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?

Name that club member

We haven't done one of these in a while.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Runway 1

Guess where PM ended up today!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Weekend report June 9 - 10

We realized how spoiled we'd become when we lost the previous weekend to weather, and our mood didn't improve as it continued to rain into last week. By Wednesday, however, the forecast for the weekend took a turn for the better, and so did our mood. We are so fickle.

The weather on Saturday was even better than forecast, and it actually caught us by surprise. We weren't prepared for moderate lift to 7000 feet, and in the end, no one tried anything ambitious. There's a carpe diem lesson in there somewhere.

The big event was Greg's first solo in a real aircraft. He accomplished this in less than a month, and it would have been even quicker if it weren't for the delays he encountered getting his Student Certificate from the FAA. Anyway, he put on his lucky magenta-purple-orange flying shoes and took the Blanik up for an hour.

The 1-23 spent much of the day in the air, with Steve and Bill taking turns. Bill went farther, but Steve got higher. Skip, Thomas, and Karl also had local flights.

Moshe (RU) finally brought his new glider to Post Mills, and flew it 124 km. He came very close to landing at a deserted airport, but Greg and our new friend Dan stuck around long enough to help him tie down.

Sunday's weather was almost as good as the day before, but this time we were slightly better prepared. Evan (T8) took the prize with a 317 km flight down to the south. He did a nice job of touching down gently after we told him that his tailwheel had come apart on takeoff. Moshe, Paul, Rick, Andy, Andy, Skip, and Nancy took second place with a total distance of 533 km. Thomas came in last, as usual, because he had no flight log. This time his excuse was equipment failure, if you believe him. Sonny (LT) had a similar problem, but we believe his stories more than Thomas's.

Our newest member, Dennis Cavagnaro, flew with Rick and Tim in the Blanik (separate flights, duh...). Dennis is another highly experienced hang glider pilot. They seem to be everywhere these days.

Finally, the 2-33 saw some action with Karl (solo), Sam (2 lessons), and the best ride passenger, ever.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First something

You can't call it a first solo, because it wasn't his first solo. You can't call it a first solo in a glider, because a hang glider is a glider. But it was definitely an accomplishment. Congratulations to Greg Hanlon on his first flight as sole occupant of a heavy metal unpowered aircraft with an FAA registration! Or something like that.

We didn't dump a bucket of water on him, because technically, it wasn't his first solo. But that decision may be reversed upon appeal. I'm thinking it would be fun to do that at Franconia.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thrill ride

I don’t remember too much about my first glider ride, but I do remember that it was a thrilling, slightly overwhelming experience.

Then, as now, they assigned one of the more experienced pilots in the club to give the introductory lessons. Since then, I have become one of those pilots. I enjoy giving rides, but I confess that I am more interested in flying the single seater than in pointing out the local sights to tourists in the two-seat trainer. It gets a bit old after a while.

The single seat glider was ready to fly yesterday, and I was having these selfish thoughts when I was approached by one of the spectators at the field.

"We were hoping my father could get a ride today."

I was trying to think of a more polite version of "Sure, go ask someone else" when she continued, "He’s 96." That got my attention!

A moment later, I was shaking hands with an amazing gentleman named Lafayette Noda, and I decided that getting him up in a glider on this fine June day would be my highest priority. I finally realized that most of the spectators standing around were his friends and family members, and that they had all walked across the airfield to cheer him on.

"Are you really 96?" I asked tactlessly.

"At present, yes," he replied. An answer delivered with a big smile and scientific precision. It turns out that he actually is a scientist, but I didn’t learn that until later.

With surprisingly little assistance from his family and his growing coterie of glider pilot fans, Lafayette clambered into the front seat of our club trainer. Here’s a picture of Greg helping him with his seat belt.

Before takeoff, we explained a little about the glider’s instruments and controls. Sometimes we had to repeat ourselves because Lafayette’s hearing has faded a little in the past 96 years. I told him that he might have to move his left knee out of the way of the airbrake handle when it came time to land.

We took off, and we both watched the towplane during the climb to 3000 feet. It was impossible to communicate over the air noise at 65 mph, but I was hopeful that we would be able to talk when we slowed down following the release from tow.

I was unsure of what to expect in terms of Lafayette’s sense of balance and orientation in this new three-dimensional environment. He was looking left and right, taking in the sights. You’re not supposed to swing your head around like that - but he was smiling the whole time. I figured he was feeling fine.

Off tow, I found that by loosening my shoulder straps and leaning forward a bit, I could indeed communicate with my passenger. We flew into a patch of rising air, and I described to him the indications on the instruments. We watched another glider fly by underneath us, and Lafayette concluded, correctly, "He’s going down."

In fact, the other glider was entering the landing pattern ahead of us. We found some more rising air and circled in it, climbing 500 feet while waiting for our turn to land. Finally, I reached for my airbrake handle and tapped him on the knee with the other handle. He moved his leg out of the way and said, "OK, we’re landing now."

Back on the ground, we shook hands, posed for pictures, and congratulated ourselves for a few minutes before I realized that I never taught Lafayette how to unbuckle his harness. He was trapped in the cockpit, still smiling good-naturedly.

Before he was a glider pilot, Dr. Lafayette Noda, Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at Dartmouth Medical School, was a blueberry and Christmas tree farmer. Before that, he was chairman of the Biochemistry Department at the medical school. Before that, he established a non-profit fund to provide scholarships to Asian-American students. Before that, he was a research biochemist. Before that, he was wrongly imprisoned by his own government. You can read about him here and here and here and here.

Dr. Noda, who has studied the natural world for so long, knows how to enjoy it, too. It was a thrill for me to introduce him to our solar powered sport.

Update: Dr. Noda passed away on February 9, 2013. The Noda family has published an obituary.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Never, never, never, never let Rick fly your radio controlled model airplane.