Here are debriefs of last week’s cross-country flights by Mike Koerner, Sean Eckstein, and Karl Sommer.
Mike’s report (529 miles to Owyhee, NV)
I made it to Owyhee, Nevada on Saturday. Pronounced Oh-why-he, it’s near the Idaho border, north of Battle Mountain.
I launched a little after 10 am and climbed out nicely, but waited for the thermals to reach 11,000 feet, around 11:30, before heading on my way. That seemed like a reasonable choice. I would not have wanted to arrive at Mojave much lower… or earlier.
I made good time on the Sierra but really screwed up on the Whites. With the southwest wind, I could have just ridge soared along the west side. That would have worked brilliantly. Or I could have climbed up on top and zoomed along the crest, as is the norm. I did neither. I guess after several strong thermals on the Sierra, I was expecting a lot from the Whites. When the thermals didn’t deliver, I left them to look for better. But without enough altitude to clear the terrain in front of me, I was left dodging ridges, escaping down canyons and accepting weak lift just to stay afloat.
After finally climbing to 17,000 over Boundary Peak, all these sins were forgiven. From there I followed the best looking clouds to the north.
I came to a decision point at Battle Mountain. At first I tried to go northeast, toward Elko and Wells. But the cloud cover was solid in that direction with lots of virga, and I couldn’t get around it. I looked back to the northwest toward Winnemucca. It was in the clear, but with no evidence of lift continuing into the now late afternoon. Those were places I’ve been before. It took me a while to realize that there were very nice looking clouds straight north, in an area I have never flown over. I checked my data to figure out what was up there. Petan Ranch jumped out at me. That was the terminus of one of Henry’s record flights. Though I am loath to put my sailplane into a ranch strip that I haven’t checked out in advance, just beyond it was Owyhee airport with a 60-foot wide paved runway. Petan would be my emergency backup if the clouds didn’t pay off.
By the time I reached Petan I had Owyhee made anyway, which is just as well since I could not find the airstrip. I see it now on Google Earth, but it barely shows up.
This is my first flight this year where carrying water really paid off!
Fran certainly earned a rest after a long and difficult crew trip – 705 miles, 15 hours into the wee hours of the morning on a dank night with rain and lightning, winding mountain roads with an occasional deer to promote alertness, and finally, a misleading airport road sign which resulted in needing to turn the rig around in someone’s driveway.
Sean’s report (352 miles to Austin, NV)
I made it to Austin, NV. Conditions looked good towards Gabbs and beyond.
Crystal had one tow plane in operation (one down having a new ASI being installed) and the Crystal Squadron, students and rides lined up, Chris got us off quick. I launched at 11:35 and climbed to 11.3k before leaving the mountains. Mike CF and Karl C3 were already ahead and called out a couple of thermals which made my progress easier, thanks. Getting into the Sierras and heading north the altitudes kept getting higher, and thermals stronger.
I crossed the Owens Valley at Mt. Whitney and headed towards Waucoba on the Inyos, leaving around 12k towards the Whites I found myself tightening my straps for the strong gusty thermals on top of the ridge, it took no time to climb to 16k and 17.5k.
Making it into Mina I had Gabbs made with nice clouds ahead, but I also had a wall of gray clouds with virga and thick haze moving in from the west that I was keeping an eye on, Luning dry lake was completely in shadow. I made it to Gabbs and spotted a nice cloud that took me back to 17k which got me to Austin with altitude to spare. Looking further north the clouds were starting to break down and the sun was getting low, so I decided to land at Austin where I was greeted by a swarm of tiny flying insects.
Peter 6PK, my crew, showed up with my truck coated with tiny flying insects. I broke down my glider and we headed to Austin, where everything closes early. I filled up with gas and treated my crew to dinner at the Chevron gas station. I owe you a dinner 6PK.
P. S. kick ass day, fun, fun, fun.
Karl’s report (312 miles to Gabbs, NV)
Dr. Jack predicted a pretty good day, not booming. Left Mt. Lewis 11:47. 11.3k across the desert to Rosamond. 7.0k up to 9k in a thermal Mike announced, then 9.5k Silver Queen, 10k over the freeway to Tehachapi.
Kelso not so good. Microwave tower 10.5k, near Boomer. 10.5k along the ridge moving N, good one abeam Porter Ranch 14k.
Olancha Pk 14.8K at 14:20. I wanted to get to Mt. Whitney but had to peel off at 12.6k. Crossing to the Inyos, talked to 4U. Abeam Manzanar a good one to 14.2k, Tinemaha 15k, Schulman Grove 13.2k up to 17.3. Still short of White Mt., I got to 17.8k near Montgomery Pass and still at 17.5. Time 16:28. Some clouds ahead short of Mina 17.8k but last cloud.
My moving map quit, my bad leg started cramping up. All that cold is evidently no good for older “equipment”. 11k to 15k short of the Gabbs mine and lots of blue in front. 17:22 I called it a day.
Flight time 6:29. Crew happy me happy, good dinner, cool beer, pretty sunset, beautiful star filled night. Morning nice sunrise, wide open space, freshly brewed coffee, pancakes with blue and blackberries.
Ready for the drive home till Bishop hardly any traffic.