Monday, July 30, 2007

An OK flight on a hot day

I took a flight in the PW5 on Saturday. With the monsoon weather, I thought there might be some CU to mark the lift, but all the CU were up higher and on the other side of the mountains marking orographic lift. Down in the valley, it was too dry for the thermals to generate clouds. I think it was about 100F when I took off. I let off in lift at 4200' MSL and worked up as high as 5900'. There was lift, but it was ragged and hard to center, and turbulent. (It wasn't just me, others on the radio were mentioning it as well.)

It made it hard to control my speed well. I want to double-check the recommended speeds for thermaling in both the PW5 and the Grob 103 to make sure I'm not flying too slow... sometimes it's hard to tell whether I'm hitting wind effects in rough thermals, or feeling stall buffet and slightly falling out of my turns. I want to practice some turns in still air next time and see how they feel.

I passed just under a hawk. He was heading the opposite way, so we were moving very quickly relative to each other. He (she?) was white underneath with black or brown spots, not a Red-Tailed Hawk.

I got high enough to fly over to the "S" ridge, which is I guess 6 or 7 miles from the airport. But then there was nothing working on the ridge, so I came back and joined a thermal underneath A. in one of our Blaniks. Then I flew around for a while and did not find any significant lift, though it was probably still working. It was pretty warm up there... I did not get high enough for it to really cool down. So when the lift petered out I came down, hot and a little tired after an hour and 20 minutes of bumps.

My IPAQ shut off again during this flight, and this time it was strapped to my leg, which negates my vibration theory. I guess it must be heat getting to it. Turning it on did not resync it with the GPS in the Volkslogger. I had to stop and start SeeYou, and then it hooked up right away. But I imagine it broke my flight into two files. This is not good - I don't know what else I can do to keep the unit cool.

I worked on improving my approach planning, paying more attention to the wind direction and its effects on each leg of the pattern. It was important today because the wind aloft was from quite a different direction than the AWOS was reporting. I also paid more attention to giving radio calls during each phase of the approach, something that we are pretty lax about at our field. (It seems that's the part that I forget if things get busy during the approach.) That was also important today, because there was another glider about 30 seconds behind me in the pattern. I knew he was an expert - we landed close together a couple weeks ago, too - but I wanted him to be clear on where I was.

All in all, a good flight - but I had to work for it.

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.