Monday, November 26, 2007

Still summer

The end of flying season does not mean the end of flying news. Friend-of-the-club Roy B, whom many of you have met, sends this report from his annual soaring safari to South Africa. It's pretty interesting, and Roy promises to send updates.

Updated 12/06/07 - Roy is having internet problems, so here is his news (and watch this space for further updates):
Well - I have had to suspend the Google Docs reports since I do not have enough quality Internet access here to manage those files and photographs. So - below you will just find text and links to some photos that you can open at your end. Let me know if you can’t get to the photos. If you didn't see the first reports they are still available here. Once I get back to decent service I will put all of this there.
Day 4 Report
Nobody expected much of today because of all of the rain yesterday. There were 2 alternate tasks set - a 300km for the 15m and newer pilots and a 518km "boomerang" or chevron shaped, 4 leg Assigned Speed Task for 18m and Open. The short legs of the task went up to a turn point called Dealsville, down past the diamond mine at Koffiefontein ( there is a photo at the web address above) to a town called Luckhof, then a long 200 km leg into the wind to a turnpont north of Dealsville - then home. The day started great - but went to blue thermals midway on the second leg and the entire last 40km in and out of the northern turn point was in the blue. Still there was decent lift in the blue and I only got low once on the last leg coming home. I went around the course at 65.4 mph and was pleased with that. I had an advantage in starting last which gave me a few "markers" along the way. I am getting used to the FLARM - and at least once it spotted a glider entering my thermal before I saw him. Saturday night is the "changing of the guard" with people leaving and new faces arriving. Interestingly, there were 2 couples flying 4 gliders today. We really don’t see enough women pilots in this sport I think. Here is a link to a grid photo of today.
Day 5 Report
Not a whole lot to report except I got sick from eating some local food last night that didn’t agree with me. Woke up at Midnight afraid I was gonna die. By 2 am I was afraid I wasn’t gonna die . . . Sunday was a marginal flying day so I decided to take it easy and get some rest and by 24 hours I was back to being fine. For today’s photo I offer one of the container that was custom fitted and shipped 6 gliders down here from the UK - In the photo there are still 2 gliders inside.
Day 6 Report
I am feeling back to 100% from my food misadventure and today’s task is a 330 km Out and Return to a city called Christiana up north that I have been to before. It turned out to be a very difficult day and only two gliders (Ed Downham flying one of them) made the task - and those 2 contacted weak wave that helped them get in and out. I struggled getting away, made slow headway (as did everybody) and finally decided to turn at the last turnpoint closest to Christiana in my database (27 km short of Christiana) and still had difficulty getting home. I never contacted wave - just its adverse effect on the thermals I was trying to use. Everybody else abandoned the course much earlier. OLC scored my flight at 318 km by adding in a little leg that I started on - before returning for my second start.
At supper Downham made an interesting observation: He noted that in the "fleet" today were 4 motorglider or sustainer equipped gliders and all bailed out of the task early. The only 3 gliders that "went for it" were the pure gliders. Go figure . . .
The South African government sets the price for gasoline at all stations. Price increases are announced in advance. There is a "scheduled" 40 ct. per liter price increase (equals about 15 cents per US gallon) going into effect tomorrow - so all the gas stations are jammed tonight. Prices here are quite low compared to home. My guest house ( very nice and includes a huge breakfast) is 310 R per night (figure 7R = 1 US Dollar). A nice steak dinner with wine costs about 110R .
Today’s photo is of himself standing in front of the shade screen we use here to protect the gliders from the sun. The dust is cleaned off the gliders each morning but these screens are all that protect the gliders that are not in the hangar.. These frames are secured to the ground with cable and turnbuckles that are removed to get the gliders in and out. Behind me in the photo is the big ASH-25 that I hope to fly tomorrow.
Update 12/07/07:
Day 7 Report
Darwin Awards - South Africa Style: One of the glider pilots here is also an accomplished Scuba diver and he uses this trip for both sports. He tells us that the newest tourist activity in Cape Town involves "experiencing" the great white sharks that are indigenous to South African south coast waters. It seems that for a thousand Rands or so they will give you a basic check out in Scuba equipment and take you out into shark infested waters and lower you into the water in a cage. The only thing in the cage besides you is a porous bag of bloody fish chum - which acts like a large dinner bell for the great whites and sends them into a feeding frenzy of attacking the cage. I didn’t think to ask if they lend out wet suits or if you had to bring your own. You wouldn’t want to use mine after one of those great whites came after me - cage or not. We are all thinking we should root for the sharks.
I made a friend down here named Dieter Belz who is a retired Dutch airline pilot and who helps Dick Bradley out with field checkouts as needed in the 2 place ASH-25. Dieter and I both have Piper Cubs (his is home in Denmark) and we have been talking all week about a long dual cross country flight in the big 24 meter ASH. Dieter and I have a combined 85 years gliding experience and we have been ragging the other pilots all week about how we were going to show them all how to do it. And - the other guys have been ragging Dick Bradley all week about how Roy and Dieter are going to land the ASH out in East Bungawanga - or someplace like that. Dick is very protective of the big beautiful ASH. Amazingly, this was the first time I have ever seen Bradley worried about anything and before Dieter and I launched he gave me a stern look and instructed, "Bring this bloody glider back here!" I told Dieter about it and he said that Bradley gave him the same speech. We toyed with the idea of announcing on radio that we were landing out in the Tribal Lands - but figured that would get Dieter fired and me banished. So - after a nice 4 hour flight done very conservatively due to rain showers in the area we returned to the field with the ASH. Bradley seemed relieved..
Today’s photo is of a rain shower taken from the ASH. This one later exploded into a full blown thunderstorm.
Day 8 Report
All week we have been dealing with a strange condition where the wind direction above 9000' MSL (4500' AGL) shifts 90 degrees from northerly to westerly. It’s very strange and you can see a ground fire (stubble burns) smoke moving one direction and the cloud shadows moving a different direction. This has 3 effects on cross country flying: 1) It makes the upper layer of the height band turbulent as anything, 2) It makes trying to locate themals from clouds generally useless, and 3) It breaks up all but the strongest thermals. It also makes a long XC flight very tiring.
Anyway, today’s task was a 528 km polygon with a long 330 km out and return to the city of Blomhof way to the north then south to a turnpoint with the mundane name of "Hill 5305" (I have no idea where that name came from). Nobody actually finished the task (there was one landout) but I made the turn at Blomhof and then modified the task into the area that seemed better. I flew 420 km at and average speed of 65.4 mph, and I was pretty tired afterwards.
A few words on South Africa sports and food:
Rugby & Soccer: Take the Red Sox winning the World Series, the Patriots going undefeated and winning the Super Bowl, the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup, and the Pope himself performing at the half time shows for all - and you will begin to understand a little how South Africans feel about their Springboks - the Rugby World Champion Springboks that is. Rugby and Soccer are the only two sports that matter here (and in that order). Somebody once said that "Soccer is a sport played by gentlemen and watched by hooligans - while Rugby is a sport played by hooligans and watched by gentlemen." It says something about this complex country that these are the two most beloved pastimes. How could you not love a sport where guys put duct tape around their heads so their ears don’t get ripped off? I had to search the internet 15 minutes to find out if the Patriots beat the Eagles. But six newspapers had front page stories that Jake White was retiring as Springbok coach. You would have thought Bill Belichik and Terry Francona died in the same car crash.

Braai and Biltong: These people have brought the backyard barbeque to a high art form known nowhere else. Called a "Braai" (rhymes with "pry" or "cry") it consists of all sorts of seasoned meat (and sausage called boerewors) over a smoky fire. Incredible! Then - they perfected beef and Ostrich (and who know what else) jerky into a national food staple called Biltong which is delicious and available everywhere and the subject of endless debate over which region has the best biltong. There are whole sections of food market devoted to Braai and entire stores for nothing except Biltong. It’s like Atkins Diet Heaven here. Not a carb in sight.
Update 12/08/07:
Day 9 Report
Today started out raining but by midmorning showed signs of clearing so we had a choice of small tasks, fun local flying or taking a rest day. I did a little work on the Nimbus (flat rear tire) and took a launch at 3:30 pm. By 4 pm it had clouded over again but I dumped the water and flew the Nimbus another 1.5 hours using the dark areas in the overcast and the Nimbus' incredibly low sink rate. I didn't "do anything" or really "go anywhere" - I just had a relaxing fun flight.
We had an incident today with a pretty hard ground loop on takeoff with a Discus. At this density altitude the towplanes are a little slow to get going and the pilot hooked some high grass and spun the ship around. Both pilot and ship are OK.
Some old friends arrived today including Reb Rebbeck who helps Dick with the operation and Anders Andreson - the outstanding Dutch competition pilot. Anders is expecting delivery this month of the first production JS1 "Revelation" 18m racing glider which is made here in South Africa. This new production machine is a subject of much pride down here.
Today's photo is for the "teckies" among us and is of the panel of a Ventus 2 down here that is available for rent. I have flown many gliders that cost less than the instrument panel on this glider!
Update 12/09/07:
Day 10 Report
Wow, what a day. We started out with rain in the morning at the guest house and I was pretty certain that we wouldn’t fly. But before it was over it would become one of the most memorable flights that I have had in 3 years of flying in South Africa. The met report for the day was mixed with a hope that it would be a little better to the south and a task was set into that area with initial turnpoints at Westpoint (the point where we clear the controlled airspace around Bloemfontein) then the big diamond mine at Koffiefontain (see photo in the earlier reports). There was a third turnpoint to the east - then back to Westpoint and home - for a planned task of 311 km.
I started out near the rear of the grid ( in this photo my glider is "Hotel Sierra") and the cloudbase off tow was only 4000' agl. Still the run up to Westpoint is over farm fields that are both very landable and good thermal producers. I got to Westpoint OK and turned South torward the Diamond mine and saw conditions improving and cloudbases coming up.
Toward "Koffie" conditions really began to improve and I was able to follow clear energy lines that allowed me to fly the Nimbus (ballasted at about 70%) without stopping to circle much at all. Two pilots ahead decided to abandon the task and follow the energy lines and streets to a much farther turnpoint called Kraankui about 110 KM past the diamond mine. This seemed like a good idea to me and the 3 of us blasted down to that turnpoint with the Nimbus just humming along straight ahead at about 100 mph and slowing up for the occasional 8 kt "bumps" that brought me right up to altitude with bases now at 6500 - 7000'. I hit the new turnpoint easily and on the return leg ( in a northeast direction) saw that the clouds were beginning to organize into cumulonimbus (CB) bands with a large band to the east with rain and lightining and a smaller band to my west that was darkening but without rain. This was not really a problem because everything was lined up with my course line, the lift was good on the west side of the huge "streets", and the only emerging problem was that far to the west a huge thunderstorm was developing over Kimberly with blowoff that was shading out the sunlight to the west of the bands of CBs that I was following. This was something I have seen before and it told me that I needed to keep moving before the entire course ahead of me was in shade from the blowoff.
Back past the diamond mine at about 80 km from Westpoint things were still going well but it became necessary for me to cross the CB "band" on my west side to stay in the sunlight course. This was the dark band to my left that was not raining (yet). The sunlight area was shrinking but I was still high and fast and not worried about running out of lift before Westpoint and the turn for home. All I had to do was cross under that band and "step over" one street to the west. I picked the darkest part of the huge vertical cloud band (hey - the lift is best in the dark parts - right?) . . . . And then suddenly the sky fell in! Literally.
I was about halfway across the darkest part of the cloudbase at about 10.3 msl when the cloud simply collapsed on top of me with more instantaneous rain than I have ever experienced in the air before. The water came down in a torrent, actually gushing into the front vent and spraying the inside of the canopy and top of the panel the front. All the varios pegged on down and I had no option except to shove the stick forward and head toward the sunlight. The barogram trace in the logger showed that I lost 3500' in a little less than 3 minutes - with several moments of recorded 12kts down.
I came out of the mess at 2000' agl over unlandable terrain and was forced to use 500' to get toward some cultivated fields suitable for outlanding (In South Africa we don’t use green or uncultivated fields except in extreme emergency - as they contain 3 foot high anthills or are pocked with Meerkat holes - either of which will clean off your landing gear before you see them). Fortunately, before reaching the cultivated fields I contacted a good thermal and was able to climb back up to 11k. However - in the time it took to do that the blowoff from the Kimberly thunderstorm had completely covered the entire area back to Westpoint and home and I was still 60km from Westp0int and 100 km from home. The entire way home was now in the shade and was going to stay that way.
I knew that there would be a short period of time that the warm surface would continue to produce thermals but that they would be weak and hard to find. I throttled way back to 80 mph in the Nimbus, dumped the inner water tanks to get ready to climb weak lift, and reached Westpoint 1300' below glide for home. As I headed out into the agricultural area that marks the last 40 km I slowed to 70, dumped the outer tanks and went into the same "float" mode I had been playing with the night before (see Day 9 report). I also moved my course toward the paved roads (In South Africa it is very important to know where the paved roads are and to land out near one. The difference between 50 km of paved vs. unpaved road is the difference between a 2 hour retrieve and a 8 hour retrieve here). Fortunately, my course line was also following the progression of the shade so the fields below me stayed uniformly warm. As I moved into the area after Westpoint over a cultivated field I found a 1.3 kt thermal that brought me up to 500' over safe final glide . I brought the glider home to a landing at 5:30. Of the other 2 pilots who made the long course one (Ed Downham) landed ahead of me and the other (Mike Clarke) was behind. Of the gliders who did the shorter "assigned" course there was one landout.
I was pretty happy with the flight and the ability to fly the last 100km with no sunlight at all. The most important factor was shifting gears and going into "survival mode" while still high and far away. At 6000' agl and 100km from home it is almost maddening to fly so sloooow - but that’s what got me home. The flight was 453 km (283 mi.) in 4.5 hours. This worked out to 100 kph or about 63 mph. But I really don’t care about the speed - just happy to get back!
Tomorrow will be my last day here flying.
Update 12/10/07:
Day 11 and Final Report
Well the flying portion of this trip has come to an end. The last day was rainy and cloudy in the morning and did not clear until mid afternoon. No task was set and I used some of the spare time to "clear the post" ( an expression those who have had military service will recognize) by settling up with Bradley, settling with the pub on the field (meals and beer) and buying gas for the rental car, etc. After the adventure with the downpour yesterday, Hotel Sierra needed to be completely re-taped so I decided to take a short local flight in an LS-7 that had gone unused this week. But the change from a fully ballasted Nimbus 3 to an unballasted LS-7 was more than my dumb brain could handle and I popped off tow too early and was back on the ground in a few minutes. But I am not disappointed - I was really happy with the Day 10 flight and with the whole trip.
This year has been different from earlier years. We did not see (except for occasionally) the classic South African summer soaring conditions with really high cloud bases and monster thermals. It was still better than anything I saw in New England this year and way better than the Albert Lea MN Nationals that got rained out. Out of 11 days we lost only one to weather ( I lost another to food sickness), and of the 6 days that I really tried to go somewhere my flight distances were 358 km, 518 km, 318 km, 240 km, 420 km and 453 km. On each of those days other pilots went farther than I did. Like my earlier trips I learned a lot down here. It is a real privilege to fly with and learn from pilots like Ed Downham, Dick Bradley and Anders Anderson- all of whom have been champions in their own countries. Each of the marginal days had an impromptu seminar for the new pilots that was extremely valuable.
Today’s photo is simply one of a launch behind the C182 towplane on a day that started out rainy and ended up nice. The weather changes so quickly here. Also - I love to explore around old airport hangars and so I took a few photos of archeological "finds" in the hangar at New Tempe. Included is a big beautiful double drum winch - not used in years - that I’d love to own. There are several photos in this set and you may find them interesting.
There is a gliding club at New Tempe - but it has had no activity in the past few years. It owns a winch, 2 K-7s, a K-6 and a Grob Astir. None of them fly at all. It’s really sad. Dick Bradley rents their facility from them to operate, but there seems to be nobody local from the club that flies except for the 2 motorgliders (privately owned) in the photos.
Well - this is my last report. I am writing this from a hotel in Cape Town where I will relax for another day and then start the long journey back home. I do have most of my electronic flight logs on a memory stick and I will be happy to share them with anybody who wants them when I get home.
Thanks for all of the kind words and support for these reports. I’ll be seeing you all at the Christmas Party and at the airport.
Thanks Roy, and don't let the PMSC gang know where that party is.

A new editor for Soaring Magazine

SSA is looking for a new editor for Soaring Magazine. Here is the advertisement for the job, as it originally appeared in SSA e-News. How many logic, formatting, and punctuation errors can you find in the ad? The ad refers to this job description, not a Pulitzer-worthy document itself. I guess we really do need an editor.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Name that club member

One indication of a good encampment is when it makes the news. But who is that guy?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Summertime event

I was looking at another group's website in NH and thought we should plan a bbq like this with the flour bomb contest. It could be open to the community and people could pay for rides and a chance to throw a "bomb". Of course we'd need some power pilots to volunteer their planes, but there could also be a Soaring Rides part of the day too.

It would raise money for the club, perhaps get new members, and be super fun. I will help organize it if we have enough pilots wanting to provide rides-I can't do that part of the schedule. Feedback welcomed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Disassembly day question

Why does it take six guys to put a Blanik on a trailer...

and only one to take apart a 2-33?

Comments invited.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Saturday is disassembly day

Sorry Kids, but it is once again time to put the toys back in the toybox for the winter. 10:30 Sat. Nov. 17. Try to be on time so we can get everything away promptly and avoid freezing to death. If we need to reschedule due to weather you'll see it here.
C-ya then,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Report November 10 - 11

A pair of crystal clear late fall days.

On Saturday there were weak thermals up to about 4500 feet. It was cold, and the ground crew retired to the clubhouse with Skip still in the air. No one really knows when he landed.

The visibility on Sunday was nearly infinite. We made ten sightseeing flights and a few managed to stay up. Kevin and Tom H entertained the spectators by making low saves directly over the airfield. We flew right up to sunset, which made for some interesting challenges with the afternoon sun shining directly down the runway. Here are some pictures:

And yes, that is Jason in 3J, making a late afternoon landing. Congratulations, Jason, on a new type for your logbook.

Sunday November 11th 2007

Yep, we're flying today and very likely to be the last flying day of the season so get off the couch and head to the field.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Looks like a big wave day today. I can't take advantage but someone should. I might be available for retrieves.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

MWSA website

The Mount Washington Soaring Association has a new website. It isn't much yet, but it gets better every day. If you have something to contribute, email Rick or Rick. My favorite part is the countdown timer. I've been watching it all afternoon.

Weekend Report November 3 - 4

At the crack of dawn Saturday Andy L, Andy G, and Peter B drove out of Post Mills with almost everything they needed to install the new cylinder on the towplane at Gorham. When they got there, they realized that the wrist pin was in Andy's car, back at Post Mills. A quick phone call to Tim C resulted in Tim dropping whatever it was he was doing, racing to the airport, breaking into Andy's car, grabbing the wrist pin and flying it to Gorham - proving that Champs are useful sometimes after all. At the end of the day, the two Andys were able to fly home triumphantly in the L-19. Peter B made the drive back alone. The three traveling mechanics get full volunteer credit, and Tim gets hero points.

On Sunday, the diehards showed up: Tom H, Pete D, Jason, Steve, Thomas. Andy was the tuggie. We assembled 3J and made a total of seven flights, three of which were soaring flights. Peter B made it to cloudbase at 6000 feet, and Pete D flew for about an hour. Not bad for a cold November day!

After flying, Jason and I took a ride to look for Cub fans. We found one in East Corinth.