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FormerFF's blog - A low time pilot's journey into intermediatehood

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August 18 - Short and Sweet

Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:52 pm

[  Mood: Cool ]
[ Listening to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Currently: Listening to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer ]
Back just before Memorial Day, I'd gone up to Lookout on a day where the winds looked flyable. When I arrived, the winds were switchy but had launchable cycles, and pilots were occasionally launching. I went ahead and set up, but just as I was ready, the wind switched to mostly over the back. One last pilot launched after waiting for 15 minutes for a good cycle. He got a good strong run, had a nice nose attitude, and still got closer to the trees than I'd have cared to be. He also got a fairly short sledder, most likely because the upper level winds were mostly over the back. I had always promised myself that if I was up on a day where I couldn't foot launch that I would sign up for my aerotow rating, which is what I did.

I'd been up once in mid July to do a couple of tandems. Both went well and I was beginning to become comfortable with the concept of towing. Family obligations prevented me from getting back up until now.

At LMFP, tow students fly at 9 AM, or late evening. Morning is generally more consistent, and since I have a bunch of vacation days to take, I scheduled a Thursday off. The day started clear and warm with a light south - southwest breeze. Today I have a new instructor, Clifton. We go for our first flight of the day, and since he hasn't flown with me before, gets us airborne and hands me the glider. I'm having a little difficulty getting the glider to turn, and overcontrolling a little in pitch. I'm not really sure what's going on, I flew much better last time.

Once we release, I can fly the glider just fine. At altitude, I can tell that the southwesterly breeze is fairly pronounced, probably 15 mph or so, so I steer us upwind. Clifton gives me a few pointers on a standard approach, and in a few minutes, we're on the ground. On rollout, I realize that I've been flying Gumby style, with my legs apart. It's not an issue with my pod harness, but with the knee hanger that we use when flying tandem, it is.

OK, time for flight #2. This time I handle the takeoff, which goes well, but as the flight progresses, I'm starting to oscillate. Clifton has to bring us back to center a couple of times. Finally, I get us so far off center that the glider isn't responding very well, and he releases us.

Since we only got to about 1000 feet, we get to go for the other half of the tow on the same tow ticket. Clifton suggests that I try shifting my whole body rather than steering with my feet and hips. I give that a try and it seems to calm things down. Still, I was flying better on my last visit. Very strange.

I hang out and wait for a debriefing while Clifton flies some discovery tandems. We discuss what I'm doing well and what I'm doing poorly. After that, since I've brought my bicycle, I ride into town to get some lunch. I get the impression that the residents of Trenton don't see too many adults using bicycles as transportation, as I get some strange looks.

After lunch I drop my bike at the LZ and head up to the launch. When I get there, the wind is blowing in at around 5 mph, but there is a squall line approaching. I can see that it is a narrow band, and duck inside while it passes. After the line passes, the wind is still straight in, and there are some thermals. After the morning's difficulties, I'm not too anxious to get out in the stronger thermals, and also would like to avoid the LZ at middday, so plan to fly around 3:30. The sky clears a bit, and I get set up. The wind is still blowing mostly in at 5 to 7 mph, so I get a wire crew and get up on the ramp. Because it's somewhat breezy but not quite ridge soarable, I start about four steps from the red line. It's a bit turbulent there, so I take another step forward, get a couple of "neutrals" from my wire crew, and head out. One step in, the glider lifts off of my shoulders, and by three steps I'm airborne.

Since the wind is southwesterly I head that way to stay upwind of the LZ. At one point I'm almost hovering over a spot, so the wind is probably in the 15 mph range. I'm not really going forward, or backward, or up, or down. I stay there as long as I can, but eventually start sinking, so go looking for lift. After less than a minute, I find some, It's not huge, but I can work it, and briefly get a couple hundred fpm up. I get 100' over launch, and then fly out of the core. Apparently this thermal is fairly sharp edged, because I'm now facing the ground. Whee! I thought that would be scary, but it's actually fun. What's also fun is flying my Falcon. Flying the tandem glider I felt like Captain Klutz, but on my glider I feel like Superman. Thermals are pushing me around, and I'm pushing back, totally in control and confident.

One thing I'm not all that good at yet is locating where I am horizontally. After I got spit out of that better thermal, I should probably have flown back to it. The problem is that I don't know exactly where it is, and go looking for other lift. I do see some areas where the trees are being blown around, but find more sink than lift, and have to keep heading out into the valley. In retrospect, I probably should have flown more downwind of those spots than I did, but that's part of being a low time pilot.

I don't find any more lift, and shortly have to set up an approach. With the wind, I'm very careful to stay on the upwind side of the field. When I get to turn downwind, I find that I have a very impressive groundspeed, probalby 35 or 40 mph. I also find that there's a weak thermal in the middle of the field, and plan to land in the first third. After what is no more than 15 seconds, it's time to turn base and final. On final, my groundspeed isn't much, even having been pulled in enough to get my airspeed in the mid 30's. There a 6-10 mph breeze down the middle of the LZ, which is more than I've landed in previously.

OK, now I'm in ground skim, just about to trim speed, so it's time to flare. Either I had a bit more speed than I though, or I've flown into the thermally part of the LZ, because I'm a higher than I expected to be. Only one thing to do, right? Flare more! I do that, the climb stops, my forward motion stops, and the glider floats me down onto my feet for an easy no stepper. Aaah. thumbsup Once on the ground I do have to lower the pitch so the glider doesn't get pulled off my shoulders. It is a bit of a trick to walk with the glider in the breeze, and it's a good distance to the breakdown area since I intentionally landed short of the center.

I'd planned to do a couple of more tandems in the evening, but the wind's still blowing and I'd rather not spend the money on tandems in less than ideal conditions, so instead I spectate. Apparently there's plenty of lift at tow altitude. Clifton thermals the tandem glider to 2000' above release while carrying a (strong stomached) passenger. The tow pilot pulls his wife up to 4000" or so, and she makes good use of the altitude. I left after an hour and she was still up.

My solo flight was only 10 minutes, but it was probably the most enjoyable flight I've ever had, and was the perfect antidote to the morning's frustrations. I'm planning on going up next week for a couple more tandems. Hopefully I can get the tow training completed soon. Particularly in the summer, there are a number of good southwesterly days that aren't the best for foot launching, but offer good thermal soaring. With the AT in my pocket, I'll be able to take advantage of them.

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April 17 - Lake Lookout

Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:42 pm

[  Mood: Sleepy ]
[ Listening to Santana Currently: Listening to Santana ]
We've had a lot of rain here recently - more than the average for March and April. One of the casualties from all this precip is that the LZ at LMFP tends to flood. It had been quite a while since February's flight. I'd been on vacation, family life is what it always is, and the weather had not been the best. Sunday appeared to have light & variable winds and the possibility of some lift, so I took the opportunity to head out.

My boss is an avid triathlete, and he challenged us to enter one as well. As the oldest person on the staff, naturally I was the only one to accept. I've been running, cycling and swimming three times per week each, and it's seriously cut into my free time. On Saturday, I ran in the morning, swam after lunch, then cut the grass and cooked dinner. When Sunday morning came around, I was a little slow moving, and didn't get to the mountain launch until after 1 PM. At that time, people were setting up but none were flying. The wind was light and mostly on the ramp, with occasionally crossing conditions. I'd hoped for a couple of sledders, so I went ahead and set up.

One thing that does give me pause is the condition of the LZ. A good portion of it is under water. The tug runway is dry, but that's most of the dry ground available. The aerotow operation is in full swing, and I'd just as soon not get in that mix. Fortunately, but the time I'm ready to go they stop and go to lunch, so the tug runway is now available for landing.

By the time I was ready to go, it was approaching 2:30. Shortly before I launched, two other pilots went off and were able to find some thermal action, though not enough to get over launch. When it's my time to fly, the wind is on the ramp around 6 mph, so I get a wire assist and head off into the valley. I am able to find some small thermals, and work them the best I can, but soon am low enough to have to head out towards the LZ. At this point, I'm the only one in the air, and boat around the LZ, enjoying the altitude I have left. There's a little southerly breeze, so I'll be approaching to the south. Normally, I would make my downwind leg on the west side of the field, and do so today, which takes me over the northwest side of the LZ. It's heavily forested and the terrain rises, so it's quite often a sinkhole. I'm not a fan of flying close to the trees, so I wind up turning base sooner than ideal. Because I have some extra altitude, I make a number of S turns, then straighten up and turn final. I can see I'm going to make a bit of a pizza run out of this, but still will have plenty of space. On ground skim, I'm a bit low and can almost feel my toes about to drag on the tops of the grass. Lately, I've had a tendency to flare kind of weakly and probably a little too slowly, so I try to remedy that this time. OK, push out, then up - the glider climbs about two feet, then I feel good deceleration, my feet rotate forward and touch down in an easy one stepper, assisted by the light breeze. Flight time: 12 minutes.

I bum a ride up and get ready for flight number two. I'm ready to go around 4:30. The wind has picked up just a bit, not quite enough to be soarable, but enough to get a bit of a climb just off of launch I get another wire assist and float off the ramp. At LMFP, there is usually a bit of lift just in front of the ramp, and today is no exception. I'm briefly above the ramp, but am not confident enough in the lift to try to run the ridge, so instead I go hunting for thermals. I do find a few that are somewhat lighter then earlier in the day. Just like before, I'm not able to find enough to stay up, but do find enough to extend the flight. I poke around all the usual triggers, and work what I can. After too few minutes of this, I'm at the LZ and it's time to think about an approach.

This time, I stay to the northeast side of the LZ. The air's a little buoyant and I have a few minutes to enjoy the late afternoon sun. However, this approach has two complications: There is a tandem glider slightly above me, and the tow operation is in full swing, so the available dry terrain is pretty small. I stay to the northeast side and out of the tandem glider's way. Though he started higher, he has a higher sink rate and will be on the ground before I am. He heads in and I start my base leg. It appears that there is a dry spot to the west side of the water, so I aim for that.

As I get close, I can see that my "dry spot" has an inch or so of water on most of it. I let the control frame out a bit to float over some of the water, switch my hands to the downtubes, let the bar out some more, and the glider immediately descends and puts its wheels in the water, followed shortly by my pants and shoes. As I roll to a stop, I hear cheers from the group assembled in the breakdown area. At this point, there's nothing left to do but take a bow, so I do that - and then carry the glider over to the breakdown area. Total flight time: 11 minutes. I get the glider disassembled, get a ride up, get the glider, and give another pilot a ride, then head home.

Y'know, landing in the wet wasn't what I wanted to do, but if you'd told me before I left home that I was going to get two flights and make a wet landing, I'd still have gone. Usually after making the trip to Lookout and back, I'm wanting a week or two to rest before I'd be ready for another, but this time I'd be ready to go back the next day. I'd like another shot at catching those thermals. A couple of the better pilots made hour plus flights out of the day, and I'd like to try to get to that level as well.

Posted By: FormerFF    1 Comments    (Post your comment)
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February 12 - Idiot Proof Soaring

Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:10 pm

[  Mood: Happy ]
[ Listening to Joni Mitchell Currently: Listening to Joni Mitchell ]
We've had a lot going on at our house, so I hadn't been in the air since early November. There'd been some flyable weather, but I just hadn't gotten the chance to take advantage of it. Saturday's forecast looked good, with northwest winds, blue skies, and temps close to 50. My wife was running a 10K in the morning, so I planned for a midday departure.

After an uneventful drive, I arrived at the mountain launch at 2:30 to find winds blowing mostly straight in, and in the 12 to 16 mph range. At Lookout, that consititutes H3 conditions. Combine that with the dense cool air, and that's a bit more than I wanted to handle, so I planned a 4 PM launch.

While waiting, I was speaking with another pilot, who I'm almost sure is KeithPS. Keith, were you there? He was telling me about his flight earlier in the day where he had to find sink to get down. We then watched a pilot launch, fly too far out into the valley, and still stay up, so we pronounced the day to be Idiot Proof Soaring. We spend a few minutes getting one of our lady pilots launched, and then it's my turn. After waiting for a few minutes to get another glider out of the way, I head off to the ramp for a hang check and a wire crew.

It's blowing in around 12 mph at this time, with some lulls and some little gusts. We walk down to the red line, and after spending a few seconds getting my wings level, I get a couple of "neutral"s from my wire crew, and head out. The launch and the air is smooth, and I start an easy turn to the north. The first chance I get to look at the ridge, I can see that I'm even with it, which means I've not lost any altitude during the launch. Nice.

As I head down the ridge, I start to climb above it. By the end of the second pass, I'm almost 300' over, and can relax a bit and zip up my harness, and also let fly with the first "Yahoo!" of the day. I then make a mistake - I don't get right on top of the ridge. Then, what appears to be a bit of a flush cycle happens, and I'm starting to descend back to ridge altitude. This continues for a minute or so, by which time I'm just about at ridge height. There's one section that is particularly bluff and usually has the best lift, and I work that for all its worth, but can't get back above ridge height, and wind up a bit below it. Crap.

OK, I've seen another pilot find some lift out in the valley, now it's my turn to see what I can do. I find a few patches where I can climb a little and then sink a little. I'm a little too close to the ridge and too low to circle, so I mostly make "S" turns. I get a little better at that, and manage to get above ridge height. I find a little better patch that I can stay in and climb a little more. Now I'm a couple hundred feet above the ridge and can try circling. I circle around and get approving beeps from my vario. After a couple of minutes of this, I'm now 500' over, time for Yahoo! #2.

Now, this is the first time I've been that far above the ridge. I'd always heard that the lift was better above the ridgeline, and I can now attest that it's true. I'm still climbing - 1000' over (Yahoo!) - 1500' (Yahoo!) - 2000' over (Yahooooo!) I finally top out at 2400' over, a little more than 4400' MSL. The upper part of the climb is almost like I'm on autopilot, it's so smooth. At this point, I'm more than 3700' over the valley floor, and I'm finding out a few things. First, at least on this day, I'm a little airsick. Second, being this high for the first time is intimidating and I'm having thoughts that are probably more appropriate for a first mountain solo, like, what if something happens to the glider or how am I going to set up an approach from here? I also have to keep telling myself to relax, as I'm wearing myself out. I poke around for a while, descend to 3800' MSL, find anther thermal, and pop back up to 4200'.

While I'm up there, I'm making a major effort to scan for traffic. To my surprise, I'm above everyone. Most everyone else is running the ridge, but there are a few pilots thermaling, and they're all below me. At one point, I do see another pilot who is close to my altitude, but he crosses to my north and I can see he's below me. I'm top of the stack! OK, there's not really a stack, and the better pilots have headed out of the local area, but I am at the top. What's that saying about a blind squirrel occasionally finding a nut? I'm also surprised that none of the pilots who had recently launched came over to pimp the thermal. I guess they were happy running the ridge.

After about 40 minutes between 3500' and 4400', I'm tired, a little queasy, and beginning to get chilled, so I start to head down. Since I'm so tired and the LZ is apt to be rocking, I decide to do an intentional wheel landing, that is, when I finally do get down. I keep finding more lift and am tempted to try to work it. but my better judgment wins out, and I continue to descend. As I get lower, the air gets bumpier, and when I reach foothill height, I'm having to push back regularly to maintain my desired track. When I'm ready to turn final, I'm going through patches of sink, but when I turn final I find some lift and big bumps, and wind up using way more LZ than expected. I probably wasn't making the best decisions at that point and am glad I had that big LZ to work with. After a few seconds, I get my legs underneath me and carry the glider to the breakdown area. At this point, I'm chilled, exhausted, and a little queasy, but also happy and very gratified. I get a quick body ride up, get my car, break the glider down, return the body ride favor for three other pilots, and get up top in time to enjoy the sunset.

Idiot Proof Soaring, ya gotta love it.

Posted By: FormerFF    3 Comments    (Post your comment)
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November 18 - Playing Hooky

Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:30 pm

[  Mood: Cool ]
[ Working Currently: Working  ]
After having flown with my family a couple weeks ago, I had hopes of getting one more flying day before the holidays. I had a bunch of vacation days to use before December 1, and had been taking Thursdays off for about a month. I'd always hoped to use one of them to fly, but it hadn't worked out. The weather didn't cooperate for a couple, I missed one good day because I wasn't paying attention, and another because we had a plumbing emergency. Earlier in the week, the forecast had been looking very promising for this upcoming Thursday, with soarable conditions on tap, but as the day approached the winds went more towards light and variable. The weekend wasn't going to be available because of a server move project at work, so I put the glider on the car Thursday morning and headed up.

When I got to the mountain launch a little after noon, the winds were blowing mostly in, but were light and occasionally crossing. One of the instructors had just launched a student pilot on an observed flight, which would indicate conditions were still mellow. At that point, there were a few pilots who were getting ready to put their gliders together, but no one else ready to fly.

Just a few minutes after I arrived, pjwings came by as well. We observed the conditions and came to these conclusions:

1: It wasn't currently soarable.
2: It might get soarable in a couple of hours.
3: Odds were high that we could get a flight in before it got soarable, assuming that it did.

So, that's what we did. One of our local biwingual pilots pulled out his paraglider, which is a pretty rare sight at Lookout's ramp. Pjwings and I ran our cars down to the LZ as he unpacked his paraglider.

Down in the LZ, the student I had seen launch and another pilot were just finishing packing up. We load their gliders on pj's truck and head up the hill, only to find the paraglider pilot still on the ramp. He finds conditions to his liking and heads off the ramp and turns northward. The wind has picked up a bit and he is able to stay at ridge height. There is one spot on the ridge where the lift is particularly strong, and he pretty much parks himself there for a couple of minutes. The wind finally fades a little and he gets flushed and heads in for a landing.

We get our gliders built, and pjwings heads out first. When I get to the ramp, I find the winds light but mostly straight on the ramp. Launch is fine, and the air is cool and calm close to the ridge. I have a pair of bar mitts but haven't previously flown with them, so I take this opportunity to see what they're like. It's kind of a different feeling but doesn't take much getting used to. I can tell I don't want to make an approach with my hands in them, though.

I poke around looking for thermal activity but don't find any. There is a little buoyancy in the air, so I get over the LZ with a good bit of altitude in hand, and search for lift on the west side. All I find there is sink, so I'm setting up an approach in short order. There's a little bumpiness a couple hundred feet over the surface, but once I turn final everything smooths out.

Though I don't yet have the hours, I'm already thinking about the spot landings for the H3 rating, so I try to adjust my approach so I'll be close to the target pylon. I'm not too far off, but my flare is a little weak and I put myself in a bit of a turn, so I wind up landing on my knees. Pjwings has captured it on video, and has been gracious enough to share it with me. It's a big help to see what your're doing. Thanks, Paul. thumbsup

We get our gliders packed up and head up the hill for a second flight. Conditions aren't soarable yet, so we run a car back to the LZ. When we reach the launch, things have picked up a bit and there are a surprising number of pilots on launch, considering it is a Thursday and the forecast was not for soaring conditions. As we assemble our gliders, one pilot launches and is able to stay up. As you'd expect, this prompts a few more launches, and most are able to stay even with the ridge. I go out with my anemometer and find that the winds are only 5 to 6 mph, which is just maybe barely soarable.

Pjwings is ready before I am, and he picks a good cycle and gets a strong launch, managing to stay at ramp altitude all the way through his launch and turn to parallel the ridge. As I'm finishing my glider, I can see him making passes over the ridge at just about tree height. When it's my turn to go, the wind has faded just a bit. I can see it's going to be a struggle to stay up, but am ready to give it my best. My launch isn't as strong as his, and I head out a little below ramp altitude. The wind is as smooth as can be, and I'm closer to the ridge than I've ever been. There's a spot on the ridge where the face is more sheer than the rest and the lift is usually the strongest. I'm figuring that that spot will be the deciding point on whether or not I'm going to stay up. When I do get there, I do get a litte bit of climb. but am still below the top of the ridge. I go a little farther up the ridge, then turn back towards the ramp. I'm a little lower than the trip away from the ramp, and if I don't find any lift, I'll have to head out into the valley. No lift presents itself, so out into the valley I go. There's nothing going on out there either, so I float around over the LZ for a while.

This approach I'm not so concerned about the target pylon, but just want to make a better flare. The approach goes well, but this time I flare too late and as soon as I push up, the glider drops to its wheels and I roll in - right in front of pjwings and everyone else in the breakdown area. punch

I'm not really disappointed in having sunk out off of the ridge, as it would have taken immaculate technique and a bit of luck to have stayed up, but I am temporarily miffed at having made two bad landings. Soon enough the combination of the late afternoon light and good company get me to forget about the landings and remember the flying part.

Soon enough, we get our gliders packed up and head up the hill. We get pjwings's glider on his car as the sun is setting, and he goes in to talk to Matt Taber, while I stay out to watch one of our other biwingual pilots launch his paraglider. He'd already been up on the ridge for a while on his Predator, and now he's going to air out his paraglider as well. A couple of us watch him launch and head up the ridge. He gets a flight almost exactly like mine - one trip down the ridge, one trip back, then out in the valley.

That's going to be it for me for this year, as the holidays are just too busy for me to get away. Fortunately for those of us who live here, there's not really an off season, so I'll be looking for a day in January where the wind is northwesterly and the air temps are above freezing.

Posted By: FormerFF    2 Comments    (Post your comment)
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November 7th - Family Tandem Day 2010

Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:25 pm

[  Mood: Sleepy ]
[ Listening to Gin Blossoms Currently: Listening to Gin Blossoms ]
Last year, my wife and older daughter had each taken tandem flights for the first time. Daughter #2 wasn't so sure about the whole thing, and decided to stay on the ground. After she saw her mother and sister fly, she decided she'd get in on the action this year. We'd planned to go the weekend before Halloween, but the weather didn't cooperate. so the trip got pushed to the first Sunday in November.

Forecast was for light and variable winds, with a north to northeasterly trend, and temps approaching 60. That's great for tandems and probably favorable for a mountain launch as well, so off we go. Last year, I think we were all a little nervous, but this year everyone (except the dog) had a better idea how things would go.

While it didn't look like there was going to be any lift, nonetheless it was still a beautiful day.

We arrived at the mountain launch around 1:45. The tandems were scheduled for 3 PM, which would give us time to fill out the paperwork and give me a chance to set up for a mountain launch. When we first arrived, the ramp was empty, and there was a light crossing headwind that periodically cycled to straight on the ramp. While we were getting all the necessary forms filled out, I asked Diana about the conditions. She said that things were looking good, with just a little bumpiness off of the foothills to the west of the LZ.

Once we got the paperwork out of the way, a few more pilots arrive and begin setting up. I'm the first one ready, move over to the ramp, and get a hang check from my wife. attack kiss There are probably 20 or 30 spectators on the ramp, as well as my family. I suppose this could make you nervous if you let it, but once I step on the ramp the whole rest of the world just melts away. At this point, the wind is mostly straight in and light. For these conditions, a little more of a launch run is in order, so I start near the compass rose at the top of the ramp. I started with a little more pitch up than usual, so the glider popped off my shoulders quickly. Around step three into the launch run, I pulled in a little bit to get the pitch back to an appropriate angle of attack. Getting the glider flying early in the run lets me put more effort into moving forward, and I get a nice strong launch at the desired angle of attack.

There's a little strip of lift just in front of the ramp, and another little bit at Burkhalter Gap Road, but nothing big enough to work, so I head out into the valley to see if any thermals had formed.

I didn't find anything, so in short order I was setting up for a landing. I'm the only one in air and have the whole LZ to myself. The promised bumpiness is there, but so slight that it doesn't require any correction. On downwind, I do notice that I seem to be a bit lower than I'd expect, so I go ahead and turn base and final. Once below the treeline the air is smooth and the landing is easy. I get a one stepper about 50 feet from the target cone. It was a very pleasant, if not particularly long (7 minute) sled ride.

Anyway, the day is not about me. I get my glider partly broken down as the family arrives from the mountain launch. The tandem crew is still pulling gliders out of the hangar, so we hang out in the breakdown area while I finish bagging the glider.

By about 3:30, the Dragonfly has set off on an air check, and the tandem operation gets underway. My three get harnessed up and wait for their turn.

Linda (Mrs. FFF) is the first to go. This is her second flight, so no nerves, just excitement.

Our older daughter also flew last year, and had been asking to fly again for most of the year. While her mom is in the air, she launches as well.

Our youngest chose not to fly last year. This year she decided she would try it, and had been wavering between excited and nervous. She was also the last to launch. She's not that much smaller than her sister, but she sure looked small in the glider. Rex, the pilot on her tandem, hooked her in while waiting for the tug to return, and she spent the time hanging out.

Her mom rolled in just as she was ready to go, and we both watched our youngest roll out on her first airborne experience.

The fall colors weren't the best this year, but as you can see, they were on their way.

Her reaction when she got back down:

I have to think she liked it.

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September 4 - Hang Waiting, Rewarded

Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:15 am

[  Mood: In Love ]
[ Listening to Game Theory Currently: Listening to Game Theory ]
After a wretchedly hot summer, the Southeast was treated to an early season cold front, which brought cooler, drier air, and northwesterly breezes. Both LMFP and Henson's Gap are northwesterly facing, so that's a very good thing for us pilots. Even better, the front came through on late Friday/early Saturday, meaning that those of us who are weekend only pilots would get a chance to fly.

The day started cool (for early September), with minimal breezes and brilliant blue cloudless skies. Since I don't get that many chances to fly, I try to maximize my flying days by getting to the launch early enough to fly twice. I arrived at around 11:30 to find that the LZ was very active, the towing operation had been shut down, and launching was limited to H4 pilots. Too bad, because the mountain launch was very doable, with 10 mph winds mostly straight in. Since the LZ would quiet down later in the day, there was nothing to do but wait. So I did.

I went down to the LZ to see how conditions looked, and found them surprisingly tranquil. The biggest issue was that the wind would shift 90 degrees periodically, which would make for a surprising approach and landing. While I was eating lunch, I happened on another pilot who found the conditions to his liking, but wanted a ride up to the launch. Hey, I can do that, so up we went.

It's around 2:00 when he's ready to go. A couple of people wire him off, and he goes down the ridge. On his first pass back, he's 100 feet or so above the ridge, and just goes on from there. At one point he flies over the mountain launch and yells, "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?" down to the collection of pilots on the ramp. He never gets real high above the ridge, but plays along the lip for 45 minutes or so, then gets flushed and heads out into the valley. He finds some lift, but not enough to stay up. Eventually he makes a decent landing in the middle of the LZ. Nice.

BrandonRussell73 arrives, and we both start observing the LZ. The thing that bothers me is that while the wind is usually a light crosswind, it occasionally becomes northeasterly, then swings around to the south. Having experience a downwind landing previously and not particularly having liked it, I want to wait until things mellow out a little further.

As it approaches 4 PM, the ramp is filled with gliders waiting to launch. Some of the more capable pilots start launching, and find their way to a few hundred feet over launch. After that wave goes off, the ramp refills with lower time pilots waiting for their turn. Also, first one, then a second rigid appear in the skies overhead. They hadn't launched from Lookout, so they must have XC'd in from Henson's.

At 6 PM, the LZ starts to mellow out, and the sky fills with gliders. Sky_Walker and LittleWing set up as well, as does Xerxes, and I do the same. I'm still watching the LZ, and it's still kind of switchy. When I get back to my glider, a couple of pilots tell me it had turtled. Shocked Someone had caught it and the only damage was one of the tip bags was missing. I had the glider in a protected spot for most of the day, but as the ramp filled in, I had to move it a bit so that someone else could get his wings spread, and had put it in a spot that occasionally would get a puff. After a careful preflight and big thanks to the pilot, I get the glider finished and ready to go.

Somewhere in there between 6 and 7, Brandon launched, as did Sky_Walker. Xerxes launched a little before 7, and Little Wing went right at 7. I follow her out to get my turn on the ramp.

I should add I haven't had much luck with soaring in my 35 mountain flights. I've tended to wait too late to launch and made a few other bad guesses that have put me on the ground entirely too quickly. I'm not wanting to make that same mistake, but I'm not wanting to go out into a switchy LZ, either. I still have the original downtubes that came with the glider, and would like to keep it that way.

After LittleWing launched, I'm #2 behind another glider, who is needing to untangle some harness lines. Matt Taber comes over and asks them to move aside to let me go. He hang checks me and takes the keel. Out we go to the red line, and after getting everything balanced, and a couple of quick neutrals, off I go. I'm still focused on Sand Mountain on the other side of the valley, and ride the upward draft until it stops, then make a gentle right turn. I'm a little above launch height but below treetop level, so I don't get too close to the ridge at first. Instead, I concentrate on flying slowly and gently, and creeping back towards the ridge.

There are a lot of gliders in the air, and because the lift doesn't extend very high, we're all compressed into a couple hundred vertical feet. This being my first time in that much traffic, I'm very wary of getting too much into the mix, and that also keeps me off of the ridge. I do find some stronger lift, and make it a point to S turn into it, then creep back towards the ridge.

I had a bad experience with sink in Burkhalter Gap, and turn just before it. All the practice turning made during the summer's sled rides pay off as I'm able to turn without losing much altitude. I'm still finding some better lift in spots, and am able to get about 50 feet above the ridge, which is just about treetop height.

I'm able to stay on the ridge for a number of passes, probably around 15 minutes worth. Eventually I make a little bit of a diving turn and fall out of the lift band. Those stronger patches of lift I had been finding had been becoming weaker, so I head out a little farther into the valley to get some separation from the ground. I'm able to find some small patches of lift and work them the best I can, but can't stay in them.

The air over the LZ is a little bumpy at altitude, no doubt rotor from the foothills. I'm flying directly into the sun, and am surprised to see another glider a few hundred feet away. He's also setting up an approach, so I decide to follow him in. I'm still fairly high and extend my approach out away from the LZ, and find a few more bumps. On final, the bumps disappear at around 150, and the air is like butter. Because of the all the activity on the ground, I decide to land a little long. As I start ground skim, I can see the target pylon flash past. OK, bleed off speed, hands low on the downtubes, let the bar out slowly, find trim, and flare. I'm maybe just a bit slow and not aggressive enough because I have to jog the landing out a few steps, but in no wind conditions, I'll take it. I walk the glider over to the breakdown area and join the 15 or so other gliders there. Launch time, 7:08, landing 7:30, for a new personal best of 22 minutes. thumbsup

A few minutes after I land, Xerxes comes in after a flight of 35 minutes or so. LittleWing is not too far behind, punctuating her 40 minute flight with a fine foot landing. Sky_Walker is next at 7:45, after having been in the air for an hour. Brandon came in there somewhere, but I can't say exactly when. One pilot tries landing really close to the breakdown are and is rewarded by giving us all a closeup view of his whack. Mr. Green

So, that was a very satisfying flight and a terrific day. LittleWing also set a personal best, another lady pilot who has been having the same luck soaring as I have made her first soaring flight, and at least one new pilot made her first mountain solo earlier in the day. My missing tip bag even showed up. It apparently blew down towards Sky_Walker's glider, and someone must have put it in with his stuff.

So, when's the next front? drool

Posted By: FormerFF    1 Comments    (Post your comment)
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July 24 - Heat Wave

Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:25 pm

[ Listening to War Currently: Listening to War ]
Midsummer in the south usually means the three H's weather wise: Hazy, hot, and humid. This summer had been a little out of the ordinary in that is has been hotter than usual but also clearer than we would expect. The forecast was for a very hot day, with air temps nearing 100 F and dew points in the mid 70s, giving a heat index near 110. Winds were forecast to be light and variable, with a southwesterly bias.

H2 rated pilots do not generally fly in the midday hours under these conditions, as the LZ gets very active when it is thermally, so it's my goal to get to the launch to get a sled ride in before things get too active. I arrived a little after 11, and found a few gliders set up. I also found Sky_Walker and LittleWing setting up for a ride down. The word on the day's weather was that thermal soaring was likely in the midday conditions, and that there was a possibility of a wonderwind around 6 PM. I'm a little skeptical on the wonderwind but I'm certainly willing to wait and see.

First order of the day is to get my glider set up for a late morning/early afternoon flight. I'm at that point in my flying career where I'd like to fly in conditions that are a little stronger than what I'm used to, and since the LZ is looking placid, I'm in no hurry to set up too quickly. Besides, with the temps already at 90 degrees, it's not a day for hurrying. Sky_Walker and LittleWing are ready before I am, and LittleWing launches first. We can see that the air is still, and there's no lift at all. She makes a fine launch, a good approach, and winds up knocking over the target cone on landing. Sky_Walker is next, and finds similar conditions. At 12:30, I'm pulling my harness on, when Jen comes out of the shop and tells us to not launch. An aerotow pilot had crashed in the LZ, and there is an ambulance on the field. The word I got was that he was a very low time pilot who released early, stalled, recovered from the stall, turned back to the LZ, then made a low turn and dragged a wingtip. I also understand that he was unconscious for a few minutes, but was awake and alert when he left the LZ, with a probable concussion, some neck pain, and a possible broken arm. I didn't hear an update after that, but here's wishing a speedy recovery to you, bro, and come back soon.

At 1 PM I get the OK to launch. There's a light breeze on the ramp, but it's so hot that the density altitude is up around 5000 feet, so I dial a little more pitch down than usual. I do get a little better look at the trees than I would if it were cooler. Considering the conditions, I'm very satisfied with the launch. Out in the air, I don't find any lift, but I do find a few patches of sink. The only hint of lift I do find is over the hangars while on downwind, and those were just little bumps.

When I crossed over the field, what little wind there was appeared to be a direct cross, so I set up for a landing to the north. I find that when I turn final, I'm being pushed farther down the field than I'd have expected, but it doesn't register that I just might be going downwind. When it comes time to flare, I find I still have more groundspeed than I'd expect, and have to run fairly hard. While doing that , I wind up slipping and sliding in on one shin and my wheels. It turns out that while I was on final a light breeze came around from the southwest and I was landing downwind. The only damage is that I now have some road rash on the lower part of one leg. Two lessons learned: Always check the streamers on final, and if it's calm, always land into what is the prevailing wind for the day. Today's breeze aloft was from the southwest, and that is the direction I should have landed.

I (slowly) start breaking down my glider. Sky_Walker's and LittleWing's gliders are still set up in the breakdown area. It turns out they'd gone for a dip in the pool to cool off before breaking down. The three of us get our gliders bagged and back up to the top. Sky_Walker and LittleWing put their gliders away and head out to cool off, while I stay and observe. Around 2 PM a pilot launches. He finds some lift to work, and is able to stay up for 20 minutes or so before having to land. The local ace sees what he wants around 2:30, launches in what I believe was a Sport 2, finds a thermal, and takes about 15 minutes to circle up to cloudbase. There are a couple of cumulus clouds that he is circling towards, so as you'd expect the other pilots who were waiting all launch. They find the same set of thermals and start to climb as well. After 15 or 20 minutes of that, there's nothing but blue sky in the valley, and they all sink out with the exception of the Sport 2 pilot. I head into town to get some food and more drinks. Over the course of the afternoon, I drank a gallon of water and another half gallon of Powerade, and could have used more.

I get back up to the launch around 4:30. A partial cloud deck appears and cuts off the sunlight, ending the day's soaring, and with it, our chance of a wonderwind. It does create an opportunity for low time pilots to get their observed flights, and Mrsposer brings her glider up and begins to set up. I find out that she has completed seven of the 10 observed flights she needs, and the conditions look promising for #8. I set up as well, again very slowly, as even on top of the ridge the air temp is around 100 F, and the heat index is 110 or so. Since there's no reason to wait, I launch right at 6 PM. The air is even smoother than it was a 1 PM, and there is again no lift, except for a tiny patch just off of the ramp. There's not much sink either, and I see 200 -240 FPM down the whole ride. This time I approach to the south and get a little better flare, but still wind up running. I'm seeing lots of running landings as there is absolutely no wind and a little higher density altitude than we're used to.

After I get the glider bagged, I keep my eye out for Mrsposer. She launches at around 7 PM, and has what looks to be a very pleasant and uneventful flight into the beginning of the sunset. I give a couple of pilots a ride up to the launch, just in time to to see the last launch of the day, then head down to have dinner at the clubhouse. After hanging out for a little longer than I should have, I head home.

The next day, I get in my car to back it out of the garage, and the battery dies. I guess the battery gods were smiling on me on Saturday, they let me get my flying day.

Posted By: FormerFF    2 Comments    (Post your comment)
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June 19 - When Life Gives You Sled Ride Conditions...

Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:16 pm

[  Mood: Amused ]
[ Listening to Game Theory Currently: Listening to Game Theory ]
The forecast for both weekend days was the same: blue skies, light winds, and hot, with a slight chance of thundershowers. I'd been trying to decide whether to go fly or to stay home and work on a project. I put the question to the board, and Noman3 responded that I should go fly, so that's what I did.

On the way up, the conditions were as advertised: blue skies and nil wind. As I approached the mountain launch, the skies turned cloudy and almost threatening. Last time I'd been up I'd left my helmet in the LZ, and one of Lookout's staffers had picked it up for me, so I went into the shop to recover it. As soon as I'd gotten it, a rain shower started. Xerxes had arrived shortly before me, and since there was no flying for a while, we went into town for lunch.

When we got back to the mountain launch, the rain had stopped, but the outflow from the squall line had pushed the wind over the back. By about 1:30 the tailwind started to subside, so we ran a car down the base with the hopes of flyable winds appearing. When we got back to the launch, the wind had diminished more, and half a dozen pilots were assembling gliders, so we got ours out as well. Mine was wet and needed drying anyway, so tailwind or not, it was coming out of the bag. At 2:30 or so, the tailwind subsided, and finally went away entirely. The first pilot launched around 2:45. I'd waited a little longer to pack my still wet bags, and was not ready to launch until almost 3 PM.

For this flight, I had three goals: maintain proper pitch throughout my entire launch, get used to my newly acquired (used) vario, and continue to work on flying slowly and making coordinated low speed turns. The sky is solid overcast and there is almost no wind, so I'll be providing all the airspeed with my legs. I've had some issues with popping the nose angle on zero wind launches, mainly because I want to switch from grapevine to bottle grip too quickly. During a slope launch it's no problem because there is so much time during the launch run, and on a breezy day it's not a problem because the glider lifts so quickly, but for nil wind ramp launches, I'm having issues, so for now I decide to try using the bottle grip from the start. I wouldn't want to do that on a breezy day because I get more leverage in the bottle grip position, but on a light wind day, the leverage isn't important.

With that in mind, I start the launch run. In the usual few steps I'm off the ramp with the pitch where I want it. I fly away from the mountain for a few seconds, then slow to trim speed. The air is as smooth as butter, so I start making steep turns, reversing 180s, and a few 360s. I can immediately see the advantage of having a vario for this sort of flying, as it gives good feedback as to how well I'm flying.

Liftless sledders are short, so rather quickly, I'm over the LZ with about 550 feet left over. I spend a few seconds trying to get unzipped, and finally do get the pull cord open. The approach goes without drama, but this time, I keep my hands on the basetube all the way into ground skim. I do get my hands switched without any issues, but this has upset my timing a bit, and I get kind of a weak flare and have to run the landing out. Acceptable when you have half a mile of flat grass, but I can do better.

We get packed up and head back up the hill. Xerxes heads back towards Atlanta, but it's not even 4 PM, the conditions are flyable but not soarable, and there are plenty of people going up and down the hill, so why not take another flight? When I get to the top Brandonrussell73 is getting ready to pull his glider out of the bag. I promised some pilots who had just landed that I would come and get them, so Brandon runs his car down to the LZ as well. Once we get to the LZ, we pick up three pilots, and their gliders and harnesses. That makes five pilots and three gliders in one Focus hatchback.

For the second flight, it's still overcast with very light winds. This launch also goes well, and this flight I concentrate on getting the harness zipped up quickly and trying to remained relaxed. I've had this tendency to want to do a pushup on the base tube, which is tiring and makes me less sensitive as to what the glider is doing. The vario is just as quiet on this flight as it was on the first, and it's easy to practice turns and thermal entries. This approach is similar to the first one, and I again try flying all the way to ground skim with my hands on the basetube, and the landing comes up similar, with a softer flare then is ideal and the need to run the landing out a few steps.

Shortly after I get to the breakdown area, someone offers me a body ride, which I gladly accept, and take a nice breezy ride in the back of a truck. I get my car down to the LZ and find another pilot who is getting ready to head up for another flight, so I put my glider on his truck and leave mine in the LZ, so we're good to go for a third flight.

For this one the sun has come out and there is an occasional headwind on the ramp. I get another solid launch, but this time I can feel that there is some lift when I first get off of the ramp. Not enough for me to work with for sure, and probably not enough for anyone to stay up in, but a little lift nonetheless. On this flight I stay as relaxed as possible and just try to feel what the glider is doing. It's a little harder to keep my speed down in turn entry this way, but if I'm ever going to do any thermaling, I have to learn to do this.

Because of the sun, I've found some spots where I could float along only sinking at 50 fpm, and other sinky spots where it was more along the lines of 400 fpm. Next flight, I have to try to spend more time in the floaty spots and less in the sink. The wind has turned around and this time I will be landing to the south. I always make my pattern on the west side of the LZ so as to not interfere with the aerotow operation. The terrain on the northwest side of the LZ is heavily forested and also rises. As I progress on my downwind leg, I start finding some of that sink. The LZ is fairly narrow at that end and is surrounded by tall trees, and I want to be on final while still above them. When I turn from base to final, I find the lift that went with that sink, and all but stop descending. I start making S turns at the north end of the LZ until I descend some, then pull in for final. Once again, I try flying on the base tube all the way to ground skim, and again things seem a little rushed. I do get a better flare this time, but still jog a few steps.

After I get my glider bagged up and a couple of pilots up the hill, I go back to the LZ to collect my glider and bicycle. There's one pilot left without any apparent way back up the hill, so we load his glider on my car and up we go one more time. It's almost dusk, and there's one more pilot ready to launch. We get his glider transferred to his car, watch the last flight of the day, and chat with some spectators. I finally head home at 9:25.

While there was no lift to speak of, I think that the day's flights have me better prepared for lifty days in the future.

Posted By: FormerFF    1 Comments    (Post your comment)
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May 23 -A Friend of Ours (Re)takes to the Skies

Mon May 24, 2010 7:46 pm

[  Mood: Embarrased ]
[ Listening to Frank Sinatra Currently: Listening to Frank Sinatra ]
I'd last blogged about my first flying day of the year, back at the end of February. I'd gone back up the week after with the hope of getting a soaring flight, but wound up getting a sledder as the conditions didn't pan out. I'd also been up one other time in April, on a northwesterly day that was a bit on the strong side for the most part. To make a long story short, a combination of a major attitude problem on my part and a minor equipment issue kept me out of the air, missing a glassoff. Since then, my daughters' schedule has been incredibly busy, and the weekend weather has been less than wonderful, with the exception of Mother's Day, which as you can imagine, wasn't spent on the mountain. Sunday was looking sunny with light & variable winds. Whether or not it was going to be soarable or not, I didn't know or care, I just wanted some airtime and a couple of sledders would be enough to make me happy.

As expected, it was sunny and hot on Sunday, with temperatures getting into the low 90's I arrived at the mountain launch around 12:30, and found a few gliders set up, but none in the air. The wind on the ramp varied from none at all to the occasional light northerly-northeasterly cross. Figuring that the LZ is going to get to be H3 or worse later in the afternoon, I make plans to set up. But before I do that, who should be standing on the ramp but curly_cue! She's healed from her knee surgery, had flown on the training hills the day before, and was getting ready for a tandem later that day. Her husband John was there as well. He had his Sport 2 set up, but was waiting for the day to develop before launching.

I get set up, get onto the ramp, and wait for a cycle. John calls the winds for me, and after a minute or so, we get a slack wind cycle, and I go. The launch goes well, and as soon as I get a decent distance from the mountain, I start working on slow flight and turns. The air's fairly buoyant, and the trees are a safe distance below, so I start trying 360's, reversing 180's, and 90's, all at or below trim speed. I see a few likely thermal triggers and head in their direction, but I only get one beep from my vario, and don't manage to find it a second time.

I float over the LZ, and still have a good bit of altitude left, so I poke around the west side of the field for a while. The tandem operation is not open, and no one else had launched, so I had the air to myself. The south end of the LZ is especially buoyant, and I almost think of trying some circling, but figure that would be a bad idea as I'm getting kind of low and I'd be in the way if anyone else were making an approach. I wind up extending my downwind and base legs, but I'm still a little high. I pull in a bunch and start to go down, but am going to land a little farther down than I'd like, so I get the bar back as far possible, which has the desired effect. I stay that way all the way to ground effect, so I'm going a ton, at least for a Falcon. I let the bar out a bit and climb back up a couple of feet - oops, too much. I pull in a bit to get back into ground skim, and bleed off some more speed. As the bar approaches trim I get my hands on the downtubes, then slide 'em up, and flare. It's not the strongest flare I've ever made, but it's good enough to get me slowed to jogging speed, and it takes about three steps to get stopped. Not too bad.

It's hot and sunny, and the Lookout LZ tends to get turbulent in those conditions, so I plan on flying at around 6 PM. I get a ride up the hill, get my glider bagged and back to the mountain launch, and head off for some errands. When I get back, most of the pilots who had been waiting for stronger conditions are in the LZ. Among them are curly_cue's husband, who had been up for about a 30 minute flight. He also said that he'd shared a thermal with her tandem glider.

When I get up to the mountain launch there's a decent collection of pilots getting ready to go, including PJwings and BrandonRussell73. I get the glider done and into position, and am waiting for the pilot in front of me. After what seems like a 15 minute wait for a headwind that doesn't appear, he settles for a no wind launch. I get on the ramp, find a no wind cycle, and head off. Now, I start off with a grapevine grip and rotate my hands to a bottle grip. I've been wanting to switch to what Dennis Pagan refers to as the "eternal grapevine" grip, but haven't been comfortable with trying to make the change on the mountain launch. Well, this time I wind up switching hands too early, which creates a big nose pop. Ugh. After a quick "OH CRAP" I pull in a bunch, probably overcorrecting a little. Now I'm a bit nose low, but with good airspeed. I do get a little better look at the trees below the launch than ever before, but that's about the extent of it.

Awright, put that behind me and fly the glider. This flight's plan is pretty much the same as the previous one's but the air is butter smooth but has no lift. I work on steepening the turns and quickening my entry into them. With no lift, the flight is short, and soon I'm on approach. With the calm air, this approach is easy. I've got the target cone in sight, get close to ground effect, reach my left hand from the basetube to the downtube, and wind up grabbing the wire instead. OK, try again. This time, I get the downtube, but put myself in very slight turn. I get that straightened up, get my hands up, flare, and land on both feet about 25 feet from the cone. Nice. There are a number of pilots in the LZ, including Sky_walker and LittleWing, who had flown earlier in the day. PJWings and BrandonRussell73 drop in as well, as does a pilot who is making his mountain solo. He makes a fine approach and a nice landing, and comes in with that ear to ear grin that a first mountain solo provides.

So, that was probably the worst launch I've ever made, and probably the best landing. Does that make the flight average? The first chance I get I'm going to get to the training hills to practice launching in the grapevine grip. That will be at least four weeks away, as I've got a camping trip in two weeks, and my wife and older daughter are going to cheer a friend who is in a triathalon the one after that, so the next three weekends are shot.

After I get packed up, I head up to the mountain launch, where PJWings and BrandonRussell73 are setting up to go again. The wind is swinging between slack and crossing, but as the first pilot is ready to fly, the wind starts tailing. Unfortunately for all the pilots on the ramp, the tailwind sets up, and the flying day ends a little before sunset.

Y'know, if a really good northwesterly day happens this weekend, maybe I can sneak up for an evening flight after all...

Posted By: FormerFF    2 Comments    (Post your comment)
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February 28th - Welcome to 2010

Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:07 pm

[  Mood: Amused ]
[ Listening to Level 42 Currently: Listening to Level 42 ]
I hadn't gotten as much flying in last year as I'd have expected. The winter weather was horrible, spring and early summer were good, while late summer and fall were spotty at best. With the limited airtime in the last six months, I was looking for a mellow day to get a couple of extended sledders to kick off the season. We've had a few good days, that for various reasons, I've not been able to go up for. The weekend approaches, and both days are looking northwesterly. The consensus is that Saturday has a good chance of being blown out, so I plan on going up Sunday.

I'd had a ripping sinus headache on Saturday, and I go to bed Saturday night hoping to be rid of it by Sunday morning. When the dog wakes me up at 7:30, the headache is almost completely gone, but I'm still moving a little slowly, and don't get on the road until almost 10:30. As I head out, the breeze is starting to stir, and I'm feeling a little concern that things will pick up too much. When I arrive at the mountain launch, it's 12:45, mostly cloudy and about 40 degrees, with the wind blowing 12 to 14 mph straight on the ramp. Surprisingly, no one is in the air. I get my equipment off the car and stop for a few minutes to observe the conditions. After a few minutes, the first pilot of the day is ready to fly. I get his keel and we get him hang checked and up on the ramp. For some reason, he has his right wing low by about 20 degrees. Both the guy on the left wing and I are telling him that he needs to level his wings, but he yells "CLEAR" and heads off. At that point, there's nothing we can do but let go and hope for the best. He sets off in a turn, and his wingtip starts dragging against a rock on the side of the ramp. Not good. The dragging wingtip is increasing his yaw, but since it can't descend with the rest of the glider, it levels his wings and the wingtip slides off of the rock and he flies away. That could have been a lot worse. He makes a few passes up and down the ridge, but sinks out pretty quickly, and heads to the LZ. If that had been me, I'd have needed an underwear change about then.

I wire crew for another couple of pilots, who launch uneventfully and go up to enjoy the ridge lift. By the time I get set up and eat part of a sandwich, the winds have backed off to 8 mph or so, which is a little less than I need to fly the ridge, so I decide to wait to see if things pick back up. They don't, and there are four or five other pilots also waiting to see what happens. By 3:00, the sun is mostly out, the winds are 6 to 8 and don't seem to be increasing, so I go ahead and launch. It's very easy launching in those conditions, you go out towards the red line, take two steps, and you're in the air. Not too far off of launch, I get a pretty good beep from my vario, but I'm just a little too close to the ridge to feel comfortable about making a 360, especially with the breeze wanting to push me back towards the hill, so I make some S turns to get as much as possible out of the lift. I do that a few times, but finally lose it, and head out into the valley looking for more bubbles.

I do find some bumps, and get a few squeals from my vario, but nothing that I can stay in. I also had one episode where the air pushed me way nose high, almost into what felt like an incipient stall. Naturally once I pull in, I fell out of the backside of the bubble and am now facing the ground. Interesting, but not scary.

The air is buoyant, so I float around the valley for a few minutes looking for more lift. It's a little bumpy, and I'm flying faster than minimum sink for a little extra control. I need to learn to fly more slowly in these conditions.

I start my approach, but wind up a little high on final. Rather than make a few more turns, I pull the bar to my knees and the Falcon elevator comes down quickly. I can see that I'm going to round out a little past the midpoint of the field, which will have me touching down about two thirds of the way down the LZ. It's a bit bumpy on final, but nothing too significant. Since it's been three plus months since my last flight, my flare timing is less than perfect, and I have to run about four steps. Total flight time was 14 minutes.

As I walk over to the breakdown area, I see that Sky_Walker and his lady pilot friend Theresa are in the LZ. We chat briefly, and they head up to the mountain launch. When I look back at the ridge, I can see that all the pilots who had been waiting are now in the air. I guess I was a very effective wind dummy.

It's only 3:30, and my car is in the LZ, so I get the glider broken down quickly and head up for another flight. Jake526 is in the LZ as well, and he and another pilot ride up with me. We get to the top, unload the gliders, and I'm just in time to hang check Xerxes for his second flight of the day. Jake and I both set up, while Sky_Walker and Theresa launch. By the time I'm ready to go, it's 5 PM and the wind is about 5 mph, but occasionally crossing to the north. I wait for a cycle, then head out. This time I take one pass along the ridge, but there's not much going on and head out to the valley. The air is much calmer this time, and I concentrate on making turns and relaxing in the air. I've found that I'm too tense, and also that I tend to pull in a bit on my turns. I really need to learn to fly slowly if I'm ever going to be able to stay up.

After a few minutes of floating around the valley, it's time for an approach, which is easy in the calm air. I find a little lift on my turn onto final, and I'm high anyway, so I again wind up with the bar at my knees until I get the edge of the target circle as my roundout point. There's a little crosswind so I wind up drifting a bit more towards the east side of the field, and get a three step landing. I get my glider broken down and Sky_Walker gives me a ride up to my car.

While the day's conditions weren't quite what I expected, they were exactly what I needed after the long layoff. I'm now starting to see where my mistakes are and what I need to do to correct them. Now's all I need is more airtime. I know it's only Tuesday, but the forecast for the weekend looks favorable. Two weeks in a row? Dare I dream? Only time will tell.

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About FormerFF

Mon Aug 28, 2006 3:27 pm
Roswell, Georgia, USA
Software Developer
Sports car racing, bicycling



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Mon Jan 29, 2007 7:42 pm
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