Class-A Wave

10-23-16

Today was by far one of the most extraordinary soaring days I had ever experienced at Blairstown Airport.

Thanks to a mega-powerful departing low, it was clear that 10/23 was to have wave, albeit with 50-60 mph winds at 4000ft. That was scary for me the night before… I just imagined those winds mixing down to the surface and having to land with 50 mph gusts. Didn’t get a good night’s rest over that!

But getting up at dawn, there was no wind on the ground. The sky was absolutely clear other than a couple little rotor wisps. A crew of three of us (Schwartz, Boris Kubrak and I) launched at dawn. I had the fortune of flying Aero Club Albatross’ prized LS4 today. I towed to 3700ft and released in the strongest and most consistent rotor I ever experienced. It was a solid 5 knots +, without much of the normal turbulence and craziness one would expect.

At 5200ft, I connected with the wave! I was staying stationary at 55-60 knots, climbing quite well. Looking out ahead, it was clear that I was in a tertiary wave, with the primary setting up over the Poconos. Maybe there was a way to get there?

The winds aloft were ferocious, but above 9000ft, they started to actually diminish in strength. Somehow the wave kept going and instead of hovering, I was now S-turning along the bar. More moisture was coming in and the waves were becoming much more defined. Furthermore, with the winds diminishing with altitude, it would make it easier to transition upwind.

Finally, at 12,800ft I peaked out in the tertiary and dove out to the secondary. I pushed the LS4 over to 100 knots to penetrate into the 70+ mph wind. I became keenly aware of the tiniest leak off the vent as the cold air seeped onto my feet. It was really freakin’ cold. The sun was on my back and I wasn’t expecting to get above 10,000ft!

Once I got to the secondary, I turned right and ran 65 knots along it. This was to get some sun into the cockpit and warm up! Also, I managed to get my shoes off and footwarmers in, and them back on. Took some contortions to do that, but it somehow worked out.

The secondary wasn’t all that strong, but at 11,000ft, it was enough to make the jump to the primary. So I dove out once more and I rode over the clouds to connect with the primary at 6500ft. I was able to find consistent areas of 4 knots, later decreasing to 2 and 3. At about 12,000ft, it would start to weaken again, but some moving around found an area of burbly air, going up a bit faster. John Good and Steve Beer at the Mt.Washington wave camp found that these areas are later followed by stronger wave and I hung with it for a while. Indeed they were correct!

At 13,000ft, I was climbing at 3 knots and the wind started to get stronger again. It became apparent that this wave may go high enough to beat the NJ state record (16,400ft!) set in 1983 by Bob Fitch! A little while later, I was still climbing at a solid 2.5 knots and was still going up solid at 17,000ft. The wind started to getting much stronger above 17,500ft, so I had to speed up to 55 knots and hover. But at 17,800, I was still climbing at 1.5 knots! Finally, I decided to do a little pull up to get to 17,900ft and then head down. Didn’t want to go higher in case there was a bit of an error in the logger and bust airspace.

If I wasn’t so cold, I would’ve hung around for a while longer, but I wasn’t dressed for 0 degree weather. So I headed to Hawk Mountain, in one long 10,000ft descent. There I picked up a little low level wave, which got my a bit beyond Pottsville, along Blue Mountain. Finally I dropped out of it, connected with a street and flew that up to Bear Mountain. Couldn’t climb off of Bear and by the time I made the tip, the wind shifted to 280 degrees. I figured that I took enough out of the day and decided to head back, thermalling with the tailwind.

I made it back most of the way thermalling, but dropped over Blue Mountain near the Blue Mountain ski area. I floated along in the high band at 2600ft or so and made it home around 2pm.

An absolutely fantastic day!

Thanks a million to Jimmy for towing and Aero Club Albatross for letting me fly this gorgeous ship! I would also like to note that all the wave flying at Mt.Washington has been instrumental in helping me recognize what the wave is doing and especially how it affects higher altitudes. Thanks again to Rick Roelke and the three clubs that organize it!

Find the flight log here.