TWO MORE DIAMONDS LAST WEEK

Mike Koerner:  

I had an unsuccessful diamond attempt on Friday. Whether I launched too early, released too low, cen- tered poorly, searched ineffectively, dumped my ballast too late, or more likely, some combination of the above, the result was a landing back at Crystal. 

I tried again Saturday and landed at Gabbs. 

Though the lift was strong, the flight was challenging. First, the day started late. Second the wind at altitude was strong enough (22 knots) to break up the thermals. And finally, it was a headwind. Normally, we try to avoid this when flying straight out, but avoidance wasn’t pos- sible this time. If you didn’t thermal effectively, you’d drift back into your previous thermal in no time, with nothing to show for your effort. 

My crew also had some significant challenges. Apparently, my aircraft radio was barely audible. I’ll have to figure out what’s wrong with it. But more importantly, the crew car’s air conditioning gave up the ghost. Fran reported an outside air temperature of 102 degrees while driving past Inyokern with all the windows down. Getting the A/C repaired will be the top priority this week. 

Sean Eckstein:       

Saturday had some interesting conditions towards Gabbs, NV. I towed to the second ridge by Crystal and climbed to 12k, then to 11k, then to 10k. When I reached 9.5k I decided that the next thermal I get that takes me above 11k, I’m leaving no matter what. I was able to climb to 12.4k and left on course with a NE wind at 15 kts. plus. 

Wind direction and strengths changed all thought-out the flight. In thermals you could watch you altimeter instead of your vario as you climbed in 10 kts. once peaking to 20 kts in strength. Some 5 kts. thermals you would wish you could just center the darn thing. 

The winds on the Whites were 284°/17 kts. so I decided to go all the way to Boundary to avoid any rotor. Winds were predicted to turn north in the area to the north, and at Boundary the winds changed to a North 10 kts – 13 kts. headwind. I left Boundary at 17k and reached the foothills north of Mina at 9.6k, I climbed to 14.5k and had Gabbs made landing at 7:05 PM. 

While breaking down my glider I heard Mike (CF) and Fran making a commotion, I look to see them both holding Mikes glider surround by a dust devil. As the dust devil passes them Mike hollers “DUST DEVIL”. At that point I realize it’s coming my way. I held onto the one wing that was left on my glider, Peter (6PK) closes my canopy (unlocked) and runs over to protect my horizontal setting in the dolly next to my trailer. Luckily the dust devil hadn’t gained strength and passed both gliders doing no damage. 

We all got broke down and drove south leaving Gabbs watching for suicidal cows on Hwy 361.

THREE DIAMOND DISTANCE FLIGHTS LAST WEEKEND

Peter Kovari (PK): 
I normally try to refrain from flying in extreme heat as was the case Saturday the 19th. However, the forecast from all three sources I pay attention to were exceptionally good; SkySight and Dr. Jack both were forecasting thermal highs to 17 k over the San Gabriel’s and 22k over the Whites with little chances of OD but with plenty of cloud streets. But XC Skies, usually with their more conservative predictions, turned out to be spot on this time!
Giving in to the temptations, I decided to go and rig early and try flying cross country despite the heat and unusually high humidity. And by the time we launched about 11 a.m. frankly and predictably I was nearly exhausted. Thank you Chris; for getting us off promptly, Karl (C3), Richard (TW) and myself were the three musketeers flying that day straight out.
I asked to be towed near the Labor Camp and pretty soon I was climbing well but not at the great rate as expected, but still managed to top out at 16k, and on my way about noon towards the Three Sisters near CalCity. Conditions were strong lift and tons of massive sink all the way to Independence where I crossed over from the Sierra’s to the Inyo’s running north between 14-17k, with the high at 17.5 near White Mountain Peak. Shortly after, I turned toward Mina.
Coming off the Whites on the lee side, I quickly lost about 2000’ but the long glide over the valley provided good lift under the scattered cu’s . About 15nm out of Mina, I stepped into what was the best thermal of the day; from 14k all the way up to 17.6k with the averager showing never below 10kn!
This took me at an easy glide to Gabbs. These good conditions continued all the way to Austin where there were cloud streets and winds favoring Eureka, and even Battle Mountain could have been possible. Only for one problem; I was pooped out! I think (C3) Karl had similar problems as we both landed at Austin. Fortunately Sean showed up in good time and assisted both of us breaking down and putting away our gear. Thank you Sean!
The moral of the story; if planning to fly in extreme heat it pays to put it together the night before, tying things down rather than struggle with assembling it the morning of.
Karl Sommer (C3): 
Forecasts looked too good to be true, but verry hot on the ground. (Las Vegas 113) Consensus: go north. Four Musketeers showed up Mike CF, Peter PK, Richard TW and myself, Karl C3. CF was looking for an early start as promised, but low and high layer clouds spoiled that, so he opted out in the hope for better conditions on Sunday.
PK, C3 and TW got launched one after the other after 11 AM, and so the dancing with clouds began. I got a tow at 11:20, pulled the rope a bit premature and promptly found myself at 5.1K, when I found lift getting me to 13K at High Noon. Near the ponds, SW corner of the Restricted, my 1st thermal: 3K gain. Mojave to 14.5K, not much circling along the Sierra Ridge, 15K abeam Coso, 14.8K Olancha Pk by 14:00. All the time PK reporting lift locations, with me trying to catch up. Lone Pine 10K, TFR no problem, 15.6K near Mt. Whitney, beautiful but time to cross over the Owens Valley to the Inyo’s. 11.5K at the Foot Hills short of Mazurka (Radio “Good Lift there, PK, Thanks”).
Left there with 16.8K, got to 17.7K at White Mt Pk. 15:33, leaving the White Mtns with Gabbs in reach, E of the Gabbs Mine a little wisp formed in the blue: 17.8K! Lots of insurance to make Austin. While PK was landing I was relaxing flying over the Town and doing some sightseeing, there were still a few clouds floating around and some good Lift to be had. Thinking to myself “WHAT A DAY this was.”
We had to wait for the crews but didn’t mind at all. Gliders got boxed with the help of the two teams before dark.
PK team drove to Hawthorne to overnight, Team C3 set up camp, had dinner and beer and went to sleep.
After a cool Night and freshly brewed coffee, pancakes with blueberries in the morning, we drove to town for gas and back via Crystal, home by 5:30 PM. Posted flight on OLC.
Richard’s Smolinski (TW):
I have to say it was a joy to fly this weekend. I started last as usual, a house thermal took me up to 14k, and I started my journey through desert. East of Rosamond I found another spot that Peter called out and it took me to safe Alt. to get over Mohave to the mountains. Weather was awesome. Cloud street paved way above mountains so I keep cruising toward Cinder cone, where I got another thermal that took me to 17K. I passed Lone Pine at 14K, above 10K TFR there, and used a pyro thermal to get to 17 again. (It was a little dusty there.) I took my time this weekend, I have to say that. I was my first XC flight of this season, so I stopped on every 5+thermal to stay up in cool and nice temperature. I departed Boundary Peak at 17.5K and continued toward Mina and Gabs. I found a few strong thermals on the way to Gabbs and started considering my route to Austin, and then….Big surprise: Austin on my oudie is 1350 miles away what the hc…? Well looks like I did bad job on this season preparation and Austin just disappeared from my waypoints and airports. Thinking what to do, I was just bouncing around Gabbs waiting for my ground crew to arrive (about an hr. or so..), and saying hello to Rose on her way to Austin.
Moral is: NEVER forget about route planning and validation of your instruments before flight.(place it on your check list)
We also had a very interesting discovery in Gabbs. There is a nice bar there with good and simple home cooking food. We were directed there by one of the locals that came to look when I was landing. The Owner is Lee and he welcome us.
After a beer with nice people there and cute doggy called Freia, we were back on the road to a Hotel. If you ever land in Gabbs, please check that place. Lee says to call ahead SO HE WILL BE THERE FOR US WITH GOOD FOOD AND COLD BEER.
R&D Bar and Grill (775) 285-4221, 500 Main street. Ask for Lee.

NO SUCH THING AS CERTAINTY

When still new in this region, I asked long-time locals for tips about particular bad areas to avoid on cross-country flights.  To their credit most tried, but their answers were more confusing than helpful.  Some things you must discover for yourself.  

A couple years later, I was out with a student on the Sierra shearline, and came upon two racing ships circling together over Jawbone Canyon.  It was obvious from their radio dialogue, they were protege and mentor, but when I hailed them from outside of a mile, neither answered.  (Learned later our mic was bad, an entirely different story.)  

Their thermal was embedded on our shearline and we were climbing fairly well ourselves in dolphin flight, so we just slowed, lofting nearly to their height, and cruised straight on through, rocking wings as a howdy.  When they still didn’t break squelch, we nosed over again and continued as before.  While they were climbing better in one place, we were pulling away at more than two klicks a minute…  Then one of them said, “Let’s follow the two-seater,” and my student began to gloat. 

I was tempted too, but no.  “They’ll be overtaking us soon enough,” I assured.  “We might hold the lead awhile if you stay exactly on this line of lift, keep feeling for more on either side, and slow up only in the strongest stuff.”  

We were well past Inyokern when they caught us, still at about the same height, though now with less to spare above higher terrain.  Then just as they hauled abeam we hit another boomer.  All three ships pulled up at once, but where they both rolled into another climb that seemed unnecessary, we just grabbed the easy ups and pushed on as before.  

Next came the punch line.  Remember that unnamed sinkhole I eventually quit asking about?  Couldn’t tell quite yet, but this sure smelled like it.  Right away the sink demanded ninety knots, and then it deepened.  How long might it last?  You always suppose killer sink won’t go on forever but this stuff felt like it could, and the next airport was still fifty miles ahead.  It’s why our compadres stopped to climb alright, and now we had no choice but retreat.   

As they sailed high over us, still on course, the best we could do was eke a lucky save backways and draggle humbly home.  Better information is what carried them safely across that high gravity zone, and superior speed performance didn’t hurt either.  Before we landed they were fading beyond radio range.  

So exactly where is this trap, and what can be done about it?  

First, it’s not just one distinct spot.  It’s a twenty mile stretch from about ten north of Owens Peak to ten south of Olancha.  The high ground along there is slightly lower, allowing cool mountain air to spill down into the desert — sometimes.  Fact is, though, it’s equally as apt to offer the same terrific stuff that got you there.  If at least some lift is well marked or you happen to be high already, no worries, it’s only twenty miles.  If not, however…

In a truly free market you’re never sure what you’re buying until you own it, so the obvious solution is to get higher first (as the victors did that day), and hold only the right speed for every single moment exactly as you should anywhere else.  Otherwise this might be the day you get a close look at trusty, dusty Cinder Cone Dry Lake, which no one ever sees from the highway.  

MIKE KOERNER’S LATEST 500-MILER

I flew to McDermitt, Oregon on Friday. SkySight predicted that would be the best day of the weekend with the potential for a flight to Rome State. 

I launched at 9:40 am, released in lift, and floated up with the top of the thermals until reaching 13K at 11 am, 1⁄2 hour before SkySight predicted I would be able to sustain at 8.5K over Mojave. 

The 8.5K proved elusive. I tried to climb 4 sisters (the ridge NW of Cache Creek) but with cold air pouring down through Tehachapi pass I was forced to retreat. Heading for Cal City, I opened the dump valve. Shortly thereafter, I stumbled into the 8.5 thermal and closed the valve after the first circle with most of the water still aboard (though it doesn’t seal completely after in-flight activations). 

The lift was much stronger past the rockpile north of Kelso but overdevelopment drove me off the Sierra abeam Coso, and then again, off the Whites abeam Tinemaha. Dark clouds and virga limited navigation to blue areas off the mountains. Though it was only 2 pm, I was ready to throw in the towel. I would have landed at Bishop but looking back I realized the storm cell I had gone around was building in that direction and would probably get there first. 

I picked a relatively clear passage toward Gabbs where I could see sunlight on the ground. Once there, the sky had cleared to where I could see overdevelopment to the east, a blue hole toward 

the northwest, and in between, straight to the north, a wonderful cloud street. 

I came under the last dying clouds of the day over McDermit. The ragged bases were high enough to get me to Rome State. But the lift was broken and weak and the climb was frustratingly slow… so I left. But with insufficient margin to make Rome, and no more lift in the offing, I was forced to turn back, landing at 7:30.