Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Spring Entertainment

A Spring Entertainment

by Dan Colton


The Spring soaring season has definitely opened with a big bang as we have been reading in the Buzzard blogs.  One thing that has been missing, at least for me, is some video that puts us in the pilot’s seat.  So here is a short clip from my flight yesterday.  No huge 600km out and return.  No amazing wave altitude record.  Just a relaxing and rewarding soaring experience in the local airspace over green hillsides and among the cumulus in blue sky.  Please enjoy the ride.  I did!!!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Mid-April (dare we say it?) Epic Day!

A Mid-April (dare we say it?) Epic Day! 

Van Emden Henson
Reporter at Large


Ramy said it would be good...

Of course, he's said that before.

Starting a couple days ago, Ramy noted that Tuesday (April 22nd) was likely to be a good post frontal day, and lobbied for a bunch of glider  pilots to fly and for a tow pilot to drag the gliders aloft.

Then Monday night, he changed his tune from "probably a good day" to "probably a great day."

So I took the day off to go flying in 1YC. Ramy was there in TG. Larry and Stuart came out to fly 81C. Jim (?) and Jennifer, down from Minden, came out in PW, their DG 800 motor glider.

I warned Ramy that if the day crapped out the stones were dry and I wouldn't miss... and early on it looked pretty questionable, with pretty clear skies and lots of wind on the ground at Byron. I was skeptical, but Ramy kept reassuring me that it was going to get better and better.

So we all rigged our gliders, and got ready to fly.

Ramy's Report

As usual, Ramy launched first in TG. He spotted just the tiniest whiff of a cloud, got under it, dropped off tow, and promptly vanished into the stratosphere. Here is his report:

Epic day today, even better than forecast, with bases above 7K, and up to 9K further north, accessible from pattern tows. It does not get any better than that at Byron, so too bad only few managed to shift things around their schedule to enjoy such an epic day. I'll let other tell their stories. I flew nearly 600km, SE to Turlock then NW along the Sierra foothills to north of Sutter Buttes via Sacramento and back to Byron via the western sierra foothills again.
Ramy over Sacramento

His Facebook post included this description:

Finally the flight I needed! Epic valley day with bases up to 9K. Went SE to Turlock, NW via Sacramento to 13 miles north of Sutter Buttes, back SE to the Sierra foothills by Camanche Reservoir area, and back to Byron.


Ramy's flight on OLC:
http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=3567781

Here is a view of Ramy's flight:

 Buzz, after looking at Ramy's trace, had this to say:

Awesome!!!   Indeed a 500km valley day out of Byron fits the definition of EPIC!!   Years go by with[out] that happening.

Ramy over Sutter Buttes

 Van's Report


Ramy was followed by Jim and Jennifer in PW, who also saw a tiny cloud and did a similar vanishing act.  Larry and Stuart helped me launch next in 1YC, and then they launched in 81C.

Paul towed me up, flying 76W, and he spotted a cloud over Brushy Peak and suggested we head that way. Before we got there I spotted my own "tiny whiff of a cloud" ahead, and when I saw 76W go up, and I went up a few seconds later and the boost lasted long enough, I released at 3000 feet and started my climb, which would prove to be the first of many on the day.

That first climb got me to 4100 feet, and two more thermals took me to 6700 feet, which is roughly where I spent most of the flight.

Van's house, from about 6000 feet.
I didn't really go anywhere, never straying far from C83. I went out toward Mt. Diablo, down over my house in northeast Livermore, out to Funny Farm, down to Mountain House, and then criss-crossed the area between those points several times.

There was a lot of Cu, in nicely spaced puffs. Most of the clouds were fed by thermals, with the best stuff coming under the wispy beginnings of the cloud. The thermals were to the north of the cloud early (wind at Byron was right down 30 at the time), but later in the day the thermals were better west of the cloud, as the winds aloft backed around to more westerly.

Much of the afternoon the clouds were streeting, and I could cruise along under them, climbing slightly. I also found "sink streets" between the cloud streets, definitely areas to be avoided.

I spent the afternoon practicing finding and centering thermals, working streets, and working on "speed to fly."  Which brings me to:

 

Flaps 

 

1YC has flaps. I'm in love with them. I'd never flown a flapped glider before we bought 1YC, and although I feel like I'm just scratching the surface on how to use them, I've become a devotee. Here is what I like about flaps.

When you go into a thermal, you crank in (in our case) +8 flaps, the same amount used for normal landing approach. Stall speed drops (from 38 kts to 33 kts in 1YC) and you can fly noticeably slower, resulting tighter turns for a given bank angle, keeping you closer to the center of the thermal (assuming you can center the thermal, a dicey proposition in my case) and providing greater lift for the airspeed. Of course, you have to remember that at 60 degrees of bank the 33 kts stall speed is now 46 kts - but without the flaps it would be 54 kts!  Cool!

When I was a kid, I was a ski racer. (Don't worry, I'll get back to the point soon.) I loved to point my skis straight down the steepest hill I could find and go like hell! (Broke my leg skiing once early in the day, but I was a kid, and therefore indestructible, and lift tickets were expensive*, so I skied on it the rest of the day.) I loved speed!

Now that I'm an old coot, well, fast isn't so much of an attraction.  When I snowboard (mostly) or ski (rarely) I still go down the steep stuff, but I do it under great control - no speed demon here.  Which brings me to the point. When I fly, I tend to fly too slow. Not (generally) dangerously slow, but when "speed-to-fly" says go fast, I push the stick forward and get my speed up, but then I start subconsciously easing back, and then when I look at the ASI, sure enough, I'm back at or below best L/D. Setting the trim helps, of course, but I still tend to back off.  Something I'm working on.

Enter negative flaps into my life!  Yea!  When I need to go fast, I notch -4 on my flaps, and fast I go. When I need to go still faster, I set the flaps at -7, and I go still faster.  It isn't much different from setting the trim, except for this: setting the trim holds the attitude where you want it to be, and relieves you of the necessity of holding the stick there. But setting the flaps reconfigures the shape of the wing, and makes the airplane want to go the speed you want it to go.  Way cool!

*Author's note: In 1972 I quit skiing in protest. I was protesting the rising cost of lift tickets.  Park City, Utah, had just raised their all day lift ticket price to $6.50 -- yes, I got the decimal in the right place -- and I thought it was too much to pay! In a classic case of "cutting off one's nose to spite one's face," I didn't ski again for 20 years.  But I had been paying $4.40 at Snow Basin and Solitude, and just $2.75 at Brighton. (Of course, there is a good chance that the $6.50 was a larger fraction of my annual income back then than is the $80 I paid for a lift ticket at Copper Mountain two weeks ago...)    

It ended up as my longest flight ever, at four hours and 23 minutes.

I topped out at 7900 feet. Amazingly, this happened while I was working a bunch of small clouds, all with their bases around 6000 feet. Suddenly, in the blue between clouds, I hit a monster thermal. It pegged my vario, so I only know that it was at least +10 knots upward. It took me to 7900 feet, well above the clouds in the area. Although I didn't get quite that high again, I did get several other "monster" thermals in the blue between clouds, thermals that took me well above the clouds.

Here is a look at my OLC trace:


For more detailed information, the link to my OLC trace is
http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=3567701

Later in the day the winds aloft got stronger, and the thermals got wider apart (but also stronger), and quite turbulent. In between the thermals I often found lengthy stretches of very strong sink (hence my new found love of negative flaps).

And while it isn't the quality of the pics Ramy posts (I don't have the flying skill that Ramy has, to pay attention to the photography; I don't have as good a camera as Ramy's; I don't have Ramy's remote control stick to hold it out the window, and I don't have a pretty a face like Ramy), here's my first foray into Glider Selfies:


Van over Mountain House with Tracy in the distance

Stuart's Report

I never heard from PW or TG the rest of the day, but did encounter Larry and Stuart in 81C. (By the way, OLC has added a cool feature called Meeting Points. If OLC detects two glider tracks in sufficiently close proximity, and I don't know how they define that, it records that fact. Then you can click on the radio button and see on the chart a blue circle showing where the encounter took place.  You can also bring up the other glider's trace. You have to be logged in to OLC to see this feature, though.  According to OLC, 81C and 1YC spent 11 minutes in sufficiently close proximity to count as a "meeting.")

I was only aware of being very close on one occasion. I was making for a thermal and found 81C already working it, a couple hundred feet lower. I tried to be a good citizen, circling in the same direction, and I tried to get 180 degrees across the circle from them. But I never got there, with the result that I think my poor excuse for gaggle flight scared Larry off. He left the thermal, anyway. (Something else for me to work on.)

Stuart had this to say:

And thanks to you Ramy for the weather forecasting. I did 1.5 hours and came down as I didn't feel too well by then. We were passing up lift most of the way down right over the airport. My max was about 6,000 ft during an excursion over towards Livermore and then the reservoir and Funny Farm.

Thanks to Paul and all of you.

Here is the OLC view for Stuart and Larry.  The link is

The Cavalry Arrives

But, eventually, all good things must end, and I decided to head back to Byron and land. Actually, I had made that choice twice earlier, once at about 3 hours and once at about half an hour later.  Both times, though, I found just one irresistible thermal to work and stayed aloft. About 4 hours in I realized I had just blasted through two good thermals and two big sinkholes between them without adjusting my flight controls at all, and, moreover, that I didn't really care.  Time to come down, Van!

So I focused my attention on gently gliding down from about 5000 feet, and realized there was so much lift that I was going to have to put out the speed brakes to get down! (Much as Stuart reported.)  

I checked the AWOS and found that the wind was very strong (17, gusting to 25) but pretty much straight down 23, and planned an approach to 23. Recalling to add 1/2 the wind and a bit for the gusts, I approached at a screaming 55 kts (1YC has a normal approach speed of 43 kts) and made a very nice landing.  I had radioed that I would be a few minutes getting clear of the runway, but stopped right at the turnout so it was pretty easy to drag it clear.  Then I began considering how I would get 1YC back to the ramp.  Larry and Stuart had gone home, Paul had long since left, and Ramy, Jim, and Jennifer were still aloft. 

I would have to walk back to 30 to fetch my tail dolly, then either push 1YC by hand, with a wingtip dragging, or borrow Ramy's wing runner (gotta get one of those!), and push it without a wingtip dragging, all the way back to the ramp, in a 17 kt crosswind.  Not a happy prospect either way. 

Then, much to my pleasant surprise, I looked up the taxiway and there was Rolf, coming in a golf cart!  Way to go, Rolf! (We seem to say that a lot, anybody notice?)  He showed up to work on his glider(s) just before Larry left, and was monitoring the radio.  When he heard me calling my approach, he saddled up and game to the rescue.  

So he helped me tow 1YC back to her trailer, and then, nice guy that he is, he stuck around to help me de-rig and put 1YC in the trailer.  What a great guy, that Rolf. I wouldn't have enjoyed de-rigging solo in that wind. 

While we were putting 1YC away, PW returned, followed shortly by Ramy in TG.  Rolf fetched TG from the runway (PW, of course, taxied back in).  


Kudos to all

Thanks to Paul for the great tow.  He is clearly a superior tow pilot, much better than those guys who tow me up and only give me 15 minute sled rides!  Thanks to Rolf for being there to help at the end of the day.  A knight in shining armor! Thanks to Stuart and Larry for helping to launch. And thanks to Ramy for the good forecast and the steady encouragement!

Finally:
Ramy said it would be good.  And boy, was it ever!

  

Monday, April 7, 2014

A funny thing happened on the way to an "epic" Friday...

A funny thing happened on the way to an "epic" Friday...

 by 

Van Emden Henson

(ace field reporter)

Friday was supposed to be "epic," according to our top soaring Guru, who shall remain nameless (although his initials are Ramy Yanetz). Cloudbases would be up to 6K, with lots of Cu and brilliant thermals all over the place. "Unless, of course," he said more quietly, "it doesn't turn out that way."  Caveat emptor, and all that, you know.

Send in the Clowns

So a genuine crowd gathered, despite a late-breaking missive from said Guru, warning that the front was clearing out more slowly than projected and that the conditions might be weaker and later-developing than earlier thought.

Mike Schneider and Maja Djurisic were setting up to fly KP, Dan Colton and Stuart Humphreys were prepping 81C, Andrew Chant was preparing FB, Marianne Guerin was getting ready to assemble P1, and I was starting to get 1YC ready for assembly. Meanwhile, Rolf Peterson and Larry Suter were getting set in 76W, planning to use the day as Larry's tow pilot checkout. I had also promised to take a flight in 972 as a "return to service" flight after its annual inspection two weeks ago. (Stuart asked why such a flight was required, since 972 was not disassembled for the annual. Really good question, to which I had no good answer.) 

Conspicuously absent from all this fun: the Guru, who must not be named, was NOT there rigging TG.

So all was in readiness. The only problem was, the clouds refused to go away, the sun refused to shine, and the rain refused to stop drizzling. On and on the day wore, with everyone waiting for the promised break in the weather.

Around midday, the Guru showed up, but did not rig his glider. He said he felt obligated to come to the field to give us the opportunity to stone him for dragging us all out on such a lousy day...  we all picked up some stones and hurled them in his direction, but they were wet and slippery and we all missed. I jokingly asked him why he wasn't rigging, because with a solid overcast ceiling at 2500 feet and light rain, I figured he could still get 250 kilometers, and he said, "I could give it a try, and it will probably be just good enough make something out of it, but often if I go out on a day like this it ends up in a land out, and I don't want to be tempted."

A bold attempt


Eventually, I decided I didn't need no stinkin' sunshine for the flight in 972, as a pattern would suffice for the purpose.   I still harbored hopes of flying 1YC when the weather broke a bit later, so I thought I'd go ahead and do a pattern flight in 972 and then come back and rig 1YC.  I did the preflight check and pushed 972 down to the first turnout. (That plane is so light, and has the spring-loaded wing wheels, that I think pushing it, tail first, is easier and faster than towing. With no wind, it's easiest to handle by pushing on the nose. If there is a moderate wind, it is better to push by the vertical stabilizer. If there's more wind, get help.)

Larry and Rolf got 76W warmed up and took it for a short flight while Larry got used to the controls. While they were flying, a beautiful sunny hole opened up in the sky, surrounded by lovely puffy Cu, over the hills southwest of the field. As 76W turned downwind, Larry radioed to ask if I was ready, and when I answered in the affirmative, he suggested we make for the lovely glory hole.

They landed and taxied to the first turnout, and got out to lay out and attach the tow rope. But while all that was going on the lovely hole not only closed up, but a squall approached from the northwest. When they were ready they climbed back into 76W and I got ready to push out onto the runway. (All potential ground crew were still at the clubhouse, staying warm and dry.)

My plan, since there was absolutely no traffic to be concerned with, was to push 972 onto the runway myself, hook up, and then climb in for a takeoff without a wing runner. I've done that twice recently in 1YC, and I figure it is good practice for the (many?) aeroretrieves to come, so I didn't mind that the crew was up in the clubhouse.

The rains cometh

Just as I was about to make the radio call and push out, the squall hit. A few sprinkles, at first, then it became a steady light rain. I pulled my jacket out and held it over my head for a minute, but there was a freshening breeze making that ineffective. I thought about getting under the wing, but it is too low. I glanced longingly at the dry quarters Larry and Rolf had in 76W, completely jealous, as the freshened rain gave way to a steady downpour. (Larry said later that they talked about inviting me in, but didn't because they realized one of them would have to get out to let me get in the back seat. Thanks for the thought, fellas.)

As I stood there, growing ever more like a wet puppy, a little whisper started in my brain. It was mostly drowned out by the drumbeat of the rain, but gradually it got louder and louder, until I finally heard it clearly. It was saying, "Get in 972, dummy!" 

Seems so simple, in hindsight.

So that is what I did, and not a second too soon (in fact, many seconds later than it should have been). Just after I closed the canopy, the steady downpour intensified to a torrential deluge, visibility went to zero, and this went on for what seemed like many, many, many minutes. Of course, now that I was out of the rain, I didn't mind.

Except that, well, 972 leaks a bit.

I became aware that there was a regular drip, drip, drip hitting my left leg.  So I adjusted my position a bit. My leg was in a bit of an awkward position, but I was out of the rain and out from under the drip, so I didn't mind.

Except that, well, 972 leaks more than a bit.

I became aware that a drip was now hitting my right ankle. So I adjusted that leg, too. Then I became aware that some water was getting in under the canopy hinge and was spraying my left shoulder, so I adjusted my upper body a bit to stay clear of the spray. Now I was twisted up like a pretzel, but I was out of the rain and out from under the several drips, so I didn't mind.

Except that, well, 972 leaks like a sieve.

Water was dripping through (I guess) fastener holes in the skin. Water was streaming through gaps (I guess) in the insulation at the front of the canopy. Water was coursing through openings in the hinges on the canopy (no guess here - those I could see). The water under the hinge was pouring down the side, a mini cascade, onto the seat cushion I was occupying. The water coming in under the front of the canopy coalesced into a small river running down the face of the instrument panel. Water coming in through the latch was splashing onto my right side. And the din of the rain on the canopy was awesome.

I was folded up like a contortionist, wet on my arms, legs, and shoulders, sitting in a puddle, in a cacophony of the pounding storm, but I was out of the wind, and some of me was out of the rain, so I didn't mind. 

And then the rain stopped.

[Editor's note: I was informed a couple days after first publishing this that the squall included five to ten minutes of heavy hail, and that the clubhouse crew were wondering aloud how loud it was in 972.  It was loud!  However, the rain had reduced the visibility to zero, and the rain was so loud that I never noticed the hail, and did not even know about it until told about it a few days later!]

Episode IV: A new hope

I got out of the plane, shook like a dog after a swim (likely smelled like one, too), wiped down the panel, squeezed out the yaw string, turned over the cushion to the dry(er) side, checked over the plane, declared her fit for duty, and signalled 76W to wind up the rubber band. They fired up the engine, and I made the announcement that I was taking Runway 30 and pushed out. 76W taxied out, and I hooked the tow rope up and climbed in.

All this activity stirred the folks in the clubhouse into action, and as I was strapping in and running my pretakeoff checklist I could see the calvary coming to help, in the form of a golf cart with Mike and Marianne aboard. So I had Mike for a wing runner after all! 

[In their defense, I could have radioed and asked for assistance at any time, from my initial push of 972 away from the clubhouse on, but I had not done so. They undoubtedly (and correctly) assumed that the fact that I hadn't called meant that I didn't care whether anyone helped. As I mentioned earlier, good practice for land out situations.]

The takeoff was uneventful, and the initial tow was smooth and nice, although the canopy, which still had a lot of water on the outside, despite the airstream, now decided to fog up a bit on the inside (awfully humid in there, as you might guess). Well, more than a bit.  It fogged up pretty heavily, making it hard to see 76W. While I briefly though about pulling the release, I thought that first I might try opening the air vent.  I did that, and 76W magically reappeared as the fog slowly dissipated. Also, I did have to reacquaint myself with how much forward stick pressure you need for tow in 972.  But I was flying nicely coordinated, so I didn't mind.

Really coordinated. Rarely have I flown so well. The yaw string was right down the center, just oscillating a tiny bit at the leeward end. In fact, I was so coordinated that I stayed coordinated, even when I stomped on the left rudder for a big deliberate yaw. Not being easily convinced, I stomped on the right rudder for a big yaw the other way. Still coordinated, the yaw string happily centered.

Hmmm.

Well, I was already over a thousand feet up, so there is no real sense in aborting, and heck, yaw strings are highly overrated, anyway. I'd just go "old school" and fly by the seat of my pants.

By the soaking wet seat of my pants.

The pretty, sunny hole west of the airport had opened up again, and there was some good-looking Cu on the western side of the hole, so we headed over that way. About this time I was checking airspeed and altitude, and noticed an interesting phenomenon: both those instruments were moving in a herky-jerky manner, with the needles staying fixed in place a while and then "jumping" suddenly to a new position. 

Hmmm.

The Aeronca L-16 I learned to fly.  Great fun to fly!
I'm an old taildragger pilot, by which I mean I fly old taildraggers, not that I'm old... oh. Let me rephrase: I'm an old pilot who flies... no, that doesn't work either, because "old pilot" makes it sound like I've been flying for a long time.  I'll try once more:  I'm an old geezer who learned to fly a few years ago, and flies old taildraggers that often have primitive pitot/static systems (that's a more accurate statement of the situation!). I've seen this herky-jerky instrument situation several times; the phenomenon is pretty familiar to me. Moisture in the line. Both instruments, so that argues for moisture in the static system. 

Now how would moisture get in the static system?

Oh, yeah. The two static ports in 972 are up on the nose, high on the side, and pointed up so they are open to the sky. Usually they are covered by the canopy cover, but I've just been sitting without the cover in a torrential rain. 

Minus five

So I have water in the static line and my airspeed indicator and altimeter are reading a bit erratically (truth in advertising: XCSoar had me backed up on both, with GPS-supplied altitude and ground speed, and although I didn't actually check XCSoar for either, I could have).  And the yaw string is stuck, so I'm flying by the seat of my (wet) pants. But it's quiet, and not raining, I can see the ground at a very familiar airport, and I have enough experience in 972 to judge airspeed by attitude, so I didn't mind.

Except that there was no lift.

As seems to happen to me with monotonous regularity, I got suckered. About a half mile short of the lovely clouds the tow plane went up dramatically, and then I went up dramatically, my vario pegged, I counted off five seconds and still the bottom hadn't dropped out (Mark Montague's rule of thumb for when to release - thank you, Thermal Camp), so I pulled the release.

And the bottom fell out.

And the vario showed a steady minus five knots, pretty much everywhere I tried. I headed toward the clouds in the west. Minus five. I headed for clouds to the north, by Disco Bay. Minus five. I headed to my favorite house thermal, on the northwest edge of the forebay. Minus five. By now I'm down just a couple hundred feet above pattern, but there is nobody else in the sky. So I had over to that spot on the downwind leg where there is "always" lift. Minus five. So I head over to the triangle (the initial point for the 45 entry to for Runway 30). Minus one! Felt like lift to me! So I circled twice.

One of Buzz's slides on glider instrumentation
[Author's note:  It occurs to me now, three days later when I am warm and dry, that perhaps the moisture in the static line, assuming that is really what the issue was, also was affecting my variometer readings, and perhaps the steady minus five wasn't accurate.  All I can say is that, unlike the altimeter and airspeed indicator, the variometer (at least the electric one) seemed to be functioning normally throughout the tow, and that during all the steady "minus five" flying I never once "felt" any lift through the seat of my soaking wet pants.  Recommended reading: Buzz Graves' presentation from the 2006 NCSA safety seminar, Glider Instrumentation and Plumbing‎. I've put a screen shot from the seminar here to whet your appetite.] 

So why wasn't I going up?

Oh yeah. Minus one- it's still minus, even if it is a whole lot better than minus five. And, with a ship whose nominal glide ratio is, on it's best day when it was brand new, a meager (by today's standards) 22:1, well,  down we go.

So I make the call and enter the pattern. 76W calls immediately to ask if I want the next tow. 

What? Do I want the next tow? Beelzebub! It's minus five everywhere! Tempters! There is no lift!  Get thee behind me, Satan!  Do they think I'm an idiot?

"Yes, please," I replied immediately.

So they suggest I stop just short of the first turnout and they will taxi out to me. Cool! Precision landing practice with a good reason! Which I nailed (if I do say so myself), stopping on centerline and precisely at the turnout (I'll try not to hurt myself patting me on the back).

I might not have taken that second flight, but in the last part of the first flight the instruments started acting pretty normally, and I wanted to make sure the effect of the moisture in the lines had dissipated... oh, who am I kidding? I'm just a sucker who can't pass up the chance to fly, no matter how unpromising the chance of lift!

Plenty of Cu around the Denver airport on Sunday!
[By the way, speaking of the chance of lift, as I'm writing this I'm on a Southwest jet that just turned onto final at DIA. Man, we're a long way from the runway! And, oh yeah, there is spectacular Cu everywhere. I bet the soaring here today is awesome.]

So we hooked up again and gave it a whirl. By this time the yaw string had dried out enough that I was no longer flying by the seat of my (still wet) pants. And, sure enough, both the altimeter and airspeed indicator seemed to have dried out, and were working pretty much as they are expected to work. In fact, this time everything was Jake, and if the sole discomfort was coming from wearing wet pants, well, what the heck. I was flying, so I didn't mind.

Except that there was still no lift.

I mean, really? Clouds were all around me, and I didn't repeat the earlier error of getting suckered into releasing early. Rolf pointed out that it looked like the sun was shining up by Disco Bay, with puffy white clouds in the area, so I asked them to take me over there. But when we got there, nada. Zip. Zilch. Zed. Zero. Nil. Null. Nothing. Nuttin'. 

So 76W turned about and hauled me back across the field to the southwest, where it looked like some good stuff might just show up.  There just wasn't anything. I got off tow (reluctantly, but it was getting expensive), and cruised around a bit. At least it was no longer minus five everywhere, it was mostly minus one or two, with occasional small bubbles. I tried to work any and every little upwelling, but eventually I had to come down, I simply ran out of altitude to play with.

The dramatic difference between my earlier minus five flight, and this generally minus one flight convinced me that I had simply launched too early. If I had waited another hour, not only would I have found lift, I would have found it in an aircraft with a properly functioning yaw string, altimeter, and airspeed indicator. AND, I would have been wearing dry pants! (Because I would have been smart, and waited out the squall in the comfort of the clubhouse, with all the others. For all I know, the clubhouse might also leak, but not like 972 does!)

All good thing to he (and she) who waits...


While I was doing my flying shenanigans, Dan and Stuart gave up on the day and left. Mike and Maja launched shortly in KP after I landed, and, as I suspected, started finding lift. They were up somewhat over an hour, calling in from time to time at altitudes ranging from 2500 to 4000. They were in sight from the airport most of their flight. What they were doing sure looked like fun to me. (And I also noticed, as they climbed into KP and we prepared to push them out, that they both were wearing dry pants.)

Andrew launched in FB when 76W returned from towing KP, and asked to be towed out to the pump station, since KP was reporting lift out there. But Andrew also wasn't able to find the lift, and was back on the ground pretty soon. (Andrew lamented his - and my - bad luck in not hitting the right spot for the lift.  I countered that with Mike and Maja in KP, pilot skill likely had more to do with it than luck.)

Marianne assembled P1, so it would be ready for Saturday, which a certain Guru, who shall remain nameless, had announced would be pretty damn good (which I think is three steps below "epic").

Later reports proved that Saturday turned out to be pretty challenging for those who flew, but some pretty good flights were made. 

Epilogue


And as for the Epic Friday? We ended up with four tows: two in 972, one in FB, and one in KP.  That latter got the only soaring flight of the day, lasting something over an hour. Larry got signed off as tow pilot. Thank you, Larry! As seems to happen a lot these days, Rolf gave up a whole day, on very short notice, to devote to would-be soaring pilots.  Thank you, Rolf!  Our Guru-in-Chief proved human, but nobody can be blamed for weather that doesn't turn out as hoped.  Moreover, his willingness to spend time and effort this spring encouraging, mentoring, and leading the rest of us has had a noticeable effect in the activity and enthusiasm of the club for spring soaring around Byron.  Thank you, Guru (whatever your name is)! 

Despite everything, fun was had by all. I'm pretty sure of that. Or, at least I think so.

By the way, I finished this story up Monday morning.  Here are the soaring conditions that greeted me!
Several fresh inches and coming down steadily.  Not much soaring today!