Another Blue Day

Thursday, 5/26/11

A synergy brought this flight about. I saw that Dr. Jack's Blipmaps were looking promising for Thursday. Shortly after that, Steve Kennedy emailed me, saying that he thought the soaring forecast looked good. Jim Hard also said he was planning to fly. This was enough to get me into the right mood for a flight. Walt Johnson said he had the time to crew, and Roger Lee had the time to tow. The winds were forecast to be out of the NE-- similar to the last time I flew.

I put together a plan for a closed course flight off to the NW of the Twin Cities. Walt had to work Friday, and so a downwind dash where we might not make it back the same day wouldn't work for him. I've done a few flights to the North of the Twin Cities, but few venturing out further West than Milaca or Mora. This planned task took me out in a 300 mile rectangle with over 100miles on each E/W leg. Here was the plan, with the Western leg as the first one:

The day was forecast to be blue, and held to that prediction. I arrived after Steve Kennedy (he had also decided to fly) and Walt, and they met me at the OEO terminal building to look at weather forecasts before we got serious about the flying at hand. Forecasts looked promising, but for some reason I was somewhat uncharacteristically pesimistic about the day (the blue sky perhaps, or perhaps I just wasn't sure about what the soaring weather was doing lately). While that certainly didn't show up in my planned task (would you plan for a 300 mile rectangle on a day that you thought was poor?!), it underwrote my initial attitude about the day.

We rigged both Steve's and my glider off to the North side of 28/10 runways, in a grassy area near Roger Lee's hangar (the home of my trailered ship). The taxiway rennovations on the South side were not making it practical right now for rigging.

At around noon Roger landed after taking an initial flight with the tow plane, and Steve and I brought our gliders over to the flight line for launch on the grass on runway 10. I talked to Roger after his flight, and he said the air was smooth. I didn't want to hear that. I decided to wait for an hour and tow then. NOAA had forecast that trigger temperature would be reached then. To pass the time, I helped Roger cut grass around his hanger (I should buy him a funnel for lawn mower gas!!) before the flight.

Launching shortly after 1pm, I had two good thermals in quick succession and that was enough for me. I pointed my nose West and headed out on task. Steve launched shortly after me, and I stayed in touch with him on the radio most of the day. Walt and I were in radio contact shortly after that and I asked him to get on the road. He and I hadn't talked very much about plans (for some reason things were pretty relaxed that morning) aside from talking about the basic location of the turnpoints I'd planned. I also had asked him to stay at the airport until I found lift-- just to make sure that I could stay up (again, I wasn't overly optimistic about the day for some reason). This decision turned out to be reasonable. The day was good, but not excellent.

I had forgotten somewhat how much forested area there is to the West of Osceola. Most of my flights in the past couple of years have been to the East, and South of the field. In the flight today, there always seemed to be plenty of landable fields when I needed them or looked for them, but still I was noticing the trees more than usual. I crept to the North around the Twin Cities, staying fully outside of the TCA, flying by Cambridge, and Princeton, and St. Cloud. Walt and I stayed in radio contact the entire flight. He made good time on the ground. Lift was reasonably plentiful, though I would have liked to have been higher much of the time. A glider pilot's perpetual slogan? Towards the best part of the day (3-4pm or so), I made my way up to 6,300' MSL, but in general I stayed between 4-5,000' MSL.

There was quite a bit of standing water in the fields. That morning, I had looked at the precipitation forecasting tool that Darryll Dodson had shown me and it indicated not a great degree of water, but some:

Walt had brought his rubber shoe covers in case of a muddy field landing! But, it turned out we didn't need to use them.

Making Paynesville, MN at around 3:40pm, I decided that I'd gone far enough West if I stood a chance of making it back to OEO. So, I started heading North at that point (wanting a rectangular flight path), but shortly decided to head in a more triangular fashion to Little Falls. The trip to Little Falls from Paynesville went quickly, and I arrived there around 4:30pm. Just as I was flying into Little Falls, Walt told me there was a dam there and a power plant, and looking for this, I saw it and shot a picture:

Walt is a good tour guide!

Once Walt had made it to St. Cloud, I asked him to stay there, and that turned out to be a convenient place from which to stay in radio contact. From Little Falls, I continued East, heading for Mora, but after a few miles, decided instead to head for Milaca. It was about 5pm, progress was slower, and it seemed a better bet to make it to Milaca. I had some radio contact with Milaca after I was talking to Walt on the radio. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make Milaca, and someone at Milaca gave encouraging words! Thanks Milaca! (I wasn't sure if they knew I was flying a glider so in later radio communications I made sure to indicate I was flying a glider-- I didn't want them thinking that I was a powered aircraft running out of fuel and concerned about making it to Milaca).

At Milaca (6pm), I found a thermal to the West of their airport, and got up to 5,000' MSL again. I was in radio contact with a parachute jump plane there, and would have liked to see the jumpers come down, but I'd rather be well out of range of jumpers in the air (I was glad I had decided to fly downwind of Milaca. If I would have found a thermal East of Milaca, I would have overflown their airport while there was the jump plane over top!). Here's an image of the Milaca airport:

I had decided I would attempt Cambridge, after Milaca. When I was heading to Milaca, Walt had gone to Princeton. Once I was heading for Cambridge, Walt headed there too. I was getting a little weak lift from Milaca to Cambridge, but for the last dozen or so miles, I was on final glide. Cambridge was the end of the road. Having well enough altitude, I made a wide 747 pattern, and brought the glider in to land. Walt was already at the Cambridge airport when I rolled to a stop, and met me out at the runway.

Here is the actual flight path, compared to the planned:

Walt and I derigged the glider, and talked to a few people at the Cambridge airport.

Later, we got a meal in town, and headed back to Osceola, arriving back around 11pm.

I was in touch with Steve Kennedy on the radio while he was soaring, most of the day.

Here are some more pictures for the flight. Here's the OLC link. The flight was some 209.15 miles (336.6 km; OLC), with a soaring duration of 5.5 hours, flown at an average speed of 37.9 mph (61 km/h).

Safety and other issues

Pilot relief systems have variability. Some condom catheters are constructed with contact cement adhesive. I don't want the flying emergency to be post-flight with a trip to the emergency room!

I had to switch over to my spare battery. Am I having battery charging problems?

I decided I was going to land, went through my landing checklist, but then cycled the gear when I thought I had found a thermal, after having already put the gear down. On final, I wasn't 100% sure that my gear was down. In other flights, I need to just keep my gear down once deciding I am going to land. This caused me some wavering when I had to look at my gear lever, to verify the gear was down, in the last few feet of final approach, before touchdown.

In the pattern, I released my flaps again (back to 0 degrees). I engaged them too soon. I was facing a headwind on base leg. I got lower than I wanted on base leg. I cropped it in-- and wasn't fully square with downwind. I could have waited until final to pull any flaps. This can be a problem sometimes with flaps, i.e., if you pull them on too early. The general idea with flaps is not to pull them on until you know you have the field made. Another strategy here would be to apply some moderate amount of flaps, e.g., 10 degrees positive flaps on base leg. (It's tempting with the 1-35 to apply 30 degrees because there is a notch where you can release the flaps and let them stay at 30 degrees; However, I should always remember to keep my hands on the flaps because it is possible I don't hit the notch-- I don't want an unintended release of flaps on final!).