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[Saturday 9/24/11 Pine 97 Miles, Flight Articles]

Brendan Pegg
Saturday, 9/24/11

Pine Mountain, 97 miles

Distance: 97.2 miles
Duration: 5:44:30
Max Altitude.: 12182 feet MSL
Max Climb Rate:    1199 feet per minute

Article copied from http://scpa.info/bb/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2319#p7121

by brendanpegg Ľ posted Mon Sep 26, 2011 9:15 am

It occurred to me a couple times last week that I could fly on Saturday, but I didnít make any effort to set things up. I didnít look at the weather and I didnít rally the troops.

Friday had been stormy throughout Ojai and Ventura. Lots of thunder and bolt lightening on my way to work in the morning. So when I woke up on Saturday morning, and Ojai was socked in and cold, I wasnít very optimistic. When I looked at the forecast, I had some mixed feelings. Maybe still tempered by what I was seeing out the window. I sent out a tweet saying that Pine had some promise, and hoping that someone else would show some interest.

An hour later I was sitting on the couch in my living room, sipping a cup of tea and talking to Kristin. Nobody had responded. It was that time of day when a decision had to be made. Was I going flying, or should we plan to do something together? ďYou know what people are doing right now?Ē I asked her rhetorically. ďTheyíre getting out of bed and looking out the window, and theyíre saying to themselves that it is not a day to fly. Iím not sure it is such a great day, but we have flown in weather like this before and MAGICAL things can happen on days like this!Ē

I swear, thatís what I said. And as I said it, unbeknownst to me, somewhere a wand was waved and pieces started to fall into place.

Instantly the phone rang and it was Tom Pipkin. Heís not on twitter so he didnít know I was fishing for someone. Tom and I used to fly together several times a week. For many years we were the insatiable regulars at Pine, Chief, and Skyport. Those years ended some years ago, but I still treasure the memories and I couldnít have wished for a better wingman. He was enthusiastic about what he saw in the weather data, and he even had a driver (I didnít know who at the time).

ďGame on,Ē I said to Kristin as I put the phone down. The conversation had been entirely one way.
After getting Robb Milley on board, I scrambled to get my gear together and we met at the High School. It startled me to see Tony Deleo get out of his car at the parking lot. No bag, no blade. Master Yoda driving for us? Something didnít seem right about that, but OK.

We were out of the fog by the time we drove by the Nuthouse. Amazing how much that changes the outlook. Blue skies, no wind, and before long we were even seeing little, puffy cotton ball clouds starting to form. But it didnít have that ďbig dayĒ feel to it. The forecasted high was only 83 degrees, and it was late in the year. The big days at Pine for me had all been mid summer days. Sizzling hot. Days you could see coming from a week or so out. Days when the Suburban was packed full and buzzing with anticipation. Saturday just had the four of us driving along chatting, unhurried, and not making a big deal about anything.

By the time we passed the Sandpile we could see more cummis popping in the otherwise blue sky, and not even a whisper of wind.

When we were setting up at launch, we idly discussed plans. It was cool on launch. I could feel a little bit of a winter bite to the air. There was a south wind about 5-10. We agreed that if we could get up over 10K we would go OTB, but otherwise we would just fly around and have fun.

I launched first at 11:30 and almost immediately climbed to 9500 in smooth, strong lift. Thatís when my thoughts on the day changed a little and I got more optimistic about what lay in store. It was harder getting through 10K, but it was so easy getting to 95 I decided to wait for Tom and Robb. As Robb said, we yo-yoíd a few times, but when they were in a position to go OTB, I was groveling low, looking for the thermal that I had seen Pipkin ride up to 11.2.

They bailed OTB without me but I wasnít out of the game yet. I got back to the Bonsai Tree, got worked over pretty good there, but finally made it back up and over the back as they were entering the chute. It looked like they were having a lot of fun, twisting it up toward cloudbase as I played catch up. But I was confident that I would catch them, and I could see a little of what the day had planned for us with the streeting clouds.

There was a bit of a blue hole to get through over the Badlands, but otherwise the lift was plentiful (if a bit rough). I was sad to hear Robb fall out of it, and then I lost viz on Pipkin, so I made my own way through, getting a nice big boost off of Guillermo.

The air in Lockwood Valley was most unpleasant. I kept losing bits of my wing as I was knocked around, and then I lost the whole thing for a while, but I took some solace in my altitude. The best part was always the altitude. No low saves, no frantic thoughts about where to land, or how to manage retrieve. No worrying about mechanical turbulence, steep hillsides, power lines, or anything earthly. It was all about air time. I stopped looking at the ground and focused all my attention on the clouds.

A big help in that regard was having Tony in the chase vehicle. We didnít need to explain anything. A quick comment about where we were and what our altitude was and he knew exactly where to go and what to do. Very liberating, allowing us to just focus on the flying.

At least until the point that we crossed the I-5 and began picking up incessant chatter from (of all places) BATES! Someone was on the 46 freq (isnít that supposed to be the XC freq?) sharing every whimsical notion that crossed his mind. As I was being roughed up by the air at 11000 feet, I got to hear all about how paragliders turn, what makes them work, how we yield right-of-way, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Iím a patient person, I can put up with minor annoyances, but after 20 solid minutes of diarrhea mouth, it drove me absolutely nuts. During the short breaks, I got on the radio and pleaded for us to be able to share the frequency, but the only thing that worked was shutting off my radio until I could get far enough down range to block the chatter.

I had never been East of the I-5 and up until a month ago I had sort of considered it to be a dark and scary monster. Many tales of high winds, HT powerlines, and extremely bad landings. But a month ago I got to ride in the truck while we chased Marty and Bob A and I realized that it wasnít as bad as I had imagined. It was great knowing the landmarks and knowing that there were plenty of landing options.
As Tom mentioned, however, we didnít need to think much about landing. We just swung from the monkey bars all the way around the corner by Willow Springs race track, then over the wind farm and on into Mojave.

I was comfortable enough with knowing where Edwards restricted airspace was, but I was a little unnerved about flying low over the airplane graveyard north of Mojave. I imagined the upside down wedding cake, I looked for (and didnít see) a control tower. But there are a lot of big planes and a very obvious runway, and I wasnít all that high as I cast my shadow right over it. I could only imagine somebody standing on the ground with his hands on his hips spurting out ďWTF!!!Ē

At least Pipkin was right there with me.

We had traded places a few times, both in altitude and in the lead, but for most of the flight Pipkin was running the point. As we crossed Mojave he had me by 500 feet and Iím sure we both felt we were on final glide. Surprisingly though, as we burned off our altitude we hit some smooth lift and got to climb a little. I was still climbing when Pipkin straightened out and started on what would be his final glide. I managed to drift with it to 9000 and then dribble along on course for a little while longer.

Finally, after stumbling into a 12mph North wind, I hit the dirt in a giant field, lightly covered with desert grass and flat as a pancake. I was way late with checking in with Kristin, so after I got control of my wing, and ripped off my jacket (it was still 93 degrees), I dug out my phone and called her. My gear was all in a big, unorganized pile and the wind was still blowing hard enough that a rosette wasnít going to work very well so I was standing there looking at it and trying to figure out how I was going to get it all to the road that was about 100 yards away, when I heard the low rumble of my Suburban and saw Tony four wheeling it across the field to afford me valet service. How nice that was! I simply jammed all my gear in the back and enjoyed a fresh peach. Not bad!

Thanks so much to Tony for driving and his invaluable encouragement. To Tom for being with me throughout the flight, just like the old days, and to Robb for cheering us on, even after taking one for the team.

My vario has a built in GPS but I didnít have the distance-to-takeoff displayed as a field. I was curious about how far I had flown, but I didnít find out until this morning when I downloaded my track. Unfortunately there were several numbers thrown out on the board and in messages. All with asterisks because nobody knew for sure.

Here are the final stats:
Duration: 5:44:30
Max Alt.: 12182
Max FPM : 1199
Distance: 97.2


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