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.