Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of year wishes

Happy New Year to all of us, and may all your soaring experiences be more pleasant than this one.

Monday, December 29, 2008

1968 Wave Flight

In the previous post's comments, a discussion developed about an article from Soaring Magazine. Now, thanks to Tim's Wayback Machine, you can read it again (or for the first time if you missed it 40 years ago).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mt Rainer Wave

I swiped this picture from:

More pictures can be found there.


Saturday, December 6, 2008


Three of them.

1. Tom traveled to BHSS, where he finished off his training and passed his Private Pilot flight test (Congratulations, Tom, but this doesn't get you out of the job of reassembling our 2-33.) Next time you see Tom, ask him to recite the standard tow signals, and get his opinion on the use of radios.

2. Tony traveled to TBSS, where he will fly this winter. It was his first long-distance drive with 7H. Ask him what he thinks of high-speed tractor trailers on I-81. Here's hoping he'll send us some flying stories.

3. This is the 100th edition of PMSC News for 2008. I'm so proud.

Monday, December 1, 2008


You may remember that Roy from GBSC takes a flying vacation in South Africa each Spring. His writeup appeared in PMSC News last year. Well, he's at it again. You can read his story here for the next week or so. I expect that he will have some good pictures, too.

"Bloemfontein" means fountain of flowers. It's a nice name for a dusty place in the veldt.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hibernation season begins

On a frosty November afternoon, Andy, Evan, Andy, Sonny, Tim, Tom, and David (not pictured) assembled to disassemble the Blanik for the winter cold season.

We succeeded in transporting the Blanik and 1-23 to a secret location where they will spend the winter season of short flying days. The 304 is parked at Andy's house. The only aircraft in evidence on the field now is the towplane, which will be put in winter storage a hangar at the end of the month.

Thanks to all who came out to work today, and special thanks to Bob for once again providing storage space at the secret location.

I'll continue blogging, if anything happens during the winter seasonal break from flying.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last flight of the year

Andy and Pete headed off into the sunset on the last flying day of 2008:

Don't forget Disassembly Day next Saturday. It's always a lot of fun.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Report November 1 - 2

We are definitely winding down. A very small number of flights this weekend, but they were all interesting. The weather was clear and beautiful both days. On Saturday, Sonny and Steve shared two flights in the Blanik and found some wave. Pete showed them up in 3J with a 1.5 hour flight in thermals. Pete then repeated his performance on Sunday, this time in the Blanik. There were instructors on duty both days, but no students showed up. Doug drove all the way to Post Mills to make one tow (Thanks, Doug!)

The 1-35 and 1-26 both packed up and left the field this weekend. Oxygen systems were removed from club gliders and trailers were checked out for winter storage duty.

We are definitely winding down.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Kevin put on his glider pilot's costume today, took a high tow, enjoyed a wave flight to 8000 feet, and got home in time to hand out candy to the Post Mills trick-or-treaters.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new OLC season

The 2008 Online Contest season has ended. Here's how we did:
New England: 2nd place
USA: 70th place
World: 745th place
That was fun. Let's do it again next year!

The 2009 season has started, and Skip has put us on the scoresheet already.

Gorham photo credits

All of the wave camp photos in PMSC News were taken by Skip and Pete. More of Skip's photos can be found here and more of Pete's can be found here and also here.

Thermal Camp

This year's Mount Washington wave camp (October 8 - 20) was a lot of fun despite the disappointing absence of wave conditions on the second (PMSC) weekend.

For the record, the highest any PMSC member got was 20,000 feet, on the first (GBSC) weekend. Congratulations to Thomas!

Other early fliers were rewarded by some decent wave conditions, most notably Skip, Pete, and Tim. Persistence (or stubbornness) does pay off, eventually. Skip set the record for the most miles driven during a wave camp, followed closely by Thomas, who had to go home to get his battery.

When our Blanik flew in on Friday afternoon, it brought the total to 22 gliders on the field. Four New England clubs were represented. We had three towplanes and something like nine towpilots on the second weekend. We made about thirty flights on Saturday, and the total number of flights for the encampment was over 100. I think it's safe to say that the Mount Washington Soaring Association has reached a critical mass. The founders of the modern wave camps can take pride in this accomplishment (you know who you are).

On the way to dinner on Friday, the Budget Brothers (Pete, Sonny, and Rick) secured a good price for three rooms at the Mt. Madison Motel (not quite as good a price as the one secured by The Master of Negotiation last year). Later, Andy and Thomas were able to get in on the same deal.

The forecast for Saturday was not encouraging, but we decided to put on a dawn patrol anyway. Sure enough, the sun came up and the wind did not blow, both exactly as forecast. Here's a picture of the three finalists in the "Old Man of the Mountain Beauty Pageant", wondering why they got up so early.

The day was by no means a bust, however. It turned out to be one of the best thermal soaring days of the season, with lift starting before 11:00 am, cloudbases eventually reaching 7000 feet, and good streeting. Jon and David G each had flights of over an hour in the Blanik; Pete, Tom, and Doug shared the 1-23; and Mike, Tim and Andy flew PM. Several decent cross-country flights took place, with the best of them a trip by John Good to Mt. Ascutney and back. Andy also had an hour flight in the PW-6 (I1) with Walter Striedieck. It was nice to see Nancy and Gordon, who showed up during the busy part of the day and didn't get a chance to fly. At the very end of the day a weak wave appeared - just enough lift to call it a wave day.

Sunday was another calm beautiful day, perfect for sightseeing. Convection was limited to weak upslope winds on the sunny sides of the mountains. Tim, Pete, Kevin, and Tom tried their hand at "rock polishing" on Mts. Adams and Madison, with limited success. Pete took this picture of Tom returning. Note that 3J's dive brakes match the Gorham foliage.

Midway through Sunday we started packing up. By some miracle, we were able to get all the people, planes and trailers home in one go. Special thanks to Tim, Pete, Andy, Charlie, and Tom for moving the club equipment back and forth.

All in all, we had a great time. The wave will be there next year.

Faces in the crowd

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gorham Photos

Riding around

I had an interesting day yesterday. I got up early and mooched four rides, ending up back home for dinner. The first ride was in John Good's van from Post Mills to Gorham. We arrived in time to claim the last parking spot for the Discus. I was surprised to see that quite a few GBSC gliders were still there. The weather was perfect for standing around and talking - pleasant temperatures and not a breath of wind. At the Mount Washington summit, the breeze was from the south at less than twenty knots. John took a tow, flew around the local area, landed, and gave a terse report: "dead." We resumed standing around and talking.

Of the various forecasts for later in the day, we chose to pay attention to the "wishful thinking" version. Six more gliders were prepared for flight. Pete (3J) fettled our 1-23, and Skip (JS) assembled his ASW-24. Rick Roelke (RR), Jim David (T4), and Roland Martineau (3K) assembled a 304CZ, a Pegasus, and a PW-5, respectively. Walter Striedieck (I1) asked me if I would like a ride in the PW-6, and I accepted before realizing that it was also an invitation to help assemble the two-seater.

The PW-6 belongs to a NESA member, and Walter brought it along with his towplane to Gorham for the week (not quite sure how he did that). I had not paid too much attention to that glider before yesterday. It is a two-seat version of the PW-5, with a wing span of only 16 meters. It turned out to be quite easy to assemble with three people. Walter and I decided to take the next available tow to the top of the mountain. There is plenty of room in both cockpits, and the visibility from the front seat is outstanding. One feature I didn't like was the location of the handle that jettisons the canopy. It is right in front of your face, in approximately the same location as the release knob in a Schweizer (and it is the same color: red). Be sure to pull the yellow knob down by your left knee when you want to release the tow rope!

We towed all the way up to 6,000 feet (taking a lap around the observatory while still on tow) and released over the Great Gulf. The upslope winds on both sides of the autoroad spur enabled us to stay up until we stumbled into some wave lift at about 6,500 feet. Smoke from the cog railway revealed that the wind had shifted into the west, but it was still very light. We tried every trick, including circling, to stay in the lift. Eventually we were joined by 3J and RR, and the three gliders collaborated in mapping out the small area of lift. We were never able to catch Pete, who topped out around 9,000 feet.

Back on the ground, I noted that I'd been higher in the Post Mills wave last week. But you sure can't beat the scenery around Mount Washington!

I took my third ride of the day in Skip's car, from Gorham directly to the PMSC Directors meeting in Norwich. On the way, I explained the new glider instrument to him, and he explained his iPhone to me.

The Directors meeting was long. It is a lot of work to run this club, and if you ever get the idea that it's easy, please volunteer to be a director next year. Tony will publish the meeting minutes in due course.

Andy gave me a ride home, in time for a late dinner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What I Did at Camp - First 2 Days


I drove the 304 up Saturday morning and got to Gorham around 10:00. Rick S. had arranged for me to get a briefing from Rick R. and a checkride with Peter S. (of GBSC) in their Super Blanik. The conditions were great when I arrived. There were already gliders up to 23,000’, there was no wind at the airport, the winds aloft were probably around 40 kts, and it was sunny except for the lennies. Rick R. thought it would be alright if I went without the check ride (since the conditions were benign) but I got signed up for the check ride anyway.

Peter S. gave me the option of towing into the Wave or checking out the local terrain. Since it was to be a 45-minute flight and I thought it would be more important to know how to get to and return from the Wave I opted for the local flight. Peter suggested we tow to the Moriah-Carter range to ridge soar (one of the standard ways to get to the wave). The MC range is several miles downwind from Gorham and a mile or so downwind of Mt. Washington. Peter did the ridge soaring so I could look around. It was windy and bumpy, and we were right down at tree level. I was very impressed by the way he worked the ridge. With that much wind I thought the ridge should be working better but we never got much above the ridgeline. We got off tow at 5000’ and never got much higher. It would probably take 7000’ to cross the valley and get in the wave. I did not like being downwind from Gorham on a ridge that I thought should have better lift. I told Peter “I don’t think I’ll be doing this on my own”. He answered a bunch of questions and we headed back to Gorham. Peter was a great help and the flight was very worth while.

When we got back to Gorham, Thomas and Skip had taken off and towed into the wave at the horn. The Wave (and wind) was dying down some and they were topped out at 13-15,000’. I took a tow at 3:30 to the wave. I got off tow as soon as we were out of the turbulence at 5,800’ with the horn just off to my left. I turned right after a pulled the release and was hoping to find smooth lift. I got bumpy lift and sink. I try to work the lift NE of the horn but I eventually drop down below 5000 and pulled the plug and headed for Gorham (it’s a headwind). I now know I should have taken a little higher tow and flew more towards the auto road (turning to the left after I released).

On my way back to Gorham I was pretty disappointed especially since I wasn’t finding any lift and it looked like it would be a 40-minute flight (after a 5000’ tow!). I finally found a nice smooth thermal just west of Pine Mountain and got up to 4,500’. I went over to ridge soar Mt. Madison but wasn’t up high enough. Came back to my thermal and went back up to 5,000’. I then went up wind to the Crescent Range to look for wave but only found sink all the way to the crest off the range. Came back to my thermal and went back up to 5,500’. Went back over to Mt. Madison and was high enough to work the ridge lift. I work the ridge lift around to Mt. Washington. Never got much higher than the ridge and never more than 6,100’. It ended up being a good flight but I never found wave and never got above the Mt. Washington Observatory.


Thomas and I got to the field and got setup by about 10:00. We weren’t in any big hurry since there were gliders in the wave but they were only at 7-9,000’. But the longer we waited the lower the gliders in the Wave were going until the report was “no wave”. Then people were reporting “no ridge lift” and “no thermals”. So we waited. I think it was around 2:00 when we decide “enough waiting”. The ridge must be working (its windy). So we decide to ridge soar Mt.Madison. Thomas goes first and I take the next tow. I was warned to tow all the way to the top of the ridge because the lift wasn’t that strong. Sure enough it is a lot of work just to stay near the top of the ridge. I had left my battery on when we were waiting and now it is drained and I have no vario. Thomas is no where in sight. I final call Thomas on the radio after about 20 minutes and he is in the Wave at 11,000’. His tow pilot told him the Wave was working and towed him over to the horn. Now I’m a little pissed. I am working my ass off just to stay on the ridge and Thomas is relaxing and watching me from 11,000! I am at 5,500’ and have 3 choices; 1) go around Mt. Madison and try to make it to the Wave, 2) pop over the ridge in the saddle between Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams and try to make it to the Wave, or 3) stay on the ridge. If I choose #1 or #2 I probably won’t be high enough by the time I get to the horn (the day before I missed and that was being towed to the horn at 5,800’). So I choose #3 for now to make sure I get at least an hour flight. I can try #1 or #2 after I tire of the ridge. The wind seems to have shifted some and I am now ridge soaring a spur between Madison and Adams. As I fly out towards the valley the lift actually gets better. Soon I am flying in a wavey thing all the way out to route 2. I get to 7,000’. Then I’m back down to 6,500’. Some moist air has come in and I can see the moisture streaming over the ridge towards the horn and there is no turbulence (at least none above ridge height). The wind is only about 20 kts. Thomas says he’s cold and bored and is going home. I tell him I am going to jump the ridge and head right for the horn. I make him tell me exactly where to find the bottom of the wave (right along the auto road near the horn). I make him tell me 3 more times. I cross the ridge at 6,500’ and fly the two miles to the horn without hitting a bump. I make a right turn at the horn and I’m at 6000’. I few seconds later I tap the altimeter and it jiggles up to 6,100’, then 6,300’. I am in the Wave. I keep tapping the instrument panel until the screws are about to fall out. The altimeter needle either jiggles up or down and makes a pretty good vario. I eventually get up to 12,259’ (my personal best).

It’s getting late and there are only 2 other gliders still up. I head up wind to the Crescent range because there is a lenticular above it. I get there at about 10,500’ and am able to climb back up to 11,000’. So I head up wind to the next range. I contact the wave there and can maintain 9,800’. Its getting late so I make a high speed run (80-90 kts) up to Whitefield then turn around and head for Gorham. On the way back the lenticulars were forming behind Mt. Washington and it was a beautiful ride back. I was the last one to land.

Here’s what I think I learned:

1) If you want an easy trip into the Wave, get a nice high tow and know where the Wave is when you pull the release.

2) Ridge lift does not seem to work as well as it should. People were talking about wave suppression of ridge lift but I think it’s just the stable air. You have to be up near the summit before it starts working and it only gets you a few hundred feet above the top. This is, of course based on 2 days of experience so I could be wrong.

3) There is wave lift all over the place. A lot of it is weak and you have to work it patiently.

4) When the wind isn’t blowing hard and the Wave is 10,000’ or less it’s a good time to go exploring. Without the high winds its much easier to get around. With 10,000’ and relatively light winds you can go all over the place. You don’t have to wait until you can get to 20,000’ to have a good flight.

5) When the wave is going to 20,000’ go for it because it may not last long.

6) They say that thermals interfere with the wave and it certainly seemed true on Sunday. I think I had the highest flight on Sunday because I was the last. All the thermals had died down and it wasn’t till sunset that the lenticulars really came out.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Weekend Report October 11 - 13

Most of the action was at Gorham this weekend. Thomas (ZP) had wave flights on Saturday and Sunday totaling about 5 hours. He hasn't yet emailed or posted his flight logs. Tim (PM) also flew both days, but had flight recorder problems. Most of his flight on Sunday was recorded before the battery died. Tim made the most of his day with climbs in ridge, thermal, and wave lift, taking a side trip to Whitefield before returning to the Mount Washington wave. Skip (JS) also had a good flight on Saturday. He set a new personal solo altititude record of 12,258 feet, documented in one of the zillion photos he took that day.

Meanwhile, back at Post Mills, Jon suffered through simulated emergencies all day in the Blanik, and Gregg flew the 1-26, just to prove he could still do it. On Sunday, we discovered the reddest tree in Vermont. The picture can hardly do it justice. It's still there. The best way to see it is by Cub.

And, just to round out our presence in northern New England, Moshe (KG) reported a 3.5 hour wave/thermal flight at Morrisville on Saturday. He got to 7,900 feet.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weekend Report October 4 - 5

On Saturday, if you had assumed a supine position in preparation for a postprandial nap at Fiddlehead Field, you might have caught a glimpse of a shiny dot, 11,000 feet overhead. The dot would have been nearly stationary from your point of view. If you had concentrated on that dot, you may have been able to see it drift slowly southwards, eventually being joined by another yellow dot, and if you had remembered your binoculars, you may have been able to discern two other airborne dots in the blue area between the clouds.

Welcome to wave season! Jon, Tim, Pete, and Skip took high tows and all four were able to contact the wave just north of the airport. Andy did an outstanding job of towing them to the areas of lift, which were not completely obvious from the clouds. Jon's three-hour flight in the Blanik allows him to claim the current 2008 club altitude record (11,800 feet). We don't expect this record to last. Tim and Pete made it over 10,000 feet, and Skip was able to maintain 7,000 as the wind died at the end of the day.

Almost as an afterthought, we spent Sunday installing the oxygen systems in the club gliders, in anticipation of our annual Gorham encampment over the next two weekends.

If you're planning to go to Gorham and haven't filled out the attendance survey, please do so as soon as possible, and don't forget PMSC night at the theater on October 10.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

New Castle Rookie Report

I've been fascinated for years by flying stories from New Castle and the annual Region 4 South championships held there. The venue is famous for its ridges, rough and tumble terrain and extraordinary hospitality. R4S is often over subscribed and always seems to draw a number of big names. It has a rep as a “big boys' regional”.

With my new/old ASW-20B working out well, I decided this was the year to try New Castle on for size. So I sent in my deposit, studied maps and flight logs, talked my father in law John Boyce into crewing and made the necessary arrangements at work and at home.

The drive seems to go on forever. About 14 hours from Manchester NH. The further you go, the prettier the scenery. “New Castle International” itself is as pretty as an airport gets – and you will not find a warmer welcome as a newcomer anywhere.

Flying at NCI, you are surrounded by mountains – mostly ridges – with tops around 3500 – 4000', valleys around 12 – 1500. I fly practice on Saturday and Sunday in unremarkable conditions. There are many more or less open fields, but at most 1 in 20 is suitable for landing. Most are some combination of too small, too rough, too sloped or rocky. The overall field situation is only fair. Airports are not in abundance. Looking around at altitude I think to myself that this is a finesse site: you get around fast here by being clever and knowledgeable. Putting “both feet behind the stick” here – ridge days being the exception – will simply get you into a valley you can't get back out of. All of this is consistent with my pre-race study. I've been telling myself that this week is more recon mission than race. John Murray is succinct on this point with respect to New Castle rookies: “Stow the ego.” Yep, got it.

Sunday evening – the first of many great meals and campfires... and the weather report. Monday looks like a ridge mission! I guess we're going to get broken in, right quick. All that study time is going to pay off....

Day 1

The day at New Castle starts with Lanier and his cannon. He gets results! The cannon, by the way, is a 3/4 scale replica of a type used in the War of Northern Aggression.

Monday morning rolls around and the forecast holds. 10 – 12 kts from 310, good thermals with Cu to five or six thousand. 10 – 12 is light for a ridge mission, we can expect some areas to be soft. The task is all about ridges, a turn area task with a 3 hour minimum time, potential to fly nearly 500k and turn points on two well separated ridges. All three classes – Std, 15m and 18m have the same task. I start near the back of the 15m pack and settle into the ridge “groove”. It's spooky because the wind is so light that the trees aren't moving at all. Speeds are decent, but we are right on the deck. There's a soft section of seven miles where the ridge is low and there is blocking terrain upwind. It's tricky and not terribly comfortable. Now we are on the deck and slow.

Nearing McCoy Falls – about 30 miles out – a pilot somehow gets on the lee side of the ridge where there is nothing but sink and trees and glides out of the wilderness to crash land in a tiny clearing. The glider is destroyed but the pilot is uninjured. Other pilots are milling about like fiberglass vultures although there is absolutely nothing that can be done to help other than relay radio messages and mark the site (one ship would suffice). I arrive minutes later wondering if they are parked because of the crash or because it is unsafe to proceed. I'm shaken and I get on the radio asking if it is safe to proceed. An experienced pilot, also audibly shaken, answers “best thing for the new guy is to figure out a safe way to fly home and land”. I acknowledge, and head back up the ridge towards NCI with several others. The seven mile “soft” section isn't as bad on the return trip. Along the way I am thinking about the fact that I am about to throw away a flight I've been dreaming about for 22 years (ever since reading "Four on the Floor" in Soaring, November 1986, but that's another story)... I reconsider all the “raw data”, decide the day is within my limits. I can do this, and do it well, so I hang a left and head back South.

With new focus and determination, I start haulin'. Ground speeds range from 80 knots up to an incredible 120 depending on the shape and orientation of the ridge and whether climbing, level or descending. I pass several gliders. The ride is fairly smooth as ridge running goes because the winds are so light. Running back into New Castle for the second turn, there is no thermal lift to be found for the required upwind transition. I turn back down Sinking Creek ridge in search of thermals to get upwind to the front ridge. Along the way I see four or five gliders trying the same scheme but not climbing well. This puzzles me – there are great looking streets a few miles further. I bump their thermal, give it up as a bad job and fly on another 4 miles or so where I connect to a boomer all by myself (evil grin). This does not go unnoticed and soon I am joined by the others. I have made up at least five minutes on these guys and I'm at the top of the stack. We fan out line abreast for the transition upwind. It works beautifully. Collectively we have a 2 mile wing span to sample the air and we bump along until connecting with the second thermal we need to complete the transition... then dive at the back side of the front ridge. There are no gaps here, so we're heading right at the back side of a 4000' ridge and hoping we've got it right 'cause it's all trees over here.

The front ridge is impressive. Just a puff of wind and 90 knots plus. I run this ridge nearly to Tazewell, the back edge of the designated turn area, both because I am enjoying the flight and because the longer I bomb along at high speed, the more I dilute my earlier detour and hesitation. Along the way we pass ridge top bird watching houses, many hawks and a few landable fields (widely scattered). My '20 goes quietly at high speed. The way I know is that I see a bird watcher gawking at a glider ahead of me. He has his back turned to me and he doesn't hear me until I am pretty close. It's hard to lip read at 120 knots, but I think he said “Holy Cow!”. Or something like that. In any event he's obviously enjoying the show.

The return trip is easy, fast and fun, but winds are weakening and thermals are drying up in the late afternoon. I time things well, arriving at Sweet Springs in time to catch one of the last thermals of the day for the short down wind final glide to New Castle. I've gone over 83 mph for 280 miles, placing 4th in 15m, a superb result for a New Castle rookie. Including the 14 mile detour, I made a realistic if not score-able 87.4 mph. I'm pleased with my decision making. No risks, no gambles, nothing scary.

Day 2

Thermal soaring today. Conditions are forecast to be weak to moderate with slow heating. We are given a short turn area task that keeps us over reasonably friendly (by local standards) terrain. The gate opens for business and the thermals bloom into beautiful Cu. The first turn area is very strong and fast with a fat cloud street running to the back of the circle. I'm the first one in. As I make the turn I see the entire 15m fleet is following – what a great sight.

The second turn is where the race is decided and it goes poorly for many of us. The fast guys got around by leaving for final glide far below glideslope and working convergence lift along the ridgelines to stretch the glide. I see other gliders doing this... and try to visualize the terrain on the way back to NCI. Is there a blocking ridge on this route? I can't recall with certainty. Visibility has declined in late afternoon haze and low angle sun. Along the way, I know of decent looking fields, but no airports. I haven't had the chance to look over those fields on the ground. I stay in U2 mode – high, observant and slow. I get home for an easy 7th place for the day and remain 4th overall. This, by the bye, is one reason you want to finish: good food, good company and the damnedest camp fire you've ever seen.

Day 3

A stronger forecast and a longer thermal task. The first leg is slow, dicey and claims a couple of “lawn darts”. The next three turns go really well... and the home stretch is simply dead. Going into Covington late in the day, I can see I've made a mistake. I've been flying fast and have burned too much altitude. The last three clouds into Covington looked exactly the same as the six knotters I've had all the way from Union WV, but they offer no lift at all. Ugh. I can't get over the mountains and into the New Castle valley. While still fairly high (> 2500 agl) I burn about 500' over the valley floor doing recon on available fields. No airports here. I make my first and second choices, mark the first on my GPS, then press into the hills to try to gain altitude. It doesn't work and I retreat to my field low. The GPS mark provides great reassurance – the low angle of the sun and nature of the terrain make my field hard to locate visually from more than a mile or two.

I sort out the details of how I plan to get into this field. It's a good pick, but not a trivial one. I see a hawk flapping his wings, note the direction he's heading, head that way myself using the last of my excess altitude. It is very nearly time to drop the gear and call it a day... but there's no percentage in giving up too soon. And here, a weak thermal. I get there first, the hawk joins me and we begin a very slow climb. About a half hour later, I have enough altitude to get over the mountains. There's little hope of getting back to New Castle at this point, but there are more distance points to be had and a handful of private airports over on the other side.

Shortly I land at a beautiful grass strip 20 miles short of New Castle. I've flown a lot of miles today – more than some of the finishers – and so score fairly well despite landing, placing 10th for the day and hanging on to 4th overall. The day has been full of mistakes, one major (Covington) the balance minor, but I'm pleased that I hung in, made the best of it and had on the whole an enjoyable flight.

Two additional days fail to yield suitable racing conditions and this proves to be the end of the competition. Competition-wise, I'm pleased. My “recon mission” has turned into a respectable fourth place finish. The guys that beat me have something like seventy New Castle contests between them, which says as much about the appeal of this venue as the value of experience in this extremely technical site. So long NCI! See you next year.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Tickle your funny bone after some pasta

I'm directing a comedy at the Old Church Community Theater and the show dates are Oct 3, 4, 10, 11 (FRI & SATat 7:30) and Oct 5, 12 (SUN @4PM). If folks wanted to go out to dinner and then see Social Security, the Colatina has a special where you get:
Dinner Theater Special
Complete Dinner and Show for Two for $34.99. It's been awhile since there was a club dinner at the Colatina. The tickets to the play are $8.00 each and seats can be reserved by calling 802 222 3322 but if you combine the dinner & theater: when you have dinner at the Colatina, you simply tell the waitstaff you want the Dinner Theater Special and they give you a pass to present at the show. This play contains adult language and content and I would not recommend bringing kids.

If interested -post a date (s) you can attend in the blog comments and see if we can get a group together. Thanks!
Diane Chamberlain
(questions: email or leave message at my home 802-222-4888)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Flügerchilbi at LSPL

Our beloved Rhönlerche (Ka 4), HB-757, may not have participated any more this year, but this is the glider I learned to fly on....

Monday, September 15, 2008

T8 and X at New Castle

If you want to see a classic ridge run, including an upwind transition, click here. This is Evan's flight on the first day of the Region 4 contest at New Castle, Virginia. He finished fourth for the day in the 15m Class with 819 points, only 54 points behind the winner. John Good was second in the Standard Class. The results are on the SSA website.

Weekend Report September 13 - 14

Another crummy weekend. In fact, both days were called off due to weather. Despite this, Skip Pete, and Thomas gave it a try during the late afternoon on Saturday. They didn't stay up. David had a couple of good lessons in the Blanik. Andy worked on the 2-33 and did the towing. Steve showed up on his bicycle, but didn't fly.

Andy is about to send out a survey regarding the Gorham encampment. Please respond - it makes planning so much easier.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Report September 6 - 7

Welcome to foggy, dewy, harvest, foliage, early-sunset, hurricane season!

Saturday was washed out by the residuum of a storm named Hannah. Sunday featured both sunshine and clouds, the latter behaving somewhat deceptively toward glider pilots. Skip had the highest flight, but Sam claims the best flight of the day: his first in which the instructor never touched the controls. The last flight of the day introduced Jon to the mysteries of katabatic lift.

The lift ended early, we quit early, and the party started early. It was a well-attended and well-supplied cookout, due to the presence of our member-of-honor, Petey. She and Peter aren't planning to fly gliders on September 27, despite my forecast of perfect weather for that day.

Tows will be available this week, abecedarian tempests permitting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day

Technically, we flew all three days of the long weekend. Saturday was a bit of a bust, but Jon managed two or three lessons under the overcast - good for landing practice, but not much else. On Sunday Evan made a terrific flight, in difficult conditions, to Morrisville and back. Everyone else flew locally, including our newest member David Gaiser (welcome, David!). Thomas finally has his instruments sorted out (Tony will be next). We had our largest cookout ever - 36 - Sunday evening, rivaling the LumRuss record of 40.

I don't remember much about Monday (probably due to the after-effects of the party). If you were there, please add your recollections in the comments.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lap racing

Tim and Rick enjoyed a pair of local flights on a day when 4000 feet seemed like outer space. The day was interesting in that it matched the forecast exactly: 2 hours of weak thermals to modest altitudes, with no chance of clouds. Kevin and the kids helped us assemble, and we practiced Kevin's "tiny triangles."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekday Desperadoes

Tony, Tim, Kevin, Rick, and Pete mustered on a beautiful sunny Friday. We launched five gliders (7H, PM, 6Q, S2, 3J) during the course of the day and discovered the hard way that Tony's pessimistic forecast was actually true. We made a total of ten flights, and not one of them found a thermal worth talking about.

Despite this, much discussion, cooperation, flight testing, and practice were in evidence. Five guys hanging out at the aerodrome helping each other pursue our manic-depressive avocation. There are a lot worse ways to spend a sunny summer day in Vermont.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It was bound to happen

Tony experienced his first actual field landing today. After a bold flight to the east, he did a fine job of putting 7H down in a hayfield in the river valley. Tim and I went to fetch him and we both forgot our cameras!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Just HOW much has it rained, lately?

Depends where you live, obviously.

Determine your bragging rights, right here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Over 2B9 at 1145, today...

Through the magic of the internet, you can also HEAR the towplane as it actually was at the moment this photo was taken. Just follow these simple steps:

1. Cover your ears

2. Close your eyes

3. Hold your breath

4. And listen.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

On the road again

For the next nine days, I will be crewing at a contest in Uvalde, Texas. I will check PMSC News for updates about the club.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend Report August 2 - 3

Both days were lost to intermittent thunderstorms, heat, summer vacations, and apathy. We were able to get some trailer washing done, and Pete organized the 1-23 toolbox. Check it out next time you get a chance; it is a thing of beauty.

The seat back has been found.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday Slackers

Having looked at the long-term forecast, Tim (PM) and Tony (7H) did the logical thing and took the day off to go flying. They joined up in loose formation and headed north. The formation proved to be too loose, however, and soon they were on their own. Tony turned around just short of Dean and found the conditions in the river valley not to his liking. After two heroic saves, including one over "Kevin's Field," he dribbled home. Only after hearing his story did I realize that neither of his trailers is at Post Mills. Brave or foolish, you decide. Tim stayed up longer, didn't go quite as far, and made a perfect spot landing. Both flights are on the OLC.

Later in the day, Mike showed up to fly 3J, but discovered during the preflight inspection that the seat back was missing. We tried cannibalizing the other 1-23, but it turned out that the parts are not interchangeable. The missing seat back remains a mystery.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

World Championships in Germany

The World Gliding Championships for the 15-meter, 18-meter, and Open Classes will take place August 2 - 16. If you want to follow along, the WGC website will have the official news and results. Of even greater interest, however, will be the US Team News Blog, which should have some pretty good daily reporting. The first report was published today. I have just now subscribed my newsreader to this feed, and I have added a link to the blog in the sidebar over there on the right.

At the end of the Championships, we'll take a survey to find out which PMSC member maintains the most interesting soaring blog on the internet.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekend Report July 26 - 27

The weather gods realized the mistake they made on Friday and resumed raining on us on Saturday. Actually, there was a fair amount of flyable weather between the showers. The conditions cycled between sunny and shady as the unstable air aloft generated giant clouds whose shadows always seemed to pass through our area. In between the dark periods, there was a small amount of lift.

Nathan and Olivia served as sniffers and reported nary a bump. In separate flights, Jon and Faraday took the opportunity to show off their smooth air flying skills. Tony took off seeking glory and wound up being beaten by a girl. Tom, after working all day on the 1-23 skid, tried a long tow toward a promising cloud on the outskirts of 3J's range. He couldn't make it stick. At the end of the day, the hotshots, Tim and Evan, tried it and were able to stay aloft for a little while. Sonny and Pete worked on projects. Skip spent the day polishing his trailer. It was a difficult day, but we got the most out of it. Thanks, Kevin, for instructing.

The best part of the day was the cookout at Peter and Petey's.

The Sunday weather was uniformly grey. At least it didn't rain. Determined to break the Sunday curse, we managed five flights, one of which featured Sam's first completely unassisted takeoff and tow. We were visited by Thomas' family and by John, Kathy, Ryan, and Elijah Gass. They wished us all a happy 20th birthday before they headed back to Maine.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What happens when it stops raining

A skid is replaced. A flight is made. Silent engine parts arrive. An aeroretrieve happens. Another flight is made. An inspection takes place. Andy leaves town by Champ.

A lot of activity for a weekday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trailer polishing

It's lots of fun. Just like whitewashing fences. If you ask nicely, Skip or Rick may let you try it some time.

Weekend Report July 19 - 20

Only two flights on Saturday and none on Sunday. On Saturday, the difference in ages between the two pilots who flew probably set a record. Sam D took his third lesson in the Blanik, and Tom H flew 3J. The lift was ragged to non-existent, and the quotidian thunderstorm put an early end to that day. Pete, Tom and Sonny assembled KX and rearranged trailers.

The Sunday weather was typical - rain all day. We haven't flown on a Sunday at Post Mills since May 25 (eight weekends ago!) We've had a lot better weather during the week this year, especially on Tuesdays.

Perhaps we should be going to church more often.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weather to squander

How did we miss yesterday? I must have been out to lunch. Here is a report from GBSC.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weekend Report July 12 - 13

The picnic weather continued through Saturday. Not quite hot enough to call it off and go jump in the lake, but almost. Cloudbase was low, barely 4000 feet, and the lift was spotty. The A-team (Skip, Evan, Tim) flew their fancy gliders locally, but nobody was brave enough to fly off into the murk. The rest of us (Jon, Tom, Andy, Andy) enjoyed lessons in the Blanik. It was nice having 4 towpilots on the field today. Come to think of it, it was nice just having a towplane. The installation of the new oil cooler was completed last night, thanks to you-know-who.

We were visited today by friends Rob and Christian Buck, in their Cessna 170. At the beginning of the day, we discovered that we had left the Blanik back seat cushions at Franconia last weekend. No problem. Rob and Christian flew there and retrieved them for us. We owe them! In the meantime, we flew the Blanik with the seat cushion from Tim's Champ in the back. It worked quite well, as long as you left the gear down.

We missed a chance for a cookout Saturday evening. Wait till next week!

On Sunday Tim, Skip, Tom, Thomas, and Kevin showed up, but there was no flying due to the drizzly weather. Tom patched and sanded the nose of the 2-33, Thomas and Skip worked on Blanik instruments, and Tim reinstalled the seat in his airplane.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Franconia photos

Skip has put his Franconia photos from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the web. My favorite is this one, taken from the back side of National Hill.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Collision of Bureaucracies

Here is an example of the FAI working dilligently to promote sport aviation around the world.
Dear FAI Members,

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List 2008 specifically prohibits the artificial delivery of oxygen, whereas the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) mandates the use of supplemental oxygen to counter the effects of hypoxia.

WADA agrees that the health and safety of our athletes is paramount and does not consider the transportation of oxygen in an aircraft to be an anti-doping rule violation.

FAI is therefore pleased to inform members that they may use supplemental oxygen in aircraft during FAI events. If you need any further information, please contact the undersigned.

With best regards,

Rob Hughes
General Projects Manager

Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
Avenue Mon-Repos 24

FAI - The World Air Sports Federation
Tel: +41 21 345 1070
Fax: +41 21 345 1077
Website :

It is also an example of the occasional brainless nonsense I have to deal with as your Alternate Delegate to the International Gliding Commission.

No flying today

In a race to get the L-19 ready for the weekend, Andy (and Andy) worked in the rain and into the twilight hours last night. (They are replacing the oil cooler. You may have noticed the towplane's above-average oil consumption at Franconia).

I just thought I'd point out that after a full week of hard work that enabled us to enjoy our superb encampment, Andy is back at it, volunteering his time to keep us flying. Much of what needs to be done around here happens behind the scenes, without recognition or fanfare.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Franconia Encampment July 3 - 7

You can tell how much we were looking forward to our Franconia encampment this year by the level of activity during the week leading up to the 4th of July weekend. Charlie and Rick dragged the 1-23 and the Silent to Franconia Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, Pete showed up at Post Mills to help pack up and work on trailers. Andy and Rich aerotowed the Blanik on Thursday afternoon, and Tim towed the golf cart. We were completely ready to fly on Friday morning, and a good thing, too. We had three perfect weather days, and we used them all.

Rick was the first to launch in the Silent, humbly accepting an aerotow from Bob D. John Good followed and the two had an interesting struggle together on the lower slopes of Cannon Mountain. Eventually the day heated up, and John was able to complete a grand tour of Northern New Hampshire and Vermont (Colebrook, Newport, Jay Peak, Mansfield, Moosilauke) in the Discus 2. Respectable XC performances were also turned in by T8, who visited Post Mills, and ZP, who wasn't carrying a flight recorder. Thomas also wasn't carrying a checklist to remind him to retract the undercarriage following release. I think that everyone who spotted him in the air that day mentioned it to him that evening.

Back home, local flights were enjoyed by Skip (JS), Andy (PM), Mike (PM), Paul (S1), and Tim (PM), all of whom had flight recorders. For some reason, none of the Blanik, 1-23, 1-35, or Silent pilots seemed to care about recording their flights. We made 23 flights in all.

The annual cookout-meeting at Arethusa started shortly after flying and lasted till the wee hours. The culinary volunteers, led by Judy, outdid themselves once again. The performance of her husband the grillmeister was slightly above average once again as well. There were 40 celebrants, including Herb Weiss and Jim David from the Franconia club.

Tony called a club meeting to order around 8pm. The only agenda item was the presentation of our annual awards. The Most Enthusiastic New Member of 2007 was Jason Cohen, whose parents were there to congratulate him. The Babs Nutt award, given for the highest altitude achieved in the previous year, went to Steve Voigt, who made it to 25574 feet on October 21.

And while the David Shapiro Trophy is not a club award, we were happy to present it to Evan Ludeman, the 2008 New England Gliding Champion. The trophy also makes a good mount for a 4th of July sparkler.

On Saturday, Paul, Evan, Tim, Skip, and Rich were able to prove where they went on a day that was consistently good. You can see Mount Washington in the photo on the left (click to enlarge). It is hard to complain about lift of 5 knots to 7300 feet. A few of us made the pylon turn around the MW Observatory, and Tony did it for the first time. We don't know where Thomas went, but from all accounts, he had his wheel retracted during the flight. Sonny proved that he has what it takes to get his Silver Duration leg by flying for 4 hours and 58 minutes in KX. Tom, Jason, and Pete had nice flights in 3J, with Tom demonstrating that you don't really need a 3000 foot tow at Franconia.

I wish I could say that we were just as careful on the ground as we were flying. We managed to poke a hole in the screen house with a wingtip, and we gave a scare to a FSA pilot by deciding to launch while their 2-33 was in the pattern.

The Saturday night cookout was an informal reprise of the night before. Mary emptied out her refrigerator, and leftovers were collected by all hands. The party was at Arethusa, of course, and someone calculated that Judy and Andy presided over about 80 meals during the course of the weekend.

There was a debate about whether to attend the fireworks at the Mount Washington Hotel, as tradition would dictate, or to roll down the hill to the newly-established and much more convenient display in downtown Franconia. In the end it turned out that the Hotel fireworks were not actually at the Hotel, and the Franconia show was at least as good. We may have established a new tradition.

Overall, Sunday's weather was excellent, but the soaring conditions were inconsistent. I saw 7 knots on the averager once, and Skip reported 10 (I think he was hypoxic at the time). There were also significant quiet periods, when you were happy to be climbing at all. Tim, Rich, Steve, and Evan all earned OLC points, but Rick did not. Jason soloed the Blanik (twice). The usual suspects flew 3J for a total of about 5 hours, which is a pretty good accomplishment in a shared glider. Thomas made a 4-hour XC flight, still without a flight recorder. It was nice to see Andy Lawrence getting back into flying shape on a 1.5 hour flight with John Good in the Blanik. It was also nice to say hello to a strangely familar looking fellow named Lane.

Tony tried to repeat his summiting of Mount Washington, but wound up landing at Twin Mountain airport. His aeroretrieve was so efficiently performed that he hardly missed any flying that day.

Flying lasted until fairly late, which meant that packing up required a lot of volunteer effort. Thanks to Charlie, Tim, and Andy Lawrence for doing the ground hauling, and to Rich and the other Andy for air hauling the Blanik back to Post Mills.

A pleasantly warm summer day, perfect for picnicking, but lousy for soaring. Our timing this year was perfect. We retrieved the last two trailers, and Thomas went out and bought a flight recorder, in plenty of time for next year's encampment.

We made 61 flights in 11 gliders. Our total time in the air must have been about 100 hours. The L-19 climbed something like 150000 feet hauling us up, with most of the tows provided by one guy (Thanks, Bob!) We were able to give rides to family members Elizabeth, Sam, Jeff, Renee, Zack, and Kelly. We had a first-solo-in-type, a first summiter, and enough OLC points to allow us to pass NESA in the standings. We renewed our relationship with FSA. The instructor got to fly (Thanks, Andy and John!) We had outstanding parties (Thanks, non-pilots!), and we were even considerate of the wildlife.

I can't wait till next year!

World Championships in Italy

The first of two World Gliding Championships scheduled for this summer is underway in Italy. We (the USA) have sent six pilots to compete, two in each of three classes (World, Standard, and Club). The US Team maintains an interesting news blog* for the folks back home. There is also an official contest website, where the results can be found. The contest will last through July 20. It is amusing to watch the launches on the webcam while having breakfast.

*It takes one to know one.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Online Contest update

We now have ten members participating in this year's OLC:
Andy, Evan, Mike, Paul, Rich, Rick, Skip, Steve, Tim, Tony
This isn't just a distributed contest. It is a good resource for saving and sharing flight logs, for flight comparisons, route planning, and viewing on satellite photos. There is a link to the club's OLC page in the sidebar.

We should strive to take a flight recorder on every flight.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tim's new type

Congratulations to Tim for his first flight in PM today. His 2.6 hour flight makes him the ninth club member to participate in the Online Contest this year.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weekend Report June 28 - 29

Another dud. A stormy Saturday and a drizzly Sunday.

Tim, Pete, Andy, Sonny, and John trailered a brace of 1-23s on Sunday.

Preparations are under way for the Franconia encampment. There has been some talk of soaring there in PM, but the weather doesn't look favorable.

Update: 3J is at Franconia.
Update: Blanik, L19, and golf cart have also arrived.

Here's hoping that we have as much fun as we did last year!

Friday, June 27, 2008


It's official, finally. Congratulations to Evan Ludeman for winning the Region One contest in the combined 15-meter and Standard Classes.

The 2008 New England gliding champion is a member of your club. Shake his hand the next time you see him!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Experience is what you get...

When you don't get exactly what you wanted.

John Boyce demonstrates the proper way to cultivate a corn field with a standard class glider, somewhere near Stockbridge.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend Report June 21 - 22

We had a good day of flying on Saturday.

The weather was interesting. There was good lift above 4000 feet, but it was quite tricky getting up there. It suddenly ended when the rains came at 4pm. There is no solace in the realization that the rain showers are "widely scattered" when it's raining where you're standing (or flying).

Before the cooldown, Steve, Tim, Tom, Pete, Faraday, and Sonny had decent soaring flights. Faraday made her first sustained climb in the Blanik. She thought it was pretty cool that you can make a 1000 pound machine climb using just solar energy. Her instructor agreed.

After the rain, Jon took advantage of the really smooth air and made his first unassisted complete flight from takeoff to landing. Congratulations, Jon! At the very end of the day, Rich went looking for signs of reheating, and was able to stay up for a while in 3J.

A few of us got a chance to practice circling with other gliders as the Region One contest transients blew through our area. Their task that day reads like a tour of Vermont soaring sites: Sugarbush, Post Mills, Springfield, and back to Sugarbush. That last step (back to Sugarbush) was the tricky bit. Nobody made it, and three of them landed at Post Mills. We were good hosts.

On Sunday it rained all day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And the winner is...

We don't know.

The contest is over, but the results won't be known for another day or so. All 24 gliders landed out, three of them at Post Mills. One of them was Evan, who retrieved himself retrieved his trailer by hitching a ride back to Sugarbush in our towplane.

The flight logs from all 24 gliders must be processed before the scores can become official. Occasionally, as happened here, everyone lands out on the last day. Some people go home directly from wherever they landed, and the scorer usually winds up spending a couple of days tracking down the data he needs to do his job.

So we'll just have to be patient.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

T8 wins the day!

Congratulations to Evan for being the 15M Class winner on Day 1 of the Region One competition!*

The day was devalued, so he got only 589 points, instead of the usual 1000. The task for today was cancelled, so he gets to enjoy another 24 hours of being Number One. Here he is explaining how he did it to Tony.

His flight log is posted on the OLC.

*And congratulations to Steve Arndt for winning the Sports Class in a Silent.


Today is the first anniversary of PMSC News.

There have been 122 posts so far, with 84% of them authored by the same guy. The website has been visited 9025 times from 53 ISPs in 13 countries.

I'll probably keep doing it for a while longer.

Baling out, the story

This morning's contest update contains more information on RR's boating adventure. And thanks to the anonymous commenter who found this picture

in this newspaper article.

Oh frabjous day!

Sometimes you do catch a break. Two fortuitous events made today celebratable (three, counting RR's lucky escape).

The first was the removal of the flywheel hub from the Silent, after over a month of pulling and cursing. It finally yielded to a special tool shipped from the factory in Italy.

As you can see from these pictures (click to enlarge), the magnets and windings are toast, but the engine is basically OK. What a relief!

The second happy event occurred when Tony put his wings into his new enclosed trailer for the first time. Despite my gloomy predictions that major modifications would be required, the wings went right in and fell neatly in place in the existing fittings. The probability of this happening is approximately zero. Tony is optimistic about getting the fuselage fitted before the Franconia encampment. I have decided to be less pessimistic.

Not a bad day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bailing out, the sequel

Pete, Steve, Tony, Andy, Doug, Jon, Faraday (yes, Faraday), Thomas, and Rick attended the second edition of Gregg's excellent ground school class on emergency parachuting. We met at 6pm at Lebanon Airport.

Like last time, we learned the basics (Look...Reach...Pull), as well as the benefits of good preparation and sensible decision-making after reaching the ground. There is a lot more to survival than simply putting on the chute every day. As before, Gregg pointed us toward some reading materials for further study.

Unlike the last time, we didn't adjourn to the brewpub after class (as far as I know; Andy and I were compelled to get back to Post Mills before sunset).

Contest Reports

The Region One contest ran from Monday June 16 through Saturday June 21.

The day before the contest began, Sunday, was the official practice day. On the practice day a task is set, but there is no official scoring and flying the task is optional. It gives the organizers and competitors a chance to work out the bugs in the system before the actual race begins. Our guy, T8, came in third on Sunday - too bad it didn't count! Our friend Errol Drew wrote the report to SSA. The practice day scoresheet shows who's at the contest, not much else.

On Monday western Vermont experienced the same sturm und drang we suffered on this side of the state. The first contest day was consequently scrubbed. Some gliders were able to fly between the rainy periods, but it was another day that didn't count.

Tuesday's task was a trip down to Rutland and back. The official results are on the SSA website, as is the writeup. It was another difficult day. I got an email from Rick Roelke (RR) saying that his final glide was spoiled by rain. Those of you who have flown at Sugarbush know that there is no place to land for about six miles south of the field. The only option for a glider too low to make it home is Blueberry Lake, and yes, that's the option Rick took.

After splashing down, the glider floated pretty well. Rick jumped out and swam to shore, towing the glider behind him. The nearest beach turned out to be on a small island, so his troubles weren't over yet. His crew returned with boats and inner tubes, and they floated and towed the glider to the real shore. The glider wasn't damaged, thankfully, and Rick stayed up all night drying his instruments in Dave Ellis's vacuum chamber.

The best flight of the day in the 15-meter class was turned in by our own T8.

On Wednesday, everybody was ready to fly early, but the day was called off due to overcast and lowering temperatures. Unexpectedly, it turned nice in the afternoon, giving RR an opportunity to make a test flight in a slightly damp sailplane.

Another no-contest day on Thursday. Tony took this photo just before they called it off.

Friday: scrubbed again. An epidemic of pandiculation breaks out at the Warren-Sugarbush airport.

Finally, on Saturday, the last scheduled day of the contest, the weather gods relent. The task includes Post Mills and Springfield. Three gliders land at Post Mills, and it turns out that nobody makes it all the way around. With 24 gliders in fields and at airports all over Vermont, the results will not be known for at least another day.

Don't let this happen to you - III

Monday, June 16, 2008

Annual inspections

Bill Alby finished the annual inspections on the club gliders on Saturday, and is nearly finished with the inspections of the private fleet as well. Thanks, Bill!

It was nice to see the PW-5 and the LS 4 assembled for their inspections. I wonder if they will actually make it into the air this season!

Our airport looked like a real gliderport this weekend, with the trailers all lined up in the assembly area for the first time this year.

A pair of half-weekends

We flew on June 7th and 14th, both Saturdays. The first one was a bit frustrating, with good looking cumulus clouds and light winds, but no lift to speak of. We made about eight flights, only one of which managed to stay up. It was so hot that we quit early, and our heat exhaustion lasted through Sunday, a day of maintenance projects, but no flying.

During the week, Tony flew a few times to practice his landings and test some new instruments in 7H, and Kevin and Nathan took a ride in the Blanik.

The 14th was notable in that Jon flew his first unassisted takeoff and tow. This is a major milestone. Can solo be that far away?

Sunday was cancelled early due to drizzly conditions. It cleared in the afternoon, so we may have missed an opportunity. It turned out to be good enough to fly a practice task at the Region One contest.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Need something to do? Come to a contest!

The Region 1 Soaring Contest is being held again this year after a three year hiatus... and a lot of us (okay, a few dozen of us...) are really happy about that. Details here.

Anyone with some time on their hands and interested in an insider's peek at competition soaring... and willing to help out by crewing for me and possibly others should contact me. The principal need is for drivers in the event of an off field landing (that will be someone else, surely not me). If it were me, you'd have to be able to drive a manual transmission, but since it won't be me, it'll likely be an automatic. But there's other stuff to do as well, it's amazing how many hands it can take to safely and efficiently move 30+ gliders around on one little airport safely and efficiently.

Attendance gets you dinner accompanied by guys who wear funny hats and unstylish sunglasses by day and tell improbable stories by night. The competition clinics by Doug Jacobs are also excellent and 90% of what is covered is germane to XC flying generally.

Dates are 6/15 - 6/21. If you are a maybe or can only make part of the week, that's fine, contact me (see member list for contact info) and we'll see what we can work out.


Four in a row

The weekday slackers strike again!

Tony, Tom, Mike and Steve showed up for our fourth weekday operation in a row. Eight flights today almost make up for the lost weekend. Steve scored some OLC points in PM, Tom (3J) celebrated the new tow rates by making four flights, and Mike and Tony disappeared for an hour or so in the Blanik and 7H, respectively. John, Gregg, and Ursula ran ropes and drove the golf cart all afternoon.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Airspeed calibration...

Although there was no flying on this wild Sunday afternoon, some of us started fine tuning our instruments in order to be ready to collect more OLC points. With the help of Rick's scientific setup, quite many feet of instrument tubing, and a little bit of water, we concluded that ZP's airspeed indicator reads 56kts for a dynamic pressure of about 2'' of water, and 96kts for a 6'' water column. It turns out that this is amazingly accurate. The theoretical values are 55.447 and 96.037kts for 2 and 6 inches of water!! ZP certainly won't need a new airspeed indicator....

Weekend Report May 31 - June 1

A wet and wild weekend. Saturday was wet and Sunday was wild. We didn't fly at all.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekday Slackers

Two flights on Wednesday. John Good flew FS to Groveton and back, and Tony flew 7H on a "local cross-country" flight. Tony's flight would have been longer, but after 2.5 hours, he landed to attend to a plumbing problem.

On Thursday, flights were made by Tim, Tony, and Tom. The conditions were not as good as they looked. Tony had the longest flight, 2 hours, but it was a struggle the whole time.

On Friday, Creighton showed up, got his checkride, and flew the Blanik solo. Welcome back, Creighton. Also, Tony honed his spot landing skills with a few pattern tows in 7H.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Critical Assembly Check

Today's guest blogger is John Good, who wrote up his flight from yesterday. His flight log is available (open this file with your favorite flight analysis program).

The PW-5 aileron story, and the post that mentioned distractions during glider preparation prompt me to offer my thoughts. Distractions are never a good thing, but they are also inevitable. Safety requires a scheme that ensures an airworthy glider even when a host of distractions interfere with assembly.

Thus we have the Critical Assembly Check (CAC). This is a separate check of each item that the manufacturer and the service history of the glider indicate are critical to flight safety. For every glider you fly you should have a list of these critical items, and you should check them prior to flight. It will help if you get in the habit of placing a mark on the wing root tape that indicates you have done the CAC.

The list should be as short as possible. It should not include "nice to have" items such as installing batteries and checking their voltage. Batteries are important and should indeed be checked prior to launch. Failure to do so might well be reason to land prematurely. But there should be no glider in which a battery is required for safe, controlled flight - so checking batteries should be part of your assembly checklist, but not your CAC.

On my Discus, the CAC includes three items:
  • Main pin secured
  • Tail pin fully seated
  • Controls free
This may sound awfully simple, but it works - there never has been a Discus that was unairworthy when these three items were correct*.

Note that the CAC is not the same as a positive control check (PCC). For an aircraft that has manual control hookups, the CAC might include a PCC (though direct inspection of the control hookups has in a number of cases been shown to be more reliable). And there are almost certainly other items in any CAC (such as checking that pins are secured).

*It should be noted that weight and balance sufficiently out of tolerance would provide another way to achieve an unairworthy Discus.