Monday, October 15, 2012
long after Ramy and then Darren (visiting from Hollister!) went up.
There was a small line of small almost cumulus in the direction of
Tracy and we towed out in that direction. Got off tow around 3,700'
and joined Darren circling in some lift. Over the next two hours we
climbed and plateaued at 3,000', then 4,000' and finally hit 5,000'.
Looking south we could see big clouds developing (and overdeveloping).
In the direction of Mount Diablo every now and then there were some
cumulus developing over the ridge line but we never got high enough to
After two hours my bladder was full and it was time to land. It was
still fairly blue as we put KP away. But then the clouds started to
progressively build and around 4PM there was a real nice looking line
heading towards Tracy and beyond. Around 5PM I think Ramy and Darren
had come back and headed over to Mount Diablo. After they landed at
Byron (we'd been listening to the play-by-play on 123.3) Rolf and I
helped them with their gliders while there was an epic sunset with
weirdo clouds, especially towards the east (likely the convergence
line moving out - the wind picked up from the west around 5PM).
That was my longest duration flight (2 hours) out of Byron. It was
great flying with Ken, in part because once we landed we could handle
the glider on the ground ourselves. Not sure what I'd do with a twin
Grob if I landed and didn't have assistance.
Thanks to Ramy for calling the day, Rolf for towing and Ken for
offering to go up with me. Good times!
Monday, October 8, 2012
Most of my soaring experience is in 'paper airplanes' or similar (2-33, 1-26, L-13) so I'm quite familiar with the limited L/D is in those aircraft. Flying the Grob 103 offers a better glide ratio but my instincts are still tuned to the lower performance aircraft. Soaring in the Truckee area can be quite intimidating as there are few good land out locations. So I think it is good that my instincts didn't let me stray far from the airport and then, only at considerable altitude. As such, I never strayed more than about 12 or 13 miles away when upwind. Most of my tows were to 1500 to 2000 feet over airport elevation before releasing, but I did have one flight where I got off tow at 1000 ft AGL and went up without a problem. Once off tow, working the thermals were pretty standard...its just a matter of learning the local terrain and where thermals have a tendency to develop. With the varying terrain of the Truckee area, it is quite common to have multiple cloud bases...so a few times, I thermaled up to one cloud, left it, and found myself higher than most of the other clouds in the area. Most of my flights, I spent a considerable time above 15,000 MSL. I made it up to 17,350 MSL on one flight, but had to break off the thermal as my drift component was pushing my instinct button.
Being in a club ship meant returning to terra firma so other members could enjoy the good soaring conditions. So most of my flights were limited to around 2 hrs in duration. Luckily for me, my work schedule allows me to get up to Truckee during the week when there are no others in line to fly the Grob...that meant longer flights at my leisure. I had a couple flights in excess of 3 hours and one close to the 4 hr mark. I could have stayed up longer, but then the Soar Truckee staff would have gone home for the day leaving me with no one to help park the ship. The pattern for landing is steeper and tighter than what we fly at Byron due to the landscape the runway lies on. Lastly, final approach is much different than landing a Byron...similar to landing a powered aircraft. I'm looking forward to soaring Truckee next year.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Yes, the last weekend of soaring in Truckee was absolutely incredible. I took Thursday and Friday off and made a long weekend of it including some mountain biking along with flying.
I had a wonderful flight with Larry Thursday which really built on what I've learned at Byron and in Truckee with Buzz a couple of weeks ago.
The air was terrific, and Larry and I had nearly a 2.5 hour lesson in the early afternoon. After Larry and Van returned from their late afternoon flight we went to the Fifty Cent Brewery to talk about flying, Larry's new Cessna 150, and other things that interest us pilots. Upon return to Soar Truckee I discovered a card game going on in the shed, and after trading some wine for chips I got in on a few hands and lots of laughs.
I was very fortunate Saturday. Even thought I wasn't scheduled to fly Larry kindly offered to take me up again in between other students, however Sergio also offered to let me join him on one of his famous epic cross country trips. We took off around 11:30 and found plenty of lift around Tahoe. We flew around Lake Tahoe, a first for me, and I learned where many important sources of lift can be found, as well as other airports and glider operations. I took photos until my camera battery died, and we continued north to Mount Lassen. Sergio modestly said that normally one would have to work much harder to find and climb thermals, but Saturday was an exceptional day. He made it look so easy, and it seemed like we hardly ever passed below 10 or 12K ft. I joking said that I'd probably be disappointed if I ever make the same flight and find the conditions more challenging. We flew to Mt. Lassen and circled looking down on the hikers. Sergio managed to capture a few shots with his camera. I couldn't help to wave my arm out the window at the hikers below who were looking up at us.
Between Mt Lassen and Sierraville we found a few of the same thermals we'd come up on, and Sergio found some air rising above dark coloured rock along a ridge. We flew beneath a line of clouds back to Truckee and it was downright hard to loose significant altitude. I flew us back straight along the cloud line, over Truckee and back out over Lake Tahoe. It seemed like we didn't loose significant altitude until Sergio applied the spoilers and made a landing just as beautiful as his takeoff.
Attached are photos of the trip around Tahoe and Lassen, as well as a couple of route maps that do not contain the last part of our trip due to technical problems. The first photo of the glider and tow plane was taken as I stumbled out of the Bunk House that morning around 05:00 when the moon was setting west over Donner Pass. Upon our returned to Truckee after 17:30 we saw the moon rising over the ridge to the east.....but unfortunately no photo...
After finding 81C mostly loaded onto the trailer by Larry, Van, Mang, and Stefanie, I merely assisted with hitching the trailer to Larry's camper van for the pull back to Byron. Out of slight guilt for missing most of the work, I did promise to attend the Nov club work day.
The Sat night BBQ was a relative small crowd but we made up for it by partying harder and later into the night than usual! There was food, campfire, music, cigars, and dancing in the shed to the rotating colours of disco lights. The next day the remaining Gypsies of Soar Truckee packed up to move away to their respective winter places. Some were heading down the mountain.....others to Florida. Overnight.....caravans, tow planes, and gliders were gone, and everything not attached to the ground was taken up and packed away. Had it not been such a wonderful weekend and fun season I would have felt sad but there are so many wonderful memories of flights and great company at Truckee. There are also upcoming soaring community events in the Bay Area to look forward to.
Attachment(s) from email@example.com
1 of 1 File(s)
There is a marked physiological difference between standing around in
the sun on a hot summer day at Byron and summer cross-country flying in
At Byron, sweating profusely to keep body temperature from rising, we do
lose electrolytes as well as water. Gatorade can replace those
electrolytes but it is not really necessary because our exposure time is
short enough that normal food will restore them soon enough. Proactively
replacing water is essential, though.
Flying in the mountains in summertime we are usually close to freezing
level. We don't sweat very much once up there. Hanging about on the
ground, of course, we may sweat quite a bit but usually we spent a good
amount of that time in the shade where it is significantly cooler than
at Byron. But up high, even though the outside air is frigid, our lungs
are at the same old temperature. The air we breathe in has hardly any
water in it whereas the air we breathe out contains plenty of water.
Thus we unsuspectingly lose water more rapidly than usual. But not
electrolytes. Hence it is necessary to drink plenty of water even
though feeling cold. And plain water is best. We don't really need to
replace anything else in flight. Few of our flights are long enough to
require food before we get home. It is advisable to have a gallon of
drinkable water on board. You might drink only a quarter of that in
flight but the rest of it is worthwhile in case of landing out and
having a long wait for a retrieve. Even then plain water is all you
need. A few hours of electrolyte loss may slow down an athlete's
performance but won't have a noticeable effect any of us.
What to do on a very windy day at Minden?
One exceptionally windy Sunday in August, approximately 220@21G25 early in the day and getting worse, everyone just fell out of the sky hugely annoyed because the strong wind completely obliterated the thermals, and lift was not to be found even underneath the clouds at 12.000ft. Both active runways 30/12 and 34/16 meant a serious cross-wind landing, so some of us decided to land on the closed runway – red “X”s be damned – the closed runway 21 was the best option because it was facing upwind.
Another solution to the problem was offered by a Soaring NV instructor and tow-pilot, Devin. He called Rwy 30 in the landing pattern. We watched from the air with great curiosity to see if he would get mangled by the wind, but clever Devin used the width of the staging apron in addition to the width of the runway to fly the imaginary centerline going diagonally across the apron and the runway, which was more appropriate for the wind direction. That was neat!
The soaring weather was not as strong on Labor Day Monday as the day before. After the first tow and the struggle over the Thermal Hill north of the airport I got low enough that I had to commit to landing. The airport was surrounded by sink, so I was aiming at the closed runway for awhile. Luckily, got some reprieve from the zero sink closer to the airport, and managed a much abbreviated pattern to rwy 30. Tow-plane that was behind me in the pattern had to land on the closed runway. He pulled up in front of me on rwy 30, quick hook-up for the unassisted take-off, and off I went for the second time. Spoilers popped open on take-off because I did not do a pre-takeoff check-list in all that excitement. To add further to the adrenalin rush and anxiety, I had to get off tow below 2000ft AGL again, and again struggle in the very narrow thermal surrounded by strong sink. Luckily, two gliders – one of them MX, our Mike S - were marking that thermal high above me, so it was easier to muster some motivation and stay with it. I caught up with them, and we eventually did some nice gaggle flying, and even a red-tail hawk joined right in front of my nose. Everyone was still fighting valley thermals around 2pm. Better performance gliders managed to finally get out of the valley, but I stayed and puttered around and enjoyed the view of Lake Tahoe for couple of hours.
Lack of oxygen makes me sleepy
On the last flight this late September, I had an overwhelming desire to take a nap, all of a sudden in the middle of the flight at 17.000ft. Even though I was tired from getting up ridiculously early that morning to drive to Minden, this felt different. Finally it crossed my mind to look at the oxygen flow-meter. Et voila! Even though the flow was set for 16-17.000 feet MSL some time before, the flow was back down to 10.000ft, probably due to regulator valve changing at cold temperatures at those altitudes. I adjusted it again for the 18.000 ft and it stayed there for the rest of the flight, and I was not sleepy anymore. I felt cheated: hypoxia-induced euphoria skipped me all together.
An earlier flight this summer, to Air Sailing and back
After I got my Silver Duration flight at the end of July, I wanted to have a dual flight in preparation for Silver Distance flight. The hope was for one really good cross-country day that would allow going north towards Air Sailing, thinking it would be a nice Silver Distance to go for eventually. And the day came on Aug 19 after almost two weeks of scattered t-storms and threatening over-development. With Mike S in the back seat, I went north past Air Sailing and back to Minden, topping at about 15.000 ft in between the clouds. The cloud streets going north made crossing the Dayton Valley and I-80 easier than usual. On a blue day there is appreciable sink in these two valleys as air funnels through them, especially on a day with strong westerly winds. One needs either a lot of altitude or a very nice cloud street in order to cross these “blue gaps” safely. There was still some rain and distinct smell in the air from the fires in the north around Lassen.
-- Maja Djurisic Stanford University Research Associate, Shatz Lab James H Clark Center 318 Campus Dr, W150 Stanford, CA, 94305 lab phone: 1 650 498 1970 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Minden with Silver
The Minden summer 2012 was a great overall success. Unusually wet weather throughout the season provided cloud markers for soaring frequently even locally on the Pine Nuts. Furthermore, we all witnessed continued growth of the local FBO, Soaring NV, which moved its operation into a new and comfortable building, expanded from two to four tow-planes since last summer, and hired Russell Holtz as the chief instructor. I flew on few weekend days in July and second half of August through Labor Day, and achieved my personal goal of getting the flights for the silver badge by the end of the summer.
At the end of August I was still left with the Silver Distance leg to accomplish. I got my chance on a Labor Day Sunday. I hoped for one of those days that would take me either north towards Air Sailing, or south towards Mt. Patterson or Mono Lake, the areas I got comfortable with earlier in the summer while flying dual on few occasions with Mike S. The soaring forecast was good, but mostly blue and cloudless. As the days get colder late in the summer, the soaring starts later and later in the day as it takes more time to reach the trigger temperature. So I decided to go for a standard Silver Distance task out of Minden, which encompasses the >51km leg between Rawe Peak on the north end of Pine Nuts, and Topaz International on the south. Start has been suggested to be someplace in the valley, “Sunrise” waypoint. Kind folks from Soaring NV helped me enter the turnpoints into the Cambridge logger and declare the task. It looked like I am all ready. Alas, bad luck with flight loggers struck again, and once I got off tow I lost all my navigational tools. My flight computer with the moving map went dead. In addition, due to multiple human errors (some of them mine) the GPS-NAV computer did not cycle through turn-points even though the task was loaded. Between figuring out the GPS-NAV and struggling to thermal low around the valley, I decided to go with the task as planned, ignore the GPS-NAV and navigate by eye as much as I can and have fun with the flight. I spent over 40 minutes looking around the valley and lower hills for the way to get high enough to get to the Pine Nuts. Once on the ridge, things were straightforward: I proceeded to its northern edge and Rawe Peak, turned tightly around Rawe Peak at about 13.600ft, and proceeded to my next turn-point of Topaz International. Also known as the Flying Mouse Strip, Topaz International is a little dusty strip in the valley southeast of Minden and off of the southern edge of Pine Nuts. Reaching Topaz turn-point in the valley means flying through a lot of sink. Thus, it was important to find a thermal while still on the Pine Nuts and get as high as possible before hopping to Topaz international. Also, it was important to preserve enough altitude on the way back from Topaz and into the hills in order to stay in the reasonable lift band. Having said all that, I ended up scratching my way up over the hills and back to Minden anyway. Both the Rawe Peak and Topaz turnpoints were made within 1km radius, which is not all that easy to do by eye from high altitude. Total distance to be claimed is about 116km, in about 2.5 hours.
Many thanks to Mike Schneider for introducing me back to Minden area early in the summer, and for few long dual flights far north and south of Minden, which got me acquainted with good soaring in the inhospitable Sierra terrain and few good landout options. Soaring NV provided a very comprehensive support for their guest pilots, not just tows.
Since I flew KP a lot this summer, I felt obligated to help Mike S haul the glider back this past weekend. As it turns out, the soaring weather was exceptional for early Fall. Saturday would have been a nice day to attempt a gold distance if it wasn’t for the late start in the day. My last flight of the season was dual with Mike S, almost all the way to Tioga Pass in Yosemite, abeam Mono Lake, then back over Dayton airport, and finally to Minden, about 300km in 3.5 hours. Ha! After that, we put nice new red fenders on KP trailer, exchanged lots of hugs and handshakes with all the nice people in Soaring NV who also helped us put the glider in the trailer, and took KP home for some fall and winter excitement at Byron.
-- Maja Djurisic Stanford University Research Associate, Shatz Lab James H Clark Center 318 Campus Dr, W150 Stanford, CA, 94305 lab phone: 1 650 498 1970 e-mail: email@example.com
I'll jump on the band wagon too even though my flight was with an Air Sailing Pegase glider.
Last Thursday Sep 27th I took off around 1:30PM from Air Sailing and headed to Truckee. It was mostly a blue day but there were some clouds around Lake Tahoe. I headed towards the West side of Verdi trying to stay over the mountains and under some clouds. This way I moved towards Truckee between 11,000 and 13,000 feet. From there I went around Mount Rose and headed towards Carson City, heading South over the mountain towards Minden as I found a street of clouds and was able to pretty much fly straight using the dolphing technique. From MInden I headed back north and quickly reached Reno at the edge of the mountains before crossing the highway I-80 valley which I heard can have a lot of sink. So, I wanted to make sure I was high enough to reach Reno Stead with plenty of altitude. Being at about 10,000 feet I thought (maybe wrongly) that I needed to gain more altitude but the day seemed to be weakining and I was getting pretty low over the mountains at which point I thought I might have to land in Reno. I got in touch with Oakland Center indicating I might need to land in Reno and they transferred me to the Reno tower. Reno gave me 16R to land but I obviously wasn't ready to give up as I was just over 8,000 feet. As I headed towards the airport I finally found some lift I could scratch in and was able to stay West of the airport trying to gain altitude, already within Class C airspace. They switched me to runway 7 and asked if I was motorized. They allowed me to stay West of the airport and try to save my flight and even gave me a transponder code, I was really impressed how helpful and patient they were, asking if I needed help getting the glider off the runway in Reno. I got back up to about 10,000 when I decided to head north towards Reno Stead where I arrived with plenty of altitude and finding some more lift which allowed me to head back to Air Sailing. Reno Tower in conjunction with Oakland Center provided me the luxury of flight following as I headed to the North. These guys are good!
I had heard that Gatorade G2 was a good drink to take as it replenishes your electrolytes without all the sugar. I picked some up at Safeway before heading to the airport that day and made the mistake of only taking that but no water. I was surprised how early I was feeling my mouth completely dry and eager to drink water. It also didn't do too well to my stomach. As I was around Reno Stead I wasn't so sure I was going to be able to make it back to Air Sailing without getting very sick. Well, I decided it was better to use my hat as a bag and relieve the symptoms before having to land while feeling really bad. Summary: I won't take only Gatorade G2 next time and will make sure I bring some water.
The flight was just over 3 hours as I covered 230km. Flight trace can be found at http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=2759233.
One other thing I really enjoyed about this flight was setting up my Oudie to not only track my destination, but also to always have on the screen the closest airport and the closest land out place (many times the closest airport was also the closest land out, but not always). This gave me quite a bit of confidence and allowed me to feel quite safe as I wondered out of my home airport. I'm sure you guys can teach me a lot more on how to set the Oudie with even more options, which I am more than willing to listen to.
I went to Truckee Friday and flew four flights with Larry in 81C, once on Friday and thrice on Saturday. Larry and Maya were up when I arrived, so I waited for them to return; once they arrived, I gave Larry a short break while I did a preflight on 81C. Since I hadn't used the oxygen system before, Larry gave me a briefing on it before the takeoff.
My takeoff was very smooth, but I hadn't flown in a couple weeks, so I was bouncing around behind the towplane a bit more than I'd like, and wasn't as coordinated as I should have been. After a while that settled down, though. Larry said his flight with Maya was characterized by lots of lift, so we figured we'd get off in the first good thermal we hit, and that's what we did. Whereupon I immediately enhanced my budding reputation as an accomplished sink-finder. I turned right out of the nice thermal into big sink, and went round and round, looking for that thermal, but it had evidently vanished! We finally got low enough that Larry ordered a return to the airport. I turned back toward KTRK and about a minute later blissfully hit a thermal - and what a thermal it was! Quite strong (frequently pegging the vario), and, although not all that well formed and not all that easy to get or keep centered, it lasted and lasted. When we stopped circling just below cloudbase, we had ridden that thermal upwards over 7,000 feet. At over 14,000 feet, the whole vista of Lake Tahoe, the Sierras and the foothills to the west, Reno, Carson city, and Minden to the east was spread out from horizon to horizon. Man, that was worth the work of the climb!
We headed up past Verdi and northeastward, past Reno-Stead and just west of Air Sailing, and, having dropped below the 18:1 cone from Truckee, so Stead was now our new "home airport," started poking about for a thermal that would take us back over the hills to Truckee. This turned out to be a great lesson in finding thermals under clouds - Larry had me exploring the likely locations under the sunny edge of the cloud, poking under the darkest spot, looking for building versus dissipating cloud...
We caught a good thermal and then followed a nice line of clouds back down over Mt. Rose and on down the east escarpment of the Sierras toward Carson City, before turning back toward the Truckee valley. The landing was pretty interesting: there was an 11 kt wind out of 300; Larry told me I could use 29 or take 19 for practice on crosswind landing technique, and I chose the latter. It was pretty uneventful, except when we slowed down to take the left turnout the wind caught the tail and started us on a right turn! We managed to straighten out and make the second turnout, which was a right-hand turnout. Kind of fun!
All told we were up about 2.5 hours and covered 191 km before returning to Truckee.
The track of the flight is posted on the OLC site: http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=2759548
Here are two short videos I took during the flight with my cell phone. Not great quality, but nicely in the "I was there" genre of videos:
The next morning Larry and I started with two patterns, and then took a longer flight before Mang was due to fly. It started remarkably like the previous day: releasing in a good thermal and immediately turning out of it into massive sink! Once again I struggled to find lift until Larry said we needed to turn back to the airport, and again I stumbled on some lift. Unlike Friday, though, this was NOT a good, strong thermal. It was wimpy and unreliable, and I spent a long time just gaining a couple hundred feet back to the tow release altitude, and then a much longer time struggling up to a comfortable altitude, where we finally found strong lift that carried us up to 14,000 feet. Again we chased a cloud line, some good, some not so good, until we were south of Carson City and approaching Minden. Then Larry had me fly across Lake Tahoe, working on flying a coordinated, constant speed, straight path, using as little control input as possible. That was a great exercise! Once we got across, we went over to Squaw Valley, where we hit very strong thermals and attained our max altitude of just over 15,500 feet. Larry startled me (after two rides of incessantly reminding me of Speed To Fly and speeding up in sink, slowing in lift) by telling me to fly fast through the lift - when I asked why he pointed out that this time speed-to-fly was to keep from being sucked up into the clouds! Hmm... should've thought of that myself! About that time, west of Squaw Valley, we realized that Mang was due for the plane in about fifteen minutes, and with plenty of altitude, Larry had me check out what a high-speed run felt like in the Grob - he instructed me to fly straight to KTRK at 90 knots, just at the upper limit of the green arc. The wind is pretty loud (and pretty cold through the vent) in that configuration.
We got back and let Mang and Stefanie have the plane, and when they got back we all took it apart. Maya was there to help - she flew with Larry before I did on Friday, and on Saturday caught a ride with Sergio and flew all around the lake. Sounded like quite an adventure, but we'll have to see if she wants to report on it!
The track from my Saturday flight is:
but sorry, no crappy videos for this flight.
All in all, a terrific weekend!
Monday, October 1, 2012
MANG's truckee report 9/29 - last of the season!+ THANKS to LARRY for giving TRK instruction/checkouts to over half dozen club members!
out of Truckee. I launched just before 3pm and there were big cumulus
to the west of the airport and a few in the direction of Mount Rose.
Bases were around 14 to 15k. I got off tow under a big cloud at
7,800', banked it to 45 degrees and quickly climbed up to 11,000'.
I'd done my homework on safe glide circles and landmarks around
Truckee and had thoughts of going as far as Sierraville if I could get
high enough (about 12,500' feet over Sierraville at an 18:1 glide
ratio and 1500' arrival altitude). I ended up staying much closer to
the airport since it was blue towards Sierraville and my passenger
started feeling a bit ill. When I'd told Jim Altman I planned to take
someone up with me he'd told me "well the first time just don't make
it a bumpy day where you pull it over to 45 degrees for a few minutes
in a tight circle". (I'll pause now while you go re-read the first
thing I did off tow.)
Over the course of the flight I practised hopping from one cloud to
the next while estimating how much altitude I'd need and checking my
position and altitude against a safe glide circle map I'd failed to
return to Larry on a previous trip to Truckee. I was able to climb
easily under cloud to 11,000' feet but after that it was slow going,
even though the cloudbase was probably 14 or 15,000'. I made a try
for Mount Rose but turned back when I hit my safety altitude of
11,000' in some sink before the cloud I was aiming for.
We tiptoed over the edge of Lake Tahoe near King's Beach. Even with
plenty of altitude it's an invigorating sight to look down on the
giant lake and have water below you!
With enough fun (and motion sickness) for one flight we turned back to
Truckee (all of about 9 miles away) and came in for satisfyingly
smooth landing (not so hard when the wind is an uncharacteristically
smooth 5 knots straight down the runway).
After the flight Van, Maya, Larry, Stefanie and myself put 81C onto
its trailer. It was a little sad to be honest! What a great season
in Truckee this year - the club had a good showing and we have to
thank Larry a lot for leading the charge as instructor for some new
NCSA pilots to start enjoying the mountains!
Flight track (with some annotations):
View from Soar Truckee upper deck at 1pm:
THANKS LARRY FOR LEADING THE CHARGE AS INSRUCTOR FOR SOME NEW NCSA
PILOTS TO START ENJOYING THE MOUNTAINS!