Scaring up some fun

Got my arse kicked on Friday.

It’s been a while since my soaring trike has seen any airtime. There were some cobwebs on the exhaust! I needed some thermals.

I’d been looking at the weather forecast all week, and for days the long range view said “fine and light winds” on Friday 26th . Which is of course, a public holiday.Of course, I get up early on Friday and the latest forecast is less encouraging. “Light winds turning west-southwest and strengthening”. But it’s the only day of the weekend that might even possibly be flyable!

On the road then, to Locksley bright and early. There’s no wind to speak of as I drive, but a bit of high cloud. When I arrive, there’s a light westerly; a bit worrying so early. But I set up anyhow. By the time I’m ready, it’s a tad stronger.

I launch at about 11:30am and climb-cruise out to 1km from the field where I contact light lift. It’s disorganised. I can’t get established. Too early perhaps? I spend 1/2 hour bumbling about, at one stage climbing to 2000 ft, but decide to go back, refuel (as I launched with only 1/3 tank) and see if things improve. Back at the field the windsock is showing more wind. My landing is rough and difficult; I have to land diagonal to the runway because of the crosswind.

I rest for a while and have some lunch. There’s a sailplane being dragged out to be winched up, so I refuel and then push the trike out to the end of the strip to save fuel. I watch the sailplane get towed up. He works a little lift for a few minutes, which is encouraging, but then he comes back and lands. It’s 1pm and things should be working. The sailplane lines up again and launches. I move to the flight line and take off as soon as he’s clear.

As I lift off I see the sailplane coming back on downwind leg to land already, and he’s really, really low. I find out why – there’s massive sink all over the strip area. By the time I overfly the winch, I’m still at less than 200ft! Rather than continue on over trees, I turn early and head at right angles to the strip and quickly exit the down air.

There’s more lift now, and I actually get the chance to kill the engine. But every time I get to about 2500ft, it gets really, really rough and the thermal gets torn apart. I know what’s happening. There’s a strong westerly up there above an inversion and it’s ripping the thermals apart at the interface.

I bang my head against this barrier again and again. This is ceasing to be fun, and it’s scary. Clouds begin to form at about 3-4000ft. Obviously some of the stronger thermals are getting through the inversion. But these clouds show streamers and raggedness. The wind is tearing them apart too.

An hour of this is enough. I land. The wind in the teardown area has picked up substantially . I can hear it roaring through the trees. I decide that that’s my limit. I pack up.

A sailplane launches. He finds a thermal and climbs away, but he’s drifting downwind at a great rate. Too strong for me though.

So, back on the road. Days like this are frustrating.


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