Finally we have more cross-country soaring flights to report!  Two weeks ago Sunday Mike Koerner and Barry McGarraugh both flew diamond distance from Crystal – to airports 280 miles apart, Mike to Hurricane, UT and Barry to Gabbs, NV.  Here are their stories.  

Mike’s report:
I made it to Hurricane on Sunday. I launched at 10 am, climbed to 13.5 and left the mountains at 10:40… But, the desert had not yet woken. I dumped my water on the lower slopes of Calico Peak, gave an impromptu air show to the bus loads of other mine visitors and spent the next hour and a half climbing up the mountain.
More than the wasted time, dumping the ballast forecloses on the possibility of a long flight, especially on a day like this, without favorable winds. With my 17.6 meter tips, the wing loading without water is too low to go fast. I made a bunch of mistakes anyway, so I’ll just call it a practice day. Even Fran can use the practice (she booked our room in Mesquite for the wrong day using Hotels.com).
Thanks to Erik Knight at Williams, my newly refinished wings are incredibly pretty. And based on current and previous comparisons to glide computer calculations, they seem to perform better as well.
My batteries, on the other hand, do not seem to have taken advantage of the time off. Both were in sorry shape despite being fully charged. I only turned my radio to announce when my alternate changed. Without it, or the transponder, I was forced way out over Lake Mead to avoid Vegas Class Bravo. I hadn’t taken this route in years. It’s certainly the long way around.
Barry’s report:
I made it to Gabbs on Sunday and Karl landed at Lone Pine. Karl and I used Skysight for the first time to forecast the weather and it seems to work fairly well.
Overall, the weather forecast looked very good going north with Austin the goal. Karl had some trouble with his O2 and had to peel off the Sierra just south of Olancha (after we had gotten past the hard bit), and I continued up the Sierras. Conditions got really good and I ran between 16-18K all the way past Mina.
I had Austin in the bag, but decided to call it quits at Gabbs since Sue was quite a ways behind and now driving alone. I landed around 5:30 and Sue got there around 7. We set up camp, heated up some chili and drank some cold beer as the sun set.


We are very sad to report that our good friend, long time soaring compatriot and founding board member of the Soaring Academy, passed away as a result of a traffic accident in Arkansas this past week.  Ron Gregg learned to fly here in the 1960’s, was part owner of the outfit in the ’70s, and also served as tow pilot for countless pilots launching from Crystal over the years since then.  He was an integral part of the fabric here, and will forever be missed.  Thanks for everything, Ron!


The weather this coming week will be fairly ordinary at Crystal, temps only in the eighties with lightish west winds and thermals up above the mountaintops.



After landing is when you’re most apt to damage your sailplane.  Obstacles are much closer and more numerous, and a graceful aircraft becomes an extremely wide contraption on one wheel whose stability and control effectiveness rapidly decrease as airspeed bleeds away.  Well after touchdown, you must continue to FLY the airplane on the ground until it stops moving – and after that until help arrives if it’s really windy!

Regardless of any other factor, the moment you’re firmly on the ground extend spoilers or negative flaps to glue that ship to the earth.  After slowing below stall speed, you may choose to retract them and extend your roll to some convenient stopping place, but before turning toward any obstacle (other aircraft, people) or down even the slightest degree of slope, be sure to test your wheel brake.  As speed decreases, larger and quicker control inputs become necessary to maintain full control.  Consider it a point of art to come to a stop before either wingtip touches the ground.  This skill is easy enough to learn; do not settle for anything less.

When you do taxi to one side with rudder the outboard wing will move faster and begin to rise.  Uncorrected, this can make the inboard wing touch down and cause a ground loop.  Counter that unwanted bank at ground level by applying simultaneous opposite aileron (cross-control, but only as needed) to keep the wings level through your change of direction.

In strong crosswinds, even an extended roll to a normal stop may be surprisingly challenging.  Just as in crosswind takeoffs, windward wing slightly down and countered by opposite rudder is technique essential to staying in line with the runway.  As speed bleeds off, the crosswind will erode directional control.  Try to stop before that happens, or at slow speed you’ll eventually weathervane off-line from the runway.  In very strong crosswinds this loss of directional control at the end of taxi is inevitable, so plan for it and manage your energy so it leaves you in a safe and convenient place – not in the middle of a busy runway…  or a fence.


(reprinted from March, 2014)

Fact: a final approach of moderate steepness makes it easy to judge the glide path, control it, and touch down on your intended spot.  It’s that simple. Flat approaches leave you vulnerable to sink or other difficulties, and extremely flat approaches are downright dangerous.  Very steep approaches on the other hand can be too effective, like showering with a fire hose.  Take a clue from Goldilocks.

Many folks habitually deploy spoilers too early and end up low before ever turning base leg.  Then for the rest of the flight, the lower they sink the fewer options they have, all because of using too much spoiler too early.  There’s a no-brainer solution to this unnecessary problem that’s apparently too obvious for some brains, yet it’s guaranteed to work, brain or no – so long as you DO IT in time.

And here’s your no brainer:  the moment you sense that you might be lower than ideal, at any point before late final, CLOSE SPOILERS!  (That’s why they call it a no-brainer.)  Say you let your airspeed – PITCH ATTITUDE – wander.  Maybe you hit sink and didn’t feel it. Or too wide a pattern results in too long a flight path. Plus some other excuse.  No matter.  NOW is when to break the chain of errors.  The worst thing you could do is chase your airspeed indicator while leaving spoilers out, but we see it all too often!  Come on Goldilocks, just close spoilers, reset pitch attitude where you know you need it, and wait a few seconds to regain a healthy glide angle. Then reopen the spoilers as needed to resume a sensibly moderate descent.  It really is that simple.


And one more thing. When you do open spoilers for real, quickly glance at one wing to confirm how far out they actually are, just so you’ll know. It’s very useful information that costs nothing to obtain, but does you no good unless you look.