Soaring operations began in earnest here today with all gliders assembled and ready to fly.
A quick pilot briefing this morning indicated that going east might not be a good plan and as John Seaborn briefed us on the weather I tentatively decided to either go north or west, depending on how things looked closer to launch.
As I posted yesterday, one of the great things about Dalhart is the airport facilities, including huge hangar that's available to us...I learned that the downside of that is if you're in the far back corner of said hangar...it could be a while before you can finally get your ship out on the ramp! This ended up working great for me as I was flight planning my Silver distance flight and it gave me more time to figure a route that best worked with how the day was developing. By the time I was ready to push to the launch line I'd decided on a straight out & return to Clayton, NM about 45 miles northwest of Dalhart. Coordination completed about my preflight declaration with my OO (Dave Kammeyer) I hooked up and launched.
Tow pilot Dick Hogue dropped me off over the golf course west of DHT and I climbed up enough to head back over the airport and penetrate the observation zone to get an official start for the badge leg. My plan was to tank up again on the golf course thermal and head down track...which would have worked fine but it had apparently decided to take that opportunity to cycle. I bumped around the airport in min sink until it finally kicked off again and let me gain enough altitude to head down track. This entire episode of getting low by the airport ended up really helping me out, as I was to later find out.
Getting away from DHT towards Clayton and things just kept looking better and more organized. Everything was coming together nicely to get my Silver distance, now (I thought) the icing on the cake would be getting back to DHT without needing a retrieve crew! Near Clayton the lift was outstanding, and it was time to start using the oxygen as I went over 13, then 14, then 15 thousand feet. Somewhere in the back of my head I started thinking "Gold Altitude?" and I knew I was getting close so I just decided to ride the thermal I was in as high as it would take me, which ended up being a little over 15,500' MSL.
After Clayton I journeyed south for a while, but east towards DHT was going blue and as my final glide numbers got lower and lower, I finally turned and headed back home, a ~20 mile glide across min sink.
Not wanting to land, I enjoyed the scenery of the sun setting in the west and found a few dying thermals around the airport to prolong the flight, finally touching down a little before 7pm...and one of the last to be put in the hangar!
In a serendipitous turn of events, getting low by the airport has apparently assisted me in achieving my Gold Altitude gain of 3000 meters over an inflight low. Had I not had that occur, then I would have missed getting it by a mere few hundred feet!
Today will be a repeat of yesterday, only now our Fault Line Flyers crew is at full strength with the arrival of Lane Coleman with his ASW-20 (4Q).