Saturday, December 13, 2014

 from JR’s on the front side of the mountain. Our concerns were soon alleviated when John called to say that, not daring to land at the Fairgrounds LZ, he had accepted the calculated risk of shotgun pellets, dogs and cow pies in the big Dog Pit LZ.  Fortunately, the farmer was absent so dogs and shotguns were not a problem.  But the cow pies did a lovely job reducing the friction of his landing... John says that the turbulence was present down to fifty feet off the deck.
So, what the hell was going on?  Our best guess is that the strong true winds aloft were creating a wave off the Cumberland Plateau upwind of launch, and we were flying in an area influenced by that wave’s dynamics.  After we had landed we could see a very clear wave cloud form along the Knoblies.  Whatever the cause, it was a decidedly unpleasant and surprising day considering the remarkably light conditions at launch.
Airtimes:  John circa :45, Pat and I both got half an hour, and Jim about ten minutes.  Pat got five hundred feet over launch, and I might have been somewhat higher, but was flying without a vario and can’t be sure.

John McAllister, JR, Pat Halfhill and I decided to take a chance on a somewhat sporty forecast that turned out very differently than we’d expected, and far more than we had bargained for.
Pat and I drove over the mountains from Pittsburgh in drizzle, mist, and through some Dr. Zhivago winter scenes before breaking out into clearer skies as we approached Cumberland .  When the four of us arrived at launch it was crankin’ and seemingly blown out.  But after a short while it began to back off, and continued to do so until there was essentially no wind by the time we were ready to launch.  Indeed, it briefly blew over the friggin’ back!
It did not look at all soarable when Pat went to launch first with his big new Falcon.  Pat had taken the Falcon after having misread the day’s forecast as calling for light conditions.  As a result, the rest of us gleefully and selfishly figured that he wouldn’t be able to fly and we would have a driver.  However, the light conditions suddenly made the Falcon look like an inspired choice.  After getting a bit of wind to blow in Pat finally dove off and promptly plummeted nearly two thirds of the way down to the Fairgrounds.  At about four hundred fifty feet he began to climb in the first of a series of short, violent bits of lift, interspersed with some amazing sink, eventually getting above launch for good. 
Back at High Point , Homer was waiting for a puff of air in which to launch while Pat finally climbed out.  With JR insulting his manliness and calling him Christy, John finally got some wind to launch in and headed over to join Pat.  He didn’t get as low as Pat had done, but it was essentially the same flight: vicious sink, turbulence and nasty lift. But at least he too got up and over the ridge.   Next off was JR who got up quickly, but was so unhappy with the appalling turbulence that he decided that landing in the spooky Fairgrounds lz was better than staying in the air.
With Pat and Homer still in the air, I ran off the hill and, surprisingly, climbed out quickly and easily in the vicinity of launch.  I stayed near launch and at first saw little of the turbulence being felt by the others.  It was only upon venturing in their direction that I began to experience some truly violent turbulence, perhaps the worst trash I have seen in twenty years.  I now understood Jim’s decision to land, and within minutes Pat was on the ground at the airport after having gotten high enough to run there.  I joined him as soon as I had again gotten high enough to risk transiting the strong lee-side rotor. I didn’t dare take a hand off the base tube to unzip my harness until I was beyond the rotor.  
From the airport Pat and I looked back at the ridge to see how (radio-less) Homer was doing, and soon became worried as he had disappeared from our sight, as well as

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