2016 4/30 Kempton’s Wave flight in FNX

Four days prior to this spectacular flight Kempton posted the following on the Williams Today Forum, 2/26/2016

Wave Watch: Sun May 1

Looking really good, strong offshore wind day, morning charts:
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Will track this as we get closer. Be thinking of a dawn launch, 6:10a by then….

Two days later, now two days prior to the flight Kempton adds the following to his posting:

Re: Wave Watch: Sun May 1 (now Saturday)

As of Thu morning, the wave is now a SATURDAY wave, best early:
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The quality of the wave has dropped a bit as the small system generating the winds is wobbling around, as we note from the wave day going from Sunday to Saturday. Further, note how it’s nice & tight structure in the morning:
Click image for larger version.  Name: boxwmax.curr+2.1000lst.d2_Apr30.png  Views: 17  Size: 26.7 KB  ID: 305011a profile, the Goat wave vs…..Click image for larger version.  Name: boxwmax.curr+2.1400lst.d2_Apr30.png  Views: 14  Size: 25.6 KB  ID: 30533p profile which is sloppier.

and the ground winds will be strong in the morning:
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so factor in the slower assembly due to winds. I plan a 7a or so launch.

Task: Goat, St. Helena, down the Napa valley, Diablo wave, Los Vaqueros, Fremont, Santa Cruz & return. Allowing 6 hours.

The community of local soaring pilots were tuned in and watching events unfold.  The flight had all the characteristics of a championship sports competition.  Russ Pillard posted the following on Saturday morning on Williams Today:

Re: Wave Watch: Saturday 4/30/2016

FNX launched at 0735 PDT. The surface wind was 24 K from the north.

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Screen captured, zoom in of the above screen shot:
FNX Launch
On Sunday night at 10:38, one day after this record setting event, Kempton posted the following on to Williams Today:

Re: Wave Watch: Saturday 4/30/2016

Well, the flight was an incredible experience. It feels like it kinda didn’t happen, like I dreamed the whole thing. I’m still post-processing….

I had been planning this flight since before Ramy actually did the first on January 12, 2012:

and his earlier flight under the Class B airspace March 3, 2011. In the days leading up to Saturday’s flight, we talked about the weather setup, principally the NNE winds. We both noted how the small incremental change in direction from say, 010 to 030 makes a big difference in the strength and abundance of wavelets.

While Ramy’s 2012 flight was from Byron, right next door to Mt. Diablo, I wanted to do the flight from Williams and then make it back. The setup arrived as noted earlier in this thread. My co-pilot Johannes Zadrozny, the son of a work colleague from many years ago, has his private glider & power license and he’d flown with me ten years ago at WSC in the Duo.

I assembled Friday evening with many pilots at the field enjoying the end of a great Friday thermal day. With Charlie Hayes’ help I was assembled by 8p, right when the north wind picked up, *whew*. Parked tail into the area between the shop and the new hangar. The wind blew pretty good that night, but no harm done. The forecast charts showed the winds strong until about 2p when they would suddenly die off:

Click image for larger version.  Name: previous.blwindkt_blwinddeg.curr.18z_Apr30.png  Views: 69  Size: 57.9 KB  ID: 307111a then dying off at. . .Click image for larger version.  Name: previous.blwindkt_blwinddeg.curr.21z_Apr30.png  Views: 70  Size: 55.8 KB  ID: 30722p

Launched at 7:35a into a good stiff N wind towed by Charlie. Release right over the creek at the bottom of the Goat ridge, and climbed in 4-7 knots up to 17.9K (Click for VIDEO):

and headed south:
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Climbed again to 17.9K on the Mayacamas, then ran south along the wave off of the ridges on the east side of the Napa Valley down to almost Napa. I’d done this twice before, once with Gunard, and separately Pat Alford, both on NE winds. Since it’s so infrequent between times I do this, it took me a couple false starts to remember to follow the river and/or highway on my old Garmin as you can’t tell from high up how you are tracking relative to the ridge line. The ridge line are like wrinkles, not like running the Sierra. The lift ended east of Napa airport, then we had sustained sink crossing the Delta, on the order of 3-5 knots!!!

I’d been in touch with Ramy before launch, and we’d said we’d meet up in the Diablo wave. Well, two unpowered aircraft 100+ miles apart meeting up at a point in space at the same time seemed unlikely, but as it worked out we meet up in the Diablo wave at 10a, with only 300 ft altitude difference! The Diablo wave is often small in area and weak, 1-2 knots, but this time it was broader, perhaps a mile square and 3-4 knots lift.

The NE wind had the sweet spot in the Class B airspace, but by the time we got there, we were at 12k. Meaning so long as you stay above 10,000 ft. no problem. Climbed to 17.9K but above 15K, the winds went from 40 knots to 75 knots so we just became stationary. If you’ve not done this before, it can be very disorienting as the GPS flip-flops 180 degrees as you as blown back at 4 knots, then speed up and you’re going forward at 3 knots. Thank goodness for moving maps regardless…

It’s now 10:30a, and Ramy declares he’s moving out to the Santa Cruz wave. While I follow for about 20 seconds, I break off realizing that with the strong winds, it will be less likely we can make it back in time. My target was to be at St. Helena by 2p. We continue with the plan to overfly San Francisco, and hopefully catch the Mt. Tam wave that has been confirmed only once by Ramy’s earlier flight. No one else has confirmed this “Loch Ness” wave actually exists….

We track wave lift out to the middle of the Bay with spectacular scenery on the way, with stronger wave over Las Trampas ridge, then weak lift out to the middle of the Bay (Click for VIDEO):

Just incredible views:
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And my favorite video over SF (Click for VIDEO):

Over San Francisco I have to decide whether to turn back or go for the Tam wave. Because of the Class B air under us at 10K, we have to keep enough clearance to get back to the Diablo wave, or press on. It’s another 6-7 miles to the Tam wave, and it looks so close I decide to go for it, vaguely knowing that Novato, Petaluma and San Rafael are safety airports.

Well, right over the coastline downwind of Tam….. there is only zero-1 knot. I call Ramy, now down near Santa Cruz, asking for more detail on the whereabouts of the wave. He says over the coastline, but maybe further out over the ocean. Well, if you are in a glider, with dim prospects for lift, no ability to retrace your path, then look out over the Pacific, and are told to “go further out”, it feels like you are near the end of the world. Thoughts float through my head like, “well, maybe we could land on the back of a whale!”. My eye is drawn to the Farallones, but…. don’t think about it….

After 10-12 minutes of nothing, I am resigned to head north and get as far as possible before the inevitable out landing. I am SO BUMMED, knowing there is zero chance of wave as there is nothing upwind of any height. The hills are only a couple thousands feet high at best, and since Tam is higher and didn’t produce anything, how can I expect those lower hills to do anything? *sigh*
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But over downtown Novato, at 7.5K, we hit 3-4 knots of smooth lift up to 12.5K. OMG, un- f***ing believable!!!!!
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We continue north to the low hill East of the Petaluma airport, and another climb of a thousand feet or so. Now Calistoga & St. Helena look possible. Over the ridges west of St. Helena, another climb, and now we just hop across to Calistoga and climb up to 14K, in easy glide to Williams. YIPEE!!

We were then tempted by rotor clouds along Hiway-101 well past Ukiah, and started to go a few miles toward them when I said,”Y’know, we’ve achieved a miracle flight, let’s not mess it up by landing out when we have Williams in hand”. So we zoom back to Williams and hit strong thermals in the valley that go up to 6K. A bit bouncy landing (remember to always do a long final just like for runway 16) and we end an 8 hour flight landing back at WSC!

As I’ve commented for awhile, the wave locations and strength really don’t change much and were here for thousands of years before us and will be here for thousands of years after us. Therefore, by confirming location and the weather setup for these by flying them, we can eventually string together wave locations for spot to spot wave cross country flights as a common occurrence.

This would not be at all possible without Charlie Hayes helping to assemble and tow, and of course, Rex & Noelle to support and co-plan. Thank you so much!!

Last edited by Kempton; 05-02-2016 at 05:24 PM.


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