Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to read this blog!

The newest information is at the top of the page and the older articles at the bottom.

Not doing well

Today I'll score zero because I never made it out of the start cylinder. I could make a few excuses but I think it boils down to I wasn't hungry enough for the task. There was way more wind than called for.

While getting on the cart I broke my zipper pull string that closes the harness, so I had to pull out of line. In the end it cost me a few places in line and that put me far enough back that our conditions and the main gaggle would be long gone. When I finally got yanked into the air, I didn't stick, found really crappy sink and a whole lot of wind from the E. I made a few attempts to snake my way around to find something, but the cloud I was chasing fell apart long before I got there and now down to 1500', pushed my way back upwind and knew it would be faster to re-light.

The landing foretold the fate a re-light would present. Way too much wind, a bluing sky and no friends (the entire gaggle was out of sight).

I landed and called it a day.

Hoping for better luck tomorrow.

Hotel Pet

This moring we woke up to light winds and a new friend in our backyard. Right out in the back of the Inn, there's a little inlet that has signs about alligators but we hadn't seen any until this morning.

Our first little alligator from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Land out companion

As I was retrieving my gear from the half mile walkout I put myself in, I heard a rustling in the bushes. I waited to see what fate I would endure. Then out walks this little guy. He was totally oblivious to my presence until I walked up on him a bit. Then he walked towards me a few steps and then ran away, but not before I snapped off a few pictures.

Good run, short outcome

When we woke up we could see the wind was less of a problem but the wind would still be here. After a quick continential breakfast the wind began to fill in but not as much as the last couple of days. On the way to the flight park the wind seemed OK but still we needed to see how the air park would be.

At the air park there was little doubt we would fly today. The clouds would fill in very nice and would help mark the lift well. The task committee set the same task as the last couple of days. The only change was the time. So the task would be:

Launch: Florida Ridge
1st TP: William Sky Ranch
Goal: Shell Airfield

Total of 47km (not all that far, considering the wind).

At launch we saw a few pilots having problems sticking early. Couple of weak link breaks and one pilot pulling off early when he started to look like he would lockout. But for the most part the launches went pretty smooth. I was yanked into the sky by a pink tug that took me to a nice thermal and I stuck with no issues. I was looking downwind as I started to climb through 1500 meters (close to 5,000'). I had to use meters because I had changed the instuments and wasn't really sure how how high I was. But 1500 meters seemed pretty good. I could see a few pilots directly downwind and went to there location it sounded like I was catching up with a few people from my truck. They left one cloud ahead of me around 5,000'.

The run into the first TP went pretty quick, it wasn't all that far (about 17 miles). I hooked up with a few other pilots but was having trouble locating the thermal they had so I pressed on towards the airport in LaBelle. There I found a very nice thermal that had everyone coming my way. I saw Conrad, Paul, Tom Lanning, Charlie, and Derick Turner and maybe a few others. I would end up staying with most of them for the rest of the flight. We topped out over the airport with 1500 meters and pressed on towards the 1st TP.

More later:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Later in the day on Monday

Rented segway and rode around Ft Myers beach for about 2 hours. Lots of fun, really easy to learn.

Is this sign really neccessary?

Haven't seen any yet, but we're on the lookout.

Third Strike

We knew it would not be flyable today. The forecast has been pretty consistent with the wind being too hard (15 - 25 from the east). The Bermuda high pressure hasn't moved and continues to send high winds from the east. As of this morning it appears that this pattern will continue until Wednesday. The organizers are sensing the mood of the pilots and are trying to come up with contingencies. Every one of the pilots just want to fly. But some things need to be worked out if the organizers decide to extend the comp by one day.

It's a grim picture on the wind forecast. The clouds look awesome, the direction and speed DO NOT. The safety committee calls the day around 11 am and now we need something else to do. I had already checked the tickets for going home. Long story short it looks like it would be best to buy a new ticket home rather than trying to change our existing tickets. By about 12, there is new information that the wind will begin to die down starting Tuesday (let's hope). I'm not all that sure about it but I'm willing to give it another day before we seriously consider going home.

Cloudbase looks to be 6k or higher. and again it's really difficult to watch this. Phill and I decide to go to his Dad's Florida home in Cape Corral. It's about 50 miles away and the TomTom proves it's worth again and directs us to his house with no issues. While we're there Phill calls his Dad and we coordinate a place to eat that has raw oysters. Sounds close but later we find that it's in North Ft. Myers and not Cape Corral.

Lunch was OK, but not as good of oysters that I've had in Florida before (Key West was way better). On our way out of the restaurant we saw a rental place for Segway's. It took us about 2 seconds to say yes and off we went for a guided 2 hour tour. It was really easy to learn to ride and in a short time we were riding them at full speed. Although I could see how it might be really easy to get out of control.

Big Blowout Continues

Even in the morning it's pretty clear that the conditions that are causing concerns for everyone will continue. Some forecasts have the windy conditions here all week. The mood among the pilots is already getting restless. I'm less than happy about the weather. It feels like it would be easier to take if the weather was raining. But since the weather and clouds foretell of good climbs and decent XC potential it's difficult to not be able to launch.

So on Sunday, the safety committee sends up Zippy (Zac Majors, one of the world team members and fellow Californian). Zac launches off the cart and rockets upward in the windy conditions. The tug looks to be climbing at a very steep angle and not making much forward momentum. The tow although steep doesn't look too difficult. Zac is able to stick and flys from cloud to cloud. After flying around awhile, Zac makes his way back to the LZ and gets turned low on approach. Zac makes it down OK, but it has a hidden message to most that are watching. Be careful landing and do not land behind anything that can disturb the air.

Shortly after Zac lands, the safety committee reconvievnes and decides to call the day for the 2nd day in a row due to wind. What to do now? Many pilots decide to go to the alantic coast and try and fly the buildings near the water. Phill and I decide to go and at least see the crazy actions. I'm game, but not for flying. I didn't come 2,800 miles to fly condos. I'll check it out. The TomTom brings us to the coast with very precise directions. We ended up going through some overgrown swamp like areas that some of the guys we spoke with told us about.

When we were within a mile or so of the beach we could see one glider soaring an old abandon hotel. Well I guess this must be the place. I could see the glider was a Wills Wing Raven (my very first glider in 1981). We get there in time to see Jeff James (Florida local) soaring the abandoned hotel on the alantic. We're in Jensen Beach at the old holiday inn. A few other hang glider pilots are there and more are right behind us. Jeff lands and greets us with a big smile and even bigger thurst since we said we we're bringing beer. In short order he gives us the low down on the whole operation and we assist in the "man tow" and get him into the air and he "sticks" the lift band of the hotel.

Condo Soaring from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

After a few minutes Jeff lands just in time for the big crew of comp pilots to get their shot at it. In the end we had 2 pilots in the air at the same time, lot's of spectators and an empty cooler. More entertainment than anything we had planned. Still I'd rather be flying and going XC.

More video of Glen Volk PIO'ing after launching

Untitled from Jeff Chipman on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

After a full day of traveling Phill and I arrive in Ft. Meyers kind of late (10:30). The rental car line was kind of long, so long in fact that I was able to retrieve all of the bags and sherpa the gear (all 200Ibs worth) across the access road and into the car rental terminal before Phill finished the processing.

The next adventure was the GPS coordinates I got off of google earth. It seemed that the coodinates were about a couple of decimal points off so we got lost a bit. Once we crossed a canal to the north I knew we were headed in the wrong direction. We followed the GPS until it said we arrived. Obviously we hadn't. Altough you could see the inn in the distance directly to the south. So the TomTom appears to be off or its google earth.

The inn is nice, but parts of it remind me of a barracks. They've done a good job of fixing it up. Our first room had a broken airconditioner. We got another room assigned that was even closer to the elevator (bonus).

In the morning I met a few guys in the hotel lobby that spoke of the high winds for the next day or two :( At the hotel it seemed fine, but just east of the hotel we could see the predictions were likely correct. So now the waiting games begin.

About 40 pilots are here I guess. 4 tugs and at least 1 trike. It's the regular crowd here from the comp scene, just hope the flying is epic once it gets started. Today looks like a bust and it's not even 10 am yet. The locals say it's windier than yesterday. It was predicted to have wind for at least today.

Pictures from the first day here

Sunday, April 19, 2009

No Fly - Prep day

Today held little promise for flying but at the LZ you would never have known it. The LZ was plenty filled for how hard it was blowing down. I showed up early only because Jim Shaw didn't know the difference between Greg Kendall and Kraig Coomber. Guess the names are close enough :|

Anyway I get there and find out Kraig is not there yet. But the LZ was filled with hopeful pilots, although from the data you could tell there was little hope for flying until about 4 or 5 pm.

Long story short, Kraig and Jon Durand showed up and Phill and I loaded our gliders on the trailer for the long 2800 mile trip to FL.

Beer flowed early and plenty of pilots were happy to paticipate in the LZ drinking.

Got a few pointers from the FL veterens, and a few well wishes from the LZ crew. I hope I can make goal a few more times than the AZ comp (I made no goals then, but came close on 3 different days).

All we need to do now is get packed and get ourselves to FL.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Readying for Florida

So I'm going to Florida to compete in the Rob Kells memorial comp. Phill Bloom and I leave on Friday April 24th and will hopefully see our gliders when we get there. Kraig Coomber is having his trailer driven XC to Florida and our gliders get a ride (for a price I'm sure).

This will be my first time to compete in the FL air so it should be interesting. I've been doing my share of flying lately so the skills should be there. I sent my 5030 to Flytec to be repaired and it's due back on Tuesday the 21st.

I'll be taking a boat load of pictures and will attempt to update the blog everyday so stay tuned for the latest info.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

9 Pilots down range

Probably been a while since so many pilots pushed to get down range, but on Saturday March 28th 6 Sylmar pilots headed east from Sylmar attempting to fly to Crestline. For me the day started on Thursday when I received a phone call from a fellow Team Topa pilot, John Scott (aka. Southside). He wanted to know what I thought about the upcoming weekend and whether or not Crestline seemed do-able on Saturday. From the data it looked the more promising of the two weekend days since Sunday was likely to be much cooler and the inland temps on Saturday were approaching the low to mid 80’s.

We agreed to check back in on Friday, but we both saw about the same thing, possible to make the trip, but epic conditions were not in the forecast. Enter Ron Weiner. Ron calls a few hours later and asks me how the weekend is shaping up. We spoke about the previous phone call with Southside and that Saturday was the preferable day. He had already set aside Sunday and with a little convincing, I helped changed his mind. He had work to do in changing plans and said he’d call back. Later in the day Ron gets the driver and fills my truck with the one remaining slot (Rob Burgis, Ron Weiner, Southside and me, Dana was the driver).

Anyone paying attention to the various weather reports on the web could see that Saturday held promise but the epic conditions some were sighting just didn’t add up. Altitudes of 7ish seemed most likely, but some were saying 9 to 10. I was taking a wait and see approach. We needed heat and a good lapse rate. The lapse rate was likely to be there, but the heat wasn’t. One other small issue was the wind. Several forecast predicted NW winds at altitude, while others had it more from the west. Launch conditions were likely a non issue according to the Air Sports Net web site. Ron has been using the site regularly and has made the connection that “usually” if the wind forecast at Van Nuys airport shows it blowing in, then it’s highly likely Kagel will have favorable winds at launch. However if Van Nuys shows it blowing down, then Kagel is iffy depending on the velocity. The higher the velocity, the more correct the forecast. I think Ron’s observations are pretty much correct when trying to determine if the wind is the correct direction. Hoping for increased predicted high temperatures and counting on the lapse rate, I knew we needed to wait for the 4pm balloon out of Vandenberg. The data would likely on the web by 5pm Friday night.

The data from the 4pm balloon revealed some promising conditions, not on altitude but in the convergence maps. I do not place a lot of stock in the convergence maps but this one was just too appealing. It showed the convergence right over Kagel and going due east all the way to Mt. Cucamonga. If this proved to be true then our trip would end up being much easier. Still, we needed one more balloon and that one was to release at 4am. Not wanting to over analyze the day, I go to bed a bit earlier than normal.

Saturday morning was all business. Get the weather report, ready the vehicle, make sure everything is charged, test the radios, and get some food. The weather looked similar, altitudes mostly 7ish with some 8’s down range. Convergence still predicted to be slightly behind Wilson but going east all the way to Cucamonga. Winds mostly SW along the range switching to W near the end of the San Gabriel’s. I left for the LZ at 10am with print outs in hand.

Southside wasn’t due to arrive until 11:30, but he showed up a little before 11, so now we’re waiting for Weiner who said he’d be showing up early to inspect Bustemante’s glider that he was borrowing, since he had pounded in just a few days prior. Southside tells me that a crew from Crestline has shown up and will be joining our trip to try and make it to Crestline. Bruce Barmakian, Rebar Dan, and one other are headed up to towers just ahead of us. The Crestline crew picks up NMERider (Jon Dietch) completing the towers launch gang.

By 12:30 most of the pilots were setup and readying themselves for XC. Ron was first off, followed by NME. Rob was next and I was just behind. Ron was already climbing through 5k when I launched. I believe Ron and NME were together over Kagel. Rob joined me in a thermal out in front of locals and we take that one close to 5k and depart for Little T. At Lances Rob has me by 400 feet, I’m down to 3600 and turn back to get a better run without going into little T on the deck. Rob continues on at 4k. On the west side of Lances, I grab a climb that will boost me to 4.7k and into middle T. By this time Rob is pressing on into little Lukens after climbing through 5.7k at little T. As I’m climbing at middle T, I see Andy Pryciak, lower and pressing on towards big T. Knowing Andy and his mad ninja thermaling skills, I watch him for any signs of climbing. It’s not long when I see his wing bank up hard. This means he’s got a good one or it’s a real rowdy one. I call him on the radio and he acknowledges it’s a rowdy rattlesnake. Still I angle over him and get a good sparkler up through 5.5k and press on towards Lukens. Andy gets the pinch and has to wait a few more minutes for the next thermal. In short order I’m past little Lukens and over the spine in front of the towers. This one is strong but not violent and soon I’m climbing at 780’/min. Andy joins this one and catches me as we near the top of the thermal around 7.8k. Ron, Rob and apparently NME have all started gliding towards Wilson. We can hear Ron speak of NME and how much lower he is compared to Ron and Rob 1000’ higher.

Andy and I leave towards brown, flying well and very close most of the way there. We change spots a time or two, but Andy moves a bit out front and sniffs out a slow climb around Brown. I do the same, the thermal isn’t anything like what we just left at Lukens. But Andy stays with me just the same. As we approach 7k again we leave towards Mt Lowe. In retrospect this move wasn’t the smartest, we should have moved to the spot just in front of the main towers on Wilson. Every track log shows that every pilot worked this knob (Mt. Harvard) and climbed out. “The bowl just doesn’t work that often”, says Andy.

In the bowl Andy and I see an ATOS (Bruce) come under us and just kept going to Mt Harvard. Bruce finds the thermal and marks the core. I leave to join, and Andy follows a little higher. I end up missing the thermal to the right and have to adjust. Andy gets it right away and quickly catches Bruce. By this time we see Sebas out front and he joins our thermal seeing how his thermal is climbing slower. Bruce leaves and Andy comes back to join us (being sociable I guess). We all leave the thermal around 7k and glide toward Monrovia Pk. On the way there I’m checking out the possible landing areas. Even though I’m high enough not to worry about it I’m looking for potential bailout areas along the way. Santa Anita Canyon looks plenty do-able, but access to the wash looks like it’s a problem. It’s the area between Wilson and Mt Bliss that seems to be without much in the way of LZ’s. The best potential landing area I saw was at Fish Canyon (the entrance to the Morris and San Gabriel Reservoirs.

At Monrovia Pk, not willing to commit deep, I move towards Andy and Sebas marking a good thermal out front over Mt Bliss (thanks to google earth for showing me all the names). They have a 1000’ on me seeing how I turned SE and flew almost two miles to get the one they marked. They left and it is now that I know I’m on my own and downshift into staying up and taking it slower so I can at least make San Dimas some 10 miles away. I eventually leave the ratty thermal left overs with 5100. As I was passing reservoirs, I saw a glider in very deep and low. Wasn’t really sure who it was until I saw NME’s track log. It was him, lower than dirt and seemingly unaffected. But I couldn’t worry myself about this pilots plight. Mine was to stay as high as I could. There are plenty of stories how pilots have climbed out of San Dimas to go on to Crestline, so I was pretty sure that as long as I could make it there, I would be rewarded with a decent climb and would likely be back in the ballgame. So I pressed on climbing in anything going up and taking light climbs 1000’ higher and then moving on.

I finally reached Johnstone Pk. Marked by antennas and a large grassy area. When I really needed it a couple of ravens showed me a climb and I joined them. I was down to 3300 feet and stayed with this climb until 4300. About this time I see an ATOS very low and sniffing the ridge behind Johnstone Pk. This would be Rebar Dan. Later in the day we spoke of his glide out of the canyon where he ended up climbing in my same thermal. He acknowledge he was very low over the back and really needed a climb when he spotted me. We ended up pushing upwind and found a stronger core that boosted us up over 5400.

While this was going on, Sebas and Andy were landing at San Dimas golf course. Never having been there myself, I was paying particular attention to the landing there and saw both Sebas and Andy put it in nicely. Temporarily, I tethered myself to San Dimas, I knew I had friends, retrieval, and beer waiting below if I didn’t make the most of the upcoming ridge. Dan was pressing on for ridge east of San Dimas Reservoir. We both climbed out off the back of the ridge and soon were over 6100’. It had been a long time since either one of us saw this altitude so it was a welcome sight. I cut the tether and moved further up the ridge towards a set of antennas.

For the next 20 miles Dan and I would leapfrog each other and climb as high as we could without moving further back into the mountains. Dan kept taking an out front tack, and I would often stay a bit over the larger foothills. Somewhere around Calaimty Canyon, Dan stopped at a west facing ridge, I didn’t feel it, so I over took Dan and put a few ridges between him and I. We were approaching the end of the San Gabriel mountain range and I was doubling down on the thermal being where I needed it. At the peak above Day Canyon, I found what I had hoped would be there. A thermal going up solid 300 up and I announced my likelihood that I had goal in the bag.

9 miles out and climbing through 5600. Around 5700, the thermal was dying. I knew this height would be very iffy about getting in. But if I could really glide well downwind I might make it in with a little to spare. At first the glide was going well with very light sink. But that changed the longer I was on glide. About the time I was approaching the 215 & 15 merge I started to concentrate on wind direction intensely. I was pretty sure of the direction, but wanted as many clues as possible. The lake at Glen Helen amphitheater gave me all the info I needed. It also gave me one last chance to salvage my flight into goal. I somehow blundered into some zero sink and with full VG I started to milk the zero for all that it was worth (or so I thought). I left the zero sink that was taking me right to the mountains, only 1 mile away, and decided I “might” make it in.

As I left to glide into goal 4 miles away and 3400’ or 1700 agl above goal, I needed a 12:1 to get into the Crestline LZ. But the lower I got the sink rate increased. Rather than risk a bad landing or worse, I turned back and flew to the soccer field I had just over flown. With only one game going on the field that had over 6 playing fields, it was basically empty. I touched down after flying for 3 hrs and 18 minutes, 60 miles from home and 2 miles short of goal. Still I was happy.

What did I learn:
1. There are more LZ’s than you think there are going east.
2. We can go east more often than we think we can
3. We don’t have to have 10,000 feet to make it into Crestline
4. When you need lift stay with what you have even if it’s not going up. As long as you’re maintaining and going towards potential lift, drift with it.
5. XC is fun.

Pilots making it into Crestline:
1. Rob Burgis (1st trip)
2. Ron Weiner (4th trip)
3. Rebar Dan
4. Bruce Barmakian

Pilots short:
1. John Scott, 1 mile short
2. Jeff Chipman , 2 miles short
3. Jon Dietch (10 miles short and personal best 50.2 miles)
4. Andy Pryciak (San Dimas)
5. Sebastian Lutges (San Dimas)