Flying for visiting pilot in March?

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Flying for visiting pilot in March?

Postby Gerry » Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:42 pm

Hi everyone!
I've got a couple questions regarding flying in your area.
I am a new P4 from western MA, and I am looking into visiting the SB area in early to mid March(7-10 days). I have a couple friends headed that way, one for P1/P2 instruction, and one is an experienced pilot. I am wondering what the flying possibilities are for a visiting pilot if I go. Are there local club requirements? I assume some areas out there must be sensitive and may require special site intros. Well for that matter, I don't like flying a new site without some sort of intro.
Also, what is March typically like? Can one typically fly every day? Or 50% of the days? Or? And how is the XC potential? I see a few mountain ridge flights on Leonardo between Jan and March, so that is promising.
Flying here in the NE is pretty much shut down for winter, other than a rare beach day or even rarer mtn flight. I haven't flown in over 2 months; I passed on Mexico this year due to some house renovation I am doing, and would like to fly in March. The past two years I've gone to Costa Rica in March and flown every day..I don't necessarily expect to get the same, but would like to be able to put in some hours wherever I go. Still deciding, so I'd appreciate any thoughts you may have (related to my questions LOL). :)
Thanks!
Gerry
 
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Re: Flying for visiting pilot in March?

Postby tommygun » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:02 pm

There should be good mountain flying in March, some ridge soaring, and the training hill is good almost everyday. Here is a link to the Santa Barbara Soaring Assoc. http://sbsa.info/visit/
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Re: Flying for visiting pilot from Massachusetts in March?

Postby sd » Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:44 am

Gerry wrote:Hi everyone!
I've got a couple questions regarding flying in your area...
... what is March typically like? Can one typically fly every day? Or 50% of the days? Or? And how is the XC potential? I see a few mountain ridge flights on Leonardo between Jan and March... The past two years I've gone to Costa Rica in March and flown every day...

Gerry

The Santa Barbara mountains are one of the most scenic places to fly in the United States, and being at a lower altitude with good vertical (more than Massachusetts) compared to the Owens Valley and the Sierra Escarpment which is up in thin air, our thick air is comparatively more docile. We do have a non flyable days, and the weather is not consistent. The weather tends to be cyclic. It could rain every other day for a week or 2 in March if we get a cut-off low coupled with warm El Nino water (unlikely, but we could use the rain so we like it when it rains). It could be too windy for a few days in a row, or flat, but if you had to pick a month, March is our best month for the coastal range. On average, I'd say it is flyable in the mountains 80% of the days in March, reasonably soarable 65%, reasonable short XC (10 - 15 miles) 50%, and good XC (30 to 60 miles) 20%.

Our mountain terrain and flying are very 3 dimensional. Compared to flat land flying and inland sites which may be more consistent, the Santa Barbara range coupled with the interaction of coastal air and inland air offers a huge variety of scenarios so we employ a wide variety of strategy and technique to match what the day has to offer.

Note that we have one of the only south facing ranges in the united states, so unlike east or west facing ranges, we collect sun all day. In March we are near the equinox, but the air is still relatively cold because the season's lag. At 34 degrees latitude the midday sun is about 55 degrees above the south horizon (90 -34) which closely matches the slope of our relatively steep south facing range, so it heats well, blocks north winds up to moderate strength (some north wind is good because they bring cold unstable air), and works early with a long soaring window.

You should note that we mostly fly "Thermals" in the mountains rather than "Ridge Lift". We prefer light wind for more organized thermals. As tommygun noted, when it's too windy up high, we can often retreat to lower altitudes. Your P1 friend has likely done their research and discovered we have the best training hill in the US. We regularly use a half a dozen launches off a paved road in our local mountains, but Santa Barbara is also in close proximity (1 to 3 hours driving time) to numerous other sites that offer additional variation. If you are in reasonable physical condition, we have a hike up launch in Ojai (not suitable for your novice friends) that we often use for XC in March when it blows Santa Anna from the east.

You will find our local pilots generally friendly and supportive of visiting pilots. The local schools usually run a bus or 2 to launch daily when the mountains are flyable, but the Skyport launch is only 20 minutes up a public paved road from Parma (the primary LZ for several launches), so you can usually retrieve a vehicle if you missed the bus and weren't able to car pool.

I don't get to fly much (married with kids and a mortgage), but my flights from March 2014 are listed at http://paraglide.net/log. I only had one mountain flight in March 2014, a 50 mile milk run tandem from Santa Barbara to Fillmore http://paraglide.net/log/14/03-16/1_skyport_westbowl_fillmore_tandem.htm, but my lack flights in March is not indicative of the seasonal potential, it has more to do with my personal time limitations.
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Re: Flying for visiting pilot in March?

Postby Gerry » Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:44 pm

TG, thanks for the link! And TT, thanks for all the info. It sound like it would be a good time, and I know there is plenty to do and explore on non-flyable days. I like the thermal part for sure, I much prefer that over ridge soaring (although I will not say no to a ridge flight either LOL). Maybe I could even break my personal distance here in the states, which is about 50km.
I also found the SoCal XC page, and have been looking over the flying sites. I'll have to decide quick if I want reasonable airfare.
Thanks again guys!
Gerry
 
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