Our Chief Flight instructor returned from Beloite, WI with the clubs new 235hp Pawnee tow plane. Paul had to pick his way through some challenging weather, but arrived right on time with a enormous smile!
There's a new soaring podcast and Chris Snyder was the guest in early March. If you're interested, it's about 30 minutes long, so good thing to listen to in the car. The direct link is:
From Taylor Gray's March adventures: "I thought I'd share my spot landing since it turned out pretty well and to demonstrate how useful of a tool these cameras can be for training. I was aiming to stop between the 1st and 2nd set of cones before the barrels and I stopped just about in middle of them :).
After the landing, I thought I had been way too fast but on re-watch I had a little better control than I remembered and my speed only became excessive for a short moment while I was turning final (can I blame that on the wind? :) ). I also think Paul's suggestion for a slip is spot on, as it would have helped keep my upwind wing down and kept us rolling on just the main wheel a little longer. I'd love to get more crosswind landing practice, but we unfortunately can't control what the winds are doing when we show up to fly. Might be a good use for Condor!
I think this over the shoulder angle is perfect for training, because you get a good view out of the cockpit but can still see the instruments and your inputs to all of the controls. I've been taking the mount home with me, but I might start leaving it in the hangar office in case anyone else would like to use it with their own cameras"
A Killdeer made a nest right in front of the trailer garage. These are ground nesting birds and have a nest with four eggs. The eggs look just like the surrounding rock. The hen pretends to be injured in order to lure you away from her eggs. This gave me some time to take some pretty good pictures of her.
She didn't do too much flying, but the rest of us had some pretty good times! Dave and Pete were both up for almost four hours. There was an inversion layer around 3,100' for most of the day, so they topped out pretty low. Lots of thermal work to stay up.
Greg, Stephan, and Vince all had a few flights; Vince had a good two plus hour flight in the '26 making one of two such flights required for the bronze badge. Speedy showed us all what it means to bring the glider in to the end of the runway; landing such that we turned the glider around, swapped passengers and sent him back in the air. Nice work, Speedy! Between Speedy taking up his family members and some tough thermal finding conditions on this blue day, we kept Wally pretty busy in the 150. I don't know what our final tow tally was, but it had to be pretty close to ten or more tows!
Hopefully the field will dry up quickly and the rain from this week won't shut us out this weekend!
MSA made our second appearance at the Banff Mountain Film Festival this year. We really need to figure out how to get a glider in the James River High School cafeteria! We met folks, pressed the flesh, showed some glider videos and had a good time all around. We provided the Parks and Rec folks with an Experience Ride certificate for the raffle Saturday night, JD won a ski cap and two passes for a day of skiing at Lake Louise. We're pretty sure there's no connection!
If you were the lucky recipient of the flight, please contact us and let us know! We'd love to know who you are! The certificate is good for a year, so you have plenty of time to pick a great day to come fly with us. We'll be happy to have you out to the field.
It's high time for the snow to quit falling and for the rain to fall early in the week (and not on the weekends)! We are ready to rock and roll and start posting our flight traces!
We had a day of accomplishment on Sunday. We got new gator seats in (although they are quite a bit more forward than the old ones and we’ll need to work on that some). Traded one discomfort for another! Tom was out working on 094 with Eric, we now have an OEM looking mirror mounted on the spar of the Cessna, Eric reports great visibility and it looks like an official part of the plane. Tom is going to find a quick-drain plug for the engine oil as we’d have to drop the bottom cowling off of the engine to do oil changes and that’s a lot of labor hours for what should be a simple task. The quick-drain plug will let us get the oil out without a lot of hassle. Sounds like a good plan to me.
While there, Tom looked at our 1-26 radio set up and advised Dave to remove the existing antenna mount and see if there is a part number we can use to order a replacement. He said if we got the cable, he would put new connector ends on it for us. Dave is also going to look at an extra mic boom he has and see if that would be a suitable replacement for the current one.
All in all, it took us a while to actually get to the flying part of the day, but we got there about the same time the lift did, so that was OK. Dave took Kevin up in the 2-33 and up they went! While they were flying around, Tom helped us out with wing runner duties and I got up in the ’26. There was pretty steady lift in the four miles around Merlin. Eric was kind enough to drop me right into the lift under a CU and I had a pretty quick ride up to 4,200’ and minimums, so I popped out from under there and for the next hour plus, kept doing the same thing. Got far enough North that I crossed over 360, a personal first, but it looked like there was a pretty big gap between there and the next farther CUs to the NE, so while I could see the Chesterfield Berry Farm corn maze, I couldn’t quite get out to overfly it. Maybe next time! After that I spent a fair amount of time working between 3K and 4K, topped out close to 4,500’. Played with airspeed and altitude and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Tried to play music out of my phone speaker, but it couldn’t compete with the wind noise. May have to bring a short plug to put in the speaker box before Dave fixes the radio!
Dave had two flights after Kevin had to leave for the day. I think he pulled off and found some of the sink pretty fast and hard. He was chasing Eric back to the field. He relit and came up to play for a bit, but by that time the sun was pretty well past the yard arm and the day was quieting down. Knowing we were both going in about the same time, I figured to try and get in a good precision landing – and managed to pull it off! Almost all the way off, even. Got right between the first taxiway cones and had the ’26 turning into the taxiway before I stopped. A short tug on the straps and the runway was clear for Dave, who didn’t need it. But I was pretty excited about having the glider go where I wanted it to go and stopping pretty close to where I wanted it to stop!
There was a local family that came out to visit after seeing us flying around. Eric gave a couple of pattern flights to Rashad and his older brother. They were there with their dad and grandfather. Great folks, had a really good time looking at the gliders and talking with us. The boys (13 and 16) had ear to ear grins following their flights!
With the ’26 right at the hanger and the tow plane not stored, we decided to see if we could get some red and white hanger mates. And we can! The ’26 is now keeping 094 company. If we had a glider dolly we could easily move the ’26 in and out, but even so, it’s an easy exercise to get them both in. Eric painted some wheel marks on the ground to help us guide the planes in. We have an open tie down up front, Pete!
So ended Sunday. Lots done, I’ll put some pics up on the Merlin site. By the way, our Daily Ops page has copies of these mailings as well as a link to our club flight postings on OLC. If you want to show off what we do, the Daily Ops page is a great resource to help you do that!
And just to keep ego in check, I do have the #2 slot for R4… Out of 2. #43 out of 43 for the US. Daniel Sazhin did much better with his ’26 flying the ridges up in NJ for the #1 US slot/#2 worldwide. You should look at the trace, most of the flight it looks like a good size tree would have been the end of him! 512KM over 7.5 hours. That’s a good day flying!
I remember reading an article, probably in the SSA's Soaring magazine, about a pilot that couldn't seem to get the same length of time in the air as some of the experienced members at his club. He'd be up and down, maybe up for a while on a good day, but even on bad days, the 'old guard' would log hours long flights. I thought about my flights (short up/downs unless it was an instruction flight and Eric was there to keep us going) and the routine long flights that Merlin's 'old guard' (Dave, Eric, Stefan) would log. It felt like I could have written the same article. And still could! The gist of the article was that you need to be able to sustain in the zero sink. A lesson reiterated in Bob Wander's The Art of Thermaling...Made Easy! where Bob talks about looking for the weak (hopefully upcoming) thermals and sticking with them to see what they bring.
Last week, Pete posted a perfect example of this describing his seeing a vulture working a low thermal and going over to see if it would keep him going for a little longer as well. And it did! He was able to work a couple thousand extra feet and more flight time out of that decision (and holding the #2 flight for region 4 on OLC for the day). I had a similar experience today. Scratching to stay aloft in -1/+1 around Scott's Fork to let an incoming Cherokee land and clear the runway, I was bouncing around 1,900' - 2,100'. I had looked for lift that Dave said was working in the area, and I just couldn't find it. I, like any of us, could find all of the thermal marking sink, but the lift was elusive. Knowing the Cherokee was inbound, and knowing that I could maintain in my little area, I stayed put. As the Cherokee cleared the runway, I pulled out of my turn and started making plans to join the pattern when I found some 2kt, that turned into some 3kt. I radioed back that I was going to work the lift and did so - pretty soon passing 3,000'. I worked it over to the diary farm, joined with some hawks and was working 4,500'. (I find for me, I can work thermals or enjoy looking at the birds, but both? Not so much.) Thanks to the inbound Cherokee, and trusting more my ability to hang in the zero, I turned a thirty minute flight into one that lasted a bit over an hour. Not an 'old guard' level effort, but one of those that let's me know it's all a matter of time and practice. Wax on, wax off.
One of the great things about learning to fly at Merlin is the help that each of us, especially Dave's constant lift marking announcements, works to bring the others along. Our post flight conversations, the telling of an aspect of a flight that reminds someone else of how they deal with similar things. There isn't a flight that I take alone. There's always a time where I think 'Eric said...', 'Dave suggested that...', or Pete does this, Stefan does that, I saw Vince do, remember the time Greg... These things bind us as a community of pilots and make us all better and more proficient for it. At Merlin, we desire to have a soaring club - and that means we help each other become soaring pilots. Learning how to scratch around in the zerosphere and playing the odds that it gets better, that's fer real soaring pilot stuff right there. It's the days like today for me, last weekend for Pete, that let you know you're on the right track. It's smiles and congratulations when returning to the field that let you know there's a good group of folks at your back.
What a weekend!!
Saturday started with David (a sport pilot AND glider pilot) landing at our field to take a look at our operations. He is interested in getting back into motorless flight. Dave was quick to get him setup to return Sunday for some flights in the Lark. We decided upon a new tow rope and longer length of 230' which solved some of our propwash issues from the Cessna on takeoff. Thanks to Eric for getting everything together with it. Much less turbulence on takeoff and no dropped wings! However, don't forget weak links must be installed on the sailplane end of the new 2000 lb tow rope for both the Schweizer ring and the Tost ring setups.
Saturday got started with 5/8 cloud cover around 3200' AGL. Nonetheless Dave led the pack in the ASW 19 marking the lift for Greg and myself and we were able to squeeze out some nice flights. Dave in 19 once again defied gravity and stayed up until he decided he had had his fill. Greg put away the lark and flew the 1-26 beautifully only landing because he had to leave for work. I launched in 15H twice and got some great practice. Vince showed up and we pulled out the 2-33 for some flights. It's always great to have both Schweizers in the sky. The last glider landed past 5 pm. It was a great day of flying. Smiles all around.
Sunday was another beautiful day but without clouds. Gentle breezes around 5 kts and a strong inversion at 3500' with weak but workable lift that started around 1 pm. Dave as PIC and Eric the "making it all possible" tow pilot started out the day at 12:30 pm with two tows in the Lark to bring our newest member David up for some soaring. No lift yet but beautiful take off and landings. David seemed like he was loving it! David then got some refreshing on running ground ops and helped to launch myself, Stefan and Dave around 1:45pm. The Lark was not hanging well with the spotty narrow lift and came down after a valiant effort by Stefan. I fared only a bit better in 15H and landed after an hour or so. However, wanting more, I quickly got a relight around 3:30pm from Eric w/ David running the wing. Eric brought me right to the sweet spot which Dave had centered and we again did some great team soaring late into the afternoon. At about 4:45 pm I was in 15H at 1300' AGL headed North to enter the pattern. I was hoping for a longer flight but figured the lift was done. Before pulling the brakes though I spotted a Turkey vulture soaring above the dairy farm SW of Merlin at about 1000' ft. Hoping for just a small flight extension I redirected towards him and felt a bump. After some scratching around I linked up and together we climbed to 3000' ft. Nothing quite describes the feeling of sharing a thermal with a bird that effortlessly out climbs you! The battery in 15H was dead so I used my cellphone to call Eric to make sure they weren't concerned just as I topped out around 5:15pm. I landed after 5:30pm smiling ear to ear.
No doubt about it, when you have multiple hour plus flights on consecutive days, your soaring club is back in business! JD took this photo from his phone, which also runs XCSoar during an 80 minute flight - his longest solo flight by far! Read on for Dave's weekend report!
With Eric at the throttle, our little tug did a stellar job of getting our birds in the air, with 8 flights on Sat. and 5 on Sunday.
On Saturday JD took to the air at 1400 for a 40 minute exploratory flight in the 26. Greg then took the warmed-up 26 back up for 50 minutes. In the meantime mother nature was making it happen! Between the 1-26 flights, I took one of 2 rides up in the LARK and for over an hour, a great time we had! Thermals to 4k and better were common and Guy came back a smiling guy. Our second ride preferred the roomy front seat of the 33 so up I went with Terry for 30 minutes or so. By 1600, things were really cook’n and JD relighted in the 26 and well…for an hour and 20 minutes not hide nor hair nor flaking paint did we see or hear. Alas, a dead battery on his hand-held prevented him from communicating, but in no way affected his flight. Check it out on the OLC!!! And let me know if you can’t find it. Pull it up in Google, It’s even better.
Sunday saw lower cloud bases, but no matter… cloud streets and upwind lift worked well. Stefan took command of the 26 and launched at 1:30. After thermaling with Vince in the 33 for a bit, he was able to take that feather-lite little Schweizer, climb up and disappear, returning over 2 hours later. Vince’s possible ride did not materialize, so the LARK beckoned and in I climbed. She is heavy… and big, but she WILL climb! Off tow, AFTER Eric pulled me through a nice piece of lift, I was coming down and a short flight and landing did cross my mind. But upwind a bit floated a descent cume so upwind I went with the nose dead on that cloud. Sure enough it worked and I climbed back up. Stefan joined me a bit later in a thermal that seemed to top out at a bit over 3k I think? So with Stefan out-climbing me (?) back upwind I went again….into cloud-street after cloud street. Again, check out my shortened L trace on the OLC. I used the CU Recorder app to log my flight and the bloody battery on my phone died before I landed. As Pete would say… Aaarrrrgh!!! Nonetheless it was 2.5 hours of more fun than a human being should be allowed to have. Ha ha…NOT!
Oh, and while Stefan and I were in the air, Vince and Greg got more 33 time with 3 flights between them. Both are perfecting their skills. Greg for his imminent check-ride and Vince as he comes back from all of that job-related out-of-the-country “I won’t b at the field this weekend” time!
Finally, consider CONDOR. If you have not flown a glider on your computer in CONDOR I strongly recommend it. JD and I are getting back into it… flying together on the PA ridges. Pete is our resident authority on it. No it is NOT like the real thing nor can it be. But it will teach you some good basic skills. If nothing else, get into the air (I hate those CONDOR tows) turn on those thermal markers and practice practice practice! You will begin to realize that at low altitudes generally speaking, you MUST bank tightly or you will not be able to climb up into the stronger broader lift. And them’s my 2 cents about that!
CU next weekend,
You know things are looking up when you go out to the Areodrome and actually get to write a check for tows! JD and Dave both took 2,000' tows in the 1-26 behind our 150-180 tug. Easy take-offs with plenty of runway left in front of us, which is just where you want it!
Dave and Eric flew the tug to Petersburg where we'll get a high torque starter put in this week. Look forward to its return, full of fuel and ready to pull us up! Maybe next weekend, temps and weather permitting, we can get the Lark out and see how well it tows behind the tug.
Greg and JD put a good clean on the Lark and the 1-26 while Eric ran for gas and Dave mowed the tie-down area. Another good day of maintenance!
How many lucky rabbits feet does it take to make sure you don't get sucked up into the mower blades? Evidently 16. These little folks were nestled a bit below ground level in the tall grass around the Lark. We put some grass up around them to keep them out of the sun and less visible to the birds of prey. Hopefully Momma has moved them to a safer location.
Click here to see some of our flight traces. We use various GPS enabled devices to record our flights and submit them to the OnLine Contest site.
MSA - Officer of the Day. The OD will generally post the highlights of the day's operations in the blog.