Monday, September 20, 2021

Saturday September 4, 2021

Visibility: Mildly Hazy
Wind: Light and Variable
Altitudes: Not very high
Time Aloft: Not very long
Max Lift: 2-4 kts, lift started early today, and we wrapped up early today.  I'd guess it may have been better soaring a bit later in the day.  
Temperature: Not as hot as it's been for the last month.
Tow pilot: Kyle Hyde

It was a nice day at Avenal today, with good training conditions. I had to leave early. So I only made 3 flights today in N3613F,  but I think the people that came out got some good practice.  I flew with Christian Cueto and Gordon Cloes.  Christian is getting more flights under his belt and Gordon is already a rated pilot who has both a private power  rating and also a helicopter rating. They are both doing well,  and I think will be ready to solo in the near future. Quinn Marsh also made 2 solo flights in the other 2-33,   "22S"   today.   Also spending time at the field today was Rob Seerey.  He also was at the field the week before. He had visited Tehachapi and the Fantasy Haven gliderport the week before that,  and has an interest in Soaring and learning to fly. He spent both days at Avenal helping out and learning a lot on the ground. He helped run wings, hook up tow lines, charged the battery on the winch,  and was generally quite helpful.  He asked a lot of good questions and  seemed genuinely  interested in soaring,  and to be soaking up a lot of information. He also seemed to have mechanical talents and since he had spent so much time and energy traveling to gliderports in our general area, it seemed to me like he had earned a glider flight, and would appreciate and enjoy one.  Near the end of the day on Saturday, we asked him if he wanted to take a FAST ride, but it seemed to be a bit expensive, as did joining the club right now. So I offered to give him a ride at my expense,  if he'd give us a copy or a link  to any photos or video 
he had taken at Avenal or at Fantasy Haven or Mojave recently during his travels. I believe CCSA member  Carl Lindgren was at Fantasy Haven on Sept. 4th, so he may show up in Rob's video down below. Rob is interested not only in soaring,  but in other things as well, such as road trips, music, trains, old cars, ravens,  sea otters and other topics,  as you will see in his 
video link just below!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Real Thing

Visibility: Beautiful
Wind: Light, from the NE most of the day
Altitudes: Not much above release height
Time Aloft: Several 30+ minute flights
Max Lift: Modest & tough to center
Temperature: mid-60's to mid-80's
Comment: Photos by Rick Ibarra
Tow pilot: Dave Simpson

We train for rope breaks and other PT3 events, but most tows are pretty predictable and uneventful.  Rick tried a few simulated rope breaks today and handled each one in the right way.  So he's now properly sensitized to thinking ahead about where he's going to land if the tow should be unexpectedly interrupted.  All good stuff.

Then, we had the Real Thing!  This photo shows the glider-end weak link which did exactly what its supposed to do - break before the tow line or the towplane-end weak link.  So, Rick got both simulated RB and the Real Thing today and now has one real rope break in his log book.

Elsewhere at the field, Joe and Carl were out sharpening their skills in the air, and Alex, along with Steve (and his companion) logged some quality time with shovels working on our nemesis - the goat head thorn bushes.  Dave Simpson towed, for which we are appreciative.  Not the best soaring day of the year, but a pleasant, late summer day.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Somewhat Clearer Skies

Visibility: Poor, but improving throughout the day
Wind: light
Altitudes: 6,000+
Time Aloft: 1+ hour
Max Lift: 5+ knots
Temperature: Cooler than it has been
Comment: Photo by Rick Ibarra
Tow pilot: David Simpson & Kyle Hyde

Smoke from fires to the north and the south made for bad visibility this past week.  But it improved somewhat on Saturday and we had a dozen or so flights at Avenal.

Notably, Quinn had a 1+ hour flight up to ~6,500' to earn his C Badge.  Carl made a few flights in the 1-26 using his brand new glider rating and Kyle worked on PTS maneuvers for his upcoming practical test.  Finally, Rick's flights were focused on getting the pattern and landing dialed-in precisely.

Meanwhile, on the ground, Alex was doing some remedial work on the ailerons of 1B, and Zach made a run to fill the fuel trailer and dropped off some other supplies and materials.

And, if you haven't been to the field in the past few months, you'll find a new bathroom door, new soap and towel dispensers and new toilet seats!  The Board will have some other work projects on the list for a work day this fall.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Visibility: More than 10 statute miles.
Wind: Light and variable. A few times wind was  perhaps 3-5 kts. out of the SSE. 
Altitudes: 3000 ft. AGL - tow release altitude on a few flights. 
Time Aloft: We think approx. 30 minutes by Quinn Marsh???
Max Lift: ???
Temperature: 108 deg. F.  on our porch thermometer. at 3:00 p.m., long after we had wrapped things up for the day! 
Tow pilot: Dan Gudgel Many thanks to Dan for all the hard work in the heat! Dan made 14 tows, all before 1:00 p.m.! 

Quinn Marsh (L) Solos!!! After sticking it out with his instructor Alex Caldwell (R) ,  passing his pre solo written exam, and wading through  getting his temporary student license through the FAA's IACRA web site. Quinn made 3 very nice solo flights today in our SGS 2-33A,  "Big Bird",  N3613F. In fact,  he seemed to find weak lift, and had our longest flight of the day! 
Yes! I am beginning to think these clothes do make me look short! Will have to talk to wife Diana about these clothes she's been getting me! They also seem to make it appear that my stomach sticks out in front a bit! Another thing I'm noticing is how these new digital cameras make it look like your hair is thinning on top  and turning  grey! Funny, we never used to see  that effect before  with the old Kodak Instamatic film cameras we used to use in gliding  although they did have that same "shortening" effect, but curiously,  not the "enlarged  stomach" effect!  It may be something to do with the default lens focal length, perhaps kind of a "fish eye" lens effect, that may also be causing the hair thinning and "shiny on top"  head effect!   The "gray hair color effect" is likely some kind of "chromatic aberration"  problem with the new digital photography, possibly,  (I hope)! 
Newly rated ( a week ago last Thursday) glider pilot Carl Lindgren(L)  came out to schmooze with last week's recommending  instructor Caldwell(R) and also  made 3 good flights, as PIC, in our club's  SGS 1-26E single place sailplane.  I think he might be looking to accumulate experience,  so he can  fly the club's DG 100 sailplane next! Carl has a lot of farming experience in his background, and was seen today removing tumbleweeds with a shovel from the glider tie down area after finishing flying. He also knows how to drive a tractor, and has an impressive tolerance to working outside in the oppressive heat we've had all this summer at Avenal! 
 Also flying with Caldwell today was Christian Cueto, from the Cal Poly University Akaflieg Group, who is doing very well.  He practiced low and high tows today, boxing the wake, and practiced premature termination of the tow, light cross wind,  as well as accuracy landings.    Christian is well on his way to soloing, I strongly suspect.
Private Glider Pilot John Harbick came out today, arriving at 06:30, and expecting a grueling flight review with instructor Caldwell.  His previous flight review was found to still be valid, until the end of June, 2022,  however. So he made three nice solo refresher flights in "Big Bird".  It actually appeared from the ground, that he was  doing quite a bit better without Caldwell even being on board!  We think his previous flying  experience back in Viet Nam,  as a copilot/observer in Forward Air Controller aircraft is paying off for him!   
Quinn make a cool video of his first solo glider flight today. I'm the one holding the nose of the glider down at the very beginning as he gets in. I also checked the seatbelts in the back cockpit to be sure they were secure and were not going to be able to catch the controls back there. I also secured the back door. I think most of that was edited out of the video. Be sure to have your sound turned up!

Monday, August 9, 2021

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Visibility: Lousy. Optimistically, about  4.5 statute miles, due to a major smoke intrusion from big California wildfires.
Wind: Mostly light and variable.  Somewhat more of the time out of the SSE.
Altitudes: 2950 ft.,  after releasing at pattern altitude. 
Time Aloft: 30 minutes
Max Lift: 325 fpm
Temperature: Maximum about 101 deg. F. in the late afternoon.
Tow pilot: Jim Rickey

The San Joaquin Valley filled with smoke today from the recent wildfires in Northern California, presumably.  Hanford AWOS was reporting visibility of 4.5 miles in "haze".  We could just make out Tar Canyon and Tar Peak to the SW of the field, so that seemed about right. We could not make out Black Mountain to the West, which is a bit  further away at about 7.5 to 8 miles distance. Rick Ibarra and Quinn Marsh came out,  and we decided to do some training flights.  Carl Lindgren also came by but did not fly today.  Congratulations to Carl on passing his private pilot practical test last Thursday with DPE Dan Gudgel! Flight visibility was pretty poor all day. We've been pretty lucky so far this year not to have had a lot of smokey days from all the fires, but our luck ran out today.  We only did pattern tows today.  Both Quinn and Rick got quite a bit of practice at "premature termination of the tow" rope breaks, as well as "no wing runner" take offs, and take offs and landings on different runways.  In some directions, we didn't have a distinct horizon, but we could always make out references on the ground, and Tar Peak and Tar Canyon.   On one flight, Rick found a nice thermal right after releasing at 1100 ft AGL.  He was able to climb up to 2950 ft. MSL. We quit there,  because of the smoke and reduced visibility.  Both Quinn and Rick are very close to being able to solo. Rick  is a licensed power pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings,  and  is looking over the glider  Pre-Solo test I gave him, and Quinn just finished his IACRA application for his required FAA Student License,  and is also doing the FAA required pre-solo test.   The "Skew-T" App, a free app available for the Android system, that  I have on my phone, pulls up a forecast from the "Op40"  computer model forecast.  For Avenal Airport,  it indicated thermals could go up to as high as 5500 MSL in mid afternoon. But I don't believe that model takes into account the effects of smoke on cutting down the heating, due to the reduced  amount of sunlight reaching the ground.  It also does not say anything about the effect of the smoke on flight visibility.  I'm sure the thermal we had would have gone somewhat  higher, but we quit trying,  due to the poor visibility.   I actually  don't think any of the currently popular computer based  soaring forecasts take wildfire smoke into account.  There is, however,  a newer "Experimental"  version of the HRRR (High resolution Rapid Refresh) computer  model available from the NWS that does try to take the effects of smoke into account. That new HRRR computer may become more useful. It also  forecasts a visibility parameter,   which should  be useful for  soaring, as well as other types of flying. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021; Carl Lindgren passes checkride.

Visibility:       20 miles
Wind:             Southeast to southwest, 10-15.
Altitudes:       3500 MSL
Time Aloft:    Not long
Max Lift:       None
Temperature: Low to mid 90s at flight time.
Comment:      Carl Lindgren passes Glider checkride.

Carl Lindgren today became our newest rated glider pilot!

Here are the last couple of seconds of Carl's 3rd and final flight.

Look closely and DPE Dan is smiling and saluting the camera.

A relaxed looking DPE, smiling for the camera, is a good sign.

All takeoffs and landings were on runway 12L today.  During the third and final flight, wind was out of the southeast to south, probably 15 knots, definitely favoring runway 12.

Carl Lindgren and DPE Dan Gudgel are all smiles after Carls successful checkride!
(It's 100° F out--forget the normal picture by the glider--let's get under the shade!)

Saturday, July 3, 2021


Visibility: Unlimited - we could watch the OD build in the Sierras
Wind: All around the clock
Altitudes: 7,200' msl and more directly over the airport
Time Aloft: Several hours
Max Lift: 10+ knots in the sweet ones
Temperature: 103 at 5 pm
Comment: All Good
Tow pilot: Logan S.

The forecast was for a "nothing special" day around Avenal, except that the westerly push in the afternoon would actually arrive at the airport.  Here was the picture at 4 pm:

Sure enough, through the heart of the soaring day, the ridges and mountains to the west were not really working, but up and down Hwy 33 and over the Kettleman Hills there was nice soaring to be found.  The winds started out right down Runway 12, then shifted to Easterly and then after 3, shifted 180 deg to a direct crosswind from the west.  I can't say it was a "cool" breeze, but we did notice it seemed "cooler".

Joe A, Richard W. and Eric R. each had multi-hour flights in their birds.  Not a day for long distances, but just good fun.

Kyle D. worked on prep for his upcoming checkride.

Gordon is getting the hang of the pattern, and we are slow exorcising all those old power habits.

Quinn focused on mastering the pattern, and then showed us how its done crusing energy lines in a 2-33!

Thanks to Logan for getting us into the air.

Happy Independence Day to all!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Lazy Days of Summer

Visibility: Clear    
Wind: 10 knot Xwind from NE most of the day
Altitudes: low 4,000's MSL  
Time Aloft: About an hour
Max Lift: some 6 knot cores and lots of 3-4 knot climbs
Temperature: low 100's
Comment: Lots of time for projects
Tow pilot: Dan Gudgel

It was an slow, somewhat leisurely day at Avenal today.  As it should be this time of year - no one wants to get in a big hurry in the heat.

Rick I. was down from San Jose and got a handful of flights with Alex and with Kevin.  He's making very good progress and will soon have this whole soaring thing figured out.

Rick enjoying the thermals.

CA69 on a summer day

Quinn M. had some good times with simulated rope breaks and working some awesome dust devils.  (and for good measure, cleaned out the restrooms - thank you, Quinn!)

Alex C. and Carl L. worked on preparations for Carl's upcoming practical test.

Alex and Jim R. completed a flight review. And then Richard W. and Jim replaced a bad valve core and air'ed up a tractor tire and Carl took it out for some mid-afternoon mowing.

Dan G. towed and generally kept the place under control.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Summer Comes to Avenal

Visibility: Long / far / blue
Wind: Easterly X wind most of the day, which finally became westerly at the end
Altitudes: 8,000' plus
Time Aloft: 1 hour plus        
Max Lift: 4-6 knots all around
Temperature: 108-ish
Tow pilot: Logan & Kyle H.

Aaaaahhhh, at last.  Summer in Avenal.  We were finally able to put away the parkas, mittens and woolen caps, and break out the flip-flops, straw hats and suntan lotion.


Or maybe just usual CA69 summer temps and good summer lift.  

The soaring forecasts were a little exuberant, but we did get the full 8,000' MSL over the airport predicted by some of the RASPs.  Skysight seemed a bit optimistic, but there were some wispies over the San Benitos that could have been in the 12,000' plus range that was forecast.

Kyle H. earned his C Badge today and every student got a healthy dose of summer thermaling with good Xwind launch & landing practice.  And most agreed that it was a lot more pleasant at altitude than sitting on the ground.

Thanks to Logan and Kyle for towing. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Visibility: Excellent, unlimited for the most part, except cumulus clouds everywhere, with a bit of virga in a few places, but not reaching the ground today. like I'm told happened yesterday.
Wind: Light all day at the surface. About 12 15 kts from the NNW at altitude.
Altitudes: We got to 8700 ft. MSL in the 2-33. Others in high performance ships undoubtedly got higher.
Time Aloft: Our longest flight in the 2-33 was just over 1 hour.
Max Lift: 8-10 kts.
Temperature: Very pleasant at the surface. It got a bit cold at our Maximum altitude in the back seat of the 2-33, especially when under a cloud.
Tow pilot: Logan Stevens most of the day, Chris Banys later in the afternoon. Many thanks to them!


Patrick Dillon Solos! 
Patrick soloed in the 2-33 today! He has flown at Avenal and also in Colorado at Steamboat Springs. Patrick also has quite  number of winch launches at Steamboat Springs, which is uncommon at Avenal. In any case, we did one practice rope break at about 250 - 300 ft. AGL and were able to make a left turn and land on runway 8 with a slight right crosswind. Patrick handled that well, and then after reviewing and discussing his pre-solo written test, he made two solo fights and did very well. There was less wind shear today between the surface and the first 2-4 thousand feet of altitude than last week. So the tows were not quite as rough.  There were  5 private ships and the 1-26 that had gridded and were  anxious to launch, so we let all of them, except Carl in the 1-26  get going before cutting Patrick loose. They all got away after making one circuit of the field and then towing out towards Tar Peak. We were getting radio reports that they were getting good climbs to about 8500 ft. MSL out in that direction. So Patrick had the sky over Avenal Airport  mostly to himself when he finally  got in the air for his solos. His take offs, tows and landings were all good. Unfortunately, he didn't contact lift on either flight, so he wasn't able to stay up and soar. But he handled the patterns and landings very well on both of his flights. He looked like he was appropriately "Stoked" after landing! 
Do these clothes make me look short?

Next up in the 2-33 trainer was Quinn Marsh, he had an excellent soaring flight and was up just over an hour. He got a lot of thermalling practice,  with some very nice cumulus clouds forming just over the field by then.  He got us up to 8700 ft MSL.  Quinn spotted a power plane at our same altitude, that appeared to be transiting the area, heading towards the coast, possibly in the direction of the Avenal VOR,  San Luis Obispo, Oceano, or maybe Santa Maria, etc.   We kept our eye on him to be sure he was leaving the area. I told Quinn that I doubted that they ever saw us, most likely.  Then,  we were able to practice slow flight (flight at minimum controllable airspeed in today's jargon). After doing some "clearing turns" to be sure there was no other traffic in the area, we did some  stalls from straight and level flight, and from medium banked turns, with and without dive brakes.  We also did some incipient spin entries.  Quinn  used the rudder to pick up the low wing, avoiding using the ailerons for that purpose,  until regaining flying speed on the recovery from the stalls and incipient spins. We also did forward slips using highway 33 as a ground reference. We did slips to a landing on runway 30 with a slight right crosswind on landing, which Quinn did quite well.   He also did very well overall, and I anticipate he will be ready to solo quite soon.  We spotted Carl Lindgren, who was flying the 1-26 and was about a thousand feet higher than we were, even though he took off after we did. So Carl  was having a lot of fun, I think!
Next up was Piper Banys. She is also doing quite well, and has already soloed before.  She has very good preflight procedures, including going through the preflight checklist, carefully and thoroughly, and yet confidently,  and also in a timely manner, so as not to waste too much "tow plane sitting on the ground with the engine running" time.  
She has a nice smooth touch on the controls. She did the  take off and flew the whole tow by herself.   She got a lot of  thermalling practice and she got us up to just over 7000 ft. MSL.  On the way down, she got more practice with slow flight, a few stalls,  and then a good left hand pattern for runway 30L. It had gotten a bit windier on the surface by the time we flew. There had been just a bit of dust getting picked up by the wind down near the take off area of runway 30R.  It was blowing just about straight down runway 30, with maybe just a little cross wind from the right, if I recall correctly. She added about 5-10 kts of extra airspeed in the landing pattern because of the wind. We also turned onto base leg a little bit sooner than we would have in no wind conditions, which she seemed to judge well. We were up for almost exactly 1 hour.
Last up was Nick Costa , who lives over between Tulare and Visalia near Mooney Grove Park.   He has been up in light power planes,  but not in a glider before. His father,  who was here today also, is a former member of our club,  and had soloed in a glider in  about the year 2000 out at Avenal under  CFI Dan Gudgel, he believes. He has two other young  relatives he would like to bring out in the next few weeks and get a FAST lesson for them too. Nick had a good flight of about 45 minutes or so. It was getting later by then,  and the lift seemed to be weakening some, but we still got to about 4500 ft. MSL. He flew the glider for a good bit of time,  and was asking a lot of good questions. Hopefully, he'll be able to come back and do some more gliding and soaring at Avenal. Nick and his Father helped get 13F to it's tie down spot,  and helped out with all aspects of securing the glider until the next time it flies. 
The private ships seemed to all have good flights. I wasn't able to verify how far each ship flew, but I saw one picture that Carl Engel showed us that he  took from the back seat of "H5", Morgan Hall's Duo Discus,  that showed the Big Sur coastline. It looked like they were a little ways out over the ocean (but still within easy gliding distance of the shoreline).   Morgan was one of the last to land back at the field at Avenal, and made a blistering run down runway 12,  followed by  a pull up with a teardrop pattern and landing on runway 30. Zach Yamauchi was aiming to fly up to Monterey Airport and land there. I didn't see him return, so I'm assuming he was able to reach his goal. Also flying was Julie Butler in "XD", her sports car like Discus A.  Quinn Marsh and I were still up,  and were able to watch from about 5000 ft. MSL as Julie approached Avenal from the South and made her pattern and landing on runway 30.  Also out flying in their own ships were Richard Walker in his yellow Schweizer 1-35 "181" that has 90 dev. flaps for glide path control and dispenses with dive brakes, Karl Kunz in "GD", his beautiful AS-W 20.  

There were several very long flights made yesterday from Avenal. Morgan Hall flew yesterday approx. 850 some kilometers in a large rectangle, going south towards New Cuyama , then across the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley towards Tehachapi, and then North along the Sierras up almost to Columbia, and back to Avenal. Zach Yamauchi flew from Avenal North West along the mountains and then South to New Cuyama then North again, then South again to near New Cuyama and then back to Avenal again for an even longer distance of approximately 950 km. There was a "cut off low pressure area over us yesterday. It was centered just to the East of us and slightly further north, over approximately Carson City. It had brought a pool of cool air aloft from further north with it. It was blocked from exiting our area by a large high pressure ridge over the midwest.  This synoptic pattern is very favorable to outstanding soaring weather this time of year in our area. 
The long days and the cool air aloft, with not usually enough moisture to form thunderheads with a lot of precipitation, but enough to form lots of high based cumulus clouds with good thermals provided by the unstable air and the long day length to provide solar heating and a long soaring day.  Several pilots flying out of Hollister Airport also made very long personal best flights and some of the longest flights out of that airport on Friday and Saturday.  Comparing Friday with Saturday, there was more moisture present on Friday than there was on Saturday. I think you can see this on these animated .gifs of the Skew-T, Log P over each day. The first one is for Friday at Avenal and the second one is for Saturday at Avenal. On Friday, there was a thunderstorm over Coalinga and it also rained hard at Avenal for a time in the late afternoon. On Saturday there was some virga just NNW of Avenal, but it did not appear to reach the ground and there were not thunderstorms in the area, even though it was somewhat "overdeveloped" along the convergence line parallel to the Diablo mountains to the West of us. So it actually looked to me like Saturday might have been slightly better than Friday, in the sense that there were no thunderheads with rain reaching the ground,  that would have needed to be avoided,  on our side of the valley. But the longest flights seem to have actually been made on Friday. Both days were quite good. Sunday, which is not shown here, was forecast to be slightly warmer and with even less moisture in the air, but still the temperature was below normal aloft, so there likely would have been good blue thermals. The cut off low is forecast to be slowly exiting the area by Monday, when the temperatures will start to be warmer than average for the date. The soaring will probably start to become more average as well, but may still provide some decent thermals, but not quite as much chance of cumulus markers as Friday and Saturday.  The last animated .gif  one is from Monday, by which time the cut off low had largely left our area and was being replaced by a high pressure ridge coming in from the west. I think you can see that the airmass was drying out, and the lapse rate was not as steep, with warmer air aloft, indicating that the cold airmass was being replaced by warmer air aloft. This would have been a more "average" soaring day for our area, with no widespread  cumulus clouds, except possibly a few "whispies" along the convergence line. And lower max altitudes of about 5000 ft. over Avenal Airport.  Usually this means the max altitudes would have been somewhat lower yet out over the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, and possibly somewhat higher over the Diablo Mts.  to the west of the airport in the convergence line on a typical day, which would still have been "soarable", but not as "epic" as Friday or Saturday were. 

Alex Caldwell

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sunday May 16th

Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind: Southerly
Altitudes: 7500
Time Aloft: 4.5 hours
Max Lift: 10kts
Tow pilot: Ethan Ronat

With a good forecast and several pilots on the schedule, we lost our tow pilot Saturday night. Huge kudos to Ethan for coming out to get us aloft. Those jet pilots can still fly those tiny planes with the spinny things pretty well. Thank you!!

5H, 06, and ZY were all ready early and staged to launch when the winds began blowing from the south. So after re-staging for a 12 departure, we quickly got aloft and each found our own courselines. After a little rock polishing north of Coalinga, Morgan and I flew up the San Benitos with Zach already heading south along here. The path was well marked with clouds, but after turning around we headed for the valley with dust devils everywhere.

The next time you get a change to fly south past Hwy 41 along Hwy 33, check out the alien site.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Visibility: excellent, unlimited,  except for the dust behind the tow plane on the first part of the take off roll. 
Wind: Light most of the day.  It was out of the ESE early, but shifted to the N later in the afternoon. It came up a bit more as we were tying down the gliders.  A "cut off low" was parked over our area today,  and appeared to be moving slowly SSE as the day progressed.  The surface  wind  direction shifted around several times, making it a good day for students to check the wind direction indicators,  and be thinking about runway selection,  as well as  the effects of the wind on the landing pattern and drift while thermalling. There was lots of lift and it was turbulent, especially noticable on tow. 
Altitudes: We got to 5000 ft.  MSL right near the field. I'm sure others in private ships got higher.
Time Aloft: Our longest flight was just short of one hour, but I'm sure some of the private ships were up a lot longer.  All our training flights lasted the better part of an hour today. The waiting on the ground to fly must have been hard! But the longer flights are good experience too!
Max Lift: We had 6 kts. steady lift frequently in the 2-33.  
Temperature: It was below normal  for this time of year. I'd say it was in the mid 80s F. on the ground. It was cooler at altitude also, with the cold pool of air aloft advected in by the cut off low.  It was comfortable on the ground and in the air at 5000 ft, but probably would have started getting uncomfortably cold in the leaky 2-33, had we been able to get higher.
Tow pilot: Kyle Hyde, many thanks! 

It was a very nice day out at Avenal today.  See above for weather comments. It was blue in our area, but the air was unstable and provided good thermals everywhere.  There were cumulus clouds on the San Benito Mountains about 20 miles to the North, but those were a long ways too far for us to reach.   The lift right near the airport started early  too.  We got lift,  and stayed up, right off on our first training flight of the day, on which I think we took off at 10:35. Rick Ibarra drove all the way to Avenal from San Jose.   He is doing quite well.  He does everything pretty much on his own now. He pre-flighted the glider, and had it all  ready to go.  He transitioned between  both high and low tow.  He boxed the wake on tow without me having to touch the controls.  He's an instrument rated pilot,  and used to have his own plane. He also soloed gliders at Lake Elsinore some 40
years ago, but then he became distracted by power flying, his "life got in the way", 
 and he didn't pursue his glider rating further -  until now.   Quinn Marsh got in two good flights, with quite a bit of thermalling practice and tow practice as well. He's also doing quite well in all areas,  and I would think it's likely he will be able to solo very soon.  Another big highlight of the day was  Jimmy O'Neal and his son James,  who is 9 years old. They   came all the way up from Simi Valley to check out Avenal and get an SSA F.A.S.T. introductory lesson for James.  They have had a kitfox airplane,  and like to fly into a number of STOL back country strips and camp out. They also have these small off road racing cars that James races, and that look to me, anyway, kind of like minaturized versions of the  "Sprint Cars" that race in Tulare on a dirt track,  and have a roll cage and a lot of  special roll-over protection. Any way,  James seemed to gravitate almost right away towards  the tow plane. I think that's because of his experience with the Kitfox,  and the various other motorized vehicles he's had. We wanted  him to be able to fly in 13F,  because it has the factory ballast box,  and the foldable rudder pedal blocks so that he'd be able to reach the rudder  pedals.  His Dad brought along a "booster seat" that he uses in the kitfox to get him up high enough to see out over the instrument panel from an adult perspective. That also worked well in the 2-33. We also still needed some more ballast besides what was in the built-in factory box, and we put 4 of the long weight bars out of Joe Anastasio's seat bottom ballast box behind James, which also moved him a bit further forward, which helped with the rudder pedals.  And with all that, plus my weight in the rear seat, we were within gross weight and C.G. "weight and balance" limits.    Joe's weight box has some pins that fit into holes in the seat of 45H, the "Orange Crush" , but don't exist on 13F A.K.A. "Big Bird", or 22S,  A.K.A. "Laird". So we didn't think the ballast box would be secure enough under James, as without those pins in holes in the seat, there could have been a chance of it being able to slide out forward from under him. And he might not have  been able to do anything about it. . We ended up having a good flight,  and went further out from the field at 5000ft towards the N. end of the Kettleman Hills.  James flew the glider, both straight and level, and in shallow turns. He had a nice smooth touch on the controls!  He got to experience how gliders  use thermals to stay up, and use the altitude gained to cover some distance, hopefully finding another thermal to climb in before getting too low,  and needing to land. Meanwhile, always  staying within a safe gliding distance of a good landing spot at all times, and always being cognizant of the effects of  wind strength and direction on the glide.  Near the end of the flight,  he announced he thought it was "time to land".  I was wondering if he might be feeling a little queezy due to all the circling while thermalling,  possibly, but I was wrong!  I now think he saw we were  back over the airport. Then after we had  landed, the next time I saw him, He was on his booster seat  back in the right seat of the tow plane!  I also heard him making radio calls from the tow plane while they were in the pattern. So my conclusion had to be that he was "having a blast",  just being out  out there with his Dad,  and at 9 years old, he's got plenty of time to explore everything that catches his eye, and  interests someone of his age out there! Plus, he's already used to being out in the heat, dirt, sun, wind, and dust, the goathead thorns, etc and he loves it! And he's already got good shoes and other clothes for the conditions we have out there! The people hanging out at the clubhouse were also very helpful for James. They seemed to take him under their wing, and he spent some time with them on the "Condor2" flight simulator. Condor is  not FAA approved to log the time spent on it towards your license. But many instructors feel that it is still very useful in setting up all kinds of of weather and wind scenarios that would take years to experience in real life flying. It's photo realistic terrain of your home airport, and the surrounding fields etc. are extremely good. The controls and the glider flight dynamics are also quite good. It might be even more realistic if recovering from mistakes were  made a little more difficult and more realistic, such as maybe  requiring no flying for six months while your glider is being repaired in a virtual shop, or maybe six months in bed in a  virtual hospital in traction, maybe!  The last pilot to fly was Patrick Dillon, who had been extremely patient out there waiting to fly and helping out everyone else all day. Fortunately, he also got a good flight in. He did a "no wing runner take off ". He's flying the tow quite well, and the air  was still pretty rough at that time of day. He boxed the wake, and got to experience the "crack the whip" phenomenon, where the glider will tend to get high and fast if allowed to get  on the outside of a turn. Then, it can get to be somewhat more difficult to correct,  because you tend to accelerate more when you try to get back down to the tow plane's level,  and tend to get slack in the tow line. The slack can get even worse if the tow pilot, who can't really see you back there 99% of the time. decides it's time to stop turning and rolls level. If you're even a little bit slow recognizing this, you'll still be turning and then the  distance between you will start to rapidly close. Combine that with descending and accelerating relative to the tow plane, this results  in an impressively  large loop of slack,  that can come back threateningly towards your wing. Patrick handled everything quite well, He's got 50+ flights now,  and I think he'll be soloing very soon.  Also flying solo today, in 22S, while preparing for taking his FAA practical test for his "add-on" glider rating was Carl Lindgren from Porterville. He's already a power pilot,  and will be taking the Private Pilot Glider Practical Test or "Checkride" with Dan Gudgel soon. He's focusing on the 2-33 right now, but he has also flown the 1-26 as well.   We had a number of pilots out there with their own private ships. Zach Yamauchi was there with his Discus ZY, Ethan Ronat in 75, his Ventus 2, Ken Talovich in his beautiful Discus and Richard Walker flying his all yellow Schweizer 1-35, which provided a good example of a no dive brake, 90 deg. flapped  glider's landing abilities, with Richard peforming one of his landings,  where he turns off the runway and stops right in front of his hangar.  Thanks Richard! Richard also pointed out that the SSA is trying to get more copies of the "FAA glider flying handbook" to send to us in the package  for the FAST lessons. The book they sent out by Bob Wander was a substitute,  while they could not get the FAA book. I didn't realize that until today. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Visibility:        25 miles into the San Joaquin Valley, 100 miles to south and west.
Wind:              SE 5-10 on ground, SW30 @ 9,000.
Time Aloft:
Max Lift:        8 knots.
Temperature:  Nice on the ground, freezing level about 9,000.'
Tow pilot:       Kyle Detke

I checked Bart's RASP Friday evening.  Looked good, better than I had expected with the incoming storm tracking so far inland.  Still looked good Saturday morning.  As Saturday morning progressed, though, I was pretty sure the cloud layer was going to suppress the low level thermal action.

While the low level lift was suppressed mid morning and early afternoon, by mid afternoon the sun was able to give enough energy that lift could be found.  In spots.


Figured the the overcast would NOT kill the boundary layer lift, as long as the winds stayed close to the predictions.  Happily, BL seemed to be working as advertised.


As an interest side note, there was wave action in the forecast, up high, but not down lower

Sure enough, there was a nice long "lennie" where the forecast shows, but it looked to be around 20,000'.  The forecasts at the lower altitudes were showing no help to get there though, and it just remained an unobtainable sight to behold.

Nevertheless, I did hear Ethan report that he was in that area, finding good lift.

*      *      *      *      *      *

Early in the afternoon, there were several flights where it almost seemed like the glider was in competition with the towplane to see which would land first.  But the sun continued to fight the overcast, and in spots the sun would dominate.  Very few spots!  On the ground we could see frequent dust devils, very close to where the RASP had forecast the boundary layer, but they were mostly short lived and rarely went more than a couple of hundred feet up.  At least there's hope!

On to my flight:

Martin had flown the 1-26 a bit earlier, and reported that it was a rough tow, and lift was very erratic and sparse.  Karl had already landed and was waiting at Coalinga for an aero-retrieve.  Made sure to get a Tost weak link into the towplane so that Kyle could head straight to Coalinga after I released.  Heard Zach report a good thermal north of the gliderport, which was right on the way to Coalinga, so that's where Kyle takes me.

Released when I thought I had found that good thermal that Zach reported. Didn't pay attention to the altitude--I was in good lift and not that far from the gliderport.  However, I wasn't able to do much more than just maintain altitude.  Would have had an easy glide back to the gliderport, even against the wind, so went searching for something better.  Zach and I worked a thermal for a bit--sure was nice to have a good working radio so that I could confirm he still had me in his his sight when he was 6 o-clock low!  Earned some altitude, then not much more...time to try somewhere else.  Found more sink, now its time to quit the search head back to the gliderport.  Headed for a long straight-in to runway 12, at one point thinking I may come up short.  About two miles still to go, stumbled into lift and worked it.  Got up high enough that I could go exploring, and found more lift.  Heard on the radio, "the tree with a hundred cows around it" was strong, so I headed to it.  About a half mile still to go I hear that it went bust, so let's look for something else.  Headed for the solar farm and the area to the south of it, and maybe even get to the prison, which had been generating the biggest dust devils of the day.

A couple of miles west of the Prison I found some lift and got up to about 4700.'  Julie had reported that north of Tar Peak was working pretty good, so as long as I would turn to the gliderport if I experienced prodigious sink, I should be good to give it a try.  Tar worked like she had said, and then I continued along the ridge to the west.  

The ridge didn't work that well, so turned towards the Avenal Valley, closer to the CUs.  The CUs seemed too close to the ridge line, still on the down-slope, to be wave, and definitely too far to be cap clouds.  Probably convergence.  No matter, they worked!  Got under the upwind side of one, and was able to climb to where a brick could almost make it back to the gliderport.  After I was feeling comfortable about having enough altitude to take care of any amount of sink I might find, I headed west towards 'awesomer' clouds.  

At one point, about 2000 feet below the clouds, I noticed that I was "crabbing" in relation to the clouds.  I've seen this plenty of times in relation to the ground, but this was the first time I had ever seen it in relation to clouds not too far above.  I was headed west, I knew the wind was out of the SSW, but my target cloud had to be sighted about 15° to my left?!  Opposite of what I had always seen in relation to crabbing over the ground.  Accepted it, but didn't process why until on the ground--the clouds were in faster moving wind than I was.

Worked the upwind edge of several clouds, where the bases were mostly around 8300.'  Worked my way to the west edge of the short cloud street, and was able to ride upwind of the cloud to 8600' at one point, then yanked the stick back just to have the satisfaction of gaining another 100', for my short-lived max of 8700' MSL.

Headed south away from the cloud, towards Black, and found some of that prodigious sink, losing 1000' in what seemed like a minute.  No worries, though, was still at 7500' and only 5-7 miles from the gliderport.  Having fun, had plenty of altitude, so went looking for more lift.  Went to the southwest face of Tar, and it was working good.  Got a call from Martin that he and Julie were headed to the Burrito Barn, so reluctantly decided to head down.  But lift was great.  At 70 MPH the 1-26 was still climbing.  Nosed it over briefly to 90 MPH and was only losing about 100 feet per minute.  This is hard to pass up...burrito can wait!

Finally work my way down to landing at 6:09 PM  Never got further than Black from the gliderport, but it was a fun flight!

I want to thank Martin for getting the radio in the 1-26 working great!  Likely would not have had as long of a flight without hearing from others what was working.  Later in the flight I was able to give back to others some good information, and it was good to see them take advantage of it.  Great work, Martin!

Here is evidence of wave just a few miles north of the airfield - Julie

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Beautiful Spring Day with Lots of Action at Avenal

Wind: Up to 15kts next to the convergence line
Altitudes:13,000 ZY and 5H North of Santa Paula
Time Aloft: 6 hours ZY
Max Lift: 8kts+
Temperature: 80F
Comment: Beautiful spring day with lots of action at Avenal
Tow pilot: Chris Banys, Logan Stevens, Kyle Hyde

View uploaded flights HERE 

Saturday's forecast delivered as promised, with marked lift, ripping convergence and great local thermals well into the afternoon. It was great to see so many members adding their names to the schedule throughout the week and we ended up with our most active day this season. ZY, CZ, 5H, XD, Z5,GD, and IB all were able to ride the convergence and cumulatively fly 2,391 km!

A HUGE thanks to all three who towed, Quinn who took on the task of a much needed clean up of our restrooms, Kyle H and Emmi who spent the morning reclaimed 12R from the Squirrels, and Jim, Peter, and Martin who worked on Casper and Big Bird this week to keep our fleet airborne. The club's health is strong moving into the 2021 season and much of that strength is attributed to individual members taking on necessary tasks and responsibilities to ensure sustainable operations at CCSA. 

Channel Islands visible from east of IZA

Looking South into Simi Valley

View of AG and Pismo

XC Flight traces from 4/17

Friday, April 16, 2021

Longest Out-and-Return to the North?

Visibility: 40 miles in haze   
Wind: Generally north/northwesterly flow less than 15kts at all altitudes
Altitudes: 6-8k typical.  9-10k in exceptional convergence areas
Time Aloft: 6hrs
Max Lift: 11kts
Temperature: Comfortable
Comment: Excellent spring convergence day
Tow pilot: Logan

Thanks to Logan for coming out and providing tows mid-week.  Apologies to all of our members that can't take a day off in the middle of the week when the forecast doesn't align with a weekend.

Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures as conditions were very hazy and did not make for great photo opportunities..

There were five of us that could fly gliders, with Logan in the towplane.  Zach, Eric, Ethan, Philip Lee (Bay area pilot) and myself.  Zach launched first with a partial load of water.  Then Philip and I was third off at about 12:30pm in XD. For fun and challenge, as well as to get some experience using tasks in the LX9000, I declared a 530km out and return from Tar Peak to Mt. Diablo and back to Tar Peak.

Spotty cu were forming in the mountains by 11:30 and were more defined by 12 when Zach launched.  I think the three of us all took a tow to Tar, releasing right around 3000.  The lift was on the backside of Tar, so it was worth a few extra minutes on tow to get across the ridgeline and established in a climb.  

While Zach and Philip had reported 5kt climbs, I found 2-3 initially but stuck with that until about 4000 when I could push a little deeper comfortably and pick up a stronger climb.  Zach and Philip were well ahead of me by then.  Zach was already 20+ miles NW and Philip about 10-15 out from Avenal by the time I was getting up closer to the 5000ft cloudbase.

It was a classic convergence day.  The line was on top of the ridges and relatively well marked with cu every 4-5 miles.  In between the cu the line was energized with good air, netto positive much of the time and let me proceed without too much need to circle.  A few turns up by Pine Canyon in preparation for crossing over to the ridgline leading southeast from Center.  By now the clouds were well defined and the line was clear with cloudbase varying from 5000-7000ft with the eastern side of the line having the higher base cu.  

I caught up with Philip around EL4 where we had a nice climb to over 7000 before beginning our run up towards Panoche which was working well and only when nature threw a very strong climb at me on the south side of Panoche did I stop for a few circles.  

Nearing the southern shores of San Luis Reservoir there were two paths to the north.  One up the San Antonio valley that appeared to have relatively low bases over generally higher terrain with only one landout (hellish retrieve) option.  And similar bases to the north out closer to I5.  I chose the more conservative and indirect route.  That cost me some time as it wasn't as organized as it looked and it took some effort to get connected back up towards Mt. Oso.  But north of Mt. Oso the cloudbase rose to 9000 and a good looking line connected all the way to Diablo 40nm to the NW.  It seemed like a rare opportunity to bag Diablo so I pushed on, knowing that it would be very late when I turned.

Nearing Diablo the direct line had clouds, but they weren't well connected to the ground and the windmills and lakes showed strong surface winds.  A good line of cu was 5-10miles north of my line, but thankfully I found a few decent climbs that got me to my turnpoint at 3:45.   It took 3:15 from my launch to make it the 143nm to Diablo.  I felt it was possible to get to within final glide before the day shut off completely.  Would I be right?

The convergence was well marked still, but spotty.  Larger gaps required more climbs and less continuous runs, but deep in the San Antonio valley was a monster convergence zone with a strong climb to about 10500 and 3-4k above the cloudbase to the east.  That forced me to work may way around the western edge of that airmass, but gave me the altitude to cut across a completely washed out (as expected) Pacheco Pass.  I downshifted hard and just stretched my glide with a slight tailwind component.  I had Mercy Hot Springs made and a nice cloud line started near there if I could get there high enough.  

I was rewarded with a 6kt thermal which got me high enough to reach Harris Ranch if that became necessary.  The line went east to the Panoche Hills, then south across Idrea towards EL4.  A strong looking line, even at nearly 6pm started between EL5 and Coalinga and after an unsuccessful circle in 1kt lift I pushed farther east to find a 4kt climb which gave me final glide to finish the task back at Tar peak.

I finished the task at about 4500 and just followed the clouds for a bit down past highway 41, passing up a 10kt thermal after 6pm.  I suspect it was strong enough that I could have made it down to Wonderful and back before sunset, but I was cold, stiff and tired with the rest of the crew waiting for me on the ground, so I dove back to Avenal at 115kts landing on 08 and rolling out to my trailer at about 6:30pm

Friday, March 12, 2021

Wind: <10kts
Altitudes: 6k
Time Aloft: 5hs
Max Lift: 7kts
Temperature: 65
Comment: Amazing early season valley day
Tow pilot: Kyle Hyde, Chris Banys

Kyle Hyde, newly minted 1-26 driver

Cus popping at 9:45

Chris, Piper, and Kevin arriving on the Avenal Express 

Southbound towards Bakersfield

Good end to a great day!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Visibility:  > 10 s.m.
Wind:  About 5 kts @ 300°
Altitudes:  Up to 5000 ft
Time Aloft:
Max Lift:
Temperature:  Max, low 70s
Comment:  A busy day for early March.  Pretty good lift up to 5000 ft.
Tow pilot:  Butler/Owen.  Super mechanicking by Rickey and Caskey.

N4205U got a good workout on an early Spring day...actually, technically, it's still Winter...

Martin fixed the brakes on 13F; they work

Kevin and Patrick debrief.

Julie sets up IFR conditions for Ethan's launch.

Ethan takes off thanks to Julie.

Ethan goes his separate way.

Zach returning

After a long time out, Ethan comes back to Earth.

Ethan's flight, from his own photos:

Green carpet on the Towplane runway, hoping it lasts for a few weekends
Runway 21, the wave runway is filling in and about ready for another attempt at dragging.
Eric in the DG 100