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Progression P3
Posted 6/20/2015

In response to [Chris Ballmer's email and flight report after getting 500 over a Elings T-Hill]

As we enter the summer months the Santa Barbara launches are good for P2 pilots looking to build confidence launching and landing through repetition.  Our local launches will occasionally be soarable when the inversion layer is high enough to offer a deep marine layer, but for the P3 pilots I recommend going inland, and if possible venture north to higher latitudes.

Bates and Wilcox (DFP) will still work for a quick fix, but to progress you want more exposure than our local cliffs will offer in the summer.  Fly as many sites as you can.  Locally the late day bus to Pine has the potential for big altitude and under the guidance of the FlyAboveAll instructors is a good progression for P3 pilots.  I've often noted that there aren't really P4 or advanced "sites", but rather advanced conditions.  Midday Pine can be a bit much for Paragliders in July.  Many inland sites that are nasty midday can be sweet late in the afternoon and early evening.  Marshall is a typical example, and likely the most consistent summertime site in Southern California.

Ojai doesn't necessarily follow the late day model of sites further inland due to it's proximity to the ocean.  The cool heavy ocean air will draw up the Ventura River in the afternoon, so it often works better midday rather than late in the afternoon.  Try to go uphill to the left (east) rather than the typical upwind slug back to Nordhoff.  Nordhoff is more influenced by the marine air than the points above the Upper Ojai Mesa.  There aren't currently any commercial vehicles going Ojai because we don't have a commercial landing area, but it's still soarable most days and anyone can pick up a permit for the Nordhoff Ridge Road to Chiefs.  Do take care to avoid pissing off the local property users.  There are plenty of places to land, but spread it around and don't wear out our welcome.  If you can connect east one spine to the Repeater, then you can likely reach numerous good LZs in Upper Ojai including Summit School.

We go inland and up higher to get away from and or above the cooler heavy ocean air.  But we also go higher in the summer for other reasons, and the Upper Ojai Mesa is higher than lower Ojai.

A little math and physics is in order.  The sun heats the ground, and the ground heats the air.  The hot air rises like a hot air balloon, but it also expands and cools as it rises.  The math isn't linear, but we'll pretend it is for simplicity.  The DALR, or Dry Adiabatic Lapse Rate, which is the rate a parcel of rising air will cool as it expands, is about 3 degrees C per thousand feet.  A bubble that starts out near sea level in the San Joaquin Valley would cool 15 degrees C, or 27 degrees F if it was able to reach 5K, so if the bubble started out a 87 degrees at the surface, it would have cooled off to 60 degrees F by the time it got to 5K.  The 5K temperature in the summer usually isn't much cooler than 60 (15 degrees C), and  is often warmer, so it's unlikely that a parcel of air from down low can go much higher.  If we start out at 5K, like in Lockwood Valley, the surface will actually absorb more sun due to the thinner atmosphere.  It may not actually heat the air in contact as high because the air mass is cooler to begin with, but it will likely get significantly hotter than the bubble at 5K that started down lower.  The end result is that higher terrain usually works better in the summer.  Upper Ojai, Lockwood Valley, the Owens Valley...

Places like Lockwood Valley and Upper Ojai create their own convergence.  They "let off" or release thermals which climb higher, which leaves a void that has to be filled.  At the lower fill levels, the high terrain will fill from both directions.  Upper Ojai fills from the west on the west end, and from the east (up the Santa Paula River) on the east end.  Lockwood does the same thing on a bigger scale.  You also get a convergence along the watershed divide of Old Man Mountain and Monte Arido.  Matilija Canyon draws upriver from the east on the east side, and the prevailing flow is from the west on the west side.

Bottom Line is, search over the high terrain.

Regarding the change in seasons.  Pine works better for PGs early and late summer.  Mid summer the high desert and Lockwood Valley create an "Inland Low" and draw too strong.  Pine does have it's July days, and is usually good mid July for faster aircraft like Hang Gliders.  Even out in the desert there is influence from the ocean.  The low level air flows inland from the cooler ocean to fill, which influences the local mass flow circulation all the way up through the Owens Valley.

As noted above, in addition to going inland and up, it can also  be nice to go north to higher latitudes.  The sun is less intense in the northern latitudes, but the days are longer.  Some of the northern sites offer impressive late afternoon and evening air.

Everybody can't frequently hop up to Washington or Canada for the weekend, but our local training hill can be good when the marine layer is deep.  It seems to work best on the edge of the low clouds just as the cool ocean air starts to pull in, but hasn't built steady which will cool it off down low.  It is often hottest late morning just before the ocean sea breeze kicks in.  I can remember working at the Oxnard Airport, which is exposed to river flow.  It would heat up in the morning, then around 10 or 11 o-clock the temperature would drop 10 degrees as the sea breeze swept over us.

It is heartening to see the P2 pilots progress to P3 and eventually to more advanced conditions.  I'm one of  the old bold pilots, so I prefer a bit more spice, but I still like to watch the pilots flying Bates, and I can still remember my first day on the training hill when a simple 20 second flight would stay with me all week.

Summer trips inland are more of an investment compared to a lunch hour at the Skyport, but go inland as much as you can and we'll see you on course this next Santa Barbara season when you'll be flying back to work in Carpinteria on your lunch hour rather than landing at Parma.