Okay, I'm posting this about a month late, but better late than never...

On Thursday September 4th, I headed up to Truckee again. On Friday morning, I awoke to a surprising amount of fog and low-level clouds. My plan was to meet Steve Ford at Soar Truckee around 10am so that we could fly together in the Hollister Gliding Club's Duo Discus (9DD). (I had flown there for the first time just a week before.)

I got to the airport, found Steve, and asked what was up with the weather. There had been quite a bit of rain the day before and there was a lot of moisture in the air. They said it'd be gone within an hour and it was.

While waiting for the weather to clear, we sat down with a sectional to talk about typical X-C flights out of Truckee. Steve said suggested that we either head north or east/southeast. The BLIPMAPs seemed to indicate that it might be stronger to the north (and possibly there'd be thunderstorms), but both seemed quite doable. So we decided to just wait until we got in the air to see how things looked.

It began to clear, so Steve and I spent some time getting the glider ready and then I gathered up my stuff and hopped in to get used to the Duo. It was my first time flying in the Duo, so I wanted to get comfortable with the controls and whatnot. There's really not a lot of room in the front seat for carrying extra stuff.

We launched a bit after noon with cumulus clouds popping all over the place. From the ground it looked great. We could head in any direction and find good lift.

Steve flew the tow while I got my oxygen equipment on and adjusted. We released at roughly 8,900 feet and Steve got us centered in a nice 6 knot thermal. I then took the controls and didn't give them back for about 2.5 hours. In fact, I was so busy flying and having so much fun that I never thought to take any pictures (doh!).

We talked about cross country decision making, cloud selection, and looking ahead to try and read the sky. Within a few minutes, I had picked my fist cloud and pointed the Duo at it. We arrived and found strong lift: 8 knots. I stopped for a few turns and then headed onto another cloud that was actually the beginning of a cloud street. The on-board computer told us that the thermal was averaging a whopping 13 knots, so we climbed to the cloud base rather quickly! Once we got there, I flew along the bottom of the clouds to the end of the cloud street. Even at 85 knots we were still getting about 4 knots of lift. It was amazing. I couldn't believe the conditions. I decided to head north.

Before I knew it, we had left the vicinity of Truckee. Each time we got out of range of an airport, Steve would call out our next safety airport (he was navigating, I was flying). Over the next two hours, the airports went by and we hopped from strong thermal to strong thermal. I spent quite a bit of time flying at 80 knots between thermals.

At one point we flew bast the Black Rock Desert--the home of Burning Man. I should have taken a picture. Oh, well. Next time.

About an hour and a half into the flight, Steve asked how much farther I wanted to go. He suggested that we use a well known turn point to mark our maximum distance from the airport. Spalding was the closest, so he put it in the flight computer and I got us there. I lost a lot of altitude along the way, probably 5,000 feet. So I spent some time looking for a way to refuel. Eventually we got back to a reasonable altitude and I decided to fly just a few more miles. I wanted to get 100 miles from Truckee before heading back.

Roughly 2 hours into the flight, Steve put Truckee back in the flight computer so that I could navigate back. I turned us around and discovered two troubling things:

  1. There were a lot fewer clouds going back to Truckee. Conditions had changed while I was enjoying the outbound flight.
  2. My body realized that we'd been up a while and decided that it could be time to start feeling airsick.

The ride back was more challenging. Lift was harder to find and I wasn't flying aggressively enough--because I felt like crap. But we pressed on. At the 3 hour mark, we were getting a bit low and I was struggling with lift along a ridge. Steve suggested a few strategies for working it and they helped, but it was slow going. I was still feeling bad, so we discussed our options.

Steve noted that we were near Nervino airport. We could land there and get a tow back to Truckee. I decided to use that option. The only problem is that the airport was about 12 miles away on the other side of a mountain ridge. We had to gain some altitude (which we'd been trying to do for a while) to climb over it and make it to the airport safely. I gave Steve the controls and let him work us back up and over to the airport. He did an excellent job.

On our way in, Steve called Truckee to get a towplane headed our way. We landed and had a bit of time to stretch our legs. I felt better after being on the ground for a few minutes. The towplane arrived and towed us back to within a safe glide of Truckee.

Off tow, I got the controls again and worked us toward the airport. I had to actually look for sink in order to get us down to pattern altitude. I think I even cracked the spoilers at one point.

We landed uneventfully and put the glider away.

Total time in the air was about 4 hours. 3:20 on our first leg and 0:40 on the way back. Other than feeling like crap after the first 2 hours or so, I had a great time. I look forward to more dual X-C practice next year--after I've figured out how to stay in the air longer than 2 hours without feeling sick.

Posted by jzawodn at October 02, 2003 07:49 PM

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