Nothing spoooky about this October flight...

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Nothing spoooky about this October flight...

Postby gracecab » Tue Oct 11, 2016 8:41 am

Last Sunday was a day for me that was a decent milestone, so I thought I'd share it.

It took me far too long to figure out that the stones are not as far away from eachother on the walkway as I first believed. Baby steps. Connect the dots... first just 2, then 3, etc... Don't have to fly to Anacapa my second mountain flight, and all that...

Simply, it was an average day, tops at 4500? but I never got that high. East wind then south making for some movement, but nothing as a deal breaker. Great lapse rate. I was ready to soar, without an absolute course plan, but with enough of the 4 points going either way from EJ to feel free and excited to make a good flight of it.
ejtostmary small.jpg
EJ to St.Mary's the "long" way

I launched 3rd off EJ at about 11 and ended up with about 4 others around LaCumbre in 0s for awhile until we all got confident to move around more.

There was my first lesson, I almost pushed Jesse off the mountain going under him when a pretty sizable thermal hit below me and my canopy was a tad too close for comfort under him...I heard an audible shout from him confirming what I feared... I should have followed the 'ridge on right- right-of-way' rule and we would have been safe, so mental note to be vigilent and safe - especially once you're in a 'flow'... since that seems to be when we are the most vulnerable to 'letting our guard down'... especially with other pilots in the air near... hence right of way rules.

Next was time to move around, and by this time everyone had launched off EJ and we were expecting Skyport takers, but no go... I think everyone needed some Elings time with the schools...

after an RR jaunt, then a strike and miss at Cathedral time to move with the East to West Bowl. I'm really starting to enjoy West Bowl as a huge collector, smooth, and life saver... this time was no different... used it to get myself back in the game... and low and behold, with that... figured I'd have enough power now to keep moving with the wind. Found a lot of lift lapping off the north side of the 'no name' 'ridge'... which gave me a pretty easy glide to VOR. First milestone: EJ to VOR. Yay.

VOR topland was interesting: Pretty much just aimed for the hill, knowing E/SE wind was consistent, so as I pulled up to the now-grown over and fire break launch I rotated left to put the canopy into the wind as I was dropping to the weeds... I don't think we should ever 'force landings'... but I was really wanting to rest and regroup and see what to do next. My car was at EJ and I knew I would have to get it, but I have never made it from VOR past West Bowl, so I didn't have expectations to fly back to EJ and get it... maybe that was my first mistake... expectations often dictate performance...

But, we had chase today. So, I was free to make my choice here. I decided that the South was getting stronger over the morning East flow... If I wanted to 'go back' into the wind... So, launched VOR and found some lift to start back. This ended up being a pretty buoyant glide toward no name, then west bowl. For some reason, as the photo shows, you can tell I was hooked to getting more lift at West Bowl, and here I made a mistake. I bailed the lift. Why? Don't know. Tired? Unconfident.

For reasons clear at the end of the flight, I should have stayed in this marvelous collector of all things radiant and thermic called West Bowl. With about 200 more feet at the end of my landing at St.Marys, I would have had enough to get over the last ridge into Parma. If I was more confident I would have got up again at Westbowl and possibly even worked up to Cathedral and back to the top... that for next time though.

I always tell myself 'don't give up' and it often becomes apparent only after a flight when you look over your track log... I think by bailing on that last good elevator at Westbowl, from where I was, I was putting all my eggs on getting a flatland/foothill luckout thermal... and that just didn't happen. I think the air was moving too much, to collect and form for me to catch back up... you can see the rest of my glide...

What was left was a very senic sled ride. First time for me going so low for so long... One highlight was doing a turn over Inspiration Point, after having hiked it recently... pretty cool. :o

The next lesson was in glide ratio estimation. I was getting a pretty damn good glide ratio, but no thermals yet. I think even a brick could have flown in those foothills. I could see St.Marys in the distance and I think that gave me hope because I could tell I was going to make a glide with what was currently happening with the wind, lift and glide ratio. I fixated on it.

Which is kinda the lesson: You go to what you fixate on.

I think if I thought, " I should try to get to Parma." I would have made a couple other direction choices after leaving inspiration point. Possibly gaining the couple hundred feet to get over the last ridge.

Rather, I was mainly relieved to know, for my first time, I got from VOR ALMOST to Parma. (*Parma is a fine landing zone but I also believe no place should be a goal so much that you put yourself or others in danger if you can't make it safely, eh...back to the don't force it rule) I guess that is what experience is... you have to build the path stone by stone, and this stone on this flight was flying back low from VOR, and just gathering data as to how it seems to work, in these conditions, this time of day, this time of the year, at this elevation. Everything else was just gravy. :roll:

Once I realized how close I was to Parma, I got inspired to make a valiant attempt over St.Marys ridge to hopefully snag one last bump, however no go... and knowing I had StMary as a bail, put her down in nice calm conditions. (I guess another lesson is: When it's calm, you have a tad more leeway for experimentation, since mistakes won't cost as much as it would in thermic or windier conditions)

Last lesson for the day was a data gathering mission when I got to fly from EJ again at about 2:30pm from a car retrieve trip. It was both very strong lift over the high points, but also pretty windy. I was very spent (even after a power bar and water from my bud Derek right before out launch off EJ), and didn't feel like fighting anymore (i.e.: active flying). However, my goal was mainly to fly through the conditions at this time of day. No big goals to go far, already happy with what I did. So, I ended up going easy back to Parma.

Final Last lesson: :D The West wind in Parma is nothing to fool with. Even though the wind was calm on the deck. The west was blowing enough to create a OTB venturi situation down the edge toward lower Parma. I got too close to the edge and dropped the last 20 feet in the downward suck. Not hard, but enough as a wake up call. Derek did the exact same thing. Which made me think that our perceptions were exactly the same... we missed the venturi. Venturis are strong, merciless and blind. You have to always be on your game around here, but if you remember to have plan B and C (lower Parma in this case)... you can protect yourself in huge ways. I wasn't thinking about plan B, because I got slack. Unconsciously thinking "I got this, I can nail parma'... which opens you up to all kinds of self-deceptions..and pain. Sprained my foot as a reminder to always keep a plan B... and C.


Fun time after in Parma poking fun at the European hikers who launched after us from EJ. Nothing like being the peanut gallery after a long day... doesn't get any better than that.
Attachments
parma venturi.png
venturi from west wind
2016_10-09_chris_ballmer_track.kml
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Last edited by gracecab on Fri Oct 28, 2016 10:32 am, edited 2 times in total.
Chris Ballmer aka gracecab
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Re: Nothing spoooky about this October flight...

Postby oj » Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:24 pm

Nice flight report Chris.

If you'll allow me to make one suggestion, it would be to plan on each mountain flight having just one launch and one landing. A high percentage of pg incidents occur during takeoff or landing and doing "tops" effectively doubles your chances of something going wrong. Add in some thermals and the fact you are usually alone makes for a situation that has ended badly for even the most experienced pilots.

Now before I get called out on it, yes, I've done a couple of top landings during high flights. One was at Pine while I was a rookie P2 and didn't know any better, and the other at Chief's because it was a pre-planned event with an xc gaggle. Both times I felt like I had flirted with disaster and gotten away with it.

So do a proper preflight to avoid any situations that might require an emergency top landing and work on your endurance by staying in the air.
The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.- J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
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Re: Nothing spoooky about this October flight...

Postby gracecab » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:36 am

I like it OJ!

Better pre-planning & physical preparation.

It's nice to know we can land at the top, but not to rely on it as part of the regularly scheduled program.

My next goal may be to 'tag' VOR from the EJ/SP launches and get back to over launch... :lol:
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Comments

Postby sd » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:20 pm

Ghris, good post flight reflection. We often grow as pilots by reviewing our flights and analyzing our decision making. Thanks for your thorough article.
A couple of comments from a Monday Morning Quarterback:
gracecab wrote: ... For some reason, ... you can tell I was hooked to getting more lift at West Bowl, and here I made a mistake. I bailed the lift. Why?
It's a long jump from Westbowl to Cathedral. Aaron has obviously proven you can go low, but I prefer more altitude, which as you indicated in your article, you likely could have gotten with a little more patience.
gracecab wrote:...I could see St. Marys in the distance and I think that gave me hope because I could tell I was going to make a glide with what was currently happening with the wind, lift and glide ratio. I fixated on it.
Not sure about your KML altitude. It shows accurate for both launches and your VOR landing, but 177 feet high for you landing at Saint Marys? If your altitude is accurate, then it appears you might have been too far out front on your reaching downwind glide for Saint Marys? I would recommend intercepting the spines as high as you can rather than flying out front. At both Cathedral and the west spine of the Holly Hills, you likely could have intercepted higher and tried to "work up" a bit? or intercepted high and turned out on a buoyant seam? (but not sure your kml track log altitude is correct?)
oj wrote:... If you'll allow me to make one suggestion, it would be to plan on each mountain flight having just one launch and one landing. A high percentage of pg incidents occur during takeoff or landing and doing "tops" effectively doubles your chances of something going wrong.
I may not be the one to take advice from because I'm shorter and limping due to a number of "incidents" including a forced "top landing". I concur with OJ's assessment that a VOR landing is more challenging that landing at Elings or East Beach, however, I would also argue that top landing is a natural extension of our sport that expands our dimensions. Perhaps not for everyone because we get to choose our own objectives and degree of "risk". The narrative of your VOR top landing doesn't give much insight into your touchdown/impact? Personally, I usually set up in the back toward the white VOR ice cream cone antenna and approach upwind, using speed (mush mode) and s-turns as needed on approach. If I overshoot, I simply try again. I don't go "behind" the ridge for the same reason you experienced landing Parma. By flying along the ridge I hope to stay out of the lift but avoid the rotor turb.
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Re: Nothing spoooky about this October flight...

Postby gracecab » Fri Oct 28, 2016 12:23 pm

The touch down at VOR was soft, however I was facing too much at the hill rather than sideways... the result was the wing went forward into the hay...not a big problem... I just like a neater downing of the canopy for re-launch.

I wasn't use to seeing the white/yellow color of dead 'hay' weeds, so wasn't sure exactly where to relaunch from, but soon found it. The fire break is big and obvious and goes right next to the launch.

I don't take the time to adjust my elevation on the kml/igc data, I just use the track to give me a general view of where I went...but eventually it may be better if I know how high I was at certain times of a flight...seems like the error is usually no more than 30 feet either way...usually showing me higher than what I was at the landing... but launches are almost right on... weird?
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