Monday, February 21, 2011

If only willpower were enough....or 'Aller aux vaches!'= French for 'landing out' - some of those cows were ferocious bulls, staring threateningly

Mike Voie's report of his land-out with the cows:
('Aller aux vaches!'= French for 'landing out' i.e. 'going to the cows')
Title as suggested by Monique.
Sunday turned out to be a most excellent soaring day as prognosticated
by our expert soaring veterans Ramy and Buzz. I did not have my soaring
computer, but that did not deter me from going cross country in SS with
a trusty sectional, knowledge of how many nautical miles across my thumb
is, some handy math and a tow.
I managed to make my way out there for the first tow of the day at about
11:55am. I took a high tow to 3k feet and proceeded to descend back
down to the boundary layer which was only 2,500 feet or so AGL at the
time. I scratched around Discovery Bay and the duster strip East of the
Forebay for about 30 minutes until Buzz, Ramy and Bill had launched.
Buzz and Ramy decided to try for Diablo across a nice big patch of blue.
I stayed behind and looked Eastwards towards lots of cumulus. Once
they started having some troubles, I committed to the East. Since I
didn't have my soaring computer and hence no waypoints (landable strips
that are not on the Sectional), I confirmed the location of the duster
strip with Ramy and away I went. The cloud base was up around 3k, but I
could only manage 2.5 before the thermals started breaking up. But, I
wanted to make Stockton, so I kept creeping every so slowly away from
the duster strip as I managed to get another couple hundred feet. Soon,
I had Kingdon in glide and went for it.
I got a nice thermal at Kingdon, and headed over to Lodi to debate
making my way to the Sierras. Of course, the whole time, I was
struggling to achieve 2,500 and Buzz came across the radio saying he
made it to 4,900. So, my mind was made up and I pointed the nose of SS
towards Byron. Thankfully, the clouds got higher and higher as I went
West, which made coming back much easier. Not easy, easier.
I actually arrived over the Forebay with 3k of altitude. Morteza was
down by Tracy and Buzz was super excited about a convergence zone with
8+ knots of lift on the averager, so I decided to see what there was
down there. Well, my luck ran out and I headed back to Byron. I was
over the Forebay scratching for lift in zero sink for about 10 minutes
at 1k feet and decided that was enough for one day and made the decision
to head back in. Just as I was coming over the Marina at the Forebay, a
Cessna was on downwind. I tried to mention that I was low and a glider,
but he just kept on going and giving me position reports. I was
convinced I had enough altitude, so I hung back for a second to give him
some room. By the time I looked back to the runways, I knew that was a
bad decision. I pointed the nose straight at Rwy 23 and kept the
landing gear up as long as possible. With a quarter mile to go, I had a
choice. Try to make it over the fence, or dump everything now and make
sure I come up short of the fence. I decided not to tempt fate, dumped
the gear and went full spoilers. The landing was nice and short in an
ok grass field full of cows. No damage, but cowpies all around and some
were fresh. Yuck.
Thanks to Ivey, Rick, Boyang, Charlie, Peter, Morteza, and Monique (I
hope I didn't forget anybody), we lifted the glider over the fence
(after towing it through tall grass and potholes) and safely to the
airport environment. Of course, 5 feet from the runway, we rolled
through some very deep and sticky mud which caused me to spend an hour
over at the wash station with SS and some brushes.
There were several factors which I hope people can take away and learn
from. On my way back from Lodi, I noticed very little impact from
headwind and assumed (wrongly) that it wasn't affecting me too much. I
was a little too optimistic on making Byron from 950 feet over the
Forebay Marina. I hung back a little bit waiting for the Cessna to
clear when I should have been more assertive. This probably would have
given me more than the extra 1/8 of a mile I needed to make the runway.
I listened to Byron AWOS and heard winds 220/9, which is a 20%
reduction in best glide for SS.
If I was at any other airport, I would have committed to being in a
pattern at that altitude, but my complacency and level of comfort with
Byron proved to be my undoing.
On a side note, while trying to keep the left wing off SS from scraping
along the barbed wire fence, we managed to hit the right wing on a rock
in a culvert. There is a small ding underneath the wing that will
probably require eventual fixing.

Video clip of the retrieve: