Before noon I radioed PK, who was staging, “great lift over the first ridge”. Climbing nicely in a fat thermal through 9k the day was starting to prove the naysayers and forecasts wrong. South to the third ridge, where I expected to climb to an easy exit altitude on another Crystal Squadron straight out adventure.
Not so fast. A building 12-Kt South wind put me on the wrong side of the mountain. This would turn out be the theme of the day. I radioed changing conditions to those waiting to launch and hightailed it North. Choppy confused thermals over the desert had me struggle back up to 8k. Fought to 9k and turned Northwest, radioed my crew and shoved off. Encountered broken thermals over the treatment ponds. With increasing SW winds it became a challenge to climb and not drift into the Edwards 2515 Restricted area. Gained enough altitude and called Silver Queen as my alternate. Crabbing to Silver Queen, I had my runway picked, and my crew alerted that I’d be landing. Encountered another scrappy desert thermal to gain much needed height.
I made the mountains West of California City with enough altitude to take my time and find lift. Again, no lift in the mountains. Made my reserve altitude to IYK over the flats and radioed my crew to proceed. Arrived at Boomer expecting to climb onto the Sierras. Nothing, nada at Boomer.
The Stick forward, dash North over the Sierras will have wait. Landed IYK, came to a stop on the ramp with my crew just arriving. Derigged and headed South after an enjoyable and educational day soaring.
Saturday’s forecast was the carbon copy of the previous week, maybe a little stronger going toward Vegas and a little more windy and less desirable toward the Sierras. The OD potential was about the same around the class Bravo in Vegas as the previous week.
I opted to fly toward Vegas again as surface temperatures were not to the extreme. Unfortunately this flight was short lived due to a transponder failure. If I had opted in any other direction this would have been a non issue but I made an oath to myself to never again try navigating around or above class Bravo, even though it’s legal. I did that once with my old Libelle a very long time ago, and it reminded me what the battle of Britain must have looked like, no thanks just the same.
I launched right about noon, behind ES, thanks again Chris for the consideration. I heard ES not finding much in the mountains (this was sort of predicted), so I got off tow around 6k over the golf course. ES and I struggled around in choppy lift near the airport, finally leaving the area, calling Bikle’s and Adelanto, tiptoeing toward Apple Valley. The closer I got the better the conditions became as I encountered the shear line.
My transponder which was acting up the previous week failed me now completely. I called Sean that I will be landing in Apple Valley. I than ran into a very strong thermal over So. Cal. Logistics, taking me to almost 11K and easy glide to Barstow/Daggett, so what the heck, why don’t I just land there instead.
I managed to call Marty Eiler on the phone in flight 🙂 and asked him if he had time to look at my problem (bribed him with dinner actually) and he agreed to. My whole flight lasted 1:40 only, but I would rather give up a mediocre day for the peace of mind. Marty and I managed to sort through the problem, with an identical used unit purchased from him very reasonably, and now the old one will be going in for repairs and I should have as a spare. (Two antiques are better than one!)
Once again, the coming week will bring soaring conditions that are unremarkable for this great site, but plenty good compared to locales where most people fly. Compare what Dr. Jack offers for Saturday: in the northwest, 5-Kt thermals to 8000 ft; in the midwest and Florida, 4 Kts to 4000; and in jolly old New England, essentially no thermals at all. Meanwhile, we can expect 7-Kt thermals on Saturday, to (only) 12,000 . And all with lite winds and temps around ninety… Aw shucks!
And BTW, kudos to the Squadron guys for making a go of it last weekend despite not being guaranteed diamond distance. That’s why they call it a sport! (See Echo Sierra’s and Papa Kilo’s stories in SOARING IS LEARNING, below.
Too often, glider pilots release their tow at some arbitrary, predetermined altitude while not yet where they need to be; or after passing through lift and leaving it behind; or (dumbest of all) in SINK… The smart thing to do is know what average climb rate to expect from your tug for a given atmospheric condition and then observe what you’re actually getting throughout the tow. You need a sustained minimum of at least 300 feet per minute more than the average towing climb rate to be sure of gaining altitude after release.
Those confident of their skills may choose to release as soon as staying aloft seems possible, just for the challenge, but beginners are wise to tow at least a little higher than necessary in case they fail to make good use of the first available lift. Otherwise, a pilot who fails on the first try might also be one who could use some extra landing practice…
If you see one or more sailplanes a few hundred feet higher, loitering but not climbing much, realize that the bottom of their lift could be still above you. Few things are more frustrating than falling out of zero sink from slightly below other ships that eventually climb away. Once on tow, most of the cost has already been incurred, so if you’e unsure (especially early in the tow) staying on a few seconds longer is usually a good idea.
Nonetheless, when you see others climbing blissfully it’s pointless to tow beyond them and pay to be taken somewhere else – perhaps even above the best lift. After all, soaring is the point of our sport, and towing higher than necessary defeats that lofty purpose altogether.
Finally, have a strategy that goes into effect as soon as the tow plane moves away. If you merely release in dead air and then wander off hoping for luck, you risk wasting much (or all) of your precious altitude before doing any real soaring.
We had a tow pilot once who loved to complain about the weather – which I always answered the same way: “Most of the time here at Crystal we don’t even have weather!”
Well that’s going to be true again this week, with wall to wall thermals, few clouds and almost no wind except the usual mid-afternoon breeze. Also, as often happens, the hottest day is scheduled for Saturday. So again, our biggest problem is having nothing to complain about!
SEE YOU SOON