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Flight Articles from Friday, 3/15/2002 [Weather Archive] [Craig Warren] [Sundowner] [Diablo]
[Chris Grantham] [Chris Paul] [Kristy Becchtold] [Ron Faoro] [Casey Rodgers] [Tom Beidler] [Tom Sorce] [Tom Pipkin] [Brendan] [Mike]

Sundowner's Flight Report from
Friday, 3/15/2002 (posting review on 1/17/2014)
2 flights
1) Skyport to San Antonio Creek Road
2) New SB PG Straight Line Open Distance Record / 68 miles (initially reported as 69 miles. see Note 1)
Skyport to just past the shooting range in San Francisquito Canyon
A Place to Shoot, 33951, San Francisquito Rd.
Just over 3 hours (never got stuck) ~ 22 mph average

Weather Archive
The forecast indicated potentially one of the best XC days of the year for SB.  I can't remember seeing the lapse rate so strong without some fatal flaw like; excess wind, rain, OD, low cloudbase, other commitments...  We were close to the Equinox, so our usable flight time was good; 5 or 6 hours.  The day was a little unusual for a NW blow, in that the wind was stronger down low, and lighter at altitude.  It blew hard through midnight,  but backed down a bit by sunrise.  With such a strong lapse rate, clear skies, and little wind above, the thermal block set up early.  We headed uphill with a full load in Eagle Chase at 9.  Parma was 0 to 4 from the SW.  The rock was already convecting straight up (from the SE) with visible heat.  The Bypass was cold, with a slight ooze from the SW, no sign of convection, but not blowing down.  The Skyport was 3 to 8 OTB.  Although Debbie was reporting peak gust to 30 overnight, she was gusting less than 10 (from the NW) by the time we got to launch.

We had to wait about 10 minutes for the first up cycle.  It went back and forth for another 10 minutes before the convection became established and it was steady up by 9:40.  The early stuff was sweet and easy, with light drift from the SE.  Strong onshore west wind swept through from the west.  By 11:30, there were caps off East Beach, but the ocean was still glassy toward Carpinteria.  The wind moved down the coast, and Carpinteria was getting windy by 1 pm.  As usual, the coast blew harder than the inland valleys.  It did blow harder inland than most good thermic days.  Manageable, but with such a strong lapse rate, the draws were stiff, so we needed to be leery about edges and gaps.  It was rough down low in the wind, but without much wind at altitude, it was nice up high.

Numerous pilots got pinned up on ridges, and at least 2 got blown OTB.  There were rumors of several other mishaps, and a confirmed report of an inexperience novice pilot without supervision requiring surgery for a broken arm.  Several pilots had to hike, and more than a few had to extract their gear from the brush.  It was a memorable and exciting day, and I suspect most of the pilots who got on course feel more seasoned today.

The altitude was good.  Most were reporting over 8K, and Craig got to 9+ across Agua Duice.  The glides varied.  There was some pretty heavy sink to be had, and if you mixed it with an upwind requirement...  As with most PG XC, it's best to strategize so as to avoid a need to glide upwind unless you were in lift.  There was some overdevelopment later in the day, but with such a strong lapse rate, it still seemed to work in the shade.

I think numerous pilots had their personal longest flights from SB.

Additionally, there were other noteworthy flights, including Diablo's to 5 miles past Piru, plus some of the SCPA pilots flew other sites, like The Nut House.

I had a sweet launch about 9:50, followed by a smooth climb to 4K.  Some drift from the SE so I opted to head west for a short leg, maybe as far as The Peak.  5K over the R&R, and 65 over the Peak, drifting from the SE.  The drift took me halfway to The Alternator.  In hindsight, I don't think the SE drift was wind driven, but rather momentum from the thermals rolling up the sun exposed South East collectors.  Tom Beidler called on the cell wondering if I thought it was ok to fly.  I recommended that he should get to launch ASAP.  I figured it should be an easy glide to the VOR so I kept going west.  Past No Name, I started picking up light drift from the north.  I'd flushed in lee side action near the VOR more than once, so I was a little concerned about potential north wind coming through the gap at San Marcos Pass, but so far everything seemed pretty benign.

I kept going past the VOR, thinking rookies use the easy turn point, but real men stretched for the windmill down low in the pass at Painted Cave.  On the way over, I spotted smoke from a small backyard burn on the SE face of Painted Cave.  It was drifting from the west.  I was pleased with the prospect of picking up a lower level tailwind for the eastbound run.  About a quarter mile out from The Wind Mill turn point, I started encountering increasing NW, but nothing my speed bar couldn't handle with more than a few hundred to spare.  I was a little bothered about pressing into the lee of the gap on full speed bar, but the air was smooth.  Once around the turn point, I ran back out for the point.  I was at minimum altitude (31) for a jump back across to the VOR, but in lee side sink I didn't think I could make it so I continued on down the spine hoping for a convergence out in front of the NW flow through the gap.

The picture got worse, and the trees were cranking.  I knew I didn't want to land in the main wind path, so I hung a left and crossed the canyon to the next spine toward the east.  I was worried about the lee side action, but stayed above it.  Kept running downwind toward the ocean hoping for a bounce, but I was 500 too low to turn east.  I went for the fields behind the blue roofed church on San Antonio Creek Road.  The fields have a bluff on the creek side.  I didn't want to be too close to the edge in the strong wind, so I set up in the middle of the field needing to burn off two or 300 feet.  I could almost hold my own with the wing overhead, but the conditions were gusty in the foothills.  Every time I got gusted, the canopy would rock back and I'd loose 50 yards.  Down to a hundred feet, I was snatched back into the residential neighborhood.  I was intent on keeping the canopy under control and facing upwind, hoping for the luck of the draw.  I got it and came down in a backyard horse corral next to the church parking lot.  Climbed over the fence and got the gear sorted.  It was gusting to 25.

Edward made good time getting to me, but had to come from launch.  We were back on launch ASAP and I was airborne again a little before noon.  The wind was starting to sweep through.  Parma was gusting over 12 as we drove by, but there seemed to be less wind up higher.  Pilots were waffling on launch because some rookies reportedly pulled bad glides.  Kristi and Christian both got up and away easily, so the herd was reenergized.  I followed to The Factory with a few hundred over.  Got on the main spine and fished upwind, down spine toward the SW.  Found one and followed Christian to cloudbase about 85.  Headed east on a long smooth glide and didn't need to stop until the east end of Castle Ridge.

Kristi had left The Factory with 6+ and was working along Castle Ridge with 3 other pilots down at ridge line.  The stuff on the deck was intermittent, strong and sharp, leaning from the south.  Took a small gain off the last point on Castle Ridge and ran across the canyon to the West Point of Power Line Ridge.  A little low, but with a good tailwind I got there ok.  Worked over to the east side, a little leery of the stiff draw leaning everything OTB.  Followed Kristi over to Noon Peak, and got back to better altitude.  Left with about 5K and boosted to 55 at Divide Peak.  Kristi was staying further back and had taken a boomer to 6+ ahead of me.  She cleared the top of White Ledge on a good line.  I angled a little further out front and had steady down all the way, coming in on the low SW point.  Blasted back up to 5ish, but the sharp edges and strong surge were a bit much so I followed Kristi around the corner.

Caught the usual freight train at Bump 3, but didn't track back very far due to the south wind.  Kristi was pinned on the back ridge behind bump 2, and was blown OTB.  Saw her take at least one nasty whack, but she got through the rotor ok for a landing in Matilija Canyon (reportedly drawing up canyon from the SE, gusting to 25).  I went off the end a little out front for a good downwind line to the Nuthouse.  Came in with plenty and dolphined over to Spine One.  Got to 5ish, skipped over to Twin Peaks, took one to 55 and went to Boyd's.  Boyd's was in sun, but had been in cloud shadow.  The weak thermals were big and smooth with a shallow trajectory.  I fished back up the spine with a little over 4 and found a better core up to 5ish.  Puckers was good to 55, but I didn't want to drift too far up the spine so I left for Santa Paula Peak.  Ran into a big fat smoothie out in the canyon and took it up above 7K, still below cloudbase.

Santa Paula Peak was easy.  Topped a good thousand plus below cloudbase at 7K.  Could have tried for more, but the clouds over Fillmore were fading and I was worried that if I didn't get there soon, the wind would scruff off all the lift.  Climbed back up to 5 over Jack's place (the road up to Oat Launch).  Probably could have gone higher, but I broke my speed bar line and I didn't want to drift too far back without one.  Fortunately I've broken speed bar lines enough times that I carry a precut replacement line and was able to change it out on the next glide.

It's almost always windy up the river on good days, and Friday added another 5+ knots.  Heavy sink on the way to Piru. Came in below the low hills east of town and turned into the wind a couple hundred yards out in front as soon as the vario registered.  I was backing up in the gust.  The broken ridge runs parallel with the river, and the wind was from the SW.  I had to give ground to the east to keep from backing up over the top.  I passed up a couple of strong thermals because I wasn't willing to take them OTB.  I got enough out of them that I could continue over the web of power lines.  The higher I got, the less the wind there was.  I was able to start doing figure 8s in the thermals, and once a thousand over the ridge line I was able to 360, with elongated upwind legs.  Committed OTB and topped a little over 7K a couple miles short of I-5, half way between 126 and Castaic Lake.  Craig reported 9K with Palmdale plus within gliding range.

Craig's route had been dark for a while.  He reported snow, and it was dumping verga.  I didn't have the speed to try upwind toward the south, so I opted to try for a thinner band of OD on the north side of the heavy development.  I was familiar with San Francisquito Canyon, so I angled for it.  There was a cloud forming just south of Castaic Lake, but it was just north of the line I wanted.  I caught some lift near it, and probably could have angled more north to get under it, but I thought I'd get up further on and took a more easterly heading.  Landing was a concern due to wind at lower altitude, and the rugged terrain through Canyon Country.  If I had another thousand, I could have pressed on toward Bouquet Canyon, but with rising terrain, dwindling altitude supply, limited civilization, and questionable retrieval, I opted to turn up San Francisquito.

I didn't connect where I had hoped to, and passed the power plant with only about 500 agl over the creek.  Bouncing along between 3 and 500 agl.  Had a couple of opportunities to track away from the creek with strong thermals, but was only willing to do a few figure 8s and would fall out the front.  If I went with the thermals and didn't get up, I'd be risking potentially nasty landing conditions away from channeled air.  The creek was pretty narrow itself, but better than the back side of a ridge with gust to 25+.

After on good bounce back up to 500 agl, I ran up the road and got ahead of the gust cycle.  I went to the back of a straight section and was down to about 300.  If I continued, the road went away from the creek and presented upwind obstructions.  I was in a lull with a reasonable upwind channel without too many obstructions for a half a mile or so.  I opted the drop the anchor and had a smooth landing on the road in the center of the photo listed above.  3 PM.  It gusted through pretty hard a couple minutes later, and continued to be mostly windy with an occasional lull.

No phone signal, but a passing fire truck stopped and clarified my location.  Edward arrived with Topa Chase about 4 PM.  We collected Craig just past 110th street and Avenue O (100.1 miles from the Liminator).  Christian was waiting patiently at the Vons in Fillmore.  Rain between Santa Paula and Ventura.  A beer at Double D's and home at 9:30.

Previous SB PG Straight Line Open Distance Record
6/13/97, 64 miles, Edel Sector, Large w/ 20 lbs ballast
The Skyport to Pitchess Detention Center (LA county Jail)


Note 1:  The flight in 2002 was pre Google Earth, and without a GPS, it was difficult to pinpoint my exact landing spot.  I used the photos from Globe Explorer and likely got the distance from a air navigation sectional map.  In January 2004 I reviewed the landing location using Google Earth and adjusted the distance down from 69 miles to 68 miles.  Google earth let me look at the LZ from a pilots perspective to more accurately locate the spot based on the wind channel, however, 12 years later, the vegetation is not the same, so I don't think the trees I used for a wind break to pack up are in the photo.



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