Saturday, May 19, 2018

SATURDAY, May 12, 2018. A booming day for soaring.

Visibility: Unlimited
Wind: Light and variable early, strong and gusty late afternoon.
Altitudes: 8000+ msl
Time Aloft: 3.5 hours
Max Lift: +1000 fpm
Temperature: Cool 70's
Comment: Too good a day for anyone to miss.
Tow pilot: Harold Gallagher, Jim Rickey, Alex Caldwell

Last weekend was one of the best lift days we’ve had in a long time. Anyone who went aloft had fun and could have stayed aloft all afternoon. I have added several interesting stories from most of those who flew that afternoon, and among them is Dan Gudgel’s granddaddy of all demo flights. You’ll see what I mean when you read his stories.

Wyll Soll was first to launch and he stayed up for 3.5 hours. Since Wyll is engaged in academic work his story is somewhat abbreviated. Here is what he wrote:

Hey Harold I am a bit too busy with school right now to do an in depth write up about  my flight but basically I got off tow into a good climb.  Then ran SE along the convergence line for about 19 miles until I got to a blue spot that I couldn't comfortably cross. I then ran back to Avenal and went up to Black.  I headed for a q w of EL7 but it was not working and I retreated back to the valley.  I then went north towards Coalinga but had to skirt around a lot of overdevelopment. After that I went back to Avenal and tried the mountains again but they were not working and then I hung around near Avenal for a bit and then landed with a solid 15 kt headwind on 25.  Here is a link to my trace on OLC:

Wyll's trace of his flight showing all the places he stopped to thermal.

Mario Pauda also went up and here is what he wrote:

Hi Harold,

I had a nice flight after you towed me 2000 ft over the Kettleman Hills, right into the convergence zone.

The cu’s were lined up all the way to Coalinga, my task for the day. At times, the lift under the clouds was so strong, it felt as if I were “pulling g’s.” I found myself wondering if I should curl my toes, tense up my legs and grunt (ha!).

One cloud was particularly noteworthy: it had bumpy (bordering on turbulent) lift associated with it, and, get this, the cloud was rotating. Rotor? Perhaps. The rotating cloud was further west than the convergence line; the wind from the west was strong enough to push the convergence zone to the Kettlemans and beyond. So perhaps the west wind was strong enough to set up a rotor. In any case, I went back to the main convergence zone at around 5,500 ft.

Close to Coalinga, the cu’s had overdeveloped. Sink everywhere. I took the attached photo of the New Coalinga airport from my highest altitude of the day, 7,500 ft MSL, and then headed back to the Kettlemans. I got as low as 4500’ or so before I found a good climbing thermal to make it back home for a 2.1 hour-flight. Overall, an educational and rewarding fight in  “Nothing Too Loose,” my 1-26 (that is the intended spelling, T-o-o L-o-o-s-e, as in “everything is just tight enough”). The New Coalinga airport is to the left of the picture.

The New Coalinga airport is at the left side of the photo.

One more point about this nice soaring day: Jim Rickey had a long flight in the Casper the 1-26 later in the day. He was gone for so long, Wyll Soll and I were wondering if he had landed out. When he finally made it home, his butt was frozen (his words). Evidently, the seat cushion he used was too thick. Jim, being the tall man that he is, kept bumping his head on the canopy. So, he removed the seat cushion and sat his butt on bare metal. He was wearing shorts, to boot. A cursory examination revealed no signs of frostbite!


Next up for a story is Jim Rickey who spares no words to convey an excellent flight:

I'm going to start my narrative just a little bit before I climbed in Casper.

My last tow of the day was Rick Eason, also in Casper.  Right after takeoff I spotted a good dust devil 1/2 mile west of the departure end of 31.  Went for it.  While in the vicinity of the dust devil I was seeing 1000-1200 fpm lift with Rick in tow.  Just as I completed a 180 deg turn to head back to the real action, Wyll announced that he was directly over the field at 5500 feet and climbing 5 knots.  Let's head there!  Wished Rick had a radio to hear the announcement, because at 2000’ AGL he found lift and pulled the big red knob.  Dang.  He was back on the ground way too soon.

I offered to tow him again, but he said he needed to get going, and asked if I wanted to fly it or should he put it away.  "Leave it out."  (I think Rick decided for me!)  I rounded up Alex to tow, he did somebody else first, then it was my turn at  4:27 PM.  Is it even worth a tow?  Might as well.  Rick stayed to run my wing.

Found a little lift and released at 2500' MSL.  Got up to 3000' MSL with a little bit of effort, then back down, then back up to 3100', etc.  Scraped along for a little while just barely east of the gliderport.  Surface winds were WSW 11-19 MPH with gusts 20-27 MPH on every report during my flight.  The lift was downwind of the gliderport, it was getting late enough I figured lift could collapse with a bang at any moment, and the headwind back to the gliderport was strong.  I played it very cautiously.

Finally got up to about 3100' over the dump, which gave me a little room to explore, even with the headwind back to the runway.  Actually got up to 3100' about three times.  The last time I was able to find convergence heading to the northwest from the dump.  As long as I was climbing I was happy.  Went up and down between 3000' and 5000' a few times.  Finally got up to 5100' at the southeast end of a run, and felt good about pushing a bit further east to get under a promising looking CU that had been parked there. Worked it for a little bit, then the bottom started getting lumpy.  Bound to happen.

I found either the same convergence line that had moved further east, or a second one.  Traveled in a straight line for a while at +2 knots, until I stumbled into some 6 knot lift.  Bank to 55 deg and take every advantage of it.  Rode that up to about 7100', adjusting the turn the whole time.  When it died (or I lost it?) scratched around and touched 7500'.  Not at all cross-country efficient to seek out the last bit of climb you can, but I had no thoughts of going anywhere.  Had pushed a little further east, continuously aware of the headwind to home and the thought that this rising air is all going to come crashing down at any moment.  Never got much further east than the ridge line of the Kettleman Hills.  Not having a working radio, and leaving my cellphone behind (because Casper had already claimed one touchscreen of mine), caution was the order of my day.

The flight did not start out too promising.  Compared to some of the earlier flights--like Dan's--it was nothing.  All things must come to an end, and the CUs were rapidly dissipating.  Sun angle looked like it was nearing 6:00.  Headed back to the gliderport, and found some 6-8 knot sink  Over the town I was able maintain altitude for awhile.  I could see all other aircraft were on the ground, and was able to keep 2500' for three east-west round trips over the City--mainly just to add another tenth of time. Heading eastbound the groundspeed was probably triple the groundspeed heading into the wind.

Entered left crosswind for 31.  Looking at the wind sock and the wind tee, I considered landing on 25.  Crab angle on left downwind for 31 was impressive, 30 deg I'm guessing.  Looking at Casper's shadow moving on the ground confirmed the track was pretty close to parallel of the runway, though.  Even running the downwind leg a little wide to leave room for high groundspeed on the base leg, the downwind-base-final turn was a quickie to avoid overshooting the runway. Impressive crab angle on final down to about 100' AGL, where surface friction started reducing surface wind to WSW15.

Rolled out at 6:15 PM.  What had started off as a not-too-promising flight ended up being a 1:45 refreshing blast.


Last but not least are the events experienced by Dan Gudgel on his one demo at Tehachapi and two demos at Avenal all in one day.

Here is what Richard Walker had to say about his flight:

Took off about 4:20 pm with a 1 hour flight. Convergence was over the Kettleman Hills.  I got up to 6400 msl and went south to 41 where sink was 800 and increasing. I  headed back, regaining altitude for a run to the north end of the hills. Cut over to the power lines then back to Avenal. Getting cooler by that time. Jim Rickey was still enjoying his flight when I landed. Enjoyable flight.


And last but certainly not least is what Dan accomplished with three demo flights today:

Dan writes:

Nice soaring synoptic pattern above:  Upper level low with its associated cool air aloft and yet generally sunny conditions for surface heating thereby providing a deep convection layer.  With the low aloft slightly inland, encouragement for onshore flow in the day following a dry-cold front passage also resulted in the deep marine layer along the coast to push air through the Diablo Range passes into the West San Joaquin Valley for shear line development in combination with thermals to high-based cumulus.

Saturday, May 12, 2018
     Timing is everything and today was no exception for me.  Due to weight and balance limitations I flew in two venues today, Mountain Valley Airport and Avenal.  The morning instructional flight at Skylark North Flight School ended up being a long flight of 1.2 hours in the Tehachapi Shear Line with a young USAF Test Pilot School Officer.  A coordinated long-awaited Spring Soaring Christmas present for Garrett Quade of Lemoore had been arranged for this afternoon at AvenalHarold towed me up for the “Demonstration Ride” in SGS 2-33, N3613F and about the time we reached 2500 ft AGL (3300 feet MSL), a strong thermal was encountered.  I released, centered the initial 500 fpm thermal and proceeded to climb to 8100 feet MSL with thermal strength reaching 800-1000 fpm in the band between 5000-8000 feet MSL.  From that point 1 mile southeast of Avenal, I ran a rough line of scattered cumulus with bases estimated 8500 feet MSL out to the west and not losing but about 300 feet of altitude during the run.  Not bothering to turn I continued to fly along the Kettleman Plain / Foothill interface working small cumulus-to-cumulus at an average speed of 65 mph indicated.   Encountering another strong thermal averaging 800 to 1000 fpm about 4 miles west of Avenal , I again climbed back to 8000 feet MSL and now proceeded to leisurely porpoise fly north-by-northwest to the New Coalinga Airport with few to scattered cumulus around.  About a mile southeast of the Coalinga State Hospital I spotted Mario Pauda circling above in his SGS 1-26 and took a few turns below him but the flight was getting long on time with another ride waiting so I impatiently pushed southeast.  The return flight back to Avenal averaged 75-80 mph indicated airspeed and still I arrived at the airport at 3500 feet MSL.  The surface winds were from 250 degrees, magnetic, at about 15 mph so I opted to angle-land on runway 31 and had only a short ground-roll in preparation for the next ride.  Garrett Quade had a great time on the approximately one hour flight.
     The waiting ride was a complimentary ride for Doug Spencer, Sr., a close friend of Doug Morris who has graciously allowed us to use his tractor to keep our weeds down and provided scraping for the benefit of the airfield operations.  Jim Rickey towed me off runway 31 nicely despite the 45-degree crosswind and north of Avenal City I released to work an encountered thermal at 2300 feet AGL (3100 feet  MSL).  The thermal was initially hard to find and center as it was “only” 200 to 300 fpm and small.  However, it soon developed into a nice 500 to 700 fpm thermal that I took to 7500 feet MSL.  From there I proceeded west to the Diablo Range and similar to the previous flight I followed a line that seemed to have more lift than sink along its axis.  Unfortunately, this flight became a bit more turbulent as the wind conditions were worsening so the flight was truncated for comfort purposes.  Still the flight lasted about 40 minutes and provided Doug Spencer an introduction to general aviation, and specifically to that of soaring flight!  By 4:45 PM PDT, the surface winds shifted back to the southwest with gusty conditions and speeds of 17 to 22 mph.

Dan Gudgel

Here are some additional pictures taken from some training flights and a few others:

Several Board meetings took place this morning and a fair amount was accomplished.
The three Musketeers, Doug Spencer, Sr: Doug Morris; Doug Spencer, Jr.
Dan Gudgel breaking the sound barrier on his way back from Coalinga with Garrett Quade.
Dan Gudgel turning left base after the Granddaddy of all demo flights in the 2-33.
Dan is setting up on final for runway 31L at Avenal.
Over the fence and the end to a spectacular demo flight for Dan's friend Garrett Quade.
Finally Doug Spencer, Sr., gets his chance to experience the wonder of silent flight. Doug Morris standing by.
There were still nice markers aloft when Dan and Doug launched in Big Bird.
Dan and Doug passing by the clubhouse on the way aloft. Doug had to wait a couple of weeks for this flight.
Still lots of clouds aloft and Dan should have no difficulty finding the same strong lift he found with Garrett.
Rick Eason decided to test the lift and he's readying for launch in Casper, our friendly 1-26.
It's late in the day and unless Rick catches a good thermal he might just land back and give Casper to Jim Rickey.
Richard Walker  just finished assembling his 1-26 and will be launching soon.

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