Friday, August 22, 2008

"4 hours, 7 minutes...4 hours, 7 minutes..."

I’m a bit overdue for this blog. I should have written it on Aug 13th. After getting to work I checked the soaring forecast which called for light winds and thermals reaching 18,000 feet. I could feel the effects of my A.D.D. (Altitude Deficit Disorder) setting in.

I called Peggy to let her know that I wanted to go flying. She was too busy at work to drive me home so she told me to take the car and come pick her up when I was done flying. Neither of us could anticipate what was going to happen that day.

I launched about 2:15 and had several good bumps while on tow but decided to go to 3000 AGL before releasing. I was able to maintain altitude but couldn’t gain anything. Two friends in a Duo Discus had launched about 20 minutes after I had. One called on the radio to check up on me. They had found a boomer thermal and were already passing through 10,000 feet. He gave some general directions so I left the relative comfort of Big Mahogany ridge in search of it. After a couple minutes I was a bit disappointed because I wasn’t finding anything. In a last ditch effort I turned east and less than a half mile later I found it. With a sharp right bank I got in the thermal and rode it up to 12,000 feet. Later when I reviewed my flight I discovered that the max vertical speed in that thermal was 1150 feet per minute. Not bad for a plane without an engine.

It was an epic day with a 4 hour 7 minute flight and I reached an altitude of 14,500 feet. I could have gone higher but there was a very turbulent band of lift on the lee side of Durst peak that was hard for me to get through so I was content with the fact that I had made it that far.

Four times I ventured away and out of sight of the airport. Each time I came back to where I knew the ridge lift was working and regain altitude. Throughout the flight there were some mid-level cirrus blowing in from the northwest that was cooling things off. When the variometer only showed that I could only get 100 fpm I decided it was time to head back.

As I flew over Morgan Valley I encountered something I had heard about. As the air cools the earth is still releasing heat. The result was very buoyant air. When I should have been losing about 150 fpm I was only losing about 50 fpm. This allowed me to fly for an extra 15-20 minutes.

By the time I got down, chatted with friends, put the plane back in the trailer and towed it home it was 8:30. I picked up Peggy from work and got a quick bite to eat on the way home. I was exhausted but I could hardly sleep. I woke up many times and my first thought was “4 hours and 7 minutes.”

This was my 129th flight and it was the first time that I felt that I had been admitted into the fraternity of a soaring pilot.

No comments: