I was a Live Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum Dulles Annex, Udvar-Hazy Center,
March 25, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Woodstock report for Saturday May 27

Woodstock report for Saturday May 27
I arrived about 10:15 a.m. in the first wave of hopefuls. Here is the roll call, best as I can recall: David Bodner with Jody to drive (thank you Jody), Mark Cavanaugh, Hugh McElrath, Gary Smith, Bruce Engen, Joe Schad, Joe Brauch, Randy Weber, Adam, Ashley Grove, Steve Kinsely, Pete Schumann, Steve Padget, Glenn, Yanni.
From 10 to noon the sky stayed totally to mostly overcast. There was heavy haze over the valley below the clouds. Winds were also lighter than the 10-15 forecast, and included a notable north-cross component (which had been in the forecast). No one wanted to launch into such guaranteed sled conditions.
Eventually some blue sky appeared, and as the ground heating began, a few pilots decided to give it a try. Winds in the launch slot were squirrely. The wind remained relatively light, and with the cross from the north, winds bounced around in the slot, often giving as many as three or four different indicated directions among the eight wind streamers placed in the slot. When the streamers did vote together for launchable direction, the strength was below 5, and lasted only long enough to pick up the glider, watch the streamers all change their vote, and put the glider back down.
Mark C braved these conditions some time around 1:30. Following him off in quick succession were Joe, Gary, David, Randy, and Hugh. Ashley moved onto launch next, and I was on deck right behind him. Launch conditions worsened, and Ashley waited about 20 minutes for a launch cycle long enough to use. I had no desire to push him, because as we waited we watched a flush cycle drive Joe, Gary, David, and Randy down to the LZ. Eventually Ashley took a cycle, and I moved into launch potato mode. Funny aside - as soon as Ashley launched, I stood up to carry into position, but could not move. It seems the squat I had been in had put my foot to sleep, and I had to let it wake up before I could carry the glider. After my own long wait, I did my best to launch into a small cycle at 2:49 and was rewarded with a little lift leaving the slot. That was about my only reward for that flight. Ashley and I shared several very small lift areas between the fingers, neither of us high enough for 360's, and staying a safe distance apart. Hugh was above us, part of the time even above the ridge. As gravity overcame both Ashley and me, we headed across the river to the LZ. I headed out with more altitude than he, so I had plenty of time to set up my approach as he did the same several hundred of feet below. Just as I crossed above the west edge of the LZ, about to turn left on to my downwind leg, I saw Hugh enter the pattern below me, also. The three of us landed in rapid succession, one-two-three; the flush cycle had completed its task, leaving Mark as the only survivor in the sky. My flight had lasted only seven minutes. I took satisfaction in having had a good launch run in the light conditions, a clean no step landing, and the fact that I experienced the stuff of dreams: I FLEW!
All of the other pilots launched after 3:00, and from what I could see, they did indeed find plenty of lift and filled the sky the rest of the day. I am jealous of all those longer flights, but hold no animosity.
I did return to launch, and a few minutes before 5:00 Gary Smith and I helped Steve Padget launch. Glenn and Yanni had the last two gliders on launch and Glenn had just left to fetch Kinsley to observe their launches. Once Steve was safely airborne, I headed home for dinner with the wife.
Addendum: Pilot safe report.
At 9:50 p.m. Steve Padget called me at home, to let me know he was OK. He had only just then made it back to his car at launch. It seems that he had had "lift everywhere" and run the ridge up toward Strasburg, feeling assured he would be able to make it back to the LZ. I'm not sure how far north he went, but on the return leg, found himself in heavy sink, and landed very near the river at Tom's Brook. Total flight time was about 1 1/2 hours. After breaking down the glider, he had hiked out to Route 11, walked / hitched to Woodstock, walked more up toward launch, and caught a second ride up to the top. Apparently he had no radio, and his cell phone was in his car. Since he had earlier told me he reached Woodstock launch after a 4 1/2 hour drive from the Tidewater, arriving before 2:00, and as of 10:00 p.m. still had to drive back down the mountain and fetch his glider from Tom's Brook, I think we can say that Steve had one LONG flying day.

Bill's Hill, Saturday April 29

With a forecast of E to NE at 5, club members declared an informal slot clearing day for Bill's Hill, with reasonable expectation of flight afterwards. I arrived at about 11:30 and contributed about half an hour to the efforts, Several others, including Mark C, Tom M, Pete Schumann, and Shawn Ray had preceded me and been doing yeoman's work.
Eventually a nice crowd of DC area and Pittsburgh-based pilots arrived, greeted by NE winds well below 5. A lot of sled rides, with a few notable flights. Pete Lehmann was in the sled crowd on his first launch, but did very well on a relight. Tom McG and Mark Gardner both had outstanding days, as did Juan on his PG.
For myself, I launched about 3:30 in very light winds, and found only a couple of bumps during my slow sled to the LZ. Launch quality A, but landing only C- with insufficient flare.
Rather than stay to socialize, I headed home to have dinner with the wife before two straight weeks of business travel.