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Monday, May 3, 2010


Here is a flight report that I put together for rec.aviaion.soaring and a few other aviation forums.  Enjoy!  I do have a few pictures I need to upload and will also be posting to the OLC tonight.

It was a good flight. I never thought it was going to happen. Yesterday was "one of those days" at the airport. We got out about 10:30 and put the glider together. A few friends showed up and we needed to put Leah's glider in its trailer to free up space in the hangar. So we got to started on that and it took about 5 times longer than any of expected or wanted. Finally finished it about 12:45 and the sky was already exploding and the glider still wasn't quite ready for flying. I had promised Leah some flights in the 2-33 before we went but she graciously realized that the lift was good and I should go fly, so she freed me from that obligation. I finally launched about 1:30.

experience shows that my glider is about a 30 mph glider when flying cross country. In order to fly the 300 km (186 miles) required for the gold badge I would have to fly something like 6 hours which I immediately assumed was going to be impossible. So I figured I'd just head downwind and try to fly further than I had ever flown before. Shea and Summer, two of my students, were crewing.

I initially flew straight north as my GPS was figuring the winds out of the south. Lift was good and I got off tow right in a 5-600 fpm thermal and climbed to about 8000 feet. Flew over Hutchinson and just ran north. Lift was good and sink wasn't too bad. I was averaging about 35 mph with a 5-10 mph tailwind.

I called Salina tower to make sure that the restricted area was cold. It was, which was good because I was headed right through it and didn't want to have to circumnavigate. I noticed the wind was shifting more out of the southwest so about the time I crossed I-70 just west of Salina I turned northeast. Shortly after this I hit my low point of 2900 MSL, which must've been around 1500 AGL. yikes! But I flew over a nice area of brown/black fields and caught a 600 fpm thermal back up to over 8000 feet. The next 4 thermals I caught were progressively higher, the next one I caught at about 4000 ft, then 5000, 6000 etc. Pretty soon I was booking from cloud to cloud, thermalling under about every 3rd one and generally averaging about 7000 feet. I was around 4 hours and starting to get cold, had passed 120 miles which was further than my previous best, and feeling pretty good.

I noticed that the clouds behind me were starting to die but it was pushing 6 PM and the sun was getting lower. There was still good looking clouds ahead of me so I kept cruising. I was watching the GPS and creeping towards the nebraska border. The idea of making another state really sounded good. At one point when I was about 15 or 20 miles south of the border i tuned in the weather at Beatrice and learned that the wind there was out of the NORTH and gusty. Interesting. Where I was the wind was out of the south and there was a line of rain between me and there. I also noticed a really killer looking street of clouds on the south edge of the rain. I put 2 and 2 together and figured that the opposing winds were converging along that line, so I decided to work my way towards it. However there was too much of a gap to make a straight run so I just stayed in the good clouds and eased my way over.

The last 40 or so miles were the fastest. I contacted the convergence area, initially with reduced sink but I was running at 50 mph and losing ~100 fpm. Altitude was still 7000 on average. I was down to about 6000 when I really got into the convergence. Turned parallel to the clouds the best I could figure and started climbing at 400 fpm while flying straight! I did this for about 10 or 15 miles I think and gained 1000 feet or so when I flew out of the lift. by this time I was up around 160 miles and gold distance was starting to seem like a possibility.

there wasn't a lot of lift indicators out ahead of my but I was a bit over a mile AGL and about 25 miles from my goal of 186 miles. my glider is 23:1 in calm air and it seemed to me that the sink had been not so bad or even "reduced sink" where i wasn't climbing but i wasn't sinking as much as i should've. I ran at about 50 mph for the final glide, slowing slightly if i would find a nibble of lift or something. Once I got to 175 miles and was still at 3 or 4000 AGL I figured that I had gold distance in the bag.

Turns out I was more or less headed right for Falls City, NE and they've got a nice airport there so I planned to land there if I could make it. I passed the 186 mile mark and let out a bit of a victory yell. Still at about 2500 feet at that point and 7 miles from the airport. The air was dead smooth, and actually had been quite smooth for the last several hours. A sort of magical condition that happens late in the day where the lift is still strong but the sink isn't to bad and the turbulence all softens up. Matt and I call it the "Magic Hour". In this case it was the "Magic 2 or 3 hours".

I arrived over the airport at about 1500 AGL and did a pattern and landed. Could've maybe stretched it to 200 miles but the convenience of landing at an airport after a flight where all goals had been met trumped the unknown of landing in a field. I had tried to alert my crew where I was going although one wrong turn and a fiasco at a gas station had left them far behind and out of radio range. Nice thing was I had good cell reception. They were about 50 miles behind when I landed, at 7:30ish, right around a 6 hour flight!

I now have more hours in my glider in the last 2 weeks than all of last year.

We got everything loaded up and were on the road shortly after 10 PM. Got to my apartment about 2:30 AM. I was in bed by 3:15 AM. One of my crew had to drive to hutchinson, she had school at 7. I think she got to bed about 4:30. ouch.

all in all it was a great flight, i couldn't have asked for much better. We'll download the trace tonight and do the paperwork for my Gold Distance claim. Now I just need to get a 3000 meter altitude gain to finish the Gold Badge. Also, I should be able to establish several state records that are so far unclaimed with this flight so I'm looking forward to that. There's also a fair chance that with my dogleg course and handicap I could win the day on the Online Contest which would be monumental I think. Most importantly, I think this will be a really competitive claim for the annual Wood Wings trophy for the longest flight by a wood glider in the state of Kansas.

Edit: Found an updated link for the newspaper article I wrote for the Falls City Journal about this flight. Enjoy:

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