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Adam Woolley's Great Weekend
Wow. Just wow. What a great weekend. Just epic soaring conditions. Amazing camaraderie & many more hooked new JAG's! Both days sporting average climbs of 5kts to 8,000'QNH under CU filled skies.

Saturday the 15th September. With the sky looking soarable from 09:30, both James 'Dutters' Dutschke, Lisa Turner and I looked skyward while preparing our gliders madly. James arriving from BNE & requiring a rig of his newly acquired Open Libelle. Lisa just going with the flow I think, and myself finishing up the weighing of W3 to finalise the Form2.

We finally get airborne with a declared task of Tansey - Ban Ban X - Kingaroy. Which was later modified in flight to return home via Kumbia to give a total task length of 240km. Ivan being the gentleman he is, decided to return from his task to race around ours - calling before start 8kt climbs around to 7,000' for memory.

Weak climbs in the Kingaroy area though, we were slow to climb. 2kts was all that was around, so slowly we spiralled to the wisps. All together in the start cylinder we naturally set off at 13:05(!). Both of the first two climbs, 4.5kts we ease into the task nicely. All talking together on routing options, we decided to overfly Wondai and link up to a highway (street) to the first turn. The smiles fast growing, the speeds pushing up. 89:1 for a 34km glide at 75kts - before coring 7.5kts for a 1000'.

Around the 1st turn, we take a detour to top up before heading into the slightly higher countryside. Before bouncing along with a couple of 5kt climbs. Dutters, Lisa and I all working nicely together. All sharing the lead and picking nice climbs. Around the 2nd turn, we take a slightly more curious approach. The sky in the Ban Ban area has some spread out. Once we're up and running though, we come up to a big decision point. Lots of discussion, conversing with Ivan up ahead - we somehow managed to split up, due to some miscommunication I suppose.

Lisa and I down the Kingaroy valley, Dutters going direct into the lighter CU. We note the time, it's time to slow down and be a little more cautious. We all manage to link back up together approaching Kumbia, working nice lines of energy in the potentially approaching sea breeze. Onto final glide, easy.

Thanks very much to Lisa whom provided some valuable coaching advice during the flight, had a great time!

W3's stats for the day: 240km @ 111.03km/hr; 5.1kt (20%) climbs; 41:1 for 16.4km glides at an average cruise speed of 77kts. Flying 5km extra in task deviations. (See the Online Contest Page)

Sunday the 16th September. Learning from yesterday, and looking at XCSkies - I thought the day would be soarable from 09:30. With 9 or more gliders making it to the grid at 09:25 - it was sure to be a good day. The task planned on the grid, thanks to HK & BB - was a fantastic one for the today. Though with the sky we saw, we could've gone anywhere and had a ball. 8kt climbs around (if you jagged one) with 8,000' under CU.

I launched first at 10am, with Dutters, Rhys Porter & Lisa Turner soon to follow - I'd climbed easily to 4,500' in 2kts. The whole local area was peppered with small CU, each of them were working. Once we were all up together, there wasn't going to be any waiting around for the big wings (VIT, HK, BB).

The task: Cecil City - Chinchilla - Murgon - Kingaroy = 406km

The first leg was rather pleasant and uneventful, crossing the bunya's with ease. Up ahead from Bell onwards, the sky over Dalby to Cecil city looks like it's going to rain! Staying high, we use the energy lines where we can - running the downwind edge of the clouds. James and I take one weak climb to stay connected, before putting the running shoes back on. Lisa had taken a route more Dalby way, cruising along nicely I saw.

Turning for Chinchilla, across wind now. There were no real classic streeting options to go for, so just one cloud after another. I made an error, chasing some CU's to the west of track - before finally getting into the lower height bands again and having to diverge back towards the original direct track (out landing options to allow me to drive low if need be). Dutters and I had gotten split up prior to the 1st turn, so I radioed to him that it'd be best to race down the direct track.

We manage to get back together overhead Kogan, was great to see you off my wingtip then mate! Sadly though, it wasn't to last, after just 5 minutes of cruising we were separated enough to have to fly our own races for a while. I jagged a 7.9kt climb just around the Chinchilla turn, before blasting off at cloud base.

From here, is where the fun really began. Long streets were starting to line up, the key - get nice climbs just before connection and it was all systems go. Miss the first climb, things could've got interesting. Why? The terrain wasn't to friendly. Thankfully it was all in our favour, as we bounced along close to base - linking some nice lines together. I was busy calling routing options and climb rates, almost pulling James back from a 3,000' difference from prior to Chinchilla.

One final cloud approximately 20km from Murgon, it was all blue for sometime. 60kts. 35:1 for 30km before I finally pull into a 4.6kt climb overhead Wondai - marked by Rhys Porter, cheers mate! I'm on final glide, James just 300' below me, he's on a 4.5kt MC glide too! XC speed pushing up, the sky is going up, what a final glide - fast!

W3's Stats for the day: 406km @ 94.19km/hr; 4.5kt (21%) climbs; 54:1 for 16.7km glides at an average cruise speed of 68kts; covering an extra 29km in deviations. (See the Online Contest Page)

Wow. Just Wow. Saturday fun level was 10/10; Sunday satisfaction level was 10/10. Both extremely good days, though totally different in how we saw them.

Flying the Standard Cirrus Cross Country - Jan Lyczywek
My personal speed-to-fly ideas, coming from flying an unballasted Cirrus in the European Alps (though, mainly for the OLC, hardly any central comps):

  • Do use the speed-to-fly function of the electronic vario, preferably with sound; it is a great wake-up call wey every time one is tempted to dillydally about in bad air. Plus the speed-to-fly sound saves a great deal of workload in terms of thinking about what would be the ideal speed; it just commands it.
  • Do not follow the speed-to-fly sound slavishly, but softly in its tendency, and never forget that any vario information is information from the past, while only the pilot can look ahead and into the future (admittedly with varying quality of her/his powers of prophecy...).
  • As to McCready settings, do not bother with too fine adjustments; one knot steps do fully suffice. I use a very simple "five-speed gearbox."

(0 kt: never use MC zero, it just makes you far too vulnerable in case of sudden sink, especially with an unballasted club class ship)

  • 1 kt: minimum MC setting for all situations of mere survival: setting off in the morning in the first weak thermals; reaching that last chance for a thermal; stretching the glide before an inevitable outlanding; bringing her in on a long, marginal final glide; working your way home in the evening in the last weak thermals
  • 2 kt: MC setting in generally weak weather, or below-average weather combined with other difficulties such as few outlanding fields, unknown landscape, etc. A very very careful setting.
  • 3 kt: Seems to be my most commonly used MC setting, typically in predictable, reliable weather with normal thermals.
  • 4 kt: MC setting for good, above-average conditions, reliable lift, high cloudbase, well marked thermals, an everything's-just-fine MC setting.
  • 5 kt: My personal MC setting for throttle fully open.

6 kt: will of course deliver higher average speeds in very good weather in a classic climb-glide-climb-glide situation, but in the Alps strong weather always brings good lifting lines and I had the impression that with a MC setting of 6 kts I ran a higher risk of dropping out of those lifting lines, thus being forced back to a climb-glide-climb-glide strategy which consumes quite a big deal of the higher speeds.

I know I am not too much in line with classical speed-to-fly theory with this, but from all flying my personal opinion is that the optimum McCready setting for a given situation is not too closely related to the climb rates achieved or expected. Instead, I try to boil my whole assessment of everything that is in any given situation of flight down into something like a "throttle setting". So, climb rates do go in there, but also cloud base altitude, reliability of the clouds so far, any difficulties experienced, my current altitude, my personal level of knowledge of the landscape ahead, and so on, and so on. All this goes into that "throttle setting", i.e. the MC setting, and this in turn ensures that the speeds chosen will fit to the situation (and to the whole situation, not merely mathematically to some climb rate value found previously or expected ahead).

The habit of using this "five-speed gearbox" with its five McCready settings evolved from flight experience only, so no particular features of my polar have contributed to the choice of these five settings.

The polar is, of course, implemented in my speed-to-fly calculator (my electronic vario, that is), so that any McCready setting leads to the appropriate speed being commanded by the calculator.

As to the numeric values of the MC settings in use, mine will probably do as a starting point. Depending on where you fly, they will probably need to be adapted to typical weather conditions in your area. For example, in an area with typically high cloud base and strong lift, but long glides in between, the "throttle fully open" mark will probably need to be at a higher McCready value, say at 7kt (3.5m/s) or even 8kt (4m/s). Also, some adaptation to pilot preferences might be required. The type of glider however will not make much difference, simply because this is cared for by their different polars; same with ballast.

I think using five settings suits human perception and psychology well, because it gives you one "normal" value in the middle, with one "very bad" and one "rather bad" on the one side and a "rather good" and a "very good" on the other side. It seems to be quite simple to categorize even complex soaring situations into one of these five settings. Using more settings makes this assessment more difficult, and classic speed-to-fly theory shows that mathematically five settings are fully sufficient, errors caused by the steps in between are negligible.

Also, I think that the rule of never using a McCready value of zero is applicable to all gliders. It is of course theoretically true that a zero setting maximizes gliding distance from a given height, but this is static theory, i.e. while it does take constant air mass movements into account (and holds true for constantly rising air or constantly sinking air), it does not depict *changes* in the vertical air mass movement, particularly not the dynamics of a glider entering into sudden sink. Flying at MC = 0 leads to very slow airspeeds (on an unballasted Std. Cirrus theoretically only about 50kts) and consequently high vulnerability to such variations in air mass movement. A slightly higer McCready setting allows a significantly higher airspeeds (Std. Cirrus 60kts @ MC=1kt) at the price of a marginally reduced glide ratio. This pays off as soon as you hit sink: part of the increase in speed now required is already done, and the remaining speed needed is picked up much quicker.

For more, including diagrams analyzing Jan's flight history, see Cross Country Flying.