Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tehachapi Day 3

Monday started out a bit warmer and less breezy, but throughout the day the conditions were about the same as Sunday. The few thermals were narrow and hard to center. The shear line was working, but not everyone could exploit it enough to get very far from the airport.

In the morning we worked on removing the faulty radio from the front cockpit. Then I flew the Grob with one of our instructors. While I flew, he wanted to try out my PDA-GPS combo. Unfortunately it had some sort of interface problem, and the PDA could not get the GPS data for most of the flight, so that was a bust. (It worked fine on the ground afterward.) Much like Sunday's flight, although there was lift I was not able to work it very well, and was back on the ground in just 16 minutes. Back on the ground hard - I bounced that landing pretty badly (unlike my other flights). I think it has to do with the sight picture from the rear seat of the Grob... it's kind of hard to tell exactly how close you are. Plus I had too much speed after my flare. Something to work on.

Later in the day the same two of us went up again, and he did twice as well as I had done... which is to say, we were down in a little more than a half hour! Narrow, rough lift... circling right on the edge of the stall, with lots of variation in speed trying to work the weak thermals. We tried to head up the valley to work the shear, but couldn't quite find it. For only the second time since I've started flying, I felt like I might get a little airsick. When I'm doing the flying, my visual and balance senses are much more in tune and it's never been a problem even with stalls and spins and hours of circling. But twice when I've been a passenger, it's gotten to me a bit. Hmm... both times with instructors, never with another private pilot. ;-) By consciously keeping my focus out of the cockpit, and trying to get some cool air, I got over it. (It did not help that my radio battery died and I had to look down for a some time while switching to a spare pack.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tehachapi Day 2

Sunday started with an extensive discussion in the "map room" to help the newer pilots get oriented and learn how they would fly northard over the Sierras. The floor-to-ceiling relief map is a terrific tool for this kind of training! Unfortunately, the weather was not expected to be adequate for any XC flights today, the same as Saturday.

It actually was cooler and windier. Everyone who went up early agreed that the lift was not working in the mountains but found shear line lift in the valley, but only up to 7200' MSL. Winds were about 15 knots but pretty straight down the runway.

About 3:30 I took a friend of a student pilot up for a flight. It wasn't his first glider flight; he'd been up one other time. Very bumpy on tow, but my passenger didn't mind. We got off tow at about 2200' AGL (6400 MSL) into lift and got up about 7200' right away. We flew around for a little while with a 1-26, but did not find much to keep us up. The wind was strong and took us down the valley very quickly. Pretty soon we were scratching around at pattern altitude and heading in.

The 1-26 was way below us... He must have been at 600 or 700 feet AGL when he entered the pattern, well below the usual 800 to 1000. Since he was ahead of us, I made an early decision to use the power runway since I didn't know if he would clear the glider runway. I'm glad I did, because there would not have been room.

Wind on final approach was pretty fierce but fortunately not crossways, and I made a good landing well into the runway. I was able to taxi all the way to the taxiway closest to our tiedown area.

I was surprised to find that the total flight time was only 15 minutes... It felt like we soared longer than that. But with only a 2200 foot tow with a pretty quick climb rate, and a fast downwind in the pattern, I guess that adds up. Better luck tomorrow, I hope.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tehachapi Day 1

I've had some busy weeks with business trips and my daughter's wedding so I haven't flown or blogged for a while. This weekend our clup is on a trip to Tehachapi, one of our favorite soaring locations. They brought the Grob 103 and a Blanik L13, and we have about 13 or so club members (several with their own ships).

Today was nice, a bit windy, which caused some pilots some trouble on takeoffs. Some people got thermals to 11,000' right off tow. I went up in the Grob with a student pilot. I did all the flying, he shot some video. We let off tow at about 8,400' and soon found a thermal up to 9,350' over the foothills. We went back to the higher hills and could not connect with any more thermals. But we did get quite a bit of what I think was anabatic lift: layers of heated air coming off the sides of the mountains and converging off the tops of the ridges. Because of the direction of the wind, and where we found downdrafts, I'm pretty sure it was not the orographic kind that people usually call "ridge lift". Anabatic is only found right above the "spine" and peak of a slope, and it's not wide enough to circle in. When you're in it, it feels kind of magic: you're heading right toward the mountain, and the mountain is lifting you up as you go! The highest we got in this kind of lift was about 8,500'.

When that started to dwindle, we headed out over the valley but did not find much. We ended up with a 45 minute flight. Wind during the landing was pretty stiff, 15 to 20 knots, but straight up the runway.