2016 5/26 Mentoring on the Mendos

By Peter Kelly

This page started out to be just about my simple flight on an easy day, but has morphed into talking about lift , clouds, etc., and how three pilots were able to share a few observations and techniques with each other.  The origin of this dialogue began with a posting to our forum – Williams Today.

I could only get on the renter schedule for a few hours.  At first I had to be back by 2:25, since Dave had the last available ship booked, starting at 2:30, but then, lucky for me, I was allowed to extend another 20 minutes, due to Dave changing his reservation time to start 30 minutes later, at 3 PM.   The following was posted to Williams Today – the Forum


Re: Fly – Thursday 5/26

Post flight report.

Fcst had changed and there were fewer clouds and less wind than had been on the forecast from the night before.

Yes, it was indeed a good day.

Launched at 12 noon, off at cloud base 5 miles east of Goat South turn point at 7,000 ft.

After Cora gave Doug a call, and found he wasn’t gong to be there to take the ship until 3 PM, I had an extra 15 or 20 minutes to fly the ASW-24 – OJ.  I Landed at 14:46, after a very pleasant two and a half hours of soaring.

Lift was quite predictable along the western side of the clouds, with high wispies marking the lift.
Didn’t need stop and thermal much, but engaged the other two ships during the last hour of my flight, after going to Black Butte and return.
Total time thermalling/ circling was 12 % for the day, and most of that was with the other two pilots, Jim in CA and Russ in 88.
Flight is posted to OLC

Sky to the north…
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Flight track
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photos of Jim S. and Russ sharing thermals with me.

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Jim Smith posted the following:

I had a great flight. Thanks for the mentoring, I learned much. I launched about 12:30 but release at 6k north of Indian Valley Res. I struggled for about 45 mins to get on top of the ridge to goat. In hindsight I should have stayed to 7K and gone a little farther. Once on the ridge life got much easier. And following you. After leaving you I headed further north. Russ was waiting for me at Black Butte but I was dodging clouds and it was getting on in the day so turned south near Alder Springs. We headed south to Rumsey Gap then home. Had we more time Berryessa looked very doable.

Picture of Russ in 88 and you in a thermal below.

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im Smith posted the following:

Re: Fly – Thursday 5/26

I see your path staying west, my mistake. Besides releasing too far east I also went more east beyond Sheet Iron, towards Alder Springs. Although I had a good line of lift mostly between the clouds, the bases were lower on the east side and the clouds less defined. I wasn’t comfortable getting below them to move west. Another problem Ill have to resolve is my Iglide flight computer doesn’t update wind direction often enough and then its appears off by up to 90 degrees from the clear navs. Contributes to my ‘limited’ ability to find thermals.


Russ Pillard posted the following:

Re: Fly – Thursday 5/26

I launched from WSC at 1300 in “88” and released at TreFram at 7000 then worked my way to Goat where Peter in “OJ” had just returned from Black Butte and offered to show me the way to SIron. Of course I jumped at the chance to tag along and learn something from Peter. Peter led the way along the west side of the clouds were we found plenty of lift, so not much circling on the way to SIron and return to Snow. I think we were flying along the west side of the convergence with more clouds and lower bases (7K) east of the convergence and bases around 9 or 10000’ on the west side. See attached image of the Mendos with the convergence trace shown.

Peter seems to know where the lift will be with confidence as he demonstrated several times. One lift he found was spectacular as seen from 500’ behind him when he announced that he would slow to 50Kts for the lift coming up. About 30 seconds later Peter in “OJ” climbed at least 200’ very quickly without turning then seconds later I did the same climb! “OJ” appeared to go straight up at 1000 fpm!

Over Snow Peter headed for WSC to hand “OJ” over to the next renter. I proceed north toward SIron again along the same route Peter used and had nearly the same experience as when Peter was leading, so I continued to Black Butte. Several times during my trip north I encountered 8+kts of lift and turned to circle for more altitude finding only sink. This was acting more like a lift band or river with sink along side. Has anyone had this experience with a line of convergence before? Peter, did you detect this?

Over Black Butte at 9600’ ClearNav was showing I was still within gliding range of WSC (barely). I was tempted to continue along the clouds further north, but I just don’t seem to be able to continue out of gliding range of WSC.

I returned south and flew side by side with Jim Smith from Walker to Rumsey Gap then WSC. Jim, thanks for that great photograph of “88” with the pilot clearly visible.

Thanks to Peter my circling time was down to 22% for this flight, my lowest except for wave flights.

Peter, thanks for generous offer to share some of your knowledge and contribute to a great flight for me!
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Peter Kelly posted the following:

Re: Fly – Thursday 5/26

As for gliding range from WSC.
I suspect you are not using a MC of 3 or 4, as I do in that environment. At a MC of 3 or 4 you probably were outside of gliding range. There have been lots of discussions on why you should “think MC ” when you are flying x-c. Jim-1B has quoted noted author and racing champ John C. (and now a local pilot). more than once on that very subject here on our forum.

As for turning vs just dolphin flying, (diving and zooming) along the so called “convergence” line……

It wasn’t much of a “convergence” on this flight. It was more a case of better lift on the west side– for various reasons… prevailing local winds, sun angles on the ground, canyons facing into the wind,channelling the thermal wind, shadows on the ground, etc. The term convergence is misused and over used, but it’s convenient to use the term, so we all use it. Meteorologists cringe when they listen to us talk about convergence. Easier to fly the speed appropriate for the lift/sink if you don’t vary the speed too much as you push and pull, with shallow turns into each of the thermals as you pass them. That’s why I was announcing my speed several times as we flew along. I wanted to be sure you were noting how I was varying the speed. Going much over 70 on that line of lift was counterproductive and slowing to less than 50 didn’t pay off, since I was only passing through the lift.

As for circling, in that environment, in our situations, there were plenty of good 8 kt (average) thermals to be had, and you can decrease your forward ground speed to zero, if you wanted to circle to enjoy them, but for what purpose? In that cloudy environment it is better to remain well enough clear at the clouds to be able to view shapes and cloud shadows on the ground up ahead. And, why circle? The height takes away your forward visibility. You can’t pick a good track if you can’t see. And, if you want to travel, rather than do circles, it’s better to fly with only a few s turns, not slowing too tooooo, much as you pass through the lift.
I’ll stop and circle more for the purpose of letting my computer calculate the wind, rather than just to gain unneeded altitude.

That goes back to Jim’s point…. if you do consistently good circles, you will have more accurate wind read outs. Just my opinion.

I enjoyed flying with both of you on that flight. Lots of fun. Thanks.

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