Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride....

Broke 10,000 feet (10,007 LOL)
64 MPH Groundspeed
Rode out a gust front with huuuuge cloudsuck.
At one point I was 7,400 AGL

The lapse rate was predicted to have 11,000 thermal tops today and, sure enough, everyone got over ten (I was the lowest, most were up to 11). Launches were crazy, with gliders flipping, experienced guys flailing, etc. I dropped 500 ft before I got into my harness, ugliest effort since my first solo.

But, once you got a few hundred over launch, it was magic. I had a hard time keeping my Falcon within a safe glide of the edge of the trees. The Sports, Spectrums, and U2s were zooming around like sharks.

I was at 9K when, looking toward the desert, I saw an airliner on, fortunately, a slightly off bearing and decreasing range. I did two quick spins so the pilots could see the maximum amount of my wing and a few seconds later a Southwest jet flew below me and a little to the North... maybe 500-750 yards away. With the cloud ceiling at 12K and our flight park on a Victor Airway, we got a lot of traffic. A Beechcraft buzzed a Falcon, with a few hundred feet. A C17 actually turned toward us, Air Force weenies.

But, other aircraft were the least of our worries. Clouds were building to our East, along the mountains. I saw a brown cloud near the ground and thought it was a mist or a fog, a light cloud. Suddenly, everyone was bingoing to the LZ.

5 guys made it, the last landing right in the middle of a gust front. A Fusion pilot, a Talon pilot, and a KnumbKnut in a Falcon decided to try to gun for the open space.

I got my ass kicked. I thought the phenomenon was mountain based and a jaunt to the basin would be my salvation. Instead, I got run down by a hell of a fast moving front. At first, flying at trim got me 600 fps in a nice, straight line. But, soon, I had my knees on the bar and I was still going up about 500fps. Eventually, I had the bar completely stuffed and was in at least a 45 degree bank and still couldn't sink. So, I flew a straight line with the bar stuffed until I found sink and then cored that.

I was never really "worried," except for the fact that I was stressing the hell out of my glider. It held like a rock.

Finally, about 7,500, I got out of the cloudsuck and decided to limp home to the LZ.

Turns out the jaunt was at about 10 mph groundspeed because the winds were a rare, strong East in the wake of the gust front. Also, my arms were shot from stuffing the bar, so I flew with my elbows for a while.

As I approached the LZ, I briefly contemplated stretching the flight to beat my longest, but I realized that, after what I had been through, that'd be like cuddling with a hooker.

A hard, fast, but safe landing found a friend to hold my glider and a lot of smiling pilots. The other two pilots came down for great landings and cold beer.

45 minutes later, all evidence of the chaos was gone and a few paragliders floated down. One, a biwingwal pilot (who picked the wrong wing today!), gave a play-by-play of the whole evolution, from their 360 degree perspective on Marshall. When Mike landed in the eye of the front, they literally cheered. They also wondered who the crazy %$!(!% in the Falcon was, heh.


Brad Wright said...

Unfreaking believable! What a ride, and I can't believe that you got that close to an airliner. Sound dangerous.

John Wright: Man of Action

Knumb said...
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