Rumbles of thunder and the sound of raindrops falling are the background noise as I write my report on Day 3 of the Dalhart XC camp.
Today was an interesting weather day in the Texas Panhandle. After yesterday's awesome soaring conditions left most of the group licking their chops in anticipation of another great day, Mother Nature had different plans and decided to make things a little more difficult for our band of happy fanatics.
We started the day with a high overcast layer to the east that kept the temps down and really never cleared off until after approximately 2pm local time. We finally got some launches going shortly afterwards and they mostly bumped around in the local area until hooking up and wandering out on a few short tasks, nothing like the flying that had been done the day before. In fact, the decision was made to suspend tows for a while to let it heat up a bit more to see if that would help. That was all a few camp members needed to hear to make the decision to not fly and instead enjoy a day out of the sun in our Hangar HQ so as to swap stories and hear tall tales from resident-historian-camp-counselor/guru-and-all-around-good-guy-Bob Whelan.
I pushed ZAP to the launch point and got airborne about 4:45 and landed a bit less than 2 hours later. The folks that had launched earlier had made the right decision, as evidently the lift was stronger and more consistent at that time of the day and allowed them to go out on task. I wasn't comfortable starting out on my planned task with the conditions as they were vs. what I'd had yesterday, so I decided to stay close and see if there was still a chance of things developing...which was not to be. Still, it wasn't a day without its opportunities to learn, so I mixed it up close to the airport practicing working on staying aloft in the lower altitude (<1500' agl) strata, which was made much more interesting with a howling 20-25 knot wind out of the south chopping up the thermals.
This is a great feature about Dalhart as well...the ability to practice low scratching in a relatively benign environment lets us hone those skills for when they'll be needed later...you could fight to stay aloft directly over the airport until such time as you hit your personal minimums and had to land. The almost complete absence of other traffic made it such that DHT was our private airport for most of the afternoon and made working lift this low a much less risky/stressful endeavor seeing as how we were usually only 1/2 to 1 turn away from a normal downwind or base entry!
Tomorrow we are hopeful for better conditions, so I hope when I'll write tomorrow's update I am able to report THIS time the forecasters got it right!