Quest Day 3: Sea of holes

There was a higher cloud deck in the morning, plus an assortment of lower cumulus clouds. The wind was reasonable though, so we pulled the glider out to get some more practice in. Jonny T has been the tow pilot for all of my flights, and he discussed with me the issues about towing up when there are a lot of clouds around, what to do when I can’t see the horizon (or maybe even the tug!). The wind was from the east (as opposed to the north yesterday), so we set up out by the road. On the first tow, we got up to maybe 1800 feet and Jonny waved me off because he wasn’t sure where to go next without ending up in clouds. On the way down, I found a few bubbles of lift over the woods and managed to climb a little, then headed off to try and join a group of vultures who were circling up over the south end of the field, but they were leaving as I got there and the lift went away, so I went back and landed.

For the second flight, we waited a bit because Jonny could see some brightness heading our way. The day was what he called a “sea of holes”, where there are openings in the clouds that you can get through, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize your location using just patches of ground that you can see, and there’s always a risk that the holes might suddenly close up. We took off, and he took me up to about 3000 feet. I was paying attention to the tug, not looking at the ground, and when I released I had absolutely no idea where I was. One thing I had been told was that you can always look to see where the tug goes, because it will head back to the field, but the tug had disappeared, maybe behind a cloud. I had a sense that we had been heading east for a long time, and for all I knew we might have been halfway to Orlando. Fortunately, through one hole I spotted two long narrow lakes with green water (waterski training area), that I remembered seeing on one of the flights with Spinner, so I knew we were just east of Quest. It turns out that Jonny had not abandoned me, I spotted him a minute or so later flying around making sure I was okay, and ready to shepherd me home. I flew fast to lose altitude and get under the clouds so that I wouldn’t get lost, staying over the openings. By the time I was at a comfortable altitude, I had drifted quite a way downwind and was on the other side of the road. I pulled in to get myself over the field, but I’ve got several disadvantages with this glider. It’s a Falcon 1, so it doesn’t have mylar leading edge inserts, resulting in lower performance compared to even newer Falcons (although it does have streamlined downtubes, which helps). I’m also very light on this glider, it’s the lowest wing loading I’ve ever flown with, especially because I don’t have a bunch of the ballast I would normally have (like the glider bags, heavier clothing, and various other things in my harness pockets that I didn’t bother to bring). As a result, the penetration is pathetic, I have a very difficult time making any progress against a headwind. That’s okay, it just means that I have to pay attention and not get downwind of the field. The flip side of that is that this glider is incredibly easy to land. On all four of my flights, I’ve screwed up the flare timing, and still landed fine, nothing touching the ground but my feet.

We took a break for lunch and waited for the sky to improve. My opinion was that I might fly again, but I probably would not be the next one. As the afternoon wore on, Grazi got interested, as did Guitar George, so I said I’d see how things went for them and then make my decision. Grazi went first with his U2, and got a tow up to 5000 feet. There wasn’t much forward motion during the tow, and after he released, he was just parked. George followed him with his Sport2, and similarly ended up flying in a straight line and very gradually backing up. Estimates were that the wind up at 2500 feet was around 25 mph, although it got more mellow below 1500 feet, and they both reported that the tows were quite bumpy and they were flying with full VG to make forward progress. It was clear that my flying the big Falcon would not be a good idea unless I intended to land somewhere else (and downwind in these conditions is a huge swamp), so I stayed on the ground for the afternoon. Sheri likewise decided that the conditions were not what she wanted for her next tandem lesson.

Sheri and Jonny

George and Grazi

Sunday looks stormy, and Monday and Tuesday are looking pretty good.

flights: 2, airtime: 0:28

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About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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