Friday evening

I went to a club meeting on Tuesday night, and Pete J mentioned that Rhett was going to be towing Thursday through Sunday, and that Thursday looked great. I’m not retired like Pete, so I can’t as easily go flying on a weekday, but later Mark G posted that he was planning to go after work on Friday. Hmm, that sounded like a plan I could manage. I went in early on Friday, with my glider on the car, and left the office at 3:30 to head for the airport. Traffic was heavier than I had hoped, so what was supposed to be a one hour drive turned out to be almost 90 minutes. When I pulled in, Mark was in the air someplace, Noel was being towed up, and everybody else was done.

No time to waste, I started setting up my glider, and when Rhett landed, he remarked that there was still some lift up there. I wasn’t expecting much to be left by the time I was ready, but that was okay, because mellow evening air would be fine considering I hadn’t towed with the U2 in quite a while. When I started wheeling the cart with my glider down to the end of the runway, Scott B came along to give me a hand getting ready. Rhett pulled me up, made a turn to the left, and then started flying in a straight line to the northwest. I didn’t seem like we were climbing particularly fast, and he commented later that we were in steady sink the whole way. He had to pull me three-quarters of the way to the reservoir before finding anything going up, and we were far enough away that he said he figured he had to drop me in a climb if I was going to stand a chance of making it back.

Quabbin Reservoir. The long narrow island in the center of the picture, with a causeway extending from the left end, is Mt. Zion Island, proposed future site of a rattlesnake sanctuary, if the DEP can get past the hilarious alarmist objections of residents of nearby towns, who fear that the snakes will leave the island, head for the mainland, and bite people.

A climb it was, 450 fpm up, and I rode it up to about 7500 feet, which is the second-highest I’ve ever been. There was a fine-looking line of clouds stretching off to the southeast, practically begging me to go for an XC flight. I followed them for about three miles, and stopped when I encountered another good climb, which I rode up to cloudbase again. The temperature was down to 45F, and as I had not been expecting to get high, I was wearing only a t-shirt, a light jacket, and a pair of work gloves. Although I could probably have stayed at that altitude for quite a while and frozen my fingers off, I opted to try something different.

I didn’t mind squandering some altitude in order to get warmer, and there was something I had been wondering about. There was another line of clouds off to the northeast, beyond the airport. I didn’t know how far away it was, or whether I could reach it, but I wanted to get a sense of whether I could. I pulled on full VG, went into a tight, streamlined position, and pulled in on the control bar. I figured that if I turned around when I was still at 4000 feet, I’d be able to get back comfortably (and failing that, I picked out a nice big field that I could land in if necessary). I got close to the cloud, but not quite close enough to see if there was any lift under it, however, I felt like I had met my objective of determining whether I could reach it. I turned back, and reached the airstrip with about 1500 feet of altitude to spare. Looking at the GPS track afterwards, I see that it the glide was about 7 miles, and I dropped about 2700 feet of altitude in the process. So that gives me a reference for future exploits.

Had I stuck around under the cloud, I could have stayed up longer, but even so, this was my longest flight to date at Tanner-Hiller. Not bad for a weeknight.

flights: 1, airtime: 1:00


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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