Soaring The Cold Front
02/24/2014 Flying through a dry cold front in a Bonanza
Yesterday's nice weather prevented me from working on animation.
Aviation forecasts suggested that it would be yucky (sorry for the aviation jargon) and I counted on getting a lot of work done on the
Airspace video. Reality doled out heavy sunshine with beautiful cu's,
necessitating a Bubba (the Bonanza) flight up to Seminole Lake
Gliderport, a walloping 8 minute flight.
The 4pm slot that was open in the morning, when yucky weather was
forecast, had been taken by someone less enamored with aviation weather
forecasts. It was still an enjoyable flight up and I met several of the
folks who run the place up there. It's not a big operation--nobody
answers the telephone when a glider is getting towed, for example. And
they're closed on Mondays. Don't people soar on Mondays?
A briskish southwest wind meant landing to the south on runway 18.
What a nice runway. Long, smooth, and like most of Florida, sandy. While
in shooting breeze with the boys--they're almost always men--I was
surprised to see them launching a glider north. 20 seconds after liftoff
he was back on the ground. "ropebreak practice" I was told.
Yup, I've done plenty of that although I think the practice of
releasing from tow to practice an emergency at 200 feet seems quite
similar to HAVING an emergency. Apparently there haven't been enough
accidents from the practice to warrant a change so I defer to those
wiser than I. Kind of like practicing engine failures on takeoff in the
Boeing simulator. I've privately kind of enjoyed the drill but then the
simulator won't kill me.
I walked out to watch. It wasn't much of a tailwind component
actually since the wind was southwest with a bit more west.
They did that rope break simulation probably 4 times in a row. The
north takeoff made it very convenient since they would start from where
the south-landing sailplane ended up. Lots of useless runway did lay
behind each takeoff but it's a VERY long runway--even from that point
they probably had 2500 feet of landable sod so I make no judgments.
While kibitzing with the gathered hangar flyers the subject of
paramotor came up. There's a surprise. And one glider pilot commented on
how dangerous the idea of a soft wing was. "Dang, I know people who go
up with NO MOTOR -- INTENTIONALLY!". I didn't say that, given the
audience, but did point out that far more paramotor pilots die because
of water than because our wings stuff in a bag. Like so many things in
aviation, it's not always what it appears. True, free fliers have a lot
more to worry about regarding premature folding of fabric.
I digress -- the reason for this ramble is about weather. Once
it became obvious that I wouldn't be gliding that day (the instructor
had just sipped an after-work beer), I signed up for Tuesday and
walked out to leave.
But now the wind had shifted significantly around to the
north/northwest (FROM the northwest).
Oh yeah, forgot to mention, there was a strong storm well north of
our location--strong enough to warrant a tornado warning. From here you
could only see the top of something big but, as I soon found out, it was
impacting our weather some distance away.
So I took off, using every last inch of that runway, to the north.. Paranoia runs deep
after having so many paramotor engine failures so I'd rather have more
options most of the time. We won't even talk about
the life preserver I wore departing south at Flanders.
Where the real
weirdness came in was while I was southbound. At one point I got into
nasty turbulence, lift, and the speed shot up. Ahaaa, this was the
convergence! So I circled to find it again then throttled way back to
the bottom of the green, slowed down to min sink, and proceeded to soar
the Bonanza. What a hoot. After a few hundred feet I headed south, back
through the boundary, and into very smooth, warm south wind. I landed
with a south wind at Flanders.
About a half hour later, Tim & I were
out dispatching fire ants, and felt a chilly north wind come in strong.
Here was the front again. In spite of blue skies, this was a major
change. The winds were weird already so Tim decided (wisely) not to
The ocean of air just keeps serving up surprises.