Monday, November 3, 2014

Solo slacker steals the candy on Halloween

On Friday, October 31, Halloween day was all treats, no tricks for sole slacker Lane. A rare light and local schedule Friday made available this terrific late season treat. Here's the story...

 My work schedule sent me to a jobsite in Pike, NH. While there, "skyballing" the morning weather began revealing an ever more interesting sky...long, streety cloud banks, both sharp-edged and convective looking, separated by "windows" of blue sky. As the morning wore on these conditions persisted to where I finally called Rick to enquire of his towing availability. "Come on over!" was the welcomed response.

Arriving at Post Mills, we were staged by 1 PM and ready to launch the 1-23. By then, things were looking somewhat less desirable with cloud growth producing more shading of the weakening October sun. After a lengthy discussion about where and how high (or even whether to delay the launch), the decision was made to go now. So off we went, intending to take a high tow up between two cloud banks north of West Fairlee. Climbing in this area, it quickly became evident that we were ascending into a box canyon of clouds. This was an exhilarating tow with highly banked turns to keep within the confines of the cloud corral. Upon release, I began exploring the edges only to find smooth 1 and 2 knots down. Two circuits brought me to where I could duck under the dark cloud bottoms...and that's where the fun began.

Under this menacingly dark gray cloud band, I discovered abundant lift of from 1 or 2 knots to as much as 7 knots!
There was a patch of sunny ground on the copper mine and as the flight developed, I began to associate this lift with any sunny ground, as wane as it might have looked. Up near cloud base, any section of the cloud that had a feature, such as concave bottom, or was extra dark or had a patch of swirly smoke underneath, usually meant strong lift. At cloud base, it often took thermaling at 80 mph to keep from being sucked up into the cloud!

After a while of this I was satisfied that I could leave the West Fairlee area and explore around a little. I headed south over Tug Mountain, mostly in light sink until at the south end I caught more rising air. A few turns in, I decided to light out for the east ridge where there was more abundant sunshine.

Arriving there at 3000AGL, I found choppy air that confirmed what I had learned earlier: any sunny ground was producing lift. I had several 2000 - 3000 foot climbs back up to the cloud bases at 5200 feet. In one thermal I caught up with 2 red tailed hawks and circled with them for a short while.

I decided to try crossing the Connecticut River over to the Orford , New Hampshire area where there was another patch of sunny ground. Arriving on the fringe of that area with 4000 AGL, I decided that prudence dictated turning back towards Vermont rather than pushing things looking for lift. A retrieve just would have put a damper on what was turning out to be a thrilling, unexpected late season gift. Back over the east ridge at 2000 AGL, I encountered the same results as before - light but workable lift that began to scratch me back up. I'm sure I could have regained cloud base again and really wanted to because I had a strong desire to explore an area of open sky to the south with some of the last sunshine bearing on the ground and a sharp edged cloud band on the far side of it.

But alas, by this time my bladder was threatening to explode and I was forced to terminate further exploration. 80 MPH back to the airport soon burned off excess altitude and saw me at pattern entry height. A long, smooth pattern ensued (at no time in the flight was it ever very turbulent nor did I find much by way of really sinky patches), followed by the best feather light touchdown of my season. I taxed up to the trailer area and to my surprise, was met there by Rick sitting in the golf cart. After a quick visit to the bushes I came back and gave Juliet a kiss on the nose and considered giving Rick one too. Flight time was 2 hours even.

My thanks to the sweetest glider I've ever flown, 3Juliet, and Rick Sheppe for being a friend, a tow pilot, available, and living across the street from the airport.

If this be the final flight of the season, it was a beaut!


Rick said...

Gee, Lane, the glider gets a kiss on the nose, but I don't? What does it take?

Andy Lumley said...

Nice flight Lane, now get your glider in the air!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, this reminds me of the Post Mills Soaring Club news letter where I first learned of Lane's gift for writing!!! Thanks for sharing this Lane! ~ Nancy K.

Tim said...

Great flight and nice write-up!

Bill O said...

Great post, really enjoyed the description of your Halloween treat. Thanks for sharing the flight with us. Well written, put me there on the fun ride.