School Class Tonight!

Hey Guys,

Tonight we’re back in Slovenia and we will fly some of the low performance gliders! Take your pick; Blanik L-13 (included), ASK-21, 1-26, Grunau Baby, Ka-8, or SG-38.

The task is a short 110km triangle with good thermals; should be perfectly doable for these gliders.

Special kudos to anyone who makes it around in the Baby. Triple kudos to anyone who attempts it in the SG-38!

See you tonight!

All the best,

Contest info:

  • Teamspeak: channel: | password: ask13 | Channel- MNS/USNS. (Note, please go to Settings and set up “Push-to-talk” for your mic.)
  • Register (for free) here to receive briefings two hour before the race and to submit your log for scoring.
  • Scenery Download: Use Condor Updater. (Best to subscribe for more bandwidth!)
  • Find “US Nightly Soaring” at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) here or here.
  • Monday Night Soaring at 7/10pm Eastern (2300/0300 UTC)

Intuition or Cold Calculation?

How do we go about decision-making? Well honestly, most of the time it’s pretty easy, even self-evident. You have a gut feeling to go to a particular cloud, leave a thermal as it’s dying, or to perhaps recenter a half turn in another direction. We make these kinds of decisions all the time. Every time you move the stick, some part of your brain is making a decision.

But that’s not how we are taught to go about decision-making! Think about MC theory; look at the next cloud, calculate its expected lift strength minus any headwind component and centering losses. Entering a thermal, count three seconds and then bank hard. Listen to the variometer… when it spikes plan to recenter in that direction on the next turn. Glance at the yawstring as you turn. Keep your airspeed on the dial on your check-ride. Fly by the numbers!

Some pilots are known as being “artistic” and hardly do any of this calculation. Others are the “engineers” who seem to be a human flying computer.

What’s going on?

Folks who study decision-making typically model it as a dual process. Unfortunately, there is a lot of disagreement as to what drives this binary system. If you look into the research, you will see thinking modeled as “fast and frugal”, or “slow and deliberative”. “Affective” (emotional) or “cognitive”. “Model-based” and “model-free”.

The “heart” or the “mind”

Intuitive or calculating.

The artist or the engineer.

heart #mind #journey #bestlife #faith #life #RealTalk101 #reality ...

The reality is that it is not quite that clearly demarcated. When you study the brain, no one part of the brain is doing one line of reasoning as opposed to another. The “left brain” vs. “right brain” thinking is a total myth. Everything is interconnected and involved with everything else. A cold, calculating engineer is still relying on affective, intuitive judgment as he is solving his problems. An artist is still using some top-down cognitive reasoning as he decides which paint to put on the canvas.

It’s more of a spectrum rather than a binary system.

Nonetheless, it’s still a useful analogy, or at least a lens to look at decision-making problems.

The intuitive system is exceptionally useful. It operates using past experience and interprets current situations in line with that experience. The current situation need not be exactly the same as one we encountered before; we are great pattern-matching machines!

So when you scan a bunch of clouds and then you find the right one and you feel “good” about it, really it’s your neural network black box outputting that this cloud is the right solution. And this works when you’ve flown under hundreds of clouds and trained your pattern recognition system well!

This process works really well for most problems that we encounter in life and soaring.

However, this approach to decision-making breaks down when we don’t have experience that generalizes to a given situation. The blackbox between your ears still ticks away, but it won’t help you. Or worse yet, it will lull you into a sense of complacency. When you have a system that works 99 percent of the time, it doesn’t jump out at you the 1 percent of the time when your own software starts working against you!

This is not a problem in situations where receive real-time feedback. Thermalling is one of those cases; we are constantly adjusting to the air and variometer and over time we can get quite good at modeling what the air will do.

However, it is a problem when it comes to risk-management and “gear-shifting” for changing weather. Most of us don’t have a sufficiently large bank of experience to do this intuitively. And the problem is that feedback we receive from the current conditions is usually too little, too late!

You fly under one cloud and it doesn’t work. Then under another and it doesn’t work. Now you’re at 2000ft AGL, you realize you’re in the doghouse and now shift into risk minimization.

The trouble is that if the conditions are unreliable, you’ve already missed the boat. If you’re lucky, you will dig out. But do this one too many times in a competition and you will near certainly land out.

Restated, unless you’re actively managing your strategic risk, if you simply rely on intuitive judgment you will very likely be taking too much risk over the long run.

In the case of sporting risk management, John Bird and I solved this by developing a normative model of decision-making. Assess the reliability and quantity of options ahead of you to decide how to go about these decisions.

However, there are many other problems and decisions we encounter that we use a structured, calculated approach. Check-lists are a simple example! Instead of relying on intuition or “flow”, we could simply follow the process and make sure that things are where they need to be. Decision heuristics such as “don’t deviate more than 30 degrees” or “fly MC speed” are other examples. These are effective strategies.

This is not to say that cold-calculation is the best way to go about your flying, far from it! It is impossible to fly as a human computer, we simply don’t have enough bandwidth to do that.

Instead, it is best to recognize what kind of problems are best left to the intuitive system and others that are best handled by calculation. And engage the right decision-making system in the right context.

I thermal with a brush and make my risk-management decisions with a calculator.

Condor Activity Increases Four-Fold!

What an exciting time in Condor! In the span of three weeks, Condor participation in the US virtual contest scene has increased four-fold. We have 112 registered contestants and counting on US Nightly Soaring in the April series of the competition. A large proportion of this group is new-to-Condor, or at least to Multiplayer racing.

What used to be the record attendance in the best of times in Condor 1 has now become the new normal. We are getting an average of around 40 pilots racing every night, some nights in the low 50s!

That is more than most real-life competitions, even most Nationals in the United States!

Most of our pilots are from the United States, with some from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Germany, and even Poland.

Pilots spend around two hours on the server on a given night. With an average of 40 participants each week, this means we are providing about 560 hours of XC training and fun each week!

On top of the competitions, Aero Club Albatross’ Condor night has been very successful. We have been getting 10-17 club members doing cross country training in the Wurtsboro 0.3 scenery two nights per week (“Aero Club Albatross” server | Wednesday/Saturday at 7pm Eastern). Most of them are beginners, have not flown cross country and/or have not used Condor in Multiplayer before. Folks who have never flown cross country on ridge or thermals are flying out of virtual Blairstown and getting a taste of what soaring is really like! It’s low key, it’s fun. Thermal helpers and the Miracle key are enabled. Anyone can fly whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want. It’s social and a good way to stay connected while we’re not getting out to the airport.

Some of those folks are now getting on the nightly races. And they are looking forward to getting into a real glider and doing cross country flying in real life!

I’ve had many folks contact me through social media, email and through the blog contact with questions of how to set up Condor for their personal use, racing and for their clubs. Keep it coming; I’m happy to help!

Several folks have been doing paid one-on-one Condor coaching with me. If you would like to schedule a time to work on advanced soaring concepts in Condor (thermal selection, racing, centering, racing strategies, speed-to-fly, landouts, spins, risk-management, ridge soaring, wave soaring, etc. etc.), feel free to contact me through the Soaring Economist contact.

Going into next week, we will be adding several sceneries to the competitions. Today we will use the gorgeous Arc Alpin 2 scenery on Monday Night Soaring. Then we will add Southern Norway 4, and Cascade Range 2. This is on top of Nephi, Ridge North 2 and New Zealand 0.8 that we added last week.

Contest info:

  • Teamspeak: channel: | password: ask13 | Channel- MNS/USNS. (Note, please go to Settings and set up “Push-to-talk” for your mic.)
  • Register (for free) here to receive briefings two hour before the race and to submit your log for scoring.
  • Scenery Download: Use Condor Updater. (Best to subscribe for more bandwidth!)
  • Find “US Nightly Soaring” at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) here or here.
  • Monday Night Soaring at 7/10pm Eastern (2300/0300 UTC)


Tonight, we fly in wave! Nick Oakley (OWN), a young New Zealand pilot set up a wave task in New Zealand 0.8; really exciting!

Condor 2 does a pretty good job modeling wave. It sets up rotor-lines and lenticular clouds, both which will apply tonight.

For folks who haven’t flown wave, this will be a really cool experience! Note that wave soaring is very different from thermal flying; the lift remains stationary and goes HIGH! The big challenge is connecting with the wave and getting in that gorgeous silky smooth air.

While neither Nick or I flew the task, I tested the conditions briefly in the start area and found there is indeed wave. Since many folks do not have wave experience, I figured it would be best to make a briefing so folks have a reasonable chance of connecting in it.

After you enter the game, head NW into the start sector. Find a thermal and climb up to cloudbase.

Note that these are “rotor thermals”. They are strong, violent and disorgnized. It’s no fun being in the boundary layer on a wave day. You will have to work hard to climb in these buggers. If you’re a beginner, you may find it easier to dump the water to have a smaller circle and a faster climb rate.

Climb right up to cloudbase. And I mean *right* up to cloudbase, into the wispies. If Condor momentarily says, “D.Sazhin entered cloud”, that’s a good thing for the transition!

Turn into the wind and slow down to best glide speed. Wait until the variometer goes up to 2 knots. Then turn 90 degrees.

Remember wave lift is stationary, like a ridge. You will beat back and forth in the lift; don’t drift downwind because it will get weaker! Look at the PDA… see the thermal trace on the right side. And see when I connected with the lift how I am doing laps?

When you connect with the lift, stay with it for a while. Plan to climb to 10-12,000ft so you’re comfortably established in the lift.

At that point, head along courseline. Stay on the upwind side of the lenticular clouds… the NW side is where the lift is building.

For a more extensive briefing on wave theory, see here and Clemens’ resources.

Good luck and see you tonight!

  • Teamspeak: channel: | password: ask13 | Channel- MNS/USNS. (Note, please go to Settings and set up “Push-to-talk” for your mic.)
  • Register (for free) here to receive briefings one hour before the race and to submit your log for scoring.
  • Scenery Download: Use Condor Updater. (Best to subscribe for more bandwidth!)
  • Find “US Nightly Soaring” at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) here or here.


Next week, we will add Arc Alpin 2, Southern Norway 4, [4.01] Cascade Range [2.0] to our suite of MNS/USNS sceneries. Be sure to download them in advance of the races!

All the best,

Oh My Omarama!

Hey Guys,

Yesterday we had a blast in Nephi, with 34 of us racing in spectacular conditions. The wind was strong enough for the ridges to work somewhat, along with 7-10 knot thermals to 15,000ft. Conrado, the Brazilian ER doc won the day in style, averaging a little over 100 knots in a ASG-29.

Today we are going off to New Zealand! Nick Oakley, a young successful New Zealand soaring pilot has helped make several tasks, applying his extensive local knowledge. Today is a mix of thermal and ridge. He has laid down the gauntlet, claiming it could be done without turning! We will see!

We made several tasks together. One that we’re really excited about is an upcoming wave adventure….

NOTE: Condor released an update. Download the free patch here. You must download and install the patch to be on the server.

See you guys at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) on US Nightly Soaring!

  • Teamspeak: channel: | password: ask13
  • Register (for free) here to receive briefings one hour before the race and to submit your log for ranking.
  • Scenery Download: Use Condor Updater. (Best to subscribe for more bandwidth!)
  • Find “US Nightly Soaring” server here

Gangbusters Conditions Today in Nephi!

Today looks like today is banner day in Nephi! Cloudbase at 16,000ft, 8 knot thermals, solid westerly wind setting up good air over the Wasatch plateau. Grid time at 12pm, first launch at 1pm, expected gate open at 2pm.

April fools! We’re still stuck in quarantine!

But of course we could just set this up in Condor and have the next best thing…

See you guys at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) on US Nightly Soaring!

  • Teamspeak: channel: | password: ask13
  • Register (for free) here to receive briefings one hour before the race and to submit your log for ranking.
  • Scenery Download: Use Condor Updater. (Best to subscribe for more bandwidth!)
  • Find “US Nightly Soaring” server here

Breaking Your Glider is OK

I wanted to comment on a thought provoking Facebook post from Bo Christensen.

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

In my defence: I didn’t choose this field. It was chosen for me by the towplane suffering engine problems at low altitude. Bummer of a day.

Later notes the damage….

Cracked winglet, bent main pin, minor crack in fuselage, couple of ribs loose in the rear fuselage. All reparable, and back flying.

Worst damage was major psychological trauma to my co-owner, who had some vacation time planned for right after this :).

Granted that this was a Libelle (lightly built ship) and that the fellow had little choice in the matter. But I think it is a good reminder to pay attention to the surface and the crops when you do have time to assess your options. Avoid landing in crop if at all possible.

If you do have to land in high hay, wheat or god-forbid, corn, you WILL ground loop. The strategy becomes a matter of mitigation. Make every effort to land into the wind to minimize ground speed. Level out just above the crop. Keep pulling the stick back until you gently stall the glider in. Once you land, push the stick forward to keep the tail off the ground.

If you do that, you have a very good chance of not breaking anything. You will still ground loop, but by the time the wing comes down and the glider starts rotating, you will have so little energy by the time the rotation starts that the glider can handle it.

Bo did a good job… a Libelle is just especially lightly built so it is much more likely to be damaged in such a situation.

There’s a second element to the story worth emphasizing. Yeah, the damage was unfortunate. But notice that the cockpit was perfectly fine. As the saying goes, a good landing is one you walk away from! And ultimately, everything worked out; the glider was fixed and is flying again.

He didn’t attempt a low turn back to the airport. He simply accepted his fate and did the best he could.

Overwhelmingly, the way people get hurt or killed in this sport is due to poor approach planning and/or stall/spins in the pattern. You are very unlikely to hurt yourself in a controlled, low-energy situation in a field. On the other hand, if you take the chance and go for the low turn back to the airport, attempt digging out low from a field, or mess up the approach into a field due to poor or late approach planning, then you are putting yourself at serious risk of getting hurt or killed.

Put yourself in Bo’s situation and visualize the outcome. Given the alternatives, I hope you realize that this was the best way to end a flight. And if you find yourself in a similar predicament, that you make the same, right decision; execute a safe landing instead of taking a chance that maybe minimizes the risk of damage to the glider. Gliders can be fixed or even replaced. You are irreplaceable.

Left or Right? | Ridge Racing in Condor!

Last night we had *40* folks sign on and enjoy racing in the Slovenian landscape. This time we did a full on ridge task; the winners did not turn a single time around the whole task! However, don’t take this suggesting that the task is *easy*. Far from it; unlike the Appalachian ridges that I am accustomed to, here we are flying broken up mountains, with many bowls, spurs, saddles and changing elevations. Every second you are juking to and fro, following the snaking band of lift. Are you going to go around or over the next saddle? Slow down a bit or speed up and stay with the others that are higher than you? You don’t get a second of respite.

The trick was you had to get to ridge top and stay at ridge top. This is especially the case with a northerly wind, which forces the contestants to fly in the shaded side of the mountains. The wind was strong enough to make the ridge work, but below crest the lift was pitiful. Only around the corners that were more exposed to the sun was there solid lift.

On the first leg I made a mistake. I started with Mark Rebuck and we came to a fork in the road: left or right? I took the right line and it wasn’t as good. By the time we made it to the turnpoint I was 800ft below him, limping along. And there was Timo, our ace German pilot who had snuck up on both of us. He took another, even better route and was enjoying his commanding position above everyone!

Rounded the turn, I was looking uphill. Bad news! There were a bunch of other gliders to fly with and I was working every bit of lift as best as I could to stay connected.

Slowly, I managed to minimize the separation. Approaching the second turn, I saw Mark and Timo take a direct route. Left and follow them or go right, the long way around, but in ridge lift? Let’s go Right!

Punching through a bunch of sink, I found good energy around the corner. This got me higher and higher while maintaining a good speed. Rounded the turnpoint and stuck with the lift for a while longer. By the time I made the transition over to the next ridge, I was catching up to Timo and Mark.

Now we transitioned to the high mountains and the lift got real solid. My markers are slowing down; gotta keep my speed up, wait for the solid surge! And there it was, 12 knots and yank back to milk the lift for 15 seconds. We almost got ’em!

Now we’re at the third turn. What’s the next line? Those guys are indecisive. I yanked it around the turnpoint perfectly. Now we’re passed them!

Keep the speed up. I see the line to the fourth turn; I’ve got the next saddle made. Coming through the box canyon, I clear the terrain at 90 knots right down on the deck. Now we’re home free.

Keep the pedal to the metal, I pulled around the turn and flew at 120 knots along the final ridge. No need to slow down, the ridge got us to a MC 9.7 final glide 200ft over.

And screaming across the finish line, I managed to recover to a second place for the day!

Condor ridge races are awesome!

Great job Conrado winning the day! Conrado is a long-time Condor pilot and our friend from Brazil. He is an ER doctor by trade. We asked him about the epidemic and he said that they are starting to get quite busy too.

See results here.

We also had a great contingent of young pilots today: Matthew Scutter, a former JWGC world champion and member of the Australian team, Thomas Greenhill, Collin Shea, and Wyll Soll, Nick Oakley (NZ JWGC pilot!), Luis Saut (Brazilian 26 year old!) and of course Timo, our 22 year old German wunderkind.

It’s a lot of fun racing with such an awesome crew!


Reminder that while the Sunday and Monday races will still be in Slovenia, starting Tuesday we will be moving to other places around the world! Starting with Ridge North 2 (Mifflin), followed by Nephi, and the New Zealand 0.8. Be sure to download those sceneries!

See you guys tonight at 9pm Eastern (0100 UTC) on US Nightly Soaring here!

Life is Good in Condor-land!

US Nightly Soaring had *36 pilots* last night! Folks represented Brazil, Germany, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Pilots from Colorado, Michigan, Virginia, California, Pennsylvania, Florida and on and on. All at 9pm, from the comfort of your own home! How awesome is that!

Our pilots are getting very well acquainted with the Slovenian landscape this week. Yesterday we flew from Celje and worked our way into the mountains. The ridge lift was much better, although it took some finesse to connect with it. The low ridges were just good enough to give “good air”, but at 5000ft the lift was rockin’ solid. By the time we were connected with the mountains near the first turnpoint, folks had no trouble driving at 100 knots plus in their Standard Class gliders.

The rest of the race was a no-turning, blazing fast run for the second turnpoint, while keeping a close eye on the final glide. Folks who got high enough for a comfortable final at the second turnpoint had no trouble clearing the high terrain for the third turnpoint whereas folks who failed to downshift paid dearly. Several landed out on the upwind leg, unable to find a thermal.

The winner of the day was Luis, a 26 year old from Brazil. He has been doing great in the Brazilian contest scene and is a professional pilot by trade. He has been a regular on US Nightly Soaring for many years and it show; he is a competitor to be reckoned with and had a very good night. Timo, our new 22 year old German wunderkind was breathing down his neck, only seconds behind.

Honorable mentions go to Sean Fidler, Todd Hahn, and Clemens Ceipek, who all had great nights.

Many young pilots joined us last night, including my teammate JP Stewart, Collin Shea, Wyll Soll, Len Martkowski, and Valentin Mayamsin. Broadening to our friends around the world, Nick Oakley, Alex McCaw, Luis and Timo! No better way to get connected with other young soaring folks all around the country and the world than to fly Condor!

See the results here.

Competition details here.

Find the competition under US Nightly Soaring at 9pm here.

While Slovenia has been treating us very well, next week we will start flying in other places all around the world. Be sure to download Nephi, New Zealand, and Ridge North-2.

No easier to way to fly from Mifflin, Omarama, and Nephi than to go on Condor-Club and download the Condor Updater!

See you guys at 9pm Eastern tonight!

Post-task fun with JP. Yes, you can land a 1-26 in a postage stamp field!

Record Numbers Fly US Nightly Soaring!

33 pilots flew on US Nightly Soaring last night! We haven’t seen this many participants in many years and boy was it a blast to fly with everyone.

The task was very fun, involving dynamic conditions. The first leg involved slowly lumbering along with weaker thermals. The lift was blue or marked with little wisps, forming a large gaggle along the course line. The latter half of the second leg got us into the mountains, with improving thermals and some ridge lift.

The pilots who worked the gaggle the best on the first leg and then efficiently made the transition into the mountains were highly rewarded. Lots of gear-shifting!

The final leg had quite a bit of ridge lift, although with some high ground to contend with. Some folks got stuck trying to get high enough for final glide. But most made a blazing fast leg to get home.

Mark Rebuck, a Condor regular won the day. Honorable mentions go to Clemens Ceipek, Mike Abell and Sean Fidler who had very good days.

See results and competition details here.

There was a large junior contingent last night. Noah Reitter, Jacob Fairbairn, and Collin Shea all flew. Timo, a 22 year old real-life German gliderpilot is routinely cleaning up the field every night, joined us at 3am his time.

Come and fly with us tonight at US Nightly Soaring at 9pm Eastern! Find the serverlist here!

Last night we had 6 folks using Teamspeak to communicate using voice. Download it for free and find us on the USNS/MNS channel. The server is Password: ask13.

For the next several days we will still fly in Slovenia. But stay tuned… we will be heading to other wonderful places all around the world! Think Mifflin, New Zealand, Blairstown, Nephi, Alps, and more!