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Region 5 North - Evening report

Today offered some problems at Perry.  The weather was certainly one: morning forecasts seemed to agree on the notion of another completely blue day, but some called for weak, low lift while others said lift might be both reasonably strong and high.

The pessimists seemed to carry the day early: the launch was much delayed, tasks were shortened for all classes, and as late as 3pm it was hard to find much enthusiasm for the possibility of many completions.  A field of unforecast cumulus clouds appeared well to the south, and many pilots whose tasks lay in that direction headed there, only to find disappointing lift under “fooler” clouds. 

But conditions did improve, and nearly all pilots completed their tasks, mostly at respectable speeds.  The best altitudes matched or exceeded even the optimistic predictions (a few pilots got close to 8000’, though only briefly).

We have four competiton classes at Perry this year, including an Open class – quite a rarity for a Regional contest in the 21st century.  CD Richard Maleady thus has to design four tasks a day.  Different start points for each class tend to reduce pre-start crowding, but can lead to confusion.  We’ve had a few cases of pilots using the wrong start point, and thus receiving no points for the day.  At this morning’s pilot meeting Richard emphasized the importance of using the correct start point, at which point Sam Zimmerman said “Could you be sure to repeat that warning yesterday?”

Doug Jacobs had some issues today.  Just before launch his radio reported a “whooping” signal, and a check showed that for an unknown reason his ELT was transmitting.  It was easy to reset this and stop the signal.  But this is a 406MHz ELT, and its signal had already been received by a satellite and relayed to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.  Modern ELTs transmit a unique code with which the owner’s information is associated, so the Air Force promptly called Doug’s cellphone (no answer – he’d shut it off in preparation for launch) and then his home phone – answered by wife Connie who was much troubled to be told that her husband might possibly be involved in an aircraft crash.  The word of these troubles reached the contest, Doug was called back to the ground, the ELT was verified to be off, Doug called Connie to reassure her, then the Air Force to reassure them.  After about half an hour Doug was back in the air, in time to complete the 18-Meter class task.

There’s a useful message here: if you have a 406MHz ELT, understand the consequences of an activation (false or valid) and make sure those who may receive phone calls from the AFRCC understand the system and the possibility of false alarms.


- John Good


Posted: 4/24/2014


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