05-04-2017 SE Ridge to the Potomac and Return

Yesterday, a crew of us flew the Blairstown *SE* Ridge. Unlike most ridge sites, we actually get some really nice and solid days when the wind blows from the SE. This one was truly exceptional as we did not get the usual rain and moisture associated with quite an Easterly wind. Most of the time, our good SE days tend to have winds that are very Southerly, as this makes them flow more over the continent rather than from the Atlantic.

As the conditions looked quite good, William Thar and I decided to try to extend the boundaries of what we could do on the SE ridge. Normally, we are limited by a little restricted zone that cuts us off from going farther. However, last year I found a way to circumvent it and was simply waiting for the day to try it out. This would be the day.

We launched a little after 11:30am and found strong thermal activity and very Easterly winds. So Easterly that once I crossed the Water Gap, I decided to transition into thermal flying. The thermals were unexpectedly strong and I climbed up to 4500ft with no difficulty. I decided to thermal along as the next section of ridge faces an East-West direction; not good for a wind that is 110 degrees or so. That being said, thermalling along and wafting in the top band of the lift worked out quite well, all the way through to Hawk Mountain.

The jump around the pinnacle was quite easy. This can be a really tough transition for us if the thermals are lacking, but there was nothing to it. The wind direction was getting better and the wind getting stronger. I finally dropped down onto the ridge and was coasting along at a reasonable 80 knots.

Getting through the Muir Class D was no issue at all. The controllers in that military airport have been working with us quite well lately.

Across the Susquehanna, the ridge was working reasonably well. There was none of the precipitation that we usually get on these sort of days.

At Doubling Gap, Bill finally caught and passed me in his Duckhawk. Once we made the crossing, I radioed to him, “Shall we make the transition [to the Tuscarora]?” He responded, “I am not too sure, what do you think?” I said, “I’ll give it a go, the day is near to perfect for it.” And we both shot off toward Knob Mountain, knowing that we were now committed to flying the route in its entirety.

It would now be helpful to explain why we are normally limited on the SE ridge. The issue is that there is a little restricted zone that juts out onto the ridge, just enough that we simply can’t normally get around it. Furthermore, it extends on a considerably higher section of the ridge. Unless one hits a thermal that gets the pilot to at least 3500ft or so, it is simply impossible to get around. Furthermore, it requires sneaking across over the lee, which is a rather disconcerting way to make a transition. I did it once back in 2015 and got to the end of Blue Mountain. I did not continue as I was not familiar with the ridges beyond that point. I hadn’t thought of studying them as I never expected to be able to get that far!

So my solution was to instead drop back onto the Tuscarora Mountain. This would let us circumvent the little restricted zone and go considerably farther. Coming back, we would transition onto Blue Mountain from the very high section near McConnellsburg. And lastly, getting back around the restricted zone would no longer be an issue as we would go from a high ridge to a low ridge.

So going back to the flight, we transitioned onto Knob Mountain, got a little a thermal and headed for the Tuscarora. There was a considerable amount of sink here, though it was not much of an issue. I got to the ridge at ridge top and hung a left. It was amazing to be here… I had flown this ridge so many times on the other side and it was rather weird to see the same sights from here. It was quite exciting!

Getting to Fort Loudon (abeam of McConnellsburg), we had to slow down as the ridge changed shape here, with several steps. We floated onto the highest part, though it was quite rough here. This ridge is simply unrelenting in its turbulence… we normally expect to get hit quite hard on the NW side, but it’s the same business on the SE. We floated into Dickeys Mountain, sighted the Potomac River and started heading home.

The jump back across to Blue Mountain was quite easy. I just hung a right off of the Tuscarora on a little street and floated right across at 3100ft with no sweat. Getting around the restricted zone was no issue either. Everything worked like clockwork!

Getting home was no issue from there. The ridge worked great and I just floated along. It was a really rough ride today and I slowed it up to 80 knots and coasted along. The only really notable thing along the way was the forest fire I passed SW bound really expanded.

On the way back from Hawk, I was wiped out. I decided to land after a nice five-hour journey that took us Blairstown pilots into new territory.

Thanks a million to Aaron Stout for towing us today! We all had very fun flights. And as always, thanks Aero Club Albatross for letting me fly your awesome ships. Today it was the club’s *other* awesome high-performance ship, the LS-3.

Find the flight log here.

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