07-16-11 Silver Endurance/Climb

Yesterday I received a letter from the SSA that my flight in July for Silver Climb and Endurance is good. I am very happy, and will soon send in the forms to validate my Silver Distance, which was done in August. The 5 hour flight was very interesting. My brother dropped me off in the morning, and flew away in his airplane, while I was to attempt the long sit. The winds were Southwest, which is usually a bad sign, but the soundings were very optimistic along with the Blipmaps. At about 12, the first promising looking CUs were forming over the ridge, and I got Sweet Red, the club 1-26 out on the flight line. I took of at 12:30, and got towed to the ridge, and released into weak lift. The lift wasn’t particularly fruitful, and I descended down to 3100ft MSL as I pushed upwind to get to be on top of the ridge, and I hit a really nice powerful thermal and climbed up like an elevator to approximately 5200ft. For the next 2.5 hours, for the most part, I did “excursions” from this thermal, going upwind, finding nothing, and hightailing back to this thermal, hoping that it was still there. Every time I would do this, the cloudbase would slowly rise higher and higher, and I ultimately climb to 7100ft MSL. At one point, my excursion was successful and I hit lift upwind and crossed into PA, though quickly came back. To my horror, I saw the big towering cumulus that created my great thermal overdeveloped and blocked out the sun for a large swath of sky. I hung on to fragments of lift to just stay up, though a Stemme joined me in my quest to find a thermal, and marked a solid 3-4 knotter, which I rode to cloud base.

Afterward, I flew into the valley since it was sunny there for a while now, and I figured it would be a good thermal source. The day was now drying out significantly, and I hit really weak lift. At this point, I figured I just must hold on whatever there is and soon enough, my five hour would be complete. I kept circling in the weak lift, thinking why didn’t I just take off 15 minutes earlier!? As I descended slowly as the day decayed, I saw another 1-26 thermalling away a couple miles downwind of the airport. I rushed to meet him, and I worked a thermal along with a 2-33. The 1-26 pilot was Ron Marcols, and I will always be thankful for him marking that thermal at such a critical part of my flight. Finally, I looked at my watch, and my endurance is complete. I still had plenty of altitude, and not to be the one who simply wastes it by pulling the spoilers out completely, I put the nose down and fly at 110 mph. I got down to 800ft over the airport, and then pulled up with great elation and went right into the pattern. Once I landed, my adrenaline still pumping after the high speed pass, I saw Erik Mann running over to congratulate me! The flight was fantastic and a thrilling experience.

Find the OLC log here.