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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kowbell 2010 report

Leah and I were out to Sunflower early this morning and had 373Y ready to go with plenty of time to spare.  The Cu actually started to pop at 9:30 AM! but they were really really low.  I was hoping for an 11 AM launch.  However I had a bit of trouble when plugging in the Cambridge which lead to a bit of smoke coming out of the GPS. Not good!  I called Steve to see if he had another unit available and he said he'd bring one so with everything else ready I pulled out to towards the runway.  Steve showed up but the replacement GPS wouldn't power up either.  Something is wrong on the glider end, not sure what, so I launched about 11:45 AM. 

Flight started out strong with lift under every cloud and decent climbs in the 4-5 knot range.  After the first 30 or 40 miles though things started to weaken noticeably. I was having trouble keeping my altitude above 2000 AGL and lift was often 1-2 knots but occasionally I could find a tiny 4 or 5 knot core.  My main goal was to simply stay aloft. I knew that I wouldn't make any miles if i pushed too hard and landed so I took every bit of lift that I could get.

Leah and Summer did a great job following me and at one point were actually out in front of me.  I got down below 1000 AGL a few times but managed to blunder into a thermal and climb back out. Once I climbed from my low point for the flight directly to the high point, about 5500 MSL!  By 3:45 PM the clouds were starting to thin and there wasn't much lift to be had.  I continued to work everything I could find but struggled finding anything truly workable. 

I was also flying out of wheat country and into corn and soybean land.  I had just crossed over the nebraska border and was having to be careful about my route to ensure I had a safe place to land.  Thankfully there was still a cut wheat field every mile or so that proved me a haven.  I chose my field and set up an approach.  It was a bit tricky as the field was shaped like a bowl.  I approached to the south end of the field, landing uphill and into the wind.  There was a pretty big ditch that ran through the center of the field at the bottom of the bowl so I was sure to clear that.  Then I noticed that there were terrace bumps running along the field, 90 degrees to my direction of travel. Rats!  well nothing I could do now so I cleared the first bump and set it down immediately.  I still had a little speed as I bounced over the next bump but it wasn't too bad and I quickly came to a stop.

A friendly local farmer had seen me circling and was first on the scene.  We had a nice chat and got Leah and Summer some good directions and within a half hour they were there.  Within the next half hour 373Y was loaded on the trailer and ready to hit the road.  Nice! 

Here are a few pictures.  More can be found at my picasa album

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