Monday, May 22, 2017

Miles in May, May 22

A dramatic difference from yesterday, as yesterday's instability and strong NW winds were replaced by moderate SSE winds and stability.  We opted for the Strome intersection since the ground winds were switching from east to south, and both directions can be used at this intersection due to no trees, fences, power lines, etc.
Yet more large farming equipment.  We like to give these a wide berth!

It was quite overcast and not looking that great, but we could see a blue hole coming from the west.  But when it came overhead it still looked very stable and not promising, although Andrew and I had set declared goals in Smokey Lake (~190 km to the NW).

Nobody made it very far today: Steven landed just south of Strome, Alex just north, and myself a bit further farther north.  Andrew never got away.

Pretty stable-looking skies from my landing north of Strome.
It looks like the weather is going to fall apart tomorrow for a couple of days, and we need to be back in Vancouver by the end of the week, so we'll see about flying tomorrow.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Blown-out day during Miles in May May 21

Looking a bit on the blowy side ;)
After yesterday's epic flights, long retrieve, and little sleep, we were back up and out at the tow road just after 10am.  The forecast was showing more north wind and possibly blown out but we decided to try anyways, because if you don't at least go out, you don't get to fly!

Andrew volunteers to test out the winds aloft.
Out at the tow road it was blowing pretty much straight north and with a fair bit of grunt...20+kph on the ground.  The Q's hadn't started popping yet but Andrew and Peter went for a couple of test tows to see how thermic it was, and the tows were pretty rough with lots of turbulence.

Steven getting ready as the Q's start to pop on the horizon.
Finally around 11am the Q's started popping overhead (right on schedule!) and the cloud shadows were whizzing by on the ground at 40+ kph.  As well the ground wind had picked up and was gusting to 30 kph with dust devils popping off around us.  Frankly it wasn't looking that great for safe and enjoyable flying, although I'm sure if you could get off the ground and stay in the air for the next 8 hours you'd be OK as the wind would have died off by dusk.
Peter thinking should he go or not?

In the end we decided to cancel the day and save our energy for tomorrow when the winds looks much lighter.  Despite not getting to fly yesterday and wanting to get a new personal best, I'd rather not get scared or maimed trying to do it on a marginal day ;)

In the end we decided to pack it up as the wind-driven Q's pop overhead

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Epicness during Miles in May Camrose May 20

What a forecast!
A spectacular-looking day in Camrose and it was my turn to operate the winch and drive retrieve (we set the schedule a couple weeks ahead of time, before knowing the short-term forecast, to make things impartial).  Moderate NW winds which is the ideal direction for going long while avoiding the various airspaces and international borders!

The boys getting ready on a record-setting day!

We have to be careful not to get the towline caught up in the local farmer's equipment...
We set up at the Rosalind tow road under blue skies, knowing from previous experience that it will transition from totally blue to Q's popping everywhere within ~30 minutes, usually between 11am and 12noon.  But Andrew wanted to do a test tow so of course after his tow he found an early thermal at 10:50am and was off!  After that it was a made rush to get off the ground and Alex followed soon after, followed by Peter and Steven.

Andrew getting ready for his "test tow"
I was just packing up the winch when I got the first text message from Andrew, saying he had landed due to not getting high and sinking out before it really turned on.  So I guess it's time to start driving!

Epic-looking skies from the tow road.
Picked up Andrew and Steven shortly after, and then we started making our way SE under very yummy-looking skies; there was a line of development in the distance but the radar showed it moving SE as well and keeping away from the pilots' tracks.  The winds aloft were more like NNW instead of NW, so the upcoming Suffield military airspace was becoming an issue.  Fortunately both Alex and Peter realized this and altered their courses enough to fly west of the restricted airspace.

Driving south chasing the boys.
I had estimated that they would land around 7:30pm and I think I was pretty close, as Peter landed just short of 300km and Alex landed at 334km around the same time.   Finally after 15+ years of trying, somebody beat the Canadian PG open distance record!  Also it was a personal best for both Peter and Alex, who previously had PB's in the mid-200 km's.

A happy Alex after landing 334km from the tow road.
The drive back was very long (the total retrieve took 12 hours and we arrived back in Camrose at 1:30am) but it was well worth it; everyone's phone was going off with congratulatory text messages for a lot of the drive.  The Aurora Borealis also put on a nice lightshow during our drive north, which was a nice way to keep us awake!  Tomorrow is looking very similar although windier so who knows, the record could be broken again tomorrow ;)

Aurora Watch predicted a spike in Northern Lights after midnight and they were right!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Miles in May Camrose May 19

Our tow group is in Camrose for our annual Miles in May, where we try to fly far and work on bettering the Canadian PG Open Distance record.  This year our tow team is myself, Alex, Peter Spear, Andrew Berkley, and Steven Semisch.  Many thanks to Brett Yeates, who despite being unable to join us this year, graciously lent us his winch and told us to fly far and bring it back with a bunch of new records on it.

Peter coming in after a test tow on Steven's winch
Yesterday was blown out and thunderstormy so we bailed on the day, but the HGs managed to get a short window in between the wind dying and the storms arriving.  I think Ross did something like 60 km yesterday.

Today was looking much lighter winds but still a chance of thunderstorms, and there was a lot of overcast and shade so it was not going to be super-early, although there were Q's forming to the west and north where the skies were bluer.  After doing some experimental tows on Steven's winch we changed venues and went to Rosalind to join the puffy Q's which were starting to form in our vicinity.

It was not going to be a fast or easy day as there were storms brewing to the west and north, and with the SE winds it was blowing us directly into the maw of the shade.  After getting a low save after my tow (97m AGL!), I was able to get established and start heading NW with Peter a few km's ahead of me.

Alex and Steven also got away although they had bad sinky lines and ended up landing quite early.  Alex had a bit of a circuitous walkout as as he landed in a dry spot but surrounded on most sides by water, and had to find a dry route to the road and a waiting Andrew.
A line of storms to the north, and it's getting hard to skirt around them.

The climbs were pretty slow considering the way the sky looked, and the going was slow enough that I had to decide on each climb whether it was worth it to climb all the way to cloud base and allow myself to drift closer to the storms, or leave the climbs partway up and try to fly east to skirt the edges of the storms.  There was an obvious blue hole to the NE which Peter and I were attempting to skirt, and the geographic distance between the blue hole and the storms was getting smaller and smaller, so Peter and I opted to land before things got too hairy.

I decided to land before the storms got too close.
We discovered something when landing on the prairies in mid-spring: you can either land in a plowed or stubble field and deal with the accompanying turbulence, or you can land in a nice mellow green field and get devoured by mosquitos (presumably they are living in the grass).  We both opted for the latter and gave a generous blood donation to the local wildlife ;)

Not much distance made today since we both had to do a bunch of zigzagging to jump between clouds and make our way crosswind as the wind direction switched during the flight, but it was nice to get back in the prairie air and see the enormous countryside which is central Alberta.

Follow us on live tracking at XC Find Canada.

52 km not-so-straight-flight.

The boys out at the local driving range to work off some extra energy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Blanchard April 30

A nice spring day at Blanchard with lots of PG pilots from Bellingham and Seattle in addition to the Canadian contingent.  Some moderate west wind aloft and quite overdeveloped a few kms inland so not really XC conditions, but it was nice to fly over the water and out to the oyster island.  Al managed to top land at the parking lot (!) to avoid the retrieve, thanks Al!