Flying to Kosova
Massanutten Ridge Race
Assembly Procedures and Preflight Positive Control Checks
Gone to the Cows
Mark Your Calendars!
What A Day!
They also serve those who sit and wait
Leap of Faith
Flying to Kosova
The title of this article is a bit misleading but not untruthful. I did fly to get here. I did fly around the country by helicopter, and if the place wasn't so screwed up, it could have great mountain wave flying. So lets start over from the beginning.
I left Washington D.C. Tuesday evening October 4 and flew to Rome (Italy not New York) and got stuck there waiting for a flight to Prishtina, the capitol of Kosova. I arrived at about 10:30 AM Wednesday and the hotel would not let me check in before 1:00 PM. I had a day in Rome so I thought I would check out the local culture. I had heard that, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," so I went to the local cafe with tables out on the narrow side walk and ordered, what else but cappuccino. I kept watching the Romans and they kept sitting and drinking cappuccino, so I did too. Some of the other Romans were driving through streets not much wider than the sidewalk at 60 miles per hour. Correct that to 96 km per hour. I didn't have a car or motorcycle so I decided to see what the rest of the Romans were doing.
I finally checked in to my hotel and dumped by baggage in a tiny attic room. That was the $125 room. Then I asked the desk what I should see around town. He gave me a map and directed me to the local sports stadium. You wouldn't believe it. It was in shambles. It looked like it was 2000 years old. So did a lot of the buildings around it. Then I walked over to a church that he thought I would want to see. It had open air seating out in front of the church where 10,000 people can hear the sermon. The minister comes out each day and preaches to them. The church must have a huge following.
Enough on getting here. I am the USAID/OFDA Shelter Specialist here in Kosova. It is a big title with not a hellava lot of responsibility. The Serbs did a job on the houses, damaging about 77,000. We are attempting to provide warm dry rooms for 20,000 families which average 6 to 8 kids each. In addition, we are trying to repair about 9,000 roofs with new structural timbers and plastic sheet covering. These should cover three families each with one warm dry room each. So we hope that the roof repair program will cover about 27,000 families. This is about 10 percent of the international shelter effort in Kosova.
The accuracy of our smart weapons is pretty clear. The UN is in a very large building that was formerly the Kosova government office. One wing of it was used by the Serb police. That section was wiped out and the rest is untouched. All though the country we see evidence of the targeted sites, including a famous chicken farm where the police stored their weapons. It was leveled.
There is still a lot of hostility in the country which is unfortunate but understandable. For example, a pizza shop in Suva Reca, where I often had dinner last year, was the site of the massacre of about 100 families. The Serb police rounded up the men and shot them on the street in front of their families and then told the women to leave the country. Not knowing what to do, they huddled in the Pizza shop. The police returned later and told them that they should have left and then shot 95 of them in the shop. The place is full of bullet holes. I talked toan American Chief of Police in Skenderaj who says that there are 5,000 bodies of men women and children in the northern districts. The Serbs dumped many of the bodies in the water wells. He says that it will be spring before they can get them all out. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand the hostility toward any Serbs who have stayed behind, or have returned. The Bulgarian UN guy was killed because he responded to a request for the time in Serbian. What is interesting, both ethnic Serbs and Albanians are coming across the border from Serbia. They apparently believe that it is better to risk living here than to endure the terrible economic situation in Serbia.
There is absolutely no chance that Kosova will reunite with Serbia in the near future. Our government, while ostensibly opposed, will have to consent to independence. The Montenegro Serbs will do likewise. So I guess we will see the continued "Balkanization of the Balkans".
On the lighter side. The place is a system of two rich valleys divided by a 2000 foot ridge, surrounded by mountains that go up to 9,000 to 10,000 feet. The area is usually covered by an inversion layer which would preclude soaring. But occasionally the crud lifts (They burn coal with 7.5% sulfur for heating and electricity) and the Qs go to above the mountain tops. Also there are generally huge Qs over the mountains, probably caused by the wind.
Well, this is probably more than the Newsletter can handle, and more than you would ever care to know. Got to go. Meeting a Bulgarian airplane with supplies.
P. S. I have returned from the airport and I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the airplane did not arrive, for the third consecutive day. They are given a one hour window in which to land. If they don't make it they are turned back. Their on-time record is lousy.
The good news is that while at the airport we observed a
motorized hang glider flying right off the end of the main runway.
With sport flying making its way into Kosova, civilization must not
be far behind.
Massanutten Ridge Race
This is the most complex means of earning the Silver Distance award involving a remote start and remote finish, with return to FRR good practice in working toward Gold and Diamond flights. This involves maneuvering to proper positions for Turn Point Photos; in it's self a potentially risky process, not to mention dealing with variable conditions along the ridge and jumping across to Short Mountain. The total flight time as recorded by the D.O. was 1 hour and 31 minutes well under my two hour flight last April. This will be a tough time to beat in the future. Apparently no circling to gain altitude for jumping gaps was required. The flight was made in the Sprite (SGS 1-36).
Similar flights have recently been made with similar results but Piet's flight was the first to be documented according to the specified requirements
Congratulations Piet... !!!
This just in... The Race is still on... !!!
Piet's flight documentation from October 24th is not acceptable by F.A.I. standards for two reasons:
Assembly Procedures and Preflight Positive Control
The NTSB has not issued a final accident report, but preliminary results indicate that improper assembly and lack of a preflight positive control check were contributing factors. In trying to make something positive of this tragic event, the SSA Soaring Safety Foundation is asking each glider pilot to devote special attention to proper assembly procedures and to perform at least a daily preflight positive control check.
As our operation continues to grow and add ships to its fleet, we will see assembly and disassembly as an increasing part of our daily routine. It's a rare day now that at least one private or club ship isn't assembled and disassembled. As regards assembly procedures, FAR 61.87(i)(13) Solo Requirements for Student Pilots (gliders) states that a student pilot who is receiving training for a glider rating must receive and log flight training in procedures for glider disassembly and assembly. This requirement is easily met by assisting with assembly and disassembly of a club or private ship while under the supervision of an instructor. The key points of using a checklist, keeping track of removable items such as retaining pins, having adequate resources (i.e., helpers on windy days), and performing post-assembly positive control checks will be addressed. The Practical Test Standards also identify glider assembly and disassembly as Tasks, so don't be surprised if the Designated Pilot Examiner asks you as an applicant to perform these tasks during the ground portion of your checkride.
We have long had a policy of daily preflight positive control checks for the club gliders. I think that, for the most part, we are diligent about doing these. However, let's extend this good policy and ensure that all gliders-club and private-receive positive control checks on at least a daily basis. There is also no harm in doing a positive control check before any flight during the day, particularly if the ship has been left unattended. I would much rather learn on the ground than in the air that my aileron was disconnected by a curious child! Of course, these checks should be performed in the staging area and not on the runway.
One final personal thought. I am just paranoid enough to believe that the day that I neglect to perform the simple task of a preflight inspection and positive control control check will be the _same_ day that a control or other key component will be left disconnected. I do not want to have to think about this on the way down to the ground. That is my motivation.
Please feel free to flag me down on the ramp if I can assist with a positive control check or other aspect of preflight inspection. I may ask you to return the favor.
Gone to the Cows
Since I had already achieved the silver altitude and silver duration, the opportunity to complete the badge was taunting. The discussion continued with a description of the ridge gaps and procedures for release and outlanding. The Sprite was available, so I began packing the essentials, charts, water, lunch, GPS, etc. We discussed retrieval in the event of outlanding. Bob Michael said he would tow the club trailer with his Jeep, so everything seemed in order.
Mistake #1. Using hind sight, I should have pulled the club trailer from the hangar and hitched it to the Jeep, making sure that all necessary items were packed for later use. The time of day was undoubtedly a large factor in the decision to launch rapidly, since it was already mid afternoon and theavailable time was quickly diminishing.
Bob Michael flew the Pawnee and dropped me at the radio tower at 3500 MSL. I immediately notched the baro and began the trip down the ridge. After several minutes, I passed David Brunner on his way northbound in 081. Next landmark was the hang-glider tower. Passed that and continued down the ridge to what is now known as "Pucker Gap", appropriately named because of the apprehension it will instill in all first-time ridge runners. Being approximately level with the top of the ridge did not seem adequate to cross so I began looking for thermals to gain some altitude before the big jump. Fortunately, a fair amount of exposed rock on the west side of the ridge was receiving sunlight and generating some weak thermal.
I began working the thermal getting a mere 1 knot up, but at least up. Many minutes later, after talking to Jim Garrison in the "K" , I decided to try the jump to Short Mountain. This is where "Pucker Gap" gets it's name. Unbelievably, only a 400 foot loss of altitude in the crossing, then on to Mt. Jackson. Arriving at the end of Short Mountain, I now had some real confidence and jumped the gap from Mt. Jackson back to the main ridge just north of Gogos Gap. Passing New Market, the Sprite began to scream and I had visions of Harrisonburg coming into view shortly.
Such was not to be, because about 6 miles short of the ski area, the wind began to die. Amazing how you can feel the loss without any instrumentation to confirm it. My goose was cooked and I knew it, so I began looking for the nearest suitable field to salvage the day. Nice looking farm field with no visible animals, a big bend in the landing area, no power lines or fences. This is it.
An overhead 270 degree approach to check out the field, turning final on a northwest heading, full spoilers to what should have been a touchdown near the approach end of the field. But no, the field is trying to slope away from me. The only thing left in my bag of tricks is a slip, so left wing down, right rudder and the Sprite finally touches down rolling downhill toward the bend in the field.
Next problem, a ditch across the field approaching rapidly. Only one thing to do, retract spoilers, jump the ditch, spoilers re-extended while turning at the bend of the field and full brake application to a reasonable stop. Relief, but much to do. GPS out and searching. Note the down time for the record. Walk to the farmhouse to use the phone. Call Bob Michael on his cellphone and start the retrieval process in motion.
The farmer works nights, so he is asleep. His wife awakens him and he seems unimpressed with the glider in his field, but is willing to help with the disassembly and movement to the gate area. Since it will be some time until the troops arrive, we milk the collection of goats at the barn and discuss the price of beef at the auction.
Walking back to the Sprite, I notice the herd of steers just beginning to leave the comfort of the creek under the trees. Beef cattle, during the heat of the day will stand in any available water, as that is their air conditioning system. As soon as the air temperature begins to drop, they will leave the comfort of the creek and begin grazing for their evening meal. Now is the time to guard the glider, but they do not seem too interested. Their stomachs control their actions and dinner is waiting, so the grazing goes on with only an occasional glance at the glider.
Now a red Jeep appears at the small wooden bridge serving the farm, but it stops on the far side. I cannot leave the Sprite, so the farmer walks toward the bridge to beckon the Jeep across. Apparently, Dave Brunner is driving and refuses to cross for fear of collapse. Bob Michael finally convinces Dave to proceed and they enter the field. Bob is ready with his camera as the rest of us begin to complete the disassembly and loading of the Sprite. Many pictures of the herd because they are very docile. You would be too, if you had been castrated. We say good bye to the farmer and start the long drive north.
I wouldn't trade the experience for a checkout in the SST, but I
will plan the next ridge trip more carefully on the origination
Mark Your Calendars!
But if it's not, here's a WONDERFUL chance to do something else just as interesting!
The 27th Annual Ralph Stanton Barnaby Lecture will feature a lecture and slide show by Paul A. Schweizer on "Soaring Thru the 20th Century" at 10 AM, at the Colony South Hotel, 7401 Surratts Road (off Maryland Rt. 5) in Clinton, MD. That will be followed by a luncheon/reception, followed by a guided tour of the Smithsonian's Garber Facility in Silver Hill. Tickets are $20 and must be received by November 12, 1999.
Make checks payable to the National Soaring Museum and send with a request for a reservation to NSM, 51 Soaring Hill Drive, Elmira, NY 14903-9204. Tickets will be held at the door.
For more information, write directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or visit their website at http://www.soaringmuseum.org or call (607) 734-3128.
For those of you who've met Paul, you already know what a
wonderful and charming resource he is on American soaring. If you
have NOT met him, this is a chance not to be missed to visit with
this articulate octogenarian who played a major role in "making
soaring happen" in America! And, whether you've been to the Garber
Facility before or not, this private tour will shine light in corners
of aviation you never knew existed!
Even though Nov. 20 may be a good day for flying at FRR, this is a
one time opportunity to meet and hear one of the true pioneers of
American Soaring, and I encourage all Skyline members to attend this
"What a Day!"
Launched 081 around 2pm, a *very interesting* tow to say the least, and boy oh boy was I glad of that fifth point on the harness, I was well strapped in as the turbulence was just fantastic!!! (Not as rough as Petersburg though).
Anyway, got off tow at Signal Knob and very slowly made my way down towards the first gap when I gradually became aware that there was some lifting element at about 3200' msl. Slowed right down and explored a bit, couple of turns and nothing, venture out west from the ridge and weak (100fpm) lift.. ok, lets work at this! Lots of clouds overhead, but one blue hole to work in, so I maintain the 100 fpm up to about 4000 msl and confident that I have enough altitude to get back to the ridge if I'm wrong I venture out into the valley once again.
Lift kinda dies, dissapointed I slow down and allow wind drift to take me back. Once again the vario gives me 100fpm-so I decide to take whatever I can get! 5k still going up, 6K-yep, I reckon I'm in a wave! 7K and I'm now boxed in the clouds, I have one area about 1 mile by 1/2 a mile that I can fly up and down in, moments of 2-300fpm and a slow, consistent climb.
As I traverse this area it starts to snow, a million twinkling stars dance off the canopy, pastel blues and greens as the light is diffracted through the ice-fantastic! Clouds surround me, all I can see is my 'window' to the ridge below, and I'm very aware that could dissapear in an instant! The temperature in the cockpit is now registering 30F, the body of the aircraft is icy to the touch and once again the controls start to stiffen up. The inside starts to haze so I open the vent big mistake, the ice crystals blow straight in! Duh.
7800' and I'm now well boxed in, Joe passes below me on the ridge (on his successful 300K, great job Joe!) and he can see my problem, the whole valley is one mass of clouds-I have no choice but to leave the wave and head out elsewhere. I decide to use the altitude to explore the valley. I dive down West under (ok, kinda through the grey whispy stuff) and head on over to I81 at Edinburg and set out North along I81 to Strasburg. Reach there at 5000 msl and the clouds are still making the possibility of any further wave exploration problamatic.
So, time to call it a day and I head off East to FRR and encounter some amazing sink and turbulence en-route. Watching the altimeter unwind at 1200 fpm has a certain 'pucker factor'-I lost 2000' from the knob to the airfield hmm my return height from the ridge was going to be 2500 feet, I wouldn't have made it! Neither did Bill Bently in his 1-26, he landed out, 2 miles short of the airfield!
Anyway, reach FRR at 2200' so I decide to explore the conditions-I try a thermal, 50 mph at 45 degrees of bank and suddenly a giant hand tries to flip me over whoaaa, definitely a pucker-moment. OK, let's tame this sucker! Crank in the bank, up the airspeed and I'm on a roller-coaster of a thermal ride, 3-400 fpm up mostly but then moments of terror as turbulence/wind-shear.. whatever tries to shake you like a toy and you drop like a stone.
Back to 3000' and that's it, I've had enough, I'm exhausted-nearly 2 hours of everything that makes soaring such a challenge-ridge, wave and thermal, just fantastic. Lots of margin on the landing, 65mph, 1000' IP and I'm down safe and sound, what a ride!
Hope this captured some of what I felt.
"They also serve who sit and wait...."
Leap of Faith
Soon came my turn for launch in my new (to me) SGS 1-26, and any doubts about flying the Massanutten Ridge for the first time were beaten out of my thoughts by my head repeatedly hitting the canopy while my feet lifted off the rudder peddles during the turbulence on tow to 3700 feet MSL.
Releasing from tow over Signal Knob presented the whole ridge stretched out before me to the South. It was now or never, so I lowered the nose to stabilize on 70 mph and tried to ignore the vario while heading down the ridge top. My attention was divided about 40% on centering the ridge and 60% looking at landable fields out in the Shenandoah Valley to my right. Lo and behold, it was working just like Jim Garrison had told us it would in his Cross Country course. After passing the watch tower near Woodstock, the ridge began to gain height, and I needed to point my nose right at the dirt in front of me. Then we were lifted up the ascending ridge as if by magic.
At the top of this high point the ridge broke, and a 6 mile section was pushed about a mile to the Northwest (windward). THEY said it would work, so I pointed our nose across the gap and headed for the promised lift. With only a few hundred feet of altitude lost, we were in the lift on Short Mountain, as this piece of ridge is called. At the South end of Short Mountain is another gap back to the now lower main ridge. Looking at this jump to leeward to a lower ridge, I thought I could not make it back across this gap coming North and going directly into the wind. So I turned North and retraced my route to Signal Knob.
Back at Signal Knob, I felt the day was still young and this is really fun. I was now spending about 90% ofmy time looking at the ridge top's fall colors and the position of the best lift, and 10% of my time looking to the valley below for landable fields. So we headed South once more to gain added experience. At the South end of Short Mountain the second time, we encountered a strong thermal right to cloud-base at 5000 feet. From this height the gap to the southern part of the ridge looked insignificant, so we headed on down toward the ski area.
The run to the ski area seemed to require flying closer to the ridge top, and the last stretch to the southern tip of the ridge put us level with the base of the antenna tower. A tight 180 turn, and we headed North for the slope below the ridge top. Flying out away from the slope in sink wasn't going to get us back, so I moved closer to the hill assuming the lift would be there. As the wing tip appeared to caress the trees on the hill we started to be lifted slowly up toward the top of the ridge. It works just like THEY said.
Back at the southern gap to Short Mountain, and about level with it's end, we plunged into the gap knowing that there would be lift once we rounded the end and cozied up to the windward face of the hill. It still worked just like THEY said.
Passing over the watch tower above Woodstock, we encountered good lift, but by this time I was comfortable skimming the brightly colored tree tops and pressed on to Signal Knob. The promised thermal wasn't when we reached the Knob. Backtracking a mile didn't produce the need extra lift to fly directly back to the airport, so I elected to depart the Knob at 2200 feet and look for lift over one of the sun-lit fields en route home.
Someone should place a billboard on the Knob with 2 black diamonds and a warning that ses; "If you can read this: go back for more altitude". I must have dozed through this part of the Cross Country lecture where we were told to have 3000 feet to leave the ridge.
When we departed the North end of the Massanutten Ridge, I felt like I was on a toboggan going down a ski slope with moguls.
Reaching the first field in the chain that arched toward the airport, the sink rate reduced to a comfortable level. Each field passed gave reduced sink, until over one the "chirp" of lift came from the vario. Before banking to work this welcome lift, I glanced at the altimeter and saw 1000 feet. That is 300 feet above the ground, which gave me two choices. Either land out in the field I had picked en route to the airport, or crash! I needed to land out sooner or later anyway, and I don't ever see a need to crash. I turned base to final around the farm house (500 feet away) and landed toward the paved road. Sitting in the cockpit, I realized that after two hours of skimming tree tops on the ridge, the sensation of flying low over farm land and tree rows didn't raise the usual mental signals of alarm that getting low on a thermalling flight would generate.
Being only 2 miles from the airport, it was easy to call the
tow plane as it passed overhead and have Jim relay my predicament to
the ground crew. The retrieve took only 45 minutes, and we were off
to The Mill. A great day and some lessons learned.