I've had a number of people asking why I haven't been posting on Soaring Cafe this year. I have no real answer to this - I just haven't felt like it up (and still don't, really). In answer to the many inquiries, I have started telling people that my Muse abandoned me, and I can't seem to get her back. I'm beginning to think she died in the crash last summer, as I haven't really been the same since then.
Anyhooo, I have decided to try and write something regardless, and see how it turns out. I'm here at Mifflin in my Micro-Castle, early on Monday morning. The sun is shining and the soaring forecast is great - can't wait to get back in the air and try again! Yesterday we had cloud bases up to over 8,000' at times, streeting, and some really strong climbs. We also had some spreadout, OD, and patches of sustained 6-8kt sink that caused problems for many pilots (including me). It seems the early starters did better (the scoresheet for yesterday in 18m class reads almost in order of start time!), as they were able to get into and out of the first turn area in good order, and were generally ahead of the OD/spreadout power curve.
Mifflin is a very interesting and challenging place to fly. On any given day, pilots may need to utilize thermal/street, wave, and ridge flying techniques to do well, and pulling the wrong tool from the toolbox at the wrong time can be catastrophic. Yesterday it was mostly street flying, but there were a number of places where it appeared that wave action was either suppressing or enhancing lift. Yesterday I flew through at least two sections of sustained sink of greater than 5kt (more like 8kt!), once near Lockhaven, and again on the way to the Wagner's Gap turn area. Sink like that is extremely frustrating, as there is nothing to indicate which way to go, and it is just as easy to turn into even greater sink as it is to find lift. In the second section near Wagner's Gap, I basically blundered into a 4kt average climb while looking around for suitable landing spots (I wasn't super low, but I was going down like a rock!).
At my last contest (Bermuda High, Lancaster SC) I was having real problems with my varios, and I spent the week between BH and Mifflin working on my TE/static/pitot systems (and repairing a slightly smashed wing wheel). I found a great article about leak testing on the Borgelt site (thanks Mike!), and followed it to individually test the static, pitot, and TE systems. By doing this, I was able to determine the TE extension to my Borgelt B40 vario was leaking badly (Borgelt giveth, and Borgelt taketh away?) and was most probably the cause of the behavior I was seeing at BH. Anyway, I wound up replacing all the 'local' air lines from where the tail lines enter the instrument panel to the individual instruments, and yesterday I was able to confirm that both varios (SN10 and Borgelt) are behaving much better, especially on that critical initial thermal entry turn.
Lately I have been working hard on 'energy line flying' - becoming more sensitive and aware of the small ups and downs in the cruise flight phase, and not just steaming directly from one cloud to the next. This season I've had the opportunity to fly with energy line master Jerzy Szemplinski (XG) and watching him has helped me quite a bit. Yesterday I was trying to keep my head out of the cockpit more to try and 'read' the nuances of the cloud bottoms along the streets I was flying, and this seems to help. As XG has demonstrated over and over again, the more you can extend the cruise phase between thermals, the better off you are. If a slightly more efficient cruise phase allows a pilot to skip one thermal over the course of the task, that's a huge advantage!
OK, I've done all the damage to this virtual sheet of paper I can do at the moment, and its time to go assemble my wondership for the day's festivities. It's a beautiful day in the (Mifflin) neighborhood, and I can't wait to get back in the air again! ;-)