Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Report from the West

After harassing Tony for not sending any pictures or accounts of his western adventures, we got this report about his flying in Bishop, California. (Thanks, Tony!)

The Air Sailing Club just went to Bishop, California, a small town about 200 miles south of Reno, for our annual encampment. Yosemite is 70 miles to the northwest and Death Valley some 100 miles to the southeast.  It's at the north end of the 10-mile wide Owens Valley.

The Bishop area has the strongest soaring conditions in northern Nevada.  High-end ships out of Minden often make the flight.  Air Sailing is farther to the north so only a few of our ships with sustainer engines fly down.

The White and Inyo Mountains on the east side of the valley generate tremendous lift when the wind is from the west.  Getting to the top is the challenge.  The peaks are 10,000 feet above the airport so it's prohibitive to take a tow all the way to the top.  Because of the valley alignment there are generally only light winds which parallel the valley early in the day. The sun doesn't begin to heat the west-facing slopes until around noon.  Light upslope winds that trigger thermals are usually absent as is ridge lift. So getting up requires staying extremely close to the lower cols and ridges using S-turns and Figure 8's at recommended speeds five knots or more above best L/D for safety.  This flight log exaggerates ground proximity but does give a sense of the drill.

You never know how much of a workout you'll encounter getting on top.  It can take 15 minutes one day and over an hour the next.  Once up you can generally rocket north/south on the Whites and pick your way along the lower Inyos to the south where the lift generally isn't as strong.  Closing speeds are high so pilots use "Procedure Alpha," a safety protocol on a frequency not used for other traffic, to report their positions relative to six prominent peaks including altitude and flight direction.

The Sierras on the west are far more jagged, foreboding, and beautiful than the Whites.  But the prevailing westerlies late in the day can generate huge sink and turbulence.  In 2007 Steve Fossett went down flying a Citabria about 45 miles northwest of Bishop apparently due, at least in part, to these conditions.

I flew to Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower U.S., the last day of the encampment. Couldn't get on top so had to fly just off the ridges 60 miles each way. There was enough 1 to 2.5 knot lift to offset the huge sink, but it was a workout in a narrow flight band all the way.  Obviously you always keep a bailout to the Owens Valley, which has a few airports and suitable fields, in range.

The soaring community is indeed small.  John Boyce, Evan Ludeman's brother-in-law, is an Air Sailing member.  He was at the field this weekend but did not make the Bishop trip this year.

Name That Sailplane

Name that sailplane, club member and airfield.  Hint: taken 2 weeks ago.

Name That Club Member

Hint: picture was taken last week.

Name That Airport

 Why does the sky always look like that AFTER a landout?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Porterfield from Montana to Post Mills

In case you missed it (like I did) here is Andy Gelston's account of flying his newly restored Porterfield back from Montana last fall.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

T8's Tip of the Week

It's July and those lovely lush, green fields you see down below you are too tall for safe landings.

If it's dark green and you can't see dirt between rows (and maybe even if you can) it's a bad bet.  If you can see the crop waving around in the wind, it's definitely a bad bet.

Cut hay stubble has a yellow tinge. Cut but not yet baled hay has a soft gray green color.  You can distinguish these colors from ten miles away.  Some sunglasses (e.g. "Sun Tigers") interfere with this.  Avoid them.

Absent obstructions (e.g hay bales), cut hay is often a good choice.  If the field won't break a mower, that's a good start.

More:  A great article on off field landings from Kai Gertsen.

Happy Landings!


PS: Here's how it goes in a cut cotton field in South Carolina.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Postcard from D.B. Crewper

Picture of Concordia on tow in Poland today from DB Crewper (AKA Dick Butler's Crew Person, AKA Rick).

Is that a TriPacer?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Weekend report July 11 - 13

It was a 3 day weekend for PMSC.  On Friday Moshe (RU) had a nice 206 km (304 OLC points) flight to Franconia, Peacham, Knox Mt. and Hanover.  Andy Lumley. took the towplane up to Franconia and brought back FSA’s SGS 2-33 and Blanik L-23.  They will be based at Post Mills until they get their towplane fixed.

Saturday was a marginal local soaring day but between FSA and PMSC operations there were 14 flights.

Sunday was a marginal training day.  Bill braved the weather to fly over from Portland to fly a couple of patterns with Henry.

Andy towed all three days.  Thanks Andy!

While FSA is with us we will be logging all their flights on our sheets too.  For glider IDs we will us the following:

For the 2-33s – “67” us.  “68” them.
For the Blaniks – “BA” us.  “BB” them.
Private glider – “US” is them.

(their 2-33 is N33968, their Blanik is N118BB and Jim David’s ASW-20 has competition ID “US”)

Moshe sent along some pictures from the weekend.

- Tim

Friday, July 11, 2014

Winner of the Franconia 4th of July Encampment

I am declaring myself the winner of the Franconia Encampment because I had the most fun on any flight.

It started on Sunday morning at 11:00 with a cloudscape of lenticulars.  Lift was a little hard to come by and I made retreats from Mt. Lafayette and Littleton area.  Two hours into the flight I was 1400’ over the field and thinking of calling it quits when I found a little thermal that went back up to 5000’.  From there the clouds over Kinsman had developed and it’s up to cloud base 8000’.   Then it’s a classic wave entry.  Sneak out the up wind side of the clouds.  Go up 100’ then down 80’, repeat.  After 10 minutes I've gain 200’ and enter 5 kt wave lift to 10,000’.

Now the fun part.  Looking out to the NW from 10,000’ I can see regular bands of clouds.  I think the wind was 330’ at about 30 kts. I head into the wind and head toward the next wave crest.  When I hit wave sink I crank it up to about 80 kts.  At times the sink rate hits 8-9 kts down but it didn’t last too long.  I keep traveling north hopping from cloud bank to cloud bank.  Further north the cloud banks get longer, more like cloud bands.  Now several miles long the cloud bottoms were at about 7,000’ and the tops at about 9,000’.  The problem was that you didn’t want to go under the clouds because you would be below the wave.  You couldn’t make it over the highest clouds because of the head wind and sink.  The only choice was to head for the spot where the tops of the clouds were the lowest.   From 10,000’ I would head for the valley in the clouds at 80 kts in sink.  The glider would start sinking deeper into the cloud valley and the clouds would start looming up on both sides as valley floor got closer (of course I was careful to maintain VFR cloud clearances).  It would get darker as the clouds blocked the sun.  As soon as I got to the other end of the valley I would hit the bright sunlight, pull up hard and turn to remain close to the face of the clouds and start climbing back up in the wave.  Too much fun!

After 5 or 6 cycles I was near Lake Willoughby.  There were more clouds and their pattern was confusing.  I’m tired so instead of trying to figure it out I want to go home.  Its 40 nm to Franconia, I’m at 9,000’ and when I turn around I should have at 30 kt tail wind.  Should be no problem.  When I turn around the L-nav says I only have a 15 kt tail wind.  Still should be no problem.  A couple of mile further I hit sink and I’m down to 8,000’ and the L-nav says I have a 15 kt head wind.  My “final glide” has gone from “cushy” to “maybe”.  I decide maybe I better tank up with a little more altitude.  The problem is I’m in a big clearing and still sinking.  There is a nice looking band of clouds running north from Burke Mt. so I head for it.  When I get to the cloud band I’m at 7,000’, below cloudbase and too low for wave.  I really don’t want to try to fly the broken thermals the 30 nm back to Franconia.  I wanted to get back into the wave.  So it's the classic wave entry again.  Sneak out the up wind side of the clouds.  Go up 100’ then down 80’, repeat.  It takes a full 20 minutes to gain 200’ and enter the wave.  But this wave feels even stronger than before.  It starts out at 6-7 kts.  I take it all the way back up to 13,500’.  And now it IS an easy glide back to Franconia!

When I finally land at Franconia the towplane and Blanik are leaving and all the trailers have been packed and are departing (thanks everyone!).   All I have to do is pack my glider and say good bye to the other die-hards (Dan, Evan and Moshe).

I’m the winner. I’m quite sure.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Franconia Encampment - Great Teamwork!

Someone commented on the blog  “Great amount of work by the few that always do the work but poor club participation”.  BS!

I think that group participation in the work part of the Franconia Encampment was fantastic!  I think it was at an all time high (but I have only been involved for last 6 years).  At the risk of leaving some contributions out (sorry) here is how I saw it:

1) Paul (and Marsha) arranged for rooms at the Kinsman (Traditionally Done By Andy ("TDBA") and Judy).

2) Greg spent 2 hours organizing the bins in Rick’s garage (TDBA) a couple of weeks before the encampment.  He also made up extra tow ropes (Henry and Ben helped).

3) Greg, Dan and Evan fixed up the fuel trailer.

4) Karl got the fuel and brought it to Franconia.

5) Evan set up a spreadsheet to organize the mobilization to Franconia and the return (TDBA) and people signed up for every piece of equipment.  This is HUGE.  Even though Rick and Pete took it upon themselves to get most of the equipment up to Franconia, knowing that someone had made the commitment ahead of time was just as important as actually moving the equipment.  There were many private gliders going and many owners were committing themselves to making multiple trips if necessary.

6) I saw Pete and Sonny assembling the 1-23 as usual but I know there were others.

7) Judy organized the BBQ as usual.  But instead of Judy supplying all the food everyone contributed.  Thanks everyone!

8) Moshe secured the space for the BBQ at the Kinsman Lodge.

9) Andy did the grilling as TDBA but I think he enjoyed it on the Kinsman’s Mega-Grill.

10) Dennis, Dan and Sawyer got the picnic tables from Cannon and returned them after the BBQ.

11) Dakai, Ken and a giant cooler supplied cold drinks at the field.  In years past it was every man for himself.  Dakai signed up for every empty space on the planning spreadsheet!

12) Lane setup the base camp at the field (AKA the tent).

13) The bulk (actually all) the towing was done by Andy as TBDA but this was his choice.  In fact I saw Andy beating Evan with the fuel sampler when Evan tried to get in the tow plane.  Doing all of PMSC's tows was not enough for Andy so he did all of FSA's tows too!

14) Greg and Paul made sure everything got packed up and moved out on Sunday.  I know they had lots of help but I don’t know who did what because I was still flying.  When I landed everything was gone and there was nothing for me to do (thank you, I REALLY appreciated that!).  Often we leave stuff behind and have to make special trips the next week – not this time.

15) Significant Other (wives and girlfriends) participation was higher than ever.  I heard that 2 SO’s , Anne (who said she wanted “nothing to do with husband's flying stuff”) and Angelica drove trailers home! And others drove cars for the ferry pilots.  OUTSTANDING!

16) 100 other things that I can’t think of….

And to top it off there was more biking, kayaking, hiking, climbing, stargazing (thanks Henry), bear watching (wild bears and at Clark’s) than ever.

And to double top it off FSA’s towplane was broken so we towed all their gliders and saved their weekend.

PMSC is operating like a well-oiled machine!  We should all be proud of our club.