Day 2 was another day full of doubtful beginnings but with enough time, things cooked up and the day became strong enough to support around 4000-4500ft and anywhere between 2-5 kts. The task for the day was a 1.5 hr TAT to Alma and Wabasis lake with fairly large cylinders. I started very soon after the gate opened and as best I could out the top in a 2 kt thermal. This start lined me up for a sudo “street” where I connected with the best lift towards the Alma cylinder. Running up high, I was able to maintain good speed with good climbs. However it was evident that one could only go so far due to an incoming storm sucking the lift out of the air and showing off some low roll clouds. I pushed far enough into the first turn so as to line me up for a street to the second turn. This was the easiest part of the flight, requiring only light dolphining to maintain good speed and near cloud base. Of course this could only last so long and as I approached the end, I saw a lot of blue that appeared to be marching towards me. I followed a few CU into the top of the second turn and began working my way back, with only 300ft below final glide my plan was to re-connect with the street I came from and run south along the existing CU. As I came out, Manfred Franke (HF) was headed into the turn and we spent a little while trying to climb together. However, the cloud just wasn’t working and we both continued… in opposite directions. I continued on and found little to nothing but couldn’t head straight for FG because of a thick patch of trees along course. The first moment of hope came as I found a climb over the Fairplains airport/tree farm. With the smell of pine coming on strong I went from 800agl back to around 1800 before it quit. This is when the sky really fell apart. Blue I can handle… but now there was a huge set of high clouds moving in too and now it was cutting off the sun to my escape route. I tiptoed out along the main road (66) and began following it home with the hope of enough heating. It just wasn’t meant to be and I found Marian Wajda (3H) in a field near me. I inspected the field, all while finding no workable lift, and committed to land with Marian. The landing was un-eventful with a total ground use of around 250 ft and plenty to spare. Just as I landed, the Farmer appeared at Marian’s car and picked me up to go talk to the owners. We explained to them the circumstance and they then decided to come outside and see the gliders. The whole family was great company as we discussed how gliders fly and different sources of lift as well as ultimately why I came to land in their beautiful field. It was a short drive as we landed right next to the major road and only 8 or so miles away, but someone had to do it… Robert Norton came to pick me up (Danke Robert!) and Bob “The Buffalo” Fidler came for Marian. We loaded up and headed home for an evening of R/C flying with some rather un-fortunate endings thanks to a transmitter lockout.
Friday brought about promising forecasts… too promising… there was nothing to stop development and eventually the low cloud bases began blowing up into full storms by 2:30. Many of the pilots went out for a group lunch where we were met by Peter Baumeler. Peter is a gliderpilot and a racing pilot at that, but his craft tend to be a little smaller (not much though). Peter stopped by Ionia on his way to Muncie, IN for the 2013 AMA NATS (National Aero-modeling Championship) cross country remote control glider contest. This event is somewhat similar to what we do but now you ride in your crew car chasing/flying you plane from it. I’m pleased to report that Peter has become the National Champion this year!
Saturday brought about the last official contest day and a shoddy forecast with it The day was called in the morning and the R/C planes came out once more. Sean pulled out his DJI S800 hexacopter for a little practice flight. Only problem was that the autopilot did not engage as he thought it did and Sean was flying in Manual mode. At one point it got into a position where he lost orientation and a little “dumb thumb” ensued with the hex flying towards Sean. We scattered and he dove off to the side while the hex splatted into the pavement scattering parts everywhere. After the dust settled and Sean’s shock wore off and he took it well as we collected the parts and looked to see what it would take to fix. About 30 minutes later, Tiffany Fidler noticed some blood on Sean’s “hind quarters” and after some investigation found a nice slice from the thin carbon blades. It seems that the S800 felt like it need to give Sean a parting reminder of the event but the report is that he is healing well ;) Because we felt like we were doing so well with mechanical things we decided to take the Benz Aviation 172SP up to Lake Michigan for a flight down the shore and dinner in Grand Haven. We took some time to walk out on the pier and around the beach (I really didn’t believe that there was a beach in Michigan) and then had a glass smooth flight home. It was a great experience and I really appreciate the Fidlers for taking me there.
I would like to make an aside here about something new that we came up with for R6N. Early in the week we had been entertaining the idea that we may not get even the 2 days required for the contest. With things expected to be good on Sunday, I proposed that we look into a waiver allowing the contest to extend one more day if we needed to do so, provided that we had unanimous pilot support. This was granted and I wanted to make other contest aware of the idea should it ever come into question.
Sunday appeared to have great weather with the possibility of good lift and CU in the 5000-6000 range. The problem was that high cirrus slowed the development down and a cool dry airmass came in from the NE killing the CU though the lift began to go up higher. Sean, Steve (98) and I decided to go try for some recreational XC but after Sean and Steve decided to land I didn’t want to head out on my own into the blue so I spent the time practicing. After everything was packed up I drove the glider to the Fidler’s house where I spent the night. I picked out a few soaring books that they let me borrow and in the morning (Monday) we headed out to meet my dad in Dayton with the trailer.
This contest was a great experience with flying in tough and decisive conditions. The scores reflect this (http://www.ssa.org/ContestResults.asp?contestId=2234&ContestDetailId=7600&ContestName=Region+6+North+%28R6N%29) Of course I have to thank everyone who helped make it happen: Peter Pfortner for letting me use his glider AGAIN; Sean, Tiffany and Buffalo Bob Fidler for getting me from their work to host the contest as well as me for the week; as well as all of the people at Benz Aviation (http://www.benzaviation.com/) for putting on the event; BRSS for their continued support of me; and my parents for making it all happen with no prior planning. Next contest planned is Harris Hill in Elmira, NY. Time to start preparing!
~ JP Stewart (X8/PF)