TC 2009 Day 2 – St Louis to Denver

It took some gear grinding but I made over to a nearby mechanic this morning after checking out of the hotel. Their suspicion after a test drive is a bad bearing in the transmission. But it’s Saturday so the earliest they can do any real work would be Monday. And my car is not made anymore so it could take a day or two to find parts or a used tranny (it’s a 99 Suzuki Sidekick BTW).

The car is semi drivable. 1st and 2nd grind a lot. It’s real hard to get out of 4th. But 3rd and 5th seem OK.

After some serious thought I decide it’s best to head home now. I just don’t want to risk having it fail completely heading even further from home. So I fill the tank and make it onto the highway toward home. It’s a stressful drive not knowing if and when the car may get stuck. The stops are the worst. It’s not too bad on the highway in 5th gear.

I had a few scares with weird noises but I made it fine until my last gas stop. As I tried to leave the station the grinding was the worst it’s been. Somehow I grinded enough in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd to get into 4th at about 25mph going up the ramp back onto the highway. I tried 5th and it was terrible too so quickly back into 4th. And there I stayed for the next 200 miles going 55-60mph the rest of the way home. Luckily I live only a mile off of the highway. I was able to time the three lights green. Once in my neighborhood I ran two 4-way stop signs to get to my house still in 4th gear. One benefit to getting home late – no one around.

Ugh. So no Team Challenge for me this year. I was pretty bummed driving back home thinking about all I’m going to miss this week.

I was away from my house for 38 hours. I spent 26 of those actually driving. The rest was gas/food stops, a nights sleep, and some time at the mechanic. And I drove 1650 miles. I got to see eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. Twice, each. In as many days. Booorrrriiiinnnnnggggg!

OK, so what is with Missouri? At least along I-70? I have never seen so many pro-life billboards, church and Jesus billboards, and porn shops. And did I mention billboards? Millions of them. At least the gas was cheap(er) there. I payed about $2.15 in MO. The most was $2.59 in Kansas.

Sorry there is no flying in this post. But my glider got to see a bunch of the country. I will say one thing. Get a Gunnison Gliders travel bag. I drove through some nasty rain and was very glad my glider was all nice and safe in that heavy bag.

OK, I’m totally exhausted. It’s bed time for me.

To those that are at the Team Challenge – enjoy and good luck.


TC 2009 Day 1 – Denver to St Louis

I haven’t written anything since WW Demo Days so I thought I should get back to it. I left Denver about 9:30am. I stopped about 11pm near Offallen MO I believe. Kind of near St Louis. I still have about 7.5 hours to Dunlap.

Other than a bunch of rain it was an uneventful drive right up until the end. I was starting to look for a place to stop for the night when the traffic came to a stop. There was some sort of accident. I was stopped a 1/4 mile short of an exit with a few hotels. Ok, I’ll get off here. Strangely my car decided it was time for the clutch to go. I was grinding gears trying to make it to the exit. I hung out in the shoulder incase it died for real. But luckily I made it to the exit and 3rd gear wasn’t bad at all. I made it to the hotel after some more grinding in 1st, 2nd, and reverse.

I guess I better go straight to the nearest service station in the morning. Saturday should be fun. Spending lots of time and money on the car. And it’s supposed to be thunderstorms too. I guess I’ll be late to Dunlap. Ugh.

Ironically I was talking with another pilot about his clutch going bad in his car just a couple of weeks ago while we were driving to launch in my car.

WWDD 09 – Day 7 – Going Home

My flight is at 3pm so I have some time. I decided to sleep in a bit. We had to be out of the house by 10am so that’s what we all did. Cleaned up a bit and stripped all of the beds. Hopefully I get all of my deposit back.

We all headed over to Wallaby for breakfast. A few people were towing but most were content to relax or recover from last night.

After breakfast I chatted a bit with various folks and headed to the office to pay my Wallaby bill. 15 meals, drinks, 7 tows, 1 tandem, and a t-shirt for my son. One advantage of the two days off – much cheaper bill.

About 12:30 I said the last of my "see you laters" and headed off to the airport. It was nearly 90 degrees when I left and when I arrived in Denver is was 30 and snowing lightly. It was good to be home but I’ll miss the fun and all the great people.

I now anxiously await the delivery of my own U2. Hopefully in about two weeks, maybe a little less. Unfortunately between my own schedule and our snow covered mountain sites I won’t get much chance to fly her for a bit. Maybe some short scooter tows. Time will tell.

Until later….

WWDD 09 – Day 6 – Great Day

Sun. Little Wind. Fun everywhere. Time for the U2 – yeah. The day would see me get 4 flights on the U2.

I arrived at Wallaby and promptly snagged the U2 160 before the other two guys got their dirty hands on it. Smile Everything was VERY wet with dew. I spent 20 minutes drying this all Mylar glider. It had a white UVM leading edge and a gray UVM sail. A lot of people were hear today due to the last two days sucking so bad. But even at it’s peak it was nothing compared to most days last year.

Flight 1

There was a big morning rush. The tandems and new solos got priority and there were plenty. I waited at least 30 minutes from hook in to tow. I had the fin on the U2 and had a great tow. The air was smooth and I had no problem at all towing. This was my first ever flight on a U2. Time to see how different it is from the Sport 2. After release I dropped the VG to about 1/3 and did a few turns. I thought it responded nearly identical to the Sport 2. A few pilots mentioned there was more of a delay but I didn’t think so from these first few turns.

I then pushed the bar to my waist with full arm extension. No vario so I don’t know how fast I got but the air was really rushing by. I was still at 1/3 VG. The bar pressure was light. I’m pretty sure it was lighter than the Sport 2.

I then put the VG to 3/4 and did a few turns. Definitely stiffer but doable. I tend to turn by leading with my feet and hips. In a sloppy turn where I just move my shoulders to the side it didn’t turn until I shoved my hips over good. These all seemed about right so far. But it’s only been 2 minutes.

With the VG back down to 1/3 I did some slower S-turns to get a feel for things I might do on a landing. I never tried a stall – I forgot.

Soon this sled ride was coming to an end and I had to setup my approach. I was still a little high so I did a really wide downwind. For a second I thought I might come up short but this thing really glides. I ended up extending my base because I still a little high. Yep, more glide than the Sport 2. I finally turned final, still to high, but I had lots of field so there were no worries. Long glide with lots of speed. I got into ground effect and waited, and waited. I waited too long. I suddenly felt a lot of back pressure and I flared. Nothing. I did a nice knee, chute, wheel landing. The grass was so wet that I actually cleaned my harness more than getting it dirty. Oh well. No harm done. On my Sport 2 I usually waited to flare just as I felt the start of the push back. That’s too late on the U2 it seems.

So far I like it. The flare timing will take a little practice and I need to relearn the landing glide. But that’s why I’m here. I have lots of field to practice in.

Flight 2

After another pilot got a morning sled ride I hooked in again for a second flight before breakfast. Since the first tow went so well I decided to remove the fin for this one. Yikes. I PIO’ed the crap out of the glider – right from the very beginning. I was over controlling like crazy. I actually went for the release just above tree level and missed. I hit the top of the release and knocked it sideways a little. I then decided to keep going. I’m sure it felt worse than it looked. The wings probably never got more than 30 degrees from level, probably less. I had a brief period were I got it under better control but it didn’t last long. Then I started getting to high and too low. Just ugly all around.

The tug pilot finally waved me off. He took me all the way up so I guess I couldn’t have been too out of control. Yikes that sucked. Now I was all worked up. I tried to relax and focus on test flying the new glider but it was tough after that tow. There were no thermals yet so it was still sled ride conditions so the flight didn’t last to long. I just did a few turns around the field and came in an landed trying to relax and focus on the landing. I did the same basic approach as before. But this time I planned on flaring sooner. After I rounded out and got the glider level I waited for it to trim out. Waited another second or two and flared. It was almost too late again but definitely better. I was on my feet but I still did a few things wrong. My eyes were down, again and my flare was strong and my arm weren’t straight up.

I seem to have this flaring problem at the start of each season. Hopefully in a few flights I’ll get back into my proper flare technique – eyes on the horizon, full arm extension, up, and hold it up.

I handed the glider off to another pilot and headed back for breakfast.

I talked to a couple guys about flare timing and landing setup and glide. Things to put to use later today.

Flight 3

After breakfast one of the other guys beat me to the U2 160 so I waited my turn to get an afternoon flight. As it turned it this worked well in my favor. I got the glider back and was hooked in around 1:30. I put the fin back on – I didn’t want a repeat of the last tow and it was getting a lot more thermally. I was reminded the sky was getting crowded. People were really starting to stay up and there were a dozen gliders in the air by now.

My tow up went really well despite the thermally conditions. I was a lot more relaxed and made much better bump corrections. After release I got a good look around and saw a couple of gliders a bit above me circling. They were also further upwind. I drove around looking for lift not wanting to get too far away. I still have leash syndrome and I still don’t have a good feel for the glide on the U2 after only 2 short flights. I gave up on trying to find the thermal these other guys were in and decided to glide closer to the Wallaby field.

But soon my vario (finally put it on the glider thankfully) was beeping a little. It was wasn’t long before I was gaining in a light thermal. Five minutes later I was in a death gaggle with 20 gliders spread out over hundreds of feet of altitude. I think every glider in the sky was in this one big thermal. Most, including me, were doing left turns. One key exception was a guy at my altitude going right. Come on, pay attention. It was crazy. At one point I had 4 gliders within a 100 feet of me going around. Sport 2’s, ATOS’s, and everything in between. Crazy but cool at the same time. My head was on a big swivel trying to keep track of anyone near me. People kept coming into and out of the thermal. I occassionaly had to leave the thermal and come back in due to another glider or just from flying out of it. All the other gliders made it real easy to find again though.

At about 2600 MSL we were topped out and scattering to find another. I was a bit tired of doing left turns and being in such a crowd so I went off by myself back toward the orange grove. Everyone else was finding another thermal near the one I just left. I suddenly had the sky to myself and did a couple of right turns just for the sake of it.

Then I smelled orange. Yummm. Thermal. Boom. My vario started screaming at over 600 fpm with periods of near 800. I was going up great – and all by myself. I found this thermal at about 2000 MSL and topped out at 3200. And I was still the only one in it. When I topped out I could see almost everyone else in another death gaggle but I was 600-700 feet above the top guy – how cool was this?! As I moved on I saw an ATOS heading my way down low and a few others starting to notice.

I also noticed my flight time. It was about 45 minutes at this point and I knew two other guys were waiting for the glider. So being the nice guy I am I decide I should head in to land. So I spent the next 10 minutes slowly going down. It was too bad because I flew through some more nice thermals. But it was now time to focus on an approach and landing.

I was planning on the same basic approach and landing. But as I got low I saw another glider a little lower setting up and he then did something I didn’t expect. He setup to land in a completely different way and direction. Then I finally took a good look at the flags and sure enough the wind was 90 cross from what they were towing and everyone else was landing. So I followed this other guy’s lead and landed into the wind. It was more of a walk but a better landing. I had a decent flare and landed on my feet OK. Still need more work of course.

After a bit I got the glider on a cart and wheeled it over to the staging area. 30 seconds later, literally, Malcolm moved everyone to the east side of the grounds. The glider was in someone else’s hands now. But I helped the Wills’ guys move a glider. The least I could do for all they do for us. Then I had to walk all the way back to near were I landed to get my harness.

I was grinning big time. What a fun flight. After the switch the gliders were coming down in droves and most were whacking. It was carnage. I guess it got trashy. My timing was pretty fortunate. Fun times for sure.

Flight 4

After lunch I wanted to do another flight, even if it was a sledder. I will be flying home on Sunday so today was it. Even a sledder allows me to get another landing in on the U2.

But everyone else was faster than me and I now had three guys ahead of me on the list and the first didn’t go up until 5pm. It was lightly soarable at first but I finally got my turn about 7:10pm and would be one of the last few gliders to tow up that day. It was real calm so I wanted to try again without the fin. This time I was real relaxed and had a great tow. Just as good if not better than with the fin. Yeah! Amazing how well this glider tows when I’m not in the way. This was a nice little sled ride.

I played with the VG a bit again. One thing I noticed this time was how much the bar moves between 1/4 and 3/4 VG. The bar moves back a lot at the higher VG settings. Much more so than the Sport 2.

But it was soon time to land. I setup a basic approach and was to land into very light west wind. I flared right next to all the gliders in the setup area with several people watching. Happily I saved it. I flared a tiny bit late but was able to get my feet under me and run a few steps for a nice landing.

What a fun day. Four flights, four landings (well three really – the first doesn’t count). Almost 2 hours. And it was now party time.

Fun in Florida.

WWDD 09 – Days 4 and 5 – Weathered Out

Thursday and Friday saw no flying at Wallaby. Thursday was too windy. Friday had lots of rain and wind in the morning and just too much wind in the afternoon. But the forecast for Saturday looks great.

I spent both days just hanging around Wallaby. Gary, Bob and I did make a trip to some stores for a while though.

Mike from Wills Wings did a great 15 minute talk that lasted 2 1/2 hours. There were about 40-50 pilots in the tent listening to the impromptu discussion with lots of good questions. Topics included sprog settings, glider testing, and a bunch of other things. Good stuff – thanks Mike.

I had the fortune of sitting with Mike and Steve one night at dinner. Since they are in the middle of building my U2 I asked them about the process and what goes on during the 6 or so weeks it takes right now to deliver a glider. It was very interesting to hear but it’s too much for me to get into here. But here’s the Readers Digest version:

1) Cut tubing
2) Cut sail
3) Assemble
4) Test fly
5) Deliver

Hope that helps Wink

It was great seeing people again and meeting new pilots during these down days (as well as during flying days). I suck at names and have a terrible memory for this sort of thing so I won’t mention anyone specific so I don’t insult anyone. Embarassed

But there were maybe half a dozen folks from this site that I chatted with. It was fun running into someone I met on one of my road trips last year. Trying to figure out which site we met at.

WWDD 09 – Day 3 – White out

Another early day at Wallaby. I talked with Mike from Wills Wing about flying the Falcon 195 and working my way up to the U2.

I was able to get a flight on the Falcon sometime before breakfast today. The winds were light down low but were blowing 25 up higher. I was reminded to be careful on the Falcon in this wind and up I went. The tow went very well. It was real smooth all the way up except for some small burbles as we passed through the shear. We basically towed straight into the wind the whole tow.

Once off tow I just kept pointing the nose into the wind. At trim I was slowly going backwards over the ground – cool. But it was real smooth up there and boaty. There had been some clouds during the morning at about 500 feet. In fact the morning started pretty foggy but cleared up. As soon as I was off tow I noticed some clouds upwind. A few small clouds blew through below me. Then I started to notice the upwind clouds were getting thicker. Hmmm. They were moving in fast and I quickly realized I might lose sight of the ground in a minute or two as the widely scattered clouds were quite solid upwind a bit.

So I pulled the bar in a bunch and started descending. I was at the far upwind end of the Wallaby field. I was trying to get under the clouds before they got to me. Nope, too late. As I got about even with the tops I knew I wasn’t going to win the race. I ensured my wings were level and I was relaxed. Years ago I was an instrument rated private pilot so I knew what whiting out could do to the brain. Moments later I "crashed" straight into this big gray wall. Happily I had descended just enough because even though I couldn’t see anything around me I could just make out the green looking straight down. After about 10 seconds in the cloud I descended out the bottom. That was actually really cool. It was a little bumpy in the cloud but perfectly smooth under it and the winds were a lot lighter. I then setup my approach and did an OK landing.

It was weird as that cloud came at me. There was some ancient part of my brain telling me I was about to crash into a wall. Logically I knew the cloud was soft but I still felt a little apprehension just before I "hit" it.

My plan was to fly the Sport 2 after breakfast. The winds were still blowing a bit and the sky was building in places. I kept going back and forth trying to decide whether to go or not. I put the fin on the Sport 2. I had finally decided to wait for calmer conditions. And just about the time Malcolm was going to call it for lunch it did get a lot calmer. So I hooked in and went. I was to be the last tow before lunch. There were maybe three other gliders in the air. It wasn’t soarable.

My tow went really well. The air wasn’t too active and I was nice and relaxed making good, small corrections. My only worry was the Mylar leading edge on this Sport 2. Minutes before I launched one little cloud just on the edge of the downwind side of the field spit a few drops on us. After I got off of tow I got settled in and stowed my bridle away. I had no vario but felt a few small bumps. But I was scanning the sky. A few miles off to the northwest was a big area of rain. Given the wind it wasn’t heading for Wallably but there were other dark clouds scattered around so I decided to come down. Quickly. The whole point of this flight was to work up to the U2 so soaring the Sport 2 wasn’t a priority. I had fun putting the Sport 2 in a spiral, slipping turn and dropping like a rock. After a dozen turns I got dizzy and leveled out. There were two or three gliders below me heading in too. We all landed in the same area within a minute of each other.

It was a good tow and short but fun flight with an OK landing. The lunch bell rang a bit before I launched so it was time to get over there before the food was gone.

This was it for the day. It rained real hard later on but only for a few minutes. Then it was windy.

But I felt confident that I could safely tow the U2 on my next (morning) flight.

WWDD 09 – Day 2 – Tandem Refresher

I got to Wallaby about 7:45 (ugh, that’s rough when still on mountain time) hoping to crank out a tandem and a few solos in the calm morning air. I signed the waiver and headed to the flight line. Most of the same crew was working Wallaby this year as last. It was nice to see everyone again. But there was a miscommunication somewhere and the crew didn’t realize I was waiting for a tandem. I watched a few folks get their tandems (lots of discovery flights going on). Then I noticed others arriving after me getting their flights too. Hmmm. Maybe I should speak up. So I spoke to Carolina asking if she knew I was waiting and she said no. Oops. So now I’m on the list. I’m sure this was all my fault. No big deal. But Malcolm was busy. By 9:30 I still hadn’t flown. So I spoke to Carolina again to see if I could just go up with one of the other guys. After a few minutes Malcolm agreed I could get checked out with Stevie so the two of us chatted for a minute and up we went. I launched and did the whole tow, flight, and landing getting a few reminders from Stevie. It was getting a little punchy by this time and I had to work hard to stay in position. Tandems on the big Falcon are a lot more work than solos in higher performance gliders.

I thought I was doing so-so since I’m a bit of a perfectionist but Stevie said I did real well. I setup a nice approach and we did a wheel landing. By the time we were done it was about time for breakfast so that was it for the morning. So much for my original plan. But I was cleared to do a solo on my next flight. I figured I would wait until evening for the solo so I made no plan to fly between breakfast and lunch. I used all that time to video a bunch of tows and landings.

Unfortunately the winds picked up after lunch so there was no flying late in the day. And as it turned out there were periods in the afternoon it was plenty calm enough for me to do my solo. Oh well. There is tomorrow morning.

The biggest issue is that the weather for Thursday and Friday, and even tomorrow afternoon, don’t look too good.

WWDD 09 – Day 1 – Denver to Wallaby

It’s Monday the 30th and I wake up to a blizzard. Great, I have a flight to Orlando in a few hours. But first I have to take my son to school, come back home, finish packing, and load the car. On the way to the airport I need to stop at my ex’s house to drop off a bunch of stuff for our son.

Late Saturday night my son (7 years old) and I returned from a 2500 mile road trip. We drove from Denver to California and back. Stops included Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Pacific ocean (in Oceanside), LEGOLAND, Hoover dam, and Las Vegas. We had a blast and Daniel did real well despite all the driving.

Now I was off to Wallaby Ranch near Orlando to attend the Wills Wing Demo Days event. This will be my second year. Unfortunately the weather forecast isn’t looking nearly as good as last but it’s still a nice vacation.

When I get to the airport I find just about all flights have been delayed an hour. The weather was actually starting to clear but the short storm dropped two inches quickly and caused the morning issues. So after a the extra wait I was off to Orlando. I would be sharing a house in Davenport with Axo and a friend of his from Miami and PhantomFlyer.

I arrived at the house about 8pm. Axel and Daniel were already settle in. Gary would be arriving tomorrow night.

I haven’t aerotowed since this event last year so my plan is to do a tandem first thing in the morning to knock the rust off and get reminded about all the details of this form of launching. Then I want to get a solo in on the Falcon and then the Sport 2. Then finally to work up to the U2. I have a U2 160 on order and should have it by mid-April. But I’ve never flown one. I put about 45 hours on my Sport 2 last season. My last flight was in October except for a real short scooter tow about 30 days ago.

Let the fun begin.

Road Trip to Crestline Day 7 – Drive Home

I set the alarm for 7am figuring I would be on the road by 8 and home about 1am. But I didn’t sleep well and I got woken up by a bunch of noises a bit after 5am. In a very unusual step for me I decided to just get up and go. So at 5:30am I was packing and loading the car. I checked out and hit the road at 6:10am with what gas I had in the car.

One advantage of leaving so early was that is was cool and there wasn’t any traffic jams. The downside was I couldn’t stop yawning and I had trouble keeping my eyes open. But I woke up eventually, sort of. I was worried about driving through Vegas midday but I got there about 9:30 or so and it was clouded over so it wasn’t too warm. The real heat was in Utah. Cloudless desert and midday.

I had an easy, uneventful drive home. My biggest worry, as with all of these long drives, it where to stop for gas next. I like to maximize each tank to minimize stops. But the Garmin GPS I have has no fuel planning features so it’s always a guess on when and where to stop. I did mess up once and found the sudden need to stop for gas at one of those middle-of-nowhere type places that you know will be charging a bit more for gas. This place was between Baker, CA and the NV border. I pulled in and was shocked to see regular unleaded was $5.56 a gallon! A full dollar more than the rest of CA was charging. I got 2 gallons so I could make it to the next major area – what a rip off.

There was far less construction heading home than on the trip out. Not until I got to CO did I have a lane closure. Sunset hit as I was going through Glennwood Canyon, CO. Same timing as my return from Las Vegas a few months ago. It’s very pretty in there at sunset.

I pulled into my garage at 10:50pm – 15.75 hours after leaving the hotel in San Bernardino, CA. I was wiped out.

No more long trips planned until the TTC in late September. I think I’ll be staying in Colorado until then. Though a trip to Utah can’t be ruled out.

Until next time…

Road Trip to Crestline Day 6 – Last Crestline Flight

One last Crestline flight for this trip. Dave, Dusty, Stein, and a couple of others went up on the 4pm McShuttle. It was looking like a typical day but being a bit later the thermals were weaker. I was the last to take-off (again) and spent the first part of the flight working light lift on the main ridge near launch. Dave did a close pass with me. It was cool having him so close but at the same time I was nervous. Eventually I decided to give Billboard a try. I got there about 200 over launch which is about even there. I hit a raspy thermal that was doing weird things to my glider. It took me a couple of shots at it before I figured it out and started going up. I maxed out at about 600 over and was looking over at Pine. Two gliders had gone over there. I started to head that way and 10 seconds later I chickened out and decided to play on Marshall instead. I spent the rest of the flight having fun staying up in light lift. I flew all over the Marshall/Regionals area hitting little spots of lift here and there. It was a lot of fun and more mellow being late in the day. I eventually decided to head out. The sun was blocked now by a big cloud and I thought it might shutdown. But to my surprise it stayed fairly lifty the whole time I head out over the LZ. I just boated around near the LZ slowly sinking my way down. I finally got low enough to setup my approach. I used the VASI on my downwind. I was right on the glide slope but my base wasn’t close enough to the hill so I was a bit high as I turned final. I did two S-Turns and overflew the spot. I leveled out, bled off the speed, and did my best landing of the trip – yeah! What a great way to end a fun flight and a great trip.

This trip has been so wonderful – well worth the long drive getting here. I’m just amazed at how consistent this site is. I’ve never been to a site where the wind blows straight in everyday, all day. I had 5 days of excellent flying. Except for maybe the first day I landed by choice each day, not when I sunk out. I definitely need to work out some. I landed because I was worn out.

The LZ here is a joy. Nice grass, nice shade structure. The CSS folks have a special place (and they know it). If you have never flown here please make a plan to do so. There is another fly-in this September.

Thanks everyone.