the buzzard - Northern California Soaring Association

July 2002
By Mike Schneider
The date: Saturday, June 19, 1993, two days before the summer
The problem: I have been trying to fly 1000 Km in a glider since
1989.This will be my 5th attempt.
The background: The first 1000Km flight in thermal conditions
in the Sierra was flown in 1981 by a foreigner just in town who
didn't realize it couldn't be done. Since then a number of 1000
Km flights have been flown in the eastern Sierra Nevada, mostly
in open class sailplanes, but this distance is becoming more popular as people realize that it can be done. 1000 km has not yet
been accomplished out of Truckee.
The aircraft: Glasflugel Mosquito-B, N4UK
The story:Today is predicted to be hot in northern California.
Since this is often an indicator of good soaring in the Sierra, I am
cautiously optimistic about the weekend, but made no special
preparations other than a good dinner with Steve McRobert as
we carpooled up to Truckee Friday evening. I have been flying a
lot this season since I am in the middle of a divorce and flying
takes my mind away from it. Now it is Saturday morning. I put
the plane together, fill it with water just in case the forecast is
indeed good. Breakfast will have to wait a while. I am running
late. Ah, the forecast will probably be crummy anyway. Mark
Matthews finally gets the forecast and it looks terrific.Time to go.
No time for breakfast now. I prepare the barograph, take the
declaration board photos, push the glider to the threshold of
runway 19 and accomplish a hundred small tasks which are
required for a successful flight. Breakfast will have to wait until
tomorrow. I wait at the end of runway 19 while 2 or 3 sailplanes
took off ahead of me. I am anxious. Time is wasting.Takeoff is at
11:27.The air is already cooking. I have just taken off and am
already an hour behind my schedule. I take an 1800 ft tow and
notch the barograph. I have to be careful about releasing too
high. If I stay on tow too long I will have a distance penalty to
pay, and according to my flight planning I cannot afford it. But
1800 ft is a low tow with a load of water. Not much time to
look around for lift, and if I have to land and wait in line for a
relight, the day is certainly lost.
After the notch, I pull up right into lift and ride my first thermal
to 11,000. So far, so good. But I'm running late. Time to head
out. No time or need to visit Mt. Rose. I should have been in
the air sooner. The air is cooking.
I head out over the Tahoe basin, and glide into the north end of it
into the Carson valley. No time to go to Virginia city, as pressed
as I am for time. I find lift to 11,000 again east of Carson City and
press on to the Pinenuts. Where's the lift that should be here?
I'm getting low. Scraping the rocks on the spine of the Pinenuts
just north of Siegel. Why isn't it here? Bang--a boomer. Finally! (I
was getting worried). On to Mt. Siegel. Up to 15,000 ft. Which
way to go? The Sierra looks great, but that's not direct. Mt
Patterson looks good. OK, go for it. Lift to 15,000 at Mt.
Patterson. The Sierras still look good but I ignore them. I head
across Mono lake. Dumb move. I'm lowish at big sand flat south
of Mono. Finally, I find something to 13,000. I Head southeast,
down to 11,000 again. On to Glass Mountain. Some lift there.
Now on to White Mountain Peak. Down to 11,000 again. I have
to climb up the side of the peak. That takes time. Scraping the
rocks again, this time on the Whites. Finally I'm up to 15,000. The
Whites are NOT working all that great today. Some clouds, noncontinuous streeting on the north end. I'm finally on top of the
Whites. My plan is to spend 5-6 hours here today. Heading south
I'm still an hour behind schedule. Each run down the Whites/Inyos
should take about 1:15 at 85 mph. I'm planning to do that four
times. It's going to be a long day (I hope) but I don't know if the
Whites are working well enough to keep my speed high enough
for success. This flight is going to be more a question of speed
than distance. I have to average about 85 mph for the next 5-6
hours or I'll run out of daylight. My flight planning has me landing
at 7:30 PM. It's worth a shot.
Heading south, I make my first turnpoint, the intersection of Hwys
190 & 136 south of Keeler at 3:30 pm, an hour behind schedule
and 380 Km south of Truckee. Time to head north. This trip
along the Whites/Inyos is quicker, 88 mph. Conditions have
improved a bit. I arrive at my 2nd turnpoint, Basalt, on the north
end of the White mountains, at 4:46 pm. Now comes the real
decision. I am already 130 miles south of Truckee and it is time to
turn south again. Tough to do. This means that there's no way I'm
going to make it back close to Truckee this evening. If I abort the
task now, I can probably get back in time for a late dinner. I turn
Charlie Westernin (A5) is trying to raise his crew and musing his
landing site options way down south. I'm following Charlie out of
Truckee today but he's on the Sierra, and I'm running the Whites.
I comment, "only 3 hours to go", and get a confused response
from A5, "but I've already been up for 6." I respond, "Yeah, me
too" to which the response is only silence. I fly my third trip along
the Whites/Inyos at 78 mph, turning Keeler, on the southeast side
of Owens lake at 6:09. "Only" 230 miles south of home. I've
continued on page 3
About NCSA
The Northern California Soaring Association (NCSA) is based
at the Byron airport, in Byron California. It is the only club
giving instruction in the San Francisco Bay Area.The club
encourages neophyte members to progress through obtaining
their private licenses and further development of their soaring
skills.The club is active on weekends only and run by volunteers. Because it is not a commercial operation, members are
expected to participate in the maintenance of club facilities
and aircraft when they are not flying.There are mandatory
workdays for NCSA, usually twice a year, to do essential maintenance on aircraft and facilities.
For More information visit our Web site:
The Buzzard is published quarterly, give or take or whenever we can
get a volunteer. Any other publication is welcome to use any material
herein with proper credit given to the source.We’d like to say that
everything we print has been checked at least 3 times but lets face it,
we save all that caution for flying and let it hang out a bit when it
comes to the newsletter, so apologies in advance for any errors or
omissions. Read this newsletter at your own risk.
President- Mike Schneider
Vice President- Monique Weil
Treasurer- John Randazzo
Maintenance Chief- Charlie Ferguson
Buzzard Editor- John Phillips
Board Members: Yuliy Gerchikov
Peter Keleman
Richard Duggan
John Phillips
Lee Grisham
Charlie Ferguson
Web Master- Willly Snow
Rolf Peterson
Mike Schneider
Monique Weil
Richard Pearl
Paul Kinzelman
Dave Cunningham 925
Buzz Graves
Mike Frazin, from Ohio; original trained at Fremont’s Sky
Dave Catt, a Brit, with his Janus A, a beautiful high performance two seater.
Jason Hatton, who actually got his Private Glider Rating in
Fayence, France but is starting all over in the US.
Uwe Kleinhempel, who brought his K-6 from Canada and has
a Canadian Registration and Pilot’s license.
THE BUZZARD, July 2002
continue from page 1
never been this far from home this late in the day--it's going to
be a late night. Time to head north again. But now every mile I
fly should mean a shorter retrieve. But for whom? I don't have
a crew, so I'm going to have to ask some poor soul to come get
me wherever I end up. It's going to be a late night.
in the USA, and never straight-out. Besides, the new FAI rules
mention a 2000 Km badge. Gee, extrapolating, that should only
require about 18-19 hours in the air. Piece of cake.
On July 8, 1993 I received good news from Arleen Coleson. My
paperwork had been approved. I was assigned 1000 Km international number 223. I was high for a week.
I took off an hour behind my schedule and I still haven't made up
any time. Something has to give. At least I'm flying in the direction of Truckee. The last trip up the Whites/Inyos is at 82 mph. I
know I have to get as high as possible before leaving the Whites.
Amazingly, things are still booming there. I get to 17,300 near
boundary peak, leaving the Whites at 7:25 pm. Finally something
is working better than planned. I would never have guessed that
I could get to this altitude this late in the day.
Mike Schneider has been flying power
aircraft since 1981 and gliders since
1984. He holds a diamond badge and
1000Km diplome. He is an ATP and CIFG
who enjoys both instructing in the
mountains and cavorting solo.
Cloudbase is lower immediately to the north, so for a time I am
above cloudbase and have to navigate around Cu. I sure am glad
for these long Summer days. A few miles to the north, I find my
last thermal back to 15,000. I think I can make Yerrington! That
should do it! I pass abeam Mt. Grant at 11,000 ft. Steve
McRobert calls me while on aerotow from Yerrington, where he's
landed out earlier, "I can't believe you're still in the air!."
By Monique Weil
But I am. The sun is in my eyes and I'm using my compass to navigate for the first time I can remember in a glider. I've never
been in the air in a glider this late in the day. It's turning dusk
now, and daylight (or lack thereof) is my biggest problem. I can't
find the rotating beacon at Yerrington.That turns out to be
because the airport is officially closed, with earthmoving equipment and large piles of dirt on the runway! Remember what the
FAR's say--check NOTAMS prior to every flight (I didn't). Steve
has informed me of the airport situation at Yerrington. People
have been using the taxiway (that's where Steve aerotowed
from), but it's narrow with encroaching sagebrush.There's also
left about 1000 ft of runway pavement that looks OK, but a long
landing would result in finding a large pile of dirt.That 1000 ft
piece of unfettered runway still looks better to me than a narrow
We take our tow pilots for granted too often, giving them a
radio check and an off tow word or two but little else. Many of
us do not even know their names. We just blindly follow the
rope, perhaps oblivious of their situation, after the first two hundred feet have passed. Yet they put themselves at risk for us,
carefully do their best to give us a good tow at the speed we ask
for, to an area of lift, keeping us within gliding range of the field,
looking out for traffic for both of us. They are there waiting
patiently for us to get our act together, in glaring hot sun, howling wind, in allergy season and insect biting time.
A few weeks ago, it was a tow pilot,Tom Hail, who pointed out
our tail wheel askew as he took the runway to prepare to tow.
This is his reply on email after I thanked him for saving us from
more trouble than we had:
I always have tried to give the glider I am about to tow a lookover to
see if there is anything not right like spoilers, tail dollies, canopies and
be sure they are made right before I go. This time it was pretty easy
to see the tailwheel hanging at an odd angle and to call out the problem. Being only a power pilot I was always dependent only on myself
to get airborne.When I started towing a few years ago, I was
impressed with the teamwork required to get a glider airborne. Field
manager, wing walkers, pushers, pilots and even the passengers all
have to make the Chinese Fire Drill that is a Byron glider launch a
smooth and safe event. This event was smooth and safe even though
it didn't result in a flight; it brought home to me that I was part of the
team that contributes to the safety of the operation. I knew I was but
had never actually needed to exercise a call like that before. When
the team works well together like it did on Sunday, it is a real pleasure
to be out there towing you guys around and around. Even when the
wind is howling.
We do appreciate you, our Tow Pilots, without whom we could
not fly and enjoy our sport, all of you; even though we can not
give you a raise, at least you should have a beer on us at the end
of the day, as Doug Lent suggested.
Here is the list of our present Tow Pilots:
Mike Oshell, Ken Ferguson,Troy Myers,Tom Hail, Doug Lent,
Dave Cunningham, Dave Stroh,Tom Hird.
That’s where I land, at 8:38 pm, after 9:11 in the air and 1038 Km
or 644 miles. There is, shall we say, precious little daylight
remaining.The first thing I notice is that the mosquitoes here are
terrible (except for my mosquito-B sailplane, which looks beautiful). I'm not tired, not yet. That is to come later. I push the
sailplane the length of the closed runway (about a mile) to civilization. Back at Truckee, Mark Matthews very magnanimously volunteers to crew for me. I've made that arrangement by radio
relay with Steve prior to landing. So much for preflight planning.
Thank you forever Mark.
This is the first "official" 1000 Km flown from Truckee, a fact I still
don't understand. Three other 1000 Km flights were flown from
Minden the same day. The key to success seems to have been
plenty of preflight planning, a relatively early starting day in the
Tahoe area, no overdevelopment down south, and a very very
long day. But it can be done, even with a CH handicap of 0.98
and wings that need refinishing.
Maybe next year I'll hear about somebody doing 1000 Km in a 126. Curt? Everybody's asking me what comes next. How about
that long contemplated 2000 Km wave-hopping downwind flight.
That would be neat. 2000 Km has only been done twice, never
steel. It might be good enough to cut down a few sage brushes for
firewood or to clear a path so you can aerotow out of your field.
It’s very small and weighs under an ounce.
▲ Insect repellent is also a good idea. I’ve needed it badly after
landing out at Yerrington, NV, where the airport is located right
next to the sewage treatment plant. In wetter climates, it may be
▲ A small flashlight–an LED flashlight is a good idea since the batteries last forever, but any cheap flashlight (2-AA size) is OK.
Check the batteries several times a season to make sure they’re
good, and make sure the flashlight can’t inadvertently turn itself on
inside the bag when you try to squeeze the bag into the turtledeck
area of the glider before takeoff.
▲ A whistle–much better than shouting.
▲ A small light compass–if you have to walk out.
▲ Duct Tape–1001 uses for this stuff, they even took it to the
moon (just in case). You don’t need a whole roll, but a small quantity might be useful taping that space blanket over a broken canopy.
▲ Paper to write on (and a pen/pencil)–definitely write a note if
you leave the glider
▲ Reading material–a good paperback book can really help during
those boring hours waiting for your crew to arrive.
▲ Snake Bite Kit–I hope you don’t have to use this, but
rattlesnakes are a problem in the desert, and having a small kit
might save your life.
▲ Zip-lock bags–if you don’t carry these in your cockpit as a relief
system, carry a couple in your landout kit to keep things dry. Like
duct tape, they have 1001 uses.
▲ A GPS–either panel mounted or, better yet, a handheld GPS for
recording the coordinates of the landout (lots of folks have had
problems re-finding the glider, especially at night) and to keep you
oriented during a walkout.
▲ A handheld aviation transcever–these have gotten really small in
recent years, and can be purchased for $300 or so. If the aircraft
radio quits working after a rough outlanding, you’ll need this to
communicate. Make sure you give your crew a LAT/LON location,
and make sure your crew has a handheld GPS receiver to help
locate you.
▲ A cell phone–even an old cell phone purchased at a garage sale
and without a cellular subscription is enough. Just make sure the
batteries are good. Old analog technology is best. Although there
certainly are areas out in the desert without cell service, analog
coverage is surprisingly complete. By law, you can dial 9-1-1 from
any phone for free, including old cell phones without subscriptions
to any plan. If you can’t communicate with someone by aircraft
radio, don’t hesitate to use your cell phone to call someone, including 9-1-1. If you believe you’re going to land out, it may be best to
use your phone prior to landing. Although not quite legal, strictly
speaking, it sure beats being stuck on the ground somewhere without cell service. If in doubt, use the phone. Let people know
where you are and what your plans are,“I’m over XYZ and it looks
like I’ll be landing–LAT/LON is...
▲ Parachute–a few years ago a pilot attempting an out-landing in
the desert crashed, badly injuring his ankle. He fashioned a tourniquet from his parachute to stop the bleeding and, after surgery,
recovered from his injuries. In an emergency, your parachute is
expendable. The canopy will make a fair blanket or sun shelter and
the lines can be used as rope.
▲ General Clothing–I like to fly in long pants, even on fairly hot
days. I think it enhances my survivability. Also, make sure you fly in
comfortable walking shoes. A landout in the desert may involve
many miles of walking, so you don't want to be in sandals.
By Mike Schneider
Let's talk about Landout Kits. No, this isn’t an article about where
or how to land out. Rather, I’d like for those of you flying crosscountry in the Sierra (or thinking of doing so) to do everyone a
favor and spend a bit of time thinking about what you’d do if you
landed out in the desert and had to spend a day or two of
unplanned vacation. Maybe it wasn’t an entirely successful landout
and now both the glider and your ankle are pretty banged up and
the radio is inop. What to do? Or perhaps the situation isn’t quite
so dire. It’s just that you’ve landed so far in the boonies that your
crew won’t reach you until morning. In any case wouldn’t it be best
to have thought about this ahead of time?
I’m sure you all recall from your boy or girl scout days that the
most important consideration is shelter. The desert is a harsh
place, hot during the day, cold at night. In this case “shelter” probably means using the cockpit of the glider to keep out of the cold
and rain, but what if the canopy is broken? You need to have a suitable warm coat for yourself, preferably waterproof (GorTex is
ideal), plus a plastic sheet or space blanket to keep the rain out of
the cockpit. You can buy a space-blanket at most sporting goods
stores for practically nothing. It’s just a piece of silvered milar,
which reflects the heat. It’s lightweight and folds into an amazingly
small package, so yes you can afford to carry it. Carry two. To
keep your cockpit shelter intact, you need to have some method of
tying down the glider. Carry rope to tie down the wingtips. In the
event you land at an airport, the rope may be useful for tying down
the wings when airport tiedown chains aren’t available or don’t fit.
In the desert, you may be able to tie the ship down using large
rocks or mongo sagebrush. Plastic tent stakes are worth carrying
as an alternate method of tying down and they’re cheap. You can
always use a rock to hammer them in. Sunblock lotion is important. Even if you foolishly fly without it, carry a small tube so you
don’t suffer serious sunburn from a day or two in the desert.
Next to shelter, the next priority in survival is water. You should
always carry lots of drinking water on cross-country flights. If you
drank all your water, even on a very long flight, you didn’t carry
enough water. If the ship was water-ballasted, some water will
probably remain in the tanks/bags. You might even consider intentionally landing with limited ballast, although there are definite
downsides to this.
After shelter and water comes food. Although we can survive a
number of days without food, I bring some PowerBars and a can or
two of fruit cocktail with a self-opening lid. Whatever you bring
should be high-calorie and non-perishable. You’ll be surprised how
delicious this stuff can be after you’ve been waiting for your crew
for a few hours.
Now for the serious survival gear:
A signal mirror–available from some sporting goods stores, is very
helpful to search aircraft. They’re thick, not too fragile, and have a
sight so you can actually aim it.
▲ Waterproof matches–you may need to start a fire. Cheap, small
and light.
▲ A small sterno can or can-type candle–helpful to those of us
whose fire starting skills aren’t great.
▲ A first aid kit–a small first aid kit with bandages and maybe
▲ A “leatherman” or Swiss Army knife (or even cheap imitations).
These things have everything. You won’t need the corkscrew, but
you do need a knife blade.
▲ A “campers saw” has rings on each end of a piece of serrated
Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of stuff to bring with you, but actually it's only 5-10 lbs, and will easily fit into a very small duffel bag
behind your head in the turtledeck area of the glider. You can just
keep the storage bag in the cockpit, ready to go.
THE BUZZARD, July 2002
Medication: If you have any doubt about medication you are on,
consult with your doctor or AME.
By Monique Weil
Hypoxia: Know your hypoxic symptoms. Altitude chamber
training is recommended. Hypoxia affects your judgment and
ability to make rational decisions. Go on O2 from 10,000’.
Check your oxymizer cannula. Monitor oxygen system and your
judgment during flight.
How do YOU prepare for the summer soaring? Listed are some
review items
Are you in good shape? Mental health as well as physical health?
Not stressed out, well rested, with a positive attitude; able to
fully focus on the flying tasks? Aware of your capabilities and limitations and ready to improve your skills while having fun?
Other physiological problems to watch out for: Bladder emptying, Allergies, Air sickness; Fatigue, Disorientation.
Stress: A large percentage of accidents happen to low time pilots
who find themselves in an unanticipated situation and the resultant high stress interferes with their decision making. Monitor
your stress level during the flight and find ways to reduce stress
by: task reduction, reduce and manage risk and work on improving basic airmanship. Planning at least a couple of steps ahead will
help your situation awareness. Preflight planning and review;
make go-no go decisions; don’t get sucked in to attempt a flight
beyond your capabilities and experience level just because your
buddy suggested it. Remember your priorities: the Pilot, the
Aircraft, the Task. Use check lists; learn how to relax; take deep
breaths, stretch your legs and move your feet. Break down the
flight into manageable segments; organize your cockpit; drink
water continuously; don’t dwell on your mistakes, focus on the
Are you current and proficient in the ship or ships you plan to
fly? Are you mentally prepared? Know thyself: remember your
hazardous attitudes and their antidotes. On first flights this year
some pilots were observed to be a little rusty or forgetful of the
basics: starting take off with dive brakes open, flaps not set,
canopy not confirmed closed and locked, gear not down and
locked on final approach, coming in high and fast or too low and
slow, with incipient spin close to the ground..
It is a good idea to shake out the cobwebs of the winter in your
brain before you attempt to fly in the mountains. Get a dual proficiency flight or two and practice energy management in your
spot landing practice; proficient at steep coordinated banks; good
thermal entry; sharing the thermal; keep your head on a swivel. If
you haven’t done much recent soaring in the Sierras, schedule
dual flights. The terrain and flying conditions are awesome, strong
lift, strong sink, few good places to land for beginners; plan to be
conservative; get high and stay high. Do not plan to land at the
beginning of the runway at Truckee.The runway is long, there can
be treacherous sink on final approach and experienced pilots
have crashed into the steep cliff at the end of the runway.
Physical Conditioning: Mental alertness will be enhanced by
being in good physical shape. Regular exercise is recommended.
Is the glider ready for flight? Critical Assembly Checks; POSITIVE
CONTROL CHECKED and verified; washed, polished and taped;
canopy cleaned, inside and out; weight and balance calculated
(check to be sure unwanted ballast has not been left in the aircraft by a previous pilot); check gear warning; canopy closure;
brakes checked, varios checked; weak link if needed; parachute
checked; battery fully charged? Oxygen filled, system checked for
leaks? You should have an extra mask or oxymizer cannula; Radio
reception and transmission checked? Frequencies reviewed and
programmed;Tie downs and other survival equipment available,
including camel-back type water system and extra water, food,
jacket; first aid kit, bug juice; thermal blanket, flashlight, hand held
radio, sectional charts, road maps, Emergency phone numbers,
The SOARING ENVIRONMENT in high altitudes:
Prepare for the heat:
Water: Carry enough water and drink often even when not
You must stay hydrated; take at least 2 qts and have a camel-back
type system; Oxygen will contribute to dehydration. Dehydration
Clothing: light weight clothing, preferably long sleeve shirt, pants,
hat, sun glasses, a scarf to protect the neck which can be soaked
to help keep you cool. Bring a wind breaker; shoes for walking on
rugged terrain;
Are you legally current and have you flown your ship enough in
expected conditions to feel proficient: Have you recently
reviewed your glider's performance and peculiar characteristics,
speeds to fly under different conditions; know how many miles
per 1,000’ and mark your chart accordingly. Have you had recent
dual practice in dealing with simulated rope breaks and other
emergencies including recovery from slack line and feel reasonably accurate in: low-energy spot landings without use of altimeter; have you considered effect of high density altitudes on take
off and landing performances as well as increased turning radius;
how is your proficiency in gusty conditions and turbulence?
Strong wind gradient? turbulent, crosswind take offs and landings?
Slips with no dive brakes?
Sunscreen: use sunblock but keep it away from the eyes. Apply
again just before flight.
Sunglasses: Bring good sunglasses and if you wear glasses, bring
an extra pair of clear prescription glasses if you come home at
Heat exhaustion: Prevention includes staying in the shade prior
to flight; rest and drink water before take off.
Eating: Eat normally, a light lunch, no carbonated soft drinks;
avoid caffeinated drinks. Bring some high energy non-melting
snack for the flight and after.
Continued from page 5
Have you studied the charts of your proposed flight area and
prepared them for safe glides to good landing areas and selected
options for alternates? Study the proposed terrain, plan points of
no return. Review airspace, airports, frequencies, traffic patterns,
obstructions, areas to avoid due to high density jet traffic etc.?
Review your take off and landing check lists: remember that
two for runway one nine Truckee; we have the Cessna on base in
sight” Before talking, be sure radio is set to properly transmit and
receive on correct frequency. Keep transmissions brief and concise.Think about and rehearse what you want to say; Listen to
make sure frequency is clear; wait for silence. Hold the mike
close to your mouth –1-2 inches. Press mike switch and speak.
When calling a busy controller, such as Reno Approach Control,
wait for a response before transmitting your request: e.g. “Reno
Approach, Glider 3981C, request”, wait until Reno Approach
replies, e.g.: “Glider 3981C say request”, “Glider 3981C Verdi Peak
one three thousand squawking 0440, requesting flight following
northward to Pyram intersection”. Approach replies: “Glider
3981C, squawk 0421 ident”. You reply “0421 and ident for
3981C”. If you are in communication with ATC be sure to let
them know before leaving the frequency “Approach, Glider
3981C is requesting frequency change, thanks for your help”.
Take special care when being ground towed in strong crosswind.
Remember that the downwind wing is the critical wing to hold;
the Blanik is particularly susceptible to weather cocking; try to
get additional crew in very strong winds. Do not leave the glider
unattended at the flight line.
The next three check lists are from Richard Pearl’s talk on the
fallacy of flight safety at our March 23rd Safety seminar.
He talked about “bold print” items to put to memory:
Check Pilot (are you ready?)
Check Wind
Pre launch check list
Scan Area
Check Rope
Wing Runner in position
Think Rope Break & Recovery
By Jim Conger
I just about had to fly May 30. I had
talked the ever-generous Dr. Jack
Glendening into doing a daily automated (TIP) soaring forecast for
Truckee. The poor blighters at
Truckee had been making do with the
Minden forecast. (Imagine using second-hand weather – tisk, tisk!) Dr.
Jack had the forecast machinery running in no time, but the question
remained - Did the forecast have anything to do with the actual soaring
Positive communication with tow plane
Eyes glued to tow plane
Anticipate problem(s)in initial ground roll
Anticipate action for low level rope break
Keep in position
Be ready to release
Proper Release
There was only one way to find out. Your intrepid aviator bombed
up to Truckee determined to taste every inch of the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the TIP forecast for the 30th of May did not look
promising. Lift was expected to be weak, and broken up by the 12
– 20 knot winds aloft. Thermals were forecast to climb to 12,500
feet, which is low by Truckee standards (the airport is at 5,900 feet,
and the surrounding terrain is above 10,000 feet in several directions.) Finally, no marker Cus were forecast. Sigh!
Get Mentally Prepared
Use Check List
Every Landing Should be a Spot Landing
Aviate, Navigate, Communicate
Multi-Use Airports:
Expect the Unexpected
Communication,Vigilance required
Landing Gliders/sequencing
Upon arriving at the airport it was clear that the forecast was all
too close to reality. The air had a somewhat "used" look to it, as if
it had spent too much time in a trailer park. No Cus were visible,
and the wind was picking up from the southwest. I knew that I
wanted the forecast to be accurate, but couldn't it be accurate and
optimistic at the same time?
Basic principles:
The radio in the soaring environment should be used mostly as a
safety instrument to communicate vital information to traffic in
the pattern , to your crew or base (e.g.Air Sailing or Truckee
Base), to other sailplanes, or to get needed information for flight
safety and assistance from ATC (flight following; traffic advisories).
The main glider frequencies are 123.3 (Air Sailing), and 123.5
(Truckee Base) You will hear these often misused and overused
for idle chatter; this ties up the frequency and may cause problems due to inability to communicate safety issues.
Keep in mind that talking or listening on the radio is a major distracting agent keeping the pilot from attending to flying.
It is a good idea to turn the radio down when cruising to avoid
this distraction.
The message structure is:
who are you calling, e.g.“Truckee Traffic”
who you are? “Glider 3FB”
Location (and request) “entering left down wind, number
Never mind. I had the Mini Nimbus together in no time, and
decided to get science underway. Takeoff was at 11:30 AM. I pulled
the release at 1600 feet AGL in a nice little 3 knot thermal. It
pooped out at about 10K, allowing me to foolishly head for the
usual "sure thing" hotspot that happened to be in the downwash
from the 12 knot wind over a ridge. (Mental note: Don't fly into
certain sink.) I snuck back to my first thermal and started over.
Run number two got me up to the edge of Mt. Rose at 12K after
two modest climbs. Looking into the Carson valley I could see lots
of blue. The only Cus looked 50 miles away to the east. I had to
decide:A nice boring day measuring the atmosphere like I was supposed to, or an exciting sled ride into the certain sink of the
Carson valley? I chose the sled. Sure enough, the Carson valley
was dead. I got through the downwash from the wind falling out of
THE BUZZARD, July 2002
The data is updated each morning, although updates occasionally
fail when the NWS and other data sources fail to provide the necessary inputs.)
the Sierras, with about 10K of altitude. I was using Carson City
airport as my "out", and it seemed to be getting larger all of the
time. I inched around to the north of the field hoping for a save,
but pattern altitude came up in no time. Down went the gear, and
I let the Cessna entering the pattern know where I was. (He did
not sound at all pleased.)
Just as I was turning towards the IP I slammed into a 6 knot thermal. No centering required – I had blundered right into the middle of the beast. I climbed the first 1000 feet with my wheel down
(not believing in good fortune) but then pulled up the gear and
climbed quickly to 11K. I enjoyed letting the Cessna know that I
was now well above the pattern. (I take his silence on the radio as
being a loud "What The?”)
by Monique Weil
NCSA Members together with family and other friends of Fran
sadly commemorated our dear friend at Byron March 23, in an
informal Memorial.
We had our annual Safety Seminar in the morning and the barbecue which followed (organized by Richard Duggan) was the start
of the Memorial. There were over 50 present and we had the
opportunity to get acquainted with Fran’s family and other
friends. Some came from far away. Fran’s brother Rev flew his
Cessna 140 from Seattle but had to leave it in Red Bluff due to
weather and rented a car. A couple came from Oregon. NCSA’s
former A&P and close friend of Fran, Bob Hancock also lives in
Washington state and came via Hong Kong, Korea and Los
Angeles, finally renting a car in Sacramento.
With a bit of altitude in the bank, I headed south towards Minden
to see if anyone was flying there. No one at Minden was foolish
enough to launch, much less fly cross-country. I turned around and
started north towards Air Sailing. It was still completely blue, so I
headed for ridge lines, hoping to find invisible cloud streets
beneath them. Sure enough, there were bands of lift aligned with
the ridges. I managed to get a princely 12K as I wandered northward.
Switching the radio the Reno tower, I started my trek across the
jet freeway. Sure enough, a 737 announced a 30 mile visual
approach and appeared at my altitude about four miles away. Reno
was not very busy, and I skipped across without another sighting.
Lift improved as I worked to the north-east. I kept fidgeting with
my glide computer to figure out when I had Air Sailing within safe
reach, but the improving conditions made this a waste of time. I
made a pass over Air Sailing from 14K, and had plenty of altitude
to run the corner and head for Stead and then home.
I accompanied Mike Oshell who skillfully piloted our Scout 16Y
over and around the clouds to scatter Fran’s ashes on Mt Diablo,
per Fran’s expressed wishes. Fran had enjoyed many flights over
Mt Diablo, in gliders and his own Cessna and the mountain is
now a fitting resting place for him. The weather was cloudy and
windy but the sun came out in time and provided an opening in
the clouds for us. Fran’s friends can now say hello to him when
they fly near Mt Diablo.
The issue getting back to Truckee was the little matter of 15 to 20
knots of wind blowing right over the Verdi ridge, creating an enormous wave of sinking air. To get back I had to get high enough to
pass over the falling wave. I kept inching along, spending half my
energy thermaling in weak lift, and the other half fiddling with the
glide computer. I was right at final glide to Truckee, but my computer did not know about the wave of sink.
Afterwards, we gathered in front of the hangars for wind shelter
and shared anecdotes about Fran. Fran was awarded a posthumous award at our annual banquet and Fran’s widow, Betty Ann
was presented with a plaque: “Fran Allender, 5/2/29-11/16/01, Blue
Skies and Cus for ever”. Betty Ann was very grateful for our
participation in this memorial and wanted to express her thanks
to all who were present; similar sentiments were expressed by
Fran’s daughter JoAnne; JoAnne’s mother Bernita, grand daughter
Allison, brother Rev, long time friends Oren and Freddie Allen
and others.
Determined to get home, I put the nose down and headed directly
into the ridge to get through the downwash as quickly as possible.
I passed the crest and then headed south, hoping to connect with
another thermal that would assure me a safe trip home. I was
down to about 10K near Verdi Peak. The glide computer said I
could make Truckee pattern altitude despite the wind, but I was
strongly tempted to turn tale for the safe haven of Stead before
that option vanished behind the Pevine ridge.
I felt Fran’s presence among us and there was joy in recalling
such a fine human being as well as sadness in losing him so suddenly. Fran had been a club member for about a dozen years,
was a close friend and flying buddy to a number of us and spent
many dozens of hours working at all times in various maintenance projects to benefit the club. Fran, we miss you.
I need not have worried. Verdi peak had enough weak lift to get
me another 1000 feet of safety altitude, and I zoomed back
towards home base. Of course, I ended up 1000 feet high when I
got back to Truckee, so I did not need the safety margin. On the
other hand, I sleep well at night, so it was probably worth it.
NCSA raised almost twice the amount needed to plant and
maintain a Tree in the Air Sailing Memorial Grove as well as his
name engraved in a granite monument there. The balance will go
toward the Air Sailing Capitalization Fund.
The scientific conclusion? Dr. Jack's TIP forecast was spot-on. The
strength of lift and the maximum thermal heights were within a
few percentage points. In addition, the related BLIPMAP charts
correctly predicted that conditions would be stronger to the east.
These forecasts are so good that looking out the window is likely
to be a thing of the past (just kidding!)
(TIP and BLIPMAP forecasts are available from Dr. Jack's web page:
As of press time here is a list of our active students:
Norman Freitas
Jason Hatton
Jack Franklin
Chase Myers
Tim Uphaus
Charlie Ferguson
Lee Grisham
Dusty Howell
Paul Vincent
Watch this space for achievements
Congratulations to:
A Badge: Charlie Ferguson
A Badge: Lee Grisham
B Badge: Lee Grisham
Private Pilot Glider: Thomas Daniel
Bronze Badge: Andres Glassow
Gold Badge: Peter Madams?
Diamond Altitude: Dave Cunningham 25,400’
Highest Altitude this year at Byron: Yuliy Gerchikov, 12,500’
We plan to operate as usual all summer as we did last summer,
with an instructor, a tow pilot and a field manager. As of now, the
instructor load will be shared by Monique Weil, Buzz Graves and
Tom Hird.We strongly encourage students and others who plan
P.O. BOX 26, BYRON, CA 94514
to fly at Byron during the summer to communicate in advance
with the instructors and the ncsoar list for planning purposes.
We had a very busy summer last year, with 200 instructional
flights.We plan to have at least 2 ships at Byron this summer EV,
972 and possibly 81C, depending on when it is back on line. Our
other 3 ships, 3FB, SS and 3AS will be at Truckee when they have
not been reserved and approved by the board for Thermal or
Cross-country camps etc.
Blanik AS has just had its tail wheel connections repaired with
the excellent workmanship of Sam Tucker. We were very lucky
there was no structural damage and that the ship did not have to
be disassembled and moved. Let this broken tail wheel serve as a
reminder to all Blanik drivers:The tail wheel of the Blanik is very
WEAK and needs special treatment: If a front seat person is
heavy, the nose dips down, then the tail slams down in recovering. Have someone brace the tail to avoid this.Take off with
trim slightly forward of neutral to get weight off the tail as soon
as possible in take off roll Land on the main wheel, NOT a two
point landing. On landing roll, gradually hold stick back as you tap
the brakes. Avoid hard braking, which will pitch the nose forward
and then slam tail down.
Another Blanik problem we have experienced is the tow release
mechanism. On a previous occasion, the tow release mechanism
failed to open completely when the release lever was pulled and
the rope was under tension, preventing a release. Please ensure
that the tow rope has disconnected by VISUALLY WATCHING
THE TOW ROPE RELEASE prior to turning away!!!!! If you experience a problem in flight, try removing the rope tension by using
soft-release techniques. If this doesn’t work, have the other pilot
try his/her release, then let the tow pilot know you have a problem by using the radio. Once on the ground, notify a maintenance
person of the problem
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