Friday, October 30, 2009

Squeezing in a commercial

Congratulations to Bill Swartz for adding Commercial Glider privileges to his ATP certificate today!

The flight test took all day, due to the weather. The ceiling was lower than the top of Tug Mountain until about 2pm. It rose just enough to do four pattern tows and squeeze in all the maneuvers between release and landing.

Bill handled it well and managed to avoid landing out this time.

The ground crew, Christopher and Pete, stood around patiently all day and then leapt into action as soon as flying became possible. The examiner, Bill Stinson, said we should take pride in our club spirit. We do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wave Camp report October 16

Rick Roelke continues his reports:
Thursday dawned overcast and fairly low. There were signs of decent weather north of Gorham, but it was out of reach. John Good and I went on a local scouting mission to see if we could find an emergency landing spot for the ridge northeast of Berlin. We finally found something, but it was not very pretty on close inspection. By the time we got back ~14:00 Walter S had launched his PW6 and was reporting an 8kt thermal over Mt Hayes. We were getting some spots of sun on the ground, and the atmosphere was particularly energetic and leaped at the first sign of insolation. Walter was practically giddy as we went from sunlit spot to sunlit spot always able to find reliable lift.

All I had to hear was 8kts and I rigged and launched. There was no wave to be found, but once again, the scenery was spectacular. The color was beginning to fade higher up on the hills. I however, took advantage of an overly optimistic low tow, and got to enjoy the last of the bright colors up close and personal. But the real scenery was at the tops of the mountains where even the fairly low peaks had a thorough frosting. On top of the Carters, it looked like a zillion flocked Christmas trees. Working thermals, I ventured over to the Pilot range (behind the Crescent range). To the north there was the sun. It looked pretty good for XC, but there were still the remnants of a high overcast that looked to be trouble. It was also getting late in the day and the thermals were now in the 2-3kt range, so I hung around the general area. I headed back up to Berlin to view our nasty road/field landing spot before heading in…

Today, Friday was forecast to be light to moderate east winds, with the hope of perhaps some wave from the Carter range, and some soaring on the east side of the Presidentials. No one was hurrying for an early start and I needed to get something in town. Coming back to the field at 9:30 I noticed a bank thermometer that was reporting 35degs, yipes…

I rigged and launched around 11:00. I towed up the center of the valley, looking for some sign of wave, but only found some bumpy air, no organized lift. John Good had launched first and was maintaining on the spur from Madison to Pine. Giving up on my wave search, I headed over to Madison still in tow. I arrived near the top of Madison in hopes that the ridge lift would work up there, but no dice. There was light ridge but not enough to maintain; however some decent thermals started to cook and we were able to climb to 5500 before long. I explored around the east side of the Presidentials, and found light ridge lift in the NE facing bowls. Again the view was amazing. At this altitude everything was covered in white ice. There were frozen waterfalls, and even some caves with ice stalagmites hanging from their roofs. While I could climb a little, I felt I needed to be a bit higher for the ridge to really work, so I went back to Madison for another
climb and then headed directly into the Great Gulf. I was now able to get as high as the west ridge along the Gulf. Every time I would get right into the back of the box canyon, I would climb another 50 or 100 ft. But try as I may, I could not get as high as the observatory. I was at eye level with a cog train, and it looked like they stopped to watch as I worked the ridge.
I continued around to Tuckerman and beyond, but again just enough lift to maintain, so I gave up my quest for the peak. A leisurely trip back, stopping to check for lift from the Carters, finally ridge soaring the back side of Mt Hayes, headed in. By late in the afternoon, it was downright pleasant on the ground, with the east winds remaining light enough to use runway 30 for most all of the launches…

Weekend outlook…

The weather outlook has improved for tomorrow (Sat). Looks as if it may be a repeat of today. Actually it is worthy of note that where we had winds of well over 100ks at altitude last weekend, the forecast for tomorrow morning does not have winds over 10kts anywhere below 25k. Not a wave day. But there is a good chance of thermals between 11:00 and 20:00 when it may start to cloud over.

Sunday still looks to be a washout. But if tomorrow pans out, we will have flown 8 of 10 days. Can’t complain about that….
Several PMSC members showed up today: Skip, Laurie, Pete, Sonny, Andy, and Tim all had good flights. Christopher and Rick had a late day tour of the summit of Mount Washington, all in remarkably still air. The spectacular scenery almost makes up for the lack of wave conditions.

The big spaghetti dinner is scheduled for tomorrow night (Saturday) at the "Gorham house."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wave Camp Report October 15

Here's the RR writeup for today:
Yesterday ... while it did not have adequate clearing for high flights, did provide some spectacular cloudscapes while we flew around the valley locally. For the most part we had 7/8th cloud cover, with scattered snow showers. Mostly in the form of virga. Some hit the ground, but did not accumulate at all. This atmosphere provided luminous sunbeams back in an otherwise dark valley that never opened enough of a hole to venture into the primary. There were decent thermals under all this cloud, and all the west facing ridges were working well. The tops of the Carters were frosted in snow/ice from the day and night before, so it really gave that winter wonderland sparkle when hit by the daylight.

I was flying the Puchacz with my friend Terry Sweeney, and had a great time. Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me, as there were great opportunities for photos in this alternately grey and misty cloudscape. To see some gliders lit by the sun, against the background of virga and shadow was something I will never forget.

Today, we were hoping for a thermal day, but at the moment we are still stuck with excess moisture trapped by the Whites, perhaps it will clear later today.

The forecast outlook does not bode well for high flights. We will be in the influence of a strong coastal low that will put an end to soaring south of here, but we may remain in the “clear” up here, but the surface winds will turn to the east, while the upper level winds will be from the west. There is the slimmest possibility that if that transition is below ridge top, there could be some wave, but if it happens above the peaks, then our only hope for wave flying will be in east wind from the Carters…

At this point Sunday looks like it may be wet, but it is far too early to use that info to make your plans. Wish I had better news for the outlook, but at least if there is any chance of flight in New England, it will be up here…
In fact, the sky did open up late in the day and thermals appeared over the high ground. Andy Lawrence had the best flight of the day in 3J, reaching 5500 feet over Mt. Moriah. Tom, Paul, and Christopher had nice flights late in the day. Tony caught a chill and left for Florida.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I Did at Camp – Weekend 1, Gorham 2009

Saturday was forecasted to be rainy in the morning, clearing in the afternoon and very windy. So I debated about whether to even drag the 304 up to Gorham. I finally decide to go and got there around 1. We waited for it to clear which finally happened around 3:30. I help Evan assemble PM for his introductory (diamond) flight to Gorham (see his post).

On Sunday I flew the towplane up with Jason in tow in the Blanik, and Andy following in his Champ (to take Jason home). Jason made a perfect landing in the 25-30 mph winds with everyone watching (and critiquing). Shortly after we arrived a rain shower came through and the 7-8 gliders that were up (including Evan in PM) quickly landed in 5-10 minutes. It was nice to see how smoothly the operation went on Gorham’s single runway.

It starts to clear in the afternoon and it’s my turn in PM. I take a 2K tow to Mt. Hayes. I would have towed a little higher but everyone else was getting off at 2K so I follow suit. I work up to 5K in the thermal/ ridge/wave lift. There is strong lift but its rough, inconsistent and confusing (at least to me). The big boys are following a cloud street to the Carter-Moriah range. Its an easy trip but it’s a ways downwind, it's still blowing really hard and I am not particularly confident I can work the turbulent lift. I choose to go up wind to Pine Mtn. I can hang out there at about 5K. I move on and ridge soar a spur off Mt. Madison. I am careful not to get too far into the box canyon produce by the spur off of Mt. Adams. The spur doesn’t produce much but a least it’s an easy downwind trip to the airport if I get low. I work upwind to the spur on Mt. Adams and get down below 4K. But then I get around to the front of Mt. Adams and it’s an elevator ride to 7K and cloud base over the Mt. Washington Observatory. There are small holes in the clouds in front of Mt. Washington and I can get up about 500 ft. higher than cloudbase in the holes, but then the holes close and I have to dive out. Later the clouds in front of the mountain dissipate some and I can freely climb above the clouds in the bow wave in front of Mt. Washington (John Good had a reference that used the term ‘bow wave’ to describe the wave found in front of the mountain, Andy and I had a great flight in the Blanik above the clouds in the Franconia bow wave this summer-glad to know what to call it). I slowly work the lift to 11K over the base of the cog railroad. Now I am relaxing at 11K, listening to the radio and wondering what to do next. The big boys are at 20K behind the Wildcat ski area in what I (erroneously) assume to be the secondary wave. It sounds like they can’t penetrate to the primary because of the high winds. The clouds have cleared and I can clearly see Wildcat. I then see a glider 3-4K below me over the observatory. As I watch he turns downwind towards Wildcat. So I figure I’ll follow him. I’m way higher than he is, and my ground speed is going to be about 150 kts, how can I not find the primary? I follow a mile or two behind him. Nothing but sink, he finally turns around when he hits route 16 but I don’t find any lift. I keep going until I pass the top of Wildcat. I think I must have somehow missed the lift. I turnaround and fight my way back to the horn in a stiff headwind with heavy sink. I get to the Horn at 6K and even push passed the Horn. Nothing but sink and now I am in the rotor and it's rough. I pull the plug on the flight and head to the airport through the rotor. It's very turbulent (up and down, more than 10 kts) all the way back to Pine Mtn. where I arrive at 3K and find the trusty thermal up wind of the mountain. I half-heartedly work the thermal and relax a bit. I have just lost 8K in 13 minutes (average climb –615 fpm). That should be a record. I think “I could climb in this thermal and start all over again”. But then I think “that was enough fun for one day” so I land.

I was confused about the descent phase of my flight until that evening when Lee Blair (from NESA) shows the flight log from his diamond climb to the gathering at Good’s Glider Guiders Guesthouse (GGGG). He climbed behind the Carter-Moriah range in what was assumed (by me) to be secondary wave. His track shows that at some point he tried to push forward towards the horn and lost 4K before heading back downwind. That’s the same place I lost all my altitude. So now it was clear. From the top of Mt. Washington to the wave behind Wildcat there was nothing but sink. The wave behind Wildcat WAS the primary. Now it made sense. The wavelength was stretched out because of the high winds. In hindsight if I had just flown downwind another 30 seconds I would have hit the lift!

Monday morning was clear and the winds were still forecast to be high but diminishing during the day. The big boys started launching around 10 with their 2K tows. I was in no particular hurry and waited until the bulk of the gliders had launched. Thomas gave me the best advice of the weekend and suggested a high tow directly into the primary (“why mess around at low altitudes for 2 hours”). The big boys were joking about how paying for a high tow is like paying for sex and that it makes you feel dirty. I took a high tow anyway. The friendly Pawnee pilot towed me to the primary, told me when to release and where to go. I release at 7K msl at the horn. I was relaxing in 2 kts of lift and climbed about 700 ft. But then the lift was gone. How could I have lost the wave? I search all around but can’t find it. I lose the 700 ft I had gained. I finally broaden the search and find 1 kt behind Mt. Madison. I very carefully stay in that spot. After 10-15 minutes I have gained 1000 ft and I can start to look around. I explore the area in the Great Gulf but there is no lift stronger than 2 kts. I join Doug (T4) who took a low tow an hour or two earlier and has transitioned from thermals into the wave. We take the slow elevator up to around 18K. I never see much more than 2 kts (average about 1.5) but the wind is strong. Indicated airspeed is around 60 kts (TAS about 80 kts) just to stay in one place. I look back at Doug who is a little behind me and I see a huge lenticular cloud forming below and behind him. He puts his nose down and races away. Now the cloud is just below and just behind me and I can see the moisture violently condensing to form the cloud. I push a little faster to make sure I stay ahead of the cloud. I little later I look up and there is another lenticular forming above and behind me. I am in between (and a little in front of) two layers of cloud which are probably only about 600 feet apart. The leading edges of the clouds are just boiling as the cloud forms. It was like the lower cloud was trying to grab the glider from the bottom and the upper one trying to grab it from the top, and the glider trying to race away at 95 mph (TAS). This could have been the stuff of a recurring nightmare but PM has performance in reserve and I know I can get out of there with a push of the stick. Instead I feel like I’m teasing the clouds, just staying out of their reach.

The clouds then retreat downwind to Rt.16 and the wave subsided. I’m down to 16K so I decide to take a foliage cruise and head over to Wildcat along the Carter-Moriah range over to Berlin, up to Mt. Starr King (in Jefferson) and back to airport. You can sure get around with 15K to burn.

18K absolute altitude and 11K climb are my personal best. Both in an easy flight. Sometimes it’s ok to pay for things.

See you next weekend at Wave Camp.


P.s. there are a lot of very experience and knowledgeable pilots at the wave camp. They are willing to advise and help for the asking. I did not intend the phrase ‘big boys’ to have any negative connotations. The ‘big boys’ play well with everyone.

Wave Camp report October 11 - 13

Here's Rick Roelke's report, covering the last three days:
Tuesday was a washout, or should I say whiteout, as I awoke to 2in of snow. Although I knew it was coming, I was still not really prepared to face it…

Monday was an interesting day. Finally free of the excessive low level moisture, we had flights just shy of 18,000ft. There were good thermals, with cloud base above 7k late in the day. The winds were diminishing all day, and hence the wave started pretty good, then shut down, started up again, and finally left without a trace late in the day. We had impressive lennies at 13-15k, and at that alitude, not to be completely without our moisture problems, it decked over for a while. On my flight, I was just getting over the top of the 15k layer, only to be chased down by this solid deck. It dissipated and returned a few times.

The change in velocity from the previous two days was interesting to observe. Most notably, contacting any of the wave systems from low was MUCH more difficult this day. With the extremely high winds the previous days, the long wavelength moved the Presidential primary wave nearly back to the Carters, so it was in easy reach from that range. The Crescent wave system was stronger and closer to Mt. Hayes, my personal favorite low tow spot. In stark comparison to my 1hr diamond, it took nearly 3hrs to come in contact with the Washington wave. It was located nearly at the Horn, a bit closer to Madison. Winds were often below 20 at those altitudes.

Although there were no diamonds this day, there were several very enjoyable flights. I think the high flight was 18k, with several others above 15. We had a new to wave/Washington pilot come down with ear to ear smiles after climbing above 10k over this magnificent carpet of color. John Good, took advantage of the thermals and had a notable flight up to the NW. All in all, a good time.

A quick recall of the previous two days…

Both days were windy. It was never really bad on the ground. Noticeably windy, but mostly right down the runway. The real wind was aloft, with nearly 100kt winds at diamond height (20k). This called for vigilant position holding. On a day with this kind of wind, a wrong turn can result in thousands of feet in loss trying to work back upwind. Diamond climbs both days, with Lee Blair completing his diamond badge with a flight from a nice low start, so he could claim his diamond below 20k. Doing that was important because the winds were much stronger the closer you got to 25k.

Both days we had low (below peaks) solid overcast that broke in the afternoon. There was a "sucker hole" (it lasted perhaps too long to really fit in this category) on Sunday that ended with not only solid cover, but rain on the field. This caused a bit of a mass landing that went quite well. This has been our biggest operational concern at Gorham. With only one runway, you have to be sure you leave room for other landing pilots. This one was handled well with some pilots going quite long and all clearing the runway quickly, even if they could not pull off on the roll due to the inhospitality of the distant end of the runway. A good time had again, but perhaps not by all, as the advanced conditions did keep some wise (with the potential to grow old) pilots waiting for conditions within their comfort zones.

More flyable days to come, although it looks like the last chance for stratospheric flights will be limited to tomorrow and perhaps the next day as east winds are forecast for the weekend. Before you are discouraged, we have had lots of very interesting wave flights in east winds here. They tend to be lower, but still fun and educational (and upwind of the airport)...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wave Camp Report October 10


Several of us launched at about 4 pm to tackle obvious strong wave in very high wind aloft. I made a two hour flight in PM from a 2800 msl release on Pine Mtn to a top of just over 18K in the Mt Wash primary. Max wind somewhere around 90 knots. Max lift about 13 knots sustained. RR went the highest, to just a bit over 20K. Tomorrow morning looks very good for dawn patrol, we expect more cloud, perhaps overcast at midday and good soaring again in the later afternoon. Fall color is spectacular.


And here is Rick Roelke's report:

Blessed with wind, plagued with moisture…

That is the story of camp so far. We had a nearly ideal wind profile yesterday afternoon, and again this morning but we had just a bit much of it. I was able to pull off a diamond climb yesterday afternoon, in just under an hour from release (2k agl) to the top of the climb at 19,700, but, nearing 20,000 ft the wind was reported on my computer at 95kts. A bit breezy… it was not too bad on the ground, we just expected that at any moment a really big gust would roll down the runway but that never happened.

We had several folks who got to 18k but ran out of daylight before making it to diamond levels due to the late clearing…

This morning we woke to a high overcast, but a big blue hole behind Washington. But in no time the whole disappeared to be replaced by a lower ceiling and drizzle. But as I type this (10:00) I see signs of direct sunlight on the ground. It is forecast to clear, but at the same time, it is forecast for the 100kt winds to lower to 16k, so it may be tough to climb in that much wind. Tomorrow looks better for sun, but less so for wave. But perhaps what we really want is a little “less so”…

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wave Camp Wx Links

Here are some useful weather links for Gorham. Please add your favorites:

Surface progs

More surface maps

BML Sounding

Richard Kellerman's tutorial on Skew Ts -- chiefly geared towards thermal soaring (anyone have a more wave oriented ref?)

View from Wildcat into the Ravines

View of Mt Wash from near Conway

Northeast US radar

Satellite view

Another satellite view

When weather looks better for web surfing than sky surfing, might as well check out the extra-terrestrial kind of weather, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CFI care

Congratulations to Gregg Ballou for adding a glider rating to his Flight Instructor certificate!

Gregg also reports that he has been flying a Duo Discus, which reminds him very little of his old 1-26.

Gregg is the instructor of our most popular ground school class. We're hoping he'll be back to present it again this winter. We may have forgotten a lot of it, and we don't get much chance to practice, thankfully.

Don't hold your breath

Have you bought your pulse oximeter yet?

We've been playing with ours. Evan has the record for lowest oxygen saturation, at 84%, and I have been able to get mine up to 122 beats per minute. But these records will probably be broken by Mr. Anaerobic when he gets his.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Name that club member

Found this by accident while searching out information on Mt Washington. Gee, that profile looks familiar....

And now that I think I've learned how to embed video, check this one out... this I hope sets the tone for the encampment, even if it was made by a GBSC guy.