Flying stuff 17 Jan 2007 05:16 pm

Nerd flies, and then doesn’t (flying report – Tuesday, 16 Jan)

(Edited and re-posted from the SCGC camp blog…)

Today’s flying proved that looking out the window can sometimes provide a better forecast than looking at reams of charts and diagrams.

The forecasts didn’t look too good – suggesting a blue (cloudless) day of around 6,000′ thermals. A quick look out the window at 1200 showed cumulus clouds (which mark thermals) forming to the north — the forecasts were apparently wide of the mark.

We boarded our aircraft (Bryan in the Sydney Gliding Astir, Bill in the Jantar, Richard [me] in the DG303) and launched around 1230, aiming to complete 500km: Cootamundra – Eugowra – Peak Hill – Condoblin – Cootamundra.

The run up to Eugowra started low and slow – climbs to around 5,000′ in the blue – but we could see clouds ahead. Bryan was first to them, and I joined him. Bill was about 15km behind.

Bryan showed his experience and confidence by leaving the early clouds before me (I was waiting in the thermal to climb higher). Abeam Young, he was 15km ahead of me and Bill had caught up! I decided to press on, not stopping at every cloud, following the cloud lines where possible. I closed in on Bryan, but he rounded Eugowra about 10 mins ahead of me. The first leg (137km) had taken me just over 2 hours on task. Average speed of under 70km/h wasn’t going to get me around the task. Time to speed up.

I caught Bryan on the Peak Hill leg, and we flew together most of the time. The performance advantage of the DG-303 over the Astir was obvious in the cruises (at the same speed, Bryan was getting lower than me all the time), and Bryan got low just short of Peak Hill, scratching away from near circuit height. We rounded Peak Hill at around the same time, my speed on this leg up to just over 70km/h (still not great, but all downwind from here on).

At this stage, Bill was still back near Eugowra, and the clouds along the ranges were quickly turning into rain cells. Bryan and I had already headed out onto the plain in search of sunshine.

I started the leg to Condo much higher than Bryan, and was quickly ahead by more than 20km as he again scratched away.

I headed out to Condo but the track was blocked by a large storm cell. I diverted to the south, but when I came around the cell I could see that it was in fact a line of storms with heavy rain stretching up to and beyond Condo. 74km out from Peak Hill (averaging 111km/h on this crosswind leg) Bryan called me on the radio. His view from Trudle matched mine. We decided to turn and run for home. (Bill had made the same decision a few minutes earlier, turning home from west of Parkes when he was blocked by rain moving out from the ranges).

My 24km lead over Bryan proved to be my undoing. Rapid development of the rain cells kept me west of the Jemalong ranges, which would probably have taken me home (there’s usually a line of lift along the ranges). Instead, I was hemmed in by rain to the left and right and my lift went away. 60km after turning for home, I was safely into a paddock, 35km south-west of Forbes.

Bryan managed to get home by avoiding the rain that shot me down. Bill also got home and, as he was back earlier than Bryan, he drew the short straw and got to come on the retrieve with intrepid and ever-helpful tug pilot, Jeff.

After de-rigging the aircraft in th dark, we got back to Coota around 1230 – too late for me to buy the customary meals. I guess it’s my shout on Wednesday night.

One Response to “Nerd flies, and then doesn’t (flying report – Tuesday, 16 Jan)”

  1. on 06 Feb 2007 at 11:31 (Sydney) 1.The Flying Nerd » Blog Archive » View interesting Nerd flight on Google Earth said …

    […] wrote recently about my attempted 500km glider flight. The proposed route was: Cootamundra – Grenfell […]