I love flying SE Ridge. And Saturday turned out to be a SE Ridge day! I got out to the airport quite early to get the glider together and leave time to work on the LS3 trailer. The trailer is in the shop and we’re making consistent progress on its restoration. Today, a crew of four of us (Cookie, Bobby, Stan and I) sanded the primer smooth and put on a coat of paint. Man, it is looking really nice! Another coat or two of paint and we will be putting the whole thing back together.
But as the day went into the afternoon, the sky beckoned. The wind was finally starting to pick up and it was clear that the thermals were about to trigger. I bolted out of the shop once we were done and got into the shade, waiting for the right moment to launch. Feeling it was about right, I got the glider onto the grid. The clouds were marching toward us from the SW… it was time to go.
Following a quick tow, I had no trouble climbing up. The wind was very Southerly, easily 200 degrees. This was expected with this sort of day. This type of set up normally builds in as the day goes on, with the stronger winds SW. However, it requires flying the first hour of the flight quite conservatively… the thermals are not that good and you can’t count on simply dumping down on the trees and the ridge working. But up at 2600ft and the sky looking quite good SW, I slowly started floating toward Hawk Mountain. “No need to rush!” I told myself. The cumulus clouds were heading my way and I didn’t want to end up in one of the fields on the far side of the Delaware Water Gap.
On the far side of the gap, I found thermals over the usual spots, but nothing organized. Kept floating along until I got closer to the Bangor Offset. No way I was going to drive in there low with this wind angle. I saw a very nice line of clouds and headed there. I looked out ahead and saw a majestic bird circling. On closer inspection it was a bald eagle and it was climbing nicely too!
That thermal got me up to 2800ft and up a nice street, pretty much parallel to the ridge. The curious thing was the wind was arcing to the SW with altitude and the streets were following this wind shift. With the wind off 45 degrees (or more) in some sections, I was able to float upwind almost parallel with the ridge! I made good use of this on this street and several subsequent streets. I had no need to circle, flying in a thermally/float mode all the way down to Hawk Mountain.
Near Hawk, the lift got suppressed a bit by a bit of high-level cloud cover. Highest I could get was 2200ft, though a street marked a line upwind to the Pinnacle. That was good enough to get around the bend and now I was ready to drive along. The ridge was solid now that I was far enough SW in the wind-system and the ridge angle favorable. 80-90 knots was no problem, even in some of the less defined sections.
Crossing the Susquehanna, I was contemplating how far SW I should go. Initially, my plan was to go just up to Doubling Gap and turn around. But then I found myself going 100 knots uphill… Surely the ridge would work farther on? So at Doubling Gap, I floated up and went across.
The ridge across worked just fine as it is quite prominent and steep. However, with the angle quite a bit off, I was not excited about overly tempting the mysteries of fluid dynamics and kept myself in the higher band. I did this beyond the Turnpike Tunnel, where again I was debating if I should keep going. “Come on Daniel… you’ve gotten this far… and the wind might just shift even more SWerly as the day goes on, forcing you to thermal from the pinnacle.” I debated some more and then when I hit a bit of sink, I said, “It’s time” and banked on home.
The run NE bound was quite fast with the quartering tailwind. No trouble all the way through the Pinnacle, though the highest I could get was 2000ft MSL to make the jump back. I hit a bit more sink than expected and slid in just a hair below ridge top… exciting me just enough to really pay attention. But the ridge kicked on just fine and it was solid for the remainder of the flight. Instead of shifting more to the West, the wind angle actually got better!
The remainder of the flight involved zipping along my home ridge, a lot of the time with Boris who joined me in XA. It was his first time flying the SE ridge and he stayed close by.
I absolutely love ridge flying in the fall. Down SW, many trees are just starting to change color, whereas to the NE (and especially the higher ridges), they are full of reds and yellows. As the sun was setting, the whole valley lit up in a wonderful orange glow, further accentuating the wonderful scenery. It was great to be back on my home ridge!
Thanks again to my wonderful club for letting me fly their wonderful LS3. The negative flaps came in handy today!
Find the flight log here.