A few gliders found decent lift to almost 6,000 on the second ridge today. Once again, the BLIPMAP was pretty accurate.
Lance and I took 15M up in the early afternoon. We had planned to tow to 6,500 over the 2nd ridge, but saw the variometer swing past 10 on the way there at 5,100 so we got off tow and worked it for a while. We made it to 5,850 a few times. Tried to break 6,000 but couldn't quite get the last 150 feet.
The lift seemed best by the Tin Roof (thanks to Lance for showing me where it is) and where the two ridges meet at the northwest end of the valley. We saw lots of 2 knots and some 4-6 knots.
We flew again later after Lance's Grob checkout and still found lift back there but the sea breeze was keeping it lower and weaker.
I snapped some pictures.
I left work early on Thursday to fetch my car (long story) and head up to Truckee. The drive there took about 5 hours, but that's what I get for leaving at 5pm rather than earlier as planned (another story).
On Friday morning, I headed over to Soar Truckee to meet the folks there and get Grob 36L ready to fly. I wandered into the office and met Samantha and Joe as well as a few others. Joe was to fly with me today, so he asked me to read and sign the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
We then spent some time with a blown-up photo of the airport discussing the various patterns and approaches as well as their unique hazards. To illustrate the importance of not coming in short of the primary glider runway (19), Joe took me out to the end of the runway to see the 100+ foot drop for myself. That made a good impression on me. I was not going to be like the 5 glider pilots over the years who have hit the side of the cliff.
With that done, Joe went to do other things while I got the glider ready. It took a while, since I wasn't used to the interesting ways in which it was tied down. And I took extra time to go over everything, having never flown 36L before. But I eventually finished and we pulled the glider to the launch area.
Before long, towplane 7Z came to tow us (piloted by Doug), and we were off. The takeoff roll was longer than I'm used to, thanks to the much higher density altitude. So I spent more time and effort ruddering--trying to stay behind the towplane on the ground. But we got into the air and had a relatively smooth tow to 8,900 feet (3,000 above ground).
Once off tow, Joe began pointing out all the local peaks, valleys, ponds, lakes, and other assorted stuff--including the "hot rocks" where most pilots find their first thermal off tow. I was concerned about flying in a new area for the first time and even said so during tow. Around the time we reached 6,500 feet I remember laughing and saying something like "it's rather surreal flying at a new site for the first time... nothing looks familiar at all."
Before long it was time to land. It was early and the thermals were still weak. He talked me through the pattern the first time. We came in a bit high and I wasn't aggressive enough at losing altitude, so we landed long. But it wasn't a big deal. It's far better to land long than short.
After landing, we discussed the pattern and approach a bit more and got the glider positioned back down the runway for another tow.
Just before launching a second time, I asked Joe if we were going to do the same thing. He said, "No, you're flying is fine. Let's just fly a pattern." So we did. This time I was closer to the right speed and altitude for landing while still having a good safety margin. But I landed a bit longer than I thought I would.
Once we chatted about the landing, Joe told me I was free to fly today but that I should fly with him or someone else next time I'm in Truckee on a more windy day.
Since it was approaching 11:30 and someone else had the glider at 2pm, I decided I'd do a couple more flights and call it a day. Since the thermals hadn't really developed yet, I figured they'd be relatively short too.
I launched on my first solo Truckee flight at 11:30am. We headed over toward the hot rocks, flying thru a few thermals on the way. I released at 8,250 and flew around a bit looking for lift. I found some weak and broken lift over the frog pond, but nothing sustainable. Within 15 minutes I was back on the ground.
At noon I took off again. With no better ideas, I planned to do the same thing. However, I quickly noticed that the conditions were improving. We flew through 3 really good thermals on tow (variometer was off the scale). But rather than release early only to never find the elusive thermal (I've been burned by that at Hollister a few times), I hung on and released at 8,000. That put me 2,100 feet above the field and seemed sufficient to find a bit of lift.
It worked. I flew over the hot rocks for a few minutes and at 7,400 feet (only 300-400 feet above pattern altitude) I hit my first good thermal. It was averaged between 8 and 10 knots. And being that close to the ground (the terrain is higher there), I could actually see the ground rushing away from me. Amazing.
For the next hour and a half, I flew from good thermal to good thermal. My highest altitude was 11,400 feet and I never really got much below 9,000 feet after the first two thermals.
After I had been up for a while, I set a goal of getting to 10,000 feet. After another 10 minutes I achieved that. Then I set a new goal of 11,000 feet. That took another 20 minutes. During this time, Doug (the tow pilot) called up every 30 minutes or so to ask how I was doing and each time I was reporting a higher altitude.
As I got higher, I ventured farther and farther away from the field and flew over progressively higher terrain. After an hour or so I was joined by 2-4 other gliders at any given time. I was listening to them launch on the radio. Most of them were smaller, faster, and lighter than me. So they'd hook a good thermal, ride it to 12,000+ feet and head toward Mount Rose.
After a while, I decided to take a few pictures of Lake Tahoe from the air. It was around then that it really sunk in. I was flying between 10,000 and 11,000 feet just a few miles from Lake Tahoe--without an engine. Very cool.
It eventually dawned on me that I had easily earned my "B" badge on this flight, so I decided to stay up long enough to also get my "C" badge too. I recalled that someone else had the glider at 2pm, so I planned to land at 1:45pm to give us time to put it back in the staging area. There were other reasons not to stay up all day. I had also run out of water to drink, and Mother Nature had been calling for a while.
When the time came to land, I had to purposely avoid lift, flying mostly in 6-8 knot sink, just to get down to a reasonable altitude without cracking the spoilers. When I go low enough, I made my radio call, entered the pattern, and made my best landing of the day.
My flight time was roughly 1.7 hours. A personal best for such a low tow.
I took several pictures during they day. Take a look.
Today started out well. We (Lance, Joyce, me) arrived early. I planned to get checked out to fly BASA's famous 1-34 ("Orange Crush") now that it's back in service. Lance was set to fly acro with Russell in a 21, and Joyce had an afternoon lesson with Jim.
While getting acquainted with the 1-34, Lance came over for a peek and we noticed a few guys getting their private gliders out of the trailers. He said, "hey, that's Dr. Jack!" so we headed over to chat with him.
If you've not met him, Dr. Jack's a pretty cool, laid back guy. We chatted for a bit about the local soring, his DG-400 motorglider, and the BLIPMAP (of course!).
It was pretty cool to meet a soaring celebrity before the day got moving. And, hey if Dr. Jack is coming out to fly it must be a good day, right? :-)
After chatting with several folks about the 1-34 and going over everything with Jim, decided to get a burger before flying. It was then that I noticed we were surrounded by cumulus. You saw 'em along the east hills, down south toward Panoche, and even out by Fremont Peak. What a good looking summer day!
It was around this time that Lance convinced me to ride along in the back seat of 63JJ for a quick flight to the 2nd ridge to see if we could find anything. So I postponed my inaugural 1-34 flight and we launched a bit after 1:30pm.
Earlier I had noticed clouds cycling (appearing, growing, and vanishing) every 20 minutes or so over the hills. So there was sure to be some lift.
The plan was for Lance to fly the first 2,500 feet or so and then I'd fly for a bit to get used to the 21 back seat, having never flown it from the back yet. Well, the tow was very bumpy. There was strong thermals all around and they were higher than normal. No sign of the sea breeze yet. We did find some sink just past the first ridge, so we just stayed on tow (so as not repeat the mistake I made a few weeks ago).
Lance flew the whole tow to 6,000 while I snapped pictures. We released over the 2nd ridge and found lift quickly. Clouds marked lift well but there was really lift all over. We also spotted a couple other gliders in the area. Joyce and Jim were in 87R and Brett arrived in JH. We took turns either flying or watching for traffic. Gaggle flying is easier with two sets of eyes in the cockpit.
Several times the three of us ended up thermalling together before one of us would venture out. We followed Brett a few times, though he easily out climbed us. But I got some good pictures of 87R from above.
After playing under the clouds for a while, we decided to head down the valley. We were surprised to find a path that provided lift nearly the whole way. If I recall, it was 2-3 knots most of the time. So we flew the length of the valley a few times. We also experimented with flying straight under the larger clouds a few time. At one time I had us in 4-6 knot lift while flying straight at 60 knots! Good lift indeed!
We spent most of our flight above 6,000 feet. The cloud bases seemed to shift a few times. Sometimes they were at 6,500 or so. Other times they were a bit lower. Or max altitude was 6,300.
We heard the guys that flew south (Dr. Jack, Ramy, others) getting decent lift past Panoche. Some talked of going to Avenal and/or Black Mountain. Hopefully we'll hear more about their flights.
One thing I learned is that speed control while thermalling is much easier from the back seat of the ASK-21 than from the front.
At roughly 3:00pm it got a lot harder to find good lift. Later on, we'd find that the sea breeze had finally begun blowing. The clouds all vanished and the lift was weak and spotty. We flew around 5,000 for a bit and could have done that for a while, I suspect. But the glider was due back, so we headed back to the airport. There was a lot of sink over the foothills again, but once we hit the flat land near the airport there was a surprising amount of lift to be had--and it was higher than normal for a typical Summer day in Hollister.
Our total flight time was 1.7 hours.
I had a nice headwind on takeoff (good, since I towed behind the Citabria). I had the stick a bit forward too long and a brief scrape of the skid told me what to do. I was in the air in no time, given how much lighter the 1-34 is than anything I'd previously flown.
The first couple thousand feet where challenging. The air was still quite bumpy and I had to get a feel for flying the ship for the first time. Over-ruddering, under-ruddering, rolling too much, etc. I got some unplanned slack line practice. Once we got over 3,000 feet things smoothed out quite a bit. I was able to stay behind Alan without trying.
I released at 4,200 and practiced turns, slow flight, speed control, and so on. Even though I was told before the flight, I was surprised at how little control force I needed to pitch the glider. And I was surprised by how little pitch I needed to increase or decrease my speed by 5-10 mph.
Once I got low enough to enter the pattern, I performed my checklist and got downwind for 24. I played a bit with the air brakes since I had some altitude to burn. I found that you need more forward stick to make up for the speed lost.
I turned final at 600 AGL and didn't need more than 1/3 brakes with the strong headwind. My touch down was good (I'm told) but it was too far from the turnoff. I didn't have nearly enough energy to roll all the way there (light ship, strong headwind), so I turned off the runway after I knew I could clear the lights. Luckily, there was more than enough help to push to the turnoff and park the glider. Thanks guys!
The 1-34 seems like fun ship to fly. As many told me, it's like a smaller, lighter 2-32. After another 2-3 flights I suspect I'll be a lot more comfortable in it. Having the first flight done though, I at least know what the expect on takeoff and tow. That's what I was most worried about. And I know to land farther down the runway next time!
See Also: The day's pictures.
I'm posting this a bit late but wanted to summarize the second Panoche Checkout experience. So it's not as detailed as last time.
On Friday the 15th, I met Lance and Darren at HGC around noon. I, again, flew in the BASA Grob with Johnathon Hughes while Lance flew with Brett in 9KS and Darren flew with Russell in 63JJ.
The BLIPMAP looked better than last time but not much better.
We launched around 1pm to find that the lift in Panoche was weak and hard to find. The thermals were small and difficult. I tried to focus more on my speed control while thermalling this time around. I was better but still need practice.
I managed to find a thermal or two at first. Eventually I lost 'em and we started to get low. I headed toward the strip and then Johnathon took the controls to aggressively work a difficult thermal. I learned a lot just following him on the controls. He even commented that it was a hard thermal and that the conditions were some of the worst he'd seen at Panoche.
Johnathon got us back up around 4,000 feet, so I went of in search of more lift. We didn't find much heading south and started to get low, so we headed toward the field once again. Johnathon flew for a bit but couldn't find anything. We were low, so I took the controls to get us on the ground. I was a bit high on final, but slipped the altitude off and landed okay.
We hung out of a bit and let Russell and Darren launch a few times. The first was a rope break and the second was a real tow. I took advantage of the time to take some pictures of the launches.
We then launched and got into the thermal right over the airport, joining Lance and Brett in 9KS. We eventually out climbed them and headed off to look for lift elsewhere--unsuccessfully. This flight didn't last too long, so we landed and took another break. After parking the glider, we wandered over to the bar to get cold drinks and a couple of T-shirts.
The others came into land and we begun the process of towing toward the release point on the way to Hollister. On the way back, Johnathon asked Alan to level off at 7,500 feed so we could practice slack line recovery in straight and level fight. It wasn't bad. Recovery took a lot longer, but I only needed to use gentle control inputs to let it out.
Once again, Johnathon was great to fly with. He has a lot of Panoche and XC experience and is able to put up with my less than stellar thermalling techniques.