Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spot On Forecast

Saturday looked good early, but the upper atmosphere is very moist and overdevelopment (both horizontal and vertical) was in the forecast. After a hot hike up the hill, I found plenty of people on launch and plenty in the air, too. Unusually at St Andre, I found myself flying in traffic for the first 10 or 15 minutes and a little worried by a couple of pilots.

I ended up flying around the Thorame valley until things shut down. I had hoped to fly back to St Andre, but there always seemed to be a monster cloud in the way. Cloudbase was relatively low - 2600m - which put many of the peaks in the clouds and discouraged me from flying further N. Some goldfish bowl flying around the Thorame valley - a relatively open, friendly place - seemed the best option. The clouds closed in very quickly, and once they did, my sink alarm seemed to be on until my feet hit the ground.

Back in St Andre with a big storm moved in from the S, with some gust fronts, before soaking the village.

A few pics and a tracklog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Best Alarms

As I was flying the other day, a grape sized white round object hit my shoulder and bounced into my pod. Horrors, hail! I pressed my speedbar, headed to the LZ and looked behind me. Some clouds with the beginnings of mamatta but nothing indicating precipitation, never mind hail. 

A few seconds later I realized what it was. A limestone pebble in my wing had dislodged in turbulence. I continued my flight and, after landing, removed the offending stone.

I guess the best alarms are false alarms!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Refresher Course

Mistral 1 Windsock 0

The last 10 or so days have been very windy - mostly mistral weather, but also some showers (a strange combination). Although I've seen a few wings in the air, I haven't tried to fly. I tailor what I do to the weather, so instead of squeezing a flight out of a poor flying day, I go hiking or cycling. I sometimes miss flying, but it is a lot less frustrating.

I like to feel "current" with my flying; when I see a good forecast, I want to be confident I can use it. If I launch straight into a strong thermal, I want to be glad, not terrified. So once I go 2 weeks without a flight, I'm happy to accept a "practice flight". The forecasts were calm but mediocre today and I was happy to sneak a late morning flight. 

Showers were forecast for the afternoon, I had work to do, so I knew it would be a short flight. Launching towards the end of the morning was fine - it would allow me to use the 'standard' LZ before the day became too thermic. It wouldn't be easy to stay up - so better practice than launching at 1.00pm.

And that's how it worked out. I arrived at the south launch around 10.45 just as a group of pilots launched; a few of them got above launch but only for a few minutes. By the time I was ready to launch everyone had landed; I struggled in messy thermals for ten minutes before getting well above launch and boating around. Testing, but not too testing. After around 45 minutes I headed to the LZ to beat my noon "sensible landing limit" (the LZ can be very turbulent on a summer afternoon).

Just over 3 hours door to door, some decent exercise hiking up and an interesting 45 minute flight. Time for a quick lunch and then back to work!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aix, Lavender and Visitors

I've not been flying as much as usual because I've had quite a few (non-flying) visitors lately. Of course, visitors do tend to come in the summer, which - at least from a flying perspective - is a pity. I've flown between the visits but not during them - flying is too intrusive for that. So some gentle hikes, site-seeing, rafting and visiting villages.

One of the main routes to St Andre is via the TGV station at Aix. It's actually outside the town, but it's nice to take visitors into the town center. It's a lovely town and it's small enough that you can see a lot in only an hour. In the center, the main street is Le Cours Mirabeau and if there's a more beautiful street in the world, I've yet to see it. Photos of Aix

I've taken to using a 'scenic route' to drive to Aix. It crosses the Plateau de Valensole, which is famous for its lavender fields. At this time of year, they are magnificent - row upon row of flowers and a wonderful scent. Lavender attracts bees, of course, and the resulting honey is very nice - except when the bees meet my windscreen…

My visitors have gone and the weather this week is beautiful. Warm sun, cool air, deep blue sky, dry and windy - typical mistral conditions and great for everything except flying.