H2 WX and flying General Info

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Steve Ford
Posts: 507
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2005 8:33 pm
USHPA Rating: H4, OB
Location: Lakewood, CO

H2 WX and flying General Info

Postby Steve Ford » Fri Sep 18, 2015 8:51 pm

I have been remiss when discussing sites that might be appropriate in my weather discussion. Just 'cause I say it might be good, don't show up thinking somebody might be there..... The board is no substitute for one-on-one or small group planning to go fly.

It is really important to contact local pilots at Villa and similar sites. The local pilots are not always reading the board.... And if they did they wouldn't know visiting pilots were coming, H2 or otherwise 'cause you guys aren't posting that you are going anyway. So call the locals before going - you'll have to develop some relationships with them.

For example, I mentioned that Villa would be strong during Sat and that the Sun morning flight might work in my WX post this evening, and some pilots would see that as a green light to go. But did you know that none of the local pilots will be there this weekend? Some will be at Mogote while others will not be flying because they are pursuing other interests...... So you can't simply show up expecting to get a ride up the hill or get help on launch or even expect other pilots will be there.

Sites that you should contact a local are Villa, Wolcott (20 hr H2'minimum in my opinion!), and similar sites with an active pilot population. Use common sense: you are a visiting pilot.

That's true of any site when you are a visiting pilot, regardless of your rating. I don't go to many places without contacting the locals several days beforehand. So make connections with the locals and be sure to contact them if you think it might be good at a site. They can tell you if it will really be good or not, if there is a ride available, and if there will be more experienced pilots to give knowledge.

I learned something many years ago: if I thought it was good, but there were no experienced pilots there when I showed up, I should reconsider why I thought it would be good and learn from the locals.

With regard to Williams: What local pilots should you call?.... Yup, that's a tough one.... There are really none available for guiding. The newer pilots should team up and take every morning sled from upper that they can When The Weather Is Appropriate! To do that, a group of 3 or 4 need to team up, there needs to be at least 2 vehicles that can make it up the road so that there is a retrieve vehicle, and you have to be willing to be camped there or meet early(like 7 am!). Take that morning flight, go get the truck that went to launch while the last to land are breaking down, and get a second flight When The Weather Is Appropriate! I did this with 2-3 other H2 pilots and we got tons of flights, then one Fall day we all launched at 9:30am and all 3 of us went to 16.5K MSL in three different thermals that we encountered on the traditional H2 flight plan from the top. Does that sound appealing? It can be yours too if you'll do the sled rides religiously rather than wait until you think it is soarable..... I promise that you will learn something every flight and that you will be ready to use that lift when you find it.

I confess that I am a bit frustrated with the newer H2 pilots. All seem to think that they need to wait until it's soarable, many misjudge "soarable" because they are only thinking ridge lift instead of thermal lift, they don't seem to team up to together to fly..... You can do better!

Hip tip: there are only a few true ridge soaring sites in the state, one is not open to H2 pilots, one has closed access and is hike in only after Labor Day, two require 3-4 hour drives from Denver, and the others are even further away.... Most of the time we fly in thermal lift. What's that mean for you? It means that you have to have strong launches because you will be launching in lighter winds at altitude ( the beginning of the thermal cycle) because you want to be away from the ground when you meet the meat of that thermal and because you might have some turbulence that you have to manage while launching..... Only repetative practice will give you this skill! It also means that you have to have good approaches and landings, and that you will have to learn to recognize when thermals might be in/around the LZ because - again - you have to manage thermal induced turbulence near the ground if you want to walk away from that landing..... Repetitive practice again, in other words Sled Rides. As you take these rides you will encounter lift and sink and you will fly faster in sink then slower in lift with your goal trying to get to th LZ with altitude so that you can practice 360's and other maneuvers Away From The Ground.... and, by doing the speed variation you will learn how to glide in your glider because if you maximize your altitude that you arrive at the LZ, you will learn best glide speed variation required to get there in different conditions. It ain't just about getting up: it's what you do with it afterwords to go find more up! And we fly thermals mostly.... If you want to fly Colorado, get used to that.

Summary: use visiting pilot etiquette and contact local pilots before showing up - they will appreciate that and be more inclined to help you (especially if you volunteer to drive retrieve after you land!); team up and take your sled rides religiously, that practice will prepare you for soaring; because 90% or more of flying in Colorado is thermal flying, not ridge lift.

Finally..... If you plan to fly in the Colorado high country, it is a given that you will eventually have to invest in a vehicle that will get you, and preferably at least 2 other pilots, to launch. Villa is a true 4WD as is Williams, Wolcott, Kenosha,....you name it. Only a few sites are 2WD to the top. So put that in your budget and start saving up. Your alternative is to be buddies with folks that do have one and to offer $$ for gas and incidentals because this sport will wear a vehicle out.

Did I say call the locals before you go? Just reminding you of one of the most important things in this post.

Fly safe this Fall - stay tuned, I'm watching for a multi-flight day at Williams that will help all of the new H2 pilots. haven't seen it yet but I think that we should see a weekend day in the next 4 weeks.

I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things . . .

— Antoine de St-Exupéry

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