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!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

National Geographic from 1967

One of my first exposures to soaring was an article in National Geographic magazine. I used to read them cover to cover when I was a kid (still do, pretty much). After I got into soaring just a few years ago, I recalled that article and hoped to see it again someday. Well, a fellow has just finished posting it to his web site, pictures and diagrams and all. It's a wonderful introduction to soaring! I highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested... it'll give you a real sense of what it's all about and just how fun and unique it is. I'm putting this article on my permanent links. To anyone just discovering my blog: go read this, then come back here inspired.

It's from 1967, 40 years ago... but so much of it is still true. Sure, the high-end ships are all fiberglass or composite now... and we fly with GPS and lots of other electronics to make it safer. But you know, there are still a bunch of old Schweizer 1-26 and 2-33 gliders at my home field. And I learned to fly in a metal ship, the Blanik L-13. The thrill of one's first solo - and one's first flight alongside a raptor - is exactly the same as the article describes!

Friday, December 08, 2006


In the current issues of aviation magazines, there are ads for eFlyBook. This device contains various flight documents for power pilots, but the interesting part is the use of a "digital paper" display. Other than retail store signs, this is the first commercial use of digital paper that I have seen. Digital paper is a technology that uses tiny rotating beads, black on one side and white on the other, electrostatically rotated, forming a non-volatile, non-luminous display. The upside is that it is clearly visible in full sunlight! The downside is that right now DP is limited to monochrome. I am hoping that the PDA makers will someday produce a DP-based unit, which might eventually be useful with SeeYouMobile, WinPilot and the like. It's really hard to see the display on my HP IPAQ in the cockpit, even though the one I selected was recommended as one of the most visible. I did some searching and did not find any hints of such a product yet.