Sunday, December 17, 2006

Better than not flying at all

A storm front went through SoCal on Saturday, and the Sunday forecast looked like there might be some lift. The forecast temperature gradient indicated no inversion, the air was cold aloft, the satellite showed less than 50% cloud cover, and I suspected the ground temp might exceed the trigger temp. So I went to the field hoping for the best. The CU were indeed scattered, and staying in one place, which made me think there was lift working. The tow pilot said there was lift right under the clouds, so I decided to go.

Due to a few delays, I didn't take off until 3:00. At 3700' AGL we were going up at 10kts or more, and getting close to the clouds, so I released. I found a little weak lift or zero sink and floated around under a dark CU. Then I noticed a 2-33 coming toward me WAY higher - right below the cloudbase... so I wished I had held on a little longer. I never did find much under that cloud. At one point there were two 2-33's and me trying to work that cloud. Headed for another one that was obviously building, but it was too far away. I tried to get under a little wisp that looked concave on the bottom, indicating lift, but it wasn't enough. Quite a bit of weak sink all around. I noticed that the Speed to Fly indicator on the Borgelt was not making sense according to the lift and sink, and I found that it was sticking! Maybe because of the cold? SOmething to watch out for in the future.

I ended up heading for the Initial Point. I got into some sink on the 45-degree leg, then lighter sink on downwind... only about 600' AGL abeam the runway. I normally don't look at the altimeter in the pattern, but since there was sink I kept an eye on it. It turned out OK - the rest of downwind was zero sink, so I ended up right where I needed to be on base. I had a really good, smooth landing, which is encouraging. My last two have been very good, after a string of bump-downs.

I was hoping for a clear view of the snow on the mountains after yesterday's storm, but the remaining clouds obscured much of the white stuff.

So... a sled ride is better than nothing!

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