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

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Highland Aerosports August 5, 2006

Saturday forecast for the Greater DC flying region clearly indicated a tow park day, but that meant, as always, a choice between Blue Sky at Richmond and Highland Aerosports at Ridgely. Winds looked like they were going to be stronger and more cross to the main runway at Blue Sky, so I picked Highland as my destination.
Also, I had not been there in a while, and want to balance my flying between the two excellent parks. When I checked my log, I saw that "in a while" translated to not since last October. Darn, how time flies!
Only a small crowd of solo pilots were at Highland; picnic table hobnobbing at the runway included surmise that a lot of the XC hungry regulars were in TExas for the WRE. Sunny did note that with Steve Vogel, Christian Thoreson and Steve (? Stevens?) all there, they only lacked Geoff Mumford to complete the 1999 opening day crowd for the park.
While not many rated pilots were there, the park business was brisk, with several medium to large crowds of tandem groups on hand. Many daring first timers in those groups, with lots of excited whoops during high wingovers by JR and Sunny just before entering the landing pattern. When a one of the tandem groups turned out to be a bachelor party, there was a mild complaint from one of the staff that they had not brought along a stripper. Groom-to-be did go for the Mile High - but since that was with JR, I don't think that gives him any kind of club membership.
In addition to the aforementioned trio, we also had Dale (?), Carlos Weill, Steve S's friend Adam for a first lesson, novices Mike and Bob. and Charile. Adam and Zack reported buoyant air in the late morning tandems, so Dal and then Steve V. launched shortly after noon. Christian and I hung around watching them, then it dawned on us they were not coming down, so we both launched just after 1:00.
My weak link broke for no obvious reason at ~2,000' as Zack was pulling me in a wide turn to get back into a thermal he had found earlier. I was able to find it and slowly worked up to 2500', drifting south, with Steve V in view. He and I were circling in adjacent cores at the same altitude, and both of us keeping an eye out for excessive closeness. While still plenty safe distance apart, I decided to move back toward the field, confident I could pick up the next thermal coming along. I didn't. Landed after 20 minutes. Steve came in about 10 minutes later, and reported he had succumbed to the same error of leaving lift. He had moved into the same thermal as Dale, and wanted more separation. He also assumed there was plenty of lift and departed that thermal, for what was to be his foray toward the landing pattern, just like I had done.
After resting under my wing, I flew again a little after 4:00. This turned out to be another one thermal flight, bagging another 20 minutes of air time. I was happy with my tows to get up, and my landings were not too bad, so even with only a bit of airtime for the day, I call it a success.
Late day flights included Carlos, Mike, Bob, Charlie, and others. Best soaring opportunities were for those who launched early.
I used the helmet camera again, and put together a short (less than 2 minutes) silent film for YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEouTpLWXUE and below in the blog) to summarize the day. I apologize that the view is not quite pilot's-eye; the view angle is depressed from the horizontal a little. I need to mark angles on the helmet for when I position the camera on the velcro. Still learning on this new toy.