A Magical Wave Flight

Editors’ Note: Jim Payne has been OLC world champion several times and at this writing, is the top contender in the 2013 OLC worldwide competition. Check out Jim’s 2012 presentation on long cross country flights in wave, presented at the 2012 SSA convention in Reno, Nevada.

Mitch Polinsky has had an amazing year of flying. In Ely, Nevada this year, Mitch flew several 1000K+ triangles day-after-day and set a plethora of U.S. national soaring records. The Café published an excerpt from an interview by Elke Fuglsang-Petersen with Mitch after an astounding 8-day run in which he flew six such record triangles.


I had a second magical wave flight with Jim Payne at Minden within a week, the first last Tuesday (September 24) and the second Sunday, September 29. This second one exceeded both of our expectations, resulting in the longest distance flown in the U.S. in the OLC (“On-Line Contest” for non-soaring friends) for the 2012-13 competition year: 1,681.7 km (1,044.96 miles).  I’ve attached several pictures I took during the flight.

2013-09-29 - Payne-Polinsky Wave Flight - 1 DSC00217_2 DSC00221_3 DSC00222_4 DSC00227_5 DSC00228_7 DSC00236_6 DSC00241_8

As before, I was a grateful passenger, learning as much as I could from a wave master. One of the main things I observed was Jim’s patience and conservatism in decision-making. He tried to keep us within a band of 16,000-17,500 feet MSL, and was quick to say, when we got lower than 16,000 feet, “If we don’t start getting some lift soon, I’m turning around and going back to our last known lift.” Only once did we get significantly lower than 16,000 feet, and, as a result, got bounced around quite a bit in rotor turbulence. But even then, we were within easy gliding distance to an airport.

As you’ll see in Jim’s OLC comments, he thanks a lot of people for supporting his soaring, including and especially his wife Jackie. I can see why. While we flew, she kept an eye on satellite weather images up and down the Sierras and would send us text reports periodically by satellite phone. And I won’t forget the cups of hot chocolate brought to the plane immediately after landing, after 12+ hours sitting in a freezing cockpit!

Thanks again, Jim and Jackie, for allowing me to experience the magic of long-distance Sierra wave soaring.


[Jim’s OLC comments]:

Paradise rocks … again!
This was the 4th cold front of the Fall. The forecast was unusual in that the winds from 10,000 to 20,000 feet were expected to be 50 knots or more with the winds above 20,000 less than 50 knots. Saturday evening the forecast added enough moisture that we considered canceling but Mitch was willing to gamble so we went for it. And once again we proved that you don’t know what is possible unless you try.

Got an early launch and a good first climb. It was blue to the south so we went north first. Winds at 17,000 feet were 269 deg at 62 knots so making the upwind jaunt to Susanville required patience. Turned Susanville.

Had a great run to the south as all the transitions were with a strong tailwind. Past Minden it was mostly blue except for very high lenticulars and the lift was not as good. Fearing that we would run out of turnpoints before we ran out of daylight, we pressed on until Mammoth.

Going back north was slower due to the upwind transitions and lack of markers until Minden. Then it was “hammer down” to Susanville.
Went back south until we encountered a significant drop off in wind speed. When the winds got below 30 knots approaching Mono Lake we turned even though we figured we would finish a little early.

On this leg the transition from Topaz was the easiest I have ever seen. From north of Minden we had some fantastic clouds. It was “pedal to the metal” to Susanville.

Got back to Minden 25 minutes before sunset so we went south of Alpine before returning to land at Minden. The DG is equipped with FAR compliant landing, strobe, and navigation lights.

Thanks, Jackie for crewing.

As this may be the last big one of this OLC year, I would like to thank those who made 2013 a fantastic experience. Those of us who soar are fortunate. Thanks a million to all: OLC for the wonderful contest that gives us an excuse to soar; Dennis for sharing the DG-1001s; Dr Jack for BLIPMAPS and WINDIP; Skypark friends Bubba, Doug, Beth T., Greg, Beth S., Fuzzy, Eric, and Trish for the the crewing help; Cindy for the Sage 2 clearances; Joshua Approach for the great service; Chris at Crystal SoCal Soaring Academy; James at Ely Jet Center; Laurie at Soaring NV; Argentine glider pilots for the wonderful hospitality; Tago for the Argy crewing; Elke for the reports; and Jackie for out of this world crewing.

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