Monday, December 16, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Visibility:        Great above the haze, lousy below 3000'
Wind:            Calm
Altitudes:       As high as the towplane got you.
Time Aloft:     Max 40 minutes
Max Lift:        Zero Sink
Temperature:  Max. 63°
Comment:      Smooth & Hazy
Tow pilot:      Bill in the Pawnee

Several of Saturday's participants sent out emails to all members of the club. I have simply brought them all together into one blog, edited a little to make them flow, then posted them here--Jim.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
There were a handful of us flying on Saturday.  It was glassy smooth, and foggy over toward the Paso Robles area.  I released over Tar and trimmed up for some slow flight in the zero sink that was there.  Absolutely smooth, and quiet.  I think I was doing just under 50.

The zero sink gave way to 2-400fpm down, and as I headed back for Avenal I ran into a tiny little 200fpm thermal near the old house.  I was able to loiter in that thermal for about 15 minutes and basically just hold my altitude.  It too diminished and I headed back in.

Here is a YouTube link to a short version of the full video so you can see how it looked:

Jan Zanutto

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As Jan reported, those of us that flew on Saturday experienced little, if any, lift and lots of haze.  Nevertheless, it was a most enjoyable day at Avenal.  Those of us that are working toward a license were able to get in as many training flights as we wanted.  In part, this was due to the limited number of folks flying.  But in larger measure, it was due to the efficient manner in which the launches and retrievals were organized and the quick turnaround time afforded by the Pawnee towplane.  As usual, the best part of being at Avenal (aside from the moment we pull the red handle) was the sense of camaraderie, support, and helpfulness that seems to define the sport of soaring at Avenal.

So, thanks, Morgan, for arranging the tows, to Bill for flying them, and to Dan and Alex for sharing their extensive experience and wisdom with all of us.

Mike Paoli

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The air was still, the views were awesome.  I took two 3k tows.  Well worth it.  One note, it appears that we had burst pipes on the irrigation system--we had a mudpit from the clubhouse extending about 80 feet onto the runway.  The water was off when I got there.  I opened the valve at the meter and isolated the irrigation back to the in-ground gate valve.  We left the water in service to the clubhouse.  The irrigation and overhead spray will need work.

Joe Anastasio

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Nice video Jan!  From the ground,  we saw a big red-tailed hawk soaring in the same area where you found the thermal.  Looked like he or she was maybe 1500 ft. AGL.  It was making these long flat straight in approaches to landings in the scrubby tree just off the approach end of runway 31.  It's the tree Morgan cut the top off of a while back, but it's now growing back.

Those were great comments Mike.  It was a fun day even though I never actually flew, it was great hanging out with everybody.

Alex Caldwell

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I am deep in prep for my Single Engine Land checkride and couldn't make it out. Being a glider pilot before going for my power add-on has been a huge advantage, but I am having to fly a number of hours just to have the hours logged doing certain activities to satisfy all the applicable FARs.  Too bad, because I also need to take 3 flights with Harold and Alex to get my Commercial glider checkride endorsement.

The haze pouring over into the coastal valleys from the Central Valley was really thick and a sharp inversion at around 3500 was just about everywhere. I am amazed that Jan found even 15 minutes of soarable air in that thick stuff.

Great to hear that you guys were running fun and efficient.

Morgan Hall

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As I drove over the hill separating Avenal from the main San Joaquin Valley, one look at the low haze layer in the Avenal valley told me I not going to be soaring today, just gliding.  I took 3 tows to 3000'.  On the first ascent there were some bumps that made me think I might be able to find some lift, but by 1800' MSL it was smooth as glass.

Spent most of my time practicing 720° steep turns, or more often, just the entry to and exit from the steep turn, and maybe a 360°.  In my power plane world I have never come close to using every bit of control travel to start and stop a steep turn.  Neither have I in a power plane ever had to use any noticeable opposite aileron to keep the steep turn from getting steeper.  Of course, at twice the speed the turn radius is 4 times greater, so the velocity difference between the inside wing and the outside is not nearly as dramatic.

At 3800' I could see the peaks around Gorman and Tehachapi and the snow on the Sierras.  Picked a distant peak to sight on for a 720° turn, but with the altitude lost during the turn, the landmark disappeared into the haze.  Picked a much closer peak for the next 720°, and even it looked much different though the thickening haze as I completed the turn.

Coming back down to 1800' MSL the sink rate almost went to zero, most of the time, with an occasional small bubble of weak lift. 

No complaints about lack of lift--it is mid-December, look at the rest of the country.

Jim Rickey

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Saturday November 23, weak blue conditions

 Saturday, November 23, 2013

Visibility: 30 miles+
Wind: SE up to 15kt gusts
Altitudes: As high as you were willing to tow
Time Aloft: 40minutes
Max Lift: 1-2knts
Temperature: 60s
Comment: Weak lift broken up by SE winds
Tow pilot:  Bill Vrastil from Santa Ynez in Blue Pawnee

Morgan and Julie return from their excursion to the hills.
With SE flow, we were forced to use 13 for departures and landings.  It's amazing how much more efficient we are when we can launch 31 and land on 07 with the towplane.

Darren Council takes his first flight in a 1-26.  The Pawnee doesn't even know it is there and the climb looks more like a winch launch than an aero-tow.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013 Beautiful Soaring Day, Thermals in Mid November

Visibility: 20 miles +
Wind: 10 kts. out of the South
Altitudes: 4500 MSL
Time Aloft: 1.2 hrs.
Max Lift: 4 kts.
Temperature: 65 deg. F.
Comment: Beautiful Fall weather at Avenal once again. This time with good lift all afternoon. Everybody stayed up.
Tow pilot: Shawn Knight in his Pawnee

Another beautiful Fall day at Avenal. An upper level trough passed through bringing in some cool air aloft, resulting in a good lapse rate.  There were thermals all afternoon,  with altitudes well over 4000 MSL easily achievable.
Everybody who flew today was able to stay up. Martin Caskey is working on his commercial add on rating and was flying Big Bird from the back seat. We used the available lift to extend one of our flights to over an hour.  This allowed extra practice thermaling, flight at minimum controllable airspeed, stalls, steep turns and coordination. Note the vario,  with the lift steady at 3 to 4 kts.  We saw a few times where it briefly hit 5 kts.  You may be able to see that  we actually had a dreaded "yaw string malfunction", where the yaw string wrapped around the pitot tube and became useless.  But, having the "right stuff",  we kept our cool, did not panic, and it later untangled itself. Whew! That adventure, combined with no longer having the house thermal "Tanks" to locate thermals,  and for helping to navigate back to the airport really made this flight challenging! (Just kidding!).  

This is an image from the RASP forecast for today's  Avenal sounding in a Skew-T  diagram format.  You can see that the usual low level inversion we get at this time of year was very weak,  and the lapse rate above this weak inversion was quite steep up to about  5000ft. MSL. Even though the high temp. for the day was only about 65 deg. F., we were able to break through the low level inversion and thermals went up quite high for this time of year.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013 Goodyear Blimp visits Avenal!

Visibility:  Somewhat hazy, but good VFR
Wind: 10 kts out of the South early, lighter but still out of the South later.
Altitudes: 4000ft AGL off of tow.
Time Aloft: One hour.
Max Lift: 100 fpm
Temperature: 78 deg. F.
Tow pilot: Bill Vrastil from Santa Ynez in the 235hp Pawnee (Spectacular!)

How many of you are familiar with 14 CFR 91.113(d)(2) (aircraft of different category on converging course, glider vs. airship)   or ever thought you would have an opportunity or the need to test it?  I thought I had seen a lot of things  after over 40 years of flying gliders, but I was mistaken, when today the GOODYEAR BLIMP flew past the Avenal airport just as we were getting ready to launch!   The wind was out of the south,  and the blimp was traveling in a southerly direction. Probably it was trying to stay low and somewhat in the lee of the coastal mountains in order to stay in lighter headwinds, it was traveling South parallel to, and just over the Kreyenhagen hills to the West of the airport at an altitude just below 3000ft MSL. As the blimp slowly approached, several gliders were qued up waiting to launch.   At the head of the grid was Jan Zanutto, the first to take off. We though we'd all be able to get in the air and get a chance to see and photograph the blimp from our gliders, but it was making remarkably good progress to the South against the headwind, and Jan was the only one who was close enough to it to get a photo from the air before it disappeared in the haze to the South.  Jim Rickey got a couple of shots of it from the ground.

We are going to have to add a new "scenario" to our FAA scenario based syllabus.  "Lets say you were ridge soaring,  going south by Tar Canyon. You decide to make a 180 deg. turn to the left to reverse direction on the ridge. The next thing you notice is your windscreen is full of the front end of the rapidly approaching Goodyear Blimp!. You are sandwiched between the ridge on the left and the blimp on the right. Quick, what are your options?". Before, I would have laughed at the possibility of that scenario ever occurring. After today's visit from said Goodyear Blimp..... Well, I'm still laughing!  Anyway, the possibility is no longer zero.

We were very glad to have Harold back in action today. He is over his knee surgery two weeks ago. He was doing fine getting in and out of the back seat of the 2-33.

Martin Caskey had 3 flights in preparation for his commercial glider add-on rating which he is working on prior to getting his 15 meter Nugget sailplane back in the air soon. He practiced the Practical Test Standards maneuvers including stalls, flight at minimal controllable airspeed, steep 720 deg. turns to a heading at a 45 deg. bank, accuracy landings, landing with no spoilers using a slip for glider path control,  and landing without reference to the altimeter. He also boxed the wake and did a 200 ft. simulated rope break.

Andy Reisteter and Steve Schery both flew their Russias and were able to sustain for a period of time. The lift was not very good, but we did have a few dust devils at the peak time of the day.

Dan Clark was out early flying with Dan Gudgel in the Orange Crush and stuck around all day helping to run wings and hook up towlines.

Jim Rickey was out working on his commercial glider add-on rating and practiced boxing the wake, flight at minimum controllable airspeed, stalls, 720 deg. steep turns, slips to a landing without use of spoilers, accuracy landings. He also pulled duty cooking hamburgers for lunch and helped everybody else with dragging gliders around, running wings and fueling the tow plane.

 Jeff Richardson was out and flew the 1-26.

We had the Pawnee tow plane  from Santa Ynez flown by Bill Vrastil,   which provided spectacular tow performance.  At one point in the morning, we had a Southerly tailwind, but were still able to operate off runway 31, with the gliders landing on 31 and stopping just short of the club house, then taking off from there. In spite of the downwind takeoff and the displaced take off point, the Pawnee was breaking ground just slightly past the tow plane hangar, and was already at about 200 - 300ft AGL by the end of the runway!  Members helped Bill refuel the Pawnee before he departed for Santa Ynez at the end of the flying day. He holds 42 gallons total,  and was down to about 12 gallons at the last top off before departing.

Mike McClellan, who has been a member in years past returned today and rejoined the club. He got his BFR completed with Harold.  We are very glad to see Mike back with us. He has been a great asset to the club in the past. He single handedly poured the footings for the hangar we were going to have before it was sadly destroyed in a windstorm a few years ago.  He also was expert at ridge soaring the Blanik and was known for flying it over to Harris Ranch, landing for lunch,  and then having Loyal tow him back while he digested his Harris Ranch beef. Mike flew as though he had never been away from soaring. So little lift in the afternoon but he managed to remain aloft 42 minutes working a weak area of lift to the northwest near the power lines. For the longest time he managed to remain at 2220 msl not gaining or losing a foot. I don't recall lift ever getting above maybe 50 fpm. So his coordination and smooth flying gave us that much time in the weak area. For those of you who don't know Mike from before, get to know him. He's a fascinating guy and one of the nicest guys I've met in years. As Alex pointed out above, he has been and will always be a rare asset to our club. Welcome back, Mike.
Jeff Richardson brings Carl Engle to launch on runway 13 due to winds.
Carl Engle ready to launch on runway 13 at Avenal.
Andy Reistetter preparing his Russia for flight.
Steve Schery and Daniel Clark work on Steve's Russia.
Bill driving the Pawnee, a great tow plane, fun for all of us.
Carl about to enter the dust cloud created by the big engine of the Pawnee.
Lunch break. Hamburgers compliments of Jim Rickey.
Martin Caskey in training for his Commercial Add-On rating.
Andy Reistetter about to launch. Carl Engle going for the rope.
Jan Zanutto just finished his flight, chatting with Pancho Herrera.
Daniel Clark comparing notes with Mike McClellan. Daniel was born and raised in Felton, CA where Mike now lives.
Someday it would be nice to have one of these for towing at Avenal.
Mike worked this altitude layer for nearly 45 minutes at almost zero lift/sink.
Rolling into the dust storm created by the big Pawnee engine.
Mike McClellan about to experience a rope break off the Pawnee.

Carl Engel was out and flew with Harold in Big Bird. Carl hadn't flown for over a month but that didn't show as he did well especially on tow behind the Pawnee. He'll continue working his way towards his Private License doing home study for the written test and getting better each time at flight precision.

Pancho Herrera came out and flew in the 1-26. He is working on flying the Libelle soon. 

Next time we have the towplane from Santa Ynez, when scheduling, we need to remember to start operations early  by scheduling  earlier, as the tow plane needs to leave Avenal about 3:30 p.m.  in order to get back to Santa Ynez with an adequate margin before dusk. Today I think we were still in a summer mode,  and have not adapted yet to the recent time change. Some people were scheduling at 2:00pm and we still had some who had not flown by 3:15 p.m.   They  almost did not get to fly at all before the tow plane needed to leave.

Alex Caldwell

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Saturday, October 26, 2013 Auto Tow Day

Visibility: Excellent
Wind: Light out of the North.
Altitudes: 700 ft. AGL
Time Aloft: 5 to 7 minutes off Auto Tow.
Max Lift: Some zero sink
Temperature: Low 80s max.
Comment: Tow plane down. Auto Tow Day declared.
Tow pilot: Jeff Richardson volunteered his Powerful 4WD Suburban for Auto Towing, and did much of the driving as well.

With the tow plane out of action for Saturday, October 26, and the annual club meeting/dinner on tap for the evening, a group of us got together and decided to put on an auto tow day. Jeff Richardson volunteered to loan us the use of his powerful 4WD Chevy Suburban, which turned out to be more than adequate for the job. In fact, some of the highest launches we've had over the years in the 2-33 were achieved thanks  to the power and acceleration Jeff's vehicle provided.  Arriving early around 9:00 a.m., we had a ground school attended by myself, Jeff Richardson and Andy Reistetter and John Harbick. We then deployed the rope, walked it and installed the hinged tow vehicle release and line on Jeff's truck. We spent the rest of the day until dusk doing auto tows. Arriving a little later were Steve Kline, Jan Zanutto, Harold Gallagher, Dan Gudgel, Jim Rickey, Bart Klusek,  and Martin Cansky. At Bart's urging, we also decided to get out the GAPA for some auto towing.  Everyone got some auto towing experience. Bart, who trained in Ireland on winch launching in the earlier stages of his soaring, has already been signed off for ground launch for some time. Bart  flew the GAPA several times. He caught a thermal on one flight,  and had zero sink for a while. Dan Gudgel flew with me in the 2-33 Big Bird,  and then flew the GAPA on at least 2 or 3 auto tow flights that I saw.  Flying in the 2-33 with me were Jeff Richardson, Peter Sahlberg, Jan Zanutto, Andy Reisteter, John Harbick, Martin Cansky, Jim Rickey, Steve Kline, and Harold Gallagher. Most people got 2 auto tows and some got 3. Somehow,  Jim Rickey got only one flight  due to an unfortunate oversight during the mix up as we traded off driving, tow car spotter, wing runner and tail holder-downer duties.  We  used radios for communication, with an orange signal bat for an emergency stop launch signal should radios fail. We are going to look to change to a pure flag based system next time, as radios can be subject to interference, tuning the wrong frequency and some other issues.  Jan took some video of the day's action,  which you can see at these links:

2-33 on Auto Tow

GAPA on Auto Tow

Following the Auto Towing, everyone adjourned to the clubhouse for our annual meeting, dinner and awards presentation. I neglected to record all the awards,  but hope to edit this page and include them soon. Or else another blog page may be created just for the awards.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013 Auto Tow Day

Visibility: Not bad, a bit hazy
Wind: SSE at about 10 kts
Altitudes: 1000ft. AGL off auto tow launch
Time Aloft: 15 min.
Max Lift: 2kt.
Temperature: about 80 deg.
Tow pilot: Auto tow day, tow plane grounded

We  had another nice day of auto towing at Avenal in the pleasant Fall weather today. A number of people showed up at 9:00 a.m. for ground school, headed by Dan Gudgel. Thanks Dan! It was a very informative and interactive ground school. A quiz prepared by Dan reinforced the learning process, and led to further questions and vigorous but respectful discussion. We all agreed on some further modifications to our launch procedures. We will have the hand held radios available if possible,  but we also agreed on a set of signals involving wing leveling, combined with flag signaling,  so as to not be dependent on the radios.   Radios can have various problems,  such as wrong frequencies tuned accidentally, getting "stepped on" by others using the frequency etc. We then spent the rest of the late morning and most of the afternoon flying from auto tow.  Unfortunately, Dan had to attend a wedding and was not able to fly today.  Jeff Richardson again loaned his powerful 4WD Chevy Suburban,  which really has good auto tow performance. We were at times getting 600 ft. AGL in the 2-33 dual, which is the highest I've ever gotten in the 2-33 on ground launch at Avenal Airport so far. We had some wind, about 10 kts.,  from the SSE,  and operated off runway 13 this time. Morgan Hall arrived in the Cessna 150 on his long X-country that is required for his power license. He attended the ground school,  but had to leave just as we started flying in order  to complete the flight to Watsonville and back to San Luis Obispo on schedule.  Martin Caskey was out with his friend Dennis from Paso Robles and was working on the tow plane. They  attended the ground school but spend the rest of the day working on our tow plane.  Other attendees who flew during the day were John Harbick, Andy Reistetter, Larry Johnson, and Jan Zanutto along with Jeff Richardson,  who did much of the tow vehicle driving. Most people experienced both normal tows and premature releases,  simulating rope breaks at various stages of the launch.   After last week's heavy dirt intrusion into the cab of the Jeff's Suburban and the messy clean up, he rigged up a cool grommet through the rear window/door for the release line and a fancy tape job on the rear window. He also pressurized the interior by keeping the windows closed as much as possible,  and running the air conditioner. He reported much less dust intrusion this time. Hopefully the clean up will be easier this time. Everyone got 2 to 3 flights, except Larry, who had to leave early,  but  got one flight in. Jan Zanutto was signed off with an endorsement for ground launch proficiency. He then got out the DG 100 and proceeded to do 5 tows with it. On one tow, which was the best flight of the day, he got a thermal and climbed to 1000ft. AGL after releasing at 700ft. AGL. We caught much of that flight on these two videos:

Jan also had a tail mounted camera on this flight and recorded the whole flight here:

DG 100 ground launch to 1K

On Jan's last flight, he had a real bone-fide rope break as he pulled into the "full climb". He handled the situation perfectly,  and was high enough to make a 180 deg. pattern and land normally on runway 31, rolling out and stopping right at his T-hangar. After Jan's rope break today, which appeared to be just related to the rope finally having enough wear to be significant  after about 150 launches, I plan on replacing the 1/4 in line with new rope next week.

Jeff volunteered to do one more ground launch operation next week with the Suburban, and should get signed off for the ground launch endorsement next time.  He also plans on flying the 1-26 next week on ground launch. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saturday, October 13, 2013 Beautiful Fall Weather at Avenal

Wind: Light SSE early morning, SSE at  10-12kts. max. in afternoon.
Altitudes: Approx. 7000ft range west of Black Mtn. in convergence.
Time Aloft: ???
Max Lift: ???
Temperature: Low to mid 80s. maximum
Tow pilot: Steve Schery most of the day. Alex Caldwell did last 3 tows.

Another nice Fall day was had at Avenal today. The weather was very pleasant,  just barely hitting the low to mid 80s,  according to my Mother Nature provided on-board temperature sensors.  The winds were light all day,  mostly out of the SSE. Operations were on runway 31 early on, later switching to runway 13 when the wind came up to about 12 kts.  for a while.

There was lift over the valley, properly known as the Kettleman Plain,  with Andy Reisteter in the Russia, Joe Anastasio in the PW-5,  and Jan Zanutto in the DG 100 staying up most of the afternoon and reporting they thought there was a convergence over the valley.  There were a number of good looking dust devils during the afternoon just along the edge of the Kreyenhagen hills to the West of the field, and a few more right near the field just to the NorthWest. The RASP soaring forecast  was saying thermals might top out about 3500ft MSL at 3:00pm at the Avenal Airport.  I'm not sure what altitudes were actually achieved by the group above.

ER was calling near Avenal on the radio, I believe he had taken off at Hollister and was somewhere to the west of Black Mountain.

Early in the day,  Dan Gudgel was flying with his students Tom Nichols and Dan Clark. Tom left about noon, but Dan Clark and Dan Gudgel flew two more flights late in the afternoon.

Keith Curry, Mike Paoli and Vance Ray were out and all made solo flights in the club 2-33s, in addition to running wings, hooking up towlines and fueling the tow plane.  

Al Leffler flew over from his ranch at Poso in his beautiful Sport Cub. He stayed for quite a while,  and imparted some of his vast experience in contest soaring and cross country soaring to some of the newbies on the front porch. We were treated to a very short take-off when he left to fly home. For those who don't know, Al is a two time U.S. Open Class national soaring champion. He has flown in and won many other soaring contests over the years in both the Open Class and the 15 meter class. He has been a regular contestant and winner  at the Central California Soaring Club Spring Contest over the years.   He may be best known, however as the coiner of the term "Kiddie Gliders" when referring to 15 meter gliders with their limited wing spans compared to Open Class ships.

 Yutaka Buto came out and helped out but did not fly.

 Pancho Herrera arrived late and was working on 4M the Standard Libelle. He is staying over night at the clubhouse tonight.

Darin Council came out and is working on getting checked out in the 1-26. He flew with me and made two accuracy landings. He also has now earned his A, B and C badges, which will be reported to the SSA, and should appear in Soaring Magazine. 

Jim Rickey arrived from Hanford in his beautiful Cessna 210.  After performing duties as chef for our hamburger lunch, he  flew a 1 hour solo flight in Big Bird. This was only his third solo in a glider.  With this flight, he  earned a B soaring badge, which was presented on the clubhouse porch by SSA instructor Alex Caldwell.   Earlier in the same day, Jim had been flying Young Eagles rides in the Cessna 210 with the EAA group.

Matt Potter,  who is a very experienced hang glider pilot, was out again,  and is checking out the club.  He is thinking of converting to sailplanes.   Matt has already passed the private pilot glider written exam, which is a hurdle for some the rest  of us.

Steve Schery performed towing duties most the day.  We were very grateful to him for giving up his own soaring day to tow for us.  Alex Caldwell picked up the towing for the last few tows of the day.

Hope I didn't forget anybody. Please send any pictures,  as I was too busy to think of taking any today.

Alex Caldwell

Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 - Jim Rickey Solos

Visibility: Excellent
Wind: SSE 10-12 kts. early, light and variable later.
Altitudes: 7,000 MSL over the mountains
Time Aloft: ???
Max Lift: ???
Temperature: low to mid 80s
Tow pilot: Peter Mersino

On Sunday Oct 5, Jim Rickey soloed in the 2-33 "Big Bird", with Peter Mersino doing the towing, and Yutaka Butto running his wing.  Congratulations to Jim! I got it on video from the above link for your perusal and critique.  It was a really nice day out there at Avenal. Maximum temps I think were in the very comfortable mid 80s,  but there was lift over the valley most of the afternoon. Just enough to stay up, but not much turbulence on tow. The wind was out of the SSE most of the afternoon. Not really very windy, maybe 10 -12  kts.,  but just enough to cause us to operate off runway 13 most of the afternoon.  It became light and variable late in the day,  and we switched back to 31. Andy was up most of the afternoon in his Russia. Karl Kunz decided to not put together the AS-W 20,  but couldn't resist flying, so he went up in the 1-26.  Dan Gudgel stayed out there all day with his student  Dan Clark.  George Garcia from Las Vegas was driving along highway 33 on the way to a Chargers/Raiders football game in the Bay Area. Don't ask me how he got lost and ended up on Highway 33. Anyway, he happened to see the gliders, so he stopped in and got an introductory lesson.   Jack Knudsen was out with his Dad,  and flew Big Bird, staying up very well in the weak conditions. Mike Paoli and Vance Ray were out and made solo flights and we all hung around the patio eating the lemon cookies left there by Peter. There was quite a bit of dirt that had blown onto the patio from the wind event we had on last Thurs./Friday,  and we all took turns sweeping it off the patio.  A side benefit of the big wind was that all the tumbleweeds we cut last week have disappeared. They are probably in Kern County somewhere.     Morgan's friend from hang gliding,  Matt Potter,  from Los Osos,  came out.  Matt is a hang glider pilot and has quite a bit of student power time over the years.  He says he is going to join the club, get his gilder add-on rating,  and wants to get his own glider eventually. He had one lesson with Harold last year, along with a X-country  flight with Morgan in the DuoDiscus.

Alex Caldwell

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sunday September 22nd. Fall Postfrontal Day

Visibility: Clear
Wind: Light
Altitudes: 5k or so with clouds
Time Aloft:
Max Lift: 4 knots
Temperature:  81
Comment:  Student "makeup" day from missed Saturday.
Tow pilot: Andrew Oullet and Dan Gudgel

Schweizer 2-33 Orange Crush awaiting her next student beneath a beautiful sky.
Holy Cow, look at the Cu!  Not real high, but nicely spaced and light winds.

Dan Gudgel to the Rescue

With all of our instructors otherwise occupied on Saturday, no students were able to fly thanks to insurance rules requiring a CFIG on the field.  Dan shifted his normal Sunday routine around to enable the students to get some airtime and training in.

Here is his report:

Classic post-frontal Fall Day at Avenal!  

Cool air aloft associated with the cold-frontal passage the evening before combined with a still warm 
lapse temperature conditions by the late morning hours.  

Thank to Andrew Oullett who towed for the second consecutive day provided services for the field.  Keith Curry and Joe Wesley arrived relatively early by 9:15AM and prepared both SGS 2-33s for flight. 
Thereafter, Keith took a few tows and by 11AM thermal trigger was occurring for 
sustained flight with a few cumulus popping. Scattered cloud bases started at 3500 feet 
AGL but rose through the early afternoon hours to 5,000 feet AGL.  In the meantime Joe 
Wesley took a couple of high instructional flights with CFI Dan Gudgel.  

Keith on final for 31.  What a sky!
With soaring conditions looking solid Steve Kane made an appearance and took soaring flights in the 
club SGS 1-26.  Following Keith and Joe’s morning flights, Tom Nichols got in a nice soaring instructional flight in excess of an hour with cloud-marked thermals typically at 3-4kt and some at 6kts. 

With his last quarter of university school looming, Andrew wanted to get current in a glider (after some consistent towing over 2 days).  Dan Gudgel stepped in and took him for a couple of pattern tows and then a higher tow during the early afternoon.  Subsequently, Andrew made a couple of climbs to 5,000 feet AGL for a nice sustained flight over an hour.  

Come to think of it, Andrew needs to be awarded a “B” Badge for his accomplishment today!  Flying sorties were completed by 3PM and per forecasts the sky turned “blue” but thermals were likely still going over 6,000 feet MSL during the late afternoon based on temperature and continued dust devil activity.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Saturday September 21st, Extreme Crosswinds

Visibility: clear but lots of cumulus clouds
Wind: SW 15knots.  Later SW 20, gusting to over 30.  90 degrees cross to 31
Altitudes: 8500 in wave
Time Aloft: 4+ hours
Max Lift: 8 knots on the averager
Temperature: 80s
Comment:  No students due to CFIG shortage
Tow pilot:  Andrew Oullet.  Amazing crosswind skills

Great conditions early, expert mode enabled later.

With drizzle and rain on the coast Friday night, the promise of Post Frontal conditions Saturday looked good.  Numerous private pilots were on the schedule, students were blocked for the day due to Insurance reasons.

Lot's of activity early on.  Larry, Bart and Richard assembled the Russia as part of their prepping an assembly guide.  Jan and Andy worked on Andy's Russia to get it's Annual Complete.  Pancho helped Julie and I assemble the Duo after our relatively leisurely arrival around 11.
Calm winds as the lift was straight over the top of us.

We should have come earlier.  Driving in from the SW, the wave was easily visible in the clouds.  It looked like the morning would have held good wave conditions and calm surface winds.

Bart readies for a flight at the controls of the Duo.
In prep for flying the Russia, I agreed to let Bart fly the Duo with me monitoring in the back seat.  It's unlike the Russia except for tailwheel and retracts.  Bart did fine aside from getting a little behind the airplane at first.  20 meter wings can be a little more work than a 1-26.  Just a tad more inertia to deal with.

Bart on tow behind Andrew.

We landed after a pattern tow and a cycling of the gear to try to ingrain that into his brain and rolled out to the end of 13 where we were moved around Joe Anastasio who was prepped to take off.  About this time, the winds started to pick up.  90 cross no less.  Only about 8-10knots when Joe took off, but building fast.  Dust was being picked up in the fields as the rotor mixed down to the surface with the building convection.
Joe Preps the PW-5

Andrew was back quick and handled the crosswind nicely.  Julie and I were ready to go, but winds were rising and at least 15knots now.  I asked Andrew if he was comfortable, thankfully for me he was.  The acceleration was slow.  From our vantage point, you could see the side load on the tires of the towplane from the wind.  Everything was going smooth, just slow.  I think Andrew and I both thought about aborting, but after we picked up a little speed the Duo gets lighter and the acceleration better.  We got off while Andrew flew down the runway with the left gear still on the ground until he could finish rotation.  It was exciting.  I probably won't ask for a repeat performance though as it's hard on the plane and the pilots.

With the conditions on the ground deteriorating, I took a full 2k tow until we hit really solid lift at the powerlines and 33.  7-9knots average as we raced skyward.  Joe was already at 5k or so and climbing out in front of us.  Andrew returned to the airport and hooked up Ethan.  Apparently not shaken in the least by the Duo and figuring everyone else would be easier.
Initial climb NW of the field.
We climbed through 5k and then started to explore for wave and more lift.  There were stacked up layers of cumulus, especially down by the prison.  By working towards the leading edge of them, we connected with wave and were able to climb through 6 and then 7k.  
A rare time to test all FAR cloud requirements at once.  500 below, 2000 horizontal and 1000ft above.

There was a good hotspot at the Prison Ponds that was better than anywhere else we tried.  We used that to bump up to 8500 at our high point.  Joe reported wave farther out in the Foehn gap and heights of nearly 8000.  Meanwhile Ethan and others battled with the crosswind takeoff and then broken thermals down low.  
Looking NE towards the main cloudline way out in the valley now. 8500ft

Andy and Larry Johnson flew in Orange Crush.  Pancho took the 1-26 up for 45 minutes in challenging and windy conditions.  Great confidence booster to make a 1-26 flight stick in windy conditions.  Jan took his DG up but found the thermals torn apart by the strong winds.  There was enough convection to produce ripped up thermals, but also broke down the wave.  Bart wisely chose to make his first Russia flight on a different day.  That kind of judgement is what we always need shown by anyone flying a new glider.

After topping out at 8500 while waiting for Ethan to connect and climb out, we needed to get on a move.  There was a strong cloudline to the East and NE.  Initially I headed NE towards the buildup, but realized with the 5k bases, I could stretch our legs more.  I turned NW along a wavebar and ran NW towards Harris Agro West off in the distance.  Small cu dotted the way and kept us on a good line covering 25nm or so pretty quickly and without a turn.  Near Harris Agro West we got a good look at the runway.  Looks nice and open with room for a big glider like ours.  From 5k everything looks pretty good though.

Heading NE, we eventually turn NW towards the tall puffy cloud  in the distance visible over the nearby clouds.

We climbed here and then turned North towards Madera.  We didn't fly too fast except for one run at 100knots when the cloudsuck got strong.  About 15nm from Madera it got really soft.  No good cu lines, though lots of deteriorating cu.  Also nothing but trees between us and Madera.  I downshifted and tried working a few weak bubbles.  We barely had Madera on glide with a pattern.  I edged closer, but hit a fair bit of sink.  Now 8nm from Madera, but only a few hundred feet over glide and too many trees, I decided to stay near some landable fields.  I spotted a dust devil in a dry field.  Shortly thereafter another little one and we headed that way.  We arrived over the field at about 1800agl.  A bit low for casual comfort, but plenty high to work the lift off the dust devils.  That got us back within safe glide of Madera and now a few more dust devils started to form nearby.  Eventually we made it back above 4k and could connect the dots to the North.  
Below 2kagl and happy for consistent 3 knot lift.
There looked to be a good line that wrapped around Yosemite Hidden Lake and then back to the South closer to Fresno and Sierra Sky Park.  To the NW there was a large CuNimb that was forming an Anvil.  Probably somewhere near the Pacheco Pass area.  It was very dark out that direction.   Beyond Madera, we were just 10 minutes behind it seemed.  Cu were dying as we got to them with only sparse lift to 4k or so.  We circled with some hawks over Yosemite Hidden Lake airstrip.  Pushed east from there to the lake, but couldn't find a solid climb.   Losing glide to Madera I headed back into the blue hoping to find a fresh thermal. 
Yosemite Hidden Lake. Actually Hensley Lake.  Apparently the airstrip is named Hidden Lake because they hide all the water.

Climbing through 5k.  Madera is under the black low roll cloud of the approaching cell.
The CuNimb had apparently collapsed and a very nasty black wall blocked the route to the NW.  As we headed out towards 99 and closer to Madera it was not a welcoming looking site.  Black cloud with a low wall cloud and below that a haboob dust storm was marching towards Madera.  I've never seen one in person and never from the air.  Now 8nm from Madera it was clear that it wasn't a good option.  We were too low to reach Sierra Sky Park with much margin so I continued down the riverbed we were following.  Surely in the bright sun, something would break free.  About 3k, we did finally get the much needed climb.  We climbed to nearly 5k in the gap between the dark mass over Madera and the next line of clouds closer to Fresno.  We had options at least.  Sierra Sky park and Chandler were easy glides.  Madera was under a dust storm and pretty much out of the question.  
Working friendly air in between large cloud masses.

Edging closer to the dust storm.  Air up high was smooth and friendly.  Didn't want to investigate down below.
Heading South in the gap between the clouds there was friendly air.  I edged closer to the nasty looking dust storm far below.  Clearly there was a shear going on.  We had S winds up high and winds were strong NW from in the dust.  Keeping a very conservative glide to Sierra Sky Park, I drove deeper under the upper cloud shelf over the top of the dust storm.  We were rewarded with fairly consistent lift, much like our typical convergence line.  I flew slow, but we made headway into the 12knot headwind and stayed at about 5000ft.  Well above the dust, it provided an easy visual reference for where to go. We eventually got within an easy glide of Harris Agro West and stopped for a climb to the NW of Lemoore.  Looking down the runway, I'd switched over to their frequency to monitor for traffic.  As we climbed, I checked in with the tower and let them know we were climbing and squawking 1202.  Winds on the ground were 240 at 2knots.  Directly below us they were probably 310 at 25 with dust streaming from the dry fields.
Final Glide to Avenal now from 25nm out or so.  Ethan somewhere out off the right wing.  Not visible.
After clearing their airspace, we got an alert on Flarm.  Ethan in YH was in the same area.  A bit lower and 5nm to the west, we caught a couple of glimpses of his shiny wings.  We worked up to a southern shelf of cloud at nearly 7800ft which gave us final glide to Avenal with a healthy margin.  We got reports of 25mph winds 90 cross at Avenal and could see massive streams of dust at the north end of the Kettleman Hills.  Pancho gave us a ground report as we edged closer.  It was swinging 45 cross from the west.  We had New Coalinga as an option, but there was clearly wave in the Avenal Valley.  I pushed upwind to 33 before turning SE to Avenal.  Better to stay upwind and find some friendly air rather than dive straight for Avenal with more wind on the nose and the potential for finding a line of sink.

We made it back with a few thousand feet extra and when searching for the down wave.  Found it west of the prison and lost that extra altitude quickly.  Winds on the ground were West and stiff, but not completely cross.  I opted for a right pattern to 31 over town to give me a longer base leg to judge the wind and my approach.  On a high final, I could see the windsock swing nearly 90 cross and a series of gusts picked up lots of dust.  Oh boy!  Aside from a fat bounce, the landing was actually not a big deal. The Duo is so heavy that you can crab and slip it in and when you straighten out, it doesn't accelerate with the wind immediately.  

Ethan found a climb as we had left our good climb and was only about 10 minutes behind us in landing. He had taken much the same route as us back to the airport.  We had to wait around for quite a while to find a lull that would allow us to derig the glider.  I was considering just tying it down for the night and returning on Sunday to derig or fly.  Too many things to do at home to really want to return though.  Turns out Sunday was a very good day as well.

Flight logs are up on the OLC for those that are interested.