Monday, May 17, 2010

Details of A Big Flight

Badlands at the End of the Day

A blow by blow account of Saturday's flight North from Chelan to 5 miles shy of Okanogan.

All good flights begin with weather. Wednesday through Saturday all looked good. More importantly the regional pressure was softening. Wednesday we had high pressure 1024hPa. This was the day the early bubbles of Baldy kicked me out of the sky and Mer and Frank went long with their launch 45-50 minutes after mine. (I'm learning)

Thursday looked good but I was bummed and winds looked a little strong so I took a pass and Mer went to Banks lake off Chelan, while Doc went to Bridgeport. Friday was also a bit strong on winds at Baldy and my flight to exit 11 was the best for the day - thermals were just getting thrashed and I may have gone a bit early.

Saturday like Friday was lower pressure in the neighborhood of 1012hPa but winds still looked a bit strong at Baldy so Chelan became the target. But it was Saturday and my wife and I really needed to spend most of it together. I asked and she was game for retrieve. We love driving together and Chelan sets up 5 hours together in the car and she seems to like the retrieve challenge. Yes I am blessed.

I put out a limited call for other pilots - I couldn't go for too many folk as the retrieve dynamics and Chelan could overwhelm my beloved driver. - The crew still grew to a posse of eight.

There were 3 or 4 hangs on launch when we got there. - A bit of a mess on launch because we forgot some stuff in the rig at the bottom so my truck left the butte and I had to switch from working out of the truck to out of my kit. No real big issue just a minor snag. The truck was back up in no time and we all got set for launch, it was coming on 1:00. Armon launched first and had no problem skying out early - He went due North for a nice flight.

Next I saddled up. Mer used a nice ploy setting up behind a hang making it set that she would not launch until good cycles were on deck. Quality move. - I set up for between the rocks and miss timed the cycle getting a limp wing mid run for the effort. I shut it down and hiked back up with nobody wanting to jump in. So I set up for second try.

Wing popped open just fine but I had a brake line snag on a rock. Helpful hands cleared the snag but I missed the tip cravat now waiting for me. I assumed the tip was clean but pulling up it became clear I had to shut it down again. Dam Dam Dam. - I swung over to Ants to see if alternating cycles would catch but they didn't - Sooooo - give in.

Now I was frustrated, hot and tired. - Best move now is let everyone go and deal with launching last or near last. - Took off my wing, coat, helmit and gloves and decompressed. - I watch while just about everyone launched and skied. - It was working out front and I could step into the game. - K and I were left after all had gone - now the launch was very straight forward as a number of cycles made a sweet set.

I had a wing climbing - think it was Steve, as a marker right down the ridge and caught the thermal even before I got to him.

A clean climb out ensued with a wing man at the top of the climb - great flying with you Mr. Thibault. - We topped about 7,800 with Thibault getting the last little pop. - He noted Mer breaking for the rim about 400 above and decided to take chase. - I took one more 360 and joined in from below.

Mer found a nice lifty line and we were all at the same flight level though separated by 1/4 mile each, as the three of us slid to the flats. - We were nice and high when we got to the rim due to Mer's great line. Got the rim at about 5600. Mer and Steve kept pushing in looking for lift but not finding anything. - I was in a bind at this point. - If I follow and they don't find lift soon I am doomed. If I turn back to the rim I might be on my own for the rest of the day.

Neither Steve on his 2-3 or Mer on her spicy wing found anything by the time I had to turn back to the best terrain on the rim I could find. - I had been there before so I thought I had a chance. - By the time I was maybe 300 over and heading for a dive over the rim with little chance of recovery I caught some soft lift.

Mer and I took a thermal at the same spot together last year. - This time I was on my own to start with. - I took a nice climb at this point staying happy till about 7,000 - I noticed that Mer was up and about 1000 over me and to the south of me by 1/2 mile or so climbing under a great cloud.

I called for her to not get too far ahead but we later confirmed that that transmission didn't get through. - We need better radio setups or I do anyway. As I was still climbing in that first thermal Mer headed out East way sky high. I couldn't follow her from 1000 below so I just worked up and over to her cloud.

A little slide down then into a massive good house thermal that took me to 10k - This was the thermal that found Todd Udd and myself thermaling tip to tip. At about 8,200 I saw Todd's Discus 18m sailplane about a mile south. After about 4 more 360 he had slipped into the same thermal that I was in now about 9,000 ft. Got the video going which is in the blog below. After the video shut off Todd and I took it to about 10,200 where he pushed out and headed due North.

North was the call for the day but the last time I saw Mer she was heading due East so I pushed out at 10,300 for points East with the hope of finding my guide. What I didn't know was that she had gone on glide East and didn't find anything and then went back to the rim. So I was left on my own. - I don't have very much flat land flying experience. Really this was my second or third flatland flight of note. I have been to Farmer and Eniat but that is it. I started to scan for terrain features like a farm house or draws in the flats whatever. - I headed for Nelson's Ranch and it worked catching a nice little lift from 6,500 to about 8 or so.

Pushing out further East still no Mer. This is going to be interesting - Ahead the flats are ending and I have no clue what to do. - More texture to the land, but will it work or what?
At the transition from flats to draws is the big farm - think it is the Douglas ranch. I figured a nice search around this ranch would pay off. - I caught some zeros but not much. - Hanging out long enough though let me pick off a dusty coming off a diagonal associated with the ranch. - This dusty provided targeting for finding a very nice but quite north leaning thermal to 8 or so sending me on the north track for the rest of the day.

The thermal leaned enough to get me half way to Mansfield. - The line was not bad, a bit boaty, but it was all blue sky flying at this point. As I passed 172 about five miles west of Mansfield I was getting low. - Not real low maybe 2500 over and spotted another very nice dusty. - Caught the thermal on this one but it was not well formed as earlier thermals. Things started to look a little grim as I headed back toward the rim noting a cloud or two and terrain with texture and power lines. - Nothing worked real well until I got under the cloud. -

This one was sweet - Took it big and strong - the cloud was actually top of two or three lift cores in one. The cloud had 3 different masses and at about 8,000 feet in a solid core crank I took a surprise dynamic asymmetric deflation. The cool part was that I had video of the wing to capture cloud effect when the deflation occurred. - ' I topped this one round 9,000 and could see that I had Bridgeport on Glide so I pushed North.

By the time I got to the rim just South and West of Bridgeport I was a bit worried about diving into the town which sits in the lea of the whole flats. Winds felt to be about 10 to 15 from the South based on dust trails and I was a little worried about rotor. As I slid over the rim I felt a bit of lift which made me very happy because I felt I needed the lift to stay safe, - I figured the day was done but just a bit more lift and I can be safe from rotor and just then it went off nice and solid.

The rim thermal took me well above Bridgeport and I topped close to 10k already leaning way over the river.

The hills North of Bridgeport are perfect - It is a ships prow that faces due south with a nice collector for heat to the West - No question there is a boomer here - I just have to find it. - And I did - Best climb of the day then set me up for what turned out to be final glide.

I tried to take the "liftyest" line I could but never found another thermal. -0 It felt like glass off at this point and I knew I would just have to be as smooth as I could. - Half way through the glide I had to decide to stay near 97 or go into badlands - Nasty ground near the end - Mer had taken it straight badlands 30 minutes prior and got a little climb mid tiger country - a very bold line in my estimation.

I had to stay river side and just slid north till I was on the side of the hill with power lines below and a simple swoop and turn to land into the wind. - Good field choice gave way to crossing 97 at about 50 feet, over a wet field on final and a final correction that put me over Railroad tracks at 10 feet for a perfect landing in median between the highway and the tracks. - Just sweet.

Good cell phone coverage put me in contact with Mer who was already headed south with Steve and Bill. Gail was headed North to get me so the crew stopped, gave me a beer (thank you) and left me for Gail's retrieve. - She did wonder why the kiss smelled of hops. - LOL - What a great day.


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