7/26/08

A Journey to Red Wing

I was hoping for one last good flight this season before we came into the Dog Days of August (as Walt says), but it was not to be. It was a tough day, but at least I got away from the airfield. And, I finally had my new camera mounted in the glider so I could take in-air pictures.

Walt and I showed up early at the airfield. I just hate it when I think back later and wish I could have launched earlier. Well, today was one of those days that launching a bit later might have been good. Well, anyways. We were ready to launch near 11am, but waited around, hoping the haze would clear off. It didn't. Pete Kroll took a commercial ride up in one of our club L-13's and I was encouraged by what he said after about the conditions. It sounded like there were some bumps, at least down below 3,000' MSL. So, I launched at 12:30pm. I was the first single place glider to tow behind our new towpilot, Al. And it was a memorable tow. Al did a good job, but with the haze, once we got up past around 2,000', there was little or no horizon, so it was difficult to stay in a reasonable vertical position behind the towplane. I did the best I could.

Getting off tow, I saw that my Colibri flight computer was indicating "EVENT MARKED!", and try as I might, I could not get it to act correctly. I couldn't get the nearest airport function to work, nor distances to turnpoints. Between trying to find thermals, I powered down this unit a couple of times to see if that would help. It didn't. I finally gave up on it and left it powered on, hoping it was still logging my flight (it turns out it was-- I was able to piece together the two files it produced for later upload to the OLC). Several minutes later the Colibri regained its mind and the EVENT MARKED! display went away, giving me access to the normal functions of the unit. JC Cunningham called up to me on the radio asking how I was doing. I called back down saying it was weak-- I was at about 3,000' MSL and starting to think about heading back for the pattern. Shortly after that I found some lift, and my confidence began to rise that I'd be able to head away from the airport and do a cross-country task. I really don't enjoy landing back at my departure airport! :). Landing at other airports gives more training variation, and it seems more like you've gone somewhere.

I called down to Walt, my Crew Chief, asking him to switch over to 123.5 MHz. I then told him that I'd be heading South, towards Stanton, MN. Don De Pree (with JC crewing) was planning to head to Stanton to retrieve the Delbert Trophy (stolen a few weeks back by Tom Kuhfeld). Earlier in the day, I was optimistic that with Don rescuing the pride of the RWSA club by retrieving the Delbert, I could head out on a different cross-country task (out to near La Crosse and return to OEO). However, with the thick haze that was present, it seemed like making it to Stanton was easily challenging enough. So, I decided to join Don on the Stanton task.

I got low South of New Richmond, and was eyeing up some farmer's fields. Two nice sized gravel pits had no lift over them. Go figure! I was snapping pictures with my camera when I was in right handed thermals (very different than those left handed thermals!). Here are a few of the better ones:

12:45:50pm: You can clearly see the haze near the top of the image. No horizon!!! This was taken while I was still very near OEO. I'm flying about a couple of miles West of the airport at this point. You can see the tip of my right wing in the mid-right of the image.

12:46:04pm. Still fairly near OEO.

2:13:20pm: From the shadow, it seems pretty clear this was taken while I was thermalling under one of the few cumulus I found that day. I was about 15 miles North of Red Wing, near Martell, WI.

Climbing away from New Richmond, I headed South. Walt and I were in regular radio contact thoughout the flight, except when I'd switch over to the radio frequency of a local airport. Walt was easily keeping up with me on the ground.

When I made it to Red Wing, there were some nice looking cumulus on the other side of the river, but the river at that point was relatively wide, and I was not confident I was close enough to the river and having the height to make it. So, I flew closer to the Red Wing airport, and didn't again find lift that seemed sufficient to turn in. I was on the North side of runway 27 at Red Wing at that point, so I called out a right hand pattern, landing on 27. Shortly after I landed, someone called me on the radio, asking me if I needed help. I told them that I had a crew coming so, thanks but I didn't think I needed help.

A little later, a golf cart with someone from the local FBO came out to see if they could help, and I proceeded to have her (Christina) start to tow my 1-35 back with the golf cart. Another FBO representative showed up moments later as a passenger in the crew vehicle-- with Walt driving. It turns out that the golf cart wasn't geared right to take the low speeds, so with the blessing of the locals, we derigged the glider on the grass beside the runway. (Something that I didn't feel 100% good about-- I'd rather be farther away from the runway to derig).

Later, as I was driving home, I wondered if Don De Pree completed his task and made it to Stanton. Some phone calls brought enlightenment. When I got in touch on the phone with JC, I found out that Don had landed at Stanton. Don later told me that he saw Walt and I derigging the 1-35 from the air as he passed by on his way to Stanton!


Walt and the FBO people (Walt, of course, is wearing his railroad hat!).


Just before derigging.


Just before leaving Red Wing. If you squint you can see the Red Wing airport sign in the background.

While I was a little disappointed that the day had not held a longer cross-country flight in store, all in all it was worthwhile. I'd made it a respectable distance away from the airfield on a truly marginal day. I had successfully taken my first in-air pictures with my new camera. I had landed at the birthplace of the Red Wing Soaring Association (and left some of our Osceola-based brochures there!). Walt and I always have fun!

Here's the OLC link to the flight.