8/17/08, Sunday

Another August Surprise

I was pleasantly surprised again today by the conditions. While the soaring forecast looked promising-- with predicted lift up to around 7,000', it is August, and there was a fair amount of high cloud and hazy looking conditions. Willing to be proved wrong, and with help from Walt Johnson and Richard Weil, we rigged, and I launched at around 12:30pm. Confirming my negative outlook for the day, I couldn't stay up on this first launch. However, there were cumulus developing, and I felt quite a few bumps on tow. I had a strong hunch that I could stay aloft on a second tow. Getting back into position on the flight line, I launched again, this time at around 1:30pm. Bill Argyros was flying tow, and made a circle to the South, then East, and then back to the North, and my varios pegged in the upward position for several seconds at about 3,300' MSL. I couldn't resist, so pulled off and tried to center the thermal. It was turbulent for the first few hundred feet, and then became more even, taking me up to 4,600' MSL. I radioed down to Walt and Richard, who were going to be my crew for the day, and asked them to get ready to leave Osceola (OEO). By that time, I was a few miles East of OEO, and when I looked up, I saw that a cumulus cloud had formed over me. I had caught an early forming thermal.

Here's an image of OEO just before I leaded off on my task:

Our hope was to fly a triangle course, of about 210 miles: East out to Chetek, WI, South-West over to Winona, WI on the Mississippi, and back up to OEO. With a predicted wind of WSW at 10-20mph, that would put the legs all at a cross wind (and none of them straight upwind).

Well, that hope was a little too hopeful. I made it over to Chetek, and got some nice in-air images:

However, I wasn't able to make it to the Mississipi for my second turnpoint. I turned back in the rough direction of OEO at 4pm, having made it to just NE of Tarrant, WI (about 10 miles East of Durand). From then on, my triangle course didn't really approximate a triangle anymore. I was flying a course dictated by the cumulus development, and that took me more North. I flew over the Chippewa River, and got a nice image:

I then flew just to the East of Menomonie, got down to about 1000' AGL and was just about to land in a farmer's field, one of the fields pictured in the next image (left and upward of my wingtip-- a narrow strip of light green grass), when I found a thermal and worked my way back up to a non-butt clenching altittude.

Within a short time, I was down low again, with another field picked out, but was able a second time to scratch (and claw) my way back up. I was about 40 miles out of OEO, it was nearing 6pm, and I was strongly believing I was not going to make it back. The options seemed to be a farmer's field within the next 10 miles, or an airport landing. My GPS indicated the Boyceville airport was just a few miles away, and indeed when I squinted, I was able to see a runway in the distance. So, I opted to make for Boyceville and land there. I radioed Walt and Richard, to tell them of my plan.

When I left OEO, Walt and Richard had headed for Menomonie, the center of my planned task. They stayed there until I was departing my second turnpoint, and when I radioed to tell them I would land at the Boyceville airport, they were about 10 miles West of Menomonie. Backtracking a little, it took them only about 1/2 hour to make their way to the Boyceville airport.

Arriving at Boyceville with plenty of altitude, but finding no more lift, I made a nice crosswind approach, and a left hand pattern to land on runway 26. The pattern was large, given my altitude, and I radioed all the legs to the Boyceville frequency. I landed on the asphalt, deliberately using lots of the runway, and rolling toward the West end, towards the hangars, and pulled off on the North grass. Within about a few minutes of my landing a veritable crowd approached. Some driving, some riding motor cycles, and some riding bicycles. They had heard my radioed approach, and had come to say hello! I pulled my ground tow rope out of my landing kit, and we pulled the glider back along the main runway to the tie down area. I enjoyed myself talking to the locals, and within a few minutes, Richard and Walt arrived, and we started on getting the glider back into the trailer.

All in all, it was a great day, and a nice flight. It was 154.41 OLC Classic miles (248.50 km), with an average ground speed of 35.69 mph (57.43 km/h), and the soaring took place in 4 hours 19 minutes. A link to the OLC uploaded flight is here. A more complete set of images is here.