Great flight in spite of headwinds.
Once again it was back to Elk. Nothing about the day looked promising other than the altimeter setting of 29.84. I notice that on the blue days, it is usually better if we have a lower altimeter setting. It really doesn’t matter though because we try and fly every Saturday regardless of the conditions. We just play with what we are dealt. The players this Saturday were the same as last week, Rich, Kurt and I, except we had a change in drivers. Linda had to prepare for a party she had been planning for her son and daughter so we talked a hang gliding friend of ours, Bill Vogel to drive. Bill is our lucky charm. The last time he drove for us was the first time we were able to fly from Elk to Hull to the central valley.
With the days getting shorter, we launched a little later than we have been, at a little after 1:00. I was last this time. I started scratching over the point, below launch level and heard Rich and Kurt say they were already over 6,400’. I saw Rich leave for Horse and I thought Kurt had left as well. A minute later I hit a nice 500 fpm thermal that carried right to 7,400’ over Elk. I had set a waypoint over the Hull LZ 2,000’ above the ground. My GPS said it was a 19 to 1 glide, so instead of heading to Horse, I headed straight for Hull. Kurt was under me (it turned out he never headed for Horse). He heard me transmit that I was leaving and he left with me.
I took a more easterly track than in past flights and Kurt took more of the traditional line. I was rewarded with a string of thermals that kept me above 7,000’ most of the way. Kurt did not find any lift and arrived at the end of the airstrip at Hull at 3,000’, while I was climbing just east of the LZ at 8,000’. We eventually joined up over the Hull launch. Meanwhile, Rich had found that Horse was a nag and was stuck very low over the road between Horse and Elk. With a lot of patience and a little luck he climbed out and was on his way.
Kurt and I had climbed over Hull to 10,000’. We headed across abyss to the east to check for thermals and a way to cross. He hit zero sink at 9,400 for several miles. I continued to sink so I turned around. He spotted a sailplane circling ahead and decided to cross at that ridiculously low altitude. Just after he passed the point of no return, the sailplane flew off without ever finding lift. He was stuck. He made it across by working everything he could find. There was a headwind that made the crossing even more exciting.
I had returned to Hull, climbed and attempted to cross several more times. Mike K. had launched from Hull and was flying with us at this point. Rich finally climbed to 11,000’ (along with Mike) and headed out. Mike stayed to play in the Hull air. About 3 minutes later I made it to 11,200’ and also headed across, 52 minutes behind Kurt. Even though I had left 1,800’ higher than Kurt, I still found myself lower than I wanted to be on the other side. Rich had found several small thermals that were gone by the time I flew by. About a mile before the last ridge that I needed to cross, I climbed about 400’ which gave me a little more breathing room.
We flew down the ridge with Alder Springs road. Rich was staying above me and ahead of me. Kurt was 9 miles ahead. I forgot to mention that Kurt’s upper zipper blew out on launch and he was hanging by his chest buckle. He was getting very tired from holding himself up. After Paskenta he pretty much went on a glide to the ground so he could rest.
Rich was staying ahead of me and I found myself doing stupid things trying to catch up. I decided to just fly like I was alone and not worry about catching up. So far we had been averaging a head wind of about 5 mph out of the northeast or northwest, depending on the altitude.
Kurt landed 53 miles from Elk. Rich was low and talking about landing with Kurt if he could not get up. I was doing great. I had eaten a granola bar, was drinking plenty of water and had found several one handed thermals with climbs above 6,000’ (5,000’ agl). I told Rich I was not about to land. I caught up to him about 1,500’ over. I waited for him to climb up and we headed on. Since Bill was picking up Kurt and would have to drive out to Red Bluff to get back on the freeway, we decided to head that way. I saw the Red Bluff airport about 12 miles ahead. Since I like landing at airports I told Rich that’s were we were heading.
The wind was now more out of the east and our glide was down to 12 to 1, but we still made the airport with 2,000’ to spare. As is usually the case when you want to land, the entire area was in lift. As we circled, the wind sock stayed limp, with the last wind direction out of the east, cross wind to the airport. We saw two airplanes taxi out for takeoff so we just boated around to wait for them to depart. The first plane took a long time in the run up area, but finally left. The second pilot spotted us and made several 360’s on the ground keeping us in site. It became apparent that he was not going to take off until after we landed. Just about this time the wind picked up to 6 mph out of the south. Bill and Kurt were at the airport watching us approach to land. I opened my harness and used my legs to make it act as a drogue chute. I had a nice no step landing. Rich was about 20 seconds behind with an even nicer landing.
As soon as we landed the plane took off. While we were breaking down a gentleman from the airport came over and started to ask us why we had not contacted him and why we did not use the ultalight area further to the south. As soon as he saw we did not have motors on our gliders he realized we were flying hang gliders and got very interested in where we took off and how we made it to Red Bluff. He was nice enough to let Bill drive the truck through the locked gate right out to the taxiway where we were breaking down. He offered to buy me coffee next time I flew in.
The distance for our flight was 71 miles in 4 hours and 45 minutes. With the great lift we were getting we could have flown further, but we had to get home for Linda’s party. Before flying in comps I would have never attempted such a flight with the headwind we had. We all had a blast. Bill, you realize that with the luck you bring to us, we are going to ask you to drive more ;-) Thanks for driving again.
Vince's IGC file.
Rich's IGC file.