Capturing The Egg from Air Sailing
By Peter Kelly
18 July 2009
The single purpose of this flight was to regain possession of the Egg and bring it back to Williams soaring Center in California.
The PASCO Capture Trophy ( called The Egg) was proudly on display at Air Sailing (ASI), located about 30 miles NE of Reno Nevada. Although the distance was only 138 statute miles the terrain between the two glider ports is formidable, rising from sea level, crossing mountains exceeding 10,000 ft, and landing at ASI which is 4,300 ft in elevation. Prior to this flight, a glider had never been flown from Williams to Air Saililng.
It was a long time in development, but the plan finally came together on July 18, 2009. Flying an ASH26E, the flight time was 5.7 hours, with a departure from Williams CA at 11:12 AM and landing at Air Sailing NV at 4:51 PM. The overall flight distance as measured from takeoff to landing was over 235 miles, traveling west, then north along the Mendocino Mts, then across the Sacramento Valley to Mt. Lassen on the Sierra Mts, and then to the southeast towards the Reno NV area. The average ground speed on this flight of nearly five hours was 47 MPH.
The Egg had been at Williams more often than it had been at any other glider ports within Region 11, but in 2008 a pilot had captured the Egg from Williams on behalf of the pilots flying from Truckee, Ca. In late 2008 the Egg was captured from Truckee and taken to Minden NV, and in early 2009, the Egg was captured by Air Sailing, wher it was now on display.
Multiple attempts had been made to fly from Williams to Air Sailing, but no one met with success up to this point. Conventional wisdom ruled that the most likely chance of success would be a reversal of the course that Ramy had flown when he flew from Truckee to WSC in 2008, but each time I had attempted to fly that route in reverse order, I either ran out of lift before getting high over the Sierra Nevada Mountains or there was simply not enough daylight left to fly the remainder of the way to Air Sailing and expect to have any chance of returning to WSC on that same day.
I finally concluded that the only solution was to glide across the Sacramento Valley about mid-way between Williams and the north end of the Valley. I had been studying the maps for years, and had tried several different combinations of jump off points from the Mendocinos, coupled with various target glide points where I might hope to get a climb on the Sierra Range. I had success one time – nearly ten years earlier,when I made a flight to Minden, on which I had departed Eagle Peak and flew directly towards Rogers-Chester, Lake Almanor, but the lift that day was extraordinary.
On Saturday morning, July 9th, I reviewed the latest version of the RASP charts and I observed the conditions were not appreciably different than what I had seen the night before. I didn’t take the time to reconstruct any new overlays, and I headed for Williams Glider port. Things I had to do before takeoff, in additions to all of the normal assembly and preflight items, were to refill my gasoline supply, and refuel the ship, top up the oil reservoir, and service my oxygen bottle. Eric was on hand to give me an assist, and I was ready to go about 75 minutes after arriving at Williams. I requested my usual departure profile and Mark obliged me with a tow to 2,000 ft. heading west. I then did my usual engine start and self-climb to 5,500 ft and shut down over cross-roads, about 5 miles east of the tree farm start gate.
My initial climb was two or three knots to over 6,000, and it illustrated that my launch time was about optimal for today’s conditions. Moving northward at best forward speed possible I didn’t’t linger at any teaser thermals. The first time I was able to get higher than 8,000 was about 4 miles south of Alder Springs. I followed the high ground north west then jumped the gap northeast towards M-3, one of my favorite places to find lift immediately north of Alder Springs. – and that small climb took me to the Yolla Peak area. There were no cu anywhere but I had arrived at the place I needed to be. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the bubble of hot air that would take me to something aboove12,000 feet. I didn’t’t have long to wait. I was soon climbing at 6 kts in a tight thermal that took me from 10,000 up to 12,500. Passing 11,000 I rechecked my out bound course display, insured I was set for the crossing and focused on getting the most from that bubble of rising air. It seemed to quit at 12,500.
I had at least 12,000 and the mission was now a go! I met the criteria, and off I went. Yahoo!
I turned towards the east and I was underway!
It was a long glide in smooth air, passing well north of Rancho Tehama, and slightly north of Red Bluff runway in the middle of the Sacramento Valley.
I continuously flew the optimum airspeed (between 55 and 60 kts) and monitored the progress of the glide as I descended in the still air, dropping below 9,000 feet on the east side of the valley. My actual ground speed while in the glide from the west to the east side of the valley was later measured to be 90 MPH. At the end of the glide I was at 6,000 ft (rather than below 6), due to the favorable tail wind.
As the air started to dance at about 6,000 ft. I took a few turns when I thought it to be prudent, and was intent on not rushing, that is, not trying to climb the steep terrain to the east without enough altitude to remain clear of the trees. I knew I would need to be patient and conservative. I had arrived near Ponderosa Sky about 2,000 above the terrain, so I was not uncomfortable with my altitude above the terrain, but the comfort level would soon change as I traveled eastward up the eastern slope of the Sacramento Valley.
I could see several small cu on the high ground some 15 miles east, and periodically a small cu would cycle over the top of Mount Lassen but that was over 17 miles to the north east of the area that I was working. I knew that this was the most critical part of the flight. Without a climb this would probably be my sixth failed attempt in getting to Air Sailing, but I was confident that it was possible this time.
At 6,000 ft, I did a long slow climb to 7,500 ft (27 turns for a climb a total of 1500 ft). Once again I tried to push eastward but lost 1,000 ft in my search for more lift. With the 6500 ft I now had, and considering my location, I was out of glide range to get back to Ponderosa Sky, but I calculated that I could glide to the hay fields due west of my location and worked a weak thermal that was aligned downwind of the larger thermal that I had previously found. Some 20 turns later, I was heading towards the white rocks of Mount Lassen at 9800 ft.
It had been hot down there at 6 and 7,000 ft, but now, above 10,000 ft. I started to cool down and was becoming comfortable with my success. I did some sight seeing, and snapped a few photos of this beautiful area.
The highest remaining point of Mount Tehama before it erupted. This extinct volcano is now called Mt. Lassen
I knew the Egg would be in my hands before the end of the day. As I rolled out heading eastbound towards Air Sailing I rechecked that my transponder was squawking 0440 so that Reno Air Traffic Controllers would be able to see me and vector the Commercial Airliners around me. It had been a long trip up to this point. From the start at Goat Mt. up to the Yolla Peak it was 1.6 hours, flying over familiar terrain, and this past 2 hours I was flying over areas that I had visited only a few times previously. Yet, I found it easy to relax at this point, and it was time for lunch as I leisurely continued towards my objective at about 90 MPH, cruising between 14,000 and 16,000 ft.
I estimated I’d be on the ground at Air Sailing before 5 PM and would have time for flight attempt back to Williams that same day. After my third thermal, traveling southeast between Mt Lassen and Air Sailing, I passes Susanville and then Herlong. It was now time to review the ASI Field Ops Guide that I had bought along with me. I was on final glide and had the field made, even though the Dogskins blocked my view of the airport area – still over 40 miles away.
I made a few radio calls, I came around the north end of the Dogskins, and came down the valley towards Air Sailling talking first to Lee Edling and then to Stoney. It was only right that Stoney was there to meet me and get me back off the ground again, since it was he who had captured the Egg from Minden earlier in the year.
After securing the Egg and the Egg Logbook in the glider, I strapped the parachute back and prepared for my flight back to Williams. Due to strong winds, I landed at Truckee that evening, and returned to Williams with The egg the next day, where Airport Owner Rex Mayes and VSA President Ginny Farnsworth were on hand to congratulate on the successful capture of The Egg.