LAST HURRAH (for now)

The cross-country soaring season has wound to a halt until sometime this coming spring.  The pilots’ final effort two weeks ago carried them terribly far (87 miles to Inyokern), but their write-ups are diamond quality:

Bradley’s report:

Having flown Friday I had my climb out strategy pretty well in hand for Saturday’s cross county flight. Add to that a healthy dose of overconfidence having flown cross country for over two months. I launched immediately after PK and expected to out climb him and be leading the way north to Silver Queen. After all I had a newer, higher performance ship. As insurance I towed a bit higher than usual to hedge by bet. Boy did I get owned. I gave it all I had for over an hour and managed to lose 2000’ off tow. It’s remarkable how many cuss words one can utter in an hour. I promised myself to never again think that I am anything other than a neophyte in this sport.

After being taught a lesson I managed to climb to 12K at Williamson, call Silver Queen as my first alternate, and chase PK now 40 miles North. I was able to climb to a comfortable 9K at Silver Queen and call Cal. City as my next alternate. This time I had enough altitude so I headed for the hills towards the Three Sisters and Cache Peak. Here I found thermals topping out at 10K.

The coolest part of this flight was flying with a flock of thirty or so migrating Turkey Vultures. They were flying in single file West of Cache Peak. Bet I “wasted” 20 minutes marveling at their beauty and grace. Migratory birds have evolved to use next to no energy as they cruise along effortlessly.

As I worked my way north, it seemed the best lift was in the foothills rather than over the high ground. East of Chuckwalla Mountain I climbed in smooth thermals to 11K, which was enough to call IKY as my next alternate. Looking down at Cantil, the Wide Spot and Hede’s as I headed north, they looked doable as land out locations. But, I promised myself we would become better acquainted during the off season.

About now I heard Peter, north of IYK in rough air, calling to his crew that he would be landing at IYK. With plenty of reserve I reached Boomer Ridge and headed north of IYK. That was all I needed to hear and decided to join the Peter and Sean for dinner and some glider pilot comradery. So I let down at IYK. Besides, I was in no mood to try to outdo PK anytime soon, at least this season.

I want to thank Sean, Peter, Barry, Karl, Chuck and the rest of the Crystal Squadron for nurturing me along this season. I’ve had loads of fun and gained a couple more grey hairs, but have enjoyed every moment.

I’m looking forward to continuing my apprenticeship with these truly talented and remarkable pilots in 2018.


Peter’s report:

I have given it a try once again along with Bradley (ES) last Saturday. Although some of the other regular Squadron guys were smarter than us, and had thrown in the towel for the season. Both Bradley and I launched right about noon. I took my usual higher tow on a cross country day, and released over the second ridge.

Not much there but than I connected with a nice thermal just north of the Chimney, climbing to about 9K, than heading toward Mt. Lewis under some growing cu’s, working up to cloud base – about 12k- and on my way north toward Backus.

Down to 6K I encountered small thermal activity just south of Backus, and then over the Silver Queen to about 7500’- enough altitude now to push into the Three Sisters. Arrived way below ridge top level and the usual struggle began but once on top of the ridge, good strong thermals were encountered. Nevertheless it took a lot of precious time this late in the season.

Got to 10K at Catch Peak and 12.5K near the Rock Pile, easy glide to Boomer Ridge. I did not encounter anything to write home about near Boomer or Owens Peak as a matter of fact, not being able to get much above 9K. The air was rough and choppy with an unusual easterly component. There were some clouds forming over the lower part of the ridge closer to 9Mile Canyon, so I headed that way. Sure enough the valley below seamed to be working well, probably a shear line in the making.

I looked at my watch and lo behold it was 3PM- really too late for any sensible distance, maybe Lone Pine or at the very best Bishop. We have driven back from Bishop and Lone Pine at least three times this season… no thanks to getting home after 1 a.m. in the morning, it is getting old. ( As Karl (C3) would say “I don’t need any more exercise, I had plenty in the past).

So I decided to call it a day, and put it away at Inyokern. Bradley ( ES) followed as well.

While breaking down, we had a call from Karen and Tom Serkowsky as they heard us land over the radio, and wanted to have dinner with old friends at the local Mexican joint. We all gladly got together and had a great time. (As a matter affect, celebrated my birthday as one can’t keep any secrets any longer due to the social media.)

At least for me, the cross country season is over for this year, and “the dark ages are upon us” (a John Gonzales proverb)..

I’d like to wish everyone a safe and healthy off season and hope to see you all enthused and ready to do it again in the spring of 2018 .



Hurray!  Julie Bennet passed her private pilot check ride last Monday – and Patrick Herklotz got his glider commercial the same afternoon!

The coming week will be sunny and ‘cool’ with the warmest  on Saturday as easterlies give way to southwest flow, and possible wave on top of autumn thermals.



Welcome to Autumn!  The change came quickly this past week, and now it’s official.  Our days will start growing shorter than our nights, but consistent thermal conditions should continue on a daily basis for most another month.  It will be downright cool tomorrow (Friday), the coolest in who knows how long, with ample sun and temps gradually warming again the rest of this coming week.  Recent strong westerlies will give way to a week of easterlies, and if they’re northerly enough perhaps a day or two of a Crystal specialty:  bow wave.




Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally,
in a very restricted circle of their potential being.
They make use of a very small portion of their possible consciousness,
and of their soul’s resources in general.
Emergencies show how much greater our resources are than we had supposed.

William James

When I took primary glider training 42 years ago we discussed emergency procedures once, for a few minutes, but that was it. From there forward, while occasionally wondering what might really happen when ‘it’ hit the fan, I never did get around to procuring more dual.

As time goes on without an actual emergency, a peculiar thing happens. One part of the brain begins to assume it may never occur, gradually diminishing its importance — while another part continues to remind you that eventually it will happen, and each additional safe passage only brings that fateful reckoning one day closer.

My introduction to actual emergencies (like all my training beyond the absolute minimum) ultimately amounted to self-training. OJT, for better or worse. I was already a low-time instructor at that point, with two passengers in the back of a 2-32, and when I tried to open spoilers the handle wouldn’t budge. Turned out the guy on the port side was so big his leg prohibited even rotating the brake handle to unlock it.

Suddenly it was time to try a stunt I’d heard of but never witnessed, the infamous no-spoiler landing. Fortunately ’32s are plenty draggy and easy to land in any case, but they also happen to be very reluctant slippers… Having no choice, I mixed full left pedal with a little right stick to see how it would work. The airspeed indicator was rendered useless by sidewise airflow, but I had long since lost the habit of checking speed on final approach anyway. I just pushed over until it felt a bit too fast and then backed off slightly.

Steady, steady, and yes it worked out fine. Surprisingly easy in fact, but if we’d been in a hotter ship that first attempt might still be floating up the runway in ground effect.

So from that day on I’ve always placed special emphasis on training (myself and my students) for what could happen, because I now know it eventually will.
Since then I’ve experienced so many takeoff and landing emergencies that, though they’re never welcome, I have to admit they’re usually kind of fun!