Green Thermals

Tuesday, 6/17/08

(Edit on 2/2/09-- Marinette, WI not MI).

As often they do, the planning for this flight started a number of days in advance. The NWS frontal predictions indicated that Monday through Wednesday of this week would have a high pressure system following a cold front pushing through. In part because of the weather forecast, and in part because of various commitments, I decided that I would shoot for Tuesday as my day to make a cross-country attempt. Monday, Kathleen Winters was ready to launch, but the day overdeveloped. I hoped that Tuesday would be better.

Lee Bradshaw was up for towing on Tuesday, and Kathleen was game to try again. I was delighted to learn that a student of mine, David Hallberg, was willing to crew for me. All the components were in place-- we just needed the weather to cooperate. I picked up David in Duluth just before 6am, and we headed out on the road, chatting. It took me quite a while driving to realize that the morning was blue. I had already realized that it was a cool morning. I turned to David and said-- It looks like it could be a good day!

Rigging and airfield preparations went smoothly, and we were ready to launch before noon. Just as I had completed my checks and was seated in the glider at the end of runway 28 (Kathleen thought I was too far down the runway-- but I like to use all the runway!), Lee Bradshaw postioned his Husky in front of me and got the tow rope ready. Kathleen had noted that the cu's were starting to pop to the North around 11am. Now, just before my launch, the cumulus were starting to nicely develop to the East. There was little in the way of high cloud present and none that I was concerned about. The winds were coming up about as predicted out of the NW. David made a quick study, and ran my wing. I found lift almost immediately and declared my intent to set out on my course. David followed quickly in my car, towing the glider trailer. My plan was to fly basically East to the shore of Green Bay, and then head up North along the coast. I had my sights set on landing at Escanaba, MI.

I found plenty of lift, and soaring was relatively unstressful for me until just before Wausau, WI. It was a bit of a struggle getting around Mosinee (just to the South of Wausau). I wasn't in strong danger of landing, but I just wasn't getting very high. Most of the trip I stayed between 5 and 6 thousand feet MSL, but at the Wausau area I was around 4,000'. Passing Mosinee over some industry, I had my strongest thermal of the day-- around 7 knots. I headed for Shawano next. I was making good time. I was only about 3 hours into my flight and had made about 150 miles. After Shawano, and leaving to the East, I struggled more. The fields below seemed wetter, or perhaps they were just as wet on the earilier part of the course and it was only now that I was getting low that I was focusing more on landable areas.

This was David's first time crewing and he did very well. Even though we were we out of radio contact for nearly the entire flight due to technical problems with the car radio, he arrived at the landing airport about one hour after I landed! Amazing for a first crewing trip! I got my best altitude of the day (7,100' MSL) a few miles into the water over Green Bay. These were Green Thermals! This was the first time I'd soared directly over a great lake, and I found it disorienting. I had to make sure to keep my eyes focused on the horizon.

I decided to land at Menominee-Marinette, MI because I was getting tired, and I didn't like the looks of the forests to the North. It turns out I was lucky, too. Less than 1/2 hour after I landed the sky to the North was solid overcast and dark-- A storm was moving in. The airport manager at Menominee-Marinette (Jeff LaFleur) was very helpful. He towed my glider back to the tie down area with his truck, and helped us derig when David arrived. David and I had dinner in Marinette, WI and drove back as far as Wausau, WI before calling it a night and getting a hotel. Neither of us had to be back in Duluth early in the day on Wednesday and I know I was exhausted.

Wind speeds for the day were 20-25 mph, out of the NW. This flight was 292.63 miles (470.95 km; OLC Classic), with an average ground speed of 45.5 mph (73.30 km/h), for a total of 06:25:31 hours. Here is a link to the OLC record of the flight.

Safety Analysis:

I'm reading Derek Piggott's Gliding Safety book. I'm going to try a new thing in my flight reports: Reporting and analyzing possible safety issues.

With no criticism intended to David, there was a safety issue with him running my wing. This was his very first time wing running, and I should have given him more than a three minute briefing with me sitting in the cockpit. The problem was that David held back on my wing, and I was starting to veer to the right on the rollout of the launch. I was considering releasing from the towplane, but then David let go of my wing, and I was able to recover. This was my fault, and not David's. I was antsy to get underway, but should have provided some more learning opportunities and learning resources for a new crew member regarding wing running. I'm going to print a copy of the wing running course from the SSF and put it on my crew clipboard. Beyond that, however, wing running is not an easy task. New wing runners need to be shown the skill by someone outside of a glider. In this case too, I could have asked Jim Hard (crewing for Kathleen) to run my wing, and he could have given David some pointers for running wing on a later flight.

I had my best thermal departing Mosinee, over an industrial area. I'm not sure, but it might have been a power plant. Looking back at my sectional, I cannot see an indication of a power plant there. However, there is no specific indication of a nuclear power plant just North of Red Wing either!

My landing was one of my better ones. I made a left hand pattern, with an initial cross-wind leg. I touched down shortly after the start of the runway, and taxied off the edge of the asphalt, between the runway lights, before I'd used much runway.

I learned that my new Dittel FSG 2T radio will not tune into all AWOS weather radio frequencies. The AWOS frequency at Menominee-Marinette is 109.6, but the frequency range on my radio is 118 to 136.975. This came as a surprise when I tried to tune into the AWOS at that airport. I was able to view the wind sock from the air, and so observed the ground winds in that manner.

I need to make sure to glance at my radio frequency before transmitting. Occaisionally, I will transmit on my radio, assuming I'm tuned into 123.5 (for my crew), but will mistakenly transmit on another frequency. For example, I usually tune into the local airport radio frequency when passing an airport. This coming Fall I'm going to change the position of my radio in my instrument panel so that it is not obscured by my control stick-- this should make it easier to glance at the radio frequency before transmitting.