Friday, December 28, 2012

I don't know who Otto Ballod is, but I plan to find out

They named this airport after him.

and I'll be blogging from the US Team website for the next three weeks.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

7H or N4 - Take your PIK

Usually this time of year, we get reports from Tony, reminding us of how much better the conditions are in Florida than in Vermont. Well, it turns out that he's been spending his time shopping for a glider and not flying so much.

It appears that his efforts have paid off, and he has successfully negotiated the purchase of another dive-brake-free glider, a PIK-20B. Congratulations, Tony!

The glider is still in Nevada, and if all goes well, he'll be flying it at Air Sailing or Minden during his annual western pilgrimage, before finally bringing it home.

The only question that remains is whether he'll keep his current contest number (7H), or undergo a complete change of identity (N4).

Also, the original 7H is for sale.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The big picture

The busiest day at the Gorham wave camp this year was on Saturday, October 6.  On that day about 24 gliders were on the field, and most of them got into the air.

Rick Roelke took a picture.  It doesn't look like much here, but if you click on it, you'll get the 11502 x 2159 pixel version, which is pretty impressive.

And here is another one, equally gigantic, featuring PMSC gliders.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

PMSC 2012 Statistics

Club Glider Usage:
PI (Blanik L-23) - 205 flights, 107 hours
PM (HpH 304c) - 75 flights, 138 hours
3J (SGS 1-23) - 61 flights, 69 hours
67 (SGS 2-33) - 65 flights, 31 hours
67 (SGS 2-33) - 44 flights, 23 hours - flown by Sugarbush Soaring Youth Camp

Total - 450 flights, 368 hours

Towplane Usage:
PMSC Birddog - 501 tows
Sugarbush - 46 tows
NESA - 9 tows
GBSC - 14 tows

Total* - 570 tows

Pilot Milestones (did I miss anything?):
First Solos - 4 (Sam, Greg, Dan, Dennis)
New Licenses - 1 (Greg)
Gold Badges - 3 (Tony, Thomas, Tim)
FAI 750Km Diploma - 1 (Evan)
NH State Records - 9 (Evan)
VT State Records - a bunch pending (Evan)

It was a great accident free year!

*number of tows to PMSC gliders and PMSC members billed through PMSC

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Name That Airport

Clue: A couple of PMSC members will spend New Years here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who needs wheels?

Happy Wright Brothers Day, everyone.

Here's a trivia question: who was the first person to take off and land an airplane on wheels?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Day at Springfield

I went down to Springfield (VSF) to pick up PM so we could do some maintenance on it.  I was there, PM was there, Walter was there, the Pawnee was there.  It was sunny with no wind and clouds were starting to pop.  So I took a flight.  After about 40 minutes of struggling to maintain release altitude a cloudstreet developed and I was able to get to cloudbase and just kept climbing.  It was a slow climb but it went all the way up to 9,000'.  From there I pushed forward one cycle in the wave to Plymouth, Vermont.  I wandered around Plymouth for a while until I found the primary which quickly (4 knots+) took me to 11,000 feet.  At 11,000 feet Walter came by in the RV to check on me and then it was an easy flight to Killington (which I never saw because of the undercast), Okemo, Claremont and home.

PM should be ready to go again after a little maintenance.  I'll let you know where it's currently parked.  Tows can be arranged at VSF.  Go for it!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Trough Soaring

I took PM to Springfield last Thursday for a little trough soaring.  Trough soaring is like wave soaring.  Both use mountain waves.  In wave soaring you ride the crest of the wave to high altitudes.  In trough soaring you ride around in the trough of the wave hoping to get up to the crest.

It was a nice 3 hour flight (the data logger was not working for the first half).  A lot of it was hanging around between 5,000' and 6,000' waiting for stronger lift.

Thank you Walter for towing and Sonny for wing running.

PM is currently in Walter's hangar and ready to fly (I have the data logger and battery).


Monday, November 5, 2012

Slacker emeritus

Tom (TH) just landed after an hour in the air dodging snow showers.  He found some smooth lift on the west side of Tug Mountain, too high to be ridge lift.  The mysterious "Vershire wave" strikes again.

Good show, Tom!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekend report November 3 - 4

Mike, Andy, Tim, Mark and Bill, diehards all, celebrated Eastern Standard Time with five flights in the 2-33 on Sunday.  It's a good thing they were efficient.  The sun went down at 4:34 today.

Next weekend will be our last one for a while.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend report October 27 - 28

We had a fair amount of activity at the field this weekend, but only six flights.

Andy, Keith, and Mike took advantage of the calm before the storm and hid the towplane in a hangar and staked down the club trailers.  Tom, Skip, and Thomas showed up, hooked up their gliders, and disappeared like rats deserting a sinking ship.

Greg arrived with his new pride and joy, a Glasflugel 304CZ and assembled it (mostly) over by the dinosaur.

He and fellow road warrior Dan trailered "Juliet Delta" all the way from Oregon in just over three days.  The ship is absolutely beautiful, and very well equipped.  Congratulations, Greg!  The glider is now home in Lyme.

As we await the arrival of the hurricane, the only aircraft in evidence in the tiedown area is the 2-33, which was the only glider that actually flew this weekend.  Our student pilots John and Mark are taking advantage of late-season opportunities for instruction, and that is admirable.  They will be ahead of the game at the beginning of next season.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What comes after red?

We're all familiar with weather maps in which the colors represent different wind strengths. There is a progression from green to yellow to orange to red as the wind strength increases. Red is reserved for the highest wind speeds we get around here, 50 - 60 mph.

Today we learned the color that comes after red. It is brown. Brown is the color reserved for 75 mph. Here's the wind gust forecast for 2pm tomorrow (Monday).

I really don't want to know what comes after brown.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Check your tiedowns

Tomorrow may be our last flying day. Ever.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend report October 20 - 21

We can blame the weather for our getting off to a late start on Sunday, but not on Saturday, which was a beautiful day from beginning to end.

The clouds on Saturday looked good, but they provided no help at all.  There was weak lift over the sunny spots.  Rick towed, Bill instructed, and Mark made good progress in the 2-33.  Tom (who seems to have stopped posting his flights on OLC) and Skip (JS) made a couple of late afternoon local flights, with Skip flying long enough to cause us to call him to find out if he was still in the air. Karl and Bill took a Cub ride while waiting for Skip to return.

The Sunday weather was not very good early in the day, but it became quite pleasant toward the end.  Andy towed and Tim instructed.  Mark got a lesson and Dennis racked up another solo.

Andy, Tim, and Mark brought the old Blanik out of storage and back to the airport.  I wonder what will happen to it next!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wave camp late report

Evan writes:

I'm uncertain what happened at Gorham early in the inter-weekend period because I was breaking rocks "down South", which is to say I was working in the general vicinity of Epsom, New Hampshire.  I did hear that there was flying both days including some light wave in easterly winds.

The forecast for Thursday was for a rather more serious Mount Washington kind of traditional post frontal wave, so I headed back up north Wednesday evening, just a little too late for an evidently excellent spaghetti dinner at the red house.

Thursday was cold (as predicted) and windy (as predicted) but the wave was a little weaker than one might have guessed based on the forecast.  Conflicts with other users of the airspace (F-16s) were therefore not as annoying as might have been because it just wasn't the really "tall and strong" day we were hoping for.  I flew up to perhaps 16K where the winds aloft were 85 plus and enjoyed the view, but wished for a go-somewhere day.  After flying, I ended up at the S-a-a-l-t Pub with a bunch of others, where the menu is worldly and interesting, and the food quite good.

Friday promised lighter winds and potentially better x-c wave, but it came with a lot of cloud, bands of snow showers and low visibility.  At least one glider (I1) got high enough to clear the weather and had an extended high flight, but climbs were weak so later launchers including T8, RR (flying the Puchacz),18H and PM had to dive back under the clouds and seek some place to wait out the snow showers.  It didn't work.  T8, 18H and RR headed for Hayes, PM (Tim) headed for Mount Madison.  We all gave it up in turn and landed without incident, but Tim landed at Whitefield just to be different.

Saturday was forecast to be drier, so several of us decided to rig early.  T8 was first to launch around 0930, not exactly dawn patrol but at least early enough to catch a beautiful view of mother earth with the sun still low in the eastern sky.  Visibility was absolutely superb.  Unusual for the weekend, F16s were practicing in the MOA again, so the wave window was unavailable until late.  Iron man Pete took off just before lunch in LT and toured the area for almost five hours.  Andy made it to 14000 feet in PM, and as soon as he landed, Greg took over and squeaked out a Gold Altitude climb (3033 meters, pending approval).

Several pilots enjoyed playing around in the Crescent wave to a maximum of about 13K and others flew the Mount Washington primary right up to 17,999.  I paired up with RR, shot a little video, and we flew off on a daring O&R to Berlin at the breakneck ground speed of about 35 knots (with a headwind component of about 70).

Cross-country not being the order of the day, RR decided to make an attempt at a "legal diamond" by flying to a low point on Mount Hayes and then digging back out to get a 5000 meter climb all below 18000 feet.  I thought that sounded like fun so I headed down to do likewise and found the low level ridge to be exceedingly rough and a little too sporty for my taste.  "S" turning on Mountt Hayes below 1600, I found wind shear that twice attempted to roll me well beyond my intended bank angle, so I called it quits and landed in time for a late lunch.

In the meantime, Skip (JS) took a fashionably late tow to the primary and was able to get over 13000 feet.  It turned out that this was the last good climb of the day (and our first OLC claim of the season).

Late in the day, the wave window was finally open and I took another flight.  Several of us did battle with a powerful primary rotor, but none were able to connect with the wave.  Doug flew 3J, but he didn't record the flight, and I don't have his report.  Dan and John Good gave it their best shot in the Duo, but the wave was gone.  I found a lovely thermal cloud street to Mount Starr King and back, then capped off the week with a beautiful ascent of the Presidentials in ridge lift at sunset.  After waiting all day for his turn, Dennis took Rick for a nice tour of the valley in I1, and by trying every peak on the Moriah-Carter range, they confirmed that even the ridge lift was gone.

The forecast for Sunday was so hopeless that even the optimists thought it would be a good idea to break camp.  Andy led the 3J disassembly crew, Greg and Dan packed up the golf cart, and Rick, Dennis, and Annie moved the airport cones back in the way of safe operations.  Walter made his ceremonial low pass in the Pawnee at sunset, and that was that.

So ends another successful wave camp, thanks to everyone for helping out and staying safe.

We adjourned to dinner at the delightful Saladinos Italian restaurant and market and took our leave by turns.  Several of us cleaned up the red house and the stragglers held an impromptu debrief while waiting for Felix Baumgartner's balloon to ascend to 128,000 feet for his record breaking jump.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wave camp early report

The first weekend at Gorham featured all kinds of weather, but not much in the way of wind.  So far there have been only two flying days, and only one with decent wave conditions.

On the first day (Friday), Tim, John and Evan reached about 20000 feet after struggling a bit down low.  But that struggle was nothing compared with yesterday.  That morning, twenty five optimists assembled their gliders in intermittent drizzly conditions.  When the sun finally broke out, everyone rushed into the air and most of them fell back down.  The ones that didn't were faced with the challenge of staying within range of home while running away from the clouds.

The best flight of the day was probably Dan's introduction to the wave, just before sunset, with Jerry from NESA in the PW-6.  They made it to 11000 feet over the Horn, in clear conditions.

The rest of us are hopeful that the wind will start to blow from the west before next weekend.

Monday, October 8, 2012

1000 kilometers each

Hey, this is interesting:  19 club members participated in this year's Online Contest, and our total distance flown was 19145 kilometers.

Who will be the first to claim a flight in the new season?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We have a new waypoint database

and it's on the World Wide Turnpoint Exchange.

The geographic area of this database is quite large.  You'll find it useful whether you are flying out of Post Mills, Springfield, Morrisville, Franconia or Gorham.  The whole database is just a little too large to fit in a Cambridge Flight Recorder, so you can either edit out the 25 or 30 points you find least useful or wait a day or two for a 250 point trimmed down (based on distance from PM) version which will be posted shortly.

Similar databases will be available for Franconia and Gorham very soon based on the same core waypoint list.

Use at your own risk.  Any landable airport or field can become unlandable without notice.  I've pulled a lot of scat out of the old database (seaplane ports, missing airports, 30' wide airports and similar) but I can pretty much guarantee that somewhere in here lies an "airport" unsuitable for gliders.  We have not visited them all.  Check them out on Google Earth, and if you really want to rely on them, go visit them in person.

Thanks to Moshe and John Leibacher for helping with this.  Please get back to me or Moshe with any errors found.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

That's gotta be a record

Yesterday we had six towpilots and three CFIs on the field.

Five days in a row

We've had some really great weather recently. The slackers and the regulars combined for another "five day weekend," ending yesterday, with a total of 31 flights.

Tim (PM) took a high tow on Wednesday, hoping for wave. The forecast said it was a possibility, but the wind had died down by the time he took off. He turned it into a nice 3.5 hour flight in thermals, visiting Goose Pond, Cookeville, and Strafford.

Dennis made the trip to Post Mills to work on patterns and landings. After the last one, there was nobody left on the airport and no hurry to put the glider away. We stood around talking and enjoying the late afternoon sun. A perfect day to be outside in a beautiful setting.

Dan and Greg showed up and Karl flew in. The weather was good, but the thermals were a bit widely spaced. Greg had his first extended flight in PM, and Dan flew 3J for about an hour - twice.

It rained a bit on Friday evening, and the forecast for Saturday was pessimistic and completely wrong. The day turned out fine for flying, if not for soaring.  Tim towed early, and Andy took over for the rest of the day.

Kevin started things out by flying PI with a guest and then had to leave. Mike and Sonny showed up to help out but didn't fly. Greg and Andy Lawrence had short flights. Mark had a good day: 3 flights in two gliders with two instructors.

But the best time was had by Dennis Cavagnaro, who made his first solo in a sailplane!

It was a bit too cool for a water dunking, so we used leaves instead.

Dennis saw me coming with the bucket, and he didn't know it wasn't water.

We had another frontal passage Saturday night, and Sunday was windy. We put student flying on hold, hoping that it would calm down toward the end of the day. In the meantime, we had a day of maintenance, standing around, and socializing, with a little bit of flying thrown in.

Tim, who started our five day weekend, finished it off with another 2 hour, 114km flight in PM. He heard Evan on the radio somewhere in New York (Evan, apparently, is slowly making his way home after finishing second in the Region 4 contest. Good job, Evan).

Karl made it to 7000 feet in 3J, and found so much lift in the pattern that we thought he was going to land somewhere else.

Then something strange happened. The wind and the lift both quit in the middle of the day. Late launchers Skip and Mike found nothing at all, and flight instruction suddenly became possible. John Lippman had a pair of flights with Thomas, and Bob flew with Rick. Dennis capped off the day with his second solo.

Five straight days of flying. Congratulations to all.  Anybody want to go for six?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Evan wins Day 1 at New Castle

Today was the first day of the Region 4 contest in New Castle, Virginia.

Evan was the winner!

The most widely read PMSC News item of all time was his story of his first New Castle contest.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Caption needed

Weekend report September 15 - 16

The seasons are changing. The weather is dynamic again. This was the last weekend in which the days were longer than the nights.

Technically, this was a three day weekend, since we flew on Friday (see previous post). A frontal passage Friday evening brought us cooler air and a brisk northwest wind for the next two days.

Saturday was unstable, with several cycles of clouds and blue sky. New members Mark Hopkins and John Lippman started their training and Sonia got checked out on the golf cart. Mark and John had a couple of good lessons each, despite the turbulent conditions. Our default towpilot, Andy, came out and towed because our scheduling system seems to have failed.

The wind died down for Sunday, and it was much drier aloft. We made a total of twelve flights, all local. Unusually, the lift was on the east side of the field all day, with no lift at the usual hotspots of Tug Mountain and the copper mine.

Karl showed up in the Cub and made two flights in 3J. His first might have been longer if he hadn't misread his altimeter on tow. The second one was of satisfying duration. In between the two flights, Greg disappeared in 3J for an hour or so. Neither one of them carried a flight recorder.

Rick and Thomas (and everybody else) ganged up on Christopher for his first Flight Review (has it been two years already?) Mark and Dennis were good sports about losing their spots on the waiting list.

Andy Lawrence (PM), Skip (JS), and Steve (PM) did record their flights, and all three reported having a good time in the local thermals.

Tom flew TH for a couple of hours at Franconia and has decided to keep the glider there, ready to go to Gorham next month. And Evan and John are racing in Virginia, again. No reports from Tony or Moshe.

And finally, this week's nag list:

1. Golf cart abuse: the rear end of the cart is not as strong as it looks. Recently we have put far too much junk, weights, and even people in back. Let's try not to do this.

2. Tail dolly ettiquette: we all have different ideas about where to put our tail dollies while we are out flying, and this is fine. Don't assume that the pilot wants his tail dolly repositioned while he is in the air. It's frustrating to have to look for it after landing.

3. Towpilots: please use the calendar. Andy enjoys towing, but we don't enjoy not knowing whether any other towpilot is planning to show up.

4. Flight recorders: please use them! It doesn't matter if your flights are short. OLC serves as an excellent club logbook.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Slacker report

We had a pretty good day of flying today, but it was never a sure thing.

The towplane was down for maintenance yesterday, and we knew that Andy, who was doing the oil change and the brake job, was out flying in the Champ. Our hopes for flying on Friday sank when Andy returned just at sunset on Thursday.

However, late that night, Andy reported that he had finished the work on the L19 after dark, and he said that it was ready to fly on Friday (thanks, Andy!)

The lightweights, Dan, Dennis, and Greg, took advantage of the opportunity to fly, and Tim was able to tow. Dan (3J) and Greg (PM) launched at around 1pm and were able to stay in the lift for an hour or so. Dennis and Rick took some pattern tows in the Blanik. Bob showed up at the end of the day to help launch Dan on his second flight of the day in 3J.

After flying, Greg spent some time cleaning PM, and Dan siphoned gas into the airport tank. The two of them are planning another gas run tomorrow. Thanks, guys!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekend report September 1 - 3

Our Labor Day weekend was a complete success, with good weather and good flying.

The best day was Saturday. We had good lift to 6000 feet. The two heroes of the day were Andy, who towed all day, and Thomas, who cut short his own flying day to give flight instruction. Evan (T8) took a trip up to the White Mountains and did some exploring north of Gorham. The day ended abruptly when the towplane tailwheel went flat, but most of us had had enough flying by then.

Dan and Greg took the tailwheel home to repair it, but it turned out that it needed a new inner tube.

On Sunday, the day got off to a late start. We waited for Andy and Dan to return from Montpelier where they acquired a new tube for the tailwheel. Thankfully, Evan was able to tow until the very end of the day, so we were able to get everyone up, finally. There was even a little time left in the day for model flying before sunset.

Both Sam and Dan flew the 1-23 for the first time on Sunday. It was a little too late in the day for staying up, but they both made excellent landings.

At Morrisville, Moshe made a nice 100-mile flight in RU, venturing to the northwest, past the Green Mountains into the Champlain basin.

The good weather lasted through Monday, but the lift was decidedly weaker. Also, the Labor Day parade interfered a bit, as usual. I don't think that there were any cross-country flights on Monday, but I'm not sure. I did not have the best vantage point for observing.

On a serious note: after approximately a decade since the last one, we launched a glider with the tail dolly still attached. Although removal of the tail dolly is 100% the responsibility of the pilot, we should all be on the lookout for this hazardous and completely avoidable mistake. Here's hoping that this is the beginning of a very long epoch in which this mistake does not recur.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Slacker makes good

Congratulations to Greg Hanlon on his Private Pilot Certificate!

Greg took the day off from work, and Bill Stinson made the trip from Sugarbush to administer the test today. Christopher and Rick served as ground crew. It was a beautiful day for a flight test, and Greg made two perfect flights. That was enough for Bill, and Greg became our newest Private Pilot.

When asked who would be his first passenger, Greg was unsure. He was more interested in talking about the club rule that requires a Private Certificate before flying the 304.

The day was still young, so why not? During his cockpit checkout, Janet Frank showed up on her bike and agreed to run the wing. Greg took a high tow, found some wave, and kept PM in the air for about an hour. So congratulations again!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend report August 25 - 26

After a brief holiday, PMSC News is back.

Both days of the weekend were summer-like (I guess that's to be expected in August), with haze and the threat of thunderstorms. As it turned out, the storms never came and there was lift to 5000 feet under the clouds both days.

On Saturday the turnout was relatively low, but that gave us a chance to celebrate Dan's first solo in sailplanes and to tune Greg up for his flight test. Skip and Thomas worked all day in the hot sun figuring out Skip's new one-man-rig device. We made about ten flights, with Bob doing all the towing (Thanks, Bob!)

At the end of the day, Mary, Sue, and Petey whipped up an impromptu cookout, and Thomas and Dennis provided the beverages.

Sunday was even hotter, and the lift started earlier. Dan and Greg conspired to be in the air at the same time, and we enjoyed listening on the radio as the two experienced pair-flyers chased each other from thermal to thermal. They reached the end of their allotted time aloft at about the same time their transmissions became weak. They dutifully returned. They aren't saying where they went.

Christopher, who gets full credit for working all weekend, finally got a chance to fly the Blanik. One of Christopher's projects is to install an oxygen system in that glider. It's not an easy job. Help him (or at least thank him) if you get a chance.

Probably the happiest pilot of the day was Kevin. He finally had an opportunity to go soaring on a good day in his glider. Nathan was a big help on the golf cart, and he was the photographer for Dan's solo flight.

Skip (JS) and Thomas both worked on their gliders, and Skip flew toward the end of the day. Andy Lawrence shared the 1-23 with Bill and Greg, and he shared the 304 with Doug, who stuck around to give Dennis and Rick a couple of tows at the very end.

Another second first solo

After waiting patiently both for his Student Pilot Certificate and for his instructor to return to Post Mills, Dan MacMonagle soloed the Blanik on Saturday. Congratulations, Dan!

His first solo in a sailplane lasted over an hour, and he did it again the next day. He's already talking about the 1-23.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Uvalde radio

Today is the last day of the World Gliding Championships in Uvalde, Texas.

You can listen to the action on the radio on LiveATC.

The interesting times to listen are takeoff (1400 EDT or so), and landings (1900 EDT). In between, we will be transmitting the US Team frequency which will be interesting only when the gliders are within range.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Postcard from Uvalde

Rick sent a couple of photos:

Tres Caballeros

Concordia on the Ramp

Butler placed 16th yesterday (9th place overall) at 143 km/h over 673 km.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

World Gliding Championships - Day 3

Since Rick is busy, I thought I would blog for him.

Rick's pilot (Dick Butler) won Day 3 in the open class in the one-of-a-kind Concordia. Winning speed over the 715 km (444 miles) task was 154 km/hr (96 mph). Dick is currently in 9th place. He had a rough Day 1 and landed out (placing 23rd of 26). The competition goes on for another week. Way to go Rick (and Dick)!

In other PMSC news:

John Good is acting as Deputy Director and Task Director at the contest.

Andy L. (El Presidente) is sitting on his butt, by a lake with a cocktail.


Photograph: Pete Alexander

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Badge Flying

Not everyone in the club has been introduced to the FAI/IGC badge system, so here it is.

The highest airsports authority, FAI, has established a set of badges to recognize individual achievement in the sport of soaring. They do other things as well, but most glider pilots I know interact with FAI only through their pursuit of these badges.

In addition to giving you a sense of achievement, a badge can serve as your credentials to enter a competition, and, when you travel, it is recognized internationally as a standard measure of your flying skill. In some countries (e.g. UK) badges are required as part of your authorization to fly or instruct, and in at least one country (Australia), your badge is your license to fly.

Basically, there are three badges: Silver, Gold, and Diamond. (Technically, there are really only two. The official name of the highest one is the "Gold Badge with Diamonds," but the distinction has been lost over the years. Let's call it the Diamond Badge).

Each badge has three requirements, or "legs."

To earn a Silver Badge, you must make a 1000-meter climb, fly for five hours after release, and fly 50 kilometers (measured in a straight line). You can do all three in one flight, or you can space them out over multiple flights. The three legs of the badge are known as "Silver Altitude," "Silver Duration," and "Silver Distance."

In our club, the Silver Badge is considered the graduation diploma of our training program. We will teach you to fly and help you get your Silver Badge, but after that, you're on you own, without formal guidance from the Club. Good luck, and by the way, you should probably be thinking of buying your own glider.

For the Gold Badge, you need to climb 3000 meters, fly for 5 hours (the same duration flight counts for both Silver and Gold), and fly 300 kilometers, in a straight line or a zig-zag.

The Diamond Badge requires a 5000 meter climb, and two distance flights. The first one, a 300 km closed-course trip with pre-declared turnpoints, is called "Diamond Goal." The second one, a 500 km flight in a straight line or a zig-zag, is known as "Diamond Distance."

The approval of a Badge (or Badge leg) is delegated by FAI to the national gliding authority in each country. In our case, it's the Soaring Society of America . SSA processes badge claims for free for its members (and we're all members, right?)

Around here, the Silver Altitude leg can be achieved by climbing in a nice thermal. Greg did this a couple of weeks ago in his first climb off tow. His claim is still pending, so
preliminary congratulations to Greg!

Gold altitude usually requires a wave flight, unless you're a gamer like Tony, who recently climbed to 17000 feet in a thermal in Colorado. His climb was approved, and that completes his Gold Badge, (he did his Gold Distance last season). Congratulations, Tony!

In the Gold Distance category, we've had two claimants recently. Thomas flew his 300 km on the same day that Greg got his Silver Altitude. That claim was approved. Yay, Thomas! Tim got his Gold Distance three days ago, and I'll write more about that later. Tim's flight also qualified as a Diamond Goal flight.

What do you do when you've collected all your badges and are still looking for a challenge? FAI has the answer: you can get a "Diplome" (that's not a misspelling; it's French). Distance Diplomes are awarded for flying truly epic distances, and they are quite prestigious. Congratulations to Evan, who just got his 750 km Diplome, for a flight he did last Spring in Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Live glider blogging

The Blanik has been in the air for over 3 hours as I type this.

Click here to download the hi-res version.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

14,000 feet of WOW!

Last Sunday, July 8, was an interesting soaring day. It's quite possible that -- properly equipped and prepared -- 750K or even 1000K (OLC rules) was achievable. I was neither equipped nor prepared. I just caught a little piece of the day, but it was quite enjoyable.

The clue to what was happening was a gigantic cu hanging stationary over Mt Washington in 25+ kt winds. I ridge soared the western flank, then dropped back to the Moria Carter range and ridge soared to the Wildcat ski area. Pictures tell the story from there. MWSA wave camp is open early this year!

Sadly, I didn't have my oxygen gear, so I had to break off my 1000 feet per minute climb at 14000. For the sake of nostalgia and my dear friend Allan MacNicol I overflew the old White Mountain Airport site at North Conway, staging point for the early explorers of the Mt Washington wave. A trip to Grafton Notch and an easy return flight to Franconia rounded out the day.

-Evan / T8

Monday, July 9, 2012

The back seat is empty

What would you do if you were getting close to your first solo, but you were away from your home field, surrounded by spectators (including both of your parents), and your training glider was being borrowed by another club? I'd probably just wait till I got back home. Not Sam Desrochers.

Sam decided to learn how to fly a new glider at a new site, ditch the old instructor, ignore the spectators, and ask Dad for a tow.

He elected not to get too close to the ridge on this particular flight, and since the thermals hadn't developed yet, he was soon back in the landing pattern. His approach and touchdown were picture perfect (pictures to follow), and he threw in some fancy steering on the ground, just as cool as you please. The towpilot, on the other hand, got excited and had to do a go-around.

Congratulations to Sam on his first solo! (and congratulations to Bob and Linda, too).

Here's a picture of three has-beens making their way to out to greet our newest Blanik pilot. Note that no one is carrying a bucket of water.

We took care of that oversight later, at the party.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I think we should have a new membership category.

I was a student pilot when hang gliders first became popular. In those days, their safety record wasn't very good, and I was told by my instructor that I was smart to stay away from that thrill-seeking cult of daredevils.

I have to admit that it was easy to adopt the prejudice that those guys weren't real pilots, and that they were just an aerial version of a motorcycle gang. I had never met one, and they were easy to ignore.

I was already totally immersed in gliding when paragliders came around, so they were easy to ignore, too.

Over the years I have become vaguely aware of the advances made by hang glider pilots, both in the capabilities of their aircraft and in their attitude toward safety. The USHPA is a mainstream organization with over 10000 members - they can't all be outlaw bikers, right? Also, I began to meet sailplane pilots (Rick Roelke, Steve Arndt, Tim Donovan, Tim Chow) who had a background in foot-launching, and they didn't seem crazy at all.

At the beginning of this season I was comfortable in my belief that there are two different sports, and that I am interested in only one of them. That suddenly changed when I met Greg Hanlon, Dan MacMonagle, and Dennis Cavagnaro, cult members all, who joined our club all at once.

I have to say that these guys know a lot about micro-meteorology and its application to soaring. And they really know how to fly. Here's a picture of Greg outclimbing a sailplane (which one, anybody know?) at Newport, NH.

It has been a real eye-opener for me as the person tasked with introducing these guys to sailplanes. Learning, in this case, has definitely been a two-way street.

Here's what I have learned:

They are really good at thermaling and knowing when to stay and when to go. They are really bad at using the rudder properly. They are really good at looking where they're going. They are really bad at aerotow (at least at first). They are just mediocre at keeping the home field within range. They are really good at helping other people fly, fixing things that are broken, and partying after flying.

For their part, they have learned (I hope) not to dive or do S-turns on final, not to pay too much attention to 200-foot fields, and not to throw their bodies around the cockpit when we hit a bump.

These guys are in a class by themselves, and we need a new membership category for them. They aren't Students, Private Owners, or 304 pilots, and, so far, only one of them is a Weekday Slacker.

All we need is a name for their sub-group. ("Hell's Angels" is already taken). Hey, I know...


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekend report June 30 - July 1

The strong winds that shut the Slackers down on Friday abated a bit for Saturday. Still, the conditions were difficult, and we weren't able to do any extended flying. Tim gave a couple of lessons in the Blanik. At least we were able to demonstrate to our new hang glider friends what we consider to be too much wind.

Sunday was a completely different story. The first half of the day featured good lift to 6000 feet, and the wind was light. In the middle of the afternoon, a combination of overdevelopment and blowoff put us in a big shadow at about the time Skip (JS) took off. The sun re-emerged, and we were tempted to send the 1-23 to Franconia. But the lift was spotty, and the day ended with one of those "widely scattered" rain showers that sent us running for cover. After that was over, we put 3J on the trailer.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing a couple of oldtimers, John Gass and Pete Dodd. John and his family are passing through on holiday, and Pete has once again taken up residence on the airport, in preparation for our trip to Franconia. Pete brought some beer and wine with him, thinking that it would last through the week, but we disabused him of that notion while we waited for the rain to stop.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Solstice babies

Happy Birthday to Andy, Tony, Sherry, and Lane, all of whom were born on this date, roughly.

Did I miss any?

Whatever you do, don't put your speculations about who's the oldest in the comments.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend report June 23 - 24

Before the weekend, everyone had a different prediction about when the cold front would go through Post Mills. Whoever guessed "Saturday morning" was right, unfortunately.

The day wasn't a total loss. Between thundershowers, we worked on the towplane (well, Andy and Karl did anyway) and the 1-23 (the rest of us). Sonny noticed a broken leaf spring in the 1-23 trailer, which we hope to fix before our Franconia encampment.

We were delighted to be visited by Carl, Laurie, and Matt Hausler, who turned up just in time for the deluge and stayed for the cookout. Col. Hausler reports that the opportunities for soaring in Macedonia are better than in Senegal, in case you were wondering.

The cookout drew 21 people, who brought food for twice that many. Perhaps having leftovers is a weather-related phenomenon.

Sunday was a terrific day for just about everyone. It wasn't straightforward to get started, even from a 3000 foot tow. It took Tim (PM) two tries to connect with the lift, but on his second flight he was able to log 108 km, starting at 4pm. Lane had the same trouble (twice) in the 2-33, but was finally able to stay up at the end of the day. Tom (TH) fell down, too, but was unfortunately not able to stick around for another go.

Everyone else got up and away. Here's an image of Greg (3J) struggling, stumbling, drifting, and finally climbing to 8300 feet.

Sonny (LT), Thomas (ZP), Skip (JS) and Evan (T8) took off early (before the golf cart croaked) and had the best flights. The first three made out-and-return flights to the White Mountains, with Thomas making two round trips. Evan took a tour of northern Vermont and New Hampshire and recorded the longest flight of the day, 348 km. Sonny tacked on a visit to his house in Royalton where he found a thermal that took him to 9000 feet.

At the worst possible moment, the golf cart died, causing a launch delay of at least an hour. The ever resourceful Christopher commandeered a doodlebug that shortened our downtime (thanks, Christopher!) Unfortunately, his resourcefulness contributed to his being unable to fly that day (sorry, Christopher. You're at the top of the priority list next time we fly.)

We had to shuffle gliders and pilots due to the delays on the ground. The local pilots were reluctant to land for fear of further ground handling bottlenecks (at least that's the excuse we used). Dennis and Steve shared a nice flight in the Blanik, and Dan (who officially joined) and Rick kept the 2-33 in the air for an hour and a half. Sam, who is getting close to solo, gave Tim a ride to 6500 feet.

Many volunteers worked hard to let us enjoy a full weekend of flying in only half a weekend's time. Special thanks go to Bob (driving to Post Mills and towing all day), Doug (driving, but not towing), Mary (cooking, organizing), Christopher (mowing, commandeering, fixing), and Lane (fixing).

We did a pretty good job of taking advantage of a beautiful soaring day, but there is still room for improvement. The easiest thing to do is to get out to the field earlier and be ready to launch as soon as the first cumulus appears.

Let's try to work on that.

And let's look for another golf cart.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lube needed

The Blanik's stridulation is getting so bad I can't even think of a word to describe it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Two Sticks

As posted on rec.aviation.soaring

I'm really kicking myself for leaving my camera in my car...

Yesterday I didn't feel like rushing to finish a glider project, so I elected to do my club mates a favor and tow. Just playing my part in the "vast high wing conspiracy" (ask Gregg Ballou about that).

It was a beautiful soaring day. Late in the afternoon, I got word via radio relay that Paul had landed his LS-4 at Twin Mountain airport, which is just a few miles from Mount Washington. He requested an aeroretrieve. I've looked at this airport from as low as 1200 agl a couple times, never landed there. Now I get to go on someone else's nickel: perfect!

Paul had staged for takeoff on 27. Back at the runway threshold, the scene looked post apocalyptic: the paved runway is deteriorating badly, looks ancient. The wilderness comes right up to the runway from all over. The ground is densely covered with moss, lichens and... moose poop. Lots and lots of moose poop.

Looking around from where the glider was staged, there was no evidence of humanity other than us two pilots, two planes and an "obviously" 500 year old runway in the wilderness. It was a very weird sight. But what to do about those damned 500 year old runway lights? They're high (this is snow country) and not all that far apart!

"Paul, you need a stick." A little later "No! I've got it. Two sticks." One under each wing tip on the tip skid with a little bend in the wing to keep them put. This worked so well we could hardly believe it, but you really do need two people to set it up. Do it after you position the towplane with slack out. Piece of cake. Full throttle with brakes on, release brakes as soon as max rpm achieved. Paul held a little brake until the line went taught.

The better solution is a stick-on (suction cup, etc) wing wheel. I have one, but it was a hundred miles away from where I needed it. ...and it didn't really fit the image, anyway. The sight of that LS-4 with a couple of gnarly old branches propping up the wing tips in the wilderness was really something.

(Obviously: don't leave sticks anywhere an airplane can/will run over them.)

-Evan Ludeman / T8

Weekend report June 16 - 17

On Saturday two unexpected things happened. We had cumulus clouds and Lane showed up. In case you haven't been flying with us for 20 years, Lane Cobb was the first person to join the club after it was founded in 1988. He was quite active until 2005 when he took a short break from flying that lasted till this weekend. It's great to have him back.

In addition to being a superb pilot, Lane is an excellent source of flying stories. We reviewed some of them at the cookout Saturday night. If you haven't heard the one about his final glide into Post Mills in the 1-23, or the one about holding his breath at 18000 feet in the 1-26, or hopping over the road in the 2-33, or re-installing his instrument panel in mid-flight, or being infested with bird lice, be sure to ask him.

The first three people to arrive at the field were towpilots. Not sure what that's about. Evan found a detached spring in the L19 exhaust system, fixed it, and towed all day, including a long cross-country tow at the end of the day when he could have been drinking beer. Thanks, Evan!

The best round-trip flight of the day was turned in by Moshe (RU), who took a 225 km tour of Vermont. He crossed over to the Green Mountains at Stockbridge, went north almost to Morrisville, then home. He made his last climb at Spruce Mountain where he elected not to divert over to New Hampshire to join Paul. That turned out to be a good call. Here's a picture he took somewhere over Hancock.

Paul (S1) set out on an ambitious trip with turnpoints in northern Vermont and at Mount Washington. Things were going well until he flew into a stable airmass at Whitefield and plummeted to the ground, thereby demonstrating the wisdom of the old adage, "If you find yourself flying over the cumulus clouds, it's best to turn around."

Paul's cell phone battery had just enough juice in it to make two calls, one to Marsha to let her know that he'd be late for dinner, and the one that got to Evan in time to organize an aeroretrieve.

Tim (PM) had a nice two hour flight early in the day, but it wasn't recorded properly for some reason. After a quick turnaround on the ground, Andy (PM) took off and flew up to Mount Moosilauke, a 109 km flight that included an escape from Dean.

The Schleicher team of Skip (JS) and Thomas (ZP) weren't able to come to the cookout, so we didn't get to hear their stories. Skip flew 81 km. As Thomas was landing, he did a good job of keeping his eye on the towplane taking off in the opposite direction. It wasn't close, but we should all be more alert for this situation on no-wind days.

For the third day in a row, local flying was more difficult than cross-country flying. The thermals were widely spaced, and if you found yourself between two of them without the option of pressing on straight ahead, then you probably were faced with a short flight. The successful local pilots were the ones who found a lucky thermal and loitered at the top. These included Greg (3J, new type), Tim (PI), and Dennis (67, PI). Lane and Rick tried to leap between two thermals in the 2-33, and paid the price.

All in all, a good day at the airport. The happiest moment was when Rick found his wallet on the runway after it had fallen out of the 2-33.

The cookout started right on time, which was before Paul and Evan returned home, and before Moshe was finished preserving a few yards of gap tape. Eventually, the party included

Andrew, Andy, Christopher, Dennis, Ella, Evan, Gordon, Jane, Judy, Keith, Lane, Marsha, Mary, Mike, Moshe, Nancy, Paul, Peter, Petey, Rick, Sherry, and Sue.
Thanks go to Mary for her cooking and organizing and to all the contributors. Special mention to Dennis, who elevated the PMSC cookout experience by bringing a platter of shrimp!

The airmass was getting a little stale by Sunday, our fourth flying day in a row. But it was another fine day to be outdoors in a beautiful setting, never mind the haze. Eleven club members turned up, and eight of them flew. It was a good old fashioned local soaring day, with all the racing gliders remaining in their boxes. The best two hours of the day were between 2pm and 4pm, and Greg (3J) and Nancy (PI) took full advantage. The rest of us sat around in the screenhouse and watched the next generation of glider pilots (Sawyer and Andrew) fly a really weird RC glider that seemed to be immune to damage.

The day ended on a high note when Bill Swartz gave his Dad a ride in the Blanik.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's take Friday off

The Slackers set some sort of record today with ten sorties, including a rare weekday instructional flight. The conditions were slightly better than yesterday, with weak climbs near home and good lift in the high ground across the river. Paul (S1) and Moshe (RU) headed up to Mt. Moosilauke, while Kevin (PM) chased them partway.

It was a bit frustrating for the local flyers around Post Mills. The sky was seriously blue with no clouds, and winds from all different directions. The thermals were far enough apart that staying in the air was just a coin toss. Tom (TH), Greg (PI) and Andy (PI) fell down early in the day, but as the day wore on, Dennis (67) and Greg (PI, again) were able to make some good climbs.

Here's a picture of Moshe taking off. He flew for over four hours, landing at 6:40pm.

Altogether, ten club members went flying today, a Friday. Doesn't anyone work for a living any more?