Monday, December 17, 2012

Brian Roach, newish member, just soloed, so it is time to find out a little about him.

Monique invited (commanded?) me to say how my spotted aviation history
led to NCSA & gliders. I haven't been around very long, but have
learned that Monique's invitations must be obeyed!

I have always been fascinated by the sea and the air. As an adolescent
I spent summers on the New England coast and learned to sail. My family
indulged me by buying a succession of small sailboats, and with the
typical attitude of a teenager I returned the favor by repeatedly
sailing over the horizon while small craft warnings were displayed. I
vaguely recollect a few discussions on the subject ... my Mom's memory,
many years after the events, was far more vivid. In my mind the
conditions were challenging but enjoyable ... probably the truth was
somewhere between my opinions and my parents.

I suspect that there were great sighs of relief when I miraculously
graduated from high school and got packed off to college. For two or
three years I applied myself and gave every sign of being a boring nerd.
Then came the fateful discovery of skydiving. There was a college
club with a table in the Student Union (this is how you did it before
the internet). I signed myself up and went for a jump. This was in
the Fall in Massachusetts. New England is not exactly the epicenter of
air sports,and let me assure you the number of jumpable days for
parachute students on round canopies in the Fall and Winter are just
about non-existent. However to my joy I discovered that they spent the
winter college break at a DZ in central Florida. Somehow I talked my
Dad into funding me to join this expedition, and I ended up completing
the student progression in a week and a half. This was in the 'bad old
days' of jumping with surplus round canopies and no air-to-air
supervision in freefall. Basically you got dumped out of the plane for
progressively longer and longer freefalls - -
your jumpmaster (back in the plane) tried to critique a rapidly
disappearing speck.

As a jumper you spend a lot of boring time sitting on the floor of
airplanes with very little to think about. Gradually I formed the
notion that this flying stuff was not as difficult as advertised. Right
about then I graduated from school, got a decent paying job
(how times have changed!), but still had the spending habits of a
student. The local airport was located maybe five minutes from work and
an indulgent boss let me take long lunch breaks. After just a little
less than a year I got my ASEL private license.

The jumping habit continued in the meantime. As an 'expert' parachutist
you can jump throughout the New England winters. If you are out of your
mind, that is. The question isn't, "Are you going to get frostbit?".
No, the question actually is, "How much?". This powerful motivation led
me to the Bay Area in 1981.

In California the flying stopped, the jumping continued. The jumping
tended to finance itself, and I discovered a wonderful new cash sink,
namely, chartering sailboats. I have two recollections of the NCSA in
the 80's, mainly because I jumped with the now defunct Livermore club.
These recollections are (a) a monstrous wind tetrahedron at
Hummingbird and (b) The necessity of watching out for gliders when there
was a strong North wind in the winter.

The jumping financed itself through instruction. Probably something
like half of my 3700 jumps were paying propositions. Static lines (Way
Back When), then AFF, then tandems. The skydiving student these days
has it pretty cushy. The planes are turbines (= fairly reliable), the
first jumping experience is a tandem, then the remaining student jumps
are done with an instructor assisting in freefall. This is all well and
good for the student, but not so nice for the instructor. Instead of
staying in a warm plane you are flailing in freefall with the student
strapped to your tummy, or you are hanging on during a wild exit, or
maybe in hot pursuit at pull time.

Around 1990 or so the seed of gliders was planted. I was working for
the skydiving operation at Hollister and have a recollection of this
incredibly graceful glider landing very nicely. A couple of folks went
out to the glider with crutches and assisted (to my eye) an extremely
decrepit old guy with legs of different lengths out of the glider. The
seed was, "When I get decrepit, that's what I'll do!"

Somewhere in the mid 1990's the jumping scene began to pall. Winged
flight was out of the question (young family, mortgage payment) ....
except, Hey! What about hang gliders?

With the assistance of the local shop, the local club, and some great
instructors I eventually got a hang 3 rating and did a modest amount of
mountain flying at the typical local sites, mainly Hull Mtn & Dunlap.
Even did a couple of flights in the Owens from Walt's Point .... but in
truth the strength of the lift was so terrifying I spent most of my time
frantically seeking air that didn't put slack in the hang strap and
thanking Yahweh once safe on the ground.

Happily the vast majority of my flights were extremely enjoyable thermal
and ridge lift experiences. You can't beat listening the vario scream,
the ground rapidly receding, and watching the local raptors quickly fly
to your thermal.

Dropped the hang gliding and went back to jumping for a few years,
mainly (no kidding!) to please my wife, who was also a jumper.

Got divorced and spent an eternity raising unruly teenagers. No flying.
Did a modest amount of Sierra backcountry stuff and watched gliders with
interest. Eventually the teenagers grew up and moved out. Thought
about flight. Looked at the hang glider dangling from the rafters and
started thinking about my own decrepitude.

Finally last October I relieved a boring hot afternoon in the Coalinga
area with a demo flight at Avenal with Morgan Hall. It was great to get
in the air, and also fun to hang out with a degenerate air junky. (I
hope Morgan will regard this as a compliment ....). This pushed me over
the edge, the next weekend I was out at Byron, and the rest is history.

Last of all a heartfelt message: A great number of people contribute
their time and expertise to the club ... Thank you all!

-----Original Message-----
From: Monique Weil [] Sent: Monday,
December 17, 2012 4:04 PM
To: brianroachus
Subject: Re: Initial glider solo

Hi Brian,

We have a custom that a new member introduces him/herself with a few
words about themselves and how they came to want to fly gliders........
send me your story and I will put it on our Buzzard newsletter blog,


On 12/17/2012 3:38 PM, brianroachus wrote:
> Returning to the world of flight has been been a great joy. Thanks to all
for making this possible.
> Blue skies,
> Brian Roach
> --- In, Terence Wilson <terence.wilson@...>
>> Everyone,
>> Give Brian Roach a pat on the back next time you see him. This afternoon
Brian flew solo in 81C and made a beautiful low energy landing on RWY 12.
Well done Brian!
>> Terence

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday 12/9 north wind wave

I had a fun, interesting and challenging wave flight on Sunday. Talking to Kempton, who was planning to fly from Williams, the prior evening, my plan was to head north to the Napa valley wave once I get to 18K. So I took a tow shortly after 10AM to Los Vaqueros towers (few miles SW of the towers near wave3 waypoint) and released in weak wave which only took me to 7K, but enough to move further north to try to Diablo wave (wave1)  which worked much better and eventually gave me 15K of altitude where the climb stopped. The wave was relatively weak and inconsistent likely due to the wind direction shift from NNE to NNW and back to NNE, and the wind dropped from 45 knots to 35 knots above 12K or so. While climbing in the Diablo wave I was in contact with Norcal which went well. I was asked about my intentions and replied they I will likely remain stationary for the next hour with gradual climb expecting up to 18K, so they vectored the airliners a little further north pointing me out to each one. I could also see  some of them as ADS-B targets in my powerflarm. Anyway once I stopped climbing at 15K I decided to try Napa anyway, with the plan to turn around if I don't find anything before I loose glide back to Byron. Easy said than done, since as I was getting closer to the point of no return near Napa, I hit strong sink, which is indicating of possible strong wave lift nearby, so I wasn't willing to give up at that point, and quickly lost glide back to Byron and was now committed to Napa airport. Committing to Napa actually made things easier since now I had extra altitude to look for the wave, and based on Kempton's tip from our early discussion, I moved further west and indeed found the wave over the SW corner of the town at around 5000 feet. It was averaging only 1 knot and took long time to climb to 8K which was all I could get. Once at 8K over Napa I had marginal glide back to Byron and had the option of gliding back to Byron or try to explore more. To make long story short, I spent the next couple of hours exploring the wave trying to continue north with limited success , getting closer to the town of St Helena, but each time retreating back to the Napa wave to climb back up, from as low as 3000 feet (which required circling in the rotor for a while).  Each time back to 8K or so after long slow climb and trying to explore in different direction. As I am not aware of any other safe airstrip in Napa valley which is covered with unlandable vineyards, I made sure to keep Napa airport in safe glide all the time. It was interesting to note that the wave was nearly miles downwind of the hills, which would suggest secondary wave, but I never found a primary up wind. so after 3 such low saves at the exact same spot over Napa  back to 8K I was planing to go on final glide back to Byron, only to manage to climb higher this time to 9.3K, which gave me comfortable glide back to Byron. But I guess it was too comfortable for my taste, and being greedy as I am, I decided to try north once more to see if I can connect with the St Hellena wave before going on final glide. I actually finally found a good 10 miles stretch of wave maintaining above 9K, pretty much where Kempton found strong wave in previous flight from Williams, and kept going until I almost lost glide back to Byron then turned around with the confidence that I can follow my trace back and regain glide, but to my horror the wave completely fell apart and I found strong sink at exactly the same line I was climbing few minutes earlier. Even the Napa wave was no longer working and turned into strong sink. This highlights one of the differences from thermal flights - if you loose the wave, you will likely encounter strong sink and will loose ton of altitude before able to reconnect, much more than the typical sink between thermals, and sometime you wouldn't be able to reconnect. Also down lower it may be harder to contact the wave as it may not be working well below certain altitude. So I found myself over Napa at 5000 feet or so, well below glide to Byron 50 miles away, in strong sink and one hour before sunset. A quick check with my flight computer confirmed that I still had glide to Concord if I head there immediately, and so I did, making the retrieve much easier than Napa. Concord tower was friendly and on the ground I got help from Rusty who was the Byron airport manager last year.
As it was 30 minutes or so to sunset, I figured it was too late to call for aeroretrieve, so instead asked my wife to come get me, as my home in San Ramon is only 20 minutes away. But as it turned out, Mathew was heading that way on his way back home anyway, and with 2 passengers (Maya and Fabien) which were kind enough to volunteer to drive my car and trailer so I could spare my wife from the drive and save a trip to Byron to get my car. Thanks folks, and thanks to Buzz for coordinating that and hooking up my trailer. 
All in all, it was an educating flight trying to explore wavelets over Napa valley where I have limited experience flying in wave, and a reminder not to push my luck too much, after 3 low saves it was probably time to head home :-)
Flight trace:


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Van reports on Sunday 'post deluge' ops from his personal perspective

Sunday began in a deluge, as I'm sure most of you recall.  It ended as a lovely day, and a small group celebrated this transition by flying gliders...

The sky didn't start to clear until after noon, and I don't think the first launch took place until almost 1:30. John Boyce was the instructor and Alex Drobshoff the tow pilot. Robert Farrell served as FM.

Matthew Gast and John Boyce launched first, with two pattern tows in 81C.  Terence Wilson was next, making the first post-reassembly flight in KP. He made a lovely approach and sweet landing, capped off with a really hairy high-speed run into the first turnout, as his minimal braking quickly became no braking at all! But the combination of the early brake action deft handling, and a couple well-chosen wingtip drags brought him neatly to a stop just a good spit short of the 5KV runway sign (well, he wasn't really that close to it at all, but the writing is much more dramatic if I take a little poetic license here...).  We all rather bemusedly observed that this is why club rules require the first post-assembly ride to be made by an experienced and licensed member. So KP went off to the bench while they tried to figure what was up with the brakes (more succinctly, what wasn't up with the brakes).

Matthew then decided he wanted to fly the 1-26, so he went of to pre-flight it while Van Henson (ahem, that would be me) and John then took a dual in 81C. John playacted the role of a DPE, running me through the checks, including boxing the wake, slack line, steep turns, slow flight, straight ahead stalls, speed-to-fly, etc., One mistake I made was in asking Alex to fly straight for tow maneuvers while headed straight into the sun.  I did the maneuvers quite well (so said John), but it was really hard to keep my lineups on that plane as it flew directly into the inferno, all but disappearing in the intense, fiery brilliance. SHould have (and could have) easily asked him to turn 90 degrees, but didn't. The flight ended up with a bit of a slip to landing and (if I do say so myself) a really sweet landing complete with turnout right on the money, ending up centered on the taxiway with my nose right at the hold short line (short pause while I pat myself on the back some more... aah, that felt good.)

Next, Terence and Fabien launched in KP to seek out the ever-elusive Wave Lift, having worked the brakes and deciding that the brake fluid just hadn't been pumped from the cylinder enough (or something like that).  At any rate, they had brakes for the second flight.

I was up next for a solo flight in 81C, which was smooth, lift-free, and pleasant.  Unlike most of my flights, I forgot to turn on the sink-finder I usually fly with, so, while there wasn't any lift, neither was there noticeable sink, and I got a nice flight out of it. 16Y was just getting ready to drag Matt aloft in the 1-26 as I returned to the field, so they asked me to take the second turnoff. I made an early turn to base, turned final, and lined up on the stripes near the the first turnout as my aiming point. It's a good thing I patted myself on the back so hard after the first landing, because the landing on this flight was (how to say this delicately? oh yeah...) ****ing awful.  Actually, I should say more accurately, ALL the landings on this flight were awful.  All three of them (or was it four? I lost count). Can you spell P-I-O? Hadn't happened to me yet, but it sure did.  Funny thing was, I recognized what it was, and immediately knew the proper correction, but just couldn't seem to get myself to hold the plane off and smooth it out. Didn't make the second turnout.  Almost didn't make the third. Fortunately for me, almost everyone was busy getting Matthew ready, so only Maya came down the taxiway in the cart to make fun of me...

Terence and Fabien returned, having found a bit of wave, and gotten to 4500 feet, a few hundred feet above the (now widely scattered) clouds, and eked out about an hour's flight.

Maya then flew with John, the final launch of the day. We got things buttoned up just as dusk turned to night, and retired to the clubhouse for a beer and some shared BS.

So Sunday, which started so naughty, turned out nice.



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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Maya Moore is another student pilot who joined NCSA this summer. She writes a little about herself and the passion which unites us.

Monique asked me to write a bit to introduce myself to club members and
to share some insight into my flying and soloing experience at NCSA.
I've always had an interest and passion for aviation beginning as a
child. Growing up in South Carolina in the foothills of the Appalachian
Mountains, I was first lured to flying by an old Cherokee farmer who
flew a J-3 Clipped Wing Cub from his nearby horse pasture.
My first flight in his plane included several loops, rolls, and other
acrobatic manoeuvres. After the flight I think it was assumed that I
would be sick; however, I said that the only surprise was the dirt/grit
from the floor of the plane which fell against my face as we flew
inverted. After lunch and several hotdogs later I went back up and had
just as much fun as the first time.
My passion for flying was realized by the old farmer and some of his
pilot friends and they agreed to take me to the local airport to begin
flight instruction. Unfortunately, my mother who was very closed minded
and controlling learned of our plan, and harshly scolded the farmer.
Years later I learned that the old farmer had once taught someone to fly
who went on to fly professionally to inspect power lines from the air.
Unfortunately, the person later died in a crash, and the family of the
pilot had very negative words with the old farmer. As a result, my
mother's harsh words quickly put an end to my childhood flying lessons.
For the years after that, I built a career working in engineering roles
across the manufacturing, fabrication, and construction industries.
After moving to the SF Bay Area and meeting some pilots I decided to
accomplish my dream to fly. As I returned to aviation, I attended a
local pilot's club meeting where I had the unexpected and exciting
opportunity to hear Monique speak of her adventures with Soaring and the
NCSA. As I continued my flight training I became determined to learn to
fly gliders along with power, as I felt the experience would make me a
much more competent pilot.
On of the unexpected things I've encountered with gliding, is a unique
community that is abundant with passion, generosity, and support. It
seems to me that many glider pilots are the unique folks in life who
realize that a rewarding journey far outweighs the destination. As a
result I've found that I really enjoy the community that surrounds the
sport at NCSA, as well as Truckee where many other local and
international glider pilots converge each summer to share stories,
knowledge, and companionship.
I've always felt a little different. I tend to follow the beat of my
own drum, and I find that many other pilots do too. One of the most
rewarding things about flying is that we pilots are responsible for most
all of the resulting outcome. Many times I feel frustration at the
world around me in systems or groups where performance is second to
political positioning. In the words of Albert Einstein, "The intuitive
mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We
have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the
gift." Fortunately, I feel free from society's confines when flying.
Performance is everything. Your outcome is directly based on your
efforts, skills, and abilities.
One thing I like about the NCSA gliding community is that although we
come from different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs, all of that
is set aside to obtain collective and individual advancement in a
passion that we strongly believe in. It seems many members are
engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and other stimulating people.
I've always been a sort of enigma to many people. I enjoy exploring the
world, science, history, and adventure.
In regards to soloing, I just kept working with various instructors and
did it. I was nervous before, and questioned if I was really ready, but
when I actually did it I felt very comfortable and ready. I think the
instructors were ready to send me up before I actually went, but the
time that I flew prior to solo the wind was too strong. On the day I
soloed, Buzz put me through a serious of challenging situations
including simulated rope breaks, and non-standard changes to patterns
and runways to simulate emergency situations. It was actually pretty
fun, and made us both confident that I was ready to fly solo. He also
stressed the importance of maintaining an awareness of the airport
operations and pattern traffic while flying in and out of Byron. This
paid off on my second solo flight as I realized on my turn from 45 to
downwind that the tow plane and skydiver elevator were positioned in
pattern as well. I radioed that I would extend my downwind so they
could land first and we all landed contentedly.
In conclusion, I'm very grateful to fly with the NCSA, and participate
in the learning based culture associated with it. At NCSA, one doesn't
just pay to learn to fly; you instead join a culture of like minded
enthusiasts who share experience.

Friday, November 23, 2012

NOV 18th: fresh from Holland, new Junior member Fabien goes Solo from aerotow in America - soaring with the birds

The day started out with a few practice flights, including a 250 feet
rope break which I found quite interesting, being rather close to the
ground while making a tear drop. I felt a mixed sense of calm and
excitement when the tow plane was in front of me, and for the first time
the back seat was empty. While I have flown solo in the Netherlands, I
had only done one dual aerotow before coming to the US, so it felt like
a first ever solo again.

The weather looked like the thermals would become stronger in the
beginning of the afternoon, so I was hoping for a prolonged flight. As
we took off I felt some thermals coming at 3000 ft when we were about
three-quarter way to Bushy Peak, but I wanted to stay on till about 4000
ft. to make sure it was not just a slight bump. Coming off the tow
plane, I flew towards a promising cloud and sure enough, the vario
pointed at a +2 taking me up to about 4200 ft. Not wanting to get too
close to the cloud, the clearance requirements from the pre-solo exam
still fresh in my memory, I got out from under the cloud and took the
opportunity to search for a stronger thermal.

Not finding a stronger thermal, I repeated the process and after
dropping to 3000 ft again, it looked like my cloud was dissolving
slowly. Searching around, I found not a thermal but a bird, perhaps an
eagle? The bird flew away and I followed him, rather surprised at his
speed. When he started circling, I took a position at his 12 o'clock,
and due to his much shorter turn radius it seemed almost like we were
thermalling together. Another bird joined us, and I had to make a sharp
turn in order to avoid hitting it with my wing, so I flew out of the
thermal and joined in under them. Yes, I was getting out thermalled by
birds, but hey they most likely have a lighter wing loading.

Halfway through this, the AWOS frequency suddenly started emitting only
a beep instead of the weather information, so it seemed like my radio
was non functional. With the thermals dissolving, not quite reaching the
strength we expected in the morning, I started towards downwind at 1800
ft. to make sure the runway was empty before I had to land. With a
power-plane just taking off as I was mid field on downwind, I had plenty
of altitude left, and landed approximately 1.2 hours after take-off.

Fabien Bruning

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mang and Ken try Midweek soaring; thanks to Rolf for towing- wednesday flight report 10/10

I flew with Ken Ferguson in KP. We launched around 11:30AM, not too
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
quite connect.

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!


Sunset panorama:

- mang


Monday, October 8, 2012

Kit shares his experiences in soaring from Truckee this summer --

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 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

New NCSA Member MAYA has INCREDIBLE FLIGHTS in TRUCKEE on last weekend of soaring..

[Attachment(s) from included below]

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

1 of 1 File(s)



Mike Mayo gives some Physio pointers on Hydration at altitude (NO GATORADE!)

Regarding Gatorade (don't touch the stuff myself).
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
the mountains.
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.


Few more things from Maja: FOUR VIGNETTES FROM MINDEN

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!

 Sometimes you have to re-launch

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:

MAJA: From MiINDEN with SILVER -Soaring Report for the summer 2012

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: