Last Saturday, Sean Eckstein soared to Red Lake, Arizona, 65 miles southwest of Las Vegas. Here’s his synopsis of the flight:

I launched just before noon, the thermals in the mountains were topping out around 11K and 12K. Heading towards Las Vegas I had a tail wind ranging from 10 to 19 knots. along with staying between altitudes of 8k to 10k, the miles added up quickly.

I got to Clark Mountain expecting to be higher, but I didn’t hang around to search for more. From 10.5k I could see some clouds to the east and got a report from my crew, Peter (6PK), who was on Nipon road by Ivanpah dry lake, that there was a shear line with dust devils. He also reported that Nipton road was closed, which forced him to drive all the way to Bolder and take the very, very, long way around. Thanks Peter.

I had Triangle airport made with a huge margin, and a shear line on the west side of the river straight ahead on course towards Triangle. This would make my next alternate Red Lake (dry lake) an easy glide.

I got to Red lake just in time to witness the last thermal breaking off, I headed for the next mountain range to the east but the air felt calm. I landed on Red Lake and enjoyed the scenery devoid of human life, and had only a 40 minute wait before my crew showed up.

Sounds like fun! Thanks Sean.  


We’ve fallen behind a bit on shoutouts to our students who make their first solos or pass the check ride and get their glider rating. In recent weeks, Mike Hagowski and Mark Waldrep both ‘re-soloed’ after decades away from soaring.  Also, fourteen year old Ava Caliri made that never forgettable first solo, and John Heston got his private pilot certificate.



Imagine strong thermals rising through a strong wind.   We have two types of current colliding at right angles, so there will be significant turbulence and thermals may not have consistent texture or shape.   When wind distorts them a subtle variation of the uniform circle may help to maintain position within their cores.   Flying a broad, flat turn on the windward side of each circle and a tight, steep turn on the lee side can offset that tendency to drift downwind from the best lift.   This is essentially the same maneuver that power pilots refer to as ‘turns around a point’.

Even in the center of a large thermal, if you lose contact with the strongest lift you probably have been ejected by the turbulence of the core.  (Or rather the air you’re rising in has been ejected.) When this happens it usually will push you out the downwind side as your thermal boils up through stronger horizontal winds at higher altitude.   New lift rising from the same source will arrive upwind of the position to which you have drifted.   So again, in the absence of any other indication and especially if a climb seems to have slowed with unexpected suddenness, moving upwind will often bring a climb back to life.


The upcoming week should bring some of our best thermal soaring of the whole season here at Crystal.  It will also correspond to one more heat spell (whether that part’s welcome or not).  If we see any cumulus, they’re apt to be very, very high – and marking only the strongest and highest lift…