The New Year 2017 celebrations are barely over but for the OLC year 2017 (which began in September) the most spectacular soaring may be already over. This is not to ignore the upcoming World Championships in Benalla or the upcoming soaring season in the northern hemisphere but is based on some outstanding long distance soaring in the southern hemisphere that captures the imagination and the admiration of soaring and non-soaring pilots alike.
Several years ago the IGC – the international body governing the sport of soaring – decided that the World Class (based on the PW-5) was not viable because it just did not appeal to the soaring community. Thus ended the first, and so far only, attempt by the IGC to revive soaring competition with a “cheap” one design class that would also provide a reasonable tool for beginning XC pilots.
Now that this soaring season in Washington is over, it is time again to take a look at what happened in the friendly skies over Washington. Evergreen Soaring (ES) pilots fly almost exclusively from three airfields - Arlington in western Washington, the ES home base, Twisp in the North Cascades, and Ephrata in Eastern Washington, the base for the Seattle Glider Council.
As usual, the XC season for Evergreen Soaring started in March; however it did not really start in earnest this year until the beginning of May. Actually, it was a very rainy early season followed by an unusually warm and stable period. As a consequence all the better flights were made on a few selected days in the first half of May. The total number of XC flights in 2016 on the west side was far below the usual. Nonetheless quite a few pilots made their personal best west side flights indicating a general rise in XC capability.
First of all, congratulations to Ron on a superb demonstration of his extraordinary pilot skills. There are few of us who have the abilities to pull something like this off. He continues to be an inspiration to those of us who are still trying to cut the apron strings.
Ever since Bob Symons was able to soar a P-38 fighter engine off for about an hours at up to 32,000 ft over Bishop on a very stormy day in 1950, the Owens Valley wave has been a magnet for daring soaring pilots willing to brave the power of this manifestation of natural power.
The Tuesday morning plan was for an exciting day of installing hardie-plank siding on the west wall of my garage. Motivation was low. The normal internet procrastination was in full swing… email, news, weather etc… Lately a new website has made its way into my morning routine, thanks to Noel Wade.
This is the story of Tom and Kemp attempting to soar along the mountains from Williams (north of Sacramento) to Arlington and coming close to succeeding. It was a valiant effort that ended short of Mount Saint Helens when they had to start the engine and retreat to North Plains OR. They still flew an OLC distance of 491 miles at an average speed of about 75 mph for a total of 633 OLC points.
While it was not quite successful it was an extra-ordinary flight and should serve as an inspiration to try for extra-ordinary tasks.
Following is the story of another of Ron’s pioneering flights in the Cascades. This is so far the best soaring flight in 2016 in Region 8; it is also by far the best soaring flight from the west side of the Cascades. Btw, Tieton airfield at Rimrock Lake is the highest airfield in Washington State with close to 3000 ft elevation.
Evergreen Soaring is blessed with a number of intrepid meteorologists that help to the general membership to get a better understanding of our local weather. Here is Ed's analysis of the strange weather this year that have made XC soaring such a challenge so far in 2016 (until May 3).
Enjoy the article and chime in if you want to add to the discussion.
Here is the story of a 12 year pursuit of a dream - building your own powered glider. Tom Wolf - one of our new students - describes his building of the ultralight powered glider "Cumulus" (plus trailer) that is nearing completion. Hats off for his perseverence and best wishes for the completion! And of course, will it get close to its hoped for 1-26 performance?
After years of having the “why don't you come out and enjoy the mountains” conversation with numerous glider pilots, some who have been soaring for years without venturing into the Cascades, and some who are relatively new to soaring, I think I have unraveled at least part of the puzzle. It's a four letter word that begins with the letter “F”. You know the one: Fear. Yes, that old bugaboo.
While we have just started the calendar year 2016 and are still awaiting the first signs of usable lift (ridge, wave or thermals), it is hard to believe that the OLC year 2016 is already mostly over for the southern hemisphere (having started on September 20). The conditions in southern Africa (i. e.
Just in time for the coming season, here is the personal account of one of our newly minted mountain pilots. As a reminder, the Evergreen Soaring club has Flying Rules in the by-laws that specify XC qualifications and separately mountain soaring qualifications. While these are required for pilots flying as PIC in club gliders, they are also highly recommended for flying in private gliders
XC (cross-country) soaring – generally defined as getting out of gliding range and thus the comfort zone of the home airfield – has been the mission statement of the Evergreen Soaring Club for some time. And the results of the Willy Burhen Cup bear out the attraction of this kind of soaring for a dedicated group of pilots. Closer inspection of these results, however, shows that this relatively small group consists almost exclusively of private owners who were intrigued enough to invest the money to acquire their own sailplanes and have the time and drive to go XC. There is
September 21 was the last day of the OLC year 2015 and it is time again to review the various soaring achievements of the past season. This was the 11th year for the WBC, a simple decentralized contest for the best XC flights on the west side of the Cascades as evaluated by the OLC. So here is a list of the 17 pilots who posted their best XC flights of over 100 points
Anybody contemplating XC soaring has to be prepared for the possibility “that the wind dies” and that a return to the home base becomes impossible (even for a powered glider which may not start up). Landing at another airfield is the preferred solution to this predicament but making an off-field landing may be the only option. So far this year four Evergreen pilots had to make off-field landings while venturing from Arlington, showing that this is not a lost art. All these landings were executed without any problems, demonstrating that off-field landings on the west side are not as chancy or risky as sometimes assumed.
May and June show typically the best thermal conditions in Washington and together with some of the longest daylight hours present the best potential for extended soaring flights. Saturday June 13 of this year saw a number of ambitious XC pilots attempting some really long distance flights. The OLC provides a good look at what happened and allows some useful statistical comparisons. So here are the best flights from our different airports in the state:
The very successful Twisp encampment is now memory and it is time to relate some of the experiences and to sort out the relevant achievements.
First and foremost, it was successful because of Ron Clark thoroughly organizing this event, getting the Twisp community involved (including an article in the Methow Valley News), and getting a lot of local businesses to contribute prizes.
And the whole event would not have been possible without Duane Barr's tireless towing efforts (and having to wait until every pilot was back for a possible retrieve before having a beer).
Once again the Region 8 championships, taking place from June 14 to 20 in Ephrata, was a popular gathering for competition pilots from near and far. 32 pilots participated in 5 classes and enjoyed conditions ranging from tough to perfect.
Every year, the Evergreen Soaring club goes on a weeklong encampment to the Ephrata Airport, located in central Washington. Ephrata usually has strong thermals and high cloudbases, giving club pilots a chance to soar for long periods and try cross country flights.
Memorial Day saw the now traditional Dust Up fun contest at Ephrata which was also the begin of the Evergreen Soaring encampment this year. This provided the opportunity for novice and experienced pilots alike to enjoy the thermal conditions and the wide open spaces of Eastern Washington. Following are the observations and reflections of our youngest XC pilo, who is incidentally now also preparing for the Region 8 contest.
For 12 years now the soaring flight evaluation program Onlinecontest or OLC has become the worldwide standard for evaluation of flight performance providing almost instant insight into what is happening in the world of XC soaring. It went thru a number of changes and updates but is now officially endorsed by the International Gliding Committee (IGC) and has been a tremendous instigator of getting pilots to push their XC soaring skills.
The annual AERO Exhibition for General Aviation in Friedrichshafen took place in the middle of April 2015 and this year (as every second year now) it included the full glider segment. Almost all major manufacturers for sailplanes, accessories and engines showed up and presented their latest offerings. There were few new sailplane designs but a lot of refinements and developments. Most notable was the eagerness of most manufacturers to offer some sort of electrical propulsion either as sustainer or self-launching application. At the same time, jet engines are also off
As usual, the XC season for Evergreen Soaring started in March; however it did not really start in earnest this year until the beginning of April. We had a number of days with exciting soaring conditions that combined strong lift with showers and overdevelopments,that required shifting between survival flying and racing.
Friday March 27th was a good wave day for our part of the country. On the way to the airport I got a good look at the amazing lenticular cloud hovering over Mt. Pilchuck that Dan Housler had told me about earlier on the phone.
Now that the year 2014 has is history, it is time again to look at the state of the Evergreen Soaring club. We have still fewer tows than several years ago and our XC flying has decreased considerably. We had to cope with particularly rainy weather in spring, the Oso landslide TFR and the unavailability of towing or instruction at times. Let’s call 2014 a year of consolidation and work on increasing our activities again.
Now that the Willy Burhen Cup (WBC) 2014 is history and serious XC soaring has to wait for next spring, it is a good time to reflect on how this past season went and what one can learn from it. It turned out to be another contest between Dan Housler and Ron Clark. Both pilots had won the WBC before and both had previously made cross-Cascade flights.
Now that the official OLC year 2014 is over it is time again to review again all the XC soaring flying in Western Washington this year. After a slow beginning due to very wet weather the soaring season started in earnest.
Submitted by Martin Gibbins on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:51
For the 2014 Arlington Airport Appreciation Day on September 20, Evergreen Soaring displayed the G-103 Twin Astir and explained the basics and finer points of soaring with the visitors. Local families who attended told us about watching Evergreen gliders fly over their neighborhoods heading toward the AWO landing pattern, and were eager to see one up close. Many children, and a few adults, were able to sit in the cockpit and get a view from the pilot’s perspective. We also had three walk-up demo rides. Appreciation Days is a useful public relations opportunity for Evergreen Soaring.
One of the reservations that some pilots have about going XC from Arlington concerns the difficulty of connecting with lift and getting sufficient altitude to get going. This is especially true in late summer when the flat lands around Arlington and even the foothills further east offer only marginal lift and altitudes that make even staying up a chore. These conditions look even less inviting when there are no clouds to indicate any convection (which happens quite often). What is not apparent in these cases (even with Dr. Jack’s predictions) is the fact that the higher mountains, starting some 15 to 20 miles further east from Arlington, quite often offer great thermal conditions.
While most of the Evergreen members were tryng to make a favorable impression on Sunday August 23 about our flight operations on our guests from the Soaring Safety Foundaton (Tony Condon and Adam Kite) or enduring a gruelling 4 hour board meeting, Ron Clark and Brad Hill took long tows into the Cascades to make another exploration of the North Cascades. Ron Clark made yet again a noteworthy flight with 414 OLC points (best in Region 8 for the day) and agreed to provide the following report. Just don't believe it is as easy as Ron descibes it!
After a soarable spring and early summer, mellow and, unfortunately, stable weather takes over the Puget Sound. In attempt to break away from it, four pilots - Ron Clark, Brad Hill, Bill Ling and Movses Babayan, moved to Twisp for a few days for a chance to experience some of the stellar soaring conditions that Methow Valley has to offer. Phil Anderson has graciously provided towing in 17Z.
Some 90 years ago the Silver Badge was created as recognition of outstanding soaring achievement (1000 m altitude gain, 5 hours duration and 50 km distance). Soaring progressed rapidly and so the Gold Badge, the various diamonds and then the 1000 km diplomas and so forth were created to keep up with the possible achievements. And the Silver Badge became pretty much the entry level requirement for any self respecting soaring pilot, who is serious about XC soaring.
The annual Arlington Fly-In in July with its busy traffic, air show restrictions and tower operations has become the stimulus for an Evergreen excursion to one of the nearby mountain airfields (Darrington or Concrete). This year the destination was Concrete over the July 12/ 13 weekend. Concrete had not been visited for a few years by Evergreen and – most of all - it has now a fuel pump, eliminating having to transport fuel.
From June 8 to 14 the SGC hosted again the Region 8 contest for this year in Ephrata. Ron Bellamy (as contest director) and a whole crew of veteran contest workers made sure that the contest was run efficiently, safely and in a friendly spirit.
A lot has been said and speculated about the best preparations for XC soaring preparedness - two-seat XC, buddy flying with more experienced pilots, simulator training, planned landings in grass airfields and so on. One key ingredient is of course being prepared to make off-field landings "when the wind dies" and there is no convenient airfield in reach.
After a wet February and the wettest March on record, April of this year gave us finally some more soaring-friendly weather, making for a slow beginning of this year's XC season on the west side. Best days so far were April 26 and 28 with Dan Housler and Ron Clark posting the highest scoring OLC flights yet of about 450 points.
On March 21 a historic land slide devastated a little community east of Oso, about 15 miles from Arlington airport. And since March 23 a "temporary" flight restriction zone (TFR) with a radius of 8 nm and up to 6000 ft has been in effect.
The annual SSA convention in Reno (Feb. 27 to Mar. 2) was well attended, including by a large contingent of Northwest pilots. It was a time to find out what is new and get motivated for the coming season. As usual there were a lot of interesting talks and interesting contacts, even if there was not too much technical news.
On January 31 Klaus Ohlmann succeeded in making the first soaring flight over Mount Everest, another achievement for this outstanding pilot. According to the first sketchy reports, he took off from the Pokhara airport in Nepal in a Stemme S-10 motorglider, climbed under power high enough to continue in soaring flight toward Mount Everest. Using weak thermals and ridge lift and then rotor and finally wave lift he was able to climb over Mount Everest (29,093 ft).
Since the advent of modern composite sailplanes with ever increasing sophistication and performance pilots with yesteryear’s types have tried to equalize the achieved performances in competition or record flying with the help of handicapping systems.And ever since such handicapping systems were devised pilots have argued about the fairness of such systems.The goal is of course to emphasize pilot