Saturday, June 14, 2014

Climbing the Sky

It was about 90 degrees F at Crystal today. I launched the in PW5 about 1:30 and we encountered some strong lift on tow before reaching the Second Ridge. I don't often let off tow before getting over the ridge, but this was pretty strong, so I did at 6,300' MSL. I immediately regretted it as I lost 400 to 500 feet before finding any lift. But that thermal lift over the desert was pretty good, and before long I was up to 7,000'. That was enough to get onto the low end of the Second Ridge.

There was another glider flying the ridge lengthwise, and since the wind was from the north I figured that was a good plan - we should find ridge lift. There seemed to be a bumpy mixture of ridge lift and thermals, so eventually I made it to the upper (east) end of the Second Ridge and gained some more altitude, up to about 8,100'. That was enough to let me hop over to a little "third ridge" below Mt. Lewis. It was acting like either ridge lift or anabatic lift, so I was able to work it uphill.

I got over the top of Mt. Lewis and topped out at 9,800', then flew the ridge top and hopped over part of the "bowl" over to Mt. Williamson. Up on top, I seemed to find some lift that was not strictly north-facing ridge lift. The RASPtable map this morning had shown there should be wind from both the north and the south, converging somewhere over the tops of the mountains. Maybe that's what I was finding... it wasn't very strong up there.

Since I was approaching 10,000 feet, at which altitude I always start oxygen, I fumbled around and finally got my Oxymiser on... only to find out I had never turned the regulator on after testing it on the ground! I found that I was able to reach behind me and find the knob - I don't think I have ever done that in flight before. And then of course I never broke the 10,000' layer after all.

I came back down and worked the Second Ridge again. There were a couple of other gliders there, and we shared a thermal for a while - that's always fun. I was able to run the whole length of the ridge and stay at the same altitude, so there was definitely some ridge lift working.

My tailbone started getting a little sore after more than an hour, so I headed back toward the airport. Earlier I had realized I had not done any slips for a long time, so I practiced those a few times. Out over the desert, there was light lift everywhere, so it would have been possible to stay up all day. Another glider was a bit higher than me and wanted to land first, so I was able to just loaf around in lift and stay up while he landed.

Since winds were "light and variable" I had my choice of landing direction, so I chose runway 7 which would let me roll out close to my tiedown spot. Of course there was lift all the way down. By the time I turned onto my base leg, I realized I was pretty high. And I had been too close in on the downwind leg, so the base leg was not long enough to really let me lose much altitude. Full spoilers did the trick, but I was about 1/3 of the way down the mile-long runway before I got close to the ground. Um... would have been a good time to use a slip like I had just practiced - but I didn't think of it! Something to work on next time. One quirky thing about Crystal is that there's a hump just about in the middle of the runway, so just when I was about to touch down I had to hold off a bit. My landing was smooth and straight, and the wind helped me keep good directional control and level wings until I stopped just about 50 feet or so from my parking spot. A far cry from my last landing when the winds were all over the place on both takeoff and landing!

So... an hour and 41 minutes and 4,000' of altitude gain after a low release. That's one of the most satisfying aspects of local flying: really climbing the sky. This was one of the first times - if not THE first time - I have been able to climb all the way from the desert to the top of the mountains.


    PMSC Member said...

Nice flight, thanks for writing it up. Do you post your flight logs on the web anywhere? It would be nice to be able to match the flight path with the description.

Roger Worden said...

Not very often, for several reasons: my flight computer is more trouble than it's worth. It's old and sensitive to heat, so sometimes it fails on the ground or in the air. On the ground, it can cause a delay before launching. In the air, it's a distraction to reset it.

Also, I've learned from some expert pilots to put away the electronic thermal detector and fly more by the seat of my pants. My club ship does not have a place to mount a computer, so I strap it securely to my leg. That works, but it means looking down instead of looking out for traffic. Since I mostly do local flying these days, I don't take the computer along very often.

I have posted a few flight traces: Dust Devil Dash contests, cross-country practice triangles, and a very cool trace of climbing up in wave lift. Search for "trace".