Thursday, April 30, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Visibility: Clear under the puffy white clouds
Wind: Initially strong (15-20 kts) from the N, slowing after noon to more easterly.
Altitudes: Probably not much more than 4500 msl
Time Aloft: An hour+
Max Lift: 5-7 knots locally
Temperature: Cool seventies.
Comment: Philip Gerfaud was the only pilot aloft today.
Tow pilot: Peter Mersino.Thank you, Peter.

Don't forget, clicking on any photo enlarges it and shows all the other photos just as large.

It was raining on the coast; it rained very hard and long in Fresno, beginning at 4:30 am, and continuing on until about 9:00 am. Low overcast (700 scattered, 1200 broken, 2300 overcast) with rain showers in the immediate vicinity of Fresno Chandler airport prevented an early departure. About the time the EAA Ford Tri-Motor took off for its first sightseeing flight around Fresno, the skies had begun to open a bit.

Waiting for the rain and ceilings to improve for its first sightseeing flight around Fresno.

Peter Mersino, Harold III, and I lifted off for Avenal. Earlier Jan Zanutto had phoned that the runway at Avenal was bone dry and that provided the necessary encouragement to head over that way. Otherwise we had given serious thought to scrubbing the flight altogether. Good thing we didn't, otherwise Philip Gerfaud and his parents would have made that long trip from Santa Maria for nothing.

Just about to depart Fresno Chandler for Avenal in low ceilings.

 The day at Avenal promised to be good soaring. Puffy clouds all over the place with lift under most. The wind was strong when we landed and provided good cross-wind practice for both tow plane and glider. We thought there'd be more pilots out there due to the lift after the frontal passage, but alas, no one, except the good guys who were working on Big Bird, reassembling. Martin Caskey, Jan Z, Pancho H, and some others I might remember after I write all this.

Good looking clouds moving NW to SE.
More well developed cumulus to the south coming in from the SLO area.

 Finally Philip showed up with his parents, Tony Handley, and Patty, his Mom. They both live in France near another gliderport I visited back in 1998 or 1999, Fayence, just north of Nice. Tony has been flying there but Patty hadn't had much of a chance there, so Philip was happy to give her the first glider ride of her aviation experiences.

Just after noon, Rick Eason showed up from Merced to join the club and get his add-on rating.
 Rick Eason and his buddy flew in from Merced in Rick's Cessna 172, shown above. Rick wanted to fly a demo flight and since our combined weights were above gross weight limits, I suggested he fly with Dan Gudgel or Alex Caldwell, both of whom were on the schedule today. Neither showed up, but Rick joined the club anyway and plans on returning as soon as possible. Welcome to our club, Rick.

The saga of the day concerns Patty and her first glider flight. But first, she and I had a good time comparing notes on the patio about our similar schooling in Illinois. We both attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana although a few years apart, and then lived probably 50 or 60 miles from one another, she in Peoria and me in the Chicago area. Great conversation and I hated to see her leave, heading back to France when we might have stumbled on more common notes and experiences. Patty had way more interesting experiences than I and just barely began talking about how she is hired by the French government doing interesting work, also requiring her to give seminars at various venues, especially here in the U.S.

Philip took Tony for a ride and because Tony has 10 plus hours flying gliders, he did most of the flying. Problem was they weren't able to find good enough lift at that time. Likely they got off tow a bit too soon and thus were pressured into finding lift, which they didn't. Back they came, and I'll let Philip tell the story his way:

Patty in the backseat and Philip flying in what turned out to be a very nice flight.

Here is Phil's story:

When my parents lived in the Alps, they were big into hiking and my mother would tell stories of gliders that would soar a few hundred feet off the cliffs they were standing on. She always wondered what it would be like to fly in a glider and made it a goal to someday get her glider pilot’s license. When life got in the way (me), she was unable to pursue this goal. I started gliding many years later at age 15 in Fayence in the South of France, and we always talked about how she would be my first passenger (and many friends wanted to go flying too!). Tight club regulations on minimum PIC time to take passengers in gliders (100 hrs PIC) prevented me from achieving this minimum time by only a few hours when I left the area and moved to the States, so gliding with my mother never happened.
My parents advised me that they were coming over to the States late April and I knew this was my opportunity to at last get my mother her glider flight. Last Saturday was the only day we had to do this and the forecast did not look good. We departed Santa Maria anyway, in moderate precip and IFR cigs, hopes still alive. I had planned a visit to Paso air museum if conditions did not shape-up. Once East of Paso Robles, blue sky opened-up above and the wind started picking-up. Much to my surprise, Harold advised me that Avenal hadn't received a drop of rain and Peter Mersino was ready to tow. Conditions were flyable despite a stiff northeasterly crosswind on Rwy 31. By 2 pm, the wind had calmed and conditions started booming.
A quick backseat checkout with Harold revealed thermals marked by thick Cu and Harold speculated that some mild wave activity was present over Avenal from the strong northeasterly wind over the Kettleman Hills. The second flight was a 2000’ tow my step-father and I found small 2-4 kt thermals between areas of fairly strong sink. The third flight was a 2800’ tow with my mother and at this slightly higher starting altitude we found large areas of 1-2 kt lift increasing to 5-7 kts locally. These localized areas of stronger lift were fairly choppy and required tight thermaling but helped us rapidly gain 1000’. We were up for an hour but had to cut the flight short as a mandatory visit over to Parkville was planned to have a look at the San Andreas fault. My mother did not get to be my first passenger last Saturday, but she certainly got the longest flight!
We landed on Rwy 31 and rolled-out to the tie-down area, concluding a very enjoyable local flight just as Harold and crew roared by in the Cherokee 140, Fresno-bound.

Nice touchdown on runway 31R at the end of a very nice first flight for Patty.
Philip rolled out almost perfectly to the tie-down area just as we departed in the Cherokee.

The rain never did arrive over Avenal in spite of being nearly everywhere else. Proves once again that Avenal is in a rain shadow most of the year. We ended the day, after waiting to see how long Philip and Patty would remain aloft, thinking they'd be up there much longer. But as we were taxiing out, they landed and we took off. By that time the wind had softened considerably and clouds to the east were few and far between. At Chandler the wind was a docile 5 knots from the usual 310 degrees.

Just to jog your memory, can anyone tell me who is the character in the photo below? No prizes awarded but plenty of fun and a jog of your rock and roll experiences.

Ugly, perhaps, but laughing all the way to the bank.

That's all folks. See you on May 2nd with the weather again promising to be very good for soaring.

Harold Gallagher

Monday, April 20, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Visibility: Unlimited
Wind: Mostly light from the North/Northwest
Altitudes: 11,200 msl for Carl Engel.
Time Aloft: 5 hours+  Carl again
Max Lift: 1000 fpm.  Carl and maybe others.
Temperature: Mid-eighties
Comment: Jennifer Bauman soloed.
Tow pilot: Allen White all day long. Thanks, Allen.

If you click on any of the photos, it will be enlarged and start a slide show of all the photos.

Hello Everyone,

It was a fun day to fly for many members, and new members. A new solo, new achievements in height, duration, and altitude gain, distance traveled, etc. Many present could claim they did more and better than they've ever done before. Good strong thermals accompanied by good, strong sink made the day a challenge but worthwhile when one centered a good strong updraft.

Martin Caskey, Jan Zanutto, and others checked out the 1-26 to see if a reported problem existed with a yaw on tow. It appeared not to be present after a good ground checkout and a test flight. I towed for Martin and brought with me a young man, Ethan Morris, from the coast, the son of a good friend of Jeff Richardson. He was excited about being in the tow plane and more excited when I let him handle the controls, which he did with smooth movements. I don't think I've ever seen a smile where the corners of one's mouth went from ear to ear. He was happy, to say the least.

Ethan Morris chatting with Jeff Richardson about his pending glider flight.
Martin Caskey about to launch in the 1-26 on his test flight.
Ethan Morris excited about riding in the tow plane.
After the tow of Martin, Allen White took over and towed all day.

Next up was Kavin Gustafson who just today joined the club, our newest member. Kavin did very well in air that was beginning to get turbulent. Just his second flight, and off tow he handled the controls with confidence. We were mostly in sink until we headed back to the field about to give up. Then we snagged a good thermal, Kavin thermaled for the better part of 50 minutes, gaining at one time, 1500 feet in one thermal. By the time we landed, he had gained a total of 4000 feet in just his second flight. Excellent performance. Kavin waited around until the Orange Crush was no longer needed and we went up for his second flight of the day. On this flight he seemed to pass that barrier from confusion on tow, to understanding and skill at keeping us in position. In addition to that welcome surprise, his stick and rudder coordination improved considerably. He flew well, landed well, and we both look forward to the next few flights.

Kavin talking with Mike Paoli before his second ever glider flight.
Harold and Kavin aloft searching for good lift.
Kavin circling in one of his nicely gained thermals.
Still aloft and having fun continuing to snag thermals after exiting one after another.
 There were enough pilots waiting on the patio to keep the Orange Crush busy all day. Jaimie Strickland and Jennifer Bauman were waiting their turn, while Skip Breidbach was packing up to go home after a nice group of photographs shown here on the website. My son, Harold, was working on his self-determined project that will be discussed at the end of this presentation.

Waiting for flights or projects or just going home. Jaimie, Jennifer, Harold and Skip.
One of the patio folks was Bart Klusek who we haven't seen at Avenal for nearly six months. He has a long commute to Avenal from Davis, CA, so it's understandable he won't make the trip too often. It is always good to see him back here, and today he was exceptionally busy working on the rooftop radio antenna. We would like to be able to transmit and receive with that antenna because it gives us a much wider range for the gliders up and down the mountain ranges. Later on, Bart flew in the 1-26 and here is his story on both flights, Saturday and Sunday:

On Saturday, I flew the 1-26. I am happy to report that the glider did 
not mind my long absence and we still are good friends. After an early 
save from pattern altitude I got to Black without too much trouble and 
climbed to just over 10k there. Surprisingly, the "black" thermal was 
not in the usual spot, but almost a mile to the west. I spent almost two 
and a half hour in the air.

On Sunday, I flew the Russia. The weather was somewhat better than on 
Saturday - there were clouds and this made finding thermals much easier. 
I went almost to the Orchard Peak, and then 25 miles or so past 
Coalinga. According to OLC, this was my best flight ever - 194 km and 
almost three hours in the air.

On that same patio, Bart Klusek was quite busy repairing and hooking up our radio antenna.
Bart in the 1-26 heading up towards 10, 000 msl.
Bart terms this Final Glide but you have to enlarge it to read the instruments.

Harry Davies, our very active FA-18 pilot from Lemoore NAS, flew the 1-26 and was aloft a good long time, catching thermals between the low hills and the Kettleman Hills.

Harry Davies on takeoff in the 1-26.
Later on, Harry returned satisfied that he flew as much as he wanted.
Joe Anastasio launched in the PW-5 and came back more than satisfied. Well above 6000 msl and touring the mountains from north of Coalinga to well south of the Rte 33/41 interchange, then over to I-5 and around the area just having fun and staying aloft. He indicated it was one of his best flights to date.Not sure if he plans on adding his flight to the OLC but check it later. Mike Paoli ran the wing for that excellent flight.

Joe Anastasio ready to launch  with Mike Paoli waiting to run the wing.
Harry Davies recounting his flight to Jaimie, Martin, and Jennifer.
Ethan Morris had to wait until the afternoon to go on a flight with Jeff Richardson in the Orange Crush but the wait was worth it and he could head home knowing he had flights in two different kinds of aircraft to his credit. His Dad, Gary, was always around and just as happy to see Ethan fly as he might have been to have flown as well.

Dad, Gary Morris, watches as son, Ethan, boards the Orange Crush with Jeff Richardson.
Earlier in the day, I talked to Carl Engel who told me of his plans to fly the highest, the farthest, and stay up the longest. It was a good day to try but his attempt seemed a bit out of reach from our vantage point on the ground. Nevertheless, Carl is the kind of guy that won't take no for an answer and he made all the necessary preparations for his goals.

Carl preparing the Russia for his great flight fulfilling his goals.
Click on the photo to see in more detail on the altimeter showing 11,000 msl.
Here is his story:

Harold, here's my report on flying the Russia yesterday:
After seeing the promising forecast (though not as good as Sunday or Monday) and being able to have the Russia to myself all day Saturday, my goal was to leave the comfort of staying within gliding distance of Avenal and take on my first cross-country flight.  My stretch goal was to complete all 3 parts of the Silver Badge as well (not officially documented, however): 50km distance, 1000m altitude gain, and 5 hours duration.

My plan was to get to Black Mountain, get high and stay high while working my way Northwest for a 50km+ out and back flight.  To simplify a possible retrieve and minimize chances of any damage from landing out, I decided to stay within glide of another 'real' airport, namely New Coalinga.  
I launched at about 1:45 and spent an hour hunting thermals around the airport, trying to get enough altitude to punch through a swath of heavy sink that set up between the gliderport and the mountains.  Once over Black and at 8,000 msl,  I proceeded Northwest, flying in and out of unmarked convergence (I think), stopping for a strong thermal here and there.

The moment that XCSoar declared Avenal out of glide and I set it to track New Coalinga instead, several thoughts/emotions ran through my head concurrently: exhilaration, freedom, and a bit of 'what have I gotten myself into?  I pressed on, and several miles later found myself nearing the border of staying within glide of New Coalinga.  Having exceeded my 50km goal, I turned back, and shortly found myself in some strong sink (the 'what have I gotten myself into?' thought returned), then found the sink's corresponding lift, taking me over 11,000 msl.  With that, I again had plenty of margin, went North another couple miles, then made my way back the way I came.  I headed down to 41/33 and back to Black to finish off the 5 hours.  I landed just shy of 7pm and was greeted by Bart and Jim who had stayed in case I needed a retrieve, thanks to them! 
I exceeded all of my goals, didn't land out, and had a blast!  My flight is on OLC here:
Some stats to help fill in the header of the blog post:
Max altitude: 11,200'
Duration: 5.2 hours
Max lift: 700fpm sustained, bursts >1000fpm

I've attached a few pictures: one of the instruments as I passed through 11,000', another of the wing leading edge peppered with bugs after the flight (I cleaned it before the flight, I swear!), and another of Jim taking off at sunset after making sure I got back to Avenal ok.  
Fun to think that it was just a year ago that I passed my check ride!
He swears he removed all the bugs before takeoff but look at them all now.
Jim Rickey on his way home after waiting around for Carl just in case he was needed.

Now it is Jaimie Strickland's turn for a training flight. It was a rough air day and Jaimie hadn't flown for a couple of weeks but her skill set returned and she managed to do all of the tow. Off tow, we accomplished several maneuvers including stalls both straight and turning, and she had ample practice to thermal, thus gaining more experience in stick rudder coordination.

After waiting several hours, Jaimie is finally ready to go flying.
The rope is taut, the tow plane is ready, and so is Jaimie, who does an excellent takeoff.
Up in the air, off tow, she's in her element as we all are when the air is rough.
Jennifer Bauman has been patiently waiting all day for her turn to fly in the anticipation that she might solo today. I'm sure it was a bit of an anxiety-producing wait, and she was nervous, rightfully so, since she hadn't flown any aircraft for many months prior to her beginning her glider training. Even though she is a licensed power pilot, flying gliders is another realm. But after two flights with me, it became apparent that she was ready to solo. The air was rough on tow, but she handled it correctly and safely.

So, the solo time is here. Now she settles down and is determined to make it a very good three-flight series, which she accomplished. As she admitted, her patterns were better alone than with her flight instructor, although she admitted to hearing my voice while she flew all three flights. I think anyone with a camera must have taken pictures of her solo and now here are only about half or less of those submitted to me.

Although nervous, she is confident and ready to show she deserves to solo.
One last look at her Flight Instructor and her focus is on the launch.
Look closely and you'll see a very determined pilot in the front seat, alone.
Nothing is going to interfere with her flight performance at this time.
Another angle on her first solo launch.
On tow and just the right height above ground behind the tow plane.
Looking good for Jennifer's first glider solo.
Nearing the IP and about to release off tow for the first time.
Jennifer's first solo glider landing. Well done.
She had a lot of help moving the glider back to the launch area for her second flight.
Overhead near the IP and maneuvering for a pattern entry.
About to make her second solo landing. Note the tow plane in the upper left corner.
Nice approach to her second landing, and enough energy to return to the launch end.
This time she's smiling, knowing that she made it, soloed, and has a great glider career ahead.
A great photo by Jim, positioning both aircraft in the picture, on final.

The Avenal tradition begins with losing one's shirttail.
She wore an especially old and disposable T-shirt for the occasion.
Windy in back but she had another shirt with her so her air conditioning didn't last long.
Harold Gallagher III had another clubhouse project in mind even last week when we left Avenal. So, after buying all the supplies, he announced that the floor of the east bathroom was going to be made new again. Sure enough, when he got done, the floor did indeed look like it must have been many years ago. Thanks to him, the clubhouse and facilities have never looked better.

The drawing to the left of "GENE" is from the rock band, KISS, his favorite.
Nothing like three coats of floor enamel to improve the look of this bathroom.
Skip Breidbach is an excellent photographer. He's one of those guys who sees ordinary scenes and takes extraordinary pictures of them. The photo below was taken of our newly refurbished Big Bird fuselage tubing structure. But it looks like a modern painting and he purposely took it that way. Really well done but I would expect nothing less from this talented guy.

Beautifully photographed by Skip.
End of a long, but fruitful day for most of those who came out to fly.

See you all next weekend.

Harold Gallagher