Scratching on a Friday

C. G. Prince, 7/21/07


Yesterday (Friday, 7/20/07) was promising to be a good soaring day, so with Lee Bradshaw towing, Jim Hard, Andy Power and I launched to see what we could do. NOAA predicted the day would be blue, but the temperature the evening before was low (around 50 F), and at least the Ford forecast predicted good lift up to 6,000'. I launched at about 11:30am, well before the predicted trigger temperature was reached (estimated at 1pm by NOAA)-- there were plenty of cumulus clouds forming in the sky, beckoning. I quickly found lift off tow, and headed out to the NW to my first turnpoint of the day-- Milaca. Winds were from the SE, and in initially weak conditions I suspected I'd have my best chances starting off downwind. I made it over to North Branch, and then to Cambridge but was having to work fairly hard. I wasn't getting much above 4,500 MSL and was working pretty much every thermal I found. Not promising for my intended distance for the day of 250 miles.

Just past Cambridge, I decided to head to Mora, MN insted of Milaca (a private strip). Towards the NW and Milaca, the sky was blue. Torwards the North and Mora, there were some cumulus clouds, and both would give me the distance I wanted, so I headed to Mora. I arrived at Mora around 1:20pm. I saw Lake Mille Lacs off to the NW. This was the first time I'd seen this lake from the air. This was also the first time I'd seen the airport at Mora from the air. Driving between Duluth and Osceola, I often see the highway turnoff for Mora around Hinkley, and so this firmly established in my mind that there was an airport at Mora!

I then headed back towards Osceola (OEO). My next planned turnpoint was Cub Acres, but I was going to skirt the forested area around the St. Louis river. At 1:35pm -- near the midpoint of myflight and just south of Mora-- I reached my intial highpoint of the day of 5400 MSL. From then on and until I got back into Wisconsin, things were touch and go. Several times I got down low enough that I was considering landing. I went near Cambridge on my way back to OEO, and was thinking of landing there. I got down to 2,600 MSL near Cambridge. Somewhat later, I'd picked out a reasonable looking farmer's field and was considering flying a rectangle around the field to check for wires if I got lower, but managed to climb back up.

Just North of the cluster of lakes around Forest Lake, and down low again (2,600 MSL) I saw a private grass strip from the air (I think it was Barnes). I often have difficulty seeing these private strips from the air; it was comforting to see this one. Finding lift again, I continued to OEO. Ten or so miles out of OEO, I talked to Andy Power on the radio. He was back on the ground at OEO. He and I had agreed to be "in air" crew for each other in the event one of us (but not both!) landed out. He was wondering what my plans were-- I thought at that time I would land at OEO when I got back, having spent most of the day struggling and too near to landing off-field. I was fatigued. Crossing the river, with OEO now in landing range, I found strong lift-- about 5kts. I quickly climbed up to near my maximum altitude for the day-- 5,900 MSL. I relaxed quite a bit at that point, and found new personal energy. I tried reaching Andy on the radio to tell him I was going to add another leg on my flight, but couldn't raise him. It seemed a shame at that point, having lots of altitude, to land. Indeed, I was concerned that the soaring Gods might be angered! So, I headed to New Richmond, with the intent of adding another 30 miles to my distance for the day. I continued to find good lift and quickly got up to my maximum altitude for the day-- 5955 MSL on my flight recorder. It was 3:42pm. I wondered if the lift was better in Wisconsin or if the afternoon conditions were just better. Talking with Jim Hard later, he also got up to near 6,000 MSL around 3pm, so it seems that conditions were just better, later.

I made New Richmond around 4pm, and headed back to OEO. Tyler Hastings was sticking around at OEO to help me derig (I had eventually gotten in radio contact with Andy Power-- he needed to leave), so I was going to next land at OEO. I landed at 4:20pm. I had made 143.0 miles (230.1 km; OLC Classic) with an average speed of 30.33 miles/h (48.33 km/h). This was my 7th cross-country flight of the season. Next time, I am going to try to have my own independent crew for a closed-course flight. Both the day and I had enough energy to continue my flight, but I landed to have help derigging. I suspect I could have had another 2 hours or so of flying. The OLC link for this flight is here.