Monday, March 27, 2017

GSSK: Day 2

My team was the last team to launch today, and since the mentors launch last, it meant I would be the last to leave the field.  Definitely not how I like to roll.

Our task for the day was to head crosswind to the northwest to a small town and then downwind west southwest to a small airfield.  We expected the first leg to be the most difficult part of the flight.

Being last had a huge disadvantage today as the lake effect shadow from Lake Apopka carved a huge blue hole over launch and that only got larger was we struggled as a team to get up.

Although we finally got high enough to move, we had drifted southwest of Quest, almost in the opposite direction of our first turn point.  The only remaining cumulus were nestled up against the Green Swamp.  We made our move.

Rich was the only team member that escaped by climbing over the trees.

Once we were far enough north to escape the lake effect, we found plentiful strong climbs and had an easy trip to the first turn point.

The first glide and climb after the turn point was ok, but high cirrus approaching from the west was choking off the sunlight powering our climbs.  We worked to stay high but the climbs were weaker and further apart.

I pushed on and parked in a weak climb downwind of a prison.  I climbed, drifted, pushed back upwind to step up, but it wasn't looking good!  Rich eventually found a strong climb and glided in at my level as we started tip-toeing towards goal over trees.

We took a long slow glide with a few stops towards goal.  We passed over a glider in a field inside the goal radius but had enough altitude to easily make the goal field.  Of course there was lots of lift over the LZ and it took us both awhile to get down.

Even though we were slow, we made it.  Rich flew a much more difficult course than most of the competitors that missed the lake effect and shading.


Me and Rich

My adventure wasn't over once packed up.  It was Davis' glider we saw in the field on the way in.  I was shocked, as was Davis, by the height of the weeds in the field.  He had a fine landing, but lost his glider after walking out looking for a path to the road.

Davis and Greg

Davis, Greg, Michael, and I reentered the field using Google Maps to rediscover the glider.   It felt like we were on a safari!  Yvonne said we looked like "the children of the corn" as we disappeared into the brush.  I was literally 10 feet away from the glider before I saw the nose rising above the dead plants.  All part of the adventure!

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:38, Distance: 50.4 km

Sunday, March 26, 2017

GSWK: Day 1

The first day of most competitions are chaotic at best, but the first day of the Green Swamp Sport Klassic went amazingly well.  My mentees were first up and were all ready and in line 10 minutes before the launch opened.  We were on it!  I was really surprised when I, as the last pilot in the group, was climbing through 3000 feet only 14 minutes after launched open.  It was amazing how quickly the five tugs had us up and on our way.

The course was west northwest to an airfield labeled GROSS and then north northwest to the airfield at Inverness.


Greg and I got low after our first climb.  I was wondering how the mentoring would proceed if two mentors decked it after the first glide!  I made a mental note to be a bit more conservative with my altitude and how much I would spiral down to help struggling pilots.

Greg on our way back up

Things were going well as we pushed around the northwest corner of the Green Swamp.  Jeff and Rich pushed ahead while I stayed with Matt and Thor.


Although it was fun at first, I watched the sky overdevelop about 2/3 of the way along the first leg and warned the team to slow up and take every climb.  We all tried to stay up, but the area was soon littered with downed pilots.

Looking for lift while pilots land below

Matt was the only one on my team that almost escaped the killing fields, but succumbed just short of the climb that lifted the remaining pilots up and out.

Matt landed next to the airstrip (center), Greg landed across the highway (upper left center), we found a climb along the far tree line (upper left)

I had goal on glide just past the turn point, but teamed up with Ken and Mark and tried to help them into goal.  We bobbed around within reach of the field longer than I preferred, but all three of us eventually made goal.  Mick (another mentor) was the only other pilot in goal.

Ken, Mark, and me

I enjoyed the ride home with Audry at the wheel.

Flights: 1, Duration: 2:59, Distance: 56 km

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Practice Day

Decided to loosen up with a short flight before the Green Swamp Sports Klassic which starts tomorrow.

Zhenya, Andre, & Spinner making it happen safely

I mostly had the sky to myself but did have one fun low save along with four or five other pilots.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:58

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mentor Warm Up

Had fun flying around QuestAir and helping a couple potential mentees in the upcoming Green Swamp Sport Klassic today.  The tow started with a smooth ride out of the field and ended with a nice climb over the Mickey Mouse lakes.

After flying about for awhile, I teamed up with Rich and Sara for a trip around a small triangle to the north.  Rich lead out on a bad line and eventually had to turn around to avoid landing out so close.  Sara followed my line to the northwest where we found a climb at the first turn point over the town of Mascotte.

Sara climbing well

I pushed on towards the second turn point at Grass Roots airfield as I watched a plane pass below us.

Plane passing below us (center)

Grass Roots

As I was heading to Grass Roots, Sara reminded me that our next turn point was Gators, not Grass Roots.  Oops.  Maybe Sara should be the mentor!  I banged a right turn and chased after Sara to the grass airstrip to the east.

I came in lowish and we were both drifting away in the wrong direction.  We worked a couple climbs before we were high enough to venture upwind through the LZ minefield.

We chose a path between two lakes and although Sara did well she just didn't have the glide necessary to get the next climb that would have taken her home.  Using my better glide, I found a climb over a small fire in an orchard and glided back to Quest to complete the triangle.

I played in the evening air before surrendering to gravity.

Flights: 1, Duration: 3:56, Distance: 30 km

Monday, March 20, 2017


The local gang at QuestAir declared a practice task to Williston today, so I paid my token fee to join the informal Quest Air Cross Country contest, fired up AirTribune, and slid into the last place in the tow line.

The initial two climbs mirrored our launch order.  Larry on top, then Davis, then Rob, and me at the bottom.  Everyone would leave when Larry left meaning Rob and I were really too low to move on.  I stumbled into a nice 250 fpm climb but, against better judgement, moved on when Davis called a 500 fpm west of my position.  Of course I got there and could find anything workable.  Rob and I bobbed around in broken lift sinking more than climbing.

Rob and I finally took off on course line side-by-side and much too low.  I knew my day was over and pointed out my intended LZ to Rob and then slowed down to let him land first.  He couldn't get his harness unzipped and had to throw in an extra turn to avoid flying into a fence.  Meanwhile I was flying through circling birds and trying to ensure I cleared the fence going into the field.  Although the water around the field showed a northeast wind, I landed in a brisk north wind and mildly smacked my nose into the ground.

Rob's maple leaf glider climbing in our first climb

Larry and Davis high and in front

Slowing up to let Rob land first

Rob still prone turning to avoid fence

Passing over the fence low coming into the field

So much for a nice long XC flight.  However, I enjoyed talking with Rob as we packed up and enjoyed the short ride back with Jeremy.

Some lessons I have to relearn every season.  Sigh.

Flights: 1, Duration: 0:36, Distance: 8.3 km