Thread: Discussion which way you turn?
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Old Nov 15, 2012, 11:22 AM
TrekBiker is offline
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United States, CA, Diamond Springs
Joined Mar 2004
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I turn left most of the time as I am more comfortable and skilled turning that direction, especially in small or difficult thermals low to the ground or fast moving thermals in wind where I need to fly aggressively with lots of recentering and high bank angles at times. Same thing with bicycling, driving and skiing, I seem to be more skilled and comfortable in left turns than right turns, not sure why, coriolis??

If I enter a gaggle of planes turning right in a thermal and am in fairly close proximity I will turn right which is the rule. I still try my best to fly the "blue sky rule" but in crowded environments sometimes that is not possible (like at Visalia). If I "poach" a thermal and am clearly way below or above another glider I will turn any which way I feel is best, usually left 90% of the time. On small tight low to the ground thermals I generally will stay in the turn direction I entered and wait till it breaks loose and gets bigger and higher before doing a figure 8 to reverse direction to my preferred left turning.

I have observed dust devils many times and have attempted to fly into them. I think dust devils turn left due to coriolis effect and the ground plane forcing this turn of the incoming air mass like a tornado. Once the thermal gets very high I doubt it does much cyclone type turning as I cant tell if the thermal lift is better turning one direction or the other. That, plus I am generally quite a bit more efficient turning left. I have a suspicion that thermals come in all sorts of shapes, some like bubbles, some connected to the ground with one or multiple "roots" of feeder thermals feeding into a large rising mass of air. Some are broken up fragments of larger thermals. This I have encountered many times in XC flying using a vario. These "false positives" often fake out less experienced pilots and you need to keep flying thru them to find the real thermal they broke loose from even though the temptation to turn into them can be strong.

I could be way off on this but these are my observations and theories. Sure wish I could actually see thermals like we can see clouds, it would be real interesting. many times I have experienced a strange effect on blue sky days in strong lift nearly straight overhead where in my peripheral vision I can see a strange haziness surrounding my glider. It is always strong lift when I see it and if I look directly at it it dissappears, like dim stars do when you look at them directly. Thats as about as close to "seeing" a thermal as I get.

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Last edited by TrekBiker; Nov 15, 2012 at 11:28 AM.
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