Soaring Is Learning
Soaring is about learning all the time. Here are some tips on becoming a better soaring pilot. Brought to you by Southern California Soaring Academy.
Soaring is about learning all the time. Here are some tips on becoming a better soaring pilot. Brought to you by Southern California Soaring Academy.
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!)
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.
Ramblings of an Armchair Squadron Cadet (AKA Jonathan Delbruck)
Although I am at this point still only certifiably an armchair Crystal Squadron pilot, I have been venturing farther in every as yet unexplored direction as possible, in preparation for my induction flight, sometime in the next year, I hope. I remember what Fred Robinson used to talk about, and the scintillating sense of “I can do this” that he projected on us, his protegés during his tenure as steward of the San Gabriels soaring scene. It’s a funny thing, that advice I ignored back then, perhaps because I was not yet ripe for it, still echoes down the halls of distant memory and guides my learning process, as I encounter each unique new situation. Binson Fredro is the quiet voice of my guardian angel.
Monday’s flight (July 31) launched X1X into a blue sky populated with numerous rapidly billowing cu’s over Second Ridge, the mountains, and scattered over the Mojave as far as the light haze allowed me to see. Released at 1,900 after a right 270 over the field, it was easy to thermal up a couple thousand, move over to Second Ridge, and quickly ascend for a dive to Baden-Powell. I punched into some 15-kt sink off the sheer east face and back around, working the convergence off the Angeles Crest Trail ridge until I was misting the canopy at 15,000. I decided this was a good time to push the goal posts. Heading out towards Tehachapi, I got half way from Palmdale to Rosamond when I remembered I had dinner plans tonight and turned east at 12,000, taking a long straight run towards the Southern California Logistics Airport, the Happy Hunting Grounds for about a hundred runout transport jets just east of hwy 395. Try as I might, I could not get below 10,000 any time during that long triangle, even though I had to dive to 80 knots several times to get through sink that was bending the vario needle against the stop. This is the kind of day I am praying for on September 9, for the Dust Devil Dash. If I do OK in that end-of-season event, I may start next year off with the confidence to finally get out of my armchair comfort zone, and join the squadron. (Sorry guys, but my one unintended landout at Rosamond doesn’t count. Thank you Dale, for the rescue!)
July 30, Barry’s report:
Karl and I made it to Gabbs last Sunday. I had a funeral to attend on Saturday, and Karl and Rose were going to the Hollywood Bowl Monday evening so we decided that Sunday was the day. Sue is up at her annual music camp in Wala Wala Washington for the week, so Gus McCarthy volunteered to crew for me. Many thanks go to Chris and
the line crew for getting Karl and I in the air quickly at ~11. I left Mt Lewis at ~11:40 with ~ 14,000’ and arrived at Rosemond at 8,000’ where I found some weak lift. Karl got there a little behind me, and he found a good thermal near the Backus Road/hwy 14 intersection where we climbed back up to ~11,000’ and got on our way to Kelso Valley. I headed for some clouds to the north of the airport where I got up to 13,500’, and Karl headed to the east of the air- port and was getting low. I decided to loiter there and wait for Karl to dig out in case he had to land and needed a re- lay to Rose. After struggling for about 20 minutes, Karl managed to climb out and we were both on our way to Boomer where we could see good clouds further to the north. I finally connected with the cloud street abeam of Cinder Cone and was now running along between 15-16,000’. By now, things were starting to fall apart north of Mt Whitney so I crossed over to the Inyos near Mazourka Peak where I got up to cloud base at 16,000’. Up ahead there was much Vir- ga and rain on White Mt, but we got a report from another pilot who reported that conditions were good further north. When I got to Boundary Peak, I could see that conditions toward Minden, Yerrington and Fallon were all blocked with over development and rain, so I left Boundary Peak with sufficient altitude to make Mina and Gabbs. Conditions were rapidly falling apart all over the area as I landed at 5:10 with a 10-15 kt wind blowing out of the northeast.
I called Gus to report that we were both on the ground, and he reported back that the truck had suddenly lost power and was limping into Gabbs. Once he got to the airport we opened the hood and discovered that a clamp that con- nects the turbo charger to the air induction system had broken and that the hose had become disconnected. I had
a couple of extra radiator hose clamps in my toolbox, but the largest one that I had was just a little too small to work. What to do.. Earlier, Karl and I were looking in the abandoned hanger for something to sit on, but we found that it was full of miscellaneous junk that you might find in a ranchers barn. I figured that his place just had to have a hose clamp laying around, so Gus and I dove into the junk piles and started digging around. Sure enough, after just a minute I found an old greasy hose clamp in the bottom of a box that was exactly what we needed. Gus climbed into the en- gine compartment and, with the help of a little WD-40, he got the hose secured with the newly re-purposed junk pile hose clamp.
With the truck fixed, we got the gliders back in the trailers and Rose broke out the beer, salad, and spare ribs that she had packed. We got out the lawn chairs and sat on the concrete pad and watched a beautiful sun set while we ate dinner. Because Karl and Rose had to be home early the following day, we packed up and hit the road ~8 with the intention of getting to Bishop or Lone Pine. Because I was a little unsure of our field repair, I decided to not push it too hard and possibly blow the hose apart again. As Gus and I lagged behind, we watched Karl and Rose speed off into the night to get as far south as they could to cut Mondays drive down. As we drove over the Petrified Summit to the south of Gabbs, we came upon some range cattle in the road that were acting just a bit strange so we slowed down and passed them in the dark. We were on our way again, but were now keeping a sharp eye out for more cattle. As Gus and I got down to the hwy 361/95 intersection, we saw Karl and Rose off to the side of the road so we pulled over to see what was going on. And with that, I’ll let Karl tell the rest of the story…..!?
Yep, an other Diamond, weather just worked out for us per Blipmap. Barry launched 1st, 2nd Pawnee per Chris got me next. Thanks, we like it. I left Mt Lewis 11;50 at a comfort- able altitude of 14K, thermaled to 11K, better than forecast S of Backus where Barry joined me. So I went for the hills of Cache creek expecting good lift, had a hard time 9K, what the heck, I will walk into better on the way to Kelso.
There I was 6K low, huge looking windmill blades, me thinking about birds getting wacked out of the sky, concentrate, gaining enough to fly along the ridge to the Rock pile, I was way to low to join Barry, darn everything is big down here below the peak, like fishing (Henry used to say “A Jerk on one end is waiting for a jerk on the other end”), I got a jerk, hang on don’t loose it, oh what a relieve 13K, off and the running.
Sacatar 15K under some clouds, looking back fewer clouds, I am at the end of their life cycle, at the switch backs 13K, decided to cross to the Inyo’s, Westgard a water dropping storm cell, “connected” 13.4 abeam Manzanar, Waucoba
16K, chasing under the clouds W of the rain, one stretch dive brakes fully deployed to stay below, looking pretty messy up ahead. English accent pilot reported pretty good Boundary N or NE, got confirmed by John Gonzales heading S in his RV10, thanks guys).
Got to White Mt Pk 12.7 with two free glider washes 14.8K, I want to get out of here, 13k at Boundary Pk, Montgom- ery pass 11.2k, screwed up again, OK working some mediocre thermals, keeping a sharp eye on some of the cloud formations. I gained enough to charge for the lucky one. Yahooo 17 Grand, easy run to Gabbs. For a while it looked like blowing dust at the airport we landed to the east, nice not having the sun in the face.
By now you have read Barry’s report. C3 team felt very good and the pilot still had plenty of adrenalin pumping we started driving, van running good, no problem to maintain the “required” 70 MPH Nevada speed. Pow!!! a Jack rabbit ran right in front. My old van with steel bumper handled that. Rose saw some cows on her way so I slowed down a bit, just as I wanted to tell her “here are some on the left” one of those beasts decided to copy the rabbit and kept walk- ing from the right side, right into us. (Suicide alley, an other pilot had the same problem a few years ago. Open range)
Everything went so fast, good no traffic even by moving to the left got her with my right front fender. Checking the damage rabbit smashed the left additional driving light, bloody mess, the cow fender all mangled, 2 lights busted but all the bulbs still working, good to have some clear tape on hand. (Over $ 3K to fix. Not sure yet when the van will be legal again, most likely missing 2 weekends) (In case you win the Lottery……….)
With all that excitement we drove home got to bed 3:30 AM. Lionel Richie concert at the Hollywood Bowl was quite good. And now you know the rest of the story.
I left after PK at 12:40 with 11.2 K, and 01Q shortly after. We met again at the Pontius area “hanging” around trying to get “high”. I got there 6.2 left at 7.6, moving towards Cache Creek, on the ridge at 8.7, enough for Kelso. Got down to 1700’ above the airport, while 01Q reported good lift to the W out of my reach. Moving W just S of the runway, a week thermal lifted me high enough to get to the mountain ridge, found more of that good stuff, then rode an invisible “wild Bronco” to 10.8 K. I think that was the top or it finally threw me off.
Flying along the plateau towards Inyokern, reached Walker Pass at 10.5 K, and finally Cinder cone at 12.4. Bouncing along the Sierra, catching gusty hard to center thermals here and there, passed Olancha Pk at 10.7, and down to 9 K at the Switchbacks. Not so good crossing to the Inyos, I found some lift that helped to connect a little N of the “T” at 8 K and made it onto the top at 14 K. At Mazurka 11-15.7 K, now that’s better.
Some clouds up ahead, passing White Mt. Pk at 16.7 K, Boundary Pk 17.5, Time 17:50. Hawthorne direction, clouds stopped after Marietta dry Lake, very hazy or smoke after that. There was a large blue hole over Mono Lake, and some clouds at Gabbs with the predicted huge OD in the Austin area. So I declared Gabbs and mentioned not trying for Austin as it looked to menacing. That got cheers from the crews, and I landed at 18:50. Flight time 7.1 hrs. Barry landed 1⁄2 hr later.
Setting up camp, we had gliders in the box before dark, dinner with all the trimmings under the stars. An other successful adventure for the H301 team.
After a couple months of absence from flying, it was good to be back in the saddle although for a relatively short flight. Weather predictions were not the greatest but nevertheless I was eager to get back to flying. I launched just before noon and was followed shortly by C3 (Karl) and 01Q (Barry), thank you Chris for getting us out promptly.
Forecast predictions were true, as we struggled for about an hour in the San Gabriel’s, finally leaving the mountain at 11 K. Got very low by Backus, and the low grind continued to Cache Peak behind the Three Sisters. Karl and Barry opted to take a chance and push into Kelso, but after not finding much at Cache Peak I turned tail toward the Barren Ridge, calling Cantil as an alternate, and the slow, low crawl continued all the way to Boomer.
I heard Karl very low by Kelso, and Barry not much better, so they had their hands full too but managed to pull it off and arrived higher then me at Boomer, at about the same time. So they were in a little better shape. After some struggle I did climb to 11.5 K by Owens Peak and continued northbound.
Got to the Lone Pine area about 8k but found very little to work over foothills of the Inyos. To be honest my concentration level by now was shot due to the low grind in the heat, as well asbeing under the weather for a while took it’s toll on my energy level too I guess. Landed at Lone Pine, and while de-rigging I realized just how much out of shape I was. Thanks to Sean for the assistance.