Sunday, March 27, 2016

SATURDAY, March 26, 2016. Big Bird flies all day.

Visibility: Clear except for cumulus over the mountains.
Wind: North at 10 knots
Altitudes: 4200 msl,  Jeff Richardson
Time Aloft: 1.75 hrs, Jeff Richardson
Max Lift: 500  fpm
Temperature: Low 80's
Comment: New pilot Candidate, Erich Harding
Tow pilot: Frank Owen all day.

For large size photos, simply click on any photo.

Hello Everyone,

Another nice day at Avenal with activity involving both 2-33's, the 1-26, the DG100, and might have been the GAPA if we had time. Harry Davies is nearing his goal of flying all the club ships and so far he has only two to go, the GAPA and the Russia. He'll do it, for sure.

The day was warm and sunny with a pretty good breeze from the north. It got stronger just short of noon, and right after Harry did his back seat checkout. We easily found thermals then but the strong breeze began to break up the thermals and later on proved harder to find. In fact during the second flight with Erich Harding we actually got what I thought for sure was a mild wave off the Kettleman Hills.

Sergio Grajeda was out early and was determined to be the first aloft, which he was. In fact, during the day he did pattern tows and helped out where necessary. Thanks Sergio.

Martin Caskey was at Avenal today doing the necessary paperwork for the previous glider restoration as well as preparing for the annual inspection on the tow plane that he plans on doing tomorrow. He certainly has contributed a huge amount of effort on behalf of our club and for all that we are humbly grateful.

Sergio Grajeda on base for runway 31L after just a pattern tow.
Sergio starting his turn to final and in excellent position.
Frank Owen piloting the tow plane all day long.
Short final for Sergio on one of his three or four pattern flights.
It's great to see Big Bird back out on the launch area ready for great flying.
Harry Davies preparing for his back seat checkout in Big Bird.
Here comes Sergio again, on short final for runway 31L.
I think this is one of those expensive tows out of Hollister.
A beautiful new instrument panel for Big Bird with very accurate instruments.
A Cessna 170 landing on runway 31R, two gentlemen came to visit.

As mentioned, Harry and I are waiting to launch for Harry's backseat checkout. Because it was before noon, the wind wasn't as strong and the thermals were easier to find and enter. That changed later, however.

Sitting in the front is an unusual place for me but good for photographs of the tow plane.
Turning left and a flyover of the solar farm to the West of our gliderport, Harry maintains position.
Harry snagged a good thermal from the back seat of Big Bird.
We might have stayed up a lot longer but there were others waiting for Big Bird and reluctantly we had to leave a very good 4 knot thermal and head down to earth. The next flight with Erich Harding would prove to be a bit disappointing because of the strong breeze.

Sarah Harding, husband Trevor, and son Erich arrived from San Luis Obispo where Sarah teaches in the Mechanical Engineering department. It was Erich's 11th birthday yesterday and he was treated to a glider lesson in honor of that occasion.

Sarah, Trevor, and our newest student pilot, Erich, nearing launch time.
Erich is watching the tow plane for movement ahead of the glider.
OK, now Erich is satisfied that we're almost ready to launch in Big Bird.
After Erich's flight we talked about it and both of us weren't satisfied with the thermals.
With the strong crosswind I thought Erich would have trouble walking the wing. He didn't.

Jeff Richardson didn't launch until nearly 2:30 pm but in doing so, probably had the best time for lift in a high performance sailplane. Early in the day, he and Mike Paoli did a fuel run since we were down to our last two inches of fuel in the black tank. After that, Jeff made the most of the day soaring over 4000 msl and remaining aloft for nearly two hours. I didn't get any photos of Jeff but there are many in the archives over the past several months.

Here are Jeff's own words:

Hi Harold,

After assembling the DG100 and doing a fuel run to Harris Ranch, I finally got launched at 2:25pm.

I took a 3,000 ft tow behind Frank.  After releasing, I used up 1,000 ft looking for a thermal.  From there I slowly fought my way by back up to release height, but the 15kt north wind had blown me down to near Tar Peak.  Heading back into the wind I put the nose down and was soon past the airport over Hwy 33 where I found a nice 5kt thermal and climbed to 4,200 ft. while arriving back at Tar.  I repeated the cycle several more times for a nice 1.75 hr flight.


Harry Davies about to launch in the 1-26.
Just sitting there Big Bird looks great. And what a wonderful interior, especially for the back-seaters.
Frank Owen has moved the tow plane into position and Harry is about to wag his rudder.
Looks like Harry is in perfect position behind the tow plane as they near the end of the runway.
Clark Woolf is ready to launch in Big Bird, his first time in the newly restored 2-33.

Sarah Woolf passed her (Powered) Private Pilot checkride several weeks ago and decided to fly Clark out to Avenal for the day. She wisely used Friday to do a test flight to Avenal when traffic wasn't a factor. So, her arrival at Avenal today was excellent. I was sitting in the front seat of Big Bird when she passed overhead landing on runway 31R. Very nice touchdown in a pretty good breeze with a right crosswind. Clark continues to do well in training and I have no doubt he'll  be ready to solo on his 14th birthday in July. We flew together twice today and both times he handled the rough air very well.

Sarah Woolf going over her takeoff checklist in the Cherokee 140 from Fresno Chandler.

Erich's parents generously gave Erich another chance at a good flight and this time it paid off. We found lift, especially what turned out to be wave and some choppy thermals. But the entire time off tow, Erich did the flying and he really got the idea of how to control not just the turning and banking but being able to maintain the correct airspeed as well. So here is this 11 year old young man, latching onto and demonstrating his newly found skill at controlling an aircraft in three dimensions. A very bright young man for sure!!!

I had to continually put my hands on his shoulder to convince him that he really was doing all the flying and it wasn't me flying from the back seat. Too often it happens that way when the student in front is doing so well that he/she believes it is really me in the back seat doing the flying. Erich is young and has a few years ahead of him before he is allowed to solo but it would be great to see him at Avenal on a regular schedule even if it turns out to be only once a month until his 13th year. Maybe his Mom and Dad will agree to that idea.

This is the second flight for Erich and turned out far better than the first one.
The entire flight off tow was Erich controlling and he did exceedingly well, even soaring.

Jim Rickey spent the day mostly enjoying not having to work on anything in particular. He volunteered to cook the lunch hamburgers but other than that, he simply enjoyed being relaxed at Avenal. Finally in late afternoon, he decided to fly Big Bird and I had to head home and didn't have a chance to see how well he did during that flight.

This is the first fun flight in Big Bird for Jim Rickey after last week's test flight.
Later in the day, Sergio made another pattern tow and nice landing on runway 31L.
Jim Rickey in good position behind Frank Owen in the tow plane taking off on runway 31R.

It was a fun day for everyone who showed up and the beautiful scenery of the green mountains made it a stunning visual treat. These are the days when thermals are everywhere, the scenery is fabulous, the soaring is great, and the camaraderie is even greater. So come on out and go soaring. Avenal is at its finest!!!

Harold Gallagher

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