Saturday, December 1, 2007

Please Welcome Seth Dunham

My name is Seth Dunham. I am a Generation Tech at a Modesto power plant. My aviation background is 5 years of hang gliding, and 30 years of having a father who is a pilot.

This year I began flying cross country in my hang glider by going to the Owens Valley and flying from Walt's Point south of Mt. Whitney where I climbed to 13,200 ft. and then headed north along the eastern Sierra slopes with a nice 20 mph SSE tailwind. Landed 30.5 miles from launch. This experience got me thinking about sailplanes and their cross country potential. So I joined NCSA.

I look forward to flying with and contributing to NCSA. I also look forward to going cross country in both types of gliders.

Happy Landouts;)

--Seth Dunham

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Recent Accomplishments

Congratulations to:

SSA A badge

Seth Dunham

Tom Gilman (potential new club member)

SSA B badge

Tom Gilman (potential new club member)

SSA C badge

Tom Gilman (potential new club member)

WINGS phase

Taylor Nichols (phase I)

John Randazzo (phase III)

--Dave Cunningham

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Aerotowing to Truckee

The accompanying chart has been marked to delineate landable airports and the altitudes need to reach them for aerotowing a Grob 103 to Truckee. Rich Miller wrote the computer program to plot the data using MatLab to draw the "chain-like" lines surrounding each airport that he selected as a landing option and to calculate the altitudes. The airports themselves are specified by a number next to them in hundreds of feet that indicate the arrival altitude for that airport – pattern altitude plus 1000 feet. For example, Truckee is indicated with "79". The airport is 59 hundred feet ASL plus 10 hundred feet for patterns, plus 10 hundred feet for checklist.

He computed the boundaries surrounding each selected airport – sectors – using a glide slope of 21:1 (3.5 nautical miles per thousand feet). You’ll notice two things about these sectors. First the boundaries are only straight lines when the airports are at the same altitude – Lodi and Franklin for example. Second the airports can be significantly closer to one edge of the sector when the altitude difference between adjoining airports is significant – Placerville and Georgetown for example. No corrections has been made for terrain altitude or wind.

Flying a direct route between Byron and Truckee takes you over Hangtown and Squaw VOR’s. The maximum altitude you’ll need is a little over 12,200 feet as you transition from a potential landout at Georgetown to final glide to Truckee. Blue Canyon is not a landout option on this route.

In the Central Valley there are multiple airports within each sector except for Byron and Funny Farm. Making each airport a separate sector would only clutter the chart.

The absolute furthest distances you can get from a landout airport are at the corners of the sectors. Flying above these altitudes adds an extra margin of safety. In the Central Valley the "maximum-minimum" safe altitude is about 5400 feet near Linden VOR.

Flying an indirect route through Donner Pass saves about 800 feet in altitude gain. This route makes Blue Canyon a landout option as you transition out of the Georgetown sector. The minimum safe altitude to reach Truckee from Soda Springs, or return to Blue Canyon is 11,400 feet (114 on the chart). Sierraville is an equal glideable distance from Soda Springs as well.

The boundaries between sectors are curved because they are hyperbolas (a straight line being a degenerate form of a hyperbola). Two airports are equally glideable along a curve, the points on which are closer to the higher airport by a distance that is equal to the distance the glider can fly in the altitude difference between the airports. This is a definition of a hyperbola with the airports the foci and the difference in distance to the two foci the distance the glider can glide in the elevation difference between the two airports.

The chart is for educational purposes and not to be used for navigation. This work was not supported by any government grant nor were any animals injured or killed as a result of this research .

--Rich Miller and Bill Levinson

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October egg

On Thursday, October 4, 2007, Ramy suggested that the following day might be exceptional and was trying to flush some birds into the air. Shannon Madsen, Mike Mayo and Bill Brown signed up right away but I wanted to check the forecast first. It looked good, but based on satellite images, a little drier than the media forecasters were touting. Distracted by last minute issues at work, I neglected to notify the group that I would also be coming out.

The next morning was overcast but calm in the east bay but with broken heavy clouds to the east. Cloud cover was rapidly changing by the time I arrived at the field. I don't remember why but it seemed to take forever to get ready to launch. Eventually, just before noon we were ready, with Shannon taking off first and releasing at 2000. I followed, imprudently getting off at 1400 in what seemed a great thermal. That cost me about 20 minutes of milling around the pattern before I blundered into some real lift. I watched Ramy take off in the meantime. That was last time I saw him until he landed. I was hoping that the lift would be good to the east, enabling a flight down the east side of the valley but I soon abandoned that dream, as I struggled to get above 4000 under unpredictable clouds near Stockton.

Ramy had apparently started off to the north and it sounded like Shannon was heading that direction, reporting 4500 near Brentwood. Returning to Discovery Bay, north now looked much better so I followed the leaders. Turning slightly west at Rio Vista and on to Nut Tree the lift was well marked and strong. My lowest point on this leg was 3000 at Nut Tree. Very heavy cloud cover extended over the length of the ridge east of L Berryessa so a track east of the ridge seemed more comfortable. Enroute, there had been a lot of chatter about who was going for the Egg. Up to this point I just entertaining the thought but finally I concluded that since conditions were so good, it would be a shame to pass it up. Not having been this far north, I started to consult the sectional. This entailed considerable bouts of folding, re-folding, PIO’s and blue words. As it turned out, only the heading and distance were useful at this point, since Williams was too far to make out any landmarks.

My track took me over a range of low hills to south of Williams, gradually losing altitude. Near the north end of this range, I was down to 2000 and still hadn't identified which town was the target. A fellow pilot informed me that the town near the orchards was Arbuckle, not Williams. The orchards were quite numerous, interspersed with what appeared to be cleared fields. These "fields" were of particular interest as I was getting quite low. These later turned out to be very unfriendly vineyards.

Eventually, I found some lift that would allow a final glide to the next town I pressed on. Increasingly more uncomfortable about the distance to my intended touchdown point, I re-consulted the now mangled sectional. Williams lies just south of the point where the railroad and interstate 5 turns due north and it was now apparent that I was heading for the next town up the road, Maxwell. Tuning back to Williams, I was now desperately searching for the field. Fortunately, a local pilot heard my queries and helped out. Even at 1200ft the strip was difficult to see.

After an uneventful landing, one of the towpilots helped move the ship clear of the runway. After hurriedly exiting, I made haste to empty my personal ballast tank. It is most unwise to consume large quantities of coffee before a long flight. Relieved of several worries I was now inclined to relax, wander about and check out operation. Rex, however, strode out and handed me the Egg. Explaining the forms and logbook, he helped me push out to the line where a waiting towplane had magically appeared! It was around 3 o’clock and I should have been thinking of the return flight. The tow turned out be quite interesting. Ether the tow pilot managed to stay in lift during the straight out climb towards the ridge or they had filled the Pawnee with rocket fuel. The vario stayed pegged most of time. Density altitude may have played some part, but whatever the reason the tow to 4000 was exhilarating and short. The rapid ascent enabled me to find a good thermal just south of the field. Where was it earlier when I needed it?

The return track retraced the one taken north but with much better conditions. Cloud bases were over 8,000 with the vario frequently pegged. With a slight tailwind, progress was rapid. It still seemed better to go east of the main build up looming over the ridge. A slow thermal at 4000 between Dixon and Nut Tree gave me enough altitude to arrive at Rio Vista. It was here that I saw the only other glider enroute. Mike Mayo in E5 pulled in 2000ft below, but couldn’t connect with the lift. Arriving a little earlier and higher, I was able to reach the booming street spanning the delta which Ramy just reported leaving. The final glide to Byron was over quickly.

Since it looked like only Ramy and myself were the only ones with Byron made, I landed at around 5pm and waited for Ramy, who was relaying messages. Shannon had landed at Tracy and Mike eventually at Rio Vista, so we decided to tie down the gliders instead of de-rigging, in order to speed up the retrieves. Shortly, light rain and the setting sun resulted in a rainbow which Ramy, with his cell phone camera, took several shots of it and the egg being held triumphantly aloft.

-- Roy Moeller

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hangar One Faces Demolition

The iconic Hangar One at Moffat Airfield, originally built to house airships, is in danger of being torn down. The Navy is currently considering its options for the hangar, which is not currently in use. The cheapest option would be to simply tear it down.

More information about the hangar, and the movement to preserve it, here.

--Johan Larson

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Serendipitous Discovery

The search for Steve Fossett, who is presumed to have crashed somewhere in the Sierra Nevadas, has not yet located the wreck of his plane, but it has found eight other unknown wrecks.

It reminds me my junior-high vice-principal, who ordered a student's locker searched after being told he had brought a gun to school. They didn't find a gun, but they did find a knife, a chain, and a hashpipe.

-- Johan Larson

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The View from the Tow Pilot's Seat

Rember at the last safety seminar Mike mentioned how hard it is to see over the nose of the tow plane? I thought it was an important point he made and found this opportunity to show what it looks like. Especially for the newer members. I haven't had any close calls or worrisome moments recently. I just thought it might be a good point to reinforce now that more operations will be returning to Byron this month.

You will notice that this picture is taken as I sit in the seat normally without moving side to side. It is pretty easy to hide from my sight when in front of the plane. If you are in front of the tow plane and the engine is running, you should be highly concerned about my ability to see you. Be assured I am highly attentive about the people around 16Y, but in the rush to get started and going out on the runway... I might miss someone.

--Tom Hail

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Men-Birds Soar on Boiling Air, 1938

The article Men-Birds Soar on Boiling Air, by Frederick G. Vosburgh, originally appeared in the July 1938 issue of National Geographic Magazine. It now available online.

Back in the day the pilots would deliberately fly into clouds without gyros. Yay!
They also deliberately triggered thermal bubbles at low altitude by diving and maneuvering at about 200 feet. No wonder they died like flies.

-- Johan Larson

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

West Wind Jet Stopped By Sunday

Buzzard readers might want to know that West Wind pilot Wilbur dropped in for a social call to NCSA clubhouse this AM.

He showed me his jet and said it was really very easy to fly.

Ask Shannon how his landing was...

-- Monique Weil

Truckee Bash, July 21st, 2007

This year it was the turn of NCSA to host the Annual Truckee Bash.
By custom the three clubs who fly in Truckee rotate the event.

Richard Pearl showed his Chef's credentials, and brought out his giant smoker to Truckee to feed 84 people on Saturday July 21st. The feast was first class, per Richard's reputation!

The highlights of the menu were Richard's delicious smoked ribs.

The barbecued salmon, prepared to perfection by Ben Hirashima, was good too. Ben is a pro at the grill.
What a sumptuous Banquet!

About 18 NCSA club members attended the bash, including several private glider owners and two students (Norman Leung, Eric Nelson and friend) who were flown in
by Thomas Daniel, one of our Tow Pilots, in his Cirrus. Check out his glass cockpit above, as he demonstrates a steep bank over Lake Tahoe.

After landing his Cirrus, Thomas took the opportunity to refresh his glider skills with a flight in 81C.

We also had the pleasure of seeing one of our former club members,
Irv Powalka, who drove in from Southern California to get reacquainted with old friends, such as Willy Snow.

During the Bash weekend and the next, many long flights were flown:

Saturday, July 21st: Ramy, Shannon, Yuliy all flew close to 500KM

On Sunday, Ramy, Yuliy and Morteza also flew close to 500KM, while
Jim Conger flew about 335 miles.

The following Saturday, July 28th, Yuliy flew 850 KM, Ramy flew 680km,
Uwe flew 570km, Mike Mayo flew 460km, Jim Conger flew 380;

the next day, Sunday July 29th, Ramy flew 760km, Yuliy 770km (but got fewer points than Ramy) Shannon flew 410km and Uwe flew 360km.

The afternoon before the Bash, Ken Ferguson and Bill Levinson decided to move our storage container to the other end of the tie-down area, to be closer to our 2-place gliders.

Also, the day before the Bash, the highest tow I have ever experienced in Truckee
was requested by a potential Trial member who wanted a long tow to sharpen his tow maneuvers and turns on tow. Here is Paul Pencikowski on tow in Blanik AS above 10,000' on the way up to 11,000' before releasing from Pawnee 6Z near Mt Pluto.
It's best not to ask the cost of the tow.

NCSA's newest club member, Norm Leung, was apprehensive before the flight with Thomas, and sought assurance that the pilot was a safe pilot. Here is Norm, after the Bash, preparing to fly back in a sunset flight. He emailed back that they landed back in
Palo Alto just after dark and that the Cirrus was well equipped with advanced instruments for night flight. Norm was relieved that Thomas was a very experienced pilot. The flight
was a treat both going and returning and was very comfortable for everyone after all.

The next day, several club members had flights in the Grob, including Bill Gage, while the NCSA Board meeting was being held; and later,
Mark Violet, is seen here smiling after a two-hour thermaling flight in Grob 81C.

Grob 81C is on final for Runway 19, Truckee.

-- Monique Weil

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gliders--Silent Weapons of the Sky, 1944

I have uploaded to the web William H. Nicholas's article "Gliders--Silent Weapons of the Sky" from the August 1944 issue of National Geographic Magazine. (link)

Best ever flight from Byron: 115mile triangle, 13,500'

Saturday (August 4th) was a one in a million flight - or so it seemed - thanks to
Jack Glendenning's Blipmaps with the RASP maps for Byron configured by
Dmitry Chichkov.

And thanks to Ramy who asked to share Grob FB for a flight in the
Diablo Range to check out those unbelievable Blipmaps forecasts.
I was not the Byron duty instructor so was free to fly and no one else
requested the Grob, so I found myself at the right place at the right time.

We launched at 2:20 and Dave Stroh towed us to the Diablo Range, release
3 (?) then easily climbed from one thermal to another (not infrequently
10 knot average) to 13,500'. We had an oxygen tank leak so I did not want to
climb any higher; I began to get a slight headache--my initial hypoxic

There were some clouds in the morning to indicate the convergence but
none during the flight--there was haze however, which indicated the
convergence zone.
We turned over Pacheco Pass (highway 152), then Ramy suggested we detour
to go over Mt Hamilton (Lick Observatory) which we did, before heading straight
to Mt Diablo. We found a weak wave near the Livermore valley, which
gave us zero sink to Mt Diablo. Total distance covered from release
was 184 KM. Open spoilers were necessary to head for Byron as there was
good lift all over the Byron area. Peter Wilson, the Byron Field
Manager was kept busy all day and will report separately after he has
rested a bit.

Ramy was unused to not having an audio vario or any electric vario (or
PDA or flight computer) just a good mechanical vario that FB has.
This was "Back to Basics" for Ramy. We also had no transponder so I did
all the communicating with ATC--Norcal Approach--We were transferred
to 5 different controller sectors during this 3.4 hour flight. The
first controller was initially skeptical of our presence in this busy
airspace, often referred to as "Tiger Country" by glider pilots, without
a transponder. He asked what instruments we had; "A compass.", was my
reply". Without too much trouble however, he was able to paint our
primary target and all the subsequent controllers also easily tracked
our course. The fact that we were able to locate most of the targets
(mostly 737s) pointed out to us helped smooth out the interchanges. I
think the controllers were a little awed by our climbs--as we were
also. Once a controller told an airliner that we were a
"motorglider", and I didn't contradict him. We were frequently asked for
our altitude and I could sense the disbelief in the pause that followed
our reports of continued climb. The only reprimand I got was when I
mispoke--and said we had the 737 three-mile "dead ahead" (I was
probably a little hypoxic and couln't think to say: "twelve o'clock" -
Controller told me never to say "dead" on the air.) Only once were we
asked to change course and we were given two options: to turn north or
south. Ramy chose "south" and our responsiveness to their requests was

What a joy this flight was for me! Ramy said he had never flown higher
than about 10,000' in the Diablo Range before.

Keep checking those RASP Blip maps--who knows what we missed before
this creation.
I hope this flight will spur other club members to explore the Diablo
range when good lift is predicted.

-- Monique Weil

The Westwind Jet Returns to Byron

The Westwind jet we had a close encounter with some months ago is returning to Byron. Here's the letter they sent us:

Hello Monique,

Hope all is going well for you.

Just wanted to let you know that the Westwind Jet will be going into Byron on August 9 at about 10:30 AM and will be leaving again within a few minutes.

There will be another arrival on Sunday August 11, tentatively scheduled for around 4:00 PM with a departure shortly thereafter.

Position reports and intentions will start being broadcast 10 minutes from landing.

Will advise a more exact time for Sunday when it becomes available. The Byron airport management will also be made aware of the times.

All the best.


Anne and Wilbur

Let's watch out for it this time, and avoid a repeat.

--Monique Weil

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vintage Sailplane Regatta 2007

The Vintage Sailplane Regatta will be held at Avenal this year for three days, the October 6-8 weekend. I contacted the organizers recently about going down to have a look, as a spectator. Paul Hanson got back to me, and said pilots without old-school gliders are welcome to attend and fly. I think I may just do that, since I've heard good things about that club. It's the same place that hosted the WSPA Seminar.

Anyway, for more info, here's the event flyer:

And here's a link to the site. They are offering a special $30 club membership for the event. They are also asking folks to register by Septemer 6, presumably to make the planners' jobs easier.

-- Johan Larson

Monday, August 6, 2007

House of Balsa

I've just completed a side project 2 meter R/C glider that was started on a rainy winter night some months back. Sometimes you just have to take a break and let your creative juices flow. I always wanted a model glider with spoilers so midway through the wing build I decided to steal a few ideas off the web. My cable operated spoilers work quite well. I have a number of flights on it now, mostly at the East Bay Radio Controllers field off of a Highstart(bungee) type launch. That gets me about 200 feet or so. Caught some nice thermals coming up off the dark runway that helped sustain my flights.

During this time I also dug my 25 year old Bridi trainer out of my parents' attic and completely rebuilt/recovered it. Flew it for the first time since 1983 this weekend. It was like visiting an old friend. It flew just like I remembered(maybe even better), except my teenage knees werent knocking this time. Life always seems to bring us full circle, just enjoy those moments of yesteryear as they pass by.

--Tony Derrer

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Nice Day at Soar Truckee

Our flight, July 5: Mike Mayo launched from Truckee about 1:30 carrying us
along in NCSA's Grob 103 N3981C for his WINGS flight. He got off tow at 8400', and he took us to over 16,000' in less than 20 minutes north of Truckee. We then
flew east over the ridge but turned around past Spooner Lake over Highway
50—Mike noted virga ahead. Seems the earlier launches made it past
that area before our arrival.

Returning to the Truckee Valley around 10,000', Mike again brought us up
past 16,000' and
he headed us northwest, running a nice cloud street passing over Sierraville
then Nervino and abeam Quincy almost to Susanville.
Good fun. We could see the cloud street extending up beyond
Ravendale and parts further northwest. Alas, we turned home so I could land
and head home, only to note
that the fun cloud street we had flown in on had begun to overdevelop with
virga. We made our way home via a more northeasterly route from
near Herlong through what
Mike noted as a possible convergence line between the east winds aloft and
what had grown into a squall line of virga to the west. We observed a
lightning strike along the path that we had earlier taken and Air Sailing
Gliderport to the northeast.

It sure was fun flying along below 18,000' at 80 to 90 knots indicated with
4 to 6 up and Stead made. We could see Lake Tahoe to the near right and
Pyramid Lake to the left all in their full length with just a turn of our
heads. Beautiful.

We arrived over Truckee at 12,000' and enjoyed the intentional glide down.
As we looked up at the OD in the sky, we both smiled, enjoying our 4 hour
flight. We had
adjusted our route according to the weather for the day, flown always within
glide distance of a paved runway, and landed safely having enjoyed beautiful
country sights along the way.

Mike M. and Dave C.

Oh, the Drama!

About a week ago, I resigned as editor of this blog. After receiving several very nice letters urging me to stay on, I have reconsidered, and will continue as editor.

I swear, it's a regular soap opera around here.

-- Johan "emo-boy" Larson

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Women's Soaring Seminar 2007

It was not without a little trepidation that I decided to attend and join
the Women's Soaring Pilots Seminar in Avenal. Being X chromosome deficient
(more about biology later), I didn't know what kind of reception I would
get. But the chairwomen, Kathleen Morse and Neita Montague, were the most
gracious of hosts and so supportive of women in soaring and men who
encourage women to discover thrill of soaring.

NCSA had four members attend. Monique instructed in FB, Buzz in Avenal
club ships, (Central California Soaring Club), and Mighty Gorilla was
offering rides is his starship Duo Discus.

Monique and I arrived Sunday afternoon. Originally she had planned to stay
in a house in town, but then decided the swinging parties and all-night keggers would be more fun at the West Hills Community College in Coalinga
where I was staying. Buzz reserved a motel room, but he also longed for the
dorm life, and we ended up rooming together in the women's dorm for
$15/night. (Remind you of a old Tom Hanks TV sitcom?)

Although the building was built in the early '80, the style was '50's: one
bathroom down the hall with communal showers. (That is probably not much
different from the nearby state prisons in Coalinga and Avenal.) A
make-shift sign on the bathroom door indicated whether it was occupied by
men or women. Luckily glider pilots are much too mature play any practical
jokes on occupants by switching the sign on an occupant. The dorm manager
was a retired navy radar operator, and the resident manager, Maryan, was a delightful
young woman from Uganda via Sweden, to whom Monique gave a ride on Friday.

Dan Gudgel, Avenal instructor and FAA examiner, gave Monique and me area
checkouts. Avenal has two dirt strips intersecting in a V much like Byron
minus the taxiways. The setup requires a different mindset: manage energy
to stop at point of the V where gliders stage or stop quickly if you're
landing away from the vertex so you don't end up half a mile from launch
area. Without golf carts that's a lot of pushing. Occasionally cars
ventured onto the strip to tow when distances became prohibitally long like
when Monique and her student had to overfly a 2-33 stopped on the runway
which had landed against the launches and prevailing traffic without flying
a pattern.

Avenal has no cables to tie down transient airplanes. I purchased a set of
three extraordinary tie-down anchors for NCSA and FB from Paul Hanson, a
Central California Soaring Club member. I think they will be very useful
for securing gliders at Byron in the staging areas in strong winds. Each
tied-down anchor has three stakes which can be pulled out by hand, but the
tie-down anchor itself requires about 1200 lbs force to pull out. They're
in the clubhouse in a carry bag that should be placed in a golf cart when
strong winds blow. I think they would be a useful addition to any land out

I appreciated learning to launch without seeing the towplane. Close your
vents and windows and follow the tow rope. The tow plane kicks up enough
dust to hide itself as good as any WWII smoke screen. The tow pilot, Loyal,
had a spate of bad luck. He lives on the field in a trailer which caught
fire before we arrived. Ex-social worker Monique took up a collection to
get him back on his feet. On day three of the seminar morning talks were
interrupted by fire trucks turning onto the field. Loyal's Cessna 152 tow
plane engine had caught on fire. The fire truck arrived before local members
could find their only fire extinguisher, which was locked in a hangar. I thought how
smart we were to have Burt Compton, SSA safety consultant, evaluate our
operations at Byron.

Loyal had a back-up Cessna 150 that was sufficient for all but two place
glass ships. Kurt, who teaches aeronautical engineering at California
Polytechnic University at San Louis Obispo flew in his Husky tow plane who
turned out to tow all week. Winds picked up to create a dust storm worthy
of the Great Plains Dust Bowl on Wednesday. You really miss paved runways
and weed covered fields when blowing sand begins to sting. Buzz tried to
launch his DG 800 in the afternoon, but the combination of dirt strip and
strong crosswind weather-cocked him twice.

Two close misses with the tow rope impressed on me the added safety created
by retractable tow lines. On one occasion the released rope landed about 15
yards from assembled gliders and ground crew. Near the end of the day, the
crosswind became so strong that the tow line snagged a car parked at the
edge of the runway.

The other MOE (moment of excitement) was provided by Mighty Gorilla when his
canopy opened on takeoff. He ended up landing out in Coalinga and
discovered that a piece of canopy latching rope had prevented proper
latching of the canopy. THL (take home lesson): don't trust latch
position; always push up on the canopy when doing checklist.

On Friday Monique was honored with an award because of her contribution and
encouragement to women in soaring. NCSA members were put on the spot at the
last moment to make glowing remarks about Monique. Buzz recalled his NCSA
instructor checkride with Monique, "Give me a loop, spin to the right, spin
to the left and a no spoiler landing." I recounted her expletives -
actually quotes from a farmer - when she landed out near what is now Los
Vaqueros Reservoir, and the volume of work she does for NCSA.

Mike Green also won an award – Most Improved Fashion – for keeping his shirt
on through-out the whole week, at least in the presence of the ladies. Mike
also had the honor of reading the entries in the limerick contest at the
banquet. I think the fix was in because my entry was inexplicably lost
until the last moment. The winning entry--like so many other discussions
about gliding--had to do with bodily functions.

However, I did win a prize. I was first runner-up in maximum altitude on
Tuesday, winning a nice parasol which I'm happy to share with other NCSAers.
BTW it's the first time I've used a parasol--actually an umbrella--and I
was thoroughly impressed by how effective they are in cooling the user. I
thought they were just sun protection.

Mornings were predominately seminars with occasional flight instruction.
Dave Cunningham flew down and talked about badge flights and Kathleen found
time for me to explain my innovative chart marking method.

When thermals grew strong in the afternoon, instructors, students, and
private pilots set off. Avenal is far enough away from the coast to avoid
the marine influence and has numerous safe land-out sites. More than once
Monique and student ended soaring away when initially taking a pattern tow.

The incongruity of Avenal bracketed by two state prisons couldn't escape me.
Structures containing imprisoned men creating the best thermals to set
soaring pilots free was too ironic. Is there a prison escape screenplay
plot here?

Our mascot was Isaac, a Raven who survived a crash when as a chick her nest
got blown out of a tree near the clubhouse. Her siblings died immediately
and its biological parents couldn't care for her without a nest, so Paul
Hanson became her surrogate mom. Although she earned an "A" badge during
the seminar, she was unconcerned with controlling bodily functions in flight
or on the ground to the consternation of attendees.

The Avenal newspaper reporters arrived on Friday to report on the gathering
when Monique was instructing Marissa, a 16 year-oldscholarship student
from Reno. The experience of age passing on her wisdom to the exuberance of youth -- what a heartwarming story!

The next Women's Soaring Seminar will be held on the East Coast and then in
Slovenia in 2009. Next time it's held locally, I would recommend
all our members and especially our instructors to participate to encourage
more women soar and join our club.

PS: Note from Monique:

I agree with Bill that it was a successful and fun week in Avenal--20+
participants. We couldn't have done it without Bill as he did all the
work leading the crews--Byron and Avenal--to de-rig, rig, and de-rig and
rig, load the glider on its trailer; unload the trailer; load it again
etc. Bill had to stop at every Rest stop to make adjustments to the
glider on the trailer. Thanks, Bill.

--Bill Levinson

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I'm Done

I am stepping down as editor of the Buzzard, effective immediately. To my disappointment the blog never really caught on as a focus for club interest, and I am only willing to chase after obviously reluctant writers for so long. In any case, I have lost interest, and am therefore stepping down.

If someone else is interested in taking up the editorship, I am ready to help reconfigure the blog accordingly.

--Johan Larson

More Termal Camp Pics

Some more of Larry's pictures from Thermal Camp.

--Johan Larson

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thermal Camp 2007

My succinct summary of thermal camp is, "The best soaring I ever did."

Thermal Camp is an annual week of soaring organized by Rolf Peterson and held at Air Sailing, a dedicated glider-port about 25 miles north of Reno. Mornings are classroom instruction and afternoons are spent practicing and experiencing thermaling in an area that has fantastic lift.

Sunday--Welcome to Air Sailing. Arriving around 5 PM after a long drive from the Bay Area, my first reaction is "Holy Toledo, this place is really in the middle of nowhere." Happily, the place quickly grows on you. Linked up with Mark Violet and settled into our accommodations, the Mt. Shasta Trailer that we were renting for the week. Barbecued some chicken that night at the big barbecue area they have, had a couple beers, and met the other folks who were there for Thermal Camp.

Monday--Class begins at 8:30 in the Air Sailing clubhouse. Assisting Rolf throughout the week are NCSA instructors Dave Cunningham and Richard Pearl. First lesson is on Safety and last year’s collision of a Hawker Jet with a glider near Minden figures prominently in this lesson. The planes have Mode C transponders. Use them, squawking 0440. These are the jet routes to Reno. Rolf explains when to use 122.8, when to switch to Reno Approach, when to go to 123.3. This is getting complicated. Then Rolf switches to showing us our "playground" for the week; five and ten mile radius circles around Air Sailing. We discuss the L/D’s to use for the various aircraft. Rolf says, "Today, let’s stay within 5nm of the airport." Rolf wraps up the class with a hike around the airport describing the things to watch out for and pointing out the landmarks in our playground.

First flights--For some time leading up to Thermal Camp I’d been expecting to use 81C which I’d reserved late last autumn. However, as the date approached it slowly became apparent that the logistics of getting 81C to Air Sailing were becoming a bit daunting. Actually, getting it to Air Sailing wasn’t such a problem. The problem was, after ferrying it behind 16Y and watching the tow pilot and instructor fly back to Byron in 16Y, how do I get home? As I explored options, Dave Cunningham started whispering in my ear, "You can join Nevada Soaring Association for $250 and use their planes. And, oh by the way," continued Dave, "Real men do it in a 1-26 and NSA has a 1-26." And so, I contacted NSA and made arrangements to become a member and fly their 1-26 during the week. (And what a great stroke of luck that has proven to be. But that’s another story.)

Because of this, on Monday afternoon my first area-familiarization/check-ride flights were with Rob Stone (Stoney) from NSA in their big yellow 2-33. I should say here, that take-offs are preferred from 17. However, Monday there was a pretty stiff breeze favoring 03. However, you don't do take-offs from 03. Consequently, my first take-off was with an ~15 knot crosswind. Also, since Schweizers start off nose down on their skids, you line them up to the side of the paved runway in the dirt. That way, you don’t scratch the pavement. So my first take-off at Air Sailing proved to be quite the wild ride behind blue-tow. Yee-haa! I've heard about winches being exciting launches. Maybe this doesn’t out-do winches, but I’ll bet it’s a close second. After that, everything was easy. Stoney, had me release over "The Knoll" about 6500' and we promptly found one of many house-thermals in the area that took us to over 8000'. After about 40 minutes of some of the finest thermalling I'd ever done, Stoney decides it's time to do a few stalls, turns and land it. My first-ever landing on soft dirt. Very forgiving. Stoney wants to do a pattern and decides, "This time let's take off with the wing on the ground." With the strong crosswind. Yee-hah, another wild ride. Land in the dirt and get my NSA sign-off to fly their gliders.

After the check-out Stoney shows me the 1-26 09H, the black beauty that’s going to be my plane for a week. He sets me up with a cannula, shows me how to use it, etc. etc. About an hour after my checkride I'm ready for my first solo at Air Sailing.

First solo--Later in the week, when Rolf mentioned something about records set during the week, I confidently announced that I must own the record for the shortest flight from a high-tow, based on my first solo in the 1-26. We did the wild-ride take-off from 17 and headed for the Dogskins. I held on as the towplane flew up to the Dogskins then paralleled them to the south, looking for lift. At the south end of the ridge, at around 3000’ AGL, I release and look for lift. Not here. Do a couple more circles. Nothing. Then I say to myself, "There was lift at the Knoll, earlier. I’ll look there." By the time I get to the Knoll we're down to about 1500' AGL and the earlier lift's nowhere to be found. On a positive note, the Knoll turns out to be perfectly located for an entry to the pattern for 03, so I do my third landing at Air Sailing in the dirt. Bring 09H back up to the line, got some pointers from Rolf and took off again for the fourth flight of the day. Same yee-haa. This time, concerned about the possibility of being the first person ever to spend a week at Air Sailing and never find a thermal, I widened my search area at the south of the Dogskins and found one. A thermal! Hot-dog. Climbed to about 8200' (~4000' AGL) and started shadowing one of NSA’s 2-33's that was being flown by a pro; Chukar (Bob Spielman). I stayed up about an hour and a half, coming down somewhat after Chukar, and feeling pretty good about that flight. At the end of the day the Air Sailing folks were apologizing for the relative lack of lift. I was thinking, "Don’t apologize. This would be about the best day you could ever imagine at Byron."

Monday evening festivities start with Happy Hour followed by Dave Cunningham’s annual Thermal Camp burger and hot-links barbecue. Then the four Byron thermalers, Mark Violet, Lee Grisham, Taylor Nichols and I take a hike to the far, far, far end of 17 (it’s a very long runway). And then we hike back. All in all, a fine end to a fine day.

Tuesday--Physiology of flight is a major theme for morning class. Need for oxygen and affects of hypoxia. Put on the cannula at take-off and set the oxygen flowing. All our oxygen was included in the thermal camp fee to encourage us to learn how to use it and use it all the time. Next on the physiology top-hits is dehydration, its effects and how to avoid it. Then Rolf covered the other side of the dehydration coin, the one I'd been thinking about as I pondered the five hour duration flight, urination. Evidently there have been all sorts of contrivances that folks have experimented with over the years. Peeing uphill into a bottle sounds hard and, evidently, is. Heavy duty ziplocks are another choice. As are male catheters that are plumbed either to a storage bag or out the gear well (hope it doesn’t freeze or corrode the moving parts). But the lightbulb went on for me when Rolf said, "Depends." As used by the astronauts. What a simple solution. OK, so it's not all that macho. (After all, real men pee uphill into a bottle. In a 1-26.) But, like, properly done, who’s gonna know?

Afternoon flights--Once again, an unusual easterly wind requiring a crosswind takeoff from 17. But it’s not quite as strong a wind or as wild a ride as Monday's. Here's from my logbook: Two flights in 09H. Both releases around 6800'. First flight was 1.2 hrs, second 0.9. Two 2000' thermal climbs on first flight that saved it. Maxed at 7300. 2nd flight got to 8500 and 8400 with one nearly 2000' thermal. Fine day! Once again, the Air Sailing folks were apologizing for conditions that, in Byron, would be to die for. Dinner that night is hamburger and hot dog left-overs from the Monday night barbecue.

Wednesday--Here’s a picture of Mark outside our Mt. Shasta digs, as we prepare breakfast for the big day in front of us. The predictions for Wednesday call for conditions far superior to the days before, with the outlook for Thursday and Friday even better. Dave Cunningham instructs us on how to fix up a bargraph to record our altitudes with an eye towards earning silver altitude (about 3400’ climb from lowest point but when you use a barograph, Dave explains, it's prudent to climb a whole lot more). Rolf widens the radius of our playground to 10 nm. I get my stuff together in the trusty 1-26, and get ready to launch. Here's what the logbook says: Release at 7300; eventually go to 13.5! Fabulous thermalling flight with several climbs above 13K. Left on a valley tour from 13K, got to Moon Rocks at 7K, found a thermal that went to 12K. Then did a final tour of the valley before landing. This landing was my third spot-landing for Bronze. The flight also satisifed the Silver altitude gain. A super flight!! At 3.5 hours it was my best flight ever. After our flights, Dave shows us how to properly mark the barograph trace to make the badge claim. That night Mark, Taylor and I go out for beer and pizza at the first shopping center outside of Air Sailing, about 17 miles down the road. The Spanish Springs Round Table is a definite recommendation.

Thursday--The weather report is for super lift. Wind is now from a sensible direction. We will be landing, on the usual runway 21, not 03. The only issue is the K-index which is greater than 20. Rolf says that’s a sign that we may get overdevelopment late in the afternoon. "What’s overdevelopment?" "That’s when there are clouds everywhere and the sun stops hitting the ground."

Dave talks about badges and requirements. Then we get down to the morning's major piece of business; what to do about the Friday night banquet. We vote for Mexican delivered to Air Sailing.

I decide to have a go at the five hour endurance. Eat an early lunch, load up 09H with a barograph, water and cookies and my gps flight logger. Roll 09H up to the launch line by 11:45. Red Tow hauls me skyward. And up. And up. Looking for lift. None by the Dogskins. None over the valley. Finally, around 8400' Charlie recommends I get off. My gps log shows a straight line descent to ~5400' where I began the first of three saves over the Knoll area. However, the fourth time I went back to that "well" it was dry. And so my try at the five hour endurance was over in 1:20. Not a bad flight by Byron standards but after that bit of flying, another five plus more hours was a bit out of the question. However, the day was still young. We haul 09H up to the line and I relight around 1:30 for what proved to be my best flight of the week. From the logbook: Towed to Red Rocks about 1/2 hour later. Released in thermal that took me to 13K. Spent most of the next couple hours cruising in high lift. Caught a broad cloud street in the valley west of Dogskins that allowed me to cruise down to Stead and back at 15K. Many thermals, becoming overdeveloped later in the day. Another fantastic flight at Air Sailing. On that flight, the gps shows >16K of altitude. The highest I've ever been in any sort of private plane. Dinner that night was the last of the left-over hamburgers from the Monday night barbecue. Surprisingly tasty when you’re tired from a great day of flying and had and have had a couple of beers.

Friday--Rolf talks about yesterday’s weather. Evidently the stuff I cruised down to Stead and back in was "upper level instability." "Is there’s a simple picture for upper-level instability, like there is for thermals?" Rolf says, "No." But it's good lift. Today’s discussion topic is cross-country, to start us thinking about the next step beyond Thermal Camp. After the class I make arrangements with Lee Edling, the NSA instructor, to go up for a flight in the 2-33 to do a no-altimeter accuracy landing to finish up my Bronze badge requirements. To make a long story short, third try was charmed and I duly reported to Dave Cunningham that all requirements for the Bronze Badge have been met. Then I got 09H ready for a last flight and up to the line. According to the logbook: Tow to 7200'. Released SE of airport in some lift that disappeared. Short flight…

Well, that won’t do for the last flight at Air Sailing. So, once more back to the line. This time it says: Towed to 7300' near Dogskins gap. Released in some lift which disappeared. Finally found some lift over the knoll that took me to 12500. Cruised at high altitude for a while. Finally recalled by Rolf because a front was coming thru. Decended with dive brakes from 9500 to airport in short order. Landed on 17 just before sand-storm came thru. The last bit understates a bit of drama. The 1-26 is a noisy beast. Evidently Rolf had been trying and trying to call me back before I finally heard a "09H." I just made it back before an opaque sand-storm and had one of those lessons-learned experiences. When flying in the desert, look on the ground for signs of weather coming in as well as in the sky.

We wrap up flying a bit early on Friday and celebrate with beer and Mexican cuisine an absolutely wonderful week of soaring.

Clockwise from the left: Richard Pearl, Mark Violet, Taylor Nichols, Rolf Peterson, Dave Cunningham, Ed Cook, Lee Grisham, Bear, Mike and Clark (from Hollister).

--Larry Suter

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Recent Badges

Congratulations Bill Gage for achieving your first SSA Badge!
Well done!

Both Bruce Roberts and Richard Duggan fulfilled requirements
and achieved their WINGS Phase II
Well done!

Well done guys!

-- Monique Weil

Monday, June 4, 2007

From the Thermaling Camp

Silver Altitude Claim: Larry Suter, Taylor Nichols

SSA B badge: Taylor Nichols

SSA C badge: Taylor Nichols

SSA Bronze badge: Larry Suter

WINGS phase IV: Peter Kelemen

Congratulations to all!

-- Dave Cunningham

Saturday, June 2, 2007

CONGRATULATIONS to Ben Hirashima for his FIRST SOLO today!

Ben had three high solo flights, climbing to 4,800' in convergence lift
on his last solo of the day.
It was a long flight, 2.5 hours and in addition to his SSA "A" Badge,
Ben completed the requirements and earned his "B" Badge,
as well as one half the "C" and "Bronze" Badges.

I do not remember anyone getting so many accomplishments on his first solo.

The wind strength increased steadily during the late afternoon hours,
reaching over 20 Knot, gusting to 26 Knot.
Every landing Ben made was excellent.
He just wouldn't come down.
We hinted but he kept asking how many more badges he could earn if he
stayed up still longer.
Ben was also lucky that the day was quiet, with little traffic or
competition from other students for the Blanik.

Thanks very much to Dave Stiehr, our Field Manager, who stayed late to
wait for Ben to land.

Well done Ben! I see the start of a great soaring career.
Now, get down to the hard stuff and study for your written exam.

--Monique Weil

On the Wings of the Wind

The very latest news from 1929!

I have scanned, OCRed, and uploaded Howard Siepen's On the Wings of the Wind from the June 1929 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

-- Johan Larson

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bob Hoover Flying an F-86

I was on YouTube and found this clip from 1951 of Bob Hoover doing a routine in a Philippine air force F-86 at Clark Field.

The footage speaks for itself...


Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pictures from the Tracy Op

Here are eight pictures from Saturday's fly-in to Tracy Airport.

-- Bill Levinson