Saturday, July 14, 2007

Soaring with TVs

No, not televisions... turkey vultures. Although I've seen them from a distance, I've never had the opportunity to fly with them until today. (Hawks and seagulls, but not TVs.)

Today I flew the PW5... it was not a really strong day but had potential. Another pilot told me roughly where he had found a decent thermal, so I headed that way. I was in weak lift and saw a dust devil some distance away but didn't want to go that far. Then I spotted two vultures just a short distance from me, maybe a quarter mile, right at about my altitude. At that point I was at about 4000' MSL.

I headed toward the closest TV and got into lift. I turned in a direction that would hopefully keep us close but circling the same way... birds aren't bound by the same rules as gliders! He wasn't exactly circling, so we kind of moved about each other. Sometimes he would half-fold his wings and drop down, other times he would outclimb me. After about 3 or 4 "turns", he kind of cut across about 50 feet or less from the nose of my glider. He looked back, seemed startled, and then dove away and was gone. I never saw him or the other vulture again. But I worked that thermal up to 6600' MSL, and then took off across the valley. So thanks, Mr. Turkey Vulture.

I flew over to the Ramona Bowl, then skirted Diamond Valley Lake, most of the way over to Winchester. I never found any more lift, just some moderate sink. I ended up with a 56-minute flight. And no one on the radio reported getting any higher than I did - the other pilot got to 6300'. So I guess I did OK for a marginal day.

My PDA cut out just a few minutes into the flight. It turned itself off. After I turned it back on, it never got any GPS data from the Volkslogger - I think SeeYou reverts to wrong serial port settings. That won't do! It did this on my last flight, too. I think it's probably caused by vibration, since I'm now mounting the PDA on an arem connected to the instrument panel. It could be heat, but if it was heat I would have expected it to fail earlier, before I got up to a cooler altitude. So next time I'm going to try strapping it to my leg again. I think I can see the screen better that way anyway - it's closer to me than when it's on the arm.

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