Saturday, June 27, 2009


The 2009 Junior World Gliding Championships are underway. This is an interesting competition for several reasons. There are 46 entries in the Club Class and 36 in the Standard Class, representing a total of 21 countries.

All the competitors are under 26 years old. In addition to the usual makeup of the crews (wives and girlfriends), there are husbands, boyfriends, and parents. They are having a terrific time, apparently, with excellent weather and lots of daylight in which to party (at latitude 61° N).

The contest website is one of the best I've seen, with plenty of stories, pictures and video. Also some of the teams are blogging the event, most notably USA, Canada, and Australia. It's nice to read about a race from a mother's point of view.

The contest runs through July 3.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The standard tasks

We've been talking a lot recently about the routes we fly out of Post Mills, but not everyone knows what we're talking about. Recently, Sonny reminded me of this, so here are the standard 100, 200, and 300 kilometer tasks that Kevin devised several years ago. They are all FAI Triangles, which means that the shortest leg is at least 28% of the total distance. You don't have to fly an FAI Triangle to get an FAI badge, but if you do, you may also qualify for a state record.

Click to enlarge each image.

The PMSC turnpoint database is here.

Weekend Report June 20 - 21

On Saturday we had 15 hours and 26 minutes of daylight and we made three flights. Sunday was a few seconds longer and we didn't fly at all. We must be doing something wrong!

On the bright side, we got a new member, Christopher Ian, and we finally put the 2-33 together. Welcome, Christopher, and congratulations to the crew who worked on the glider. I don't know who you are, since the house across the street has become a house of pestilence, and we didn't get out at all. Don't visit unless you want the flu.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing the odds

So far this season, the good weather just hasn't been showing up on the weekends. The Weekday Slackers have figured out that it is two and a half times more likely to find good weather Monday through Friday than on the weekends. Slacking isn't very difficult; all you need is an understanding boss and a towpilot with a motorglider.

This week, Tony (7H) and Rick (S2) chased each other around Kevin's 100 km triangle in conditions that started out weak and improved throughout the afternoon. The last climb, at the second turnpoint (near Dean), went to nearly 6000 feet. That was yesterday. Today, Tim (89), Andy (PM), Paul N (S1), and Rick tried it again. The conditions were much weaker, and nobody ventured far afield. It wasn't too hard to stay up. (Tim may not agree with that. Perhaps he would have done better if his flight recorder hadn't failed.) The average climbs were less than 2 knots, and it was a struggle to get above 4500 feet. There were no clouds.

Meanwhile, The Lone Slacker (KG) put us all to shame with a terrific 226 km flight out of Morrisville. Moshe reported plenty of several nice cumulus clouds and a maximum altitude of 8000 feet.

The depressingly familiar stratus clouds returned as we were putting planes away. The weekend forecast is grim, and the Slackers have returned to standby status.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend Report June 13 - 14

There was some good flying on Saturday, despite the overcast skies. We made about half a dozen flights, the most noteworthy being Bill's first flight in 3J and the best being Bill's subsequent solo flight in the Blanik. Cloudbase was over 5000 feet, and there were good climbs under the dark spots.

Andy, Paul, Tony, Skip, and Thomas worked on the 2-33 (probably others, I wasn't actually there). That plane should be ready very soon.

It rained early on Sunday and we made the mistake of calling it off in the morning. We probably missed half a day of flying when the front moved out of town ahead of schedule.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Silents Rule

While Evan was tearing up the skies at the Mifflin contest and Bill and Thomas were setting altitude records at home, I was relaxing at another contest, the Region 5 East Championships, in Jefferson, South Carolina.

One nice thing about being an official at a contest is that you can get other people to do the writeups. The contest lasted a week and generated a story each day: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The winners were George Green in the Std/15m Class, and Sarah Kelly, flying a Silent, in the Sports Class.

It's nice to be home in time for all this bad weather.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

T8 at Mifflin

Evan won 2 of the 4 contest days at Mifflin!



C'mon along for the ride -- let's do Mifflin!

I think this year's Region 2 contest at Mifflin had been planned for all of five minutes when it was on my calendar. I've made a few XC flights there before, including one or two ridge days, but this was my first chance to race there. It is a spectacular site to fly around -- think "Disneyland for Glider Pilots". Unlike some of our other Eastern Mountain flying sites (e.g. Sugarbush, New Castle), most of the task area has an abundance of landable fields. There are local exceptions, yes, but on the whole the task area is as landout friendly as it gets.

Just add weather. Stir well.

Any soaring contest leads off with a safety briefing. Attendance is mandatory and much useful information is shared regarding procedures, airspace, hazards unique to the area and so forth. Another routine is identifying and introducing those that have not flown the contest area before, and these guys are assigned a mentor that they can go to with questions as they come up. Mountain soaring is technical stuff and local knowledge is key, so a good mentor here at Mifflin can really help. Competition Director Kai Gertsen runs through the rookies list, assigns mentors, asks "anyone else"? I stick up my hand. Kai looks at me like I'm from Mars -- I've been flying contests with Kai off and on for, um, about 18 years. But I *never* turn down a chance to pick up a tip, learn something new. I deadpan: "I've flown here, but never in a race." Kai is impressed with my delivery -- I see the sparkle in his eye -- and assigns "Sierra Mike", John Seymour. I glance over at Gregg Leslie, with whom I have a bit of friendly rivalry, and he just rolls his eyes. I grin. What Sierra Mike doesn't know about flying here probably isn't knowable.

Our first two days are thermal soaring days distinguished by the presence of a stationary front hanging over the task area. Smart, experienced guys know to be *exceedingly* aware of the airmass boundaries and are ready to shift gears when they get there. I guess I was too busy navigating, I blew the gear changes and it cost me both days. The single most memorable event of the first two days was getting low in the Stone Valley late in the afternoon on Memorial Day and wondering how in the heck I was going to get over this darned mountain and back to Mifflin for dinner and a semi-respectable score. That's called "visualizing success" in some buzzword laden professional development course, I think. But after about a half hour grinding around below 2000 agl, slowly losing and starting to think real hard about which of these every-which-way-but-level fields is the best place to park, it's getting a little tougher to visualize. Speaking of visuals, there's a private airport at the end of this valley... and it looks like this:

Hostetler "Airport", see also upper left here

When you can see that the grass is high from 1000' or better -- and I can -- you know it's really high and I'm not thrilled about this. This valley is just a tricky place to land and I'd rather not. About this time I get a nice whiff of Memorial Day barbecue and my spirits pick up -- there's a thermal around here somewhere! 3 or 4 minutes later I've got it and I'm climbing to final glide on charcoal power and thinking seriously about dinner.

15m and standard class have combined for this race, and standard class guy Phil Gaisford wins both these days and this is about as surprising as the sun rising in the East. Meanwhile, I'm off exploring the deeper, darker, drearier regions of the score sheet. 25 mph on Day 1, 41 mph on Day 2. Bleah. This is "racing"? Then, it rained. And then it rained some more. After three days during which we didn't even get the ships out of the box, Mother Nature woke up, stretched and blew us a kiss -- WNW winds at around 12 knots! Oh, and 2500 msl cloud bases.

And at Mifflin, you can race on a day like this. It's not a particularly meaningful race, but it is a fairly dramatic one and good fun too. The task is an MAT (choose your own turnpoints) with a two hour minimum. The course to choose is obvious: four runs down to the Southern end of Jack's Mtn at Mill Creek and back to Mifflin airport with one intermediate "turnpoint" on the ridge at Belleville, at which point we'll have logged the maximum 11 turns allowed on a MAT and about 175 miles. The problem is, I can do that in about 1:40 and the under time penalty will essentially tie us all. What I need to win is a way to get another turn point, off this ridge, and more distance.

On my third trip down to Mill Creek, I see a street of sorts leading towards the Raystown ridge, about 5 miles upwind, and the Raystown Dam turnpoint a couple miles beyond. It's nearly overcast at 2500 msl, so the "street" is just a darker mass of cloud. It seems to work and I fly slowly up wind no more than 1500 off the valley floor, working the overcast for any lift I can find, although there's nothing strong enough to circle in. It's very delicate flying, two fingers on the stick, radio off, trying to pull off a zero-sink magic trick under this impossibly low cloud. I make the turn at Raystown Dam having only lost a little height. A bubble over the Raystown ridge gets a circle or two to get back to "altitude", then I fly downwind to the bowl at Mill Creek. Back at Mill Creek, I climb up the ridge and accelerate from 55 knots to 110. In the ASW-20, when you shift the flap lever into high speed cruise, it gives you a kick in the back, just like a sports car. Zooooom. I'm *still* under time, about 5 minutes, but I score over 91 mph for the task and this wins the day.

That night we planted the reddest tree anyone could find (Japanese Maple) in memory of Charlie Spratt near the pavillion.

Last race day, Saturday May 30th. Do you ever dream about a perfect soaring day, high altitudes, well marked thermals, perfect visibility, ridge running, daylight that lasts and lasts? I do. This day is even better than that. Our weather man, Richard Kellerman sums it up: "Cracking Good". And how.

The task is another MAT with five specified turns (Bedford, Spruce Creek, Turnpike Tunnels, Three Barns, Lock Haven) totaling 220 miles, after which we are free to do our own thing. It's an "anti-OLC" task. Many of us, given a day like this, a flight recorder and an attitude, would create a course designed for maximum distance using ridges and as little else as we can manage. Those courses look great on the OLC and they are fun to fly and fun to brag about. Kai's task is different: most of the turns are off the ridges and some of these task legs will have to be done in thermals. The intent is to put more decision making and more challenge into a given number of miles.

The first run is Southwest to Bedford airport and the fast way isn't direct. We'll use Tussey Mtn for most of the way and thermal soar either end. I start early and don't see another glider until well down Tussey, approaching a rough, broken section of ridge line known locally as the "Zig" (there's also a "Zag", further North). Here, we have a choice of soaring some very low knobs next to the good fields in the valley or we can go way 'round the back into a high bowl that forms a saddle with the most prominent upwind knob. The glider ahead takes the low road, I go for the high ground. The high road proves painless and as I fly over the saddle I see the other glider coming around the front, now slowing and climbing back onto the more regularly shaped ridge. As he's climbing, I'm descending and much faster -- the back way worked better. "X-ray, on your right" -- it's John Good. I think he took the low road just for entertainment, he doesn't like the easy stuff. I pull ahead thanks to negative flaps and bendy wings, then get a lesson on getting turnpoints off the ridge at Bedford where John slips in and out with only a couple of circles in a thermal to fly five miles upwind and five more back to the ridge. I take extra altitude for the sake of calm nerves and X gets a couple minutes ahead. I see him again many miles later at Spruce Creek climbing away from the second turn to start the long downwind leg to Turnpike Tunnels in thermals. I pick up the 6 knot thermal he's conveniently marked for me at Spruce, at least a thousand feet lower, and promptly lose it, finding something closer to 2 knots to thrash around in. Then I fall out of that, as well.

Now, if you are going to "practice" choosing weak, uncenterable thermals on a cracking good day and start falling out of them for good measure, going down wind is the time to do it. I know there's six knots around here somewhere, but I can't find it and also I can't find my danged map. How the heck do you lose a map in a single place glider? I ask that question aloud several times with increasing intensity, volume and colorful embellishments as I thrash around and ten minutes later I find the map -- it's jammed up by the rudder pedals and I haven't a clue how it got there. It takes me another five minutes to retrieve the map (try it sometime, it's not as easy as you think) during which I've fallen out of yet another thermal and I have made a complete and total mess of this easy down wind leg. Double ARGH! Map retrieved, I mentally hit myself over the head with it and start planning my next turn at "Turnpike Tunnels".

The decision depends upon what I want to do next. After the tunnels, I need to fly Northeast to Three Barns, then NNW to Lock Haven. Probably the smart thing, and certainly the conservative thing is to stay high and thermal soar all three of these turns... but I want to ridge soar Tuscarora Mtn. Tuscarora is the ridge that includes the Honey Grove Turnpoint here. The wind is about 290 true, so I get on Tuscarora with a substantial tailwind component and the miles fly by. The upwind jump at Honey Grove is easy and I fly up a little past Mifflintown where the ridge is bending away from the wind and my course line and it is time to do something else.

"Something else" turns out to be hunting around looking for a decent thermal for a longish time at about 2000' above the valley floor. I'm still hunting at Three Barns where I connect with 6.5 knots to cloud base at something around 7000 feet. Oh, that's fun. From here, it's a milk run upwind to Lock Haven, then back to Jack's Mtn for some high speed ridge running. But mother nature still has a few surprises: Jack's mtn is very unlike the day before. The wind angle is marginal, very Westerly, the wind is gusty and the air is pretty rough. Moreover, there are times when the wind quits or shifts more Westerly for a minute or so and the ridge lift simply stops. Man, does that get your attention! I see a couple of gliders thermaling up out of the valley after falling off -- time to be careful! But it goes well. A short while later, I'm through the finish gate with 355 miles in the bag, just a tick under 70 mph for the day. That gets me another win in 15m, 4th overall for the contest and a grin for the drive home.

Karl and Iris Striedieck are planning next year's R2 contest, complete with a rookie camp. The rookie camp deserves its own plug, and here it is: these rookie camps are absolutely the best way to learn advanced XC flying and racing. It's a week of total immersion and everyone I know who has had the experience has raved about it. This is geared for the aspiring contest pilot, who it is presumed already comfortable flying 150+ mile XC flights on good days. At Mifflin, expect to see guys like Karl Striedieck, John Seymour and Hank Nixon explain how it's done. Then, you go out and fly with them. After flying, flight logs get dissected on See You, tactics discussed, decisions evaluated.

Contests are a lot of work for the organizers and the worker bees, let me extend my thanks here to all the helpers: Fred Winter, Janine Acee, Richard Kellerman, Brian Glick, Steve Glick, Austin Glick, Nikki Glick, Gene Glick (anyone see a pattern, here?), Haven Goulding, Kai Gertsen, Butch & Becky Thompson, Bob Bowers, Jacquie Doherty, Pat & Leo Buckley, Joanie Yanusas, the Great Weedoni, John Good, celebrity guest line crews Corky Gill and Jae Walker, and of course Iris & Karl Striedieck. Thanks everyone. Good time, good contest.

-Evan Ludeman / T8

Monday, June 1, 2009

Awesome flight

For those of you who stayed home to watch TV rather than come to the field yesterday, and know about being in the right place at the right time..... read on.

Bill and Thomas helped me work on the 2-33 for a few hours and I then noticed that the while the wind was strong the sky was quite clear so Tim and I towed them up-wind though moderate to heavy turbulence (almost like rotor but not) leaving them in an area that seemed like it had lift, but I wasn't expecting them to stay up for long. I landed (twice) and we got the golf cart to retrieve them, and we waited and waited but no sign of them until about 20 minutes later I spotted them over 91 and quite high which turned out to be about 7000'.

Thomas wrote:

"The tow was rougher than anything I have ever experienced at Post Mills. But off tow we went to 7k over Rt 91, and then picked up a cloud street which took us almost to exit 2 on 89. Into the wind, no circling, and we climbed up to 8.5k. I have never experienced such a cloud street. I told Bill that he will probably not experience anything like that in the next 5 years........"