Sunday, January 03, 2010

Clear weather - new terrain - but no lift

We're experiencing some gusty winds from the north as a result of high pressure building up after a front went through a few days ago. The direction looked good for producing ridge lift in the "bowl" near Lake Elsinore. And the ADDS wind forecast predicted about 15 knots at the altitude of the top of the ridge. If the orographic lift didn't materialize, there was still the chance of thermal lift. The calculated trigger temperature was 74F. The maximum ground temperature forecasts were all over the place, from 67F to 80F. But at Lake Elsinore, the wind ranged from zero to about 5 knots - usually about zero. It started to heat up fairly well, probably to the mid-70's. (I don't think there's a thermometer out near the flight line - maybe I'll bring one out.)

The local club pilots know that we're new at this location, so they kindly offer suggestions. Several pointed out that it would be better to head for the "Sedco Hills" to the east because of the sun heating up their west-facing slopes. They also pointed out landmarks where thermals can sometimes be found.

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This sounded like a good idea. I had not flown that direction yet, and one concern was that it's a bit further away from the Initial Point for the landing pattern. There are some restrictions at this site about where you can and can't fly, and returning from the Sedcos means you have to traverse more of the no-thermaling area. That means leaving yourself more altitude for the return flight - which means less altitude for hunting for thermals. One pilot suggested that, depending on the wind direction, one could need 800 to 1000 feet to get from the hills to the IP, so that's what I planned on doing.

I let off at 3200' AGL and flew back and forth over the hills a few times. Due to the clear air, the views were terrific, but the lift was nonexistent. I did have time to take a few pictures.

"blip"... finally my audio vario came to life indicating some weak lift. But it died after a half turn. I could find a few blips every time I went around, but not enough to take me upward. Unfortunately it was right over the I-15 freeway, which is the border of the no-thermaling skydiving drop zone. So I could not explore over the flatlands to see if the lift would pick up. Too soon, it was time to head west to the IP.

Well... I could tell visually that it was not as far from the Sedco Hills to the Initial Point as I had thought. I consumed only about 400 feet of altitude getting across the valley. I can see how if the coastal wind is coming from the west it could take more altitude, but for normal flying I don't think it will be a big deal. I got back over near the IP with about 600-700 feet to hunt for more lift. I found a few more blips but nothing strong enough to work.

My pattern and landing were very good. I'm learning to do a "wheel landing" in the Blanik, because of the long, soft dirt runway. That means keeping the glider level on the main wheel after touchdown so the tailwheel doesn't dig in and stop the rollout right away. Quite a contrast from the extreme short stops that we always performed at Hemet. My rollout was nearly all the way back to the taxiway... I just forgot about the light crosswind at the last minute, so I wasn't perfectly straight.

Now the problems began. We're having a problem with the tailwheel on the ship I was flying. It digs into the soft dirt and doesn't roll! I don't think it's the bearing - the wheel rolls fine if you pick up the tail and spin it. And it casters (turns side to side) OK. We think the problem is that the rod it's mounted on is able to twist, so the wheel lays over on its side a few degrees instead of castering into the direction of the turn.

This makes it nearly impossible for two people to push the glider around. It's constantly digging in, and it's as if the brake is being applied.

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