C. G. Prince
Flights of Wednesday (5/16/07) and Thursday (5/17/07)
Last night (late 5/17/07, or early 5/18/07) I got back home to Duluth at 2am, arriving in from the airfield. The cats were hungry-- I had to make it back home. It had been a good two days of flying. Here it is, from the beginning.
Last weekend, I think it was, I emailed Jim Hard to see what he thought of the forthcoming weather. Jim said that Kathleen was going to fly on Wednesday. I decided to see if operations could happen at Osceola on Wednesday. I called Walter Johnson to see if he could crew for me on Wednesday. The winds were predicted to be out of the NNW, and I wanted to downwind. Walter was available, and so I called Lee Bradshaw to see if he could tow, and also called Andy Power and Kathleen Winters. In short order we had a tow pilot and three glider pilots. Wednesday was coming together.
On Wednesday, I arrived at the airfield around 8am. The day was not looking promising. There was overcast, and the soaring forecast didn't look good. Lift was predicted up to 3,000 feet. Still, a front was going through and it was possible conditions could change. Besides, I was at the airfield, so might as well rig and fly. Walter arrived shortly after me, and the others as well. I launched around 12:30pm, but it turned out this was too early. I had a 15 minute downwind flight to New Richmond. This was my first landing at the New Richmond airport, so all was not lost. For those of you who haven't flown out of New Richmond, there are some pictures at http://www.nrairport.com/pics/photos.htm and http://www.nrairport.com/hangars.htm. Wind was out of the NW, and I did a left hand pattern. In my haste to make a safe landing, I landed on the taxiway (I was keeping an eye out for traffic-- there was none at that time) immediately to the West of the main runway. It is amazing what one does not see when focused. I literally did not see the main runway.
I called up Walt , and he got enroute with my truck & trailer. Kathleen and Andy had decided to scrub, and so I felt bad that Lee had had only one tow. Sorry Lee! Sitting there on the ground at New Richmond waiting for Walt, I saw the day develop more. It seemed that if I would have delayed launching by one or two hours, I could have stayed up. Oh well, you pays your money, you takes your chances. Kathleen and Jim came by the New Richmond airport to help me and Walt derig. The wind was high and three people derigging was better. Kathleen was recommending Thursday (the next day) as a good day to fly. Jim said that they would likely be heading down to Faribault. I put 2 and 2 together and decided to trailer to Faribault that day (Wednesday) and get a hotel room there, with the plan to fly on Thursday. That way I could fly after having the veritable luxury of a full nights sleep! Not being able to put together a crew on such short notice, I decided I would "self retrieve". If indeed I landed away from the airfield on Thursday, I'd find a ride back to the Faribault airport, get my truck and trailer and go back to get my glider. I had prepared a tie-down kit that now stays in my glider, for this contingency. Wednesday evening I prepared a task for the following day. I have been trying for some time to get my Gold Distance (186 miles; 300 km). I used Don DePree's successful idea of creating a Gold Distance/Diamond Goal triangle task, with the last leg downwind. In my case, my first planned leg was to the SW, to just North of Blue Earth (planned turnpoint: "FBL1" -- N 43 44' 58" W 94 01' 13"), and my second turn point was to the SE of FBL1 to Mason City (about 23 miles South of the Minnesota border into Iowa). This gave FAI minimum length legs for the first two (approx. 53 miles each) and left the longest leg (80 miles-- the return from Mason City) for downwind. The expected wind was out of the South, and the planned leg from Mason City to Faribault would very likely be in the weakest part of the day and I'd need all the help I could get.
Thursday morning, I woke well rested. Checking the soaring forecast using the hotel Internet, it looked like a promising day. Reasonable negative numbers up to around 6,500 feet. It was a blue morning, and the trigger temperature was expected at 11am. Making my way to the airport, I called Don Ingraham of Cross Country Soaring, and he very kindly arranged to have his tow pilot, Chris McConnell, come by at 10:30am to help me with my wings. Leon Zeug arrived, planning an out-and-return trip, and hearing that I was doing a self-retrieve offered to share his retrieve crew for the day. Leon launched first at about noon, and I followed him up just before 1pm. The day was turning out to be blue. I didn't remember seeing that in the NOAA forecast. Shrug. It wouldn't make the day easier, but a long flight was still possible. Once off tow, I called out to Leon on the radio to see how he was doing. He was struggling near Owatanna. Hmm. Would the day be strong enough for the flight? I caught a thermal up to 6,300 MSL and it was only 1:20pm. I decided to head out on my task. I made my best altitude just before my first turnpoint at 2:17pm-- 7,000 MSL. I made the first turnpoint at about 2:50pm and 4,000 MSL and then climbed back up to 6,500. I now headed for Mason City. (The Colibri really makes task flying straight forward. I glanced at my map every once in a while for general landmarks, and for airport frequencies so I could learn about local traffic, but otherwise, I just navigated with the Colibri.). A little more than 1/2 way to Mason City, I had my first low point. I got down to about 3,300' MSL at 4pm. I was a few miles East of Lake Mills aiport (0Y6) and was considering landing there. I climbed back up to just about 6,000, however, and pointed the ship again to Mason City. Approaching Mason City, just a few miles away from my second turnpoint, I got low again-- 3,000 feet at 4:45pm. Seemingly, the day was starting to decline. The lack of those cumulus clouds didn't make life easier! Plus, I was seeing very few soaring birds. Finding another thermal, I made the Mason City turnpoint just shortly after 5pm, and kept on thermaling. A Mesaba flight was departing to the North when I was about 5,000 MSL over the airfield, and they asked for my location and wished me a good day. (I had been on the Mason City frequency and kept Mason City traffic posted on my location).
Departing Mason City at about 6,300 MSL, I was now having hope that I might complete the task. The rest of the course was downwind, and my Colibri was estimating wind speed at 18 mph. It was pure joy to see the miles click off on the remaining distance to Faribault just when thermaling! Nearing Albert Lea, almost midway between Mason City and Faribault, I was scratching. I was trying to skirt the various lakes around Albert Lea to stay away from downwind lake sink, but managed to get down to the flight lowpoint of 2364 MSL at 6pm (Albert Lea airport elevation is 1260 MSL, so this put me at about pattern entry altitude). I was on the East side of the Albert Lea airport, planning my entry into the pattern, when Mother Nature smiled and gave me another thermal. In 15 minutes, I was back up to an easier-breathing altitude-- 5,600 feet, and set out again towards Faribault. I was now encountering less sink (thoughout much of the day I was finding 400-500 fpm sink and had been putting on full negative flaps and flying around 90 mph to get past the sink holes), but lift was also weaker. I made Owatanna at about 6:45pm and was around 4,000 MSL. I was about 14 miles from Faribault, and probably could have made it back with enough altitude for pattern entry. I wanted a cushion of altitude though, and one more time that day, Mother Nature came through. At Owatanna I was in 300-400 fpm lift and climbed up to 5,000 MSL. Surely enough altitude for a final glide to Faribault! I switched over to FBL frequency and called my final glide. Arriving at FBL, it was 7pm. I noticed that Don Ingraham was still there. Both of his Grobs were not yet parked in his hangar. I just needed to land, and the flight was complete. Oh wait. I also need to mark my last turnpoint-- heading to the North side of the field, the Colibri beeped and told me the task was completed. A few mild aerobatics to round out the flight, and I called out my landing in the grass at FBL, and came in to land.
Chris McConnell and Don Ingraham of Cross Country Soaring helped me derig. I'm sure they had stuck around waiting for me to land or to call in. Thanks Chris and Don! We headed out for a meal to a local pub. I had last legs on my own journey left to complete-- to Osceola to tuck my glider & trailer back into the hangar, and to Duluth to feed the cats.
The flight was some 187.3 miles in terms of the FAI task, and took 6 hours 16 minutes (195.8 miles according to OLC Classic). The OLC link for the flight is here. As of this writing, and if I am interpreting the scoring correctly, this is so far the best US OLC flight for 5/17/07. This should accomplish my Gold Distance and Diamond Goal.