Man, this is getting old! Here we sit, again, under gray skies at Cordele, with nothing to do but watch the clouds roll by, every so often with a small, tantalizing area of clearing.
The big news at today’s morning pilots meeting is that two additional competitors (Enrique Mertins and Steve ???) asked if they could register for the contest, as we have yet to get a contest day in. All agreed that we should take their money, and so the deed was done.
Al Tyler, SSA president for another 6 months and yesterday’s day winner, took the time to solicit comments and get input from the assembled pilots, and we had a pretty lively discussion for a while. I for one think the SSA has prospered under Al’s leadership, and am saddened to hear that he is giving up the reins this winter.
We also had a lively discussion about the introduction of FLARM into the U.S. soaring scene. I gave an account of the problems we have seen since the initial introduction of PowerFlarm units last year at Uvalde, and the Flarm team’s successful (at least in my opinion) efforts this season to address them. I told the pilots that in my opinion Flarm is here to stay, and urged everyone to get their ships equipped as soon as practicable—either with a ‘brick’ or a portable—or even by using one of the rental units now available.
John Murray voiced his concerns that the ability to ‘see’ gliders much farther away (sometimes out to 4 or 5 miles) and to receive information about glider ID and climb rate for a selected glider will negatively impact the sport. John urged the group to consider mandating ‘stealth’ mode for contests, which limits glider visibility (in both directions) to a very limited range while still providing for collision alerting. However, there is some anecdotal reporting that in those countries where Flarm has been active and available for some time, pilots prefer the ‘non-stealth’ mode with greater visibility in both directions, apparently believing that they get more out of the data exchange than they give up. This argument will undoubtedly go back and forth over several years as pilots adjust to the new technology, and I have no real clue as to which way (stealth required, stealth optional, stealth discouraged, stealth banned) it will all wind up. What I *can* tell you is that I have now flown with Flarm in a half-dozen or so contests over two years, and it has already saved my ass on more than one occasion (even when we were having range issues). Now that I have a unit with decent range, it will be the very last thing to leave my cockpit. Regarding the stealth issue, I think the idea of deliberately emasculating Flarm range and capability for a presumed competitive advantage is ludicrous. If the issue of stealth vs. no-stealth ever comes up for a vote at a contest, I am going to vote for NO STEALTH, and will consider leaving a contest that goes the other way. I have seen too many close calls and/or real fatalities that could have been prevented to even think about not using Flarm to its fullest extent. Just my $0.02 ;-).
Can you imagine the conversation that might ensue in a legal proceeding after a mid-air fatality at a stealth mode mandated contest? “So, let me get this straight Mr. Contest Director and/or Contest Manager —you have a technology that will let pilots see and avoid each other out to five miles, but you forced all pilots to use an operation mode that reduces the warning distance and time to a fraction of that? I understand that you believe that your deliberate reduction of range and capabilities didn’t have anything to do with the tragedy, but can you prove that? And how much money does your personal bank account and all your assets amount to, not to mention all the assets associated with your national organization that allowed, nay encouraged such wantonly reckless policies? You should know this number, because my client is going to get it all”.
Popular weather for the next two days (Thursday and Friday) is for mostly sunny, with a 30% chance of precip creeping back in by Saturday. Now, I normally don’t give much credence to long-term forecasts, especially one for three days out; however, I am hopeful that at least tomorrow and Friday will be soarable, which will at least give us a 2-day contest. Stay tuned!