Dave Ryhti Memorial Flight; 7-14-02, Benson's Airfield, White Bear Lake,
Christopher G. Prince
While I didn't know Dave well, this soaring flight occurred the Sunday after his memorial service, so I dedicate it to him.
Sunday 14 July 2002 was my personal best flight. I was sitting out at the picnic table, and Jim Hard and Dave Harris had just gotten back from a good flight and Jim looked excited. He was going to rig his 1-26. Hardly anyone was at the club though. The Cumulus clouds were popping, and clearly there was lift. I had stayed down (from Duluth) in White Bear Lake as I had FOO duties (thanks again to Dick Huber, Andy Power, and Chuck Matson for the reminders!). Sitting there at the picnic table was almost too much to take. Really, it was too much. It was like the soaring Gods were going to be displeased if someone, anyone, didn't make use of the L-13 and Pilatus sitting idle on the runway. So, with the encouragement of the others the picnic table ("No one said a FOO couldn't fly"), I pulled out the L-13, hoping it's better ventilation would keep me cool on this hot day, and set up for take-off. I had finally managed to put the concentric circles (at three mile intervals, indicating glide possible for 1000' feet gain) on my map, that Jim Hard had advised. A good piece of equipment for any glider pilot -- a good circle-drawing compass.
The previous day I had had a good flight, over two hours. I had, however, not made it vertically out of the TCA. Each time I would approach the North end of Egg Lake, I would get down around 2500' and had no clouds with good lift under them. Today, I was wanting to get by Egg Lake, and outside of the TCA horizontally and vertically. After release, I flew around back and forth between Egg Lake and just South of Hugo, soaring with soaring birds and two other gliders from the Club that had launched. A soaring bird and the Pilatus at different points helped me find thermals. Finally, I was able to work my way to NE of Egg Lake, and found a good thermal there, that I rode to cloud base. This was about two hours into my flight, and I achieved 4000' AGL at that point, my best altitude gain in MN. The air was getting misty at the base of the cloud, plus I just wasn't able to stay in the lift, so I headed West. There were more puffy clouds there, and while the wind was light, I was downwind of Benson's airfield. By this time, I had gotten my first clear air view of the Forest Lake airfield. I also checked my map for the ASL elevation of Forest Lake at that time too, just to have it in mind.
I managed to loose about a thousand feet of altitude in my glide from NE of Egg Lake to just SE of the Forest Lake airfield, and recollection serving, I started heading South. The clouds, however, just weren't there. I got down to 2400' and was not yet South of the North end of Egg Lake. My stomach clenched up, and I realized that without luck and without substantial lift, I was not going to make it back to Benson's. So, instead of keeping my stomach clenched, I decided I should land at Forest Lake. I brought the glider around, and headed to make a landing at the Forest Lake airfield. Much sink was had for the next thousand feet of glide. And little in the way of lift. I was in reasonable shape to land at the Forest Lake airfield at 1400' AGL (relative to Benson's) and while still a little nervous, was far less nervous than if I'd have been heading South, still hoping to re-attain Benson's. At that point, my audio vario started making good sounds, and I found the best lift of my day-- some 500'/min up. I smiled weakly, still not sure if I'd be landing at Benson's or Forest Lake, and rode the thermal back up to around 3000' (altimeter). I then started working my way West and South, finding the Cumulus clouds there. There was some lift and a good number of weak cloud streets. I managed to make it back to Benson's at about three hours into my flight and was still over two thousand feet. It had been a good day. I was hydrated. My decision making skills were still with me. Plus, I was FOO, and had been thanking the day Gods for perhaps long enough. So, I did some S-turns near pattern entry point at Benson's, and entered into the pattern at 800'. I landed just after the Pilatus. It had been an excellent flight.