Friday, November 13, 2015

Fall flying

Just a catch up post. I've had two flights since my last entry; neither one was very special. In September I flew Pine, but couldn't get established in the Antelope Valley and landed a little over 30 miles out. Last month I flew Santa Barbara but flushed off of Castle Ridge.

 Below are some pictures from the Pine flight and a video from Santa Barbara.

Tom couldn't join us so he drove instead



Crossing the "Badlands"

Lockwood Valley

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Santa Barbara 58 Miles

Geez, no flights through the Casitas Pass in at least five years and now two in two weeks. And I wasn't even planning on flying. Bates was showing some potential for Sunday, the 5th so I was thinking that I would fly then. After a nice long XC flight two weeks ago I was looking for a change of pace. Saturday looked OK for the mountains, but not all that spectacular. The plan for the day was to do some yard work. I was actually at Home Depot picking up some sod when Tom Truax called to tell me that I should be heading up to Santa Barbara instead; that it could be a record setting day.

I should note here that even though I didn't think it looked like an epic day, I did text another pilot before heading to Home Depot that he should consider flying this day rather than wait to fly Bates with me on Sunday. Of course, the pilot, Todd Quayle, called me too to get me to come up.

Let's see...It's 7:30 now...realistically, after dropping off the sod and getting ready, I wouldn't be out the door until at least hour to pick up him and at least another hour to launch...half hour to set up...hmm, 11:00 launch...that's not so bad...I'm in. Wait, do we have logistics? No. While contemplating whether or not it would be worth the hassle Tony Deleo called to tell me how good it looked and that if worse came worse he would be willing to pick us up at the end of the day. About the same time another text came in saying, "Don't worry, we'll get you back to your truck somehow."

With such short notice, I didn't have the time to charge my radio properly. A fact that may or may not have cost me a longer flight (more later).

About half-way to picking up Todd, Tony called to let me know that an earlier appointment that he had to attend was postponed and that he would be able to drive for us.

I don't know what time it was when we finally arrived at launch. After making a couple of sidetracks it was at least an hour later than what we were thinking. Tom had already gotten a ride up with the PGS and was just getting airborne when we arrived.

I don't know if it was caused by the scramble to get out the door or the political discussion in the truck on the way to launch, but I found myself really distracted setting up. Because of that I probably launched at least a half-hour after the first pilot, Robert Millington punched off.

Launch was good for a couple of turns, but I didn't see the point of hanging around so I took what I had and headed to the Thermal Factory. There I found a nice thermal that took me to just below 5k. Out in front, Robert and the early PGS were reporting good altitudes over Montecito Peak and the Saddle. TQ had been dealing with harness issues and was just climbing out at the Antenna Farm. No other HG planned to fly XC. For that matter, Robert wasn't going to join us XC preferring to fly an out and return instead.

Launch, Thermal Factory, Momtecito, and The Saddle
Despite getting to a nice altitude at the Thermal Factory and the reports from the pilots in front of me, I found nothing to stop for at Montecito Peak. Because of that I came into the Saddle well below the road cut, which oftentimes means a short flight. And that's despite the fact that the Saddle is one of the most reliable spines on the range. Of course, if a short flight was my fate there wouldn't be this blog entry. Even though I came in lower than my last flight I left higher. Somewhere in the high 4s.

Castle Ridge
To be honest I didn't find this flight all that fun. The air was very choppy in spots with punchy thermals. No more so than the stretch between Castle Ridge and the Powerline Crossing. I never really got high. Only gaining enough altitude in broken lift to make a play for the next spine down the line. Along the way Robert past me heading back the other way from his Whiteledge turnpoint.

Powerlines, Noon Peak and Divide Peak
Things did open up a bit near the Powerlines and I was able to fly over to Noon Peak comfortably. There I had a quick climb to 5k, before heading to Divide and the start of the Casitas Pass (at about the same time my radio went dead). Divide worked great as did Whitledge (note on my track where I found the thermal).

On my last flight I had one of my best climbs just short of Bump 3, the usual go to spot; I was able to make it all the way to Nordoff on the glide. Not only did I not get up at the same spot on this flight, but Bump 3 wasn't working either. It would take four thermals on various spines to get to Nordoff this time...and at a much lower altitude.

Bump 3 to Nordoff
Whereas on my last flight I opted to not spend a lot of time working the turbulent lift found here, I had no choice but to stop this time if I wanted to continue on. As it turned out I made it to the Chiefs' spine in about the same position for both flights. But, instead of flushing off this time Chief's was producing more like a typical a day. Soon I was over West Repeater topping out close to 8k, the highest point of the day. High enough to head to Santa Paula Peak directly (I did fly over the Bluffs but didn't find anything worth stopping for).

Getting High at West Repeater
I past my first PG near the 33; I met up with my second one on the west corner of Santa Paula Peak (most landed in Ojai) where we shared a nice thermal, but one that didn't get us very high. My last flight spoiled me. Having gotten up to close to 9k just a bit east of where I was I didn't feel the need to go searching for the lift when I lost it. I was high enough to get to where I found my thermal during my last flight. Only this time it wasn't there. I ended up flying off the mountain below 5k. Instead of flying all the way past Piru on a glide, I would now have to work the lift over the foothills above Fillmore if I wanted to continue.

No Love at Santa Paula Peak
Nothing on the west end of the foothills, but as I worked south toward the 126 I found a low leaner right before the start of the river basin. Down below 1000 ft AGL I managed to make my way back to the mid 4s.

In Piru I found another low leaner, but instead of drifting me due east it had more south in it and was taking me back to the lake. Not liking my trajectory I opted to head east on a glide rather than search for the lift again after falling out of it. At this point I was actually higher than I was at the same spot during my last flight. Despite the different ways of getting there I actually hit the same spot where I found my last thermal of the day during my last flight at the same altitude. Only this time I didn't connect. There was lift there; I just didn't make it happen. Not long after that I was on the ground.

Comparing the end of the two flights

Not to make excuses, but I wasn't feeling all that well toward the end of the flight and I just wasn't up to doing what it would take to make it work. But this is where not having a radio didn't help matters. Tom had been in the same area at the same altitude right before me. But he hung in there and found enough cohesive lift to eventually take him to over 7k. He would eventually go on to fly into the Antelope Valley and break the site PG record with a 94 mile (straight line) flight. Had I heard his progress I might have been a little more focused. Having said that, I would not have attempted to follow him into the Antelope. Interstate 5 would have been it for me. At 58 miles I fell 4 miles short.  


Sunday, March 22, 2015

EJ Bowl to Soledad Canyon

I really can't remember the last time that I've flown through the Casitas Pass from Santa Barbara. It must be at least 5 years. Generally speaking, unless there is a strong east wind, if you make it through the Pass you've got at least Santa Paula made. One year way back when I made it to at least Santa Paula 5 times. Since then, seasons have gone by where I haven't made it though at all. On days that have potential it's either too strong north or cloud base is too low or in the case of Santa Ana conditions, too east to go anywhere. In other words, everything has to align just right and that just doesn't happen that often, especially when your flying is limited to weekends.

Sunday it was neither post-frontal nor Santa Ana, two conditions where Santa Barbara works the best. However, the weatherman was calling for record high temperatures. All the models were calling for at least 7k tops for Ojai and light SW winds through the boundary layer. But, and there is always a but, there was a prediction of a high cloud deck. How would it affect the rest of the forecast?

For me, it didn't matter. My daughter is back for spring break and she brought a couple of her friends with her. One of the things that she wanted to do with them was chase for me. Sunday looked as good a day as any.

Three potential drivers, but no one to drive for. The high clouds kept everyone home, including the person who would have been my flying partner for the day, but, had a change of heart between the time we left the house and the time we showed up at his doorstep. I made one other phone call when we got into Santa Barbara, but still no takers.

We arrived at EJ Bowl all alone around 10. Considering the recent time change it was early regardless of the thick cloud cover. But, it left plenty of time for the blue hole to the west of us to work its way over to us and still have the time for a good flight. It took 3 hours. Ladies, welcome to hang waiting. In the interim, a truck load of PGS showed up to fly. However, none wanted to wait for the sun to arrive and all flushed off the hill in the shade. By the time I launched around 1:00, after waiting for the sun line to bathe the RR for a bit, I was the only one left around.

R and R
Before launching I told my daughter that I'd know right away whether we were going to have an early lunch on Stern's Wharf or a chase towards home. After two or three 360s above the RR I got on the radio to tell her to get on the freeway and point the truck south. Low 4s at the RR and then again at the Thermal Factory. The shade line was just to the east of me so I had to stop and hang out on the east spine of Montecito Peak and then again at the Romero Saddle to wait for the sun to hit the next spine down the road. However, once Castle Ridge brightened I didn't run into the shade line again until near the end of my flight.

Start of the Casitas Pass
All the usual points worked perfectly fine until the last spine before the powerlines. There I hit one of the best thermals of the day, climbing out to the mid 7s, probably the highest that I have ever been at that spot. High enough to bypass Noon Peak completely and head directly to Divide Peak. Back to the mid 7s there for a glide through the Casitas Pass.

The climb just short of bump three

After a couple of lazy circles above Whiteledge I took my altitude and B-lined it for Bump 3. However, about half-way there I found another great thermal over a nondescript area that topped out close to 8k. From there it was basically a straight glide to the Three Stooges.

I stopped at Nordoff for a couple of turns but the air was a bit too textured for my blood. As usual Three Stooges was good enough for a skip over to Chiefs. However, despite being probably the most reliable spine on the range, I could not climb out. I was forced to fly off of Chiefs low to the foothills in front of West Repeater.

Upper Ojai
Of all the places to flush off from. Luckily I found something. Soon I was back to the mid 7s drifting to Boyds. By the time I left Puckers for Santa Paula Peak I was up to 8k. At Santa Paula Peak I got up to close to 9k, the highest point of the flight.

Close to 9k above Santa Paula Peak
I was probably too high for the thermals above Fillmore; I took my altitude to about half-way to Interstate 5 from Piru before I started to pick out landing fields. But the day was good for one more thermal.

Last climb of the day
The goal at the start of the day was the Interstate, but at 7k just short of it I set my sights for Sylmar. However, the high point between Simi Valley and Chatsworth was completely shaded in and after testing my glide angle toward Sylmar, 7k just wasn't quite high enough to clear the San Gabriels. 500 ft. more probably would have done it. Now in the shade, I took whatever altitude I had left and stretched a glide to Soledad Canyon, landing at Sand Canyon Road at the 14. The flight measured out 73 miles, my longest from Santa Barbara.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Santa Barbara New Years Day 2015

Sorry, I'm getting lazy in my old age. YouTube and a couple of track logs will have to do. The original thought was to do an out and return to Whitledge with idea of landing back at Santa Barbara's training hill at Elinng's Park. However, with a pretty good turnout for the New Years fly-in I didn't get off the hill until about 12:45. Thinking that it was too late to make it back from Whiteledge I opted to turn around at the power line crossing, a peak or two short of the Casitas Pass.  My flying partner, Jonathan Deitch, decided to stay with the original plan. He made it to Whiteledge but opted to land at the beach on the return trip.