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Region 5 North - Saturday, April 14 - First practice day

I'm standing in for Scott Alexander (SA) who was going to do the daily reports, but had to withdraw to tend to his young daughter who suffered a ruptured appendix and had to undergo emergency surgery.

Today was the first of two 'official' practice days (otherwise known as practice day 6 for those of us fortunate to have arrived a week early!).  The weather forecast was again for mostly blue with top-of-lift in the 5000' range and winds from the south at 10-15kt.  An informal task was called taking us east-southeast to Orangeburg with a 15-mile radius, then west to Edgefield County with a 15-mile radius, then southeast to Allendale with a 20-mile radius, and then home.

As has been my practice for the entire week I've been here so far, I got my glider assembled, watered up, and out at the front of the grid early.  I kind of like being one of the first gliders out - gives me plenty of time to wander around and sample the weather while the rest of the grid launches.  However, this time I managed to go in the wrong direction for the local winds at launch time, and unfortunately the entire fleet of 40 or so gliders followed me.  So, here we sit, clearly at the wrong end of the runway, and  everybody and their brother is watered up to the gills, and now Perry's famous 5000' runway is looking a lot shorter than it did an hour ago.  So Al Tyler, diplomat that he is, put it to me this way:  "Frank, how would you feel if I called this a no water day for everyone, so we don't all have to go out downwind at full ballast?  The alternative is that you could go ahead and launch with full water on board, and if you survive then maybe the rest will try it too."  I thought about that for all of about 10 nanoseconds, and then voted for the first option, the one that didn't involve me risking my body (and more importantly, my glider) on a downwind, full-water takeoff ;-).  So, we all (or at least all of us in the front of the grid), dumped all our water and launched dry.

Out on course, the task was very interesting.  On the first leg we all had to cross about 20 miles of completely blue conditions to get into a cloud field that had developed to the south, but once we got there, conditions were pretty good.  Then on the second leg we had to come back northwest, and again press out into the blue for a 40-mile roundtrip to the near edge of the Edgefield County circle (nobody in their right mind went any deeper than the near edge) and then back southeast back into the cloud field for the run down into the Allendale circle.  So the task went from blue to clouds to blue to clouds, requiring a fair bit of gear-shifting to make it across the blue patches in good order.  There were some very strong thermals under the clouds, and even a few 6kt climbs in the blue sections.  I maxed out the first and third circles (just nicking the second circle as noted above), and came home about 15 minutes over time, thoroughly enjoying the whole task.  I got to run with Hank Nixon (UH) and Rob Ware (DI) for most of the 3rd leg (from Edgefield County back down into the Allendale circle, and it was a real treat to watch Hank and Rob feel their way through the energy lines out in the blue (glad I didn't have to lead!).

At the end of the day, as I had my glider up on the cradle and was debugging the wings, a mother and her 4-year-old son (going on 5, according to him) approached and was looking around.  As I do whenever I can, I asked the young boy if he would like to sit in the cockpit, and his eyes lit up like lanterns.  After getting the OK from mom, I put him in the cockpit, draped the parachute over his shoulders, put my flying gloves on his hands, and my Mifflin ball cap on his hat.  Mom, of course, was right there with her camera, and so somewhere out there in the universe is a bunch of photos of a very happy young boy in the cockpit of TA.  I remember getting an airplane ride from an Uncle at about age 8 or 9 and how dramatically it affected me, so maybe this little event has planted a seed that might turn into something ;-). 

Tomorrow is the second 'official practice day', and the weather outlook is for even better soaring weather tomorrow than today.  I was thinking about taking a day off (I've flown now for 6 days in a row), but I'm not sure I can stand to pass up a perfectly good soaring day.  We'll see!

Frank (TA)

Posted: 4/14/2012


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