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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Flight of the Year

Sunday the soaring forecast looked acceptable, the wind was forecast to be high, and it was supposed to be better to the west with lighter winds. I originally had hoped to fly a closed course but after arriving at the airport and feeling the wind, Leah and I re-formulated our plan to go downwind. The towpilot thought I was crazy but gave me a tow anyway. Wind was probably about 20G25 knots. We rigged YYY easily, even though I haven't flown the glider since last July at the 13.5 Meter contest, it was like meeting an old friend again.

Takeoff roll was short. SeeYou says 4-5 seconds from start of roll to takeoff. Bob and I had both estimated where I would be airborne and we both guessed way too far. The souped up 175 towed fast, 9.2 knot average to 2000 AGL where I found some nibbles of lift. However I wasn't really able to get above release altitude and so Leah waited. After working a few thermals, I ran back over the airport to get a good start on my declared task, which was to, I believe, O'Neill Nebraska, just over Diamond Distance to the north. Yes, I believe in unashamed optimism. The Oudie said the wind was 27 knots from about 190 degrees. I found a weak thermal over the airport, got the start, and started rapidly drifting north, directly for Hutchinson. The towpilot was putting the towplane away and I had Mills Field, a local grass strip, easily in range. I still wasn't above release height but told Leah to head out anyway. The thermal finally improved and I climbed to about 4500 feet in it, spending the first 5 miles of the flight circling continuously. I contacted the Hutchinson Tower as I passed over their airspace and found another really good thermal over the Salt Mine parking lot which took me to 5500 feet, which still was not cloudbase. I was starting to think that this could end up being a good day! Directly downwind there wasn't any clouds very close, a more westerly track showed a few wisps but was also the Sand Hills State Park, an area NW of Hutch that isn't very landable. However there was another grass strip showing solidly green on the Oudie and after all I did have hopes of eventually working a bit to the west. Off we went.

Naturally, I could find nothing but sink and was soon low enough that the clouds weren't too helpful. Oh well on we go, towards Huey grass strip and hopefully to my save. A quick radio call to Leah "Struggling east of Nickerson" and I spot the runway. It didn't look particularly wide but the wingspan on the Cherokee is short so I was happy to have an out. I kept finding gusts of wind, getting tricked by sucker thermals, and everything else that happens to me when its windy. Oh well I pressed on towards some open fields to the west. Many of them were planted with winter wheat, which is only a few inches tall right now and would be landable. Some were open dirt though, which of course was preferable. I kept working anything I could find, but the thermals weren't agreeing with me and soon I was on downwind to a dirt patch. About that time I noticed a little standing water in the field and thought maybe that was part of my problem. It had been several sunny days since it rained in this area but apparently not long enough. I prepared for a wet landing but picked a line on the edge of the field that turned out to be very dry and solid. I called Leah, visited with a local who helped with directions, and sat in the glider and waited. Soon she arrived, we packed up, and I was a back at home in Wichita by 4:30 PM. I made it a whopping 18 miles and enjoyed my second landout of the year.

Last year I also made my first flight in the Cherokee for the year on April 21, and also landed out. Perhaps its a sign of good things to come :)

Here is my OLC trace:

Leah took this picture of me upon her arrival.

1 comment:

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