Landout Day at Fairfield (US Region 4 North)

The day dawned foggy and cloudy, so my plan for the day was to do some Micro-Castle maintenance, and to drive over the mountain to Waynesboro, Pa to physically inspect the area around the High Rock turnpoint.  This turnpoint is the entrance to the High Rock transition back to Fairfield, and I wanted to look at it personally before having to fly it for real.  Also, Google Earth shows an abandoned airport right at the base of the High Rock ridge, and I wanted to go walk that and see if it was still usable (it isn't).

Unfortunately, CD Erik Mann had other ideas.  Aided and abetted by weatherman Baud Litt, Erik saw a slight chance to get a short task in, and so he made us all assemble and grid.  As it turned out 'all' in this case meant a much-reduced fleet.  The entire 18m contingent turned out, but only one (Erik Nelson - 5E) FAI class ship reported for duty, and several Sports class ships (including KS) were missing from the festivities.

As the day progressed, sniffer Danny Brotto (P6) ground around with cloudbase about 2200'msl (1700' agl) and then relit, and then ground around at 2200' some more.  Cloudbase altitude slowly increased, and then around 1300 finally got to around 3000'.  The CD launched the entire FAI class (consisting entirely of 5E) to help Danny sniff, and then shortly thereafter launched the rest of the fleet.  With rain threatening from the west, and a high overcast threatening from the south, the gate was opened at about 1340 for all classes on a 1.5 hour TAT with 4 small circles.  Everybody left within ten minutes or so of gate opening, and not one glider made it around -everyone either landed out on course, or landed back at Fairfield.  The first turn circle was at Union Bridge again, and I tried - unsuccessfully - to make the Union Bridge cement plant/quarry work for me again.  There was some sun on the ground in that area, and I thought "How bad can it be, anyway?".  I didn't get anything on my first pass over the plant, so I tried the quarry with the same result.  Returning low to the pant, I could see a nice plume of smoke over the plant, and a flock of about 50-75 buzzards in the plume.  Unfortunately, the plume, the birds, (and ultimately me) went no higher than about 2300' msl - bummer!  Now I was stuck under an overcast with little hope of finding lift, so I headed north along the next course line, but edging a bit east to go over Greer airstrip, where I ultimately landed. As I headed toward Greer I was thankful that I had done my soaring area due-diligence work with Google Earth, because I knew that if Greer was still in my personal database, it was almost undoubtedly wide enough for an 18m ship.  When I got there at about 1000' agl, I could see it was plenty wide enough, was mowed, and even had a windsock!  The landing was uneventful, and because I had landed out so early, Chris Blanchi  (A2), one of the missing FAI class pilots (he had sustained some minor injuries in a stairway fall accident and didn't feel like flying) was able to retrieve me before the rains started.  Many of the other pilots weren't so fortunate, and wound up disassembling in the rain.

In the end, the problem was trying to fit a 1.5hour task in to a 1 hour day - with predictable results.  While I can't fault the CD for giving it a whirl (it could easily have turned out the other way), it *was* a  heavily luck-ridden crapshoot.  Ultimately nobody got minimum distance in any class, so the day was a total washout.  Interestingly, Erik Nelson (5E) made it a little over 41 statute miles.  Had he made it another 9 miles to get minimum distance, he would have won the day *and* because he himself represented 100% of the contestants for the day, would have put about 500 or so unanswered points on the scoreboard against the rest of the FAI class - wow!

And speaking of due diligence, apparently Phil Jones (PJ) landed his 15-meter ship at the 14-meter wide Walts Airstrip, with high corn on both sides.  The retrieve crew had to first retrieve Phil's glider from where it had imbedded itself in the corn on one side, when one wing started mowing corn about halfway through the rollout.  Fortunately neither the glider nor the pilot were hurt, and hopefully the farmer won't miss another few rows of corn! ;-).

Last night was the contest banquet at the Hickory Bridge Farm family style restaurant, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  The only fly in the ointment was being greeted by a rainshower as we were coming out of the place afterwards - bummer!

I'm writing this at about 0730 on Friday, and this day is projected to be a decent ridge day. So, everyone is up early getting their gliders assembled, in anticipation of early grid/launch times.  Winds are forecast to be westerly at about 15-20kt, so it could be very good, at least in the southern parts of the ridge system.  Stay tuned!

Frank (TA)

Frank Paynter

Dr. Frank (TA) Paynter has a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He retired from a successful 25-year civil-service career in 1993 and spent the next 15 years as a antenna researcher at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, retiring again in 2008 to become a full-time soaring bum.He is the author of the book “Cross Country Soaring with Condor”, co-authors (along with Scott Manley) the popular Condor Corner column for ‘Soaring’ magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Condor section at with Mark Hawkins, he is part owner of Hawke Tracking, the company that provides SPOT tracking services for contests and clubs. Before soaring came along, Frank was a national champion skydiver and still holds the record for the most number of consecutive dead-centers in skydiving competition. Frank started soaring in the mid-1990’s at Caesar’s Creek Soaring Club near Waynesville, Ohio and instantly fell in love with Cross-Country racing. Now he goes to as many contests as his wife of over 30 years will allow, and spends his winter months racing and instructing in Condor.

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