R6N Ionia Contest Day 1

Hello Cafe readers,

One of the best benefits of me now taking the LS-8 instead of the '6 to Ohio (R6S) is that it gave me the ability to go to another contest! (Really Peter…Thanks!) Additionally, thanks to Sean/Tiffany Fidler who drove the glider (PF) from Ohio to Michigan and has loaned me his car to use here. I flew into Grand Rapids from Maryland, following a UAV contest at Pax river, on an Air Tran Boeing 717.

My ride to Ionia

My ride to Ionia

Tiffany Fidler met me at the airport with all of the contest briefing info and the task sheet for the day and then shuttles me to the Ionia county airport. With help from Daniel Sazhin and Sean I was on the grid and ready to roll by 12:30. Due to the wind aloft being slightly too high, the lift a bit too broken, and the tops a bit low and blue, the day was not good enough for a task but about 1/2 of us flew for about 2 hrs locally.


Monday brought about a pessimistic start, with a low ovc spread out and high cloud through mid-morning. The weather models wildly contradicted from blue and no lift to severe thunderstorms. One thing that they all agreed on was a strong inversion around 1000-2000ft agl through noon. The decision was made to grid at 12:30 and expect a launch around 1:30. The sniffer was sent up at 1:10 and found generally 2 kts to 3500msl (field elevation is around 800). Because of the low lift the start opening was delayed until 3:15 after a few of us poked through 4000msl. F2, HF, 3H, and PF (me) all started almost immediately as it was clear that the day was drying out fast We dove for a CU and were rewarded with almost nothing, on we pressed. One strategic difference that HF, 3H and myself made was to hit the first cylinder short and along the edge. The reason for this was to avoid the blue that covered a majority of the first turn area and attempt to get to the CU that was in the second… This didn’t exactly work out as planned because the dry air moved in faster than we could get to it. Carrying on, I found no lift until 1200 ft agl and slowly drifted up and downwind in a weak thermal seeing HF a few miles ahead climbing too and 3H joining me in my thermal. I had one more climb of around 500 ft and then another long period that was tempered with only a few bumps. I turned the second area about halfway to the center (later realized that I should have headed home earlier) and fought the headwind that had now picked up to 10-15kts (bad when you are low and cruising at 55kts) for the next 30 miles. It took 7 thermals and about an hour of tip-toeing.to make it back. I was pretty convinced that this was going to end in a field when all of a sudden I see HF appear again (after 3H and I split I had seen no one else the entire time…in the blue) and let out a little yelp of excitement. He joined me in a thermal that got me back up from 1300agl to 2700 before it quit and we moved on again. At this point, there was a moist unstable airmass moving in from the south-west and we could see the CU forming around the airport. In the next thermal we made it down to 1050agl and joined another weak thermal. Manfred left this one a bit earlier than I did and was rewarded with stronger lift. By the time I got to him, he had rocketed up to our first cloud (discussing it later he believed it was a 4kt bubble and because I was lower, simply got left). I simply couldn’t find anything strong enough there and left a few hundred feet below final glide for the next cloud. I picked up a few hundred feet over FG here and headed for home. The day was extremely tough, with most of the flight taking place between 1000-2000-2500 ft agl and a lot of weak climbs with what cycled into a sizeable headwind on the last leg. With everyone home, that moist air decided to blow up into a decent thunderstorm and the clouds left us in awe. As I write this from the hotel, today (Tuesday) looks like it will be a rain day but either way… time to head out.

Gliders in the box just in time

Gliders in the box just in time

JP Stewart (X8/PF)


JP Stewart

JP is a junior contest pilot and the training officer of the Blue Ridge Soaring Society.He recently became SSA Virginia Governor and Record keeper and received the Kolstad scholarship at the SSA convention in 2014. He currently studies Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech and spends most of his time working on gliders and UAV's.

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