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Mar 31, 2019, 10:30 PM
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100k flight and New Goal and Return Record

This weekend a few of us XC pilots went to Cal Valley to try to achieve some 100k pins as well trying for a new Goal and return record. Bill Chase, Barry Danieli, Mike Leggett formed one team and Steve Henke, Bill Curry and myself (John Ellias)formed the other team. Our plan was to fly Goal and Return flights starting at the Southern end of the Valley. Therefore we decided to stay at a hotel in Maricopa which was only about 20 minutes from the launch site.

We set up the winch up just off soda Lake road about 1/2 mile North of the Soda Lake road - highway 33 intersection. We soon discovered the entire valley was packed with sightseers there to see the "Super Bloom" of wildflowers. We have never seen such traffic in the Valley.

The weather started out extremely cold and mostly cloudy, but it looked like it would turn into an excellent soaring day. Our team flipped coins to see who would fly on Friday. Steve lost, so he got to fly first!

Steve was trying for his 100k pin. We picked a turpoint about 32 miles up soda lake road (64 miles total). Therefore if he succeeded he would also break the current Goal and Return record of about 35 miles total. I will let Steve fill in the details of the flight, but he managed to fly about 60 miles, just a couple of miles short of achieving his 100k pin.

A BLM ranger came by our launch site and would not allow Bill Chase to fly claiming the Valley was too crowded to allow "Drones" to fly!

Bill and his team scoped out a new launch site in Taft that we could use for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday was my turn to fly. I decided to fly a 100k goal and return flight that if successful would be a new World Record. The Course started in Taft and went East to the west edge of Arvin and then back to the launch site in Taft. The flight went about a easy as a long flight could go. I was in the air just under 4 hours and I never got below 1000 feet agl. If approved it should be a new world record.

Bill Chase flying his "almost" indestructible Appersonic P got on course. Somewhere during the flight they lost sight of the glider for only a few seconds. When they re-acquired it the glider was in a dive at an incredible speed. Before he could react both wingtips departed. Somehow Bill managed to recover and safely land the remaining portion of the glider. Later gps analysis showed the glider reached a speed of 215 mph!

Sunday, we decided to set a course that was 1 mile further than my flight of the day before. Steve again flew but decided to include intermediate turnpoints at the many 90 degree turns we had to make due to the road configuration. By including these turnpoints and actually rounding them his flight would total 76 miles. If he completed the course he would not only have his 100 k but also a new world record. On this flight he exceeded his 100k goal but came up about 6 miles short of completing the task. So Steve got his 100k but no World record. Congratulations Steve!

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Apr 01, 2019, 04:21 AM
Balsa breaks better
Thermaler's Avatar
Does not look like much room to fly out there . . . ;>)

Good job Steve rats on 100K, the record is the target now.

Bill, hope it holds up!! We are pulling for you!! Great Job!!!


Who flies off a maybe 300 sq yard patch . . .

16261 Bakertown Rd, Buchanan, Mi.
Last edited by Thermaler; Apr 01, 2019 at 03:59 PM.
Apr 01, 2019, 10:59 AM
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Congratulations to John for a well deserved record flight and to Steve for getting the 100k pin.
Great write up as well.

Regards Dean
Apr 01, 2019, 11:48 AM
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Looks like you guys flew on part of the old TOSS 12 mile OR course. I think you went down Lake Rd.. The other course was on Copus Rd. , a bit to the south, which was where the 20 Mile Toss OR course was. Also, the route I flew in 72 for a WR.
Apr 02, 2019, 11:55 AM
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Thermalator's Avatar
Excellent job guys!!! Congratulations!
Regards, Gary
Apr 03, 2019, 10:25 PM
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New Achievements

Congratulations John,
Out and Returns are notoriously tough, great job.

Congratulations Steve,
There aren't many that have achieved the 100k, well done.

Congratulations Bill,
Your design's performance and durability are legendary, well done.

Congrats to all the members on all the teams, These flights can't be done without you.

Apr 05, 2019, 11:23 AM
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TrekBiker's Avatar

100K flight

Great weekend!

Only two teams this time, both attempting to set a new FAI goal and return distance world record. Bill and I volunteered to help John since his regular team could not attend. John already holds the FAI distance record of 187 miles (straight line distance to a stated goal) that he set in Nevada beating Joe Wurts 30 year old record of 141 miles he set in southern CA back in the late '80's. This record attempt would be stated goal and return.

Got to Mariposa (absolute dump of a town) Thursday night for a planned three days of record attempts flying in nearby Cal Valley but from the south end for the first time. John won the coin toss and chose to fly on Saturday, I lost out and got Friday with Bill flying Sunday. Friday dawned cold and overcast, looked like maybe high fog related clouds from the coast. We set up in a nice area but after an hour of waiting in 44 degrees for the weather to clear decided to head back to the hotel and get out of the cold. This was a mistake as by the time we got back to the launch area it was perfect flying conditions and we spent another hour reversing the winch and messing around. That lost hour would come back to bite me. Took awhile and half a dozen thermals till one broke loose and I managed to get off the field at around 1pm (using John's jeep, my first time flying in one, I've only ever flown from the back of pickups). Perfect weather on course but big crowds of flower sight seers for the "Super Bloom". Normally at Cal Valley we will see 3 or 4 other vehicles all day, this time vehicles were everywhere and many times had to slow down and weave thru. There was even a herd of cattle at one point blocking the road! I was still flying 4 hours in at 5pm when it suddenly got cold and the lift died. Rode a few handlaunch bubbles at 50 ft for 10 minutes or so but nothing was going to break loose and I landed two miles short of a 100K flight.

The Super Bloom crowd looked like possible trouble and turned out it was. BLM caught Bill Chase's team before they could get on course and told them we are a "safety hazard" and are not allowed to fly "drones" in Carrizo Plain national monument. Didn't matter that we've had 30+ years of RC soaring at Cal Valley without a single incident, apparently any remotely piloted aircraft is now a drone in the eye's of the law?? that's not good.... So Bill's team packed up and left. Later that day they scouted a new course from Taft to Arvin so we still had a chance. Turns out this route was pretty good only not nearly as scenic as Cal Valley, basically farmlands with roads in a grid similar to our XC routes in Davis. We would have to cross I-99 and I-5 both directions but this turned out to be no problem.

Saturday morning we headed out to Taft to try out Bill's new course and found a really nice launching area at a OHV park (not quite "perfect" as the motorcycles and quads there shredded our winch line while we were out on course Sunday!). Goal and Return task is measured as crow flies, straight line distance, so this route at 32 miles there and back (total 64) would easily beat the existing record of 35 miles. John launched and immediately hooked up and we're off. None of us had driven the route and there was a bad 15 mile stretch on hwy 223 with traffic like I-5 so we were constantly pulling over to let them by. And an endless train of big rigs. Not a fun stretch but it was easy to pull over as there was a good paved shoulder along the entire section. But we made it and John set a new world record (FAI paper work associated with a record in incredible!).

Got back to the hotel and bad news from Bill Chase's team. They lost sight of Bill's plane (Appersonic) and blew off the wing tips in a 215 mph dive (measured by on board gps). Somehow Bill managed to land it without wingtips and ailerons, huge wingloading and very high landing speed! They searched for the wingtips for hours but only found one. Luckily Bill had his backup Appersonic so he was good to go for another attempt Sunday.

John now had the record so he told Bill and I he would help us get our 100K pins Sunday. Got to the field Sunday morning and Bill decided he would not fly as his neck was bothering him (probably a good decision, bad visibility conditions, more dust in the air than Saturday). I flew from the back seat of John's jeep, nice cloudless day, zero to very light wind, would have been perfect except for the dusty air and horrible visibility of the glider at anything over 2000 feet or at any off angle in the distance. Highest I got on the flight was 2700 ft and that was only do-able flying overhead in a 10 degree cone. Try staring straight up for hours without reclining and you get the idea on how fun that is! Lost sight of SuperCon dozens of times (back half of thermal turns) and one time in the sun nearly was fatal and I was full up elevator searching the sky for it for probably 10-20 seconds.

We had scoped a slightly different course on Google Earth to avoid the heavy traffic on 223 so this new course was a couple miles longer than John's course on Sat. If I could complete it I would be the new world record holder. A world record would be great but achieving my 100K pin was the primary goal (my 20 year quest!). The course change was good with a nice large dairy farm that proved to be a good generator both going and returning and traffic was very light. But tough flying with lots of "false positives" broken up thermal fragments (turn into one and the second half of the turn immediately turns into sink) and was forced into a couple low saves from around 200 ft. But inspite of miles of broken lift the air was bouyant with no large sink areas and there were a couple really strong semi-smooth thermals on this 16 mile stretch (also a couple dozen stop signs!). In the end I nearly broke John's record he set on Sat but fell short of the return goal by a few miles. Basically I was one good thermal from setting the record and the sad thing is that one good thermal was right there in front of us with several strong dust devils being kicked off by a tractor just a half mile ahead. But I was too low the reach them.

So John keeps his record. Good news is I achieved my 100K pin (70 mile flight) which is something I've wanted for the last 20 years. We never saw Bill Chase's team the rest of Sunday. Bill already has his 100K pin so he was trying for the record and his team chose a different route that was more mileage efficient for a straight line (as the crow flies) goal and return flight. Turns out they did not have their TEK probe and got out on course with no vario. They made it 6 miles. Modern XC flying without a vario is just not feasible.

Lessons learned:

Flying from the back of a jeep is VERY uncomfortable on my neck, damn back seat does not recline. And its hard to keep glider away from the sun in TOO MANY situations. But I am a newb when it comes to jeeps and there are probably work-arounds if I did it more often. Now that I think back on it I should have got up in the seat on my knees and faced backwards so we could get ahead of the sailplane and get better angles on the sun, never had so much trouble with the sun on a flight before. Also, communication in the jeep is better between the driver and pilot and you are pretty much invisible to law enforcement. Flying from the back of a pickup is easier in my opinion, more comfortable and the ability to fly 360 degrees is much less strain on the pilot and its easier to position the chase vehicle to avoid the sun.

Having a well practiced emergency plan in place for when you (inevitably) lose visual on the glider is CRITICAL. That is what kills many teams, they don't have a planned (and practiced) emergency procedure in place and end up blowing up their sailplanes in death spirals or ground impacts. Bill and I have practiced emergency scenarios like this many times on our club field by launching, getting high up and then putting the glider in all sorts of situations pretending we have lost sight of it. Dives, straight line, high banks, etc. Turns out the best practice for our glider (SuperCon) is to pull full up elevator (gently, around 1-2 seconds to full deflection). This results in a series of loops and swoops and stalls, BUT.... critically the glider does not enter a death spiral and does not leave the area and we have plenty of time to re-acquire visual. Now, after years of real world experience we have done this so many times it's not even a panic situation anymore.

so, beat and burnt today. glad to get my 100K pin. Not sure I want to do that again anytime soon, 5 hours without a break is brutal for me at age 60.

Last edited by TrekBiker; Apr 07, 2019 at 10:50 AM.
Apr 05, 2019, 12:43 PM
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jtlsf5's Avatar
About time you got the 100K Steve. Congrats!!
Apr 06, 2019, 10:00 PM
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As always, great camaraderie and great flying.

Looking forward to Pioche, where hopefully, Murphy won't come back to haunt me
Apr 06, 2019, 11:24 PM
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Steve....What time of day were you flying this great flight? Your course (well, either of the courses) came past where my club flies but a mile north or south, depending on the course. It wouldn't have affected us even if we were there but I'm just curious. Congrats on a great flight. I haven't done x-country in a long time. It was fun, as I recall.
Apr 07, 2019, 11:01 AM
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TrekBiker's Avatar

XC courses

Hi George,

Friday I was on course in Cal Valley from 1pm to 5pm. Saturday John was on course on the first Taft-Arvin route from around 10:30 to a little past 2pm. Sunday I was on course on the new Taft-Arvin route from around 10am to 3pm.

You are in Bakersfield? Then you have a really good XC goal and return course nearby if you fly the route we flew on Sunday. This route would beat John's newly set record by a couple miles. Bill Chase had set a different course south of our route that might have been even better but I'm not sure exactly what it was. His course would also be long enough to beat John's record if anyone wants to try it out. (Be Warned! FAI record attempts require a great deal of understanding the FAI requirements and plowing thru the paperwork. John Ellias and Dean Gradwell have taken the time and trouble to figure all this out. Its almost as if the flying is the easiest part of the process.... LOL)

Last edited by TrekBiker; Apr 07, 2019 at 11:08 AM.
Apr 07, 2019, 02:35 PM
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I have 10K courses laid out to east and west from where we fly (Shafter School at the intersection of S. H St and Shafter Road, which runs E-W half way between Bear Mountain Blvd (SR223) and Houchin Road) for LSF Level V attempts but there are so few of us left in the club these days, it is hard to get the witnesses together. Maybe I'll try it someday but until I get past the Level V contest requirement, there isn't much point.

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