Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nice flight, learning Volkslogger

Today I got a nice 2 hour and 22 minute flight. The forecast was for cold air aloft, and about 86F on the ground, which sounded good for instability. The wind stayed away, and there were lots of small-to-medium CU clouds. Not much lift until about 1:30... some of the early glass ships came back down pretty quickly.

I took off in the PW5 at 2:00 and by then lift was plentiful all over the Hemet valley. I let off at 4600', found lift up to about 6400', and made it over to the "S" ridge. But that area was pretty much shaded by the clouds, and the small area of the slope that was sunny was not working, so I headed back. I found decent lift over town, mostly over a parking lot, and worked my way back up. Then I headed west and joined WO in a nice thermal up to about 6800' again. That took me nearly up to some solid clouds, so I headed toward them. Sure enough, the "cloud suck" was working. The thermal lift turned into a pretty big shear line marked by irregular but fairly distinct clouds. That worked really well - I spent a lot of time between 6000' and 7500', up and down. I practiced working the shear without much circling. I headed further southwest than I have before, nearly to the I-215 in the Menifee area. But the wind was from the northwest, so I didn't want to head too far south.

I encountered a hawk, and what I think was a falcon. He was darker, sleeker, and moving faster than the hawks usually do. I also spotted a bunch of hang gliders and paragliders, but they were very close to the ground and not thermaling. I spent some time sharing a thermal with a 2-33 and later a PW6.

I also tried some hands-off flight to see how the PW5 would maintain speed. It did pretty well, hunting up and down by about 5-7 knots around the trimmed speed. It might have been diverging... maybe I'll try it again some day and see if it is stable or unstable. Laterally it was fairly stable. I was able to keep wings level with minor rudder adjustments.

Some other gliders were reporting rain and lightning near Idyllwild, and the clouds over Mt. San Jacinto were spreading out and getting very gray. So I eventually put on the airbrakes and descended from 5500' down to pattern altitude of 2500'. It seems a shame to waste altitude like this when I fought all winter for it! But this summer and fall it seems that 2-hour-plus flights are getting easier and easier. (I was not tired at all, though my back had a couple of twinges.)

Before the flight I installed the club's Volkslogger and tried hooking it to my PDA with the cable that JS provided. The instructions for ConnectMe worked perfectly. I was able to create my pilot and ship info, upload it to the VL, and download flights from the VL to the PDA. Then I tried using SeeYou with the VL, and could not establish a connection. Seems that ConnectMe uses all the right serial port connections but diesn't tell you what they all are (just portname and baud rate). SeeYou lets you set (therefore you need to set) bits, parity, and signals... but what should they be for the VL? Defaults did not work. I didn't want to spend any more time on the ground, so I skipped that part for today, opting to use my plug-in GPS unit. But after the flight I was again able to download the flight files with ConnectMe. So I'm halfway there!

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