Monday, August 22, 2016

SATURDAY, August 20, 2016. Hot but relatively busy. New Student Beth Platz.

Visibility: 10 miles max, in smokey air. Mtns barely visible.
Wind: Light and variable from N about noon.
Altitudes: 9300 msl - Carl Engel
Time Aloft: 3.8 hours- Carl Engel
Max Lift: 1200 fpm. - Carl Engel
Temperature: 102 deg F.
Comment: No tow pilot until after noon.
Tow pilot: Peter Mersino, Luciano Worls. Don Flinn, Harold Gallagher


The day was hot again but not as hot as two weeks ago when the wind felt like someone had turned on a hair dryer and pointed it at my face. There were a surprising number of members and visitors here today some of whom didn't fly but volunteered to help in other areas, like making a fuel run or just helping launch the gliders.

Sergio Grajeda flew again and is getting much closer to his written test and then checkride. Alex Caldwell showed up later on thinking he could help with the towing. Mike Paoli was working on the hangar for his glider that he purchased from Jan Zanutto. Richard Walker flew his Schweizer 1-35 for a little while, then landed hot and dry from not getting too high above the field.

Don Flinn flew with Carsten Moeller, then signed him off for solo as Carsten had amassed 1284 flights over in Europe. Don also flew with Tiffany Nguyen who is on her way in flight training for her license.

Yutaka Buto also arrived and flew the 1-26 on a nice long flight, getting up over 4000 msl or higher. He, like everyone else, came down sweaty and thirsty.

Carl Engel was here as well and took his Discus aloft, and didn't return until much later. I left at 5:30 pm and he was still aloft somewhere in the Central Valley. But he sent in a brief description of his flight:

I was again worried that the wildfire smoke would put a damper on a respectable RASP forecast, but it turned out to be very soarable, just like August 6th with Jeff.  I started with a surprisingly smooth transition into the mountains, taking the first thermal off tow up to 5,000 ft and then pressed into the mountains, peaking over Black at 9,300 ft.  It took the the first 2/3 of the flight to find the convergence line after exploring north and south.  It ended up being marked later in the afternoon by a wall formed from the wildfire smoke in the valley alongside clearer marine air pushing in from the west.  Overall a really good (but lonely) flight!

Martin Caskey arrived early and did a few hours work on his Nugget. He didn't fly but had other items he needed to accomplish while here on the field.

Luca Soares and I flew the Big Bird, and because of the rough air, we couldn't do a few maneuvers so we opted for catching a good thermal and heading high. When we passed 5600 msl, we leveled off and flew around just enjoying the cool air aloft. Luca is doing very well, especially on thermalling so I'm comfortable with him doing all the flying. He'll solo soon and then he'll really have fun flying without that instructor nagging him from the back seat.

Troy Wollman took another one or two new visitors for glider rides and I assume they enjoyed the experience. Troy is great at getting new people to come out and start flying gliders. Here is the story and pictures sent in by Troy:

I took two new people aloft on Saturday. Charlie Cook, my roommate from my first year at Cal Poly was first. We were aloft for 1.3 hours and I gave him an introduction to the flight controls on Condor at my apartment before we came out. It showed when we got in the air because he was able to maintain airspeed and bank angle when I gave him control. We thermalled with Yutaka up to nearly 5000' MSL.

I later took Tiffany's sister, Tammy Nguyen for her first 
ride in a small aircraft. She wasn't feeling super well. I could tell from the back seat that she was uncomfortable with the motion of the aircraft, so we cut the flight short after 20 minutes. 

In the late hours of the evening, I did two rope breaks in the 1-26 working towards the required 20 flights needed to fly high performance. I have 11 logged so far.
Troy Wollman

Troy's buddy from school, Charlie Cook about to take his first glider ride.
The selfie world has invaded the soaring world. I wonder who was flying and watching for other gliders.
I guess Charlie has the stick in hand and hopefully looking out for other gliders.
Troy and Charlie sharing a thermal with the 1-26 piloted by Yutaka Buto.

Peter Suddjian came back to Avenal after a multi-year layoff. Pete's a long time power pilot from the Fresno area, owned several aircraft, flew a lot and a lot of places, but has decided since he recently sold his airplane, he'd try flying gliders. Pete, of course, had no trouble getting the hang of glider flying but the hot and rough air made for some frustrating moments. Those disappear when the air cools down and the visibility improves, which it will in just a few more weeks.

Beth Platz, an M.D. from Fresno, decided to learn to fly. That doesn't surprise any of her friends or family since she's been on the cutting edge of other learned skills ever since her childhood. A few visits to the local donut shop where she met a group of friends including me, and enough talk about gliders convinced her that it is a skill she wanted to pursue. She finally found her way out to Avenal today, and had to wait a couple of hours since our lack of a tow pilot put us all behind the schedule. Once in the glider, all minor anxiety vanished and Beth was calm, cool, and collected. Once off tow, I briefly instructed her on the basics of flight controls and she took it from there.We caught a nice thermal, and Beth thermalled the entire flight of 40 minutes ( I probably should have cut that down to 20 minutes but she was doing so well I didn't have the heart to stop her progress). In the process she gained 1000 feet of altitude, going from 2700 msl to 3700 msl where we finally departed the thermal for some relaxing straight and level flight. It is perfectly clear to me that if she decides to pursue her Private Pilot's License she will have no difficulty at all and will enjoy every minute of the process. That's especially true when the weather turns cooler and the sky clears from all the fires here in California. Then the real fun begins. CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR FIRST GLIDER FLIGHT, BETH !!! Or should I say, Miss Spectacular !!

The Orange Crush waiting for a tow pilot to carry Don Flinn and Carsten Moeller aloft.
Don said (to me), "You were most graciously towing so you couldn't take this picture:
"a cloud of dust, and a hearty Hi-yo, Silver" Carsten Moeller finally solos a glider in the U.S. on his 1285th glider launch.

Thanks for the tows and for creating an excellent weekly record of everyone's activities.


To explain, since no tow pilot showed up by noon, Don Flinn and I decided to tow for one another's students. In this case, I towed Don along with Carsten and then Carsten for his solo flight in the U.S.

Peter Suddjian on his second glider flight lesson. He's a new CCSC member and already a long time power pilot.
Not certain who's flying the Orange Crush but perhaps it is Troy Wollman.
Beth Platz taking her first glider ride ever. Not at all nervous, just excited to be flying gliders for the first time.
We needed two pictures to make sure Beth's friends and family saw her doing another wild and crazy thing.
Beth is doing all the thermalling and here she is gaining altitude at 400 feet per minute (instrument on right).
Here Beth is steadily gaining altitude in a nice left bank and passing 3160 msl altitude (instrument on left).
We released at 2700 msl and here's Beth thermalling towards 3600 msl, and finally reaching 3700 msl.
This shows how well Beth thermalled, catching and staying inside a thermal going up at 600 feet per minute.
Finally, getting weary of circling and with poor visibility, we decided to fly straight and level.
Beth Platz is one happy young lady after gaining 1000 feet of altitude on her first flight lesson.
Luca Soares reaching 5600 msl at which point we simply flew straight and level enjoying the cool air.
Luca couldn't resist working another thermal as we descended intending to land after a very long, 1.2 hour flight.
The gliderport from above. Note Richard Walker's Schweizer 1-35 just landed and to the side of runway 31R.
Here's a better view of Richard just as he landed after a mostly lower level flight.
One of the last flights of the day with Alex Caldwell flying with Sergio Grajeda in Big Bird.
The weather is beginning to cool off and we are entering the best time of the year for flight training. If you've ever thought about learning to fly, now is the best time to start the training cycle. Cooler air means smoother air and makes it easier to learn the fundamental maneuvers required for your glider license. There is no better way to begin a flying career than in gliders. Then you can progress towards power training and go on from there.  Those who've never flown in a glider are missing a really amazing experience. Even if you fly only once, just do it, as the Nike ads proclaim.

See you all next weekend,

Harold Gallagher

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SATURDAY, August 13, 2016. Hot again, but members showed up to fly.

Visibility: Unlimited
Wind: Light and variable.
Altitudes: Not reported
Time Aloft: More than an hour.
Max Lift: Enough for an hour aloft
Temperature: Hot
Comment: Maybe we'll see more reports and photos after this is published.
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey, Alex Caldwell

Since I wasn't out on Saturday, AlexCaldwell emailed a brief description of what happened then. Here is what he said:

Hi Harold,

I was out at Avenal on Saturday. I gave Jim Rickey a tow in the Orange Crush after he had spent all day doing the towing. I also worked ground school with Sergio, who is scheduled to take the private glider written test in about a week and a half.

I then came down to San Diego for a couple of days for a memorial service for one of my Dad's best friends.

Saturday was Sergio's girlfriend Dulce's birthday. We found out she is a great cook. Went home with a bunch of tamales she wraps in banana leaves. They were a big hit at my house. Sergio also made some good hamburgers for lunch on the clubhouse porch. Don Flinn had a power pilot transition, Russ, he was working with. Rick Eason was flying the 1-26. Troy Wollman was giving a friend a ride in the 2-33 Big Bird and also flew the 1-26. There was more activity I missed. The lift was reported as not that good, although Troy was up for an hour in the 1-26 and had no working varios due to an electric issue in the glider.


Sergio Grajeda on the patio ready for lunch and Dulce's birthday.

The gliders tied down before the gang showed up to chase thermals.

Next time we'll have more reporting and pictures.


Monday, August 8, 2016

SATURDAY, August 6, 2016. Hot but not unbearable. Training and cross country.

Visibility: Unlimited
Wind: Southeast @ 7 kts.
Altitudes: 9500 + msl
Time Aloft: 4 houts +
Max Lift: 10 knots
Temperature: 101 deg F.
Comment: Takeoffs from runway 13L
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey

Hot but not as hot as last Saturday. Bearable in the shade but not so much in the direct sunlight. Hanging around under the wings of gliders helped make the day easier. Naturally the complication was the wind which forced us to relocate to runways 13. I shouldn't complain too much since these issues are characteristic of the Central Valley in August. The weather is why I moved here in 1978 and I'm still thankful that when the heat hits 100, the humidity stays mercifully low. The Weather Channel app for the iPhone shows the weather and what the temperature actually feels like. In this area, those two numbers are the same because of the low humidity. One recent measurement from Chicago showed a temperature of 92 deg F with a humidity of 70%. So, the tag line "Feels like ... " showed 106 deg F for the Chicago area. I've been telling my relatives that for the 40 years I've been here in California. But on to the story ...

Here is Carl Engel's quick note about his and Jeff Richardson's flight. Carl in his Discus and Jeff in the DG100.


No big story for Saturday's flights.  Jeff and I spent the afternoon running between Black, Lookout, and Orchard Peak trying to track the blue convergence with marginal success.  Max altitude was 9,500 ft (top of the smoke layer) and duration was a little over 4 hours.  A few strong (and turbulent) thermals with peaks over 10kts, but most in the 4-6 kt range.

No pictures from me this week either, sorry!


Joe Anastasio flew the PW-5 for long enough in the heat and returned after canvassing the area from North to South.

Andrew Palmer and Luca Soares are in the training mode with both nearing solo. Andrew is closer only because we've done more maneuvers but after today, we brought Luca up to speed on the required maneuvers with just two to go. I expect both of them to solo within the next few weekends, largely dependent on the weather, rough air, and wind. Both have been handling the rough air and wind quite well so I expect only a major increase in any of those parameters would shut down a solo attempt.

Andrew Palmer brought his Aunt out to Avenal for a ride with Troy Wollman. Actually, Ruchira Nageswaran looked like Andrew's younger sister. She's an Architect from San Francisco and has been in practice for 20 years. Attended the University of Notre Dame where my own father graduated in 1927!!

Troy Wollman flew a number of flights with passengers including Ruchira and Tiffany, both of whom enjoyed the flight but not the heat and maneuvering. Tiffany indicated she'll learn to fly, and Ruchira began thinking of it since she said she has always wanted to learn to fly.

Jim Rickey, as usual, towed all day, and finally was able to launch in late afternoon, unfortunately after many of the strong thermals had moved on to unknown parts. But he didn't seem too unhappy. He and a few others hung around the field until the last two flights arrived.

Jeff Richardson showing Don Flinn the finer points of assembling the DG100 with Carsten Moeller watching.
Joe Anastasio and Larry Johnson in the distance were preparing to assemble the PW-5.
All three cross country ships are nearly assembled and ready for an afternoon of chasing thermals.
First up today is Mike Paoli in the Orange Crush launching from the northwest end.
This is the critical part of the tow that requires intense concentration as shown by Mike's countenance.
Andrew Palmer, Ruchira Nageswaran, and "Big Jim" Rickey.
Me, Andrew Palmer, and Big Jim Rickey.
Looks like the Cal Poly group needs a tumbleweed removal day here at Avenal.
Jim Rickey talking to Joe Anastasio about where and how high did he want to be towed.
Carl's Discus and Jeff's DG100 moved to the northwest end for imminent launching.
Tiffany crewing for Carl Engel and Jeff Richardson.
Carl opening the canopy and starting the launch process with his Discus.
Don Flinn digging deep to hook up Andrew Palmer in the Orange Crush.
Thanks for the hookup, Don, and we are now ready to launch.
Carl Engel launching southeast down runway 13L, Jim Rickey towing.
They got off the ground with plenty of altitude as they passed over the fence southeast.
I think the CZ represents CARLZ glider, a beautiful Discus.
And Carl is off on another nice long cross country flight north and south of the gliderport.
This time it is Jeff Richardson in the DG100 almost too quick for a good photograph.
Another launch for Big Bird with Troy Wollman taking Tiffany up for another flight.
After a long day of towing, it's finally Big Jim's turn to enjoy whatever thermals remain in late afternoon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

SATURDAY, July 30th, 2016. Clean up day in awful heat. Some flights.

Visibility: Poor
Wind: SE 6-10 kts
Altitudes: 7300 msl
Time Aloft: One hour
Max Lift: 10 kts
Temperature: 108++ deg F  with a Density Altitude of about 4300 msl at 4:00 pm.
Comment: Awful heat.
Tow pilot: "Looch" Worl, then Jim Rickey.

The heat was awful. It felt like a hair dryer was right next to your cheek when the wind blew. It was one of the hotter days at Avenal I can remember. The wind not only didn't provide any relief but in fact it contributed to the heat blowing in every nook and cranny.

Most of the day was made up of many CCSC members who came out to work on making the grounds look better. Some arrived as early as 7:00 am, others came later, but all pitched in and worked hard while they could stand the heat.One palm tree in particular was trimmed so well by Morgan Hall and Jim Rickey it almost looks like it doesn't belong on our property. You'll see it next time you visit Avenal.

Dennis Lyons provided much support and vehicles and also took the following eight pictures of various members in action against the wild of the gliderport.

Jim Rickey responded about Saturday's work:

I want to extend thanks to all those who came out Saturday on one of Central California's finest miserably hot days.  When I arrived at about 7:30, a quick glance looked like there were already a half-dozen members working hard, and the old refrigerators were already loaded on Dennis's pickup.  More members showed up as the morning went on.  Many hands make short work.
What was really impressive is the number of members who came out despite having no plans to fly.  (I'd name them, but I'm sure I would miss at least one person)  They know that being a member of a club carries responsibilities to make a club work.
The grounds look considerably better.  While there is more to be done, it will wait for cooler working weather.
In the meantime, there were several piles of brush left.  Anybody may wheel the 'green waste' can over to a pile, or two, or three, scoop up the debris, and place the can to be picked up.  In a few weeks all the piles ought to be gone.
Thanks again!

Martin Caskey, Larry Johnson, and Joe Anastasio work the front yard.
Martin and Larry working a few areas of high weeds.
Along came Joe Anastasio with the lawn mower to make the cutting much faster and easier.
Sergio Grajeda also working on the front yard in dark clothes that should have intensified the heat on him.
Jeff Richardson filling one of many bags of cuttings.
Jim Rickey working next to a sign that desperately needs to be redone, and will be soon.
Mike Paoli and Pancho Herrera working on the north side of the clubhouse.
Morgan Hall using his chain saw to trim a large bush just north of the clubhouse.

When most of the work was completed, at least that which could be done without dropping from heat exhaustion, a few brave souls went flying. Those who gained enough altitude reached cool air and enjoyed the flight, until they had to descend into the furnace that was the gliderport. A few, like Andrew Palmer, are preparing for their solo flight and were simply doing pattern tows, in the heat. Ugh.

Most of the flights were made by Troy Wollman who managed to do four of them, taking fellow students up for rides. Later in the day, Troy snagged the same thermal that Luca Soares and I got into that took us up over 7300 msl. The thermal was still strong at that point but we had other priorities and exited the thermal.

Here's Troy's explanation of his flights:


I'm not sure when you left yesterday but I had 4 flights. On the first, I took my brother, Trenton, on a short flight. He was feeling sick on tow so we kept it short. My second flight was with Kyle and we were up for about 2 hours. We took a strong thermal up to about 6000 MSL and then headed north to Coalinga. We were able to take a convergence line along the foothills until we were abeam Coalinga airport at 7000'. From there we turned around and flew back to Avenal, stopping twice to top off in good thermals. We got on the ridge near Tar Peak and flew south towards Reef Station before heading back to the airport. Our bottoms were getting pretty sore at that point. I forgot to take my flight logger with me on that flight. We would have scored well for a 233.

At that point, the wind had picked up and was about 90 degrees across the runway. I did a pattern flight with Alex for some x-wind instruction before taking Trenton up one more time. We did some gentle thermalling by the dump up to 5000' MSL before the airsickness returned. I should have carried more speed on the landing because the wind shifted when we were about 10ft from the ground and the landing was harder than I would like for a passenger. 

Troy Wollman in Big Bird on tow with a passenger
Big Bird. Simply a beautiful looking glider against the blue sky.
Sergio Grajeda on tow, practicing another solo flight.
Sergio had several flights today and is getting closer to taking the written exam and then the practical test.
Another pattern tow for Sergio. I guess he thrives on the heat, living in Avenal.
Luca Soares and I on our way to 7300 msl where the air was mercifully cool.
Luca got us just over the 7000 msl mark and continued up another 200 feet before we did other maneuvers,
Most of the time, the lift was between 600 and 1000 feet per minute up.
The day was this hazy with all the smoke from the local fires in California.
The biggest and best thermal occurred right where you see that dust devil. And it stayed there all afternoon.
The thermal hung around that area most of the rest of the afternoon when the temperature was its worst.
Luca Soares did an excellent job of thermalling us up over 7000 msl.
It's been a long time since we've seen a Density Altitude (red numbers)over 4000 msl.

A few of us did enjoy the cool air above 7000 msl. In fact the height of the smoke layer I estimated at about 7500 msl because on our flight we were just getting out of the smoke and began seeing long distances.

This was not a Saturday to brag about because the heat took it's toll on all who were here today. It saps the energy out of one's body, leaving you not inclined to do much else except head for cooler air somewhere.

It appears that next Saturday will likely be nearly 10 degrees cooler and should make for a far more enjoyable day of flying.

See you next Saturday,

Harold Gallagher