Friday, April 21, 2006

Flytec - Day Six

The day turned exciting today when thunderstorms sprouted up across the Florida countryside and then exploded into a wonderful light show. Davis reported there was a 20% chance of thunderstorms to the north, but nothing around Quest. However, it was hard to make sense of the conflicting models to we had a relatively short 65+ mile out-and-back task to the north northwest.

I launched early again and almost landed just a mile away from the airfield. I hung on and managed to drag myself back into the air and was at cloud base at the start circle when the first start time rolled over. I could already tell the day was going to explode, so there was no doubt in my mind about taking the first start time. Although the climbs were mixed, some weak, some strong, I made it to the turn point without much drama. About that time the convergence line to the west was starting to explode. Unfortunately, the climbs also started slowing down as the blow-off from the tops of the storms was shading the ground. A couple of climbs later I started seeing lightning and rain close to course line. I keep pushing on, but I always had plans to run east at the first sign of rain or gust fronts. The sky was beautiful and if I wasn’t competing I would have taken a lot of pictures. A large storm had filled the sky with an overcast that captured the sunlight and glowed with an orange tint and back lit a rapidly growing black cu-nim.

I finally decided it was time to land and took a long glide over some very large fields. I wanted to be on the ground and maybe even packed up before the rain or gust front hit. I just glided until it was time to flare. I walked over to the fence line and rapidly started packing. A few minutes Nigel later landed next to me. A driver of a large tank truck stopped along the dirt road and told us we were on a biohazard waste site. Apparently they spread human sludge on the fields were we landed. He assured us it was now safe to be there but warned that the gate would be locked at 5pm. I quickly called Julie who was picking up Dave and Peter and asked her to pick me up as soon as possible. We got out with time to spare and quickly realized that many other pilots had landed just a couple of miles further than we did. (I was surprised that each additional mile earned a pilot about 50 points. I guess I should have tried a little harder.) The flight is available online.

I found out that Jack Slocum was the only pilot to make goal. Way to go Jack! Not only did he make goal, but he won a 1000 point day.

A band called “Off Kilter” performed tonight after dinner and they had most people up and dancing. Tomorrow is the last day of the meet and maybe my last day of flying in Florida this year.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Flytec - Day Five

Davis was doing is best “weather porn” for hang gliding pilots this morning at the pilot’s meeting. Strong lift, clouds, light winds, convergence from both coasts, and little chance of rain. I could hardly wait to launch!

However, moments before the rigid wing start time everything was pushed back 30 minutes since there wasn’t a sign of lift anywhere. The launch was pushed back another 30 minutes as we sat sweltering under our wings. Eventually the clouds started forming and the tugs started tugging. I was the first flex-wing to launch in my line; I wanted to escape the record heat on the ground.

Unlike yesterday, I had a good and uneventful start and proceeded south along Route 33 on the “ring around the swamp” tour. I picked a better climb at the first turn point and was once again running with the lead gaggle. The climbs were now getting strong and it was obvious to me that the western sea breeze was moving in. I kicked into high gear knowing that the lift along the western edge of the swamp might dry up.

I climbed to base after the second turn point and had a nice long run along the western edge of the Green Swamp heading north. I only turned a few times and was soon approaching the third turn point. That turn point was in the blue, already washed by the sea breeze. I snagged the turn point and headed home. I took one slow climb that I should have skipped, but I didn’t want to repeat yesterday’s short fall. (I gave up several positions for the certainty of being at goal). Once I had a safe margin I headed to Quest and goal. The flight is available online.

Dave Cameron landed at goal today, his first. Marilyn greeted him with a drink and Julie and I supplied the shouts of approval as he flew overhead. Many pilots, including Peter Tim, Linda, and Mark landed near the third turn point, victims of the sea breeze. (I took a few pictures of the late day clouds that formed over the flight park near sunset).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flytec - Day Four

Although the day started with a thick overcast, we finally had a classic day of Florida flying. We flew from Quest, south to Fantasy of Flight, to the intersection of Route 27 and highway 4, north to the intersection of Route 27 and 474, then back to Quest. The lift was good and plentiful, the wind light, and the birds and gliders marking lift everywhere. Most pilots made it into goal today. However, my competition experience today (really this year) is so bad all I can do is laugh about it.

Things were going just great in the start circle. I had plenty of time to take pictures, watch Johnny spin, and generally enjoy to cool weather at cloud base. I was in the perfect position with two minutes left on the clock. I decided to get a quick sip of water before starting the race. I grabbed the hose, promptly pulled open the shutoff valve and began spewing water everywhere as it danced about. The hose had a life of its own and it took awhile just to catch it! Meanwhile I was trying to avoid the other gliders, was flying into the sinking blue, and flying away from the start circle. By the time I replaced the valve and got things stowed the field was already on their way. Dang.

The flying was good today. I never really got low and only had to suffer through two slow climbs. I waved at the rigid wings as we passed at Fantasy of Flight. (They ran the task in the opposite direction). I was slowly passing gliders and things were looking good as I got the second turn point and headed north along Route 27. I was forced to take a slow climb south of the Route 192 interchange and some of the gliders I just passed caught up with me. I then easily snagged the last turn point and headed home. The sky was turning blue and I knew I need two good climbs. I got a gift of 500 fpm just past the turn point and left for Quest with 70 feet over my best glide path. I was hoping some buoyant might help me in without another climb. Another glider was along for the smooth glide towards Quest. When the numbers went to -200 I knew I needed another climb and made a detour to a cloud to the right of course line. I didn’t find anything there and was picking out a place to land.

I couldn’t find any sign of wind on the ground. The lakes were calm and there wasn’t any smoke or flags around. I decide to land to the west. As I approached the field I discovered it had sprinkler posts. Yikes! Not much I could do at that point besides line up between the rows. As I turned onto final it became apparent that I was going downwind, and going fast. Crap. I crested the top of the hill and was soon going down wind, down hill, between the sprinkler spikes. Oh joy. I flew as long as I dared and did a “hail Mary” flare and manage to pull of a respectable landing. I walked back up the hill and then noticed an armada of gliders flying overhead on their way to Quest. Double crap! I then walked my glider over to a sand road and began breaking down. I soon discovered my clothes, helmet and harness were totally covered with fire ants. I laugh and sarcastically thought “will this day get any better?” I broke down, hike about a ¼ mile out to a road, was soon picked up, and was greeted with the sight of hundreds of gliders that made the round trip.

Even with the poor score, it was nice to be flying in nice conditions again and I even enjoyed racing once I started passing pilots. Now I just have to be sure to land at goal!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Flytec - Day Three

After landing short yet again, I found myself quoting Dan MacMonagle, “Someone take this glider away from me; I don’t deserve to fly it!”

We had a late afternoon task to the airport at Avon Park. The lift and wind was light and there were low clouds; the kind of conditions I like to fly in. I was barely over the trees on tow when my tug pilot started turning in a weak climb. We soon had gliders from all directions heading our way. I got waved off and had an easy climb to cloud base in smooth lift.

I played around the airfield for a short time and then started heading to the starting line, a circle 10,000 meters from Quest. I planned to leave early and was in a good position to do so but for some reason I decided to follow the gaggle back upwind to get a better start time. That was a big mistake. I soon found myself low fighting to stay in the air. At least I was alone and enjoying the flying. By the time I was back “in the game” I had drifted east almost to Route 27. Instead of heading towards a nice line of clouds on the way to Wallaby, I pushed west to get back on course line. I didn’t find any lift until I was low and drifting over trees with no LZ. I used up my altitude getting back to a safe LZ and soon landed in pasture field south of a quarry.

A few minutes later David, a pilot flying from Wallaby landed in the same field. A big bull was not pleased with all this commotion and started running our way bellowing and snorting. Lucky for us, he stopped and didn’t move much while we broke down our gliders. I knew we had a long walk in front of us. There was a nice hard-pack dirt driveway along the fence line that connected to a paved road about 1.5 miles away. I just hoped the paved road was a public road and not a private road owned by the quarry. My driver Julie called and let me know that she would be able to drive in to get me but had to wait for the plant foreman and the sheriff. The sheriff? I didn’t want that so I quicken our pace. We managed to walk out before the sheriff arrived. The personnel at the gate were pleasant and were just following the standard protocol for such incidents. We briefly talked and the headed home. I found out later that several other pilots had conversations with sheriffs and unhappy landowners, so I guess I got off lucky.

Most of the New England crew didn’t do very well today. I’ll just say that Dave, Peter, and I made an emergency DQ run this evening to sooth our bruised egos! I think many pilots made goal today and it hurt not being there. For some reason, I don’t fly well during competitions. It may be the hectic pace or more likely the fear of bombing out if I don’t join and out-perform the gaggle. However, chasing pilots around the sky that are not necessarily any better than me is not a sane strategy. I knew I should take the first start today instead of turning around with 15 other pilots that went back for a better start time. I later talked to John Chambers, one of the few pilots that kept going, and he did very well leaving early. It goes against conventional wisdom, but I am going to start flying my own game and see how that works out.

Flytec - Day Two

Blown out. Although the day looked questionable in the morning, we still all set up our gliders, ran them out to the setup line, and postponed the launch 30 minutes before deciding not to fly. I spent the rest of the day hanging out under a shade tree napping and chatting with other pilots.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Flytec - Day One

We had the pilot’s meeting at 9 this morning instead of last night so we could go to the Wills Wing party. We came back for a brief task and weather update at 11. The task for the day was Quest, north to the intersection of Route 33 and the turnpike, back south to the intersection of Route 33 and Deen Still road, and then back north to Quest. The wind was slowly building as the clouds were drying out. Everyone expected the sea breeze to push through sometime during the afternoon. I managed to slip into the first staging spot on the far staging line and was ready to launch early.

I followed John Chambers into the launch line and was soon rolling out behind the tug. We got hit with turbulence lifting off the tree line. Tug and glider were all over the place and finally the weak link broke when a slack tow line went tight. I pulled in to land straight ahead, but was soon going down wind, then crosswind, and then who-knows-what. I had an ungraceful landing and hurried back to the launch line. My next tow was very active but I managed to hang on until waved off in a nice climb. I soon discovered, as everyone else, that the wind was going to be a problem. I spent most of the day gliding upwind and climbing downwind trying to make progress along the course line.

I made several mistakes; the worse was probably not leaving on course line when I was in a good position just because the rest of the gaggle didn’t go. I did get to spend some time flying with Peter Kelly, Linda, and John. (The flight is available online). John and I were flying together during the last couple climbs and glides. We finally glided just a little too far and ended up landing in the sea breeze. John landed in a farmer’s field with sprinklers and got a “talking to”. I landed in a housing development next to a porta-pot.

I just found out from Johnny that the day was only worth 300 points, so landing short shouldn’t hurt my final score too much. Tomorrow might be too windy to fly, but the rest of the week looks ok.

Party Day

I decided to rest and party on Saturday, the day before the start of the Flytec meet at Quest. I spent the day chatting with old friends I have not seen since last summer. I was just ready to leave for the Wills Wing party at Wallaby Ranch when I got a call from Rob. He got a little too far away from the field and needed a ride. I let him know that here, unlike Canada, we usually don’t break down in the middle of the road! (The road was at the entrance to yet another new empty housing development chewing up good landing fields).

The sky was filled with gliders when I arrived at Wallaby Ranch to continue the day of socializing. I enjoyed the dinner, drinks, and music until it was time to crawl back to my tent.

Florida Ridge - Day Six

The nationals at the Florida Ridge are over and I must say I’m glad. The people at the ridge (James, Steve, Dennis, and Rick) did a lot of make things fun and enjoyable but day after day of wind and limited alternative activities left most pilots grumpy and irritable. (Noticed we used the gliders as laundry lines). I “disappeared” Thursday, the original last day of the meet, for a trip to Sanibel Island on the west coast. The mood was just too negative for my tastes at the airfield.

The mood was better on Friday morning as everyone finally got to set up their gliders. The wind was still from the northeast, so I knew the lake effect breeze would shut things down early. I was ready to launch when the launch window opened at 11:30, but the tugs were still tied down and covered and no one knew where to line up to launch. About 15 minutes later, the crew decided to launch from the setup area. This meant it was impossible for me to move from my tie-down spot to the launch line. As a result, I didn’t get to launch until about half the field was already in the air. I could see the front approaching but there was still time to get away. I got a nice tow upwind, but was let off in the blue and eventually settled back into the park for a re-flight. I was the next-to-last in line and got another tow upwind and was dropped off in a weak climb.

I knew it was a day to be patient, but I knew that most of the field was already at the start gate or even on course so I pushed hard to keep upwind of the course line. I was running the trailing edge of the convergence line and ended up low over the large swamp to the north. I slowed up enough to drift out of the un-retrievable area and landed reasonably close to Route 29.

Steve Larson picked me up and we cruised on over to goal at the Sheryl County Airport where Paul, Lauren, and Greg were about to land. Belinda met us at the gate to inform us that we were not allowed to drive in to pick up Paul and that the airport officials were upset with our presence and approaches. Apparently no one contacted the airport to let them know we were coming; Steve said the airport never answered their phone. Anyway, the airport was busy, there were large planes on the tarmac, we learned they were building a control tower, and the airport will be Class D next year.

Later this evening I arrived at Quest to get ready for the Flytec meet.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Florida Ridge - Day Five

The great blow-out of ’06 continues. At the 10am pilots meeting we were told to come back at 12 to see if the wind might lessen. At noon, we were told to come back at 1pm to see if the rain might stop. At 1pm the day was finally called. Some pilots are already leaving while the remaining crew is running of things to keep them busy. The Canadians were getting restless and decided to go gator hunting. Dave, Julie, and I did and responsible thing and tagged along to keep them out of trouble. ;-)

I took some pictures of the shells uncovered at a quarry near the airfield. We also came across a bird's nest that was lined with the shells.

The meet was extended another day, so Friday is now a competition day. That means a quick pack up, drive, and set up at Quest on Saturday so I can start the Flytec meet on Sunday. I might not have time to drive back down to Wallaby for the party on Saturday. Bummer.

Florida Ridge - Day Four

Day 4 of the nationals was blown out, but that didn’t keep some of us pilots from flying. About a dozen pilots headed to the dunes on the east coast. Bo brought along a larger Spectrum that he graciously let everyone fly. I got some pictures of Conrad flying before we headed down the beach so we could man-tow Bo up for some condo soaring. It looked like Bo was having a good time, but since the beach in front of the condos was shrinking and other people wanted to fly, Bo flew the glider to the south were there were less people. I had a very short soaring flight, but I did get the use a cocoon harness for the first time and had my first man-tow. Conrad, Curt, Dustin, and Jeff had nice long flights and many others had shorter tows and flights. Dustin wanted to soar some condos, so after everyone else was done, he headed further south to hook up with another glider we spotted in the air. The rest of us let Dustin play while we grabbed some lunch/dinner. Dustin was still in the air when I left and Conrad was going back to sneak in one more flight.

We drove back long huge sugar cane fields and soaked up a beautiful sunset. It is supposed to be breezy tomorrow, but maybe we will get in a task.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Florida Ridge - Day Two and Three

Day two of the 2006 nationals was rained out and day three was blown out. I spent the first off day playing around the airfield on the Blowkart, man-towing Dustin and Brett in a paraglider, cruising off-road in the Touareg, and generally looking for trouble wherever it was hiding. I talked some pilots into going canoeing on Fish Eating Creek on the second off day, but was disappointed when we arrived and found the water was 4 to 5 feet lower than last year. However most of us decided to give it a “go” and managed to push our way downstream and paddle a lot further (and longer) than expected. Scott managed to find something to eat, Johnny arrived as a king, and we generally had a good time horsing around.

The weather doesn’t look good for tomorrow and maybe even the day after that. It is a shame to see a long run of good weather end just as the competitions start.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Florida Ridge - Day One

The first day of the nationals at the Florida Ridge started windy. Rick towed a tandem up and they parked right over my tent as the towed through the morning gradient. Many people thought the day would be cancelled, especially since the 3 tugs from Quest would have to fight a stiff head wind all the way south. However, a 75 mile task to the north east was called at the morning meeting and awhile later I heard the tugs approaching the field. Davis warned everyone that the lift was forecasted to be around 0 feet-per-minute around 5, so he advised launching early.

I pushed out across the field so I could launch early if I wanted. There was some first-day confusion on the launch line but we finally got organized. The tows however, were not so organized. Jeff got off tow low and came around for another. Davis came off the cart crooked, mostly due to his wing runner. Soon it was my turn and I bellied-up for some torture. Rick and I worked and managed to drag me to about 1400 feet before I said “uncle” and released. I found a weak climb and decided right then and there I was not going to tow again today, even if I came back to the field.

I managed to eventually get to cloud base with Curt and Oleg. We looked for the sweet spot on the start circle, but with the strong wind it was hard to stay put. The rigid wings and a few flex wings managed to get a climb ahead of me. Once at base they all started heading back. Um, maybe the day was stopped; it would not have surprised me. However, after taking the bait, I saw they were just coming back for the last start gate. Although I was now lower and behind, I also went back and then started on course.

Although the wind was strong, I managed a respectable rate going into the first turn point. I hesitated for moment trying to decide to go for the turn point or a climb down wind and that moment separated me from the main group. I got high at the turn point and started the long cross wind trip through the blue to the second turn point. I caught a couple of the earlier gliders, but they eventually scrapped me off in turbulent climb. I shouldn’t have missed that climb …. I’m still trying to figure out what happened! I cruised over the second turn point low and was picking out landing fields. I saw Kevin coming back to get the turn point. Meanwhile I was getting ready to land in a very stiff turbulent wind but managed to drift at 300 – 500 feet hoping to connect with a climb. The race was now over, I just needed to stay in the air and reach goal. I drifted in the ratty air until I started inching my way back up. By the time I had 1800 I was far down wind of the course line. I did my best to climb and work my way upwind. The sky was clearing in front of me, probably the predicted front passing by.

The goal field was not inviting. It was a narrow north-south grass airstrip surrounded by tall trees with a charcoal back area just upwind. The wind was howling out of the west-southwest. I decided to land in the field to the south. I didn’t go on a crossing upwind glide until I had about 1200 feet over best-glide. Of course, I got strong lift all the way into goal. I was late, but I did finally get there. The hover-down landing was interesting, as was the visit from the sheriff. Apparently the owners were not happy we were trespassing on their property. Curt, Jeff, Davis, and Belinda talked with the owners and sheriff while I broke down with the other 10 or so gliders in the field. The flight information is available online.

We packed as many gliders, gear, and pilots into the truck and headed home happy to be at goal and on the ground safe and sound.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Florida Ridge

My busy day started before sunrise as I awoke to setup my glider at the Florida Ridge so I could calibrate my airspeed sensor with my new instrument pod. Steve Larson coaxed the DragonFly to life while Dave wandered out to help launch me. Rick and I had a sweet tow into the rising sun; words just don’t describe the buttery smooth air first thing in the morning. After Rick lazily waved me off I started calibrating my airspeed sensor. Things seemed to be going good until I noticed the words “GPS in mph” above the airspeed display. Um, I don’t remember seeing that before. Once on the ground I noticed the pitot sensor was turned off. I didn’t know how that happened, but I turned it on and followed Rick up for another picturesque flight. I noticed the “GPS in mph” returned shortly after launching, so I knew I wouldn’t be doing any calibration. I took some pictures, soaked up the scenery, and tried some very high-speed glides in the smooth air.

After having breakfast in my tent, I took apart my equipment and found a piece of cotton swab in the tube going to the airspeed sensor inside the instrument. Maybe Steve at Flytec left it there when he changed my pitot tube. Oh well, no calibration but at least I knew why it wasn’t working and it was easy to correct. Dave, Julie, and I cruised around some back roads doing our best to calibrate the instrument from the car. It’s not very accurate, but it is a good starting point.

Once back at the flight park, Dave looked at the clouds, commented that they had a driver and I had a car; maybe we could “work something out”. I’m easy so we were soon rushing to launch and beat the approach lake “front” that was moving in from the east. I inhaled a sandwich, tossed some new waypoints into my flight computer, and pushed out to launch. Dave went first, but got knocked off low. I got a good tow, but was soon down below 700 feet before finding something right off the tow field. I managed to pull myself back up and was soon climbing to cloud base. Dave took another tow, came in below me, but couldn’t find the elevator and had to return to home base. I asked if he was going to fly again and he said yes after I told him my climb rate. ;-)

Knowing that Dave was going to re-launch, I took off down wind. I had an easy time for the first 20 miles, but had to keep working west to stay clear of the lower clouds that marked the “sea breeze” convergence zone from the lake. I had to dive into the blue at Lake Placid and spent a lot of time there trying to gain some altitude. I finally stumbled into a good climb and was on my way again. I had some un-Florida-like climbs in rough air, but for the most part I had an easy flight until I approached Lake Wales. I wanted to avoid the airfield and the parachute drop zone. I worked around the field to the west, but the better clouds developed to the east. I fumbled along for awhile and was finally setting up for a landing at Winter Haven when I found a little climb when on my downwind approach to landing. I circled in pathetic lift for awhile drifting across interesting landing areas. It was obvious that my day was done; the good clouds were too far to the east. I found an LZ that I could do a fun approach over the water, between two large trees, and up into a field near a main paved road. The flight covered almost 100 miles. The flight is available online. I was soon greeted by two guys that watched my approach and came over to see what was happening. We talked for awhile and gave them my blog address. I didn’t have anything to write on so I drew it in the sand for them. They left reciting the address over and over so they could go home and look it up. (Hi guys!)

Julie picked up Dave around 17 miles out. (Dave didn’t get through the area soon enough to missed the sea breeze.) Dave helped me out with the airspace around Winter Haven and Dave, Julie, and I had dinner at an old-time BBQ joint before driving back.

(I don't have a good internet connection here, so don't expect daily updates.)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No Plan

I took a rest day yesterday. I didn't stray far from the shade tree, talking with people as they rotated through. Greg and Christie showed up from Wallaby so Greg could fly from Quest downwind to Wallaby. Dave launched and eventually landed a few miles downwind. Greg flew around the park awhile and decided to land back at Quest. Later in the afternoon Ollie, John Chambers, and I took lawn chairs out to the middle of the field near the windsock to watch the clinic's landing practice.

I wanted to fly early this morning with the new instrument pod I purchased yesterday, but thick low clouds ruled that out. I hopped into the Touareg and did some airspeed calibration out the window on a local back road. After breakfast I altered my hang strap with Marilyn's help. Dave was getting ready to push out to the launch line when I got back from lunch so I decided to join in. I really didn't have a plan, other than check out the new instrument pod. Dave and Jack Simmons were going to fly to Wallaby and the clinic was going to Fantasy of Flight. I launched after Dave and pinned off around 1800 feet in light lift. I snagged my shoe lace in my harness zipper when I went to zip up. I could not zip up or down and couldn't get my foot out of the boot. Crap. I was trying to get my foot free as I fell out of my climb and quickly drifted past the airfield. After some tense moments I ripped the shoe lace free and finally managed to zip up. I was now low and quickly drifting away from the field. I kept running lift lines upwind and finally connected with a reasonable climb to around 3000 feet.

I finally caught up with Dave and was ready to head downwind to Wallaby when Dave took off to the west (Wallaby is to the south east). I wasn't sure what Dave was up to since he wasn't talking on the radio. Oh well, maybe he decided to skip the trip to Wallaby. About that time I noticed a student trying to find a climb to the south and I cruised over to see if I could help them find a good climb. I did find a moderate climb, but the student left to the north and I decided to part ways. I headed west catching a slow climb over a swamp. I drifted down wind going field to field back to Route 33. I finally came to a lake and decided it was time to give it up. I landed in a pasture field and was soon surrounded by new "friends".

Julie picked me up and we were soon on our way to Wallaby to pick up Dave, Jack, and Keith. It was nice chatting with everyone at the ranch.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Two-for-One Special

Paul Tjaden had a tough time getting the flex wing pilots motivated to fly a 57 mile triangle today. The field was covered with thick low clouds until 9:30 and even by 1:30 pilots were returning to the field empty-handed. The XC clinic was going to fly a short 15 mile triangle and I decided to fly along with them. I launched after Paul (who decided to fly the longer triangle course) and quickly climbed to cloud base. I kept in contact with Paul as he headed north for the long course and I headed east for the short course.

Earlier today I finally found a way to store and retrieve my digital camera in flight. I’ll be posting more in-flight pictures from now on.

I completed the course about the time the clinic pilots were starting their run. I decided to do the course again. I raced back to a quick climb I passed through on the way into goal and was soon flying with the leading group of students. About that time I noticed the sky clearing to the west which suggested a sea breeze front was approaching. Paul, who had been doing well, radioed he was going to land in a sea breeze. I could have returned to Quest at that point, but decided to finish the course for the second time as quickly as I could. I ran hard to the second turn point and then headed home. I got back the field and raced to the ground before the bulk of the students arrived so I could to enjoy the “show” as everyone landed in the brisk west wind. A record of the flight is available online. (The scoring for the HOLC does not handle doing the same course twice very well.)

Today marks the 7th straight day I have flown cross-country. The weather has been good; I wonder how long it will last.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An Easy Day in the Bubble

I decided to take it easy today and decided to fly to Wallaby Ranch and back to Quest. Paul, Ollie, and Dave Giles also flew the route. Unlike yesterday, I had an uneventful tow and a quick climb. I left by myself and flew a convoluted course trying to stay under clouds since a very heavy deck of cirrus was moving in and shuting down the lift. I was sqeaking into Wallaby with only 250 feet over best glide when I finally got a climb at the quarry to the northwest. A short time later Ollie flew in below me and I noticed Paul coming in much lower over the trees. We all topped out and headed back working as a team. The return trip was much easier. The flight info is online.


Today was a busy day. After I ate breakfast and did laundry, I took Dave’s glider up for a test flight. Although it was only 9:30, I found nice climbs as clouds started forming. After doing the usual battery of tests I told Dave I was taking his glider to Georgia. He wasn’t too concerned since he knew there was another glider he could fly; mine. After landing, I told the pilots milling around that my “spidey-sense” was telling me this was going to be a good day.

Anyone with a wing was preparing to go downwind. Paul, Lauren, Greg, Keith, John, Bo, Davis, Dave, and I all made retrieval plans and headed to the flight line around 11:30. Bo launched first and then it was my turn. The air was active, but I managed to stay connected until 1800 feet. I got off-line a little so I decided to release instead of trying to recover. I expected to find lift, but found nothing but heavy sink. I quickly found myself coming back into the very active field. Bummer. Oh well, take 2. I was doing fine until my old weak-link broke over the pond. Nothing unusual happened, it just broke. Oh well, take 3. By now the other pilots were 15 to 20 miles out. Joe and I rolled out and must have plowed through a dust devil. The tug rocketed up out of sight. I tried to chase, but then the tug fell down the other side and now I was massively high. I’m sure he didn’t appreciate me holding his tail high as he approached the trees. I pulled in as much as possible and was reaching for the release (to help Joe) when I hit the backside and plummeted towards the ground. The tug again went up out of sight and the weak link broke. Whew, what a ride! Oh well, take 4. I managed a sane high tow and was dropped off into a good climb. Yippee!

By now Greg and Paul were low near Coleman. Dave and Lauren were around 35 miles out. I knew I would be flying alone chasing everyone, again. After all the trouble it took to get into the air, I didn’t want to land 5 miles out. I flew conservatively until I found out that Julie was already rolling with the retrieve vehicle and was ahead of me. Eventually Paul and Greg landed and I was close enough to Greg to see where he landed. Lauren was setting a fast pace and was actually increasing the distance between us. I had a couple low saves early, but around Ocala the lift became strong and I started zigzagging across the sky to stay under little lines of clouds. I heard Lauren say she landed so that only left Dave and I in the air on our radio frequency.

Awhile later Dave excitedly announced that he was now flying with Bo at 85 miles out. We all cheered since it meant Bo had a very good chance of breaking 100 miles on his single surface glider. (He did much better, landing around 120 miles out).

It was fun approaching Gainesville, since I had never flown in the area before. I must say, there are some big swamps to west-southwest of Gainesville! I finally left the interstate at Gainesville and started heading towards Dave’s position. About then Dave announced that Bo had scraped him off and that he was going to land around 100.6 miles out, a new personal best for him.

I keep heading west-northwest flying in the late evening glass off. I was having a good time sightseeing and enjoying the lazy air. The sun was getting low but thought I could do one more climb when I managed to get on the wrong side of a convergence line. The once peaceful air was now angry and my vario was wailing in pain. The wind was now west at 10, almost opposite of the wind a few miles back. I made a hasty retreat back to the convergence line hoping to land in light winds instead of a sea breeze. I found a weak climb that allowed me time to pick a nice field to land in. I almost went for another further off field, but since the sun was getting so low, I thought it would be wise to land soon. I had a sweet smooth glide into the field and a no-step landing at the corner of a large pasture field. I was 128 miles from take off.

The land owner drove out to see what just landed in his field. We had a pleasant conversation that could have gone on much longer, but I excused myself so I could break down in the fading daylight. Julie, Bo, and Dave showed up just as I finished packing and we were soon on our way back home. We stopped for a celebratory dinner in Gainesville and were back at the airfield at a respectable 11pm.