Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mount Washington O&R

Eric writes:

I enjoyed the opportunity to accompany Greg, Dan, Evan and Tom on a flight in NT from Post Mills to Mount Washington on Sunday. Greg had previously mentioned the idea of conducting lead and follow coaching for PMSC pilots to learn cross country techniques and I felt I was ready to try it. Although I'd had some cross country experience in Australia, New England's rugged landscape had made me shy about venturing out by myself. So I was delighted to be able to fly with a sense of safety, following seasoned pilots on their semi-regular run to Mount Washington.

Although the day was not particularly easy, it was possible to find strong lift, and especially so after we crossed the river into the New Hampshire high country. We crossed at Bradford and headed for Moosilauke. I think Dan scouted an area that looked promising but turned out not to be. Greg eventually found something in the foothills east of the river and we all came over and to join him.

Thus went more or less the whole day, with one pilot or another reporting something and others adjusting their flight to take advantage of it. We climbed twice on the way to Moosilauke and then once just north of the mountain itself. Dan checked southeast of the summit, but there was nothing particularly strong (which is surprising, given the gentle southerly). We then made a long cruise along the Cannon mountain ridge until we found lift south of Franconia. We spent a long time there in weak lift; Greg and someone else were at cloud base but my climb was taking forever. Greg advised we push on, "let's find something stronger."

After that, more long cruises and with widely spaced climbs. This was definitely a new style for me since I would have normally stopped to top up in anything strong ("you never know when you might need it"). At our second climb after leaving Franconia we had Mount Washington Hotel in sight with Mount Washington in the distance. We'd made it in six climbs from Post Mills! We then flew northeast with the Dartmouth Range beneath us and the Presidential Range to our right. We flew past Madison and I recognized all the territory from wave camp last year. Then, after Evan scouted northward only to find a "big blue hole", we gathered and climbed near Gorham and discussed going westward into Vermont.

Somehow though, having accomplished what I'd wanted for the day, coupled with the idea of pushing on in not particularly easy conditions, left me feeling it was time to head back. I said goodbye to the group and set my sights on the breadcrumb trail of alternate airports that would lead safely home.

Flying back seemed straightforward as far as navigation went since I could mostly recognize the landscape from the trip up, but a long stretch of sink on the way to Franconia, followed by a spell of major sink near Cannon Mountain (which I suddenly realized I was on the lee side of) suddenly left me low and considering Franconia airport to be my likely landing spot for the day.

There was lift in the area, but it was uneven and I needed a big climb. After a small climb I ventured west but was completely dissuaded by the heavy, ever-present sink. I returned to Franconia airport even lower; barely pattern altitude. I radioed them that I was a Post Mills pilot trying to return home but might land there if I couldn't get away.

My second try worked out better, I really just persisted in the lift that was there and as I got higher, the lift became stronger and more uniform. I was finally able to climb above Cannon's elevation and find a region of lift/zero-sink that I could proceed south in. And as I went south at mountain height I found more lift, climbed further, and kept heading south. At some point on that leg I was within final glide of home, and I must say it was a great feeling.

Thank you Greg, Evan, and Dan for the wonderful adventure and for encouraging us to stretch our wings and venture cross country.

[Extracted from the PMSC Forum.  Here's a video from Eric's cockpit. -Ed.]

1 comment:

Moshe Braner said...

[I won't attempt to interpret tushar's comment... or is that spam?]

Eric: Glad you had fun and made it back too. How far apart did the "gang of four" spread out? And when somebody found lift, how did he describe the location for the others to converge on? That's a challenge I've never solved when trying to fly with somebody else. Saying "I'm about 4 miles NW of point X" is not specific enough. Saying "I'm over the South end of the longish lake" often doesn't work either, since there are other lakes in the area that somebody may consider "longish". And so forth. A device that would show others' locations in real time would be nice.