Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 ISA Calendar at Qoop

Pictures from the 2008 flying season in a wall calendar.


Friday Flying 1-16-2009

I launched at noon today on a frozen runway in 15kt winds coming right down the runway at Skaneateles. It was 8 degrees F on the ground. Based on the weather reports, I did not think that the winds would get any higher today. Wrong! Anyway, I climbed with the engine to 1500agl (2500msl), then idled the engine and headed across the wind toward Moravia, hoping to make Ithaca.

I made it a few miles to near Murphy at Owasco while gaining a bit in what seemed to be weak streeting thermals. The slope on the east side of Owasco lake seemed to be kicking these thermals to the condensation level so I headed for the sunny west side of these cloud streets, and jumped from street to street until I had reached the south end of Owasco lake north of Moravia. I finally made 3000msl, and found the wind speed was increasing dramatically. I also found that I was able to climb up the face of these clouds, as though in ridge lift. Then I decided to try to head further upwind across the Cayuga Lake to visit the waterfalls at Taughannock State Park 8nm NW of Ithaca.

Unfortunately there was a giant blue hole to the west, directly enroute to the falls, so I lowered the nose to speed through what I thought would be heavy sink over the lake. As I ventured upwind at indicated 70kts I found myself climbing in rough 2kt lift, then smooth 5kt lift. I slowed to 50kts and found myself with only 18kt groundspeed. I was in WAVE!! The feared blue hole turned out to be weak wave which I rode to nearly 6000msl, well over the clouds! The clouds that I had been in were actually rotor clouds, as I found a pattern of those as I continued west to over the falls.

I pulled the brakes and slipped to 1500agl, circling the falls for photos. On making a decision to depart the falls, I considered heading for Fingerlakes Regional at Waterloo. Their AWOS indicated surface winds gusting to 25kts direct crosswind, so I decided to head home instead, where at least the winds were not cross. I worked weak ridge and thermal lift at the falls, finally reaching 2500msl and began to reconnect with the wave. I climbed to 3500msl in the wave, then pointed downwind toward Skaneateles.

I arrived at Skaneateles at 2500msl, landed in 20kts winds and hurried to the hanger. With the combination of strong winds and icy runways, it was a bit of a challenge keeping the ship on the ground and stationary. With the ship finally tucked away, I had time to reflect on the activities of the day. I am truly amazed at how active the atmosphere can be on a cold, windy and sunny day in Central New York. And I am very surprised that wave conditions can be so prevalent.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wave in Central New York?

Even after a quarter century of soaring I am still amazed with the ability of soaring aircraft to remain aloft. On the majority of days there is at least enough air movement to keep us flying, though sometimes not enough to confidently venture away from the safety of our home field.

On this mid-winter afternoon with a light west breeze we found enough lift to keep us flying for about 3 hours in Jeff's Lambada. All the time with the engine idling at 0 thrust. We spent most of the afternoon fairly low running along the windward sides of the low hills bordering our N-S glacial valleys. Lift was weak but consistent and occasionally we came across stronger lift that allowed us to climb a couple thousand feet.

We made our way from Skaneateles to south of Moravia where at below a 1,000 feet we came across a thermal that gave us enough height to head SE and on to Cortland for a fuel stop.

Leaving Cortland with the engine once again idling we made our way up the Tully valley working lift along the hill face. Just south of the long gone Thermal Ridge soaring site we picked up a thermal that carried us to cloud base. From there we headed west and upwind to the Otisco valley.

The clouds were arranged parallel to the hills and across the wind. We began to suspect there was some weak wave action. We were right. After crossing blue sky and over the Otisco Lake valley we turned north and ran under this next band of clouds. The lift was weak and finally forced us to power up and climb before reducing power and turning west again towards the Skaneateles Lake valley. Leaving weak lift under the clouds we expected to encounter sink through the blue. But we didn't. Instead we continued to climb in perfectly smooth air.

Wave! It must be.

Turning north we continued to climb. Higher than the line of clouds to either side if the valley. Finally topping out at over 5,000 feet. Beautiful...

Once again I am amazed at the ability of soaring aircraft to make use of even the slightest movements of the atmosphere and remain aloft. Also, I appreciate the opportunities that flying a motor-glider such as the UTM Lambada opens up. While I might have been able to stay up a few hours Monday in my Libelle, it would have been unwise if not impossible to head out exploring the snow covered landscape as we did without the confidence of the Rotax idling in front.

Thanks for inviting me along for a fantastic afternoon Jeff!