03-21-16 1000km Out and Return Duckhawk

What an incredible soaring day! I declared a 1000km Out and Return to explore the Southern end of the Blairstown ridge system and hopefully open a new route to get to the front-ridge for future long flights.

The day started out calm, which did not allow a very early launch. But no matter, we have to wait for the thermals to get going in order to cross at Hawk. I launched around 9:40 in light ridge conditions. Tip-toed across the Gaps and coasted on down to Hawk. Luckily there was a thermal waiting there and got across to Second/Sharp in a jiffy.

By then the convection really kicked off and I found a six knotter before transitioning to Bear Mountain. Easy jumps to Mahantango and Tuscarora. After that it was a matter of putting the pedal down and driving to Dickeys.

The ridge at that point was moderate at best. I was cruising around 90 knots at the treetops, really trying to get it up to 100. Really wished it was warm enough to have water ballast!

At Dickeys, the transition to Sleepy Creek Mountain wasn’t too bad. Needed a thermal this time though. All the transitions were quite sinky and required extra altitude to make across safely.

Finally at the end of Sleep Creek, now was when the exploring began. Climbed up and got down on Great Northern Mountain. Great Northern worked great! It was really fast and solid. The wind was picking up.

Got across the wall at the end of Great Northern, punched upwind one ridge and was coming up to the end of the ridge. I transitioned early to Shenandoah because it was blue further ahead. No matter, a 7 knot climb up to 6000ft did the trick.

Shenandoah Mountain was amazing! It was unlike any of the other ridges I had flown. It’s almost alpine-like, with the constant changes in altitude and relatively flat slope until the top. You really had to be ahead of the terrain to not get stuck or flushed off at some point farther. At times I was cooking along at 100+ knots, at other times I’d slow down to 70 to make sure that I could clear the next wall.

After hitting the turnpoint, I realized I was making good time! When I made it down to near Petersburg, I hit an 8 knotter up to 7000ft. From there I could tell I could easily make the front ridge. It’s about 4 hours and 45 minutes until sunset. From here it is about a 16 hour retrieve. Oh what the hell, lets go to the front ridge anyway!

By this time the wind was really howling. It was 25-30 knots at ridge top and with the air curling off the plateau, it was quite violent. That’s why the pictures abruptly stop after getting to Sherrs until Tuscarora. I was flying 80-90 knots 500 ft above the ridge and getting thrashed about. Even though the Duckhawk was not loaded with water, it still had a wing loading of a little over 8 pound per square foot.

The front ridge worked out just fine. Transitioned at Cumberland and then took the top ridge to Bedford. I had the idea to continue to Altoona to embed a 750km+ triangle into my flight, but the cloudbase had gotten lower and there were a number of snow showers in my vicinity. With the sun starting to go down, seeing snow showers ahead, I said enough and lets go home.

From Wills Mountain, I transitioned to Evitts, over the Wall to Tussey, Raystown, Jacks, Shade and Tuscarora. Amazing tour of all the Mifflin ridges! The jump to Shade was *interesting*. I got up to 2800ft and hopped off of Jacks, with a 30 knot tailwind. I hit 14 down sink and at one point thought I may come up short! Crazy strong sink.

From Tuscarora, transitioned to Mahantango and hit a nice climb up to cloudbase before Bear. Seeing that the wind was 285 degrees, I figured I’d coast on thermals back to Blue Mountain. The wind down low was around 290 degrees, but after being battered to heck, I was looking forward to a lazy run home.

On Blue Mountain, I coasted from 2400-2700ft. Hit the finish, averaged 78 mph and went home. Too tired for laps.

The flight should be good for the following NJ State Records:

Out and Return Distance (15m/Open Class Singleplace)
Free Out and Return Distance (15m/Open Class Singleplace)
Out and Return Speed- 78.38 mph (15m/Open Class Singleplace)

What’s really exciting is that I think that this route is going to set up much longer Out and Return and Triangle flights from Blairstown. Imagine what possibilities a load of water and another two hours of daylight could bring!

Find the flight log here.

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