Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brief review of soaring in the "Great Basin".

 Soaring in the Great Basin can be  very rewarding. High cloud bases
along with fantastic thermal climbs, offering long distance flights,
can only be found in a few places of the world. The late Steve Fossett
felt, along with Ray Lynsky(World Champion NZ), that the Great Basin
has the best in the world for homogenize soaring conditions. Steve
Fossett's 1250 K FAI  World triangle speed record confirms this.
Several word's of caution must be followed. With very limited cell
phone coverage, a personal tracking device, such as a Spot, must be
carried. With this, you have a good chance of survival in case of a
land out or god forbid, a bail out. With the higher altitudes, if a
bailout occurs, your going to hit the ground very hard. If you come
down in 8-12 foot high brush, you will have a better chance of being
found. Also, in an emergency, spot will get help to you.

Now what to expect. Every flight you do just figure your going to land
out/have no cell phone and get no help until the earliest being late
the next day.  Simply pack accordingly.

Blue/gray sage are areas that Carl and myself have looked at over the
years. Few rocks are found and generally can be landed out in ( gear
door damage likely). What you will find are few roads that will get to
you and your glider. Dry Lake beds are good, but keep an eye out for
rocks, etc, that seem to pop up in areas. Try to land close to the dry
lakes edge and hopefully where a dirt road is near.  Landing on paved
roads can be dangerous. The snow markers are high enough and spaced
close enough to cause major damage/ground loops.
Flying from airport to airport is difficult (they are a good distance
apart). Flying from lift area to lift area is whats done. Making sure
you are confident that when you arrive your altitude will be
sufficient to find a climb.
Consider blues days as laundry days. Enough said on that.
Weak days are any days with bases less that 12,000 msl,/with no
clouds.  Good days 13-15,000 ft. with CU.  Best days, which we see a
lot of mid-June thru July, 15-18000 ft with CU's. Southwest winds will
provide long cloud streets which run mainly over the high mountain
ranges. Between the mountain ranges will be valleys that require
sufficient heating for the thermals to break thru the inversion.
Most of my soaring days out of Ely, where I have been soaring now for
over 15 years, have covered most of the Great Basin. On these days,
with 17-18,000 cu bases, when I get down to 14,000, I shift gears to
find something and get back up. Below 12,000 and whatever I find I
stay with to get back up.( don't leave a 3-4 knot climb thinking you
will find something better). Below 10,000 I am in survival mode with
places picked out to land safely in.
Long glides, are sometimes required, to get to a new climb/lift area.
Clouds are extremely reliable sources of lift, but a search area under
the cloud can result in more sink than you might expect, along with
not finding anything. If plan A doesn't work,  have enough altitude
for Plan B, then for Plan C. Plan C is an area of land ability.
Land ability being a airport, near roads, etc.

On virga, skirting thunderstorms, etc. If this is new to you, get a
mentor and fly together with them. A group has a good chance in
gaining experience and really enjoying the day.

More notes on land outs. Some ranchers are friendly, others are not.
They might show up with guns cocked. Yes, this has happened. Some
retrieves have taken 3-4 days and several 4x4's  went thru. An area
south of Current, should be avoided. These folks are so extreme the
local sheriff won't go out their. The road from Mt. Wheeler (Baker)
Hwy 21  to Milford is very deserted. You will only see a few cars
during a days drive.

On some of the ranges (like the Mentor range out of Tonapah) running
SW-NE, few, if any roads, will be available. Its best to really look
these areas over via goggle earth to get a idea of where you might be
flying over. Also, use IGC replay ( and
find flights on the OLC from Ely, Minden, Tonopah, Parowan, and review

But, with a few safe guards and  with proper planning, the Great Basin
offers soaring conditions sometimes beyond belief.

A Holiday story and update.

My sailplane racing plans for 2016 again include the Seniors, 18 Meter and Sports. Am also signed up for Region 5N, Region 2, 15 Meter and Region 11, but need to see if I get in after early entry closes.
2015 started out at the Seniors, but due to this "unplanned problem" had to leave on a short notice. . Then missed numerous contests because "the plan" had changes which weren't seen occurring(RV parts, travel weather with high winds, snow and a friends passing).
I left Hobbs and the 18's a day early as  more unseen stuff happened and ended up in Ely in time for a fantastic July 4th party with  soaring friends from around the world. Weather in Ely was good, but not the booming weather we had seen over the last years.
For 2016 my plans are again to keep this blog updated, along with pictures, of the contests I attend.
I posted the below story on my Facebook page several years ago. Just thought I would bring it over to this blog for those who might have missed it.

Best for your Holidays, #711!!!!

This is a wonderful story, and it is true. 
You will be pleased that you read it
It is an important piece of American history
*It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun
resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.
Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched
in his
bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier,
where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun
is a
golden bronze now.
Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on
the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts...and his bucket of
Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand
dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky
frame standing there on the end of the pier.
Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering
and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry
birds. As
he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, 'Thank
you. Thank you.'
In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave.
He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and
When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a
few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs,
and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the
end of the beach and on home.
If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water,
Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or, to
onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird world,
feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.
To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They
can seem altogether unimportant ... maybe even a lot of nonsense.
Old folks often do strange things,
at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.
Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida .
That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better.
His full name:**Eddie Rickenbacker**. He was a famous hero in World War I,
and then he was in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific,
he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men
survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.
Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of
the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they
fought hunger and thirst. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No
No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they
were or even if they were alive.**Every day across America millions
wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.*
The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple
devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie
leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged
on. All
he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft...
Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap.
It was a seagull!
Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next
move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to
grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his
starving crew made a meal of it - a very slight meal for eight men. Then
they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave
them food and more bait . . . and the cycle continued. With that simple
survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until
they were found and rescued after 24 days at sea.
Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never
the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull... And he never stopped
saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to
the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of
*(Max Lucado, "In The Eye of the Storm", pp..221, 225-226)**
PS: Eddie Rickenbacker was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he
was race car driver. In WWI he was a pilot and became America'S first ace.
In WWII he was an instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions
with the combat pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero.
And now
you know another story about the trials and sacrifices that brave men have
endured for your freedom.*
*It is a great story that many don't know...You've got to be careful with
old guys, You just never know what they have done during their lifetime