2014 Diary Entries

Reports by Peter Kelly

Flights and comments from Dec 2012 to Aug 2014.



3 August 2014

Posted a flight to OLC but it did not get scored.  Go to OLC to see the flight.

Flight was conducted on 31 Jul 2014.  Flight was submitted to OL on 1 August 2014.  The flight was recorded on a Samsung tablet and was designated with the following name:  2014-07-31-XCS-TAB-01.igc.


18 April 2013


This entry refers to a flight I took nearly four years ago – May 2009.

The Three Amigos (Key, Jim, and myself) were out for a day of fun flying and the lift promised to be good. I only have the flight records for myself and for Jim Darke – 1B, so I leave it to Key to recall his interactions, relative to Jim and me. I launched 30 minutes before Jim. I suspect Jim and Key may have taken a double tow together – as they usually did – but maybe we only had single tows that day – I don’t know. All of these details are relative to the outcome of the day, because these details all became a part of Key’s thought process – or at least the details that he knew about. His experiences were preparing him for what was going to happen later in the day.

Shortly after Jim was off tow, and although I had been working lift for nearly 30 minutes, we were essentially at the same altitude of 5,000 ft. Using See You, glider PK is in Red and glider 1B is in Blue. The time of this image is 12:48 PM …. Click on the image to enlarge and to see the detailed legend…


The lift on top of the Goat Ridge was topping out at 8,000 ft, so we headed north together, but there was a difference. I had 30 minutes more warm up then Jim and after climbing on Goat I had traversed the Goat ridge to the south end, before we headed north.


As you can see,by enlarging the above graphic, we were side by side as we approached the top of Snow Mtn.

We arrived at Sheet Iron Mtn, with Jim being 500 ft higher than me, and we both entered thermals.


Jim had a better one and he stayed above me as I joined his thermal, and as he approached 8,700 ft he departed to the north. I took another 3 or 4 turns and followed at that same altitude. Crossing the canyon Jim had a bit more sink than I had and as we approached the north lip I was at 8,200 but Jim was down to 7,500 ft., but he was further north of me as well. This is 13:52PM…


Jim continued NW for another few minutes, but then decided he was too low to safely continue. As we passed each other, I was at 8,600 and Jim was down to 6,200ft. Somehow I had avoided the line of sink that had plagued Jim. This is 13:59 PM…


During the next ten minutes, I found lift and Jim found sink. In this image I am at 10,400 and Jim is down to 5,200 ft. It is now apparent that we are no longer traveling together. I don’t recall Key’s position. This is 14:09 PM ….


During the next 40 minutes I enjoyed a nice line of lift, traveling to T-15 TP and starting back southbound at 10,400 ft.


I probably shared this info with Key, and I am guessing that he had started northbound from Goat well behind Jim and me, and I am also guessing that he decided to go to fly T-15, since I had been there. I found a good climb just south of Black Butte. Key must have been well north of me, and that is probably why I decided to go north again – to meet up with him. By 15:40 PM I was back near Anthony at an altitude of 8,400 ft, when I observed Key passing below me at high speed and heading south. At this time, Jim was northbound, cruising along at 10,000 ft…..


As I continued to turn in my thermal I observed in disbelief as Key descended along the sloping terrain to the west. There was no lift along that ridge at the lower levels and he was now committed to land – somewhere. He had no choice but to fly towards lower terrain.

lost visual contact

From this perspective it appeared to me that Key had absolutely no options. He was going to crash land somewhere along the river.


I climbed in that three knot thermal to 10,000 ft and observed for three long minutes as he went out of site. I was formulating a plan of what i should do next. I could only wait and listen.

I was hoping Key would find a safe place to crash land, and that the radio would still be useable after the impact, and he would tell us everything was OK. But, if there were no more radio communications with Key, I would need to go look for him. My thoughts at the time were that I would glide in the direction of Round Valley airport, looking for the 27 on the ground, then attempt to start the engine while I was within glide of some landable field in Round Valley. After engine start, I’d continue to search, all the while keeping Jim informed. Jim was orbiting at Black Butte at about 10,000 ft. Assuming the worst, I planned to instruct Jim to call for helicopter rescue. My plan was to land at the nearest field and proceed to the crash site on foot – hopefully to render first aid if needed.

After an interminable silence, much to everyone’s relief, Key reported a safe landing in a very suitable field along the river. I was traumatized, but at least it had a good outcome. We informed Williams of the particulars as we climbed at Black Butte. Reaching 11,000 and Jim and I headed home together at 16:17 PM. There was nothing more we could do for Key at this point.


After our 30 minute glide, directly to Williams, two of the three Amigos landed at Williams, but we knew Key would make it home OK.


Key had come across a field that none of us ever knew existed. We were later informed the field is called Etsel Flat and it is illustrated here using Google Earth…


The Super Cub was dispatched and flew from WSC to Etsel flat to bring Key back to Williams less than an hour or so after he landed there.

The next day, Rex and son Nick, along with Key, towed the trailer from WSC to Etsel Flat via the Alder Springs Road. After the retrieve, they traveled back to WSC via Hwy 101, through Willits, taking Hwy 20 past Clear Lake. Here is a depiction of the routes traveled, as shown on Google Maps ….


More details: Etsel Field is near the end of the roads that are known to Google maps. Rex had to use the bridge, located to the east to cross the river. The glider was a half mile to the SW of the end of the known road.

end of road The location of landing at Etsel Flat, as shown on Google Earth: 4




8 March 2013


Flying on Friday 8 Mar 3013 with Jim – 1B.  It was a Post Frontal day and I wrote all about how it would be good after the weather changed, and darn if it wasn’t good!

Dec 18, 2012

I went to see the movie “Flight” (Denzel Washington) this past weekend. Yes, big jets really do glide!  That was what we heard the pilot say – after he rolled it right side up again, and both engines were gone.  And we all know about the glide in the Air Bus from over the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson.

This movie “Flight” wore me out. The whole thing was waaay to realistic.  The Director must have put a lot of effort into making it to be as technically realistic as possible.

It wasn’t a scary movie for me to see, but my pulse was probably well over 120 for most all of the flying scene.  At first, I was feeling totally disgusted, and was expecting the movie to be a big loser as we watched the pilot get out of bed drunk and then hit more drugs and booze before work.  But, as he completed the preflight walk-around inspection in the rain the realism of my old job came into play, and from then on my pulse elevated and I didn’t relax until after the crash. Even the takeoff roll was realistic, including all of the voice calls by the copilot on the acceleration.  At least I didn’t get a headache from all of the adrenaline in my system after the movie – so I didn’t react too bad to the stimulation – but it was extremely stimulating.

To keep it interesting, they did skip over a lot of the cockpit routines that transpired on engine start and taxi out, as well as immediately after takeoff, with flaps and slat retraction, and tweaking the radar picture, etc, but damn… everything else was quite realistic! I was looking around the cockpit at instruments, switches, circuit breakers, window latches, window heaters, seats, doors, etc. I flew that model of airplane for ten years for American, and logged nearly 10,000 hours of flying time at the controls. Just like he did in the movie, I had stood at the front of the cabin many a time with the mike in my hand, making eye contact with the passengers, talking directly to the 128 of them all belted into their seats – but it was usually while we were parked at the gate or on the ramp waiting for our turn to depart a crowded airport or even inflight when we were required to delay our descent – in calm air – while we waited for our turn to leave the holding pattern on a late arrival.

I spent a lot of hours of my life inside that cockpit. I never had an actual jammed stabilizer ( failure of the jackscrew), but we practiced the procedures in the simulator. All pilots were quite familiar with the mechanics of the jackscrew assembly – especially after the Alaska Airline flight from Mexico to Seattle, that crashed into the water near Los Angeles in Jan 2000 (no survivors). See the Wiki for details about the Alaskan Air flight, they have videos as well  – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Airlines_Flight_261


Please visit the source location of this page found at:

We even practiced the manual disconnect procedure (where they pull the lever on the floor and break the connection between the copilots and the captains control inputs) – of course, as they illustrated in the movie, that procedure does no good with a jammed elevator due to jackscrew failure.

I never rolled inverted, but we did practice recovering from inverted flight in the MD-80 (in the sim, of course).  I personally know the ship does have excellent roll capability because on one test flight I flew out of San Fran, over the San Joaquin Valley , with just me and a copilot in an empty aircraft, I did a few really quick, steep turns, and the bird performed like a fighter. 10 times faster roll rate than a glider – that’s for sure.

Life is often stranger than fiction.

FYI (before you ask the obvious), the best glide speed on the MD80 was a function of weight (just like any glider/ aircraft) and the base number (nominal weight, with min fuel, as I recall) was 220 knots, clean configuration ( gear and flaps up).  L/D was about 20:1 or so.




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