Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saturday March 21, 2015 Vernal Equinox - First Day of Spring

Visibility+30 mi
Wind: Light and variable
Altitudes: 4000+
Time Aloft: Hour+
Max Lift: 400 fpm
Temperature: mid-Eighties
Comment: Lots of visitors from Lemoore NAS
Tow pilot: Julie Butler, Harry Davies, Harold Gallagher.

The weather was beautiful, the field was in great shape and I'm excited that now the days will be longer than the nights. Or did you forget that is the definition of Vernal Equinox. Just a reminder.

There were numerous observers out there today. Our member Chris, his lady Annalee, and another pilot, Sean, arriving in a Cessna 172. Another group arrived in a Piper Warrior including Steve, his wife Rebecca, a corporate pilot, and Jamie, another pilot.

Chris arriving in a Cessna 172 and flew several flights with friends Jamie and Annalee.
Also, early on, Harry Davies arrived via car and had a good time both flying and towing. He checked out in the 1-26 and his flight looked great with no PIO's on takeoff. Now he can schedule out of the 2-33 making more room for others earlier in their training.

Yes, the 1-26 is back on line, with a huge thanks to Martin Caskey and Jan Zanutto, and with the help of other of our members too numerous to mention. They did a fabulous job of repairing and refurbishing the 1-26 and it handles well having been test flown by Martin.

Martin Caskey is test flying the 1-26 after he and Jan and others worked hard to get it back on line.

Alex Caldwell and Mel Council flew a series of training flights including one or two that involved some pretty good soaring based on what we could see from the ground and their time aloft. Yutaka Buto helped Alex and Mel where necessary and then flew the 1-26, or the 2-33, I'm not sure which.

Mel and Alex searching for thermals.
Looks like they found a good one and stayed aloft longer than others.
No, they didn't land out although it looks like it. Just a telephoto taken from the patio that shows the high grass in between. You can see Mel Council, Alex Caldwell, and Yutaka Buto preparing to haul the Orange Crush back to the launch area.

Julie and Morgan towed and mowed. Finally they headed back to SLO in the Cessna 152 they are partnered in. During their stay here, Julie did about 8 tows and Morgan mowed the grass in the center strip between Runways 31L and 31R. Thanks to you both for all that effort. And for the burrito you gave me during the day, Morgan. Delicious.

Julie and Morgan heading home in their Cessna 152.

Early in the morning, Jeff Richardson and Larry Johnson headed to Harris Ranch for fuel since Coalinga is out of fuel and not likely to have any soon. They got back in time for Jeff and I to fly the necessary three flights to complete his Biennial Flight Review. On the first flight I thought I'd surprise him with a 200 foot simulated rope break but he was ready instantly, turning in the right direction and holding airspeed and heading right back to the runway, with enough energy to roll back to the launch area. Great flying, Jeff.

Richard Walker is at it again with his wonderful construction skills, this time preparing a trailer to haul the 1-26 since we expect our members to begin cross country flying in that ship. That trailer will be a big help to free the flights away from home base. Without it, going cross country is a real risk of landing out an no good trailer to get it back to Avenal.

Our newest member, John Morris, flew his second and third flights today and is just about ready to declare the tow skill has moved to his subconscious and therefore easy to control. I suspect he'll be soloing in just a few more flights based on completion of the required maneuvers for solo. Nice flying John.

 Jim and Debby Rickey arrived in their Cessna 210 and while they didn't fly gliders, they helped out wherever necessary and then headed back to Hanford.

Jim and Debby Rickey in their Cessna heading back to Hanford or somewhere.
No that's not a gear problem, just Cessna's way of retracting the gear. Not technically neat.
But Jim loves his Cessna 210 in spite of the gear mechanism

Peter Sahlberg and his daughter Jamie, were hard at work both removing and replacing rivets on the 1-26 tailcone. They, along with others, helped get the 1-26 back on line with just a minimal few days without it being on the schedule. Thanks Peter and Jamie.

For those of you who travel the Avenal cutoff and are bored by the long, straight, flat, road of about 20 miles, here's another view of that road suggesting it isn't all that flat, straight, and boring.

The Avenal Cutoff taken from just east of I-5 at the beginning of the straight stretch.

If I have forgotten anyone who was there yesterday and helped out or flew, sorry. I was busy training and towing and didn't take many pictures that otherwise would have helped me remember who was there and what was accomplished. See you all next weekend. The thermals are getting stronger each weekend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Visibility: Clear enough.
Wind:6-7 knots out of the southeast/south most of the day.
Altitudes: Whatever release altitude was.
Time Aloft: High performance gliders longer than training gliders.
Max Lift: 400 fpm early but not so much later on.
Temperature: Mid-eighties.
Comment: Good day for practice on tow and light thermalling.
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey, Harry Davies, Harold Gallagher

It was a fun day but also a rather sad day because the young man, Yovani Hernandez, who used to come out to Avenal and help out during the day, was buried at the Coalinga cemetery in the morning. Two of our members boarded the tow plane and two were in the Orange Crush on tow and flew to Coalinga to pay tribute to Yovani and respects to his family at the grave-site. Then, Alex Caldwell and Mike Paoli visited the grave site and were there for a short time for the services. Rest in peace, Yovani.

Here's a link to a video that Alex Caldwell took of the flyover at Coalinga.

You might have to copy and paste it into your browser.

Balloons going skyward in honor of Yovani.

Gathering at the gravesite watching the CCSC flyover.

It was a very nice turnout of folks from Avenal who thought highly of Yovani and his family.
The really good news is that Philip Gerfaud passed his Commercial Glider checkride today as an add-on rating and couldn't have been happier. Dan was the principal instructor with me recommending Philip for the checkride. Phil is a great guy who lives down near Vandenberg Air Force Base, is in the Air Force working on the launching of rockets and although he really likes the atmosphere at Avenal, the drive to Santa Inez from his home in Santa Maria is a whole lot easier. So we may seen him here on and off during the soaring year.

The two guys who made it all happen. But Phil is the happier one.

Dan Gudgel finished the Saturday morning presentations with a discussion of the launch operations featuring a detailed discussion on winch/ground launch procedures. Following that up he presented a review of how we all should be operating on and off the field, for safety, for security, and for the welfare of all club members. Well done and a good refresher for everyone.

It was a busy day with just one glider for all who wanted to fly. So each flight was cut short a bit, not only because of the need to, but because the lift wasn't so great and no temptation existed to stay aloft longer than necessary. A few higher performance ships were towed but they didn't find much lift either.

Julie Butler nearly ready to launch but didn't find much lift.

Ethan Ronat flew his glider and wasn't too successful but remained aloft longer than most.

Jeff Richardson assembled the Russia and at least enjoyed the warm day flying rather than wishing.

Ron Ronat arrived with his Dad, Ethan, and it was quite a shock for me because the last time I saw Ron, he was about half the size he is today. Wow, I couldn't believe how much he has grown in the past two or three seasons.

Martin and Jan, our great guys who keep us flying with their selfless efforts.

The new part received and the worn part it replaces.
These are the parts that hold the axle to the fuselage for the main wheel.
Martin Caskey and Jan Zanutto working hard to get the 1-26 back in the air soon.
There were three Introductory flights today. The first was a U.S. Navy pilot who is a good friend of Harry Davies and just may start work on his add-on rating. John Morris really got a kick out of flying on tow. It frustrated him just enough that he is determined to get it right. So that may be the hook we can count on to see John back again next time.

Next up near the end of the day were Krista Moore and her Dad, Bill. It was a gift flight from Bill to Krista for her 30th birthday. Happy Birthday, Krista. She enjoyed the flight, was quite comfortable, and did a lot of sightseeing while we toured the area. Bill Moore flew with Dan Gudgel while Krista flew with me in the tow plane so she saw operations from the two most important viewpoints.

Finally, I think the one person who might have had the most fun was Skip Breidbach. This flight was just his fourth training flight but he took the controls 100% on tow even though the air was quite bumpy. It was a challenge well met for Skip but I"ll bet he welcomed releasing off tow. He wasn't done yet. After doing some training maneuvers and searching for lift, he finally found a good thermal area just to the east of Rte 33 and northwest of the town. We were down to 2300 msl by then but after working hard and keeping very focused he managed to find enough lift to get us back up to 3300 msl. On the fourth flight, to gain 1000 feet of altitude is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations Skip and the next time looks even better.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 21, 2015

WEATHER Nice spring-like conditions
Visibility: Hazy, some scraggly cus appeared along a weak convergence line, which stayed close to the field most of the afternoon.
Wind: Very light out of the Southeast and East.
Altitudes: 3000 AGL on tow, about 2800 MSL in soaring flight.
Time Aloft: 45 minutes
Max Lift: 2 kts. steady, occasional 3 kts.
Temperature: about 70 deg. F.
Comment: Nice spring-like day. A weak convergence line was almost stationary during the afternoon over,  and just to the west of the field,  marked by some cus. This enabled soaring flights by the 1-26 and the Orange Crush. In the Orange Crush, we did best by just flying straight along the clouds marking the convergence line, rather than stopping to circle. We made 2 round trip runs from North of the field down  to the prison and back, and gained about 600ft in the process.
Tow pilots: Dan Gudgel,  Harry Davies, Harold Gallagher
Donuts: Craig Gifford
Coffee brewed by: Alex Caldwell (didn't drink any).

                                           Craig Gifford flies the 1-26
Craig made a great first take off, tow and landing in the 1-26. This video shows the landing.  If you listen closely, you can hear what it sounds like when a wheel bearing has gone out!  There's also  something not quite right about my camera's exposure setting.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Photo by Harold and Dan.

  If only it stayed like this all year long! Photo by Skip Breidbach.

Spring is almost here! We have some yellow flowers and some blue ones, species unkown.


 Andy runs wing for Tyler Bishop. Photo by Skip Breidbach.

It was warm and sunny at Avenal. Very  nice weather,  compared to the fog in the Central Valley. Martin Caskey's good friend  Dennis came over, and told us it was foggy at Paso Robles also, so he had to drive out instead of his usual mode of transport - flying his Piper tail-dragger,  poor guy!

 Craig Gifford flew with Alex in Orange Crush to knock the rust off  after a winter lay-off following his win of the coveted "Iron Butt" award last year. Photo by Skip Breidbach.

Either Andy, Tyler or Craig taking off in the 1-26. Photo by Skip Breidbach.

 Tyler Bishop moving the 1-26 back to take-off area after his landing. He was able to stay up for some time in the convergence, flying with the Orange Crush. Photo by Andy Reistetter.

 Plenty of smashed bugs accumulated on the leading edges. A sure sign that spring is almost here,  and there are already thermals!

 Jaimie Strickland and Harold Gallagher on another  training flight.  Jaimie is off to a great start,  and seems to be enjoying her flying.
Wheel bearing went out on left side on the 1-26. Will need to be repaired before it is flown again.

Other pilots at the field today included Andy Reistetter who flew the 1-26, Skip Breidbach, who flew with Harold, helped out, and took some nice pictures.

Dan and  Graeme McIntosh  started flying early,  and had made a lot of tows before any of the rest of us even got out to the field. Graeme did 15 rope breaks,  and  met his time and flight requirements to enter the Canadian instructor course this summer.  Dan then flew with Philip Gerfaud. Philip is working hard on his rating,  and has flown several different types of gliders in Europe that we can only dream about here in the U.S.  Well,  I can say I have flown the Schweizer 2-22, the 2-33, 2-33A, 1-26A, 1-26B, 1-26C, 1-26D and 1-26E. But that doesn't sound as good as some of the European gliders I'd like to try out.

Thanks to Craig for the Donuts!

We made a total of 28 tows today. Thanks to the tow pilots and the mechanics who have kept our tow plane going!

Thanks to Harold for the $600 Coalinga fuel run, without which none of this fun would have happened!

RASP recap:   From Bart's Avenal RASP forecast for the day from the previous evening.

 The Hcrit represents the height that an average "Joe Glider Pilot" might be expected to achieve. It was pretty close to what we got in the convergence, about 2800ft. MSL. Avenal is No. 1 on the map for reference.

There was a convergence line during the day that was predicted here by the RASP. The line we actually got was just a little bit North of what is indicated here, by a mile or two,  but the orientation  of the line was accurate. 
 The surface winds are interesting here in relation to the convergence line. They are light out of the East on the East side of the Convergence and just a little stronger out of the West SW on the west side of the line. This is what we saw from our perspective at the field. So the winds appeared to be feeding into the convergence line that we flew.
The predicted thermal height  indicated by the RASP skew-T Avenal sounding forecast was not too far off. However, there did appear to be somewhat more moisture in the atmosphere than what the RASP predicted, as the convergence line was marked by some scraggly cus most of the day. Later in the day, higher, thicker clouds started building up over the Black Mountain / Castle Peak area to the West,  and we could see virga and actual rain over the mountains by about 5:00p.m. This did not seem to be predicted by the RASP.  The Forecast discussion indicated a low was centered right near Fresno,  and was starting to build strength right in our local area, so the RASP may have been somewhat off on the timing of that event.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 14, 2015

Visibility:         3-4 miles at the beginning of the day, 5-7 miles later.
Wind:             A gust of 11 MPH was recorded across the street--we never felt anything that strong..
Altitudes:        Whatever you released at.
Time Aloft:     15 minutes.  Max.
Max Lift:        Enough to decrease your sink rate.
Temperature: 70° -74° F throughout the afternoon.
Comment:      Leisurely day.
Tow pilots:     Dan, Harry, Nick.

Dan started the morning with ground instruction for future towpilots Nick and Harry.  Nobody was ready to be towed before class, so the flying part of Nick and Harry's checkout was deferred until after class.

Dan is showing new tow pilots Harry and Nick details to look for when inspecting a rope.

Dan gave a ground school about forecast products available and how to read them, air movement, stable vs. unstable air, why moist air is a detriment to thermal development, what happens to thermals after a shear line passes, and why the mighty Sierras don't lend themselves to ridge lift.

Dan starting the topic of "Mountain Wave."
Alex followed with a ground school about the RASP, Regional Atmospheric Soaring Predictor, which is of interest to soaring pilots.  Alex went into the nuts and bolts of generating the forecast, and therefore some of its limitations, then he went on to how to use the products generated by the RASP.

Alex explaining RASP map.

Only two gliders, Orange Crush and the 1-26, made it to the launch area today.
Jaime Strickland is a Veterinarian in Tulare and a new member.  Here she is in Orange Crush getting briefed by Harold before takeoff.
Jaime.  Photo Courtesy of Skip Breidbach.

Jaime has started her takeoff roll.  Photo: Skip.
Good position on the takeoff roll.  Photo: Skip
Steve Valentine joined the club after an introductory lesson a couple of weeks ago. He's a good friend of Jan Zanutto's from the Fresno area, and shares a mutual passion for motorcycles with Jan.  Now it looks like he may have also been hooked by Jan with a fascination for soaring.
Alex adjusts the shoulder harness for Steve Valentine.
Alex gives Steve a preflight briefing.  Photo: Skip
Harry also has good soft-field technique on the landing.  Photo: Skip
Dan Clark is waiting for the towplane to return
Nick (orange shirt) had to leave before his flights for towpilot checkout were complete. 
Harry is walking towards the plane to begin the inflight portion of his towpilot checkout.
Harry has the nose up for a "soft field takeoff."
Jeff Richardson checking the airspace above the gliderport.
Allen White runs the wing for Jeff.
Jaime pointed out that Harold was giving real "ground instruction."
Allen White is ready for takeoff in Orange Crush.
Five minutes later Allen is landing.  Spectators in the launch area are closely watching, ready to move.
Allen's accuracy in rolling out to the desired spot was reminiscent of a Bob Hoover airshow landing.
Harry Davies is a new member.  Orange Crush must be quite a change form his job of flying F-18s at Lemoore.
Harry has completed his checkout in the towplane and is now trying the other end of the rope, which Richard has just attached to Orange Crush.
Jaime runs the wing as Harry starts his takeoff roll.
Not telling who is in the glider or who is in the towplane.  Doesn't matter--this is still a pretty sight for mid-February.
Photo: Skip

Around 3:30 there was a little bit of lift to be found.  Jim felt the left wing getting lifted over the circle crop and work it for about three 360° turns.  Did not gain any altitude, but did not lose any, either, staying right at 2800 MSL ± a few feet.  Probably could have worked it longer, but headed back towards the gliderport in hopes of finding something over the dry fields where a raven had found a little bit of lift.  Did not work, and there was no going back to the circle crop.  At 2000' MSL, about where one would make the downwind to base turn for runway 13, did get an actual climb and tried to stay in it, but that little bit of lift was surrounded by sink.  Time to come home.