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

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