Sunday, October 8, 2017

Wave camp report - October 7

Still more aviation happened today.  We woke to pretty nice conditions, blue skies, some cloud, a little wind.  Your forecaster was a bit surprised as it did not look like the sounding.  The wind on the ground was slightly favoring easterly takeoffs, wind aloft was south south west.  There were wave indications, just not in the usual places.
I  took off to the east and flew to the Carters, not expecting them to work, but we were seeing some vertical development that looked to have wave influence on the south facing spur of the northern most peak.  Indeed I found some rotor, and then wave, and was able to climb to around 8000 feet.  However, from the start of the climb, our lovely blue sky was filling in fast, and more worrisome was very low, very wet looking clouds at the south end of the valley.  As things were filling in, I descended to below the overcast that was now covering the airport.  Cloudbase there was around 5000 feet, but with plenty of lift - so if you wanted to stay up, you could.

There were about ten flights in total, with the high flight near 10,000 feet.  The day did end in a bit of rain at 3:00 but good flying was had. 

I am less optimistic for tomorrow and Monday, but later in the week could be very nice.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Gorham early report

Wave camp has started. Here is a report from Rick Roelke.

Driving up through the rain, I did not hold out much hope for the day, but having 1000lbs of Ox in the back, and thinking someone might want it, I soldiered on.

The rain stopped shortly after my arrival, and we could see bits of blue, so it looked like it might work. Walter was delayed due to the weather, but we rigged anyway. Peter Stauble was the wind dummy, with a tow to the carters, not far behind, I did my first self-launch at Gorham and it worked great.

I motored to the top of Mt Hayes, where I found the crescent wave. Very slow at first, getting better with altitude. The carters in the meantime were not turning out to be the easy way. Roy, however, did find his way into the primary from near wildcat after a sporting round with the rotor there. I left the crescent wave at 7k and joined Roy in the primary where I found a brief bit of 8 kts, climbing to 20k for the first diamond of camp. Roy would have me point out that he got above 20k in a "real glider"...

John Good also got high, and then (intentionally) headed down wind to explore four cycles of wave east of the carters, and then landing at Bethel. 

I think we had 7ish flights today, good time had by all.

All in all, a good start to camp, particularly after a drive up in the rain...

The big question is what will the weather bring. It looks flyable the next few days, with wave opportunitys, but plagued with excessive moisture. Today we had solid undercast for as far as you could see upwind, but the valley was open all day. So forecasting is difficult. I will tell you it is not optimum conditions, but don't shoot the forecaster if we sneak in a few high flights.

all for now.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Long range forecast

From today until March 22, it will be mostly dark.

Season's Greetings!

52165 feet

The Perlan team claimed the World Altitude Record earlier this month, and this is probably the first time that a non-rocket-powered glider has made the cover of Aviation Week and Space Technology.

Contest in progress

New Castle, Virginia is a special place for glider pilots.

Today is the second-to-last day of the annual competition known as "New Castle," and whose official title is "Region 4 South."

Evan Ludeman (T8), Dan MacMonagle (EA), and John Good (X) are all competing. This year, as usual, the partying at this contest is better than the weather - and the weather has been very good!

Yesterday John, Evan, and Dan were 2nd, 3rd, and 5th - not bad!

Mountain Flying, Explained, Again

Here is another video describing how airplane pilots can get in trouble flying near mountains.

It is amusing in at least two ways.  First, it actually contains some humor, which is unusual for a safety video.  But it also contains a fair amount of misinformation, which always brings a smile to my face.

We went through this with AOPA, whose Air Safety Foundation made three attempts to create a lesson on Mountain Flying for power pilots. The final version was OK, and they get credit for correcting their initial errors.

You can’t blame the guys in this video for trying to keep ignorant power pilots away from the turbulence and sink. But why can’t they ever make the distinction between turbulence and sink?  And why don’t they ever mention how smooth it can get?

And, of course, they never explain why some pilots are actually attracted to mountain waves.

Here’s a challenge.  Let’s collect a list of inaccuracies in the comments. I’ll go first.

Thanks to Andy G for finding the video.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Another visitor to Newmont Farm

Yesterday, Eric made his first off field landing in the northern hemisphere.  He chose the Newmont Farm in Fairlee, the fourth club member to do so since 2013.  We should put a windsock in that field.

Dennis and Don made quick work of retrieving him, and Eric was back on the field in time to tell his story to the gathered crowd.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Empty back seat

It was a beautiful day on Sunday. We had a very efficient operation, due in large part to the hard work of Dakai Zhu who kept us organized on the launch line, ran ropes, kept the golf cart moving, and made sure that every takeoff and landing was logged.

Finally, at the end of the day, he took a couple of short review flights in the 2-33, and on the very last flight of the day, made his first solo.  The photo above shows him about to touch down.

Congratulations, Dakai!

The event was well documented by a couple of serious photographers, and the celebration featured an unusual double-dousing ceremony.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


I'm not certain who started it.

A few years ago, the Post Mills XC milk run to Mt Washington started getting stretched routinely to Old Speck Mountain, the highest point in the Mahoosuc Range.  Subsequent trips to the Mahoosucs have shown that they can produce good soaring, albeit a long ways off from Post Mills and surrounded by a whole lot of... not very much.  To the West is a lot of water and trees and bears.  To the East is, well, even further away from Post Mills.

After a particularly lousy, rainy stretch of weather in a persistently wet and rainy Spring, Wed June 7 was mostly dry and Thurs June 8 finally offered the prospect of decent soaring.  Club enthusiasm was high. Spring loaded.  Turn out was probably a PM weekday record.

Grid Time!  First Cu peaking over the hills.  What's all that uninvited cirrus doing there?

Clouds just beyond the copper mine -- time to go!

Wind Dummy on tow.

Nine pilots, mostly shirking work.  Nine sailplanes.  Hopes for an extra early launch were dashed by slow starting convection.  This wasn't too surprising given 3" of  recent rainfall.  Finally, about 1130, the launch begins.  I'm the wind dummy. The ride is pretty smooth so I hang on for 3000.  Good thing too -- I had to glide about 5 miles West of PM airport to connect.  A slow climb of a few hundred feet gave enough extra margin to move a little further West under some early clouds.  I soon got up to 6000.

While climbing, I watched clouds form like stepping stones to the North, ending around Spruce Mtn. I'd checked the accumulated precip maps, and straight North was a good (well, less soaking wet) direction.  I thought the Connecticut river valley would start slower and although Cu were forming on the high ground East of the River, the quick start was to take this line North.  I expected most of the fleet to head towards the Presidential range and the more ambitious guys to head on up the Mahoosucs.  I resolved to meet them after going the long way around via the Canadian border.  By the time I got to the high ground near Spruce Mtn, my stepping stones had extended Northward and conditions were strengthening.

Moving along well and about 20 miles short of Newport, VT, I reach the edge of the field of Cu and start bearing right.  I end up right on the border skirting large areas of  overdevelopment(OD) and then over the boonies between Colebrook and Rangely.  I fly extra conservative through here, and it goes well.

I get on the Mahoosuc range at Saddleback Mtn and call EA and JD.  They are just a couple of miles behind, also Northbound.  We don't make visual contact until somewhere NE of Sugarloaf airport. Sugarloaf is about 130 straight line miles from Post Mills and about as far as I ever dreamed I might go today.  Now, the real silliness begins,  it becomes apparent (we hadn't discussed plans before flying) that EA and JD are on an out and return record attempt.  Today!?!  Ugh.  I know better.  My gut told me this morning that this day was apt to shut off early.  No sign of that right now though.

Conditions are fantastic.  Bases are 10 grand, the OD has simply vanished (when does that ever happen?). Visibility at cloudbase is limited, which conveniently hides the cirrus that must still be lurking overhead to the South.  Out of sight... out of our minds!  Dan and Greg have water ballast on board.  I'm dry, and I have to scramble.  Greenville comes and goes... we should really turn around!  I'm unwilling to do so on my own.  If I bail early, these two loons actually make it around, I'll kick myself for a month.  So I continue to scramble, Northeast.

Greenville, ME.  Not too many glider pilots have seen this place!

Moosehead Lake.  WTH are we doing here...?

About the time we get to Moosehead Lake, Dan asks if I know the VT state free O&R record.

"It's about 500K."

"We've got it then."

"You get it when you get home..."

We press Eastward over Yogi and Booboo country.  You can't really fly here except on an amazing 10,000 foot day because there is nowhere to land except widely spaced airports.  Mt Katahdin is about 25 miles ahead now, easily visible, massive even at this distance.  It's 3pm.

Greg: "Hey Tango, I thought you were going to turn at 3."

Me: "I'm waiting on Echo!"

We're over 180 miles out of Post Mills!  Finally we all turn together.  My guess is that we might get back to Franconia, unless it's really good, or all goes to hell.

Thermaling up somewhere East of Moosehead Lake.  That's T8 at left.
Cruising at cloudbase.  Good for the moment.

EA off my right wing near Indian Pond, Westbound, 159 miles out of Post Mills.
View from 8700'.
The first 40 or so miles on the return go well.  Fast & efficient, we're really enjoying this ride.  Past Greenville, it starts to look like trouble.  Sugarloaf Mtn is 100% shaded in OD.  Worse, the only sun on the ground leads off into Canada.  We can't see much further down the Mahoosucs, maybe it's localized.  Later: nope.  We get right down on the rocks at Bigelow Mtn, crawl around on Sugarloaf until we all climb out when the sun peeks through, a little.  But we're slow and the OD is solid to the Presidentials.  The wind shifts from SW to South, and that's even worse news.  That's marine air coming in now and it not only kills convection, it's creating the convergence that sustains the OD, even in the absence of convection.  Somewhere up on top of the OD is the cirrus deck we ignored earlier.  That's three strikes.

Now the real fun begins... where did the sun go?

We struggle to get decent final glides to Bethel.  I get a marginal glide, and lose it.  Dan gets a marginal glide and squeaks it in, Greg fell off on the first attempt, got what must have been the last thermal of the day to make it. I end up ridge soaring some little spurs, waiting on a miracle or a final decision on where to land.  I've been eyeballing a private strip in Roxbury that looks like a great little place, nice house right on the runway.  "I bet I'll get a great reception there".  Lacking a better idea, I give up and land, roll up into the driveway of the house on the runway.  Good call.  Minutes later I have a cold beer in hand and some new friends: Douten and Donna Thomas.  They'd never had a glider drop in before and thought it was pretty neat.

Once on the ground, it's time to start sorting out this mess we've made -- and it's a pretty big mess by Post Mills standards!  I'm 98 air miles from Post Mills, but for a whole bunch of reasons, this retrieve has to be by ground.  I guesstimate a 3 hour drive one way, which turns out to be unfortunately accurate.  Bethel is about 2.5.  It gets crazier: it turns out we've put 6 gliders on the ground away from Post Mills today. DC and NT ended up at Dean, DG in a good field near Bradford in the CT river valley.  So some of our ground crew are pressed into service for the second time today.  Thanks Pete, Tim, Mark & Sonny.  Tim,  Mark and Karl (no flight log) are the heros who got home so they could start tidying up

Long way from home...
Tim and I had T8 in the box and on the road at 10pm.  We got home... when we got home (it wasn't quite light yet...).

Thursday, July 6, 2017


July 5 was a good day for FAI triangles**.  Thanks for towing, Rick!

Dan & Greg join the New England 500K FAI triangle club, which I reckon numbers about 8 pilots and fewer than 20 such flights.  These guys have it figured out.  Superb flying.  Well done!

Evan had a good day, as well.  Most of the flight was too involved for sight seeing, but the Green Mtns offered "hero conditions" that allowed a moment of relaxation and a few quick photos.

T8 Northbound on the Green Mtns.  Mt Snow at center.

Same location as photo above, looking NE.

Same location, looking East.

EA approaching NH's lakes region.

Lake Winnipesaukee as seen from EA.

**For courses under 750km, the definition of an FAI triangle is a course defined by three waypoints, with the shortest of three legs being at least 28% of the total distance.  The start & finish points must be co-located, and may be either on one leg or at a vertex.  If more than 750K, the definition isn't quite that restrictive, but nothing we've needed to worry about in New England.  Yet.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

15 hours 28 minutes

Today is the longest day of the year.  Happy Solstice, and Happy Birthday to the Solstice Babies.