2016 Wave Day at Williams

By Peter Kelly

A westerly wind over the Mendocino Mountains creates wave lift. 

This is just one of hundreds of flights conducted in mountain wave, all flown from Williams, California


Watching the weather forecasting models and then rearranging our personal schedules is what we do – if we want to enjoy a flight in good soaring conditions. On Sunday, Feb 21, I started a thread on our forum, Williams Today with the hopes of flying a post frontal flight in strong thermals on Thursday, 2/25, less than four days later.  As the day came closer, the prospects for flying on Thursday fizzled, but it became apparent to me that the following day, Friday 2/26,  would be a day for flying mountain wave along the west side of the Sacramento valley.  Thus the title “2/26 A Wave day”. See the discussion on the forum, contributed by several pilots, leading up to this great flight.

A few days after the flight, Jim Smith writes on that same thread, on the Forum:

Just wanted to add to Peter’s report for that day. I flew with the plan to follow Peter. He was a 1/2 hour ahead of me. However, taking in all the information while on tow to Tree Farm, questionable conditions, some discouraging radio reports of sink received on tow, another pilot turned back, and being a newbie with a new plane, I diverted to Walker as there appeared some wave forming there. I did hear Peter’s report of climbing through 16K but I am still developing that skill/confidence level and by that time was committed to Walker. While I missed a great wave to 18K I found workable weak wave to 12.5K over north end of Walker towards Montgomery. Later, after gaining enough altitude I was headed towards Tree Farm in hopes of finding Peter. By that time, Peter was on his way south and the clouds of the approaching front were beginning to look ominous over Goat. I turned back towards Walker and decided to head to the Valley as the clouds around Walker/Bear Valley were developing quickly . All in all a great learning flight of 3 hours. I always appreciate the input and feedback received from the fellow pilots like Peter and of course Charlie. Thanks


Photos posted by Jim:

Walker Wave 1

walker wave1


Walker Wave 2

walker wav2






The following was posted by me on 2/28, two days after the flight:

Re: Fly – Thursday 2-25-16 (and Friday)

With the different pressure pattern below 4,000, as evidenced by wind shift below the inversion, you were having to deal with that intermittent tailwind takeoff…

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and the other thing is the Wave had no support below 5,000, since the air was unstable down low. It’s no wonder there was no secondary, etc. over Montgomery/ Indian.
Or maybe, the convergence line was over optimistic on the 850 mb vv chart because the wind above it was increasing markedly, while the convergence in the BL below it couldn’t produce the convection due to lack of hot sunshine.

Russ, Where were you at 1:24 I have photos of the entire time from 1:24 onward. Send me your trace and I’ll look for you in my photos. I suspect you crossed above me while I was towing out.

Here is the first one:

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The wave clouds were just starting to form about 1 PM.

I looked through my films and couldn’t see you.
I never saw you on my FLARM, and by the time I passed overhead Indian I was at 5,500 and you still don’t show up on my screen, so I suspect you were already back in the valley at 1.28- the time of this photo. As you can see there was good lift (85kts/ 300 to 500 fpm) over Indian but it was quickly followed by sink 2 0r 3 miles further west. Like I said we stayed below 5,700 ft for the next 5 miles after that.

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A couple of more from the forum page:

The local time:
three photos: 2:10a, and 2:10b, and 2:13a – at 15,700 over T Farm looking north at Snow Mtn

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Cruising well above 10,000 feet on a four hour flight is somewhat exhausting.  My closing post on that Williams Today Thread is a quick summary of the day:

A bit tired after two flights.
First one, very short flight, up to 3,000 no lift, then land and get a new tow.
Hook up again – go to Tree Farm, release in wave, fly over 4 hours
Flight log posted to OLC.

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The On Line Contest (OLC) posted this flight here.
The OLC computations indicated the flight was 300 km at an average speed of 75 km per hour.  Not a record flight, by any means, but one of the unique opportunities to fly from Williams and take a nearly leisurely cruise at higher than normal altitudes over 150 miles.  Lots of personal satisfaction in that.

I have lots more photos, but I just need to find time to post them here.





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