Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 2

This morning in the pilots meeting we discovered that there had been a mid-air collision on the previous day. It was discussed in great detail between the various team captains. What had happened was while one pilot was circling in a thermal, another glider had tried to enter the thermal by coming up from underneath the other airplane, which he didn't see. The two planes collided, and both were damaged, but the one who had tried to enter the thermal was able to return to Prievidza, but the glider that had been thermaling was more severely damaged and had to land in a nearby airport. During the team captains meeting it was determined that although the collision had been an accident, it had been the responsibility of the pilot entering the thermal to carefully observe for other pilots already in the thermal. So the pilot at fault was disqualified for the day, and temporarily excluded for the next two flying days. The other pilot's glider was so badly damaged that it could not be repaired for this competition, and the championship directors have allowed him to replace his glider and continue the contest.

The launch went smoothly for the most part, but we had several pilots struggling to find lift. One of our pilots had to relite three times, and still landed out, so we've been having some challenging soaring conditions. Today each class had an assigned area task, with a duration ranging from two hours to two hours and fifteen minutes, similar to the tasks set on Day One, although they were slightly longer on Day One. The task distances ranged from at least 106.7 kilometers to a maximum of 368.4 kilometers with slight variances in each task. We had a total of two landouts today, with some very challenging retrieves, as a powerful but short thunderstorm swept through soon after the crews left the airfield. Personally, I enjoyed a nice rain shower, but don't tell the pilots that.

Although it was a difficult task, Francois Pin was able to come back in second place. He reported flying defensively with other World Class pilots of the French and Polish teams struggling to stay high on the first leg. On his second leg he charged off by himself to chase some clouds on the other side of the ridge that more or less led to the second turn. It didn't work and he ridge soared most of the way to the turn stopping for every little peak along the way. Finally, coming home, he faced a 17 knot headwind and a cloudless sky. He met up with a gaggle and together they headed for home. About twenty miles out he reached the clouds and roared home to finish second for the day.

Mike Smith was another pilot who, made it back to the airfield under difficult conditions. At our request he agreed to write a small excerpt for today's blog.

"Let me begin by saying that it was much better than my first day, but still not as good as I had hoped. The first day's flight was one of those nightmares that haunt competition pilots in the winter when we can't fly. Clouds just out of reach. Hills a little too high. Valleys with very little lift.

A French pilot, one of the four unfortunates who also landed out at Martin, remarked to me, "It's not the best way to start a contest!" 
Day 2 was better for me. Reasonable lift under a high overcast. Some very short streets, and a wind that made ridge soaring saves possible. I had a fairly good flight going till the last turn. It was in the valley to the south and it looked dead. I decided to tag the cylinder on the northeast side so that I could use the ridges in case there were no thermals. In the end, I spent over an hour and a half on a ridge until a thermal finally popped and gave me enough altitude to get home. I did a straight in landing and rolled up to my parking spot, greeted by most of the US Team. It was a great welcome home."

While many of the pilots were landing, Sharon let me borrow her camera again, and Lilly and I went down to the very end of the field where the gliders were coming in. They literally flew right over us. We were able to get some pretty cool pictures of airborne planes, and of the wheat fields and pretty flowers of course.

Blair Mockler with some help from Dick Mockler