FormerFF's blog

April 25 - At Long Last, Airtime

Sun Apr 26, 2009 6:44 pm

[  Mood: Happy ][ Listening to Booker T & the MG\'s Currently: Listening to Booker T & the MG\'s ]

Between family commitments and a really sorry winter season's weather, it has been five months since I'd last flown. I had taken my family up to Lookout Mountain the first weekend in April in the hopes of getting some flying in, but the weather was so bad that I didn't even take my glider. This weekend, there's a big high pressure system over the eastern part of the country, bringing warm temperatures and blue skies. On Saturday, the day was expected to start off with calm winds, and an increasing southwestery breeze is expected later in the day.

My wife was running in a 5K footrace early in the morning, so I was going to get a late start on the day. As I leave, the morning is still dead calm, and throughout the drive up it stays that way. I arrive at the mountain launch at 11:45, and find that there is a light breeze blowing onto the ramp. At this point, my biggest concern is whether that will hold up long enough to get an early afternoon launch. Apparently the forecast for southwesterly winds has scared most of the pilot population off, as there is only one other pilot at the launch. I stop to talk to him, and he's wanting to launch but doesn't want to get stuck at the LZ without a way back up. I go into the shop to pick up my harness & parachute after a repack, and we run his van down to the LZ.

After we get back, the conditions still look good, so we both set up. He had a head start on me, and is the first to go. The breeze has picked up a little, so we wire him off. I go back to building my glider and move into position, get a hang check, and Matt Taber gets a wire crew together for me. There's a pronounced southwesterly flow going up the valley, and Matt instructs me not to turn downwind, or I won't make the landing zone. As I move out onto the ramp, a big thermal comes onto the ramp, and the four of us hold me down. The thermals are well marked by clouds, so the risk of getting hit by one unexpectedly is minimal. Matt tells me that conditions are changing, and that I didn't have to launch, but I still feel confident, and am ready to go. I get two consecutive "neutrals" from my wing wiremen, give the "clear" command and go. I get what I think is a good launch, then fly through a bit of lift. Since it's been so long since I last flew, I'm not wanting to play that close to the ridge, I pull in and fly through it. Because of the wind, I'm crabbing, and for a while try flying a little upwind to get myself closer to the southern end of the LZ. I can see that I'm not making much headway, and point myself a little more northerly.

The air's a little bumpy, but nothing too bad. I don't get much in the way of beeps from my vario, but I don't seem to be descending all that quickly either.

Because of the crab angle, it takes me a little while to arrive over the LZ, but do so with plenty of altitude, so there must have been some buoyancy to the air. I figure that the downwind leg of the approach is going to go pretty quickly, so I stay fairly close to the south end of the field. Once I do turn downwind, my groundspeed is pretty impressive for a Falcon. I do underestimate the amount of time it's going to take me to turn final, and wind up leveling out on final a little above treetop height, around 75 feet or so. There's a crosswind, so I wind up tracking on a diagonal across the LZ. I don't make too big of a flare, and have to run three or four steps. Because I didn't estimate the headwind quite right, I land 100 yards or so short of the target cone - OK but not great.

The other pilot and I get packed up, and head back up the mountain. He's going to get another flight here in the early afternoon, but I'm going to wait until evening for my second one. I go in and get a critique of my launch from Matt Taber, who confirms it was good, but tells me that I launched into a flush cycle. Inexperience, I guess.

The other pilot who I've been sharing rides with gets ready to go, and two of Lookout's instructors and I wire crew for him, and he goes off. He seems to be getting bumped around a good bit, and finds a number of areas of sink. He's not really able to find any lift, and is on the ground pretty quickly. I head down to with his glider bags, and as I'm approaching the LZ a car with gliders on the roof flashes its lights at me. As I get close, I realize that it's the Posermobile! I stop to chat for a moment, and find out the Mrsposer is stoked and has been flying her new glider on the training hills.

After I get to the LZ, the other pilot gets his glider packed up, and I take him to the mountain launch. The entire Poser clan is at the launch, so we just hang out, catch up on what's been going on, and observe the weather conditions. There's a bunch of thermal activity, but no pilots to try it out. I'm not sure that it was a good day for soaring, as the clouds didn't show much vertical development, but I don't know how to read the sky well enough to really say. Around mid afternoon, the wind on the ramp is a little too crossing for a launch anyway.

The Posers and I head into town for a bite to eat, then to the LZ where Imaposer makes a few adjustments to the tubing that is holding the wheels in place on Mrsposer's glider. I head up the mountain launch to see how conditions are, and find them near perfect. The wind has slackened, and is cycling from a slight cross to right on the ramp. There's one other pilot up on the launch who has built his glider, so I offer him a hang check, but he's waiting for a particular cycle, so I go back to building mine. He comes out in front of the ramp and I get him hang checked, and he goes out on the ramp to wait for a cycle. I go back to finish my glider, and finally look up and see that the other pilot has made an uneventful launch.

The Posers have most graciously come up to the launch to see me off and to take my car to the LZ. Imaposer hang checks me, and I ask him to grab my left wing's wire, just in case a puff comes along. The cycle I'm in has a light crossing headwind, so off I go. The air is smooth and just a little buoyant. Evening flights are just too good to be described, so I won't try.

There's not a lot of lift, so far too soon, I'm on approach to land. Without the wind, this one's much easier. This time I turn onto final a little high, and wind up touching down a little past the target cone. I get a better flare this time, but am still pushing my hands more out than up, and have to jog out a few steps. After I get packed up, we all head over to Lookout's clubhouse, where they're having deli sandwiches for $5 a person - can't beat that.

So, that was an excellent day, especially considering the marginal forecast. My first flight was in conditions that were a bit stronger than most of my previous ones, so I had to work a little more, but was never in doubt about who was in control of the glider - me or the conditions. The second one was easy. My only regret was that Imaposer didn't feel comfortable enough to fly in the evening - the conditions were so benign that I'm sure he'd have a great flight as well. But, being the conservative guy that he is, he wanted to fly on the training hills first, and he'd been busy that morning helping Mrsposer, and so didn't fly his glider.

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John C
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Joined: 06 Aug 2008
Posts: 440
Location: Augusta, GA

PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:33 pm    Post subject:    

Thanks for the post. I bet it was beautiful. I have been looking forever for some kind of reasonable weather (that matches with the little patches of time that I get off) and they just don't seem to come. I had not thought this weekend would be launchable from the mountain but I am glad you got off well. I hope in mid to late May to get up there (from Augusta). I hope we will wave to each other in the sky.
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3 thumbs up

Joined: 13 Aug 2007
Posts: 2112
Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:59 pm    Post subject:    

It was great to see you again Matt. Randy and I were both happy that you got a couple of flights in. See you soon!
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Joined: 03 Nov 2007
Posts: 792
Location: Trenton, Ga

PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject:    

Sorry I missed you Matt,
I was one of those fooled by the crappy forecast. I'm glad you got to fly but now I'm really bumming I missed Mrs Poser at the T-Hills and I could have gota flight off the mountain, I always enjoy our flying together. I think we're both overdue for a good ridge soaring flight.

Hope to see you next time.

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day dreamer
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Joined: 04 Dec 2007
Posts: 3982
Location: Commiefornia

PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2009 2:39 pm    Post subject:    

Good for you sir. And I wish you many more flights in the near future. Great write up by the way.
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