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.
Sat., Aug 19
I flew to Winnemucca on Saturday, 449 miles. I launched at 10 am and struggled mightily to stay afloat on the second ridge while watching cu cycle over Lewis. Eventually I got high enough to move under them, climbed directly to 12,500’ and headed on my way at 11 am.
My next lift was just past silver queen. Cache Creek was working as well though my first attempt to get on top of Hen- ry’s failed. I climbed back up in the same Cache Creek thermal and made a better go of it the second time around.
From Kelso valley I declared Weldon farm fields as my alternate. Thats further back in the Sierra than I have been be- fore, but there was a cu back there and none further east. The cu was dying before I got to it but the lift remained. The problem is picking your next alternate. You can’t make it back out to the desert from there so you have to tip-toe north, staying high enough to turn around and fly back to those farms if necessary. That slows you down. Cu or not the lift was probably just as good along the east crest and with numerous potential landing sites and lots of altitude above the desert floor you don’t have to tip-toe as much.
Whether the interior route was faster or not was not something I could readily decern. My airspeed indicator wasn’t working. It had been behaving laggardly all season. I would push the nose down or pull up and wait several seconds for it to catch up. But now it was giving a reverse indication initially. One time I pushed the stick forward particularly aggressively and watched it unwind to zero momentarily. I couldn’t tell when it had caught up and when it hadn’t. It was worse than inoperative; it was irritating. I know Dale is a fan of soaring with minimal instrumentation and I appreciate that philosophy (though I’m not actually an adherent), but the only good thing I can say about a bad airspeed indicator is that it promotes coordinated flight.
Just north of Boundary Peak the world turned dark. I turned east toward Tonopah to stay in the clear while taking advantage of opportunities to edge toward the north. I ended up on the south end of the mountain range that the city of Austin is on. Looking north I cold see a clear path along these mountains up to airport. I got high enough to make the glide and headed off. By the time I got to Austin the situation had changed dramatically. The sky had lightened up, the clouds had lifted and there were new cu’s forming underneath the gray. It was still only a little past 5 o’clock and the route toward Winnemucca looked particularly nice.
That’s the way Fran and I wanted to go anyway. We had a room booked in Boise on Sunday so we could watch the eclipse in totality from Weiser on Monday.
Since Sean’s glider is still at the glider hospital ( Cal City c/o Dr. Marty), I therefore sacrificed my self and took up Sean once again on crewing for me. The predictions looked fairly good, with only a few questionable spots, namely the possibility of OD which later proved to be true. Mike (CF) took off first.. true to his customary very early start ( think just before 10 am.) Karl (C3) and I launched around or a little after 11 a.m. many thanks again to Chris for his consideration.
I released near Lewis under some good looking clouds and climbed very quickly to cloud base, – just above 12K and left the mountains earlier than anticipated, about noon. Arrived near the Silver Queen, now down to 6K and joined by C3 in a week thermal. We managed to scratch around, gained a few thousand feet and headed toward Cache Peak where good looking clouds lay waiting. Once there, these cu’s were a disappointment, kind of rough, not very well formed and generally weaker than they looked. This turned out to be the case all the way up to Olancha – I found better lift in the blue at times than under the clouds. The winds were unusual too… sometimes out of the east, then north/east, finally turning southerly.
I arrived at Keeler, at the bottom of the Inyos very low, with very little margin left to Lone Pine. But once again the soaring gods were with up to the top of the Inyos. There was a healthy looking cloud street on top, extending all the way up to the Whites.
Once on top, I ran without stopping once under the clouds (a rare treat) all the way to the Whites. Unfortunately the predicted OD blocked both Karl’s and my plan either toward Gabbs or the Hawthorne direction. (Mike got through as he was about an hour ahead of us but as I understand his plans were cut short too due to weather).
Karl and I landed safely at Bishop.
Not much to add to Peter’s report. Actually I had some high hopes to make it to Fallon; per Blipmap the White’s were only to be 57% overcast. After about 4-5 years I filled up with water and liked it, nearly forgot to dump arriving at Bishop. Sitting at 16K close to Boundary looking around, pressing on did not make much sense. Remembering how a squadron member a few years back got spooked in a nasty down burst, lucky he was next to a dry lake, blowing his computer alternate way out the window, I decided to make a 180.
Glider in the box, we had a nice dinner at the airport restaurant, camped at Brown’s Town. Our Van got “fixed”, but made some nasty noise driving from the airport. (Thought I have to find a mechanic in town). Sunday morning I found that the fan touched the shroud that I was able to fix. After breakfast we drove sightseeing up to Sabrina Lake area, found a camp site we liked at 8900’ to relax having good food and drinks with us, no cell, comfortable temperature, camp fire, coool night.
A dark and stormy night…
Eclipse day, fresh coffee, breakfast, packing up, drive up to the South Lake, back to Bishop, Schat’s Bakery, pay tie down, chat with Ken Babione MGR, hook up trailer and drive to Crystal. (Rain short of Independence, Eclipse? We did not notice any less sunlight, no glasses, so we saw it on TV ). Got home past 15:00, Van ran good.
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.