Flight to Bangor

8/9/08

At the start of the day, I was pessimistic. The soaring forecast looked marginal. However, for an August flight, it was pretty good. After getting a tow from our new towpilot, Al Grayson, I decided to set out on my task when I got into the sky. The cumulus were starting to develop nicely, and my first thermal was reasonble, which I was sharing with an RWSA L-13 with Tom Binger piloting. If you look closely at the following two images, you will see the L-13.

These two images were taken while I was thermaling, so even though it doesn't look like it, the Blanik L-13 was almost directly under me.

I got low around Spring Valley and struggled for about 20 miles, and after that tried to stay above 4,000 MSL because (as is usually the case) the lift was stronger, higher. However, I was not able to achieve this goal. I continued to drop down relatively low. I was at about 3,000 MSL when I made radio contact with the La Crosse tower (I was 10 miles North of the La Crosse airport at the time). The tower asked me to contact them again when I was above 3,200 MSL, which I did, and I then skirted to the East to stay clear of the controlled airspace. My best thermal of the day was about 5 knots (after struggling near Spring Valley). More typically I had between 2 and 3 knots in thermals on this flight.

Walt Johnson was crewing, and we had decided on an out and return to Bangor, WI (near La Crosse)-- 130 miles on the outbound leg. An optmistic task, to be sure, and from the title of this writeup, you can tell I only made it to my turnpoint. Well, actually, I didn't even make it to the turnpoint. I was about four miles out from my Bangor turnpoint, and I decided to turn back. There was just too much blue in that direction, and far more cumulus back to the North.

I ran out of lift almost immediately on my course back to Osceola, and selected a nice looking field for landing. It turns out it was a recently cut hayfield. The hay had been removed already, and the landing was without incident. I made a right hand pattern, landing to the West. As per our plan, Walt was waiting near Durand (about the mid-way point for my intended task) and it took him about 2 hours driving to get from Durand to my hayfield.

There was a corn field between me and the farm house, plus some farm buildings also helped to obscure my glider-- you could not see my glider from the farm house, and could barely see the glider from the road.

I met some awesome people at the farm-- Linda, Gerry, and Michael. Linda and Gerry had just been married in June, and Michael is Gerry's son. I greatly enjoyed talking to them. I also learned that they have some oats as a crop in their fields, andI got to see some of the operation of storing the oats in a barn. There were also a bunch of kittens running around the farm, and I was sad to say goodbye to them. The nearest town to the farm was actually Burr Oak, WI (not Bangor).

Here are a few more images from the flight. This was the 2nd time I've had my camera mounted in the glider. This was the first time I'd taken images while not in a thermal, and the angle of view is a little peculiar. See for example the following image:

I think this angle of view is simply because of the way the glider is oriented in the air.

The flight was some 145.49 miles (234.15 km; OLC classic) in 3.75 hrs, at 38.736 mph (62.34 km/h) ground speed. Here is a link to the OLC upload of the flight.

Safety Analysis

I am now setting my radio to the tower frequency 20-30 miles before I get to a controlled airspace. My radio enables me to switch between a current manually set frequency (e.g., La Cross Tower), and a pre-programmed frequency (e.g., 123.5 for talking to my crew), and so on this flight I set the radio frequency for La Crosse, 20-30 miles out (when I was not struggling to find lift), and then switched back to my crew frequency until I was closer to La Crosse. A simple thing to do, but it saved me from struggling with my sectional when I was scratching (as I was doing near La Crosse) to find a tower frequency. (Jim Hard noted that some towers have an Approach Control frequency and that if available, this frequency should be used instead of the tower when approaching).

I was happy with my landing, but I am getting into the habit of not going through my full pre-landing checklist on off-field landings. I put my landing gear down at about 1,000' indicated, and tried to thermal a couple of more times. On an upwind leg I looked over the field, then set my flaps to their initial setting for landing. I turned towards the landing field at the end of my upwind leg, and proceeded to fly my right hand pattern to land. I need to ensure I go through my full pre-landing checklist on all flights, including those made off-field. I can do this in part by starting my landing checklist earlier, as I'm approaching my intended landing field. On this flight I could have started my landing checklist when I put my gear down.