Today was another great Texas soaring day here at the Llano regional. The weather forecast this morning was for top of lift in the 10,000 msl range (don’t see that very often in Ohio!), with some possibility of clouds in the far northwest part of the soaring area. No chance of overdevelopment or thunderbumpers – yay! Winds were progged to be out of the southeast at about 10kt
The task call for today was a three-turn TAT, first to the north, then southeast, then due west, then east home. By launch time we could see clouds starting to pop to the east and west, but not to the north. By the time the gate opened, it was clear that we were going to have to deal with mostly blue conditions on the first leg, and maybe on the other legs as well. After the gate opened, pilots started to dribble out on course, but without very much enthusiasm. I hung around in the start cylinder, trying to find a good climb, and also hoping to see more (or any, for that matter) clouds out on the first course line. Eventually I found a good climb in about the right place in the start cylinder and was able to start out the top, climbing to 9000′ msl (the max start height was 8,000 today) before heading out on course. The first leg consisted of a LOT of dead glides, followed by chasing cloud wisps that tended to disappear just as you got to them. It rapidly became clear that the key to doing well today was figuring out how far to go into the first cylinder. In general it is important to go deep in the first area, as if you don’t it is real easy to wind up running out of distance and not being able to use up the minimum time. However, forging ahead alone into blue conditions is a real good way to get slowed down or worse, so there’s the dilemma. In my case I went as far as I dared, until there wasn’t even a hint of a dream of a cloud wisp out in front, and then I turned south. Once back in the cloud fields, I was able to run streets upwind all the way to the far (southern) edge of the south turn area, then west (mostly downwind) along streets to the far western edge of the western circle, then back east along the same street back to Llano. All in all a great soaring day!
I’m still flying with my portable PowerFLARM unit, and Tony Condon (YYY) has a rental unit in his beautiful Cherokee II glider. On my way home on final glide, I noticed a glider symbol had popped up on the display, about 5 miles from home, showing a glider off to my right and about 400 feet lower. Sure enough, when I looked out that way I saw YYY circling below me, trying to get enough altitude for that last little bit. Unfortunately Tony couldn’t make it work and wound up landing out – nice field, no damage, short retrieve. I spoke to Tony later that evening, and congratulated him on not trying to squeak out a marginal final glide and getting into more trouble than he could handle. Tony said it wasn’t really much of a temptation, as he was way below final glide altitude. Still, it takes real courage to give up on soaring and concentrate on a good landout after 3 or 4 hours of struggling to get around – good going Tony!!