We had four pilots soar cross-country last weekend, two on Saturday which was ‘promising’ and two on Sunday, which was a little more so. None made the coveted diamond distance, but all had a fine time trying, as their stories make clear.
Sean Eckstein, 48 miles to Nelson strip in San Bernardino county.
I landed at Nelson airstrip, it’s an old private strip north of Lucerne dry lake. The altitudes and winds toward Las Vegas showed the best chance for some distance.
My takeoff time was at 11:40, the tow was uncommonly smooth over the flats and the 2nd. ridge, I didn’t release until I reached the house thermal by the labor camp, and not in lift. I dove towards the hill east of the labor camp and got a little teaser that eventually took me to 10k.
Leaving the Wrightwood area at 11.4k towards Apple Valley I noticed the absence of teaser thermals, and the winds turned from WNW at 3 knots to W at 13 knots. Both Dave (SAS) and I were struggling low on the hills east of Apple Valley, and not making any progress in the 100 plus heat. Thermal lift was maintaining me between 5.5k and 6.7k so I decided to leave the area to look for better lift, I had enough altitude to head east in hope of better altitudes. I continued to struggle with the same results.
I landed at Nelson, an old airstrip that looks like it hasn’t been used in a long time, but still in good shape. Both Peter (6PK) and I have visited this location a few times over the years and it has always looked landable.
For anyone interested in flying cross country, flying in conditions and altitudes were you must fly proficiently, and make decisions about what to do next is the best way to improve your skill and knowledge.
Simple report: Dr Jack showed good weather for a flight out to Williams [320 miles], I flew to Apple Valley [36 miles].
Mike Koerner 268 miles to Mesquite, NV:
I flew to Mesquite for my season closer on Sunday.
It was like two different days. One was a good day. Anytime you were above 8,000 feet you were immediately whisked to 13,500 by powerful thermals which averaged 280 feet per minute. That happened both behind Crystal and over Clark Mountain.
The other day, when you were below 8,000, was only marginally soarable. It was brutally hot. Lift was weak, averaging about 100 feet per minute, but often less and distributed sparingly. I had to turn back toward 031. After a low save there I orbited around East Cronise trying to get high enough to move on. I viewed the runway at Baker with longing as a I passed overhead, having decided to give the radar tower a go. I turned back toward Mesquite 3 separate times before finally switching to Unicom and calling it a day.
You may wonder why I didn’t stay high, stick with the good day. I’ll have plenty of time to think about that in the months ahead.
Richard Smolinski, 110 miles to Cinder Cone dry lake:
Originally I planned to fly on Saturday but after looking at the forecast, I switched to Sunday.
Chris and his tow crews are getting better and better at launching all XC flights fast without letting us sizzle in the sun waiting. Big thank you for that.
I took late afternoon tow toward ridges. Tow took me to usual place by the Work camp and from 7500ft I started circling until I reached 12k and begin my hop through the desert.
There was lot of wave clouds and I was using sporadic rotors on my way. At Rosamond I found rotor that took me to 11k and after that I head toward mountains having Cal City as a backup.
Mountains work but only up to 10k and here the fun begin. Using rotors going up and down 1.5K each time, I pushed toward Inyo Kern AP. It was fun flying low at 8 – 10K between rotors. Finally, I got into 8K sink and since was getting late I decide to land at Cinder Cone. I was thinking of more fights on the hills but I spotted glider already on the ground and think “hey people are there so I do not have to seat alone waiting for my awesome wife to pick me up” so I landed… I was welcomed by Tom and Britton from Inyo Kern just packing (BB) in to a trailer. It was awesome flight it was long time since last time I was hugging hills going fast and low….