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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ulysses report

Leah and I and 373Y arrived at Ulysses on Friday night and set up camp.  The weather was looking promising for Saturday.  Up early as Ed was out working a few fields at sunrise in the Air Tractor so we put the glider together and started preparing.  I was all ready to go by about 10 AM but was starting to wonder about the weather.  Wind was strong out of the south, gusting in the mid 20's.  I took a tow at 1 PM and promptly fell out.  rats.  Bob launched in his Pik motorglider and was able to connect with some lift so I launched again at 2 PM.

I had decided that with the wind my best plan of attack would be to go downwind.  Leah and Luke were ready to go in the truck and I managed to connect with some weak lift off tow.  about 2 knots up was as good as it was going to get.  However I was drifting at 30 mph while I circled!  I was able to climb up to about 6000 feet. Not very high considering the airport was at 3000 but I was now 5 miles downwind of the airport and figured I was going whether I wanted to or not so I called Leah on the radio and headed north.

It didnt take long for me to lose all the altitude I had gained and I was back down to 4500 feet on the south edge of an area of sand hills in western KS that are really unlandable.  I knew I wasn't flying over them so I started to work crosswind along the edge of the area and found a good thermal and back up I went to around 7000 feet this time.  Now I was at Lakin and headed sort of towards Scott City.

Ominously, the area of cumulus clouds I was flying under was coming to an end near Scott City.  I caught a thermal near the airport there and climbed to 8500 feet.  I was feeling good as my altitude was gradually increasing and I was making great time, about 50 mph or better on average.  I was starting to think that I could really put some major mileage on the glider today.

After I got out from under the cu though, I noticed the air was definitely smoother.  I flew along at more or less best glide speed, letting the 30 mph wind boost my glide ratio to what felt like infinity.  I did feel a few burbles and wind gusts but no good thermals until I was back down to 4500 feet. This was starting to feel familiar.  I started to circle and worked as hard as I could but lost the thermal after only a ~500 ft altitude gain.  Rats.  Well nothing to do but keep trucking so I kept heading towards Oakley.  They had an airport on the east side of town that looked possible but a bit on the shallow side to make.  There was also approximately 10 million acres of wide open dirt fields to land in in the area so I headed for fields that looked like possible thermal generators.  Sometimes airports suck you in and I wanted to avoid that.  Unfortunately nothing was to be found and eventually i just did a 180 and landed in a field just southwest of town. 

Many locals stopped out to check on me and a the local police and county sheriff.  Thankfully they got there soon enough that I was able to have them cancel the EMS and Fire Dept, assuring them that an airplane had not crashed.  Luke and Leah were about 40 miles out and the OK function on my SPOT tracker along with the most excellent DeLorme state maps had them headed directly for me.  Here is how they found me, chillin in the shade eating a snack.

And here is another picture of me out standing in a field.

Saturday we woke up at 5:30 AM to 45 mph winds buffeting the trailer and flapping the tent.  Needless to say we didnt have much hope for flying.  Eventually I did fly, but not the Cherokee.  Rafael and I went up for an hour and 15 minutes of struggling in weak lift in the Grob 103. It was fun!

Sunday the forecast wasn't too promising but I decided I came here to fly so we rigged.  We also packed up the truck and I was figuring if I got up and it was looking good I would just head towards Wichita.  I took a tow at 1:30 after Bob had landed in the motorglider and reported weak lift to 6000 feet.  I found a little lift off tow and climbed at 1-2 knots over the airport.  There was cu forming a few miles south of town so I started working upwind.  Once i got under the cu the lift was a little better and occasionally i would find a 4 knot core but had trouble staying in it for more than a one or two turns.  Maybe they were just stick thermals.

I continued to work upwind to the next cloud although it was difficult.  The clouds were cycling so fast that one second they would be there and the next second they were gone. Literally.  Instant evaporation of cumulus.  But I managed to work the area for an hour and a half.  Some high cirrus started to filter out the sun and I returned to the airport area and cirlced with Keith who was up in his PW-5.  We started to head out to the southwest although I was only at 5000 ft.  Then I hit some 10 knots SINK and beat feet back for the airport and landed.  Ended up with an hour and a half which I was happy with.  We loaded the glider up and hit the road, following Rafael and Luke back to Wichita.  Keith was still up in the air when we left, magically soaring under solid Cirrus overcast.  He was hopeful to get a 2 hr flight in to finish his Bronze Badge requirement.

A picture Leah took before launch on Sunday.

OLC traces are here:


Leah took about 400 pictures so I'm going to try to put up a picasa album in the next few days and will link to it when its done.

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