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. Risk/reward.

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.

Weather Weirdness

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 paramotor.

The ocean of air just keeps serving up surprises.

2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!