Saturday, July 08, 2006

Booming day! Best flight yet!

The forecast was awesome: 1143 fpm to 15,000'. I've learned to take these with a grain of salt, but the trigger temp was 82 and the forecast high 102. This week has seen CuNim in the mountains, but they've been settling down. So it sounded good. A and K flew the Grob before me, about 12:00, and got an hour+, getting up to 9000' or so. Others were up to 11,300'. I planned to try for the "S" ridge and beyond, if possible (I've only been there once), and if not, then repeat my XC practice triangle and try for my second 2-hour flight. I planned to take all my gear along, to practice XC conditions. But my oxygen tube had a leak, so I left it out. Temp on the ground was 106.

From the ground we could see a clear shear line due to the different colors of the air masses. Just before I took off, it started forming some tiny CU. Over the mountains, it still did not look overdeveloped, although some reported rain. It did not look dangerously strong.

I took off at 13:55. Good lift on tow, I let off at 4500' MSL and found a little lift right away over the low hills. After a couple turns, I spotted a huge dust devil down in the valley - big, but the dust only going up about 300'. I found great lift over it and rode it all the way up to about 9000'! The wind drifted me partway to the S ridge, so off I went.

I made my way over toward Mt. San Jacinto and started working thermal and orographic lift. Nice lift kept taking me up toward the clouds. I worked it up to over 10,000' a couple of times. One time I went right up a ridge, using what must have been anabatic winds. Max alt according to my GPS was 11,000. A couple of times I felt the lift was getting pretty strong (but no more than 800fpm) right under the clouds so I headed out from under the weak "anvil" formation and into clearer sky. Whenever I found sink, I turned away from the peaks and headed down the valley until I found lift again. My GPS always indicated that I was way above the required glideslope to reach Hemet, so I was always safe. It also indicated 3000'-4000' above ground level at all times. Great practice for the Sierras when I go to Minden in a couple weeks.

I could see over to the windmills along I-10... I could see Hemet Lake but did not go that far. At one point I was exactly even with the top of the peak but still some distance from it (later measured as 3.75nm away). I estimated that to try to get on top of the peak would put me too close to cloudbase, and I got sprinkled on one time, and from under the cloud I could not tell if it was overdeveloping. So I never reached the peak.

Fun stuff along the way:
  • A paraglider at least 3000' higher than me (when I was still over the valley)
  • A hawk above me at about 9000'
  • A CDF firebomber passing at least 3000' below me

Un-fun stuff:

  • Radio not transmitting. I think I had the push-to-talk button wired in wrong. Fumbled around with it while thermaling left-handed. Gave up, pulled the plug, and pressed the handheld PTT when necessary.
  • Taking pictures. I've resisted taking along my camera, not wanting the distraction. But I need to learn to take turnpoint pictures. That's hard... my scenic pics came out but my turnpoint shots did not.

Eventually, with about 10,000' in the bank, I headed across the valley toward Diamond Valley Lake. I've skirted it before but never gone beyond it (partly because it's usually downwind of home). This time I had enough altitude (and favorable winds) to go across it and over to (what I now know is) Lake Skinner. I could see all the way to the Palomar observatory! I also spotted French Valley airport.

Still lots of altitude... head northeast past the dams to see if there's more lift on the way back. Ah yes, the shearline! I'd heard guys on the radio using the shearline/cloud street to go across the valley. By now, those little CU's were nicely formed, clearly pointing out the line. Once I got in it, I had 600 to 800fpm to take me back to the valley - without even circling!

Back to the IP area, more than two hours logged, and still 3000' excess altitude. So I did a couple of stalls, then eventually pulled the spoilers just to lose altitude. (The pre-stall buffet in the Grob was VERY rough and noisy - I've never heard anything like it!) Pattern entry was weird... just as I turned the to the 45 leg, my yaw string was way off to the right although I was turning and ruddering left. I think it might have been stalling and falling off... maybe caught a gust? I nosed over and ruddered harder and it straightened out. Definitely something to watch out for. Landing was fine. Back on the ground, it was 106F again... and no one else from the club left at the field. With the wingwheel, I can push the Grob by myself, but it's pretty tough.

Net result: my best flight ever!

  • Longest: 2 hours 24 minutes
  • Highest solo: 11,000' MSL
  • Farthest: 15.7nm straight-line distance from the airport (that doesn't sound like much now that I say it), 65.6nm total distance

That's the second of the two 2-hour flights I need for my Bronze badge.

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