(last week I was at 1200′ about 10 miles from home )
At about 1200′ I felt a small bump, this is really flying by the seat of one’s pants as the vario didn’t register any up . “This could be the beginning of a thermal” is my first thought. The second thought is “This may not be a thermal and I’ll land here.”
So I make one resolution, One Turn, then see what is happening. I didn’t lose any altitude in that turn, so I go for one more turn. Again I didn’t lose any altitude, in fact this time I gain 50′. That may not sound like much, but I am going up. And I need about 3000′ to get home. I stay with this thermal and after the third turn I have 100′ more. Signs are looking good. I have found a thermal just as it was forming. With each turn I tell myself, “just one more turn” and at the end of that turn I am higher and I began to breathe more easily.
“Working a thermal” like this takes concentration, a pilot has to keep circling as close to the center where the lift is strongest, keep an eye out for other traffic in the air, and stay close enough to a suitable field to land in. This concentration is what also makes soaring, and to a lesser extent, power flying, relaxing. The relaxation does not come immediately while fighting for lift as I was doing, but afterwards when it’s all over and the feeling of satisfaction settles in. I also find the same feeling after a difficult ski run at Aspen or Snowmass.
I don’t remember how many turns I make, but finally the thermal lifts me to over 2500′ and I head back to the west and the Fairfield Gliderport. I still need a bit more altitude to get home, but that will come. Since I am now headed into the wind the trip was slower but I am finding more thermals. I stop off in some to gain more altitude in each one. This leg of the flight was like 2 steps up, and one step down. When I arrive over the field I make one last climb to about 2000′, then descend into the landing pattern, touch down and eat lunch while other club members take their turn in Yankee Lima
Later that day I climb back into Yankee Lima again, this time I towed just beyond College Mountain, headed south and released the tow-rope at about 1500′. From there I head to Frederick, with College Mountain behind me I must make it to Frederick or “land out” in a farmer’s field. It’s late in the day and thermals are beginning to die, but I find a couple and gain a little altitude in two or three of them. When I am about 5 miles from the airport and can see it I know I will be higher than necessary. I arrive over the airport with an extra 500′ of altitude to waste before entering the traffic pattern.
All in all I have a fantastic day, two successful flights.
Those flights were made on October 1, 1972 I launched from Frederick_Municipal_Airport (FDK), towed to what was known as Charnita Airport, but today is the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Center (W73) near Fairfield PA.. The morning’s flight lasted about 4 hours, and the flight back to Frederick was a quick 30 minutes.
In the summer of 1977 the Mid Atlantic Soaring Association (MASA) purchased the Charnita airport, and renamed it to the Mid Atlantic Soaring Center (W73) near Fairfield, Pa. The club now flies at both Frederick and the Fairfield airports.
More information about soaring can be found at Soaring Society of America and from the MASA Mid Atlantic Soaring Association website.