Friday, July 11, 2014

Winner of the Franconia 4th of July Encampment

I am declaring myself the winner of the Franconia Encampment because I had the most fun on any flight.

It started on Sunday morning at 11:00 with a cloudscape of lenticulars.  Lift was a little hard to come by and I made retreats from Mt. Lafayette and Littleton area.  Two hours into the flight I was 1400’ over the field and thinking of calling it quits when I found a little thermal that went back up to 5000’.  From there the clouds over Kinsman had developed and it’s up to cloud base 8000’.   Then it’s a classic wave entry.  Sneak out the up wind side of the clouds.  Go up 100’ then down 80’, repeat.  After 10 minutes I've gain 200’ and enter 5 kt wave lift to 10,000’.

Now the fun part.  Looking out to the NW from 10,000’ I can see regular bands of clouds.  I think the wind was 330’ at about 30 kts. I head into the wind and head toward the next wave crest.  When I hit wave sink I crank it up to about 80 kts.  At times the sink rate hits 8-9 kts down but it didn’t last too long.  I keep traveling north hopping from cloud bank to cloud bank.  Further north the cloud banks get longer, more like cloud bands.  Now several miles long the cloud bottoms were at about 7,000’ and the tops at about 9,000’.  The problem was that you didn’t want to go under the clouds because you would be below the wave.  You couldn’t make it over the highest clouds because of the head wind and sink.  The only choice was to head for the spot where the tops of the clouds were the lowest.   From 10,000’ I would head for the valley in the clouds at 80 kts in sink.  The glider would start sinking deeper into the cloud valley and the clouds would start looming up on both sides as valley floor got closer (of course I was careful to maintain VFR cloud clearances).  It would get darker as the clouds blocked the sun.  As soon as I got to the other end of the valley I would hit the bright sunlight, pull up hard and turn to remain close to the face of the clouds and start climbing back up in the wave.  Too much fun!

After 5 or 6 cycles I was near Lake Willoughby.  There were more clouds and their pattern was confusing.  I’m tired so instead of trying to figure it out I want to go home.  Its 40 nm to Franconia, I’m at 9,000’ and when I turn around I should have at 30 kt tail wind.  Should be no problem.  When I turn around the L-nav says I only have a 15 kt tail wind.  Still should be no problem.  A couple of mile further I hit sink and I’m down to 8,000’ and the L-nav says I have a 15 kt head wind.  My “final glide” has gone from “cushy” to “maybe”.  I decide maybe I better tank up with a little more altitude.  The problem is I’m in a big clearing and still sinking.  There is a nice looking band of clouds running north from Burke Mt. so I head for it.  When I get to the cloud band I’m at 7,000’, below cloudbase and too low for wave.  I really don’t want to try to fly the broken thermals the 30 nm back to Franconia.  I wanted to get back into the wave.  So it's the classic wave entry again.  Sneak out the up wind side of the clouds.  Go up 100’ then down 80’, repeat.  It takes a full 20 minutes to gain 200’ and enter the wave.  But this wave feels even stronger than before.  It starts out at 6-7 kts.  I take it all the way back up to 13,500’.  And now it IS an easy glide back to Franconia!

When I finally land at Franconia the towplane and Blanik are leaving and all the trailers have been packed and are departing (thanks everyone!).   All I have to do is pack my glider and say good bye to the other die-hards (Dan, Evan and Moshe).

I’m the winner. I’m quite sure.



Anonymous said...

This Club is epic, firmly entrenched in a new era.
These last two seasons and a bit before, some terrific new members for 3 years, many w their own sailplanes. New pilots, new planes, new tales in the blogs. Competitive volunteerism (CV, our way). Communication and purpose shining brilliantly to the simple eloquent universal goal of safe, excellent, affordable flying in the pristine green and white states of New England. Christopher, Sarasota

Rick said...

Thanks, Christopher. We're doing better every year, it seems. Come back and join us whenever you can.

Anonymous said...

Great flight, Tim! Thanks for sharing the story. - Moshe