Sunday, April 5, 2009

XC into Rotor, 0 for 2 on XC

Hmm... where to start on this?

I am like Beaver Cleaver, watching Wally and Whitey go XC and trying to go along, before I am ready. Sure, most days, I could have gotten away with trying to fly to Sylmar from Crestline with only 4 previous flights on my U2. April 4th was not like most days.

I got to 9,500', turned West, cranked the VG, and went on a ten mile glide into rotor coming over the back of Mt. Cucomonga, drilling me into a large, boulder-filled field. Worse, I mentally vapor locked, trying to follow Dave instead of flying my own flight, and overflew good LZs for a bad one and completely lost track of the wind. To be fair to myself, after I landed, it was blowing from directions all along the North side of the compass, from 270 to 120 degrees. I landed heading 280. I should have landed heading 90 for the best odds.

Uphill was the only choice I was sure of... and that mitigated the damage to my glider to some aluminum and minor scuffs in my wing. Thank God, no injury to me. I have not skiied in 20 years, thanks to a knee injury in the Navy, so even if I had to replace my brand new U2, it would be better than an injury. As it is, it's fine now, I just have to live with the scuffs, which I'll cover with dacron sail repair tape. They will be a reminder of the need to be humble.

Turns out, that Saturday was a very tough day, with Rebardan making it one mile further than I in his ATOS and being very happy to be on the ground in one piece. He got on the radio to warn people (too late for me). Dave landed in a field out of the rotor after taking a rodeo ride through it... his radio was out. Owen got drilled into the Cajon Pass.

Mother Nature said to me: "Welcome to the NFL."

My biggest mistake was not flying my own flight. I also made the antithesis of the right decision I made at Dunlap... this time I went for it even though I could see Dave sinking out and things didn't feel right. I didn't get enough good landings in on the U2 at my home field before striking out. I didn't keep a mental note of the wind. I didn't apply my previous experience with Rotor and head out from the mountain to get clear of it.

When I reported the mishap to my instuctor/dealer, he and I worked out a plan to get to my XC goals. I am going to:
- Get to where landing my U2 near my intended spot is no problem at my home field... automatic.
- Practice on outlying fields near Andy Jackson. Pick a spot from the air, land in it, have someone come get me. This way, distance is not a factor.
- Get some short XC flights at Elsinore, if possible, as there are more open fields around there.
- Then go for distance.

XC is about reading the wind and picking an LZ well, the landing is gravy, I was told by the Kung Fu master with the green eyes.

As I was packing up, Saturday, a hang glider flew overhead, its pilot seemingly oblivous to the trials that had just convicted me... it was like watching Peter Pan fly by. He magically floated downrange with a skill that made me feel like a wuffo. Turns out, it was US team member Zac "Zippy" Majors on his way to setting a site FW record of 95 miles. I'll never have Zac's mad skill set, but his fly by was a nice motivator to work that direction, smartly.