First Washington Island Attempt

Thursday, 6/1/11

On Wednesday there were great clouds in Duluth. This gave me hopes that the same weather system might be happening on Thursday "down South" (in Osceola, OEO). Here are some of the cumulus in Duluth on Wednesday:

A phone call on Wednesday from Roger Lee got us talking about tasks, and we came up with the idea of flying to Washington Island, at the North end of the Green Bay peninsula. Walt and I had previously done the flight to Ashland, WI and I later realized I could have made it to Madeline Island. I regret not making that last hop to the Island. Washington Island would be even better!

Darryll Dodson agreed to crew for me, and Roger was going to crew for Jim Hard. Jim was also going to fly out of Osceola, WI (OEO). So, come Wednesday morning, I was down at OEO, checking the weather at 8:30am, and since I was tired and NOAA hadn't yet posted their soaring forecast, I took a cat nap on the couch. I was awakened by Darryll calling. He and Roger were over at Roger's hangar, and wondering where I was! Again, the crew beat the pilots to the hangar! I grabbed the NOAA report and headed over to the North hangars.

The weather forecasts were indicating a relatively strong W or WNW wind and this was why we were planning a long downwind flight. Precipitation records were showing a relatively large last weeks precipitation in a region West of Chicago, so a flight South around the Chicago area seemed less suitable.

The wind was relatively strong, as forecasted. We were rigged by noon (when NOAA forecasted there would be lift to 3000'), but decided to wait until 1pm with the strategy that with stronger winds we would need a later launching flight to support a soaring flight. Darryll got on the road with my trailer at noon. If I made my task, he would need a good head start to keep up with me. And Roger helped me drag ZT out to the end of runway 28 and I launched, with Lee Bradshaw towing, shortly after 1pm.

Before the tow, I had talked to Lee about gusting winds. I was concerned (and a little worried) that a gust might have me drop a wing and ground loop either on tow or on a landing. Lee said his first flight went OK, and we did a launch. Tow was somewhat rough, but manageable. I didn't get too far out of position and didn't feel uncomfortable. I released at 3900' MSL, and found some lift fairly quickly. Lee had towed me straight upwind, but we were only a few miles into Minnesota when I released.

I decided to head out on task fairly quickly, and thought that even if I failed to find more lift, I could likely make it to land at Amery (there would have been a great deal of cross-wind, with their N/S runway, so I might have opted for a field instead) if I failed to find more lift. I got a few decent thermals, but often they were broken up, and turbulent. After Cub Acres, lift became sparse, and I started heading cross-wind in hopes that I wouldn't persist on sink streets. I had some fields picked out and at about 700' AGL, landed in a sandy young corn field near Colfax, WI.

Here it is on Google Earth:

And on the ground:

In the pattern, I saw a wire (power or phone, I'm not sure) service vehicle on the road on the North edge of the field, and I landed just to the side of this vehicle (a few hundred feet away). After a few seconds of continuing to fly the wings of the glider-- there was enough wind to keep the wings in the air, I opened the canopy, and waved. They waved back.

I disembarked the aircraft, pulled out my phone and called Darryll. He was not that far away-- just beyond Eau Claire. He doubled back and was at the field in well under an hour. In the meantime, I walked to the nearest house, and talked to a couple of gentlemen in the house (Eric was one of them; I'm forgetting the other person's name). They were not sure who owned the corn field I was in but we tracked down a phone number, and I called, and left a message. I never saw or talked to the farmer. I had done my civic duty by attempting to contact the land owner. What more can a wayward pilot do?

With Darryll there, we decided the best course of action was to pull the glider off of the field by hand. The field was fairly hard packed sand, and we thought that a minimum of damage would be done by pulling the aircraft off by hand. Darryll held the wings level, and Eric and I pulled the glider the couple of hundred feet to the edge of the field. I had to stop and take several breaks because I ran out of steam. Eric could have pulled the glider for miles it seems. He explained he worked on a beef farm. (Pilot's note on 6/16/11; I have now taken up jogging in an effort to get more cardiovascular fitness!!).

We had the trailer just on the edge of the neighboring two-lane road, and didn't align the glider fuselage with the rear of the trailer as we usually do. We just pulled the aircraft to the edge of the road, and took the wings off, loading them in one-by-one and later manhandling the fuselage up the edge of the road, turning it 90° along the main axis, and pushing it into the trailer. A few other gregarious people had shown up at that point and helped us with dragging the fuselage up onto the side of the road.

After landing, I was disappointed to not make much progress on the Washington Island goal, but better to live and fly another day. I find that if I keep persisting on a soaring goal, eventually I make the task. Besides, I met some new people, and saw a new type of field (a sandy cornfield).

Darryll and I stopped to eat in Menomonie, WI. I was frustrated to see a few (of what seemed like) cumulus clouds when we stepped out of the restaurant at 7:30pm. I'll just decide to believe the clouds were liars at this time of day!

Jim Hard had a similar experience with the conditions on Thursday. His flight took him to Boyceville, WI and was glad get that far. (Here's his OLC trace of the flight).

I liked my landing on this flight. I didn't get all that low when approaching the landing field. The wind was so strong that I didn't feel comfortable leaving the landing decision until too late. If I would have attempted thermalling turns close to the ground, I likely would have gotten into some nasty wind shear. I had a nice downwind component to the landing pattern. In my base leg, I crabbed some and headed in closer to my intended final. On final, I pulled flaps when I was over the power lines at the East end of the field and landed easily within the field boundaries.

Here are a few more pictures. Here is the link to the OLC flight trace. The flight was some 60.4 miles (97.27 km) in distance (OLC) flown in about 1 hour duration at 59.9 mph (96.4 km/h).