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Thread: Flight with Kempton in FNX 8/9/2015

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Santa Rosa

    Flight with Kempton in FNX 8/9/2015

    This was one of the flights offered by Kempton to help new glider pilots to improve X-country skills. For me this flight was an in-depth look at finding lift. One of my obligations to participate in this wonderful opportunity is to write a report of the flight, so here goes. The techniques demonstrated and the lessons learned are old information to those with lots of experience, so this report is written for others like me and to record this for my future use. Much was covered in great detail by Kemp, so please forgive/correct anything I have left out or gotten wrong.

    Kemp carefully covered the plan for the day including weather forecast, Notams (for those pesky TFRs) and a chart covering the area to be flown with the planned course for the day and the objective of my learning. The basic plan was to proceed north along the Mendos as far as the fires in the Hayfork area with the possibility of crossing to Lassen.

    Kemp made sure I was comfortable in the front seat with lots of tips and suggestions to properly prepare for a 4 ,plus hour flight. Here some of them, not in any particular order:
    1. Have sufficient hydration available and one should probably take along a snack or other electrolyte replacement.
    2. Protection from the sun using clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat with a brim to protect face, ears, and neck.
    3. Adjust seating area for maximum comfort. You might be surprised what a small lump of clothing or item in a pocket will cause discomfort later in the flight.
    4. Oxygen available and should be used by us senior citizens above 5000’. This was a surprise since I had decided on using above 10000’.
    5. The cockpit of most sailplanes is quite compact, so make sure all of the above or anything else you want during the flight is easily accessible during the flight.

    Kempton will fly all thermals until we reach a comfortable altitude of 11 or 12,000' MSL where I would be allowed to lose some altitude. We launched at 1130 on tow toward St. John Mtn. and released over Stonyford at 7500’ in VERY still air. I normally do not release in calm air but wait until I reach a good thermal, but Kempton has many flights from Williams and is sure there is a thermal near the top of St. John. As we approach the peak of St. John we encountered a thermal on the south side but Kemp was sure a better thermal would be on the NW side. We were now about 200 ft above the rocks, but sure enough we encountered a good thermal right where Kemp thought one might be. Kemp worked this thermal to about 8000’, so we were on our way!

    The air was smoky in the Sacramento valley with visibility for 5 to 10 miles from the Hayfork area fires, but the air was clear from the convergence west as far as we could see. The edge of the smoky air was an excellent visual indication of the location of the convergence and was a great help finding thermals early in the day due to the lack of CUs until we passed Black Butte. On this flight the key to finding thermals in the blue conditions between St. John and Black Butte was sampling the air above or near the high ground at the head of a drainage, but near the convergence. This convinced me that thermals are much enhanced along the convergence.

    Good thermals seemed far apart so it took Kemp awhile to get us above 9000’ until around Black Butte then finally above 10,000’ near Eagle Peak. By then we had CUs to show us the thermals. Kemp demonstrated productive thermals on the windward side of a CU several times during this time. The problem is the thermal is not always good enough to make efficient use of, so this did not work all of the time. This is true for thermals in the blue also, so good judgment is required to decide which thermal to turn into. The decision making does not stop with deciding to turn, you then must decide to continue to turn or not. Many times Kemp would turn on a thermal that felt strong but would lose strength as soon as the turn was initiated, so Kemp turned back on course or turned in the opposite direction.

    The decision making never stops, If one is fat on altitude then one can be more selective and choose only those that hit 8kts or higher. If you are desperate to climb, any lift may be worth a try, but the down side of this is the sink you may encounter may not be worth the possible lift that that thermal may provide. Choose wisely.

    One of most dramatic thermals we encountered was under a whiff of visible water vapor where we found good lift that got better. The dramatic aspect was the whiffs were forming all around us and above and below as we climbed! Wow what fun!!

    Near T15 we finally reached 12,000’ plus and cruised toward the Silver Creek airstrip which was just south of a TFR. The fires were still active with lots of smoke with poor visibility from the fires to the north and east up to about 12,000’ MSL, so we turned around and headed south along the convergence. I did most of the flying south bound and found thermals in the same places as we did north bound.

    This was a very valuable flight for a new glider pilot hoping to advance to x-country flight on my own. My take away from this flight is the importance of finding lift and how to locate such! This was my most enjoyable and longest flight in a sailplane to date. Thank you Kempton for your expert coaching and the opportunity to fly with you in your beautiful FNX!
    Last edited by Russ Pillard; 08-14-2015 at 04:45 PM. Reason: minor correction

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Santa Rosa

    Re: Flight with Kempton in FNX 8/9/2015 photographs

    Looking south with St. John just off the wingtip.

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    Looking north with Anthony Pk to the left and T15 in the middle on the horizon.

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    Climbing with wispys developing all around.

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    Looking NW numerous active fires. Ruth in the valley to the left and Silver Creek in the bottom right.

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    View from WSC west with smoke from the Jerusalem fire at sunset. This fire started about the time we landed.

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