robust climb to base.

A large blue hole enveloped Kokee by the time I arrived a few climb/glide cycles later.  I played in tiny bits of lift again, but couldn't get away.  I landed in a nice pasture and broke down in the shade of a moss-drenched oak tree.

Sue arrived shortly after I finished packing and whisked me back to the airfield.  Thanks Sue!

I had a lot more fun than the small distance I covered might hint at.  I enjoyed soaring over the countryside, coaxing each move forward from the sky.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:08, Distance: 26.7 miles

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Opening Day

It took most of the day for the overcast to clear and even by mid-afternoon cloudbase was still under 2000 feet (600m).  However, I wanted to get the 2015 flying season started, low cloudbase or not.

Tim, a new tug pilot, towed up a tandem glider, then Greg, and then me.  I wasn't surprised he was towing fast out of the field; its typical behavior for new tug pilots.  However, I was just able to keep in position and was hoping he would slow down once he cleared the tree line.  Instead of slowing down he entered a turn which I couldn't match.  I was soon high and on the outside.  I knew what comes next so I released.

Mark brought over a launch dolly after I landed and explained that Greg and I were Tim's first solo tows.  Greg landed soon after and also confirmed the too-fast tow speed.  I moved into position for another go.  As soon I as came out of the dolly my weak link broke.  Dang.  Nothing like landing in prop wash.

I took a breather, tied on a new weak link, and moved into line for another attempt.  This time we towed at a comfortable speed and Tim dropped me off above cloudbase.

There is a lot of water in Florida.

I flew west to join Greg in a smooth climb near base.

Greg flew further west while I stayed and glided between clouds and amongst the birds.

Here is some video for your amusement.

Flights: 3, Duration: 0:47