A couple weekends ago we experienced a pair of glider extremes at Hollister on Saturday: one very short flight and one very long flight.
The short one, unfortunately, was us. Kathleen and I headed down to fly the BASA Grob 103 on what was predicted to be an epic soaring day. And it was. Unfortunately, we got there a bit late and the weather had already developed quite a bit more than we expected.
We towed toward the east hills and got off around 6,000 feet in what seemed like decent lift. But it was hard to stay with it and the high clouds from over-development in the Santa Cruz Mountains were quickly spreading. That blocked out the majority of sunlight and shut down most of the lift. We quickly went from "wow, this is going to be a good day" to "gee, let's see if we can find enough lift to keep from having to land soon."
Before long, we were getting low and had to head back to the airport. But there was one big a problem. A wall of clouds and rain was approaching from the west and brought a wall of dust on the ground to match. There was a very visible gust front headed directly toward the airport. Folks on the radio were advising pilots to stay away because of the 30 knot crosswind.
We were getting so low at that point that I didn't like the idea of flying back through possible sink and a definite headwind just to land at an unsafe airport. Luckily we were just a few miles from the private Christensen airport, so I put the nose down and headed straight to the runway at maneuvering speed (Va). No pattern. I knew where the wind was and decided to land downhill but into the wind.
All the the while, we were watching lightning strikes in the Santa Cruz Mountains from the approaching storm--some of which started a few of the 1,000+ wild fires that have burned so much of the California countryside.
Anyway, before long we were on the ground and sitting in the glider while the storms passed. And after the fun passed, I got on the phone to call for a retrieve.
This goes down in my book as my shortest (distance and time) cross country flight. Ever.
More pictures available in my Christensen Landout on Flickr.
And for something completely different...
In related but much better news, Hollister glider pilot Eric Rupp set a new distance record the same day, flying his DG-300 glider from Hollister to Calexico, California--right on the Mexico border. This amazing 782.66 kilometer flight has been the subject of much planning and speculation until Eric finally pulled it off. It was an amazing combination of great weather, timing, and piloting.
You can see flight details on OLC and his SPOT Satellite Messenger kept the rest of us informed on the ground while he was flying.
Eric's epic flight was covered a bit in the press as well:
- Bay Area glider makes record-breaking flight to Mexico - Santa Cruz Sentinel
- 444 Miles Of Non-Powered Flight - AVweb
Congrats to Eric on an amazing and inspiring flight.
Posted by jzawodn at July 03, 2008 09:48 AM
Congrats on successfully escaping the OD and the excellent decision to "landout."
A very nice flight by Eric Rupp, and good to see that it seems to have generated some good press for the sport. I like the ending of the AvWeb article... "Uplifting as Rupp's flight indeed is, we must report for those unfamiliar with sailplane flying that the longest recorded flights in gliders have exceeded 1,000 miles. One such record stood for almost 20 years. It's not easy."