After the FAA mandated local flying hours for the Experimental Airworthiness were completed, I started thinking about doing some cross country flying. Staying near the home airport, while fun, is not as exciting as going somewhere.
As a beginning glider pilot (hey, that other 10,000+ hours doesn't count) I have done the SSA A, B, C, and Bronze badge program. It is now time to get ready for the FAI (international recgonized) achievment awards. The first to start out with is the Silver badge. Last summer I completed one of the legs - The Long Sit. I did a 6 hour flight in one of the trainer SGS 233 planes. This duration flight counts for both the Silver and Gold badges. To finish the Silver badge, I will have to make a flight of at least 50 Km (about 32 miles), releasing at a fairly low altitude and climbing at least 1000 meters (about 3281 feet) from the release point. The flight has to be overseen by an Official Observer and documented with some sort of flight recorder.
Not having a flight recorder or observer immediately lined up, I decided to take a practice flight over the course that I will use for the badge. Not content to fly 50 Km and land, I intended to go out and return to the home airport, a flight of at least 100 Km. The Wickenburg airport, northwest of Phoenix, is just over the magicical 50 Km distance from the Pleasant Valley Airport. It is the intended target.
I took off in great looking conditions. There was a 10 to 20 knot headwind at altitude on the way to Wickenburg, but it would make for great progress on the way home. I had determined some preset altitudes for gliding to other airports, if needed.
The flight was not without its trials and tribulations. About 30 minutes into the flight, my compensated variometer stopped working. The audio vario was still working and my altimeter-watch-vario was still working, so I pressed on. (A tube had kinked - the instrument appears to be fine.) It forced a bit more focus on pilot technique and less reliance on instruments. About the same time as the vario quit, some of the sealing tape over the screw heads of the front canopy started to come loose. I had not replaced it for several flights and the hot sun cooked the glue.
You can see from the first photo, the cloud shadows there were great thermal markers. As I got further west, the clouds almost disappeared and finding thermals was a bit more difficult. Sailplane pilots call this flying across a "blue" area. Notice that the cloud shadows are absent in the photos of Wickenburg. With the strong headwind, I got down to about 2500 feet above the ground at Wickenburg before connecting with a nice thermal. The GPS trace shows all of the thermaling leaning east, away from the far point of the flight. As I gained altitude, I had to give some back to get back as far west as I had started in the thermal. This was a real boon for the return flight, though. I ran back into the cloud area and had TOO MUCH lift on the way home. I did a glide from 22 miles out from 9000 feet MSL and arrived over the airport at 6500 MSL - still almost 5000 feet above ground. This is the kind of "problem" to have in a glider.
Below is the GPS trace my "practice" cross country flight. The first was done on May 20, 2001 and was 2 hours 54 minutes.
Tony Smolder loaned me his EW datalogger for my future badge flights. I feel confident after this "practice run" that the badge flight will be no problem in similar conditions. Maybe in a week or two, I will get everything lined up and make an attempt!
Created 20 May 2001.
Updated 18 November 2011
Copyright 2001-2011 by Paul R. Jorgenson