April 24, 2004
Decent Local Soaring

I planned to fly in the informal Hollister League contest today. Since I flew the novice task two weekends ago with Jonathon, I figured it was time to do it on my own. At the morning pilot's meeting, Ramy called a task of Panoche (lookout towers) to Black Mountain and then back north to the Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton.

Ramy had suggested that a local start (tow to Three Sisters, find lift, work down to Panoche) might work. I was intrigued by the idea and decided to give that a go. It's a good thing I did, because while I was taping the wings on my glider, I learned that everyone was towing to Three Sisters due to a shortage of tow planes. I launched 3rd to last (just after 2pm), ahead of Drew and a student in the Duo Discus and Steve in CA.

I felt several really good thermals on tow and got little cocky. I released at 3,800 feet about a mile and half from Three Sisters. As I flew toward Thee Sisters, I encountered nothing but sink! In fact, I arrived over Three Sisters at about 3,300 feet (only 300 feet above the altitude at which I'd normally head home) and began looking for lift. After a minute I was rewarded with a decent thermal that allowed me to climb to roughly 6,000 feet. I didn't know it then, but that was to be one of my best thermals of the day.

As time went on, I started to hear problems on the radio. The guys who were going south were struggling. Some were struggling a lot. Russell came really close to landing at Hernandez. A few guys turned back to Hollister at EL2. Ramy eventually shortened the southern task to Center Peak. I heard about four guys make it all the way to Center.

All that made me decide to stay local. I searched around the east hills a bit and could only find that one really good thermal and another one a couple miles away. Everything else was 4 knots down. The normal spots (microwave towers, tin roof) weren't working at all.

Steve eventually reported lift the Pacheco Pass, so I headed that way. I stopped along the way for one thermal but it was a weak one and not really worth the effort. As I got to the pass, I noticed that there was lift in a few spots. I spent the next hour or so playing around there. I'd get high, fly toward the peak and lose all my altitude and then return to the thermal to try again.

After about 3 hours, I decided to burn of my altitude and return to the airport. My landing was much better this time. Even though the plans didn't work out for the contest, I enjoyed my day of soaring.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:16 PM
April 19, 2004
A Good Day of Soaring at Seminole Lake

Since Tuesday was a bust, I headed back to the Seminole Lake Gliderport on Saturday morning with plans to get a checkout early and then take their DG-300 up for some local soaring.

Area Checkout

I arrived a bit after 9:30 and met my instructor shortly after. Izumi (not sure on the spelling) was to fly with me in one of their Grob 103s for some local checkout flights.

After doing my pre-flight (the Grob was really showing its age and the fact that it's a club ship and trainer), we pulled out on the runway and prepared to launch. Their Pawnee had us in the air in no time and before long I was wondering how I would ever navigate the area without the aid of my handheld GPS.

After flying through numerous strong thermals (at 10:00am!!!), we released at 3,000 feet and I found our first thermal of the day a few moments later. Meanwhile, Izumi worked on orienting me to the area. He pointed out three landmarks that, it turned out, were quite sufficient for helping me find the airport later in the day. There was a decent sized aqua colored lake, a sand "factory", and the nearby highway.

I spent most of the next hour jumping from cloud to cloud to find the various thermals that kept us in the air. We chatted a bit about my flying experience and his. It turns out that he used to work out at Crazy Creek in northern California, so he was well aware of the conditions in Hollister and Truckee.

As it approached 11:00am, he told me to head back to the airport and show him a landing. I sped up and trying to find some sink to circle in. But after 5 minutes of that and loosing no more than 400 feet, I opted for the only sure way to get down: the spoilers.

Before long, I was down to pattern altitude (1,000) at the IP and headed in. I had to use spoilers through the entire pattern to counteract the lift we kept encountering.

I turned base at about 600 feet and final at 400. We landed near the main hangar and let the ship roll off just by the house. No problem. I asked how many more flights we wanted to do, expecting at least one more for pattern and landing or mayb e a rope break. But one was good enough, so we headed back to the office.

There I got a sign-off in my log book and worked on studying the DG-300 manual as well as the local sectional chart. Folks back at the office seemed amused by our hour long checkout flight. I guess 20-30 minutes is more common, but I just wasn't in a hurry to come down with such abundant lift. I'm really not used to releasing at 3,000 near the airport and staying up for an hour without trying very hard!

DG-300 Pre-Flight Activities

Around noon, I helped Ingrid move the DG-300 out of the hangar so that I could get comfortable with it. I tried out the parachute they had and spent some time getting comfortable in the cockpit. Since I had a handheld radio, we pulled the weak battery out so it could charge while I flew. That meant having no electronic variometer, I wasn't terribly worried about that. There were clouds everywhere, so finding the lift wasn't going to be rocket surgery.

After a bit, we pulled it down the launch area where Knut could give me a cockpit checkout. In doing so, we discovered something wrong with the tire on the main landing gear. It was slightly off the rim in one spot and rubbing another part of the gear. We showed Knut and he decided we should take it back to the Hangar so he could try to fix it.

We did. He jacked it up, let the air out, and made some adjustments. The problem seemed to be solved, but he expected that it'd happen again. He then went over the details of this particular ship with me and the other guy who was to fly after me. Neither of us had flown a DG-300 before and I had never flown a glider that used a CG hook rather than a nose hook. He advise me to launch with full forward trim and only let the glider fly with it was going fast enough and ready to fly.

DG-300 Flying

I launched a bit after 1:00pm and again towed to 3,000 feet, hitting several thermals along the way. 2,000 would have been quite sufficient. My takeoff was a bit shaky. At one point, I started to get out of position and was just about to release the line when the glider lifted off the ground. So I drifted back into position behind the towplane and all was well. Mostly.

Off tow, I pulled up the gear, trimmed the elevator, and worked on getting comfortable with how it flew. The parallelogram control sick felt a lot like the one in my 304C, and the trim worked like that in BASA's DG-1000.

Once comfortable, I worked on finding a thermal. I took my first lift to about 4,500 feet, jumped to a nearby cloud, and had fun for the next 2.25 hours. I never went far from the airport, but I had a blast. The highest I got was 6,000 (cloud base) and the lowest I ever got was about 3,800. Lift was quite abundant and quite strong in a few spots (8-10 knots at time, but 4-5 was far more common).

When it was [past] time to return to the field, I again had to resort to using the spoilers to get myself down. I entered the pattern at 1,100 feet over the IP and landed reasonably well considering the turbulence and crosswind I had to contend with. I came up about 300 feet short of where I planned to stop, but it turned out to be perfect for the next guy. I turned over the ship, snapped a few pictures, helped tow it back to the line, paid my bills, and headed back to the hotel.

All in all, I had an excellent day of soaring. Between the two flights, I logged nearly 3.5 hours and never had to worry about finding lift very much. The DG-300 was a fun ship to fly with no real surprises. Like other DG ships, the cockpit was quite comfortable--especially the headrest. I hope to back it back to Seminole Lake someday. The people are fantastic, the flying is quite affordable, and the conditions (at least in the springtime) couldn't be better.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:49 AM
April 12, 2004
Flying Update

Okay, it's been a long time since I've updated my flying blog, so I'm going to do so in one big entry. I'm on a flight to Orlando right now, so there's not a lot else to do anyway. :-)

New Toy

Since I last wrote, I've done quite a bit. First off, I bought a glider. My new toy is N304GT, a standard class Glasflugel 304C ship. I bought it from a guy down in Hemet, California about a month ago. Since then I've put about 8 flights and 10 hours on it--maybe more. The ship only had about 14 hours on it when I bought it, so it's barely been broken in yet. It still looks very new.

I'm quite happy with it so far. It flies very well. It's stable, easy to control, and very quiet when all the vents are closed. My first few flights were short hops to get used to the glider and make sure I knew how to land it. Strangely, my first two landings were my best so far. Since then I've had a few bouncing problems but I'm close to having them sorted out now. I just need to be more agressive with the spoilers and hold my flare better.

Pictures of the disassembly are here. The Toyota 4Runner you see in the pictures is the vehichle I bought to "support" the glider, namely to tow it and hold and haul around all the crap that goes with owning a glider.

Updated: I've posted pictures of my glider in Hollister, taken on the first day I flew it there.

Grob Rides

A few weeks ago, Kasia came to visit and we went up for a few rides in the Grob (36L). She took some nice pictures of the area. I enjoyed flying the Grob again. Even my backseat landings were pretty smooth.

Rolls in the Fox

I finally went up for a flight in the previously moentioned Fox with Drew. I wanted to get a feel for the ship and try out rolls. We took a 7,000 foot tow and I spent a bit of time testing the 45-to-45 roll rate, slow flight, and stalls. After getting comfrotable, it was time for the real fun. I asked Drew if he wanted to demonstrate or just talk me thru it. As usual, he opted to just talk me thru the process.

I dove down to pick up speed, leveled off around 95 knots (maybe 100?) and pulled the stick hard to the right. In not time we were inverted and rolling thru the second half of the manuver. It all happened very quickly and quite smoothly. As Drew suggested, I didn't even need to worry about the rudder.

We ended up a bit nose low on the first try, so he suggested I use a bit of forward stick pressue when we go inverted to keep the nose on the horizon. On the second attempt, I did just that. Almost. You see, I didn't know how much pressure to use and ended up pushing the nose up quite a bit. We ended the roll a bit nose high and bleeding off speed. But it wasn't bad for second attempt.

After that, Drew took the controls for a minute to impress someone he saw flying nearby in a Cessna. I don't know what exactly he did, but I remember going about 120 knots, then being inverted, pushing 2-3 negative Gs and then rolling back over. While it was pretty damned cool, it also made me feel a little sick, so I took it easy for the rest of the flight.

I'd like to go up in the fox again, but it suffered some in-flight damage recently. Steve was flying it a few weeks back, pulling about 4.5 - 5 Gs when the left spoiler sudden popped open. He managed to get it back on the ground safely, but the ship is going to be out for a while getting repaired.

Stuck in the Mud and a 2-33 Ride

A bit over a month ago, the weather wasn't being very helpful after a seminar. I took up Babu for a ride in the DG-1000. We had a fun flight, finding a bit of lift near the clouds. When it was time to land, we found the winds had shifted and everyone was using runway 13. That's rather unusual. When I came in to land, I aimed a bit short, so as not to get in the way of any gliders that wanted to launch. But I came in shorter than expected and couldn't make the turn off. So I did the next best thing (or so I thought). I exited the runway between two runway lights and brought the glider to a stop.

It wasn't until after I got out and looked to push the glider back onto the runway so we could move it that I noticed it was very muddy there. We managed to push it almost all 15 feet back to the runway when the main wheel got stuck in the mud. We tried to work it out but only made things worse. This was all while getting rained on, of course.

After a few more attempts, a few folks came by to help and suggested using the tow plane to pull it out. Cherokee 17 Whiskey came by and we hooked up. I was to "fly" the ship out of the mud. But we never got out.

At that point we got a good look at how bad things were. The main wheel as almost completely in a mud hole. We did the only thing we could at that point. After rounding up 7 or 8 guys, we got on the leading edge and lifted the glider out of the mud and back on to the runway. Then Russell towed it back with his truck while I walked the wing and laughed at myself for making such a mess.

The next day, I spent 1.5 hours cleaning all the mud off the tire, disc brake, and landing gear. Thanks to me, BASA now has one of those nice little hand pumped power sprayers. The good news is that no damage was done and I learned a good leason about turning off into the mud.

Panoche Run in the new Glider

A bit over a week ago (Friday the 2nd), the conditions looked good and I was reasonably comfortable in my new glider. So I decided to fly down to Panoche and see if I could get high enough to come back to Hollister without landing there. I was the first to launch that day, so I ended up being the "sniffer." I flew to EL1 and found spotty lift. I got word to the others on the ground and on the way, so they all towed to the lookout tower instead of EL1 and were a bit more successful than I was.

I never got back above 5,000 feet but I did learn about struggling to stay alive out there. Three or four times I was certain I had to land, so I worked my way closer to the strip, only to find a thermal that'd provide another 1,000 - 2,000 feet of altitude. A couple hours of hard thermallying work was starting to get to me, so I decided I should land to get a tow back.

Much to my delight, I was not the first person to land at Panoche that day. Tony in 1A landed about 30 minutes before me and Brett landed in 2BA not long after I got towed back out. My Panoche landing wasn't as good as it should have been. I had a decent left crosswind to contend with and I was landing over an obstacle--Tony and his glider. He landed very short and just stayed at the near end of the runway.

I flew back toward Hollister and arrived with lots of altitude to spare, so I headed over toward Santa Anna only to find Lance in 9JH at 6,000 feet and reporting decent lift. I hung out there for about half hour jumping into the lift and playing around a bit.

Hernandez and Back

This past Friday (the 9th), conditions once again looked excellent, so I headed down with plans to fly to Panoche. Having learned my lesson last time, I decided not to be the sniffer. Instead, Dave (in GJ) lead the way. He flew toward the cumulus that were forming near the lookout towers and reported lift. I followed not long after and had little trouble finding the lift with Dave and Pat (in 9JH) already down there. Lance followed along (in 2BA), having recently completed his BASA cross-country checkout with Harry.

For the next hour the clouds got better and better, eventually forming nice little streets. Darren and Matt appeared in the DG-1000 just before Lance and I talked about heading back home. I made it as far south as Hernandez. Lacne managed to go a few miles farther than I did.

We looked back to EL1 and noticed some very nice clouds there. I decided to load up on altitude and then make a run for EL1, hoping to get high enoug there for an easy glide home. The plan worked nicely. We spent about 15 minutes getting up to 9,000 feet and ran to EL1. There we loaded up to 9,200 and headed home with lots of altitude to spare. We detoured a bit along the way, looking for signs of lift near the Tin Roof and over Santa Ana. There was nothing to be found, so we headed in to land after burning off the rest of our altitude.

EL4 and Back in the Duo Discus

(This is mostly a cut-n-paste of the flight report I sent in two nights ago.)

On Saturday I had planned to fly with Jonathon Hughes in the BASA Grob as a novice pilot in the Hollister Legue XC race that Ramy's organizing again. During the morning pilot's meeting, Russell mentioned that the Duo was free ALL DAY.

I joked that we should take it instead of the Grob. Then I thought about it for a couple minutes and realized that it was a good idea. The Grob schedule was booked before and after us, so we switched. That freed up the Grob for Darren and Stan to fly to Panoche and return. (Something tells me that Stan doesn't go to Panoche often enough!)

Let's see if I get the details mostly right...

We launched in the Duo at about 12:30, roughly 3rd or 4th in line, and headed to EL1 where Hugo (today's sniffer) found decent lift. Hugo, Matt, and others got to 8,500 or so at EL1 but we had a lot of trouble getting above 7.500. We struggled there for an hour and both tried several times to break thru to the higher altitudes. It never happened, so we left EL1 at 7,500 (entering the race at 1:30) and headed to the lookout towers before EL2.

We found lift on the way to the towers and also found quite a bit of sink. We tried to get to EL2 but had a lot of sink, so headed back toward Panoche a bit and found lift along the ridge to the south. I worked that for a while and was quite pleased to find it getting stronger and stronger the higher we got. Eventually we got high enough to hit EL2. We found sink everywhere, but Jonathon persisted beyond the point when I would have gone to refuel again and nailed a good thermal. It was tight but going well. That got us high enough to fly over Hernandez and on to EL3 and eventually EL4.

Once we got to EL4, we had to decide if we were going to push on or head back. Not being well acclimated to long duration flights (but I'm getting better), I made the call to head back. Besdies, my butt was sore. Maybe the Duo needs more padding? (I sure don't!)

Anyway, from EL4, I headed back toward the south Panoche ridge and got a bit of lift along the way. And from there, I headed toward the lookout towers but stopped at EL2 for a really nice thermal. I saw the vario swing past 10 a couple times. In a few minutes we got up to 8,500 for an easy glide back to Hollister.

Our time for the EL4 course, I think, was 2 hours from leaving EL1 to crossing runway 24 at Hollister.

The day was a bit more challenging than I expected. Compared to yesterday, there were several differences:

  1. no clouds to mark lift
  2. fewer gliders over a larger area
  3. someone was watching me! :-)
  4. no audio vario (Hugo had the Duo's logger. I hope he made his 500k!)
  5. 20 meter gliders just aren't as responsive as 15 meter

But I had fun and learned a lot. I was impressed with the way Jonathon hooked a few thermals and got in 'em nice and tight. I was also proud of myself for not falling out of lift too often.

Posted by jzawodn at 08:27 PM