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.