Sunday, September 14, 2014

Marshall to Soboba and back, 65 miles flight

Good XC weather normally stays for 3-4 days with changing wind direction day after day. It's hard to pick one site and one route to fly when all sites looks great. After Friday's 6 hour flight to Antelope Valley I was tired and it was easy decision to skip Saturday and fly Sunday. RebarDan was thinking of flying to Mexico border again, but after checking morning forecast it looked like too much moisture south from San Jacinto and possible OD. Jonathan was going to fly Pine with Southside, but their truck was full and wind at Pine was too strong. SD was planning on Nuthouse, but hiking in 100 degrees was not very inspiring as well as going over the back from Topa Topa. I choose Marshall.

Sometimes you just need to show up on LZ without a particular plan and plan will materialize for you. I was at LZ at 10 and it turned out Marcello had 10 am shuttle going to Marshall and they all want to fly XC. $5 extra for retrieve and they promised to pick me up. Really? I decided not to scare them by telling that my XC may be "slightly" further then they used to. Anyway, Marcello wanted to fly to Soboba and I did not been there for years and thought it would be good to see new green LZ and chat with Jerome.
Pilots getting ready on Marshall launch
I launched at 11:29 am. Conditions were already quite strong, cloud streets over Crestline ridge, San Gabriels, San Jacinto and Elsinore. There were about 8 other pilots, but most of them did not take time to climb high and rushing to cross to Arrowhead. However, one pilot on Delta 2 (Gareth) flew with me. We climbed to 6300 ft and cross to Arrowhead, found another thermal to 6800 ft drifting back and then jumped back to main ridge near Strawberry Peak. We were getting some thermals, but could not get to the clouds. It was uncomfortable to drift with the thermals back over forest with only 7K, so I decided to fish for thermals out front. That almost put me to the ground, but I was able to find a good thermal back to 9300 ft and then 11K over Running Springs. Gareth did not survive this low save and landed next to highway 330.
Mt. San Gorgonio
Following clouds across highway 10
East wind through Banning pass was in forecast until 5 pm and RASP indicated convergence line way west from the pass. There were nice clouds over San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, but no clouds in between (as predicted). Few clouds start forming on SE side of Redlands and good could street all the way to San Jacinto from there. So, I just followed clouds to Soboba. There was a light rain near Idyllwild maybe 15-20 km from me and I had a concern that it may grow, but it did not. Marcello was still in the air and changed his goal to Elsinore, but landed short.
Looking back at Marshall
Banning pass
It was only 3:00 pm and I was at 10K over Soboba considering my options. Going further south or south-east was not possible because of the rain and going back looked easy, staying under the same cloud street. I even had a tail wind almost all the way to Harrison where I got low again. I want to get back to clouds on the back ridge to avoid valley SW wind, which is normally strong and it's hard to fly upwind. Overdevelopment finally started near San Gorgonio and clouds near Keller peak looked very dark ready to OD as well. I took a climb to 11K, which was more than enough for 15 km final glide. I encountered some SW wind after Arrowhead with considerably more over Marshall. Pushed upwind all the way to highway 215 to lose altitude and landed with minimal forward speed at 5:20 pm.

My track:

SD flew 110 miles from Nuthouse to Garlock (track) and Ziggy made it from Elsinore to Marshall.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Marshall to Antelope Valley, 72 miles flight

East wind is always welcome in XC pilots’ community. You can do a lot of flights you normally can't because of SW sea breeze. One of the options is flight from Marshall over the back to Palmdale and beyond. We had a decent number of pilots for mid-week XC: Jonathan, Dmitry, Ziggy, Russ, Kia, Jai Pal, and Dusty with Steve and Wally driving retrieve.
Pilots on Marshall
Early forecast was showing east wind at Palmdale all day, but normally forecast derogate and it was the case this time as well, showing 5-7 mph SW at 5 pm. We met at 10 am. Even Ziggy was in time, which is unusual. I launched at 11:14 and conditions were still very light, but starting early was essential to get to Palmdale before SW sea breeze will kick in. I jumped to Cloud Peak then Billboard then Pine with just enough altitude. Pine was super turbulent, got a massive asymmetric collapse and left it right away crossing to Sugar Pine. Left Sugar Pine at 7200 ft and continue to Cajon Mt. Decision point: 12:10 pm, 7500 ft altitude and everyone else still over Pine. Very doubtful position for successful Cajon pass crossing, so I turn around and flew back to Sugar Pine to meet with Dmitry, Russ and Ziggy. Jonathan was still low at Pine mountain, Kia and Jai Pal landed in AJX LZ.

Ziggy had some altitude advantage and hurry to cross Cajon pass along, landing at highway 15 and 138 intersection. Unfortunately my radio did not work properly. It was fully charged, but I can only listen, when I try to hit PTT it just shut off. Looks like it’s time to replace battery. Next loss was Russ. He had slightly less altitude over Sugar Pine and decided not to follow me and Dmitry. He was not able to get enough altitude later and flew back to AJX. At this time first clouds start forming over highway 138 marking convergence line. Here is another note on the weather. If I plan to fly through Cajon pass I stop at highway 15 and 215 intersection in the morning. Expected wind is 5-7 mph from the north. This day at 9:30 am wind was already from the south at 3 mph, which means that by the time we were flying across the pass south was strong. Ziggy reported south at 15+ mph on his landing. That's why convergence line was deep. Instead of direct cross we all flew back north and climbed to 11K before crossing. Now we had 2 options: (1) follow convergence, which was even more north-west or (2) follow normal route along Lone Pine Canyon Rd. I chose number 2 because it was more direct route and with 11K we should not have any problems crossing.
On glide across highway 15
Dmitry over Cajon pass
After next few climbs Dmitry opted for deeper line in the mountains, which proved to be faster, I should just follow him. Instead, I was flying my route and by the time he got to highway 14 near Palmdale I was 12 km behind. Main convergence line was deep in San Gabriels and we both did not want to fly that deep, but after Palmdale it was perfectly on the route. I got relatively low to 7K near highway 14 and flew SW toward convergence, where I got back to 13K and basically follow it for a while.
Clouds marking convergence over highway 14
Jonathan and Dmitry landed at Elizabeth Lake and Bouquet Canyon Rd. That's exactly the same place where I landed last time. This time I still had 11K here and only concern was SW sea breeze, which could introduce serious safety issues for landing.
Palmdale from 13K
Liebre mountains
Clouds were dissolving, which is another sign of the breeze. I picked my LZ near Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve park, far enough from the mountains to avoid any rotor and landed at 5:11 pm. Wind was around 20 mph from SW, not too bad.
My LZ neat Poppy Reserve park
Steve did a great job on retrieve, picking everyone in no time and providing cold beverages. We were back at AJX around 8 pm. That’s what I call magic September days.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elsinore to Marshall, 40 miles flight

Elsinore launch
Last time I flew Elsinore was 7 years ago in September 2007. Weekend forecast for Marshall was great and there was also supposed to be fly-in at Marshall, so my choice in the middle of the week was obvious. However, Jonathan suggested Elsinore. Advantages was that it will not OD and you can fly with any altitude even with 6K you may have a chance, where at Crestline you need at least 8K to make it OTB (over the back), plus there could be OD in the mountains and desert. I hesitate for a while, I don't like Elsinore because you can bomb out there very easy, just slightly wrong timing and you land, no matter what you try to do. And that's exactly what happened with Jonathan. Jeff, Kia, Ziggy, Russ, Mike Everyday and few HG was flying that day too, Ziggy's wife Linda volunteered to drive retrieve. Thank you Linda!

We agreed to meet at LZ at 10:15, but Ziggy was late by half an hour, so we got to launch around 11:00. Good cycles and few pilots was already in the air. I launched at 11:23. Only Jeff who launched early was able to climb high right away and flew north, but he decided to wait for us. Everyone else have to spend some time near launch with Kia and Jonathan landed on primary LZ. After we got to 4500 ft we start flying north and was getting better climbs, eventually topping out at 7600 ft. That was decision point. My plan was to fly straight line with 4 control points I put to my GPS to make sure I avoid all air spaces. Going further NW was off my route, so I stay in zero sink and start drifting north, took another small climb and cross highway 15.
Looking back at Elsinore Lake
All other pilots was keep flying NW toward Santiago Peak, excited by good climbs to 9K+. There are small hills on the other side of 15 and landable valley after, which I had on glide.

Crossing highway 15
My altitude dropped back to 4500 ft after crossing, but I found a good climb just before the valley, which took me all the way to 9600 ft and near the top nice looking clouds start forming. That altitude was enough to glide to Box Springs Mountain Park.
Lake Mathews
I did not encounter any lift of sink on glide, just stable, laminar air. Wind was south at altitude and SW down low. I pick my LZ near small hill and went for some ridge soaring session, which worked. I was able to drift north, but could not climb out. Eventually my altitude dropped to 300 ft AGL and I was on my landing approach when helper thermal knock on my wing's sail. Yahoo!!! Back in the game. The problem was that west wind pushed me 1.5 miles east from my control waypoint and now I had San Bernardino Class D ahead of me. Good news was that top of airspace was 3200 ft and I decided to adjust my plan and try to fly over it. After first climb I got only to 3500 ft, which was not enough. Second climb to 5000 ft gave me some time to find another thermal or push west to avoid airspace. Luckily I found another climb to 6200 ft drifting to the north.
Intersection of 215 and 10
San Bernardino airport
On glide to the mountains
At that point I need one more climb to make it to the mountains, which was easy to find. But task was not over yet, since I came to mountains SE from Arrowhead peak and need to fly 5 miles back to Marshall. Head wind was strong, climbs was rowdy, but it was my home area, I know it very well and it was just matter of time to push back. No PG over Marshall during fly-in with parking lot full of cars is not a good sign, and several, almost parked, Falcons (low pref. HG) did not add inspiration either. My ground speed dropped to 5 mph, but with speed bar I was able to fly out front and (guess it) can't land! because lift was everywhere. I try spirals, wing overs, try to search for sink. After half an hour struggle I was finally able to land. Jeff was able to complete the same flight also, but he took a serious detour flying around March AFB and San Bernardino Class D from the east. Thanks for the ride back to Elsinore Jeff.
Jeff landing at Andy Jackson
Bill Soderquist (HG) flew from Elsinore all the way to Cajon Mountain past Marshall via Yucaipa and all the way back to Elsinore.

Here is my track log:
Discussion on Crestline forum: