Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where's Motorhead?

We haven't had a trivia contest recently, so here we go. Where was this recent photo taken?

Hints: not here or here. The answer will appear in the commments.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend report July 23 - 24

It was too hot to fly on Saturday, but Tim did it anyway. He took a high tow in pursuit of some lenticulars, but failed to connect with the wave. Back below cloudbase, he made a 66 km, 1.5 hour flight. The rest of us went swimming.

Sunday was a pretty good flying day, but not many of us showed up to take advantage of it. Skip (JS) had the longest flight, 111 km, but Steve (PM) had the most fun with a local flight that included a climbout from 863 feet above the spectators. It was nice to see Mike S back on the field. After a month's layoff, he resumed his training right where he left off, making a couple of nice climbs to 6000 feet in the 2-33. Moshe (RU) accumulated 115 km on both sides of the valley at Morrisville.

Meanwhile, Andy, Andrew, and Mike washed the 2-33, and Andy and Andy fixed both towplane problems (a leaky intake manifold and a worn out flap actuator). We thank them all.

Last weekend's report got lost, sorry.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spectator sport

The World Sailplane Grand Prix has started. This competition is held every two years, (under normal circumstances - the last one was one and a half years ago in the Southern Hemisphere).

This time the event will be held at the Wasserkuppe in Germany, where our sport originated.

The Grand Prix format is distinct from all other forms of sailplane racing. Its purpose is to promote gliding to the uninitiated, and it is the closest we ever get to being able to call soaring a "spectator sport."

Unlike in conventional races, the gliders all start at the same time, and whoever gets home first wins. The winner gets 10 points, second place gets 8, and subsequent finishers get one less per place.

The gliders carry tracking devices, and for the next seven days we can watch the races live on the web. The gliders will be in the air from 6 to 10 am EDT, roughly.

The races are narrated in German and English (although it seemed to be mostly in German today). When the narrator takes a break, they play soothing elevator music.

They have a good website, which includes a live webcam view of the airfield, and a twitter feed.

Today's weather was not so good, but the long term forecast is looking better.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Update from Minden

Tony writes:

Last Friday the auguries shouted Gold distance. Cumulus clouds were popping at 9:30AM after weeks of blue sky. The Reno soaring forecast projected strong thermals with tops to 17,900. The meadow next to the airport was suddenly in full flower clear to the Sierras.

And it was my flight instructor's 60th birthday.

I launched into a 5 knot thermal directly over the airport, jumped off tow at 1,500 feet, shot up to 4,000 feet AGL, and headed toward the hills and ridges that ladder up east to the Pine Nut Range and my declared start point.

That's when it fell apart. Soon there was nothing but sink with the vario hitting as much as 10 knots down. Thinking that big sink had to mean huge lift ahead, I put the nose over and pressed on. I arrived low at the first house thermal, got zero lift, and then more sink. Now I had to start searching ahead for a place to land, since a return to Minden over unlandable terrain through the same sink wasn't an option.

The only choice was one of the cultivated fields in a sea of sagebrush that surrounded some odd-shaped, symmetrical buildings. I noticed guard towers and concertina wire but the fields appeared to be on the outside.

I lined up with the plowed furrows and came to a quick stop in a cushion of loam. Then I saw the SUV's with yellow strobe lights racing toward me.

Bad news. I had landed at the prison farm, part of the Northern Nevada Correctional Center at Carson City.

And the good news? After checking my ID the warden got a farm hand to drive me to my trailer at Minden. Even better, when I returned seven trustees were waiting to help load my ship.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Man of leisure

Luckily for us, Pete Dodd decided to get away from it all and reestablish a presence, temporarily, in Post Mills. Pete's idea of a great vacation is to rent a rudimentary cabin on a grass strip, work on gliders all day, and occasionally go flying. We are lucky to have such a hardworking volunteer.

He heads back to Maryland tomorrow, so we'll have to wait till the Gorham encampment to take advantage of him again. Thanks for the visit, Pete!

(We used Pete's high-res camera to take these pictures. Click on the photos to admire the detail).

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Run a Glider Contest

In one quick video.

Kevin's exercises

If you've ever found yourself overhead without a clue or a plan, or if you want to practice your cross-country skills on a day when you absolutely must be home for dinner, Kevin has developed a task just for you.

He has defined four visually identifiable turnpoints surrounding Post Mills. They are Mud Pond, Miller Pond, West Fairlee Center, and the I-91 overpass. Each leg of this quadrilateral is about five miles long. You can fly laps or take the longer diagonal legs, which go right over the airport.

What's the point? The point is that you can practice leaving thermals on course, rounding specified turnpoints, judging the value of a detour, and seeing how far your glider can go between climbs, all while staying within gliding range of home. And you'll be surprised at how many miles you can actually achieve.

Kevin's exercises are a lot more interesting and instructive than circling all day at the top of one or two thermals.

Here's the master himself demonstrating a 2-lap version of the exercise last weekend:

75 km without leaving home. Not bad, 6Q.

Trivigintennial cookout

Friday, July 15, 2011

Today's word of the day: Liftless

The soaring conditions yesterday were definitely not as good as they looked from the ground. Moshe sent in this report:
It was supposed to be a good soaring day, but the wind was blowing and the lift was shifty, and the thermals seemed to evaporate at 4000 feet. The sink was stronger than the lift for a while. It took me 90 minutes to break through the 4000MSL barrier. Then, with good cu bringing me up to almost 7000 feet, I got suckered away from the airport. On the way back I ran into a big liftless hole. Landed out on a cut hayfield outside of Hardwick.
Here's a view of the last couple of minutes of his flight. It shows what a nice hayfield looks like from the air:

and here's a closeup view:

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Here's where Tim went today:

It took him a while to get off the plateau north of Post Mills and into the high ground. He then elected to head to Franconia, then Littleton, and eventually back home. All the good climbs were out in the flats, and in fact, the Franconia ridge was no help at all. It just goes to show you that you can't trust conventional wisdom when it comes to soaring. Another 168 km for our team. Good flying, Tim!

Pete (3J and PM) and Tom (TH) flew locally, but were unable to get connected to the clouds, which stayed frustatingly out of reach for most of the day.

Meanwhile, back at Morrisville, Moshe (RU) flew 103 km, not quite enough to get back home.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New PMSC Poster

Emma L. created a beautiful poster for us to use at the Montshire (I think Pete took all the pictures). We can also use it to post on bulletin boards around the area. Thanks Emma.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekend report July 9 - 10

(Updated to reflect corrections found in the comments)

Both days were beautiful.

On Saturday we divided our forces between Post Mills and Hanover Norwich. Half the crew went flying, and the other half assembled the 304 at the Montshire Museum (see previous post). One of us (Steve) did both.

The Montshire caper was a success, resulting in a bunch of kids and parents learning about soaring and about our club. Tim gets credit for organizing the event.

The glider made the transition from static display to flying machine in the late afternoon. Steve brought it home, reassembled it, and made a 2h45 flight that ended at 6:40pm with a dead battery. This made up for the weak effort made by Kevin and Bill, who went sailing on Lake Fairlee.

There was some good flying on Sunday if you got in the air early enough. Moshe (RU), Pete (3J), Evan (T8), and Sonny (LT) were able to do this and made nice flights. Sonny made his first trip to the summit of Mount Moosilauke. Local flights were made by Skip, Tom, and our new neighbor Al, who is thinking of joining.

Evan changed his mind about not going flying that day and wound up making a 276 km tour of northern New England. He was conservative in the boonies and bolder near the airports. He improved his speed by plunging into Franconia, where the lift is reliable. This is how it's done.

At the end of the day, Pete upstaged Evan's showy arrival back home by soloing the 304 (twice). Pete seems to be enjoying his vacation in Post Mills. You gotta love it when a club member's idea of a great vacation is staying in a cabin and working on gliders, trailers, and the golf cart all day. If he gets tired of renting, he could always buy a luxury vacation home in Post Mills.

PMSC at the Montshire

We had a great turn out of volunteers at the 'Exploring How Things Move through the Air' program at the Montshire. Thanks Christina, Lucy, Pete, Andy, Sonny, Steve, Christopher, Skip, Rick and Delano. And thank you Rebecca Haynes of the Montshire for having us.


Jet Pilot

It's always amusing to hear the initial reaction of pilots to their first experience in a high-performance sailplane. At the end of the day yesterday (following a 2 hour flight in 3J), Pete strapped on the 304 and made two flawless flights. Afterwards, when he finally stopped grinning, his first words were "It flies like a jet."

Well, Pete, I'm not a 767 pilot like you, but I guess that means you liked it. Congratulations!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stowe report July 2 - 4

From Andy:

The Stowe encampment was a great success on all accounts with excellent flying conditions (for most) on both Saturday and Monday.

To name a few accomplishments:
  • Paul flew 5.75 hours on Saturday
  • Steve, Tim and Andy all had great flights in the 304
  • We finally got to fly with Moshe again, and this time he was in his new Russia
  • I served up a zillion hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages and veggie burgers at the Ski Inn without completely burning my fingers off (must have a longer spatula), and a good time was had by all
  • There were many flights made. It would be interesting to to know the total number of hours/miles flown, etc. Maybe we can get those numbers together*.
Sunday was mostly cloudy so some headed to the airshow at Sugarbush, others went hiking or biking, and our man Pete got to polishing the 1-23 which is now looking fantastic.

We decamped on Monday afternoon and all equipment is back at 2B9 safe and sound. Great Time!
*OK, here are most of them:
Tom TH 0:29 35 km
Skip JS 0:12 16 km
Tom TH 1:58 50 km
Steve PM 1:02 60 km
Andy PM 1:33 74 km
Tim PM 1:39 86 km
Sonny LT 2:22 103 km
Moshe RU 2:06 102 km
Rick 6Q 2:01 121 km
Paul S1 5:30 217 km
Tom TH 0:34 26 km
Skip JS 1:42 51 km
Sonny LT 2:48 58 km
Tim PM 1:32 81 km
Andy PM 1:02 84 km
Moshe RU 4:15 125 km

Thursday, July 7, 2011

News from the west

Tony sent this report from Nevada.

Carol and I decamped this summer, 1-35C trailer in tow, seeking an alternative to Vermont and Florida soaring weather. Friends recommended Air Sailing ("ASI"), a glider club northeast of Reno which holds a six-day XC Camp in mid-June.

ASI is in the high desert at 4700 feet where rocks and sage brush predominate (Click on the photos to see the full size versions).

Mountains on either side reliably generate ridge, wave and even convergence lift from strong southwesterly winds.

Fourteen pilots participated in the camp. Prior experience ranged from little cross country to a half dozen 300km OLC flights but no declared Gold distance. Chalk talks started at 8:00AM and covered local conditions, land outs, weather, hydration, thermaling, wave and ridge flight and XC in the Sierra Nevadas.

Afternoons two students flew paired with an instructor. Those with little experience got one-on-one mentoring. We started with short XC and ridge flights, extending the task legs each day.

For Friday's graduation flight some of us declared a Diamond Goal out-and-return south in the Pine Nut range of the Sierras to Mt. Patterson/Lobdell Lake and return. The terrain is beautiful but rugged and remote. This picture south of the turnpoint gives a sense of the route except that it did not cross the large landable farmland visible in the foreground.

Unfortunately, I forgot some sound advice from Paul Natkiel, or was it Rick, and placed my turnpoint 10 miles into what developed to be unlandable terrain. That proved costly as I had to turn back just short of the goal when the lift softened.

Now that I know the area and conditions, I can't imagine flying in the Sierras without something like the ASI camp. I know, you're thinking that the biggest challenge in the land of booming thermals is filling out a proper Diamond distance declaration. And yes, many aspects of soaring don't require week-long training. For example, if dust devils tear up the flight line don't check Dr. Jack, just jump in your ship and launch.

Nonetheless, western conditions create a host of challenges we never experience in the east. Most of the desert and the Sierras are unlandable. Outlandings on roads are strongly disfavored. That leaves widely-spaced airfields, occasional alfalfa fields, and dry lake beds, most of which are still wet.

Strong winds generate tremendous wave, ridge and convergence lift. But they blow until sunset so returning flights battle stiff head winds. Ridge turbulence can be far greater than say Franconia or Mt Washington. Afternoon winds also create venturi effect and huge sink in west facing mountain passes between the Sierras and ASI.

But my current source of heartburn is something well known in the east-elusive soarable conditions. So after hauling my ship 3,000 miles based on reports of Diamond and Gold mines in the west, it has been tied down for two weeks. That's because there have been no days with the marker CU's I want for my first XC flights in challenging territory and strong winds have been breaking up the blue sky thermals.

They claim this weather is an aberration. Stay tuned.