Saturday, May 26, 2012

Working more than flying

I had not flown since my great wave flight in March... I've been busy with projects at home and various commitments on the weekends. A lot has happened in the last couple of months. Due to some mid-year leadership changes, I've been appointed President of our soaring club. We've been working on transitioning both of our ships to Crystalaire, which will be our new base of operations for the foreseeable future. With our Blanik trainers grounded until the AD gets resolved, we've been working on some changes in rules and procedures to refocus our club operations around Private Pilots and our glass ships instead of around training.

Today we reassembled our Grob 103 Twin Astir at Crystal and did some maintenance on it. Sometimes the wings go on easily, but today we had a lot of trouble with the second wing. We don't assemble it often enough to have a real "groove" to our process. I took a test flight late in the afternoon in it with another pilot. The weather today was weird: windy out of the west, with some rotor clouds and some cumulus, but no wave clouds. There were few other pilots flying, but those that did reported strong lift and strong sink. It was quite turbulent on tow, and I had trouble with one of the flight controls (which I'm not going to detail), so I was not flying my best. I let off earlier than I planned because we flew through some very strong lift a couple of times. But the lift was hard to work and the wind was strong, and we kept drifting downwind out of it. Having started out low, we did not have much altitude to burn getting back to the lift. After just a few tries I had to enter the pattern. And of course THEN we found strong lift! Although the wind was strong and gusty, it was blowing straight down the runway, so the landing was not difficult (thought I gently bounced it).

After we landed we checked with two other club members who had flown, and our stories all matched: found strong lift on tow, got off tow at about 2,000' AGL, then could not work the lift, and landed after 9 to 12 minutes. That's twice I've done that at Crystal. My new motto is "Won't get fooled again!" No one opted to try a second flight - it just wasn't worth it.

This makes two years in a row that Memorial Day at Crystal was too windy to be fun. Last year was even worse! Maybe as the summer progresses we'll get rid of these Pacific storms and get some normal thermal soaring.