2014 Mifflin Regional, Day 1 – The Case of the Missing Muse

Muse DefinedI'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! ;-)

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 SoaringCafe.com.Along 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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  9 comments for “2014 Mifflin Regional, Day 1 – The Case of the Missing Muse

  1. Gerard Robertson
    May 20, 2014 at 1:30 am

    Thanks, Frank. Speaking as someone with half a book written (“Airline Engineering for non-Engineering Managers”: should sell and sell, according to the book resellers association), I understand the whimsical nature of the muse.

    However, those of us in the southern hemisphere (you know, the ones who displayed limited sympathy when you guys had snow) are now desperate to read about soaring, so please encourage your muse.

  2. Frank Paynter
    May 20, 2014 at 5:49 am

    Thanks for the encouragement, and here’s hoping that your Muse returns soon! ;-).

    Frank (TA)

  3. Wallace Berry
    May 20, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Hi TA, Your contest write-ups are missed. Hope you will get the urge to start writing again. Looking forward to seeing you in Texas!


    • Frank Paynter
      May 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      I’m hopeful that the Muse hasn’t completely given up on me, and I’m looking forward to seeing you and your beautiful glider at the SC Nats

      Frank (TA)

  4. Herbert Kilian
    May 21, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Thank you Frank for taking the pen back in hand… But now I can’t overcome this picture in my head of the Muse kissing you, turning, spitting and exclaiming

  5. Frank Paynter
    May 21, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Ewwwww – now I’m stuck with that image too! ;-)

    Frank (TA)

  6. May 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    That image aside, please…. please continue to write, you add a lot to the world of soaring.

  7. May 25, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Get busy living or get busy dying……

  8. Frauke Elber
    May 30, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Hi TA, even as a non-competition pilot (and pilot in general anymore) I get my kicks out of the reports. Please coax that Muse back. (I will even make a cup of coffee for her)

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