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1-26 National Champtionships - Day 7, Aviators Pushing the Envelope

We tried today. Every button was pushed. Every analysis was considered. We fell short but it was a beautiful day that ended with us sitting on the field until 8:45 pm sharing stories about flying. It’s the sunset on the 2018 1-26 Championships.

Steve Statkus opened the pilots’ meeting, “Alright, well it's day six of our competition and what we normally do here is talk about yesterday's winners and let's start with the Team winner. Alright. Schwartz and Angelo team winners five. Tell us how you did it.”

Schwartz, “Alright, well yesterday started off with me being the sniffer. I don't know if that was good or bad to tell you the truth, because at the end of two hours we hadn't started the task yet, and I was getting tired. Getting tired of it. Getting down low, getting back up, and I really didn't think it was gonna be a contest day. I thought, ‘No, they're too far. The big blue holes over here to release, and then the guys who like to go to the backside, they're never gonna make it across." And then I had all sorts of reasons why I wanted to come back and have a beer. But the competition committee had other ideas, and away we went a little bit after two, and I thought I'd probably wait 10, 15 minutes after start so I could get some markers out there. That's what I really wanted.

But I found at the start I was just about 200 feet below cloud base and really close to the edge of the circle. So I can't say no to that. So off I went towards Dayton. At that point I was still not confident about the day at all, and I figured I just nick it, and start out toward the outlet center. As I got up that way, the better clouds seemed to favor westerly of the turn point, so I aimed over that way, and by the time I got abeam of Dayton Wright Brothers AP I was probably two, three miles to the west of it and still one more cloud to go, so I went a little bit deeper.

And about that time the clouds off towards the outlet were forming up very nicely. And I wasn't having any trouble at all and I got a little bit more confident, and started pushing out towards a loose streak of clouds off towards Green County AP. And got there with no trouble. But at that point, it'd got a little bit low. It got down not all that low. I think it was a little bit less than 2000 above the ground. And finally connected over the town and I said I'm gonna take it, no matter what it is, and take my time. Well I turned in about a three knotter, so that didn't hurt at all, six grand, and the clouds kept forming out towards the outlet. Not directly towards it, but I got out towards Jamestown Lake, and about that time the second leg was about to be over because the clock was winding down now. I was high. I was looking back this way at the cirrus coming up and there were hardly any clouds between me and the direct shot of Caesar Creek, but there was a nice little bunch of activity coming to the northern side of my line. So I said, "You know, I'm just gonna work this last cloud as high as I can. I was 25 miles away from Caesar Creek, not quite cloud base, and I did not have to turn. So it was a 25 mile glide back home. Not a bad way to do the third leg. And yeah, I was very happy. Turned in just seven minutes over time, so that worked out pretty well too. I landed, I knew I had the best flight of the day. I just knew it. 

Next, Daniel Sazhin gave his account of his winning day Solo, “Well, the day really consisted of two tasks. The first task was to get out of the start sector, and the second task was everything you did beyond it. And I want to talk about those as two separate things, largely because I think the first part is probably more interesting to a lot of folks, or a lot more relevant. And in general, there's a reason they call it the start gate, because it’s a race, there's a lot of interesting things going on tactically and strategically, and the last two days have been a real challenge, to really to be able to get on a horse, which has been a real shame from a tasking perspective because once you got away, essentially, it's a whole different world.

Now yesterday, rather for both days, one of the things that really helped was to think of it, that the task, the game, the sporting challenge begins the moment you're off a tow. And this is something that does not often happen like in Moriarty or in Texas, you get a thermal, you're up to 6000 feet and then you figure out where you're gonna go. But both days, it's been really; really important to position yourself exactly where you need to be. And yesterday, that was pretty much in the back end of the sector, so what happened was, that lake, I forget what it's called, essentially downwind of the lake, it pretty much washed out. Just like in the forecast, the small differences in temperature made a very big difference, but that area was a little bit wetter, and that cold air coming in off the lake, just basically shut everything off.

But right over I-71, pretty much in that area, it was really cooking very nicely. A couple of us were there, but I was alone in the back end of the sector, worked my way up to 5000 feet, and then once the gate opened, I scooted over just a little bit, hit a four knot thermal up to 6000 feet. And that got me right across all the mucky-ness. And that really, really made the difference, in basically just being able. The thing that helped with that game was to say, ‘Okay well, where's the lift gonna be?’ And where's it gonna be good? It happened to be in the back, and that's where it worked out.


Now, from 6000 feet, making it across the blue hole was no trouble one bit, and that just got me straight across to Dayton, at the edge of the sector. And right over there, there was a nice, beautiful street that headed all the way from there up to the Outlet Mall. And that was when the Blairstown, NJ, ACA, sort of thing of flying up streets and wind really plays out very nicely because it was just consistent, three knot lift, from four to 5000 feet, sometimes 6000 feet, MSO. We just plotted along into the wind, and that worked out very nicely, up until I was in the Outlet Mall circle, where I had to decide, ‘Do I turn around and come back a little early? Or do I try to go for one more thermal, one more cloud, and make time?’

I had a very nice run, never got low, but when I went for that one cloud, then I dropped right out of the band. I just kept going, and going into the wind, getting lower and lower, and finally down 2000 feet above the ground, I hit something weak and turned around. And I pretty much never, I didn't get back into the band, pretty much for another 10, 12 miles, bumping along down low, trying to find my climb. But right at the edge of the sector, and I'm sitting at one knot, I look out ahead and I see a little cue just forming, and I'm like, ‘just be patient! Don't leave this one-knot. Stay here.’

And I'm watching it just develop a little more, and I'm like, ‘I'm at 3000 feet, okay, I just gotta go, I gotta try this thing.’ If this one doesn't work, the other clouds are not looking as good, and I'm like, ‘Oh man. I really hope this one works.’ I'm just going along, going along, and bang! Two and a half, solid. And I'm like, ‘Thank you! Thank you so much!’ And that one climb and a little bit more under the clouds, and that got me the final block home. Dead air, just smooth, smooth glide back home. It was a very fun day, it was a very tactical and strategic and very interesting. I enjoyed it a lot. So, thank you.

Daniel Sazhin gave the weather report, “Here's the Summary. It's going to be very fickle.  The high cloud cover from the south; as you can tell, is the problem. The high level winds are now southeast. So, this cosmic battle of air masses, we're now starting to lose. Heating is obviously is the big question. We still have that nice air mass we've had for the past two days is still clinging on, down low. It was up to 25,000 feet recently; now, it's down to 15. It's just sort of hanging on for dear life.

So, if we do get enough heating; somehow, during the day then we can still get decent thermals. If it does trigger, we'll get up to three to four thousand feet, up to possibly five thousand feet over the course of day. The winds down low are southeast at 10 knots up high they're 20 knots. Are we lucky to be on Ohio anymore?

The charts are really cool. This is 12:00 Zulu. We are in Ohio, right around here, this is the morning. Now, this wonderful high pressure system up here is just starting to give out.  I mean, it's just at its dying breath here. I mean this is 18:00 Zulu, and it's just like hanging in there. The water, the rain is just marching in. That's basically late tonight and tomorrow. There's a possibility, that hopefully, this high-pressure system will still hang on just for a little while longer. Here's the NAM, not too bad. Connectively, it might actually still kick off.  We're about over here shows about 3,500 feet AGL, 4500 feet MSL. So, that's at two o'clock.

The TAFs, those guys aren't really helping us all that much. Because, they refuse to tell us 18:00 Zulu. They don't want to forecast that stuff. They're calling high stuff possibly scattered 5,000. That they're broken at 15 that's going to be the overriding factor, today. Low-level winds are southeast at 10, which will be great down there.

As far as Skysight, I think it's overly optimistic but nonetheless Skysight is basing this on if we get the heat in. A couple degrees more, this is what we get. That's the big question. If Skysight is to be believed it shows day's starting to cook up by 12:30 4,500 by 1:30 5,500 up to the northwest. High cloud cover being an issue, the day's shutting down at 4:00 or 4:30. As the day goes on, at the very end, we might even start getting some precipitation.

This is largely why I am saying, hey, if it does kick off then we might even work out. So, this is the cumulus cloud base this is Lebanon, Caesar Creek Soaring Club, this is one o'clock showing 48. Then at three o'clock, we're possibly up to five and then at four o'clock it's starting to fall apart. As far as rain, at four o'clock that's not significant. As the day goes on, we're starting to get this stuff, and we're looking at the high cloud cover essentially all day we're getting all this stuff. So, that's that.

To finish up, we'll look at the soundings this is 2:00 pm. Not quite as optimistic as Skysight. Here you can see that the stronger lower level south east by about 20 knots varied weather mass. If a trigger, this is a trigger temperature of 82 degrees; so, if we get that, then we are going to start getting activity. As it gets on toward three or four o'clock, it does firm up a little bit. As far as the air mass is concerned; then, we may be able to get up to about 4,500 feet ASL. That's about five.

So, basically the big question today is do we get 82 degrees? If we do; then, there is a possibility of a rather challenging day where we are going to be having 20-knot winds. With a short task, where we'll be tempting close and might be able to get a day in. Or, if we don't get the heat in; then, we just aren't going to be able to get off the ground. After the last two days, the getting off the ground part is much more questionable today but given the fact that the air mass will support conductive activity. If we do get the heating, we're going to give it a go. We're going to try. We're going to grid. We're going to see what happens, and if it goes, we'll go.  If doesn't, we'll cancel the day once the possibility of a day is lapsed.”

Bill Vickland gave the task report, “We have such a promising weather forecast there. We've designed two tasks, today. Spread these around. Okay. Past day, start southeast, three-mile circle. Lebanon, one-mile circle. Cowen Lake. Two mile circle, return home.

Things to think about, here. A two knot climb, is sufficient, just barely, sufficient for you to return to the place that you started your climb. Now we do have 20-knot wind up there, so ... choose wisely. Lebanon a hard surface runway is closed today. They do have a grass strip.

Okay, let me brief you a little bit on launch criteria. Historically, Charlie Sprat who was sort of a model of the design of the 1-26 philosophy anyway in terms of launching. His criteria was when the sniffer can reach thirty five hundred above the ground and sustain, we would launch. I've deviated that here because we've been a little closer together, a little more reliable and that sort of thing and we're not so concerned about landing out. So I've deviated by allowing us to three thousand above the ground. So the criteria today has been my philosophy before but when the sniffer can reach three thousand and sustain, will launch. The probability of that may be none.”

It's the last day of possible flying on May 29th, and it's time for the Spiffy Awards. So Larry Williams' ship, 398, is being looked over by the 1-26 President, Wick Wilkinson. They're looking for all sorts of detail pieces about the ships that make it stand out. Everybody starts with a 100 score. This 1-26 is in really good shape. It has beautiful Schweizer wing tip wheels, and a beautiful wooden skid here. Beautiful. You reconditioned this, Larry?

Larry Williams, “Very little. Mostly the canopies and the cockpit. That's where I spent most of my time. The exterior, when I bought it, was in really nice shape, and I didn't feel the need to strip it all down and redo it.” Yeah. It's gorgeous. “It was a school ship up in Canada, so the interior was beat up, and the canopies were all crappy and wavy.” Well, it really looks great. “Thank you.”

The Spiffy Award went to the Vihlen Family’s 1-26 267. Congratulations!

I got a chance to introduce a very important contestant. “I'm Tyler Dockum. I'm 21 years old from Oxford, Ohio. I started flying gliders out here in 2009, and went to Youth Camp a couple years. Recently just graduated from the Air Force Academy, about a week ago. So, I'm out here in my first contest. Steve's crazy enough to let me fly his glider. If the weather kicks off today you might see me flying. Headed to pilot training with the Air Force in November.” And you're a glider flight instructor at the Air Force Academy? “That's right. Actually, I was a soaring instructor pilot out there with the 94th flying training squadron. Just got my CFI about a month ago.” And what's it like to teach the cadets? This is sometimes the cadets' first flight when they go flying with you. “Yeah, that's the awesome thing about it. You take somebody with no flights, they take about 14 flights and then they solo. So, it's pretty crazy to see somebody with no experience learn so quickly out there. So, it's pretty awesome.” Great. Well, good luck today, Tyler.

And one last contestant interview will put chills in your spine. “I'm Dick Eckles, and I flew Steve Statkus's 1-26 on Friday. Was a real fiasco. I didn't even get to the start gate. Ended up in a bean field in the middle of the bean field. Didn't even land close to the road.” Well, tell us about one of your more successful 126 flights, Dick. “Once upon a time I flew the west ridge of the Little Miami for about 45 minutes. Max altitude was about, maybe 1,000 feet. Minimum was about 800 feet.” So you're the guy that did that. I've heard about did that event. “Yeah, I did that.” What was the wind speed? “Oh, wind was really pretty good. It was pushing 30 knots.” So the elevation change there is only 400 feet at best. “Yeah. I just get the air drop down from the west side of the river into the valley, and then came up the east side, and that was enough lift to keep me up.” For 45 minutes you flew. “For 45 minutes, right.” Well, congratulations. You just decided to make a right hand turn through the tree gap and then come in and land. “Yeah, finally I got tired of that and just came in and landed.” Congratulations.

Thanks for your interest in the 1-26 Championships and please call or send your comments and photos to Chuck Lohre, 513-260-9025, chuck@lohre.com 

Posted: 5/29/2018


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