Thursday, February 4, 2016

SATURDAY, January 23-30, 2016

Visibility: Mostly clear with some haze after a few foggy days.
Wind: On the 23rd and 24th, mild. On the 30th, a strong crosswind, 15G22kts
Altitudes: Tow heights only.
Time Aloft: 30 minutes on the 24th.
Max Lift:1-2 kts.
Temperature: Cool, in the 60's
Comment: Moved operations to Coalinga
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey, Frank Owen.

They did it!!!

What, you say, did they do? Something that hasn't been done in my time in the club (Since 1992).

They, Cal Poly students Troy Wollman and Neiman Walker recovered a lost rope that had separated shortly after takeoff. Most of the time, we never recover a rope that has separated in flight. If we're over a plowed field, the rope just buries itself straight in and we never find it. Once in awhile, we'll find a small end of it snagged on the barbed wire fence. But mostly we never retrieve either the rope or the expensive hardware that is more difficult to replace. The story follows after the pictures taken on Saturday the 23rd.

Sergio and Alex landing on runway 1 at Coalinga.
Bringing the glider back to runway 12/30 for continuing launches.
Jim Rickey inspecting the steel skid plate, worn too badly to continue operations on the 23rd.
Jenn Bauman ready to launch on runway 30 at Coalinga.
Jenn doing good work staying aloft for half an hour in very weak lift.
Happy to have completed the flight but now ready to go aloft by herself.
Jesse McClintock helping Jenn get launched for her solo flight at Coalinga.
Frank Owen and Jesse waiting for Jim Rickey to get into position in the tow plane.
Nice wide open spaces off the end of runway 30 as Jenn Bauman prepares her glider.
Jenn had a nice flight all alone and it made her feel a lot better than just before launch.
Off she goes behind Jim Rickey in the tow plane.
Off the runway and setting up a crab to account for the right cross wind on runway 30 at Coalinga.
Jennifer fueling the towplane at the end of flight operations on the 23rd of January.
Because of the worn skidplate we weren't sure if any operations could take place on Sunday. But they did find a spare plate in the clubhouse and Jim Rickey installed it. So, operations were on for the next day, Sunday.

In the meantime, Troy Wollman and Neiman Walker sent a text telling us that they had examined the Go-Pro video and determined that they could estimate rather closely, where the rope might have landed after breaking from the tow plane.

Here's his email:

After analyzing footage from the rope break flight, Neiman and I believe that we have determined the location of the rope. The dark green shroud is where it most likely fell. The lighter areas are possible as well, although less likely. The video shows the rope "snapping back" from the towplane towards the glider. This was likely sufficient to release the rope. We placed a pin on the map directly below where the glider was flying at this moment. GPS coordinates included. Maybe a few people want to walk over with phones or a GPS and see if we are correct? 

Troy Wollman

An overview of the area showing the possible location in relation to the Coalinga airport.

The dark green is the best estimate of where the rope fell. They found it in that exact area.
And there it is folks!!! Fortunately it didn't bury itself in soft earth, to be lost forever.
I'm not sure but whoever this is must have fainted at the surprise of finding the rope.
On Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 6:56 PM, Troy Wollman <> wrote:
We were able to recover the broken rope from Coalinga today. We usually record our flights using GoPro cameras. On this particular flight, Neiman was wearing a camera with a headstrap. We accidentally tipped the camera too far forward, which was serendipitous for this flight, because it gave us a clear view of the rope break. Notice in the video that there are two distinct sounds; the rope breaking and the release opening.

We found the rope about 300 ft from where we expected it to be. At least we can keep the weak link and hardware.

Troy Wollman

Meanwhile back at the Avenal assembly hangar, Jan Zanutto, Martin Caskey, and Jim Rickey were busy getting Big Bird back on its wheel. As Jan mentioned, it's getting so much closer to flying again and we are all waiting anxiously for that to happen. Thanks to all those who worked on the project.

The main wheel is just about to touch down for the first time in a long time.
It's beginning to look like a glider again, a beautifully restored glider at that.
Not sure whether glider operations will continue at Coalinga or head back to Avenal. As expected, it's a lot easier to conduct glider operations at Avenal, safer, and less wear and tear on the glider. Maybe the weekend of February 6-7 we'll move back to Avenal.

Harold Gallagher

SATURDAY, January 16, 2016 Written by Andrew Palmer

Visibility: 25 SM+ under the overcast
Wind: Light breeze from the southeast
Altitudes: None
Time Aloft: None
Max Lift: None
Temperature: 62 deg. F maximum
Comment: No flying today!
Tow pilot: None

Click on the photos for larger sizes of all photos.

The Akafliegers were out in force today. After a long and relaxing Christmas break, the Cal Poly students returned to Avenal ready for a full year of flying.  Jennifer Bauman, Troy Wollman, Neiman Walker, Luke Bughman, Griff Malloy, Jesse McClintock, Andrew Palmer, and Beth Hotchkiss came to the field despite the warnings of inclement weather. They used their time at Avenal to clear the launch end of the field of tumbleweeds and larger plants to allow more gliders to line up and thus hopefully decrease the time between launches. There were also plans to inspect the winch line more closely by running it out along the field and looking for surface tears or fuzzy sections of the spectra but due to the muddy field this was postponed for a later weekend.

The Cal Poly group decided to work around the field when the flying wasn't going to happen.
A selfie taken by Jennifer Bauman showing the group hard at work at the launch end of runway 31.
A contest to see how far one could throw the remnants of weeds at the launch end
Not sure who won the contest but the weeds were gotten rid of nevertheless.
Mostly wrapping up the work at the end of the day.

The field was slimy on the surface with some definitive muddy spots in the morning. As the day warmed up, the field dried a little but it was still far too wet to even drive the golf cart on the main strip. Some of the Akafliegers worked to remove some of the ruts that had been created during ops the previous week and were fairly successful at smoothing them out before the ground became too dry to pack down later in the afternoon.

Jim, Martin, and Dan also came to Avenal to check on the performance of the towplane and to possibly give it a test flight. The towplane did start up and ran to their satisfaction. Martin and Jim checked the field all day to find a 600’ stretch to use for a towplane test flight, but unfortunately it was determined that the field was still too wet even at the end of the day to risk getting ruts on the field.

            A working day at Avenal! Even though there was no flying to be had, spirits were high and at the end of the day the field and the towplane were ready for another great year of soaring!

--Andrew Palmer

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Visibility: Unlimited
Wind: 5-10 kts out of the N.
Altitudes: 2000 AGL
Time Aloft: 20 min.
Max Lift: brief periods of zero sink
Temperature: in the 60s at maximum.
Comment: We operated out of New Coalinga due to the recent muddy field conditions at Avenal.
Tow pilot: Frank Owen

Due to the more  frequent rains and muddy field conditions limiting our operations this winter, it was decided to move our Saturday operations temporarily to New Coalinga Airport.  We had a good turn out Saturday, with several of the Cal Poly Students, known as "Akafliegers",  showing up. Among them were Jennifer Bauman, Troy Wollman, Neiman Walker, Jesse McClintock and Andrew Palmer.   They all flew with Harold Gallagher.  Sergio Grajeda from Avenal also came out and flew with Alex Caldwell.  Also there were stalwarts  Jim Rickey, Morgan Hall, Martin Caskey and Dennis Lyons. The wind all day was from about 30 deg. magnetic, which resulted in an almost exact 90 deg. cross wind on either runway 30 or 12, a condition that is fairly common at New Coalinga. At first, it looked like it was windy enough to make operating on runway 1 more favorable,  due to it's being aligned better with the wind direction. We did one cross wind take off on runway 30 and landed on  runway 1. After one flight from runway 1, it appeared that the wind was decreasing and was only about 5-10 kts, so we moved back to runway 30,  and ended up operating from the midfield taxiway the rest of the day.  The wind did not change much in strength or direction the whole rest of the afternoon.  On one flight, there was a "for real" rope break. It happened that Nieman Walker was recording a video of his flight  and recorded the incident. The Cal Poly Akaqflieg students, including Luke Bughman, Griff Malloy, Beth Hotchkiss and Kyle O' Connor,   came out the next Saturday, Jan 30.   Using the video to determine the probable location of the rope,  they were able to do a search and retrieved it from a pasture. Interestingly, the rope broke near the tow plane end. We realized this when the tow plane returned to land with only about 10 ft. of rope attached. The ropes tend to wear more near the glider end, but if the ends get swapped, the more worn section can also end up on the tow plane end. With the large amount of rope hanging off the glider, the drag caused it to "back release" quickly after the rope break without the glider pilot pulling the release, which is the designed in behavior that occurred here.
Video of the "exciting" rope break incident. It appears that the rope just broke while the glider was in a normal tow position rather than from being jerked. 
                                                      Jennifer runs the wing on the 2-33.
                                        Tow plane readying for another take off on runway 30.
                                           Jennifer piloting the 2-33 with Harold. 
 Bart's RASP had predicted some rain later in the afternoon, which arrived about on schedule,  but was a bit to the NE of us. It produced a nice rainbow. Our operation had been cut a bit short as the skid on the 2-33 had worn through, so we decided it was time to shut down the operation and replace it for next week. Actually,  through fast work on the part of Jim Rickey and Morgan Hall, a replacement skid was in place by late on Saturday and the glider was ready to fly on Sunday Jan. 24.
Jim and Morgan winding down talking about the day's activities as the rain approaches behind what looks like a small "roll cloud". There was some vertical development to the clouds late in the afternoon to the extent of "towering cumulus", but no severe weather developed,  such as CB's, with  hail, microbursts etc. But we were wary, as the NWS had a warning out about possible thunderstorms that afternoon. The area just North of Coalinga over the San Benitos will often generate a thunderstorm if they do happen to occur in this area.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Visibility: 25 SM+ under the overcast.
Wind: SW at 10kts
Altitudes: 2800 MSL
Time Aloft: 30 min
Max Lift: 1.5 kts
Temperature: 54 deg. F maximum.
Comment: Sergio and Alex flew twice in the Orange Crush.
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey

Weak wave at Avenal.

Sergio and Alex made two flights in the Orange Crush on
Saturday. It looked like a poor flying  day in the morning. Some folks,
who were thinking of coming out,  cancelled before making the long drive,
due to the weatherforecast. The Avenal RASP forecast indicated possible precipitation right
over the airport between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00p.m. On my way out to
the airport, it was raining lightly as I came over the Kettleman Hills. I did
not think we would do any flying, but Sergio Grajeda has been working on
ground school studies in anticipation of soloing soon, so I decided to
continue out to the airport,  go over his pre-solo written test and continue
with some ground school topics with him.

                                                                    Sergio Sanding

Stalwarts Jim Rickey and Sergio worked in the morning on
Big Bird in the south hangar. Sergio was also anxious to fly, as he had not been
up in a month,  and was very close to soloing on his latest flights back in December.
The runway conditions were OK for operations. There was a slight softness south of
the clubhouse, but no mud or standing water etc.  The wind was out of the SW, favoring
runway 13. The runway was drier on that end. Jim drove the length of the runway to check
it's condition.

Sergio and I started working on his pre-solo written test at the clubhouse. The three of us then
broke for lunch at the Gallery restaurant in town. They have both Mexican and U.S. cuisine.
Their hamburgers are very good,  and you can enjoy the locally produced art work on
display. Sergio vouched for the place, as he is a former employee there.
We continued the pre-solo test at the restaurant,  and had finished it by the time were done
with lunch. Arriving  back at the field, it appeared that the forecast of rain was not going
to happen.  There was a solid overcast, but with quite thin areas. Black Mountain was obscured by clouds
 and it appeared there might be some light precip. up there,  but it never approached the field. Radar views obtained over the Internet showed some light returns on the coast side of the mountains,  but nothing signficant  appeared to be approaching Avenal, so we decided to pre-flight and then  tow the Orange Crush out to runway 13, with Jim agreeing to tow.

                                           Lenticular,  and maybe some rotor clouds prior to flying.

Sergio and I made two flights to 2000 ft. AGL. We saw clouds that appeared to be
wave clouds to the West, just downwind of the Ridge near Tar Canyon. There also appeared
to be some cumuliform,  probable rotor cloud,  underneath what looked to be a lenticular at times.
 The wind on the ground was from the SW varying from 5 - 12 kts., providing a right cross wind on take off and landing on runway 13.  Sergio handled the cross wind very well on take-off and landing  on both flights,
even though we did not have a wing runner.   On the first flight, we saw the suspected wave cloud
to the West, but did not tow far enough in that direction to get under it. But we did encounter some
weak lift just North of the field while low,  that we thought might be signs of a  secondary wave in a well known area for that prior to entering a right hand pattern for runway 13.

                                                Sergio handled the right crosswind well.
On the next flight, we decided to ask to be towed further west and release
under the lenticular-looking cloud just downwind of the ridge. It was further out from the field,  but
upwind. The wind seemed quite a bit stronger at tow release altitude than it had on the ground at Avenal, often a favorable sign when looking for wave. On tow,  we felt like we were encountering some mild rotor like turbulence under the lenticular cloud, and got some lift where we were climbing at 6 kts on tow. We got off just upwind of this area,  and after releasing, had some zero sink in smooth air that we thought was wave, but were not able to  really climb. So,  we decided we better head back to the field,  in case we encountered the down part of the wave on the way back. When we got over the eastern edge  of the Kreyenhagen Hills, just SW of where the old tank was, we encountered some more lift. Suspect it was weak rotor, as it was not smooth,  but we were able to climb at 1.5kts for a while. The cloudbase was fairly  low, probably about 3800ft MSL,  and it was a complete overcast, with Black Mtn.  being obscured. We again decided to head back for the field. We didn't encounter any more lift, and concentrated on making a good pattern and landing, rather than trying to find the secondary wave etc.  I believe someone flying a high performance glider would have been able to have a sustainable wave flight today, although the solid  overcast would have limited the altitude attainable.

                         Lenticular-like clouds. Looking SW  towards Tar Canyon at the end of the day.

After flying, Jim worked even longer on the tow plane. It had been decided amongst our mechanics, that
the carburetor and the magnetos would be removed, inspected and overhauled prior to further towing. Jim
worked very hard to get it all done, and had the items on the bench just before we lost the day's available natural lighting. Thanks Jim!

Saturday, January 2, 2016


Visibility: More than 30 miles
Wind: Light and variable from the northwest
Altitudes: Tow altitudes only
Time Aloft: 20 minutes plus or minus
Max Lift: 50 fpm when you could find it.
Temperature: Mid 70's
Comment: Cal Poly students made up most of the activity.
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey and Harold Gallagher

Click on the photos for larger sizes of all photos.

It wasn't much of an operations day but the Cal Poly students made it fun. While Jim Rickey and his help worked on Big Bird, there were a few training flights. First up was Clark Woolf who continues to develop a good set of flight skills. Today he was rusty from not flying for a few weeks and he recognized how that kind of a layoff can affect one's skills. But by the end of the second flight he had regained what he had lost during the past weeks. His progress is excellent and there is no doubt he'll solo on his 14th birthday.

Clark Woolf going over his pre-launch checklist for safety and a fun flight.
 The Cal Poly students were out in force, totaling eight, with one new member added. Beth Hotchkiss joined the club today and we welcome her as part of that great group of students from San Luis Obispo. Richard Walker took her for a first ride while I did the towing when I could. Jim Rickey filled in when there was no other alternative and I appreciated his help. The only student who elected to take a training flight was Andrew Palmer who is working diligently toward his solo flight. He will solo soon enough as I notice his skills getting better and his decision making is right on target.

It was a good day for the students who dominated use of the Orange Crush and had no competition for it during the day.

A little help from Troy checking the fuel level before riding in the tow plane.
Now it's Troy's turn to make a solo flight just to stay current.
The students gathering around while the Orange Crush is readied for launch.
It's nice to see them all supporting one another all day long, not tiring at all.
The tow plane is taxing into place for Troy's launch.
Rope is nearly taut and when that happens, Troy can signal he's ready to go.
The tow plane aloft en-route back to the field for another try.
Moving the Crush back quickly so that another flight or two can launch before sunset.
They almost put it away but another student wanted one more flight.
It's back to the launch area for one more flight before the sun drops below the West Ridge.
Here they all are after a fun-filled day of watching, helping, flying, and tying down.

They can pick which of the three photos of the group they want to save.

The end of the day and now they will all head home for the Holidays. Have fun and we'll see you all next year.

Harold Gallagher