Big Spring, Thursday 7-24-03

 
Rich, Linda, Kim and I went over to the airport this morning around 10:00 am. Several pilots were already there getting ready to fly. Rich wanted to take an early test flight. The winds today were out of the south from 3 to 15 mph with the stronger winds in the afternoon. Rich towed up at 11:30 and was able to stay up for almost an hour. He was at 5,000' (2500' agl) most of the time. He landed so he could make some changes to his glider.

The tug pilot today was Lisa (I forgot her last name). She is doing a great job. Early today she was towing a low time pilot who got out of whack soon after leaving the cart. She was able to slip the tug over to him and save his tow. I wish I had it on video because it looked really cool.

Some of the pilots put together a task of a 61-mile triangle. Clair, Bo, Ron Gleason, Bubba, Jerz and a few others started launching at 1:30 for this task. I was not very hot to fly after bouncing around for 9 hours yesterday so I helped launch some of the pilots. There was only one tug here today. By 3:30 most of the pilots had launched and the sky was filling up with beautiful CU's. I gave in and got on a cart to fly. At 3700' (1200' agl) my vario was indicating 1600 fpm so I pinned off. I rode this thermal to 10,000' at 400 to 600 most of the time. The wind at altitude was 12 to 15 out of the south. I drifted almost 3 miles by the time I topped out.

I decided to fly to the second turnpoint in the triangle to meet up with the pilots who had launched earlier. I flew for about 12 miles without getting below 8,800'. Most of the time I was able to dolphin fly and stay above 9,500, this leg was into the wind. I had a problem though. I had forgot to take the Chapstick out of my pocket and it was caught under my leg strap. After about 45 minutes of this I could not take any more so I flew back to the airport. As I was again under the cloud street, I lost only about 1,500' on the 12 miles back. To the west of the airport, I found a blue hole and cored sink to get down. I landed at 4:30. The day was just starting to look really good. It looked like you could get in a 150 to 200 mile flight launching at 3:30.

Jerz was first back from the triangle with Ron close behind. Most of the other pilots made it back as well. I found the air here to be much smoother than I had expected. The thermals were big. There was some big sink in-between the lift, but the sink only lasted for 20 seconds or so, not like the 4 or 5 minutes of sink we had at the Wild West Regionals. It would be hard to judge a site by just one day, but I was very pleased with the conditions. I was a little disappointed with some of the landing areas around here. There looked to be some long glides to the east of the airport due to the lack of LZ's. Other than the Green swamp, the Florida comps seemed to have more LZ's. Though, if we can stay 8,000' agl, we won't need as many LZ's.

I talked to a local gentleman about the area. There is indeed a big spring in Big Spring. 100 years ago it used to flow 1.5 million gallons a day. Now water is pumped into it to make it flow. Water rights here were and still are just as fierce as in the Owens Valley. The airport we are using was an active military base up to 1976 at which time it was turned over to the local government. While in operation, their claim to fame was they could train an Air Force pilot, for less cost than anywhere else in the world. This also has to be the prairie dog capital of the world. Everywhere I look I see them standing up trying to look their cutest for the local tourist.

The local community is really excited about having us here. As you enter the airport property there are large signs that say "Hang Gliding" that point the way to the area we are set up. They even installed several bleachers for the spectators. There has been a lot of local radio coverage about the event. It is quite a change from the local sights around my area (San Jose) where the local government want to do everything they can to keep us from flying.

I have been out to eat only once so far, but we hit a great place to eat. I can't even remember the name of the place, but the parking lot was full, always a good sign. They had a regular menu or you could take advantage of their all you can eat Mexican buffet for a whopping $5.95 per person. The four of us got out of there for $25, including some beverages. I enjoyed the food. The had water melon that was the sweetest I have tasted for a long time. And a lot of the food in the buffet was vegetarian so I really packed it down.

Vince