This posting is a compilation of postings by several pilots. Most all of the material in this posting was copied from threads posted on the Hollister (hgcgroup) pages at yahoogroups.com Copied from the hgcgroup pages and posted on this VSA page by VSA web page manager, Peter Kelly.
The pilots flying were Buzz Graves and Ramy Yanetz – and each pilot provide their initial report to their fellow pilots. The weekend they are referencing is 13 and 14 July 2013.
The first article ( in two parts) was written by the pilot – Buzz Graves, call sign BG, flying a DG800 motor glider, and posted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:30 am (PDT) .
The second article was written by the pilot – Ramy Yanetz, flying an ASW27 glider, and posted on Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:44 pm (PDT).
Around the southern horn in two days
by Buzz Graves
Leading into this last weekend I announced to a smaller group I was
interested in trying something new after missing most of the summer flying
so far because of pressures from work. I had planned to drive to Truckee
for one of those long marathon weekend, drive 5 hours late Saturday to
miss the traffic getting there after midnight, rigging on Saturday morning,
fly as far as I can one both days, derig at sunset and drive back another 5
hours, so I could start another 60 hour work week Monday morning at 7 am.
When I heard some were flying out of Holiister with the NAM forecasting
some pretty reasonable conditions, I went to plan B and decide to to stay
local, well sort of. Had already commited to spend the weekend away from
home so a plan started to materialize, Saturday fly south and get as far as
I could around the horn, then on Sunday try to fly back to Hollister,
either back tracking or jumping off the Sierras with a hope and prayer as I
have done and other before. Most of the time it ends in a landout in the
SJV or for me starting my engine for the self retrieve. Advertising my
intentions, I found I would have company in TG. We had confirmed a tow
pilot at Avenal, Tehachapi, Cal City, some hope for Inyokern, Lone Pine,
and Bishop. Some real-time info in the air left Inyokern a big maybe.
It was going to be TG and BG on some high and low adventure, team flying
with the PFLARM not getting much more than a few miles apart for most of
the flight on Saturday. Leap frogging one thermal after another. First
payoff came at EL1 where TG marked the best thermal for quite awhile, next
one was over the Temblors from a very low save. I had cut the engine early
on my way to EL1 not knowing about a strong head wind, I was getting a
save from 4200 ft while TG was off and running getting to 9k. From there
the going south was one disappointment after another not getting more than
9500 when the NAM was calling for 13-14k at EL4. Making reasonable
progress, albeit slow it was progress towards that place we would land to
spend the night.
Going past Avenal it was very tempting to keep Avenal in glide, past
Paramount I let that go while TG held on till I found the next ragged
thermal near Belridge. Pretty sure it was a convergence wrap out of the 41
pass into the central valley. It was rough but net going up slowly, then a
wispy appeared above. Enough proof that it was there and TG joined me. We
worked really hard climbing the east side of Temblors, the winds were
actually strong from the west. A fire further south confirmed this valley
air converging at the ridge top with westerlies. The wrap got us to the top
of the ridge, then decision time to commit or not to the up wind side. TG
was higher and went first, I followed. Work several cores maintaining a
climbing slowly until bingo, a rough as hell thermal that had moments of
over 12 knots, going from 4k to 11k like a home sick angel. From there it
was a great run south down the spine of the Temblors with increasing
markers. Following the clouds past New Cuyama, near Santa Ynez, south of
the Pine mtn into the Mohave Desert, all new territory for me. I spotted a
dry lake I thought might be Edwards with envy as that is where the clouds
were, actually it was over Rosamond, where TG found a great thermal. So
now is where it began a chest game on how far to go, and where TG could
find a tow the next day. After many calls to others flying came no word
except a phone number for Inyokern. At that time Inyokern was in the bag
and would only know later if Lone Pine the next depot for a tow plane. I
took a different line and found lift on the way north of Kelso Valley and
felt Lone Pine was possible, keeping Inyokern in my back pocket for a while
at least. There are many fields in the waypoint file, but BG was looking
for not just a field to land safely, but to also take off. Here is where
your mind can start playing games with the desire to reach to a goal and
letting it go, not easy. I found little north of Inyokern and got lower
and lower until it was dried lakes with a possible straight to Lone Pine
with some luck. Worikng everything including ridge lift on the east side
of the valley showing a strong wind west wind on all the water ponds. Not
making it easier, you are sandwiched against R2504 on the east and on the
west the Sierras. So tempted to go into the restricted space where the sun
was shining and over the higher ground Cu’s at over 14k. I was struggling
at 8000ft with 40 miles to go. The strong wind provided bumps but nothing
you could circle in, I imagined myself as a pelican riding the boundary
layer and executing dives and pullups mixed with S curves. It worked!!! I
had a straight in to Lone Pine landing with a tailwind. You might ask why
didn’t I use the engine? It has every thing to do about making it, starting
the engine saves the retrieve, but the emotional down side of failure is
not good. Also once you are below 2 agl you start the engine with the roll
of the dice, you need that altitude to safely do an air start of your
battery is low. Glide ratio is space shuttle like, 95 knots with a 1:1 L/D.
Lone Pine was great and highly recommend the convenience of the airport to
one of the best Best Western Hotels around. Only a 1/4 mile away and to
boot the airport has loaner bicycles so getting in to the main part of town
1/2 mile away a nice experience. Great places to eat with tall ice cold
Shapiro beer to go along with your spicy hot shrimp brocolli stir fry. A
group from Southern Ca and Az held a soaring safari out of Lone Pine all
the previous week. I knew some and it was fun to share the origin of my
flight. The king of the 1-26 jockey’s David Levy was there as well. For
those interested there is a part type for hire tow plane out of Bakersfield
that provided tows for that week. I have his number if your interested,
name was Josh.
Talked with TG at Cal City and tomorrow was going to be the return, how
TBD. First thought was to fly north and and then make the jump towards
Avenal with also backtracking to the south.
Graphics for Part 1 – Source: http://www.onlineco
After a great breakfast at BW the day was looking good early on with clouds
forming early to the south over the Sierras by 10am and some other not so
good looking shield none convective clouds blocking the sun, with some
lenticulars that were of the fakus type. I got off early and headed south
where the best clouds were at the time and to meet up with TG. I was still
thinking about back tracking rather than repeat the jump off the top only
to start the engine after a long glide. Going south it wasn’t looking
right, the great clouds around the southern edge wasn’t happening, I
continued until reports from Tehachapi were not good with people unable to
connect with anything only finding smooth air near Kelso. I confirmed the
same while listening to TG work his way north where things were getting
better with clouds over the Sierra crest. A turned back towards Lone Pine
only to fall off of the high country in to Owen’s Valley where I started
from 2 hours earlier. Flying over the crest south of Whitney is not for
those of faint heart as I have, 1.5 to 2k agl feels too low to me. It is a
bowl with country that there is no conceivable way you would survive
landing in to piles of razor sharp granite. An escape from there is a long
canyon to the south ending at Lake Isabella. By this time TG is 30 minutes
ahead of me near Whitney at 16.5k about to push off towards Avenal,
executing the plan. I was soon to follow, 60 miles of watching the glide
computer read out arrival to Avenal, executing ER let the force be with you
best possible glide, ” literally let go and let the force guide you’. Time
to eat the apple I brought, listening to the oxygen trigger as you breath
until it stops confirming you are getting lower, hearing how others are
doing, etc…. PS made a save out of Coalinga onto the Benitos, others
around Avenal reported getting to 10k near the small ridge near the power
lines, TG was reporting seeing dust devils and then connecting over the
hills just east of Avenal town to 8k, and then a long silence. Lower and
lower the air was getting active at 7k, 20 miles out. Dust devils and
large plums of dust blowing showing very gusty winds. TG now reporting
things were not working near Coalinga, another plan necessary. Looking up
and down the Avenal Valley there were signs of wind blowing against each
other, there is where several dust devils were churning away, also my
ticket home it turns out. Over the last year I flew this area more and
more looking for that local knowledge, it paid off it turns out. I stayed
in that area until I reached near 10k to match the earlier reports, then
moved on to find another rough core to 11k, then another to nearly 12k
flying towards EL5.. I had final glide to Hollister by 500 ft!!! On the
way I found a bit more and experienced a super tail wind and friendly air.
Real-time L/D was in the high 70’s with a indicated 60 knots and ground
speed of 110mph. I gained over 2000 ft on the glide slope over that final
50 miles, getting to Hollister at just below 4000ft. On the way back it
was time to rest and gather what I just experience in silky smooth air over
the super cool marine flow. Meanwhile I was also relaying messages to
Hollister ground organizing help for TG.
Graphics for Part 2 – Source: http://www.onlineco
The joys of owning a motor glider, team flying friends and reaching for
what is possible,
How to (not) turn an epic flight to a bust.
by Ramy Yanetz
I am writing this essay to help myself cope with my mistakes (way too many this year) which many of them has something in common, which other can learn from as well.
The subject is accurate reporting and how to interpret them, or if one should even bother listening to the radio instead of making their own flights. My conclusion is the later. I always used to advocate sharing information but this can only be effective if it is timely, relevant, and most important, accurate. In my hang gliding day, we used to name every little ridge an knob which was helpful for information sharing. In the sailplane world, we use terms such as “way east” which can only be couple of miles for one pilot and 10 miles for another. As it turned out, it made the difference for me between finishing an epic flight to a major failure resulted in major blow to my pride an my pocket. Once I was back to 8000 feet over Avenal at around 5PM after flown in from Cal City via Whitney, I had pretty much hollister in my pocket if I just pointed my nose to Hollister as Buzz did 30 min later and had cake run back to Hollister. Instead, I acted on a tip
describing the convergence line to be “way east toward the San Banito MW tower, and that it was bad to the west. . As it turned out, it was only couple of miles east and in direct line to EL5. Which is quiet normal, so long story short, once I lost my line I assume I went too far west and started bee lining to the MW tower at the east end of the San Benitos. Very stupid decision from two fundamental reasons: It is rarely good at this direction, and the dust was blowing from the east down below, (although from the SSW at altitude). Also no dust devils at this direction (or any direction). By the time I realized my mistakes I was too low to move far enough west to connect, and ended up scratching low for an hour over Harris ranch in weak lift and landed Coalinga for an expensive aero retrieve.
So the blame is only on me:
1 – Should have used common sense and experience to find the convergence line as Buzz did to make it home and complete an epic flight.
2 – Should have used ground clues which were showing NE wind although SW at altitude, which means move further west.
3 – Should take other pilots reports, especially those who flew an hour earlier from a different route, with a grain of salt, or completely ignore them and maybe turn the radio volume down and fly my own flight.
4 – Don’t push yourself in a corner. After loosing few thousand feet in a convergence, you obviously lost is, so move towards where is is normally expected to maximize your chance.Use wind clues.
However there is one more conclusion, or perhaps a plea, for other pilots. If you do provide tips, PLEASE be more accurate. “Way to the east” will not do. As it turned out, way to the east meant heading to EL5 instead of Center, which is barely east of the line. Instead use distance and direction from landmarks/waypoints. When flying in unmarked convergence, couple of miles to west or east will make all the difference in the world, as I learned the hard way.
And to end on a positive note, it does not matter how many years and thousands hours of experience you have, we still live and learn from our mistakes.
I am hoping this essay will help me and other be better pilots.