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Leg 9, Caesar Creek Gliderport, OH to Gallia-Meigs Airport, OH - Monday, June 30, 2003:

John Lubon launches in his Ventus at Caesar Creek Soaring Club, OH

Picture courtesy of John Antrim

From Jim Payne:
RTKH - Leg 9 report

As I write this it is 8 PM EDT. The ASH-25 is safely in the trailer and we are towing it through Charleston, West Virginia.

Today was one of those days that is like beating your head against the wall, it feels better afterward. The forecast was for 5,500 feet MSL - or nothing depending on a one or two degree temperature difference. The task was from Caesars Creek Gliderport south of Dayton, Ohio to Gallia-Meigs Airport near Gallipolis on the Ohio River. The terrain in West Virginia is unlandable so the plan is to trailer from Gallipolis to New Castle, Virginia for tomorrow.

Tom Serkowski was the sniffer in his ASH-26E - he needed an engine run to stay aloft. After Tom had collected about 45 minutes of bugs the CD launched four 15-meter sailplanes. They struggled but cu popped about 10 miles southeast on course so the rest of the fleet was launched. We had the last tow (us open class pilots like all the runway we can get). We released and immediately rolled into the top of the gaggle. Yup, that is right the top of the gaggle. The gaggle was topping out at 3,200 MSL and release altitude was 3,500 MSL.

When the task opened pilots were just able to get to 3,900 feet (3,000 feet AGL). We had cu on course but also had some high cirrus. The question of the day was what effect the cirrus would have on the lift. Tom and I decided that the cirrus could only get worse so we decided on a fairly early start. The first half of the course was relatively straight forward as we chased cu and other sailplanes. About 60 miles out from the finish we came up on a blue hole. The cu on the other side looked about the same as the ones we had been chasing so we opted to head straight across instead of detouring.

Big mistake, we bet that we could get cross the gap to the cu, climb to cloud base and make a final glide to Gallipolis. Getting across the gap was the easy part, getting to cloud base was another story. The cirrus was worse on the other side and so was the lift. We scratched around for almost an hour before the cirrus moved enough. Big Bummer - As soon as the cirrus cleared, and we had retreated enough, we were able to get back up to cloud base and start our final glide. About twelve miles out of Gallia-Meigs we noted some twirling gliders ahead. Our first reaction was what the heck were they doing? Then it was wait a minute, there is a ridge between us and Gallia-Meigs. Time to slow down.

As we approached the finish we began to hear the call signs of some of the other finishers. Maybe we were not the only ones who got clobbered by the cirrus. And sure enough, many of the stories we heard after landing were consistent with ours. The late starters though were able to run behind the cirrus and were the fast ones today. Sometimes relighting isn't such a bad thing after all.

Jim Payne

From Tom Serkowski:
The forecast this day is for weak thermals to 5,000' MSL. We're just South of a slow moving front that's threatening to move in later in the day, and to the South is tropical storm Bill. So if we want another contest day, we fly.

Linda asks me to be sniffer and I foolishly agree. The airport is at about 950' MSL and I motor up to about 3400', shut down and glide down to about 1900' MSL before finding a climb to 2700'. I find one more thermal before cranking up the engine at 1500' (600
AGL) over the airport. This lets me work a few more thermals, once even getting up to 3700'. But again, I fall out and do another restart over the airport.

By now others are launching and we all work weak lift near the airport between 2K & 3K as we wait for everyone to launch and the tasks to open. Shortly before the task opens, the lift goes a bit higher and we see 3500 - 4000'.

Several of us find lift just inside the start cylinder and climb to almost 4500'. I'm a bit impatient with nobody making a go at starting, so off I go alone. At the next thermal, I see a bunch of sailplanes coming to join me. We work a couple more together, then I head off in a different direction as the others seem to just be milling around still looking for better.

I wander off in search of lift and get down to 2000' before finding a thermal marked by the Stemme TH. We search around and then separate to look for better lift. I find a weak thermal and slowly climb up, as I watch TH outclimb me a couple miles away. I continue on course bumping several weak thermals until finally running out of luck about 38 miles out on course. I reach some 'hills' that are about 200' higher than the terrain and look for something there and see IY doing the same. We work some zero sink, diverge and that's the last I see of Carl or any better lift. I circle around Haas and finally start up about 600' above the runway.

I'm really beat after nearly 90 minutes of scratching while sniffing and then more scratching out on course. So I climb up to 8500' for some cool air and an easy glide to the destination. We disassemble then get a quick dinner across the street and hit the road for New Castle. We're told it's about a 3 hour drive, but it takes us over four, and at around midnight we finally get to bed.

Today (ed. Tuesday July 1), the pilots' meeting is at 1100 under overcast skies and a threat of rain from TS Bill. No flying today. We give Dan Gudgel a ride to the airport at Roanoke so he can get out of here before the rain hits. As we eat lunch after dropping off Dan, it starts raining.

Tonight there's a pig roast at the airport, then tomorrow we drive to Manteo and have time to kill and rest until a mandatory meeting at 5pm on Thursday. Friday, we launch from Manteo and get to land at First Flight airport or optionally the field abeam the runway where the first flight was actually made. It's now 5:30 pm and the rain continues. A few minutes ago it almost stopped, now it's POURING! Good thing it's only about 10'
to our truck from the door.

Tom Serkowski

From Dave Nadler:
Today's task is Caesar Creek Soaring club (south of Dayton Ohio) to Gallopolis West Virginia. Tomorrow we'll start from New Castle Virginia, but crossing West Virginia is not advisable due to no landing options - just woods and hills with an occasional river.

We've some cirrus blocking the heating and a very humid airmass. Tom goes sniffing for lift in 5Z and needs to use his motor, and we don't start launch until 1:30PM. I launch and find slow going, tops under 3k AGL. Its hot and feels like flying around in a milk bottle. Some gliders need to relight.

In the haze of on course are the vague outline of some cumulus, but at 2:30 the course isn't yet open. DJ comes down for a relight, and I decide to travel by road today, pull the brakes and land. What a wimp ! But, this heightband is too low to use the motor and I'd have a high likelihood of landout even though it looks doable...

A number of folks did complete the task. We heard the tortuous progress on the radio as we cruised down the highway in air-conditioned comfort. The Payne brothers in TP, Chris Woods in CW, Doug Jacobs in DJ, and a few others landed as we stopped for a sub next to the goal airport.

Hopefully we'll have better weather (or I'll be less of a wimp) tomorrow for New Castle to Petersburg VA ! But, the moisture in front of tropical storm Bill looks like we may be done with flying on this adventure.

Best Regards, Dave

From Platypus:
Monday 30th June‚s task was from the delightful Caesar Creek Soaring Club, Ohio
113 miles east-south-east to Gallia-Meigs, Ohio. This was a difficult day of the kind I have endured so many times in England: poor visibility and weak thermals under variable bands of cirrus. It was rendered more of an ordeal by the south-easterly wind which was almost dead on the nose (though this weakened and became less adverse towards the end of the course) and especially by wide swathes of dense forest that made getting low a very bad idea. Ideal weather, however, for big wings. Everybody else was suffering more, which to George Moffat and me was some consolation. Most of the motor-gliders restarted their engines and even Jim and Tom Payne in their ASH25 and Natalie Luebben in her ASW22BLE spent long periods at around 1,000 ft (or 300 meters, which somehow sounds much worse) above the trees.

We had not been told at briefing that there was a substantial, densely-wooded ridge immediately before the goal airport; this, together with the poor visibility, meant we could not see the destination despite the GPS‚s insistence that we had it in the bag. Some pilots had to scrabble at the last minute for enough height to sneak into the finish. George and I strolled in at a wasteful 1,500 above the airport. A contest pilot in killer mode would have hung his head in shame for throwing away a good five minutes. We didn't care.

George and I finished at a blistering 39 mph, beaten only by Ron Clarke in his Ventus 2C at 43 mph ˆ speeds reminiscent of the 1960s.

This was the fifth and last official soaring stage of the RTKH race. The forecast now is for hurricanes and torrential rain, but with luck the ceremonial flight into Kitty Hawk will be in fine weather.

People are bound to ask, considering the time and treasure expended, was this trans-continental rally all worth it? Well, it didn‚t go quite according to plan. But nothing much in life does go according to plan. It's like asking, is life worth it? Of course it is - if only because you meet and enjoy some extraordinary people on the way.

Platypus (Mike Bird)

Leg 10 - Canceled

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