05 July 2005

Another day of flying on familiar ground - Orcier

The weather forecast was accurate: yesterday's rain gave way to a beautiful day, with nice cumulus clouds dotting deep blue skies. Fairly low winds are forecast too, and we spend the morning listening carefuly to the weather beacons surrounding the area. A few of us meet mid-afternoon in Orcier, our recently repaired beacon claims the wind is North-westerly, 15 to 25km/h. We pile up in the truck and drive to Très-le-Mont. The windsocks are indeed straight on, but the beacon, placed a bit higher and behind the crest of the slope, shows us a Northerly. We decide to go to Le Couteau.
A couple of pilots have preceeded us and are ready to go as we arrive. We watch them go, and although they head straight for the landing terrain, we see that there is a bit of unstability, adn we should be able to take advantage of ascendences.
Maurice is first to go, and seems to get into a downdraft, but soon reappears higher than the take-off altitude. Alex and his pretty passenger follow, and then Michel. I'm last to leave. I don't have to run much, as the wind is pretty strong. A couple of small steps to get the wing up, and I'm airborne already. The exit is a bit skewed as a gust throws me to the side and I have ot bank pretty hard to avoid the trees lining the end of our "runway". Nothing to worry about, though, I'm soon climbing is the strong lift in front of the area, and after a few minutes I am a good 50m above the take off field. Caroline is going to drive the truck down, but I see her collecting wild strawberries at the bottom of the runway. I shout that all the strawberries belong to us, but she carries on collecting them!
There are three of us flying in this rather small area, and it's getting a bit cramped, so I head for the crest, ahead. On the way I think I feel some lift on the right and bank sharply. Alex's presence higher up seems to confirm my decision is the right one, but I must have got there too late, all I find is a fairly strong downdraft. Having lost about 50m on Alex, I now have to make a decision: head for Les Hermones, with the concommitant risk to have to land at Les Favrats if I don't get any serious lift, or try and regain a bit of alitude in front of the crest above the village.
I head towards the crest, in the direction of the landing, but I face a strong headwind: with the accelerator halfway, I make little headway, and fall at over 2m/s most of the time. It's only when I'm almost over the edge that I release the accelerator, I can feel a bit of lift, and I cleared the trees by only a few meters, at the lowest point of the crest. I fight with the thermic bubbles for a while, but the conditions are decidedly too unstable, and I have to leave the area to make it to the landing terrain. It was a decidedly average flight, but good practice nevertheless.
A few minutes after I touch down, Alex and his passenger Cécile come in to land, followed by Michel. Maurice is still way up, and only lands as we're all ready to go, packed in the truck for our second flight.
Technical data: Flight duration 0:40, Take-off altitude: 1355m, Maximum altitude reached: 1380m, Total climb during flight: 824m, Max rate of climb: +3.8m/s, Max descent rate: -4m/s, Landing altitude: 485m.
This time, we take off from Très-le-Mont. The wind has strengthened a bit, and after assisting Alex to take off with Caroline, I lay my wing and get ready. The wind is too strong for me to lay the wing on the ground without holding the harness, so I have to leave it down and get in the harness during a drop in wind strength. The next gust fills my wing and I get it in the classic corolla shape, all the risers seem clear, and I pull the A lines to get the wing above my head. I have just enought time to swing around and I'm lifted off my feet by the next gust. I get the wing under control, but I can immediately feel there is something wrong with my left brake. There is far too much tension in it. I look up, and discover a tangle close to the top, on one of the final risers in the middle of the left wing. A few sharp tugs don't seem to make any difference to this state of affairs.
In Flight The wind is too strong to attempt a top landing, so I decide to head out, to get a good ground clearance to give me time to react should something go wrong. I am ready for some serious turbulence on the rounding of the crest, but the strong wind laminates everything, and I even get some even lift at the front. I hesitate a few seconds and then decide to make a turn in this area, to accumulate a bit more safety height. Hmmm... provided I keep turning in the same direction, it looks as if the tangle on the brake line isn't impacting my flight too much. I try a couple or right and left turns, slow down my flight as much as I dare to, and decide I'm going to postpone my landing, no reason to panic. It feels as if the gusts are getting stronger, and the weather beacons seem to confirm this, some anouncing gusts over 30km/h, but the flow is fairly laminar, so the flight is rather pleasant. I manage to get to a pretty good ehight. I suddenly see Alex reach the crest, well below me. It's quite funny to see his wing from such a height. This feeling doesn't last as he takes advantage of the same dynamic lift that got me to my height, and overtakes me. We circle in the same area for a while, and drift towards Le Couteau. The air is getting rather chilly, and I check the temperature on my vario: 11 degree Celcius, no wonder I'm feeling a bit cold. I'm glad I took the decision to wear thmy suit today, a T-shirt would have been a bit under-dressed... Les Hermones
The wind seems to abate a little, and I see Alex make a turn to go North. I decide to head to the landing field. I have so much spare height that I make a straight dash for it, not even going around the village. I still have a lot of height above the landing field and spend it doign a few 360s, it's been a long time since I last practiced those, and a bit of rehersal is good to keep skills sharp. This concludes yet another good flight.
Alex and Caroline landing
Technical data: Flight duration 1:20, Take-off altitude: 1330m, Maximum altitude reached: 1623m, Total climb during flight: 1680m, Max rate of climb: +3.8m/s, Max descent rate: -3.8m/s, Landing altitude: 485m.


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