If at First You Don't Succeed…
Adam Wolley - Nov. 8, 2012
The day was the first of November, the days are getting longer, higher and hotter here in South East Queensland. After a magnificent Australian Club Class Nationals held in Kingaroy, it was time to do some of my own flying. I've been interested in long distance flying for sometime, though haven't had a chance to do so because of my constant competition preparations. I spoke with my Dad a few days prior, saying that Thursday was looking good - this was later confirmed by talk around the bar on Wednesday, a chance to try a bigger flight was upon us!
I initially declared a task with Dad and two of his best mates, all in their latest generation 18m ships, ballasted to the eyeballs. Myself in an un-ballasted Cirrus, though one that outperforms the factory polar! They were trying for an FAI 830km, and myself, a FAI 600km.
First to launch out of the Kingaroy valley at 09:05am to 3,500', diving across the start line to begin the journey at 3,200'. Best L/D in the silky smooth conditions, though the thermals are soon to start. Down, down, down. I find a few bubbles at 1,100', though because they're so weak I'm unable to do coordinated turns to save myself. I move on, another bump with the same story. Over a nearby town for a last chance climb, nothing. I then find myself lining up a PAR 5 on the Kumbia Golf Course!
A quick call to the 18m guys, who are all using their engines to stay airborne, they line up an aerotow retrieve for me. I'm strapped back in, what to do? Take off and head west, if I outland it's all over for the day, or tow 26km back to Kingaroy and make a re-start doing something else for the day?
Fortune favors the brave. Thanks to Rob Butler who gave me a brilliant tow out to the task area, I core into 4kts and I head off on the original task at 10:05am into 2.9kts.
I fly out of the Kingaroy Soaring Club, which is located in a valley with rolling country-side, amazing local effects and great soaring year around. We're the second biggest club in Australia and arguably the best. The most active pilots (5 of the 6 pilots in the Uvalde team practiced from here on the weekends at some point in time, 4 of the 6 of these were Kingaroy Soaring Club members!), a fantastic racing and learning culture, an auto-tug that has to be seen to be believed, the most modern fleet in Australia, the town close by with plenty to see and do (wineries, bush land, activities).
The Bunya Mountains divide our playground with the Darling Downs (Soaring Club), where they boast endless flat epic soaring country with scrub patches that are easily managed - just incredible for soaring. Their paddocks would be up to 15 times the size of football fields! This is exactly where the task leads us on this particular day.
The weather for the day: CU predicted to 10,000' for half of the triangle, the remainder in the blue with strong climbs out West with 10-15kt breeze blowing. After my first climb, I head over the Bunya Mountains onto the flats. Still tentative though as I don't want my second out-landing for the day. I need not have been though, as my next 50km of climbs averaged 4.1kts.
At this point the radio came alive with Allan Barnes asking me where I was off to. He said he'd join, great! Followed by a climb later, are you sure you don't want to join me on my original task - yours looks really blue? The thick high CU to the South was too hard to resist, especially in such good company. We decided to fly his brilliantly planned task, down South (around the airspace, hence the big curve in my track) over the foot-hills of the dividing range to Killarny, then NW over the planes and patches of thick scrub to Tara, NE to Durong and varying features, then head our own separate ways for home.
Allan and I both really enjoy team flying together, and both with the prospects of possibly representing Australia at the Club Class WGC 2014 - what better time to sink our teeth into some radio work, form flying & tactics again. The whole day went without a hitch, I believe we were both noticeably faster as a pair, rather than if we were flying solo for the day.
The first leg was easy when we both put our minds to it, lots of nice little energy lines linking up, with the CU's fully formed producing nice climbs. I shared the climb of my life with Allan, 10.5kts bottom to top for 2,700' - often seeing 14kts on my ClearNav 20 second averager!! This was clearly a high for the day, set the tone up for a fast one from here on in. 600km was still on the cards.
Around the first turn and heading back to NW into a 15kt headwind, we could see the CU's were thick for a 1/3 of the leg, then thinned out for the following 1/3, then into the blue. Pushing hard while we could, while carefully choosing our routing options to be able to take the scrub at the perfect track. Thankfully though, the thinner CU was working reliably, with strong climbs under each - the limiting factor, a 10,000' airspace step for the Royal Australian Air Force. The CU's were at least at FL120!!
We're now at the last CU, just under airspace. We take it to 9,500' and head off into the blue at 75kts. Down, Down, Down. Over the scrub we coast, there's good air though nothing to turn in. My ClearNav is confirming with my eye, that I can make the next turn-point of Tara and good landing options. I'm relaxed. Wingtip-to-wingtip with Allan in his LS1-f, we still need to be careful though.
Up to this point, Allan and I have averaged 108kph for 190km into a 13kt headwind. Average climbs of 6.3kts, 55:1 for 22km glides at an average cruise speed of 131kph.
Our first hint of a thermal, a long way from home. 2.9kts from 2700', just enough to get up into a comfortable height band. The wind blowing us back on course, the hot dusty air ahead, with light wisps teasing us 30km down the next leg. We just have to make it to them. Another 10km down the road, we're rewarded with 4.9kts though only for a short amount of time. In and out of the turn very carefully, our speed is dropping - though because we were working together as a team it all seemed quite ok.
On our way NE now, the day is slowly starting to change into a cooler sky. It's time for us to stay higher if possible, though we still can't seem to find that one climb that would both hang in there all the way to the top, and one that was strong enough to take us there!
We get to a likely looking cloud/wisp, a good chance. Allan and I separate to search out a climb. I'm finding good air, though nothing to really core into. The radio comes alive, "Adam, I've got what feels like 6kts". It was, 6.1kts for 3700' - a big fat and extremely smooth climb. Felt like we were on railway tracks really! We're back in the racing game. Back into the regular thick CU now, we're on our way again - was great to negotiate the hard conditions with the good, learnt a tonne as usual.
We decide to try and take 5kts where possible, knowing very well that in Queensland it's possible for the thermal switch to be switched off all of a sudden. From this point though, we average another 109kph for 85km taking 4.8kt climbs until we're around the turn-point of Durong.
Seeya later Barnsey, great flying with you again mate. Looking forward to the next opportunity, you're a great guy to fly with!
Instead of flying home to Kingaroy, I aim for the Kumbia Golf Club - keen to get some bonus points from the OLC! Along the way, I find some nice 4kt climbs to over 10,000' and decide to head North to max out the glide before heading home. I was scored for 680 odd kilometers for the day (due OLC rules), though I managed to fly my first 700km flight once home. An amazing feeling!
Stats for the day: 706km at 99kph; 4.8kts (25%); 46:1 for 18km glides at an average cruise speed of 139kph. Outstanding - can't wait for my next big flight here in Australia!!
For all my gliding adventures see, www.facebook.com/W3Racing
Hope everyone has a great soaring season, when ever yours may be!