Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weekend Report April 23 - 25

We launched Kevin (6Q) and Tom (TH) on Friday and neither pilot met with success, despite the promising looking sky. Comparing notes at the end of the day led us to the conclusion that the turbulent layer was very deep, and convection didn't get organized until somewhat above release height. Kevin reported 10-knot bumps, but nothing workable - a lot like rotor.

Saturday was much more straightforward, and Tom gets full credit for being ready at the beginning of the day, thanks to his new homemade rigging device. Christopher, Steve, Bill, Skip and Thomas flew locally, along with a couple of guests. The best height was 9800 feet, probably in wave. Doug was the only towpilot and never quite got a chance to fly a glider.

The unannounced cookout was lightly attended, but a good party nevertheless. We'll try to give more notice next time.

The Sunday sky was a bit more overcast, but the unstable conditions prevailed. Andy and Tim shared towing and instructing duties, and a few more of us got rid of some rust. We flew, for the second day in a row, with a neighbor, Paul Kram, who is getting serious about joining the club. Welcome, Paul!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It seems that Evan has volunteered to write the daily contest reports for SSA. I will collect the links to all the reports and scoresheets here.

First Slacker

It must be vacation week.

Andy, Andy, Paul N, Tony, Tim, Kevin, Evan, Jason and Matt are out of town. Everyone else seems to be stuck at work or stranded by a volcano. I think I'll go flying.

Because I can.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh I wish I was in Dixie - Hooray, Hooray!

Oh, wait a minute, I am in Dixie. And Hooray for that. This is what an airport in South Carolina looks like in April, smiles all around, short sleeves at 0800 in the morning (we won't discuss August). That's Lane Bush with the Std Cirrus. He isn't grinning quite as big because it isn't snowing at his home field.

Yesterday in practice I flew around 170 miles at a relaxed 60-something mph. The day had a few soft spots, but most carried water all the way around. Winds aloft were 20+ all day which added a little interest.

All for now -- things to do.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PMSC at Perry

Evan and T8 departed for the Region 5 contest at Perry, South Carolina on the 15th.

Practice day report
on PMSC News
Practice day report
, also written by Evan, on the SSA website. I'm glad he didn't say "over and out" on the radio. The first competition day was yesterday, and we have a scoresheet, and a brief report. The scoresheet shows Evan in 6th place, with a small penalty (he hit the finish line a bit too low).
This just in: a report from today in which Evan describes a short but rambunctious day of flying. The scoresheet shows that our guy has moved up to 4th place in the 15 Meter Class. And in the Sports Class, the current leader is Sarah Kelly Arnold, who organized our Tennessee adventure last month.
The scoresheet from today. And here's the report from our exhausted but still erudite correspondent.
Today's scoresheet has Evan in 6th place, only 2 points out of 5th. I bet he wishes he hadn't received that 14 point penalty on Monday. Here is his report. Sarah Kelly Arnold seems to be running away with the Sports Class.
Here is the scoresheet for today, the penultimate day of the contest. But the weather forecast for tomorrow (Saturday) is not so hot, according to Evan's report. It may be all over.
After five straight racing days, the rains finally came and the last day was cancelled. Evan wound up a very respectable 7th in the 15 Meter Class. He's on the road for home.

And here's hoping he writes up the entire experience again when he gets back.

New Blanik Regulations

Due to several incidents with Blanik gliders the FAA has implemented new rules:

1) Pilots in command of Blanik gliders must instruct their passengers to remain in their seats with their seat belts fastened at all times.

2) Red Bull may no longer be included in the beverage service.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It is nice out

Went out for lunch and looked up. Thought it looked nice so I checked Dr. Jack. NAM says 5-600 fpm to 8,000'.

Maybe we should start a week earlier next year.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Night Flying at Leszno

I recently came across this story, from my 2003 trip to Poland:

After three and a half weeks in Poland, I finally got to go flying. Although I wasn’t able to stay up very long, the flight represented a lot of “firsts” for me. It was my first Wilga tow, my first Bocian flight and my first lesson in a language other than English.

Oh yes, it was also my first flight at night.

We all have stories about landing a little after sunset, but this was definitely a different experience. Night glider flying is fairly common in Poland, and the Leszno Gliding School had no trouble booking introductory lessons in the two-seater Bocian throughout the contest. Flying began every night at 9.30pm and ended around 3am.

When my turn came, the ground crew helped me strap in and explained that my instructor knew a few words of German, but no English. My German vocabulary is slightly larger than my Polish vocabulary, which is non-existent. So, Wir sprechen Deutsch.

Both the towplane and glider had position lights, of course, but the secret to success in this operation is a bright blue LED flashlight that the instructor carries. When the instructor wants to make a point, he shines a narrow beam of light on one of the instruments on the student’s panel, while describing what is wrong with the reading on that particular instrument. The light, which is on only briefly, completely blinds the front seat pilot. Then it goes out, and it’s a race between recovery of night vision and the fading of the fluorescent needles on the instrument.

I don’t remember the take-off, but the tow was quite interesting. As long as there was a little bit of apparent motion of the Wilga, it was easy to keep station. However, if the towplane ever stopped moving in front of me, its relatively dim lights disappeared against the background lights of downtown Leszno. If you think about it, this problem is self-correcting.

Off tow, flying around was fairly straightforward. Occasionally there would be a blue flash accompanied by the word “achtsig” from the back seat. For a few seconds, the only visible object in the world would be a fuzzy airspeed needle. I never was able to read the numbers on that dial.

Eventually, I heard “zwei hunnert” a couple of times, and I knew that the altimeter was about to be illuminated. Sure enough, the altimeter exploded in blue and my brain was left with the image of the big hand pointing to a 2.

At 200 meters you enter the pattern. The instructor took over on base leg and made a beautiful approach and landing. I have no idea what he was using as a visual reference for the flare. We rolled right up to the launch point, next to a kerosene-fuelled smokepot.

I got out, shook hands with my instructor, and decided that I’ll stick to day flying from now on.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Report from the ridge

We received this from John Good, regarding today's ridge flight:

Based on a forecast of reasonably good winds all the way from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, I decided to declare a big Out & Return task: the southwest turnpoint was Luttrell, the end of the Clinch Mountain ridge not far from Knoxville.

Winds at the launch point (Karl Striedieck's Eagle Field) were too westerly, so the start involved an aerotow behind Karl's Cessna 180 to near Tyrone PA, where the ridge turns a bit and a westerly wind can work. Not long past 8am I was pounding along Brush Mountain (overlooking the city of Altoona) at 110 knots, feeling optimistic.

Despite just a hint of rain (call it mist) and rather low cloudbases, my crossing of the Altoona gap was no problem. But Bedford, some 20 miles further on, was a nail biter: Solid clouds at around 3100' meant I couldn't get the sort of height that makes this 8-mile gap friendly - at the far side I was only about 400' above the valley, but favorable winds soon had me back at ridgetop. I stormed on past Hyndman, having not yet had to make a turn (nor having encountered much of anything worth turning in).

Yet the view ahead was growing ominous: no sun on the ground anywhere near Cumberland. That rules out the easy way of getting through the "Keyser knobblies": wave. And solid clouds with low bases were saying that thermals weren't a likely option. I've done this stretch on ridge alone, and the winds of the past half hour suggested this might work. But near the Allegheny Ballistic Lab that changed. The ridge (not amazingly high here) became really weak - I was thinking it might have been some sort of wave suppression (this area sees a lot of wave) but there were no wave signs in the clouds. And light rain (call it heavy mist this time) added to my sense that conditions had turned against me.

The view ahead was now discouraging: solid clouds with lower bases and areas of heavier precipitation. Faced with a substantial stretch of low, broken ridges ahead and poor to nil landability, this was below my standards for safe flying. I spent about 30 minutes beating back and forth on the ridge (occasionally falling below its top) hoping for some sign of improvement. When none was evident, I decided to head home.

This wasn't as easy as it might have been, in large part because a lack of thermals made it hard to transition between ridges. But I managed to stagger back to Tussey Mountain and eventually to reach Centre Airpark (about a 20-minute drive from Eagle Field). Karl very kindly came with my trailer to fetch me.

So, not a successful flight - but interesting, and I managed to keep it reasonably safe, so no big cause for regret.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Report from the South

The Florida weather has been especially crummy this year.

Tony and 7H have been there since Thanksgiving, but he didn't really start flying until March. The good news is that he has been averaging about a hundred miles per flight, a significant improvement over last year.

He has another month to get his Gold Distance before returning to Vermont. If it doesn't work out, I'm sure it will happen up here during our May Slacker campaign.


John Good will be attempting a long ridge flight tomorrow. He is planning an early takeoff from Eagle Field in Pennsylvania and a start just north of Altoona. His turnaround point could be as far south as Knoxville, Tennessee, which would result in a total out-and-return distance of around 900 miles. Or maybe he'll land at Altoona in time for breakfast, you never can tell.

If he remembers to turn on his tracking device, we'll be able to follow his progress on the web.

Good luck, John!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BLIPspot renewed

The BLIPspot forecasts for Montpelier, VT have been renewed for 2010 (by me - anybody want to help me pay for it?). They can be accessed via this link, which has been added to the list of Weather Links on the right.

If you are not familiar with the BLIPspot, see my long note from last year

- Moshe

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Argh! Don't let this happen to you!

A good friend of ours, Mark Koepper, landed short at Sterling Saturday and made the news. Mark's okay.

Tom Knauff calls this the "Silly Season" because of the silly things we see pilots do in the course of getting current again. He has a point. This is a good time to be extra careful, extra aware.


1H becomes TH

Tom finally got around to putting a permanent contest ID on his sailplane and trailer. From now on he'll be known as TH, which is a lot easier to remember than 1H.

Here's a picture of him getting in some practice at Springfield this weekend.


The Blanik is on the field (not yet assembled). Tim, Andy, Christopher and Charlie have been working on its undercarriage. After a great deal of struggle with stuck bolts in inaccessible places, they have succeeded in removing both the wheel and the oleo strut. We have a new tire and we're awaiting shipment of the strut rebuild kit from Blanik America.

In the meantime, the golf cart has been put back on the road, and the L-19 tailwheel has been overhauled. Also, Andy has been squinting at the 304 trailer with the idea of replacing the brake actuator and coupler.

There are yet more pre-season projects. Contact Andy to volunteer. Let's be ready to go on Assembly Day (corrected date: April 10).