DIAMONDS ARE STILL FOREVER

Here’s the debrief on two of the three diamond distance flights flown from Crystal last Saturday, first from Richard Smolinski, on his first straight-out diamond, and then Peter Kovari on his umpteenth:  

The day started with nice heat as always. The whole gang decided to start at 10:30 AM and we get ready on the grid waiting for the tow. Chris and his awesome ground crew and pilots made our dreams come through and we were all in the air by 11AM.

I was the last one following ES , C3, SAS and 6PK. I decide to take all advice from team this time and after last week fiasco….full of energy I get off tow at 7.8K in moderate lift. As ES reported lift was only on the second ridge so I stay there and at 12.5K, I was on my way to Rosamond.. To my surprise half way I got nice bump from the sheer line that lift me up to almost 11K so I continued toward Rosamond. Arrived at Silver Queen at 7K found lift in usual spot and was listening to rest of the team chatting ahead of me. I got Cal City in range so I moved toward clouds building on the North. Halfway above 14 another strong convergence lift me up to 11k and I keep pushing as 6PK advised forward toward mountains where above Cross Mt. I got up to 12K and with COSO in range start sailing again. Listening to the others and considering wind direction and strength, I decided to stay away from west ridges and start looking for rotors down the slope where the downwind hit the valley floor. Found energy line which lifted me up to 13K, and followed the wind toward north this time, closer to ridges, trying to climb higher… That was a mistake. First I found lift close to Inyo, but Owens Mt. was 10 kt sink all the way..  Ran fast toward the valley center where I found “steady” rotor, for 13k all the way to Olancha, where nice ridge lift got me to 16K. At this point I decided that eastern (downwind) ridges will be better, and moved all the way to east side of valley far before Lone Pine. It paid back well, and at Mt Love I got up to 16K again and from there an easy fast ride to Bishop. On the way, no disappointments, and lift in usual spots, just in the high portion of bandwidth. By Bishop I got 17.9K and started thinking where to go next. Hearing 6PK’s advice I decided to skip Boundary and, having Mina in range at White Mt, I started the long sail there. On the way lots of high and strong lift that carried me to Mina at 15.5K and Luning at 12.5K. I was thinking of Austin but it was getting late and I finally settled for Gabbs, where I arrived at 10K.

I was nice relaxing flight. This day I got two for price of one, My first Crystal SQ. diamond and my second FAI Diamond as well. I was rich and happy man this day.
Lots of challenges and choppy lift, but after all that’s the challenge we love. Thanks to all pilots for their advise and guidance…(Priceless)

Richard, TW

= = = = = =
What attracts me to straight-out cross-country flights are the ever-changing conditions. Those flying cross-country out and back or zig-zag are mostly in the same general area, usually up and down in the same mountain ranges kind of like running on the “freeway”. After a while it’s a bit like local flying, but I’m not wanting to diminish other’s accomplishments or recreations, each to his or her own. Straight-out cross-country is strictly my preference.

This particular day was no different with plenty of varying weather conditions and terrain… highly challenging at times and rip-roaring great at others.

Once again, five of us showed up for the day of cross-country flight at Crystal airport. Many thanks to Chris for his consideration to once again allow us all to launch as a group as requested right around 11 a.m.

The forecast for the day was very good but with very hot summer surface temperatures, so the motto was to get high and stay high. What concerned me a bit was the not so pristine buoyancy sheer ratio likely due to strong winds in local spots as well as some chance of O.D. in the general route most of us were planning.

The lift was mostly absent in the usual areas in the San Gabriel’s but very visible in the form of a couple of cumulus clouds popping north of the Second Ridge which helped to quickly take me to 13k and on my way across the desert. I was kind of concerned about arriving low and early around Mojave but there were good thermals near Silver Queen and pretty soon I was heading toward some cloud markers developing near Cache Peak, with climbs to 14k where I was also joined by Dave (SAS) and Bradley (ES) and we soon were heading toward Boomer near Inyokern. This is where things started to get a bit rocky, at least for me. All I could muster is about 12k and I noticed the wind direction starting to change to mainly westerly and at a pretty good clip. I saw as much as 18 kt on my flight computer which Bradley verified as well on his.

I heard SAS fall off the ridge near Coso Junction and I soon followed, as did ES. (C3) Karl hung in the ridge line in an E-ticket thermal and I heard him climb to 14k.

As soon as I got over the valley, I encountered one of the roughest thermals, averaging around 10 kt and taking me back to 12.5k. It was very possibly wave induced rotor/thermal lift although I can’t say I experienced any of the wave-like characteristics associated with this one, upwind or downwind.  So I just headed up the valley to the Inyo mountains with a couple of climbs along the way, arriving just over 10k abeam Lone Pine.

The Inyo’s produced the expected lift, but not short of challenges though, all the way along the Whites.

I turned toward Mina over the desert just short of Boundary Peak since there were good cloud markers along the way. It paid off as these clouds worked consistently well, sometimes to 17.999′ all the way to Gabbs, it was a strong run, much stronger than the mountains previously.

Over Gabbs airport another good climb under a cloud got me glide to Austin on a 48 nm glide.

My intention at this point was to try making it to Eureka however it did start to get late in the day. As fate would have it there was a wall of virga right over the hills east of the town of Austin which I need to cross for Eureka, so my plan was out of the question.

Plan B was to turn toward Battle Mountain continuing north but that is a considerable distance given the time of the day. I gave it a shot anyway and called Antelope Valley a previously scouted out dormant field along the way which I did have glide to.

About half way I decided to turn back to Austin as the clouds which were encountered none worked any longer. I landed at Austin where I was soon joined by Karl (C3).

As stated earlier, this was shorter than anticipated but nevertheless a memorable flight with plenty of challenges.

Also, special congratulations to Richard Smolinski on his first straight out diamond to Gabbs!

Peter, 6PK

BACK TO THE NEW NORMAL

Last week’s soaring conditions were tops for this year, or at least tied for the nomination, anyway.  Several pilots flew cross-country from here on Saturday, including Peter Kovari and Karl Sommer, 350 miles to Austin, NV, and Richard Smolinski on his first straight-out diamond, to Gabbs, NV.  (Incidentally, all three of these fine pilots happen to be immigrants to the U.S.  Imagine that!  Lets hope they never lose courage and decide to ‘go back’)  Stories of two of those flights appear below, on our SOARING IS LEARNING page.

As for this week, expect temps in the nineties, with thermal heights limited by an unseasonably flat temperature gradient.  Moderate westerly winds might produce a south cross late each day, and possibly even some wave, especially on Friday.

SEE YOU SOON!

INSIDE SCOOP ON THREE DIAMONDS

Here are debriefs of last week’s cross-country flights by Mike Koerner, Sean Eckstein, and Karl Sommer.

Mike’s report (529 miles to Owyhee, NV)
I made it to Owyhee, Nevada on Saturday. Pronounced Oh-why-he, it’s near the Idaho border, north of Battle Mountain.
I launched a little after 10 am and climbed out nicely, but waited for the thermals to reach 11,000 feet, around 11:30, before heading on my way. That seemed like a reasonable choice. I would not have wanted to arrive at Mojave much lower… or earlier.
I made good time on the Sierra but really screwed up on the Whites. With the southwest wind, I could have just ridge soared along the west side. That would have worked brilliantly. Or I could have climbed up on top and zoomed along the crest, as is the norm. I did neither. I guess after several strong thermals on the Sierra, I was expecting a lot from the Whites. When the thermals didn’t deliver, I left them to look for better. But without enough altitude to clear the terrain in front of me, I was left dodging ridges, escaping down canyons and accepting weak lift just to stay afloat.
After finally climbing to 17,000 over Boundary Peak, all these sins were forgiven. From there I followed the best looking clouds to the north.
I came to a decision point at Battle Mountain. At first I tried to go northeast, toward Elko and Wells. But the cloud cover was solid in that direction with lots of virga, and I couldn’t get around it. I looked back to the northwest toward Winnemucca. It was in the clear, but with no evidence of lift continuing into the now late afternoon. Those were places I’ve been before. It took me a while to realize that there were very nice looking clouds straight north, in an area I have never flown over. I checked my data to figure out what was up there. Petan Ranch jumped out at me. That was the terminus of one of Henry’s record flights. Though I am loath to put my sailplane into a ranch strip that I haven’t checked out in advance, just beyond it was Owyhee airport with a 60-foot wide paved runway. Petan would be my emergency backup if the clouds didn’t pay off.
By the time I reached Petan I had Owyhee made anyway, which is just as well since I could not find the airstrip. I see it now on Google Earth, but it barely shows up.
This is my first flight this year where carrying water really paid off!
Fran certainly earned a rest after a long and difficult crew trip – 705 miles, 15 hours into the wee hours of the morning on a dank night with rain and lightning, winding mountain roads with an occasional deer to promote alertness, and finally, a misleading airport road sign which resulted in needing to turn the rig around in someone’s driveway.

Sean’s report (352 miles to Austin, NV)
I made it to Austin, NV. Conditions looked good towards Gabbs and beyond.
Crystal had one tow plane in operation (one down having a new ASI being installed) and the Crystal Squadron, students and rides lined up, Chris got us off quick. I launched at 11:35 and climbed to 11.3k before leaving the mountains. Mike CF and Karl C3 were already ahead and called out a couple of thermals which made my progress easier, thanks. Getting into the Sierras and heading north the altitudes kept getting higher, and thermals stronger.
I crossed the Owens Valley at Mt. Whitney and headed towards Waucoba on the Inyos, leaving around 12k towards the Whites I found myself tightening my straps for the strong gusty thermals on top of the ridge, it took no time to climb to 16k and 17.5k.
Making it into Mina I had Gabbs made with nice clouds ahead, but I also had a wall of gray clouds with virga and thick haze moving in from the west that I was keeping an eye on, Luning dry lake was completely in shadow. I made it to Gabbs and spotted a nice cloud that took me back to 17k which got me to Austin with altitude to spare. Looking further north the clouds were starting to break down and the sun was getting low, so I decided to land at Austin where I was greeted by a swarm of tiny flying insects.
Peter 6PK, my crew, showed up with my truck coated with tiny flying insects. I broke down my glider and we headed to Austin, where everything closes early. I filled up with gas and treated my crew to dinner at the Chevron gas station. I owe you a dinner 6PK.
P. S. kick ass day, fun, fun, fun.

Karl’s report (312 miles to Gabbs, NV)
Dr. Jack predicted a pretty good day, not booming. Left Mt. Lewis 11:47. 11.3k across the desert to Rosamond. 7.0k up to 9k in a thermal Mike announced, then 9.5k Silver Queen, 10k over the freeway to Tehachapi.
Kelso not so good. Microwave tower 10.5k, near Boomer. 10.5k along the ridge moving N, good one abeam Porter Ranch 14k.
Olancha Pk 14.8K at 14:20. I wanted to get to Mt. Whitney but had to peel off at 12.6k. Crossing to the Inyos, talked to 4U. Abeam Manzanar a good one to 14.2k, Tinemaha 15k, Schulman Grove 13.2k up to 17.3. Still short of White Mt., I got to 17.8k near Montgomery Pass and still at 17.5. Time 16:28. Some clouds ahead short of Mina 17.8k but last cloud.
My moving map quit, my bad leg started cramping up. All that cold is evidently no good for older “equipment”. 11k to 15k short of the Gabbs mine and lots of blue in front. 17:22 I called it a day.
Flight time 6:29. Crew happy me happy, good dinner, cool beer, pretty sunset, beautiful star filled night. Morning nice sunrise, wide open space, freshly brewed coffee, pancakes with blue and blackberries.
Ready for the drive home till Bishop hardly any traffic.

EXPECTING OUR BEST YET

It’s been cooler than usual this whole season, so far, reportedly a chain reaction from that record heat wave in the Arctic.  But this week will finally bring our temps up around 100 — and probably the best thermal soaring so far this year.  Last week three Squadron pilots soared diamond distance straight out from here, including Mike Koerner’s flight to within three miles of the Idaho border.  Their stories appear below on our SOARING IS LEARNING page.