Benalla Storm

Benalla Storm

Saturday, December 25, 2010

JoeyGlide 2010 - Final Summary

JoeyGlide is over for another year. Overall I think it was an incredible contest to be a part of and I am very glad that I made it out. The opportunity to fly with other pilots who are the same age and have a similar level of experience provides young pilots with a fun contest to be a part of and a good gauge of your abilities. I hope that one day we can have a similar kind of contest in Canada.

The comraderie between competitors at JoeyGlide is fantastic. In the air everyone flew safely and fairly giving the safety officer and penalties committee an easy job during the contest. The positive atmosphere continued on the ground. Before launches more experienced pilots were willing to discuss strategic plans and perceptions of the upcoming day. In the evening you could count on the fact that everyone would get together and share tales of the air over a beer, talking about decisions that were made, both good and bad. These stories evoked a lot of laughter, but also some serious learning.

There were many times that you could tell we were at a junior contest. Although some may perceive the radio chatter as unprofessional, it helped make an entertaining and friendly contest. Webbsi Max FM was on the airways all week, providing us with good jokes (Hey Johno, niiiice cirrus!) and quality music (Top Gun theme song!). On the ground many practical jokes were played, including giving some gliders new call signs (MC Hammer and Canada 4) and the furniture from an entire room being moved outside. Although not typical of a gliding contest, these friendly antics created a fun atmosphere that will keep young people coming back for future contests.

JoeyGlide also had a serious side to it. I think everyone who was involved in the coaching clinic greatly benefited from the knowledge the coaches brought to the contest. Morning briefings also gave new pilots information about strategy and safety.

Through the eight days of flying I learned a lot about myself and about contest flying. One thing I learned is about the importance of a good start. It is important to find a balance between flying with the rest of the field on some days, having patience to start when the day is good, and not starting so late that you miss the best part of the day. Reflecting on each day of flying I can see how I could have improved my start. Another thing I learned about is flying with other pilots and using them to mark thermals, particularly on Day 3 when a large portion of the field flew together for most of the day. Watching other pilots and how far they travel on their straight glides has taught me that this is something I need to improve on. Part of this is being more selective about which climbs I take, which requires discernment. If I am able to improve on this aspect of my flying I will increase my speed. One of the biggest aspects of my flying that I need to improve on is learning how to read the sky, understanding where the good air is, and being aware of the changing weather as the day progresses. I can see that each of the things I have learned and hope to improve on will only improve as I gain more experience and fly more! I am looking forward to it!

I would like to give some huge thanks to several people who helped me during the contest. First of all to Tobi Geiger: thank you so much for being so generous to lend me your glider and all of your equipment! Your glider is definitely the most beautiful glider I have ever had opportunity to fly! I really appreciate your generosity and all of the help you gave me throughout the contest. Thank you also to Swaantje Geyer for lending me your vehicle: without it I would not have been able to get to the contest. Thank you to everyone who sent me notes of encouragement and constructive criticism during the contest, especially to Chris Gough. Every little bit of information that I can gather will make me a better pilot. Thank you also to Internode and all of the personal sponsors who helped provide funding for JoeyGlide. As a young person with limited money I cannot properly express how much all of the support means to us! I would also like to thank the Australian Junior Gliding Club for being so kind to award a foreigner like myself a scholarship!

Now for a cheesy sentimental moment: thank you to each and every pilot who was at JoeyGlide this year. I had a great time getting to know all of you better and racing around the skies with you. I had a few moments where I looked around the room and thought how incredible it would be if we were all still flying in 40 years and could sit around drinking beer and laughing about the good old times of flying JoeyGlide. Keep enjoying the thrills of the sky!

Friday, December 24, 2010

JG - Contest Day 6

Saturday, December 18

Playing around at cloudbase before the start.
WoW! An entire contest flown: 2 practise days and 6 contest days! This is the first time this has happened in a contest all year in Australia! The conditions for the final day were looking similar to the previous day with extensive cumulous, but slightly better. The task was set as a two-hour Assigned Area Task with a nominal of 220.6km. Winds were forecasted to be very strong out of the west. I knew it would be another day where it was important to stay at cloud base. I was also determined not to let my poor performance from the previous day prevent me from being optimistic about the final day. However, I was very cautious throughout the flight. I know that I could have and should have flown faster, being more selective about the climbs I opted to take. However, I also thought it would be better to stay up and get around than to land out again.

Waikerie from the air: scrub to the north, fields, and the river.
 I started the task around the same time as other competitors, but from another start location. Although I saw a few people out on course, they were often much higher than me so I didn't stick with them for very long. I decided to go quite far north in the first circle, often making detours in an effort to chase the clouds. The first leg was very slow. I picked up speed towards the end of the second leg, and flew a cloud street towards the third turnpoint, picking up speed along the way. I decided to just hit the south side of the third turnpoint so that I could avoid the river as much as possible on the way home. I knew I had flown a very cautious and slow day, but I was incredibly happy to be successfully home back at the airport! I flew my first ever high-speed approach, coming short of the clubhouse, but safely going from 200 feet back up to 600 feet to have a solid circuit. A good fun end to the contest! Andrew Maddocks smoked the field flying an incredible 118.63km/h!!

JG - Contest Day 5

Friday, December 17

The weather today looked very marginal, and even at grid time we were not certain we would be set off on task. As a result of the poor conditions the task committee opted to keep us close to home, setting a run task of 83.1km and a task time of 1.5 hours. They launched the first few competitors, then opted to hold the launches as they were all struggling and quite low. After a delay the rest of the grid was launched and the start gate opened. I found the conditions incredibly challenging, and was unable to effectively read the sky and the clouds. I knew it would be important to get started early before the massive over-development set in. I also knew that it would be important to get to cloud base and stay there to have successful day of flying. Despite my efforts I was unable to get higher than 4000' (cloud bases were at approx 6500'). I finally decided to make a go of a start despite my low altitude, but by the time I got over to my start gate I was back down to 1800'. I continued to try to look for lift, but was unable to find anything substantial. I opted for a re-light. By the time I re-launched a huge wall of rain was downpouring enroute to the first turnpoint. Also by this point the rest of the field had already made it around the course once. Although I did attempt to start, hoping the day would cycle and I would find lift behind the storm, it was not looking good. I opted to land back at the field rather than facing an almost certain land-out. I have never had such a frustrating day in the air, being unable to set out on course. I hope that I will learn from this experience.

JG - Contest Day 4

Several people have commented that I did not update my blog near the end of the contest. This is mostly due to the fact that I am terrible at sustaining anything written, but also in part because I was not flying as good as I felt I could be. Here is how the rest of the contest unfolded:

Contest Day 4: Thursday, December 16

The weather conditions today were looking to be fairly decent. The task was set as an Assigned Area Task with a nominal of 277.1 km and a task time of 3 hours. I knew that the day would likely die early, so getting started shortly after the start gate opened would be key. At the same time, I did not want to leave too early before other competitors. I left my initial start point at the same time as the other competitors, but couldn't find any of them in the sky. The first 15km of my flight were very slow, and I found myself much lower than I would of liked. Luckily I found a good thermal that drifted me into another potential start point. At this point I opted to re-start. This put my start time about 10 minutes behind that of the other competitors. I flew well on my first and second leg despite flying alone. I feel that I made a good decision of when to turn in the first circle, leaving myself plenty of options further on in the task. I flew my second leg very well with a speed of over 100km/h. This put me in a position to make a difficult decision: I could turn for home before getting caught up in the river, following some of the others home, and certainly coming in under time. Or I could opt to fly a little bit further and longer and risk flying over the river (which I had experienced to be an area full of sink, but which others had reported was working well later in the day). I decided to fly further hoping for the supposed good lift over the river. Although I tried to stick to the scrub that should have been working, I did not find any good lift. The forecasted early cut-off was correct for once. With very few field options in the area I targeted a good looking field off in the distance, making a safe off-field landing decision. I was very frustrated at the end of this flight because although I felt I had made several good decisions throughout the flight, it did not pay off for me in the end.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

JG - Contest Day 3

Wednesday, 15 December.

We woke up this morning with very marginal conditions. I was very skeptical during task setting that the day would actually improve as forecasted. I also have been battling a cold the entire contest, and I woke up this morning so congested that I was feeling nauseous. Needless to say, I was hoping the day would end up being scrubbed. My wishes were not to be fulfilled as the day improved, and the start gate was opened. Although conditions were good for a short period, they ended up being rather good. The task was set as a fixed racing task of 163km.

I started slightly behind a few other competitors at an upwind start point. The tactical error of the day happened right here as I should have waited a little bit longer before I started. On the grid someone mentioned that it might be a gaggle day, and this is exactly what happened. Halfway through the first leg I found myself in a gaggle with 8/10 competitors. Through the second leg we flew pretty fast as a group. At one point I pushed on ahead of the group and found a killer climb that earned me a few beers in the evening. I flew this leg with an average speed of 100kph. However, I think it was due to the over-confidence of the group that several competitors, myself included, found ourselves a bit low at the second turnpoint. Heading for home I was still flying with some other competitors, but it was due to one mistake in a climb that I ended the day 2kph slower than the 5th place pilot. I finished the day in 7th place, still earning 780.5 points for the day. 

A direct quote from one of the competitors is, "This was the funnest competition day I have ever had." I would definitely agree.

JG - Contest Day 2

Tuesday, December 14.

We were launched under slightly marginal conditions and increasingly strong winds. Once in the air the task was modified and set as a 1.5 hour task with a nominal of 155km. I flew the first leg across the wind with a few other gliders in sight. The second leg I managed to fly a relatively good section of good lift over a line of trees. My tactical error of the day was following this line too far and I ended up heading home too late finishing 21 minutes over time. Despite this I still finished with one of my fastest raw speeds ever, 94kph. This was enough for me to finish 6th on the day.

JoeyGlide isn't just about flying. There is a really good group of talented young pilots here. Evenings are filled with plenty of jokes and laughter. One of the best things is that people aren't afraid to talk about their tactics and theories. This is incredibly helpful, especially to pilots who have lower levels of experience. Some of the pilots here have 900+ hours in comparison to my 150. In good old Aussie form there is also usually an evening cricket match played.

Monday, December 13, 2010

JoeyGlide - Contest Day 1

This morning we were awoken bright and early to the sound of jet engines launching an ASW 20. The morning went smoothly and I had everything organised well ahead of grid time. So much so that I was beginning to get convinced that I had forgotten to do something. In the words of the Contest Director the day was set to be a "corker" (really good). Although I think they may have slightly over-judged the day, it was set as a fixed point 317.2km task.
I left on course pretty early, following shortly behind several of the top contenders. I was also anticipating a long day and didn't want to be caught away from home late in the day. The first leg went well, but I was unable to catch up with the people who had left before me. Shortly before the first turnpoint the winner of the day (also flying an LS4) caught up with me. Coming out of the first turnpoint we were flying together. On the second leg we managed to catch up with some of the other gliders, playing a game of leap-frog between thermals. The second turnpoint was located on the other side of the flooded Murray river, so I made sure to come in with lots of height which paid off as there was lots of sink in the area. I set of on task to the third turnpoint with 3 other gliders in sight, and enjoyed some strong climbs with them. I came up to the third turnpoint strong riding a good cloud street. However, I grossly underestimated the amount of sink that would be found around the third turnpoint. I came into it lower than I should have as the area was surrounded by flooded river on three sides, and leading up to this heavily irrigated areas of fruit crops. I had to duck back out of the sector before reaching the sector to gain some extra altitude. At this point two of the gliders I had previously been flying with overtook me at much higher altitudes. I gained some height, and thinking I had enough, went back into the third turnpoint. I came out once again very low, but this time was not able to climb away. Although I scratched above a field being plowed for a few valiant minutes, I soon found myself sitting frustrated in a paddock. I was soon joined by another glider.
Overall, the contenders agreed that it was a much tougher day than anticipated. Many flew large sections of the course around 2000'. Many also came in very low on final glide. I am determined to focus on my flying, not letting the spirit of competition push me faster than I should be flying. I am hoping that this will prevent me from landing out another day this contest.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

JoeyGlide - Practice Days 1 & 2

JoeyGlide is the Australian Juniors National Soaring Competition. It has been successfully held annually since 2004. In 2005 Australia sent it's first two representatives to the World Junior Soaring Competition which is an indication of the competition's success in prepare young pilots for the world stage. Although the number of contenders varies from year to year, there is always an enthusiastic and skilled group of pilots that come together for the competition. At this contest you will find that morning briefings give pilots a lot more detail in terms of weather, strategy, and safety than at a more senior competition, as suited to the lower level of experience of some competitors.The junior flying movement in Australia is inspirational as a model we could follow in Canada as it is still in it's beginning stages and growing stronger each year.

Often held alongside the competition is a coaching clinic for new or lower time pilots. Participants in this coaching clinic are part of the competition atmosphere, gridding behind the contest, and flying all or part of the task with an instructor. Coachees also participate in daily briefings which explain in greater detail cross-country and competition flying and strategies. The coaching clinic is intended to be a stepping stone for those who so desire to prepare them for competition in future JoeyGlide competitions. I myself participatied in this clinic last year.

The weather the past two days has not been typical Australian booming conditions. The first of the day of the competition I struggled to properly read the sky. Winds were very strong out of the west, at times reading 28 knots on my computer, a factor which I did not sufficiently account for. I went deep into the first circle which was a good strategic decision. As I made it into the second turnpoint I thought that I was undertime and as such opted to continue downwind to get some extra distance. This was the strategic shortcoming of my day. Heading back into wind turned out to be a lot slower than I had anticipated. Although I soon realised I would be coming in well over time, I still felt I was in a good position, and started to focus on flying fast. I found myself in a really poor section of sky, and all too quickly found myself in a paddock. Although I was initially incredibly frustrated, (did I really fly all the way around the world to land out in a field??), I soon picked up my spirits remembering that it was only a practise day. Practise days should be used to make mistakes not to be repeated for the rest of the contest and to scrape the rust off my flying bones. When I looked at my trace later I also realised that I was not effectively centering my thermals, staying in the strongest part of the core.

Practise day two and I was sent out as the sniffer. Although I initially found a good climb, I soon found myself at 1300', looking down at other competitors around the field area. However the day soon improved, and I thoroughly enjoyed my flight. I focused on remembering Joerg's advice from Nationals: stay up, get around, fly fast. I am proud to say that I made it home with an average speed of 87.5km/h, one of the best speeds I have ever had. However, I also came in 25 minutes under time. This brought my speed down to 71km/h. The tactical error of the day (coming in under time) could have been prevented had I continued further in the second circle rather than heading home when I did. The reason I opted to do this was because I did not clearly understand in my head how the distance was measured for an AAT task. Another mistake made and lesson learned! And another one not to be repeated during the contest. All in all, a day full of great day! I came in with a great final glide, pushing myself faster and lower on final glide than I ever have, coming in at 450'.

All the competitors have arrived and the first contest day is tomorrow. The weather is looking good for the next couple of days. If you would like to track the contest live I do have a spot. I believe the link is:

The contest scores and updates can also be followed at: 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Flooding and Locusts

It's absolutely mind-blowing to me how an entire continent most often plagued by drought can right now be so submersed in water. Benalla, the town where I am staying, has been flooded most of the winter and spring. Farmer's crops are completely ruined, the fields flooded and the seed starting to germinate on the stalk. JoeyGlide was initially supposed to be held in Narromine, but due to the flooding we have moved the JoeyGlide contest to Waikerie. Here in Waikerie the locusts are terrible! I have never seen them like this!

I have arrived here and have my glider organised and ready to go. It's still pretty wet around these parts, but definitely much better than other areas of Australia. Practise days are now today and tomorrow, and the first contest day is Monday. More to follow!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A recount of my Australian Adventure December 2009-March 2010

It’s always hard when you return from an extended trip to explain to people the breadth of experiences you have had, the sights and smells, the people you met, the impact they had, and how you have grown as an individual. Although family and friends are interested, they often ask questions which precipitate one-word answers such as: “How was your trip?”, “Did you have fun?”, or “Do you want to go back?” (The obvious answers of course being “Good.” “Yes.” and “Yes!”) Even creative answers yield little more than “Fantastic!” Although I could easily delve into the myriad of flights I had in Australia, the incredibly cool people I met, the beautiful scenery which abounds, or the time I almost ran over a koala, I am going to try in this text to articulate some things which I learned while abroad last winter and some of the people who taught them to me.

When I first tangibly made it a goal of mine to represent Canada at the 2011 World Junior Soaring Competition, the first thing I realised is that I had very little airtime compared to many others who would be at this competition. In order to gain this experience I would likely need to do what Chris Gough did the previous year and travel south to fly as much as possible. After making the decision to take some time off from my undergraduate degree, I realised the next obstacle would be having enough fiscal freedom to accomplish this goal. With a summer’s wages under my belt I turned to working in the fall before my trip’s departure at the end of November. I was lucky to find two jobs in addition to the work I already did through the Air Cadet Program. I soon found myself working 65-80/week which was awesome for my bank account but dreadful for my sleep levels. Through this I really learned what it meant to work hard to achieve my goal. Money doesn’t come easily, but the pride I felt in actually saving my target goal was huge. 

One of the first people to mentor me in Australia was a man named Paul Mander. Paul is one of Australia’s finest pilots as demonstrated through his numerous wins of the Club Class Nationals and appearances at World contests. However these accolades aren’t Paul’s greatest flying achievement. Paul strongly supports the youth flying movement in Australia, and I had the incredible opportunity to have three flights with him during last year’s JoeyGlide Coaching Clinic. JoeyGlide is Australia’s National Junior Soaring Competition. On the ground Paul equipped us with the knowledge we needed to succeed in the air. On my first day of flying with him he discussed aspects of cross-country flying with me, teaching me how to effectively center thermals and some aspects of reading the sky while also physically demonstrating some flying techniques. I quickly learned how to properly “chuck a turn!” That day he skillfully equipped my tool belt with the necessary basics. The second opportunity I had to fly with Paul, he was already forcing me to make decisions and practise the skills he had taught me. Although he answered questions we had not already addressed, he forced me to begin to think for myself and to put into action what I had learned. Our third flight Paul came along for the ride and told me soon after take-off that he was planning to have a nap. When I asked him for advice on matters I should know he stayed silent, telling me one time that I ought to be able to make such a choice by myself. Paul did not allow me to exhibit typical “girl” flying characteristics. In three short flights I went from a pilot who had little concept of cross-country flying to one who felt confident in the decisions she was making in the air. Although it would have been much easier for Paul to make decisions and take control of our flights, he instead infused me with his knowledge then empowered me to make strong decisions. When I think back on how he guided and mentored me I am still in awe.

Chris Gough is the man who inspires my current dream to go to the World Juniors. When he came back from Worlds in 2009 with his stories of the contest, I was filled with the desire to follow a similar path. Without Chris I would never be taking my current steps towards next summer’s contest. Chris has been the most patient mentor and guide I could ask for. He has sat with me for hours, tirelessly explaining the intricacies of contest flying from information about various types of gliders to classes to every random question imagineable. Chris always makes himself available to help me out, although I did push the limit one morning trying to learn how to properly fill a water ballast on a day he was trying for 750km (sorry Chris!). He patiently puts up with my endless technical difficulties, understanding that computers and I will never get along. In the air Chris helped me fly my furthest distance and one of my funnest flights thus far with some amiable competition. Chris is there to push me further in flying than I knew possible, insisting that I will fly 500 km, and soon. And he was there with his muscles on hand the day I declared the day would end in 500 or a field (I was in the field). He has also become one of my closest friends.

My tale about Australia would be lacking if I neglected to tell you about Angela Comer, my best friend that I convinced to join me on my Aussie adventure. She soon became just as excited as I was to embark on a winter of gliding. Angela helped me learn a lot of personal things. She taught me what it is like to live in close proximity with someone else. We planned groceries and adventures across the countryside. She reminds me not to be too serious and remember to enjoy myself (in the air and on the ground!). She taught me that it’s much more pleasant to be with someone who isn’t so grumpy in the morning. Because of Angela I learned better how to compromise. She helped me learn how to pursue my dreams without being selfish along the way. And Angela is always there to give me some tough love when I am facing insecurities about gliding. I have grown up a lot in the past year, in large part due to my incredible friendship with Angie!

I must also mention all of the incredible people I met from Australia and around the world who took the time to talk with me about flying last year. Nathan, Andrew, John, Lars, Brendan, Graham, and so many others. Each of these people answered my questions, looked over flights with me, and taught me a myriad of things about flying. Thank you!

I have learned a lot of things from other people, but my own personal flying and preparation has been teaching me heaps as well. On the ground I have been learning self-discipline before flights, ensuring I get proper sleep, hydration, and diet. In the air staying completely focused on the flight teaches me self-discipline of the mind. When I get low during a flight I learn about the qualities of perseverance and tenacity. The endless decisions that must be made in the air teach me to be decisive, as well encourage clear and logical thinking. My dream of flying at the Junior Worlds has taught me that it is possible to have lofty dreams, and that through hard work and dedication I can succeed at what I set my heart on. It is hard to articulate how these qualities have grown in myself, but hopefully this can be seen when people meet and talk with me. Sometimes I struggle with thinking that flying is a selfish sport, but then I realise that in growing as an individual I will have more to contribute to society and to pass on to others.

If you talk to me for long you will hopefully quickly see that I am absolutely in love with the sky. Addicted even. But I am equally passionate about getting more young people involved in this sport. Why? I dream of seeing other young people grow and learn positive personal attributes the way I hope I am through the sport of gliding which will carry with them for the rest of their life. Is there a young keen pilot at your club? If so, take the time to invest in them. Enjoy the process of watching them learn and blossom.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A little background info...

How did I start flying and why do I continue to be empassioned by it?

In 2000 I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Program with the hope of one day receiving my pilot's license.  In the summer of 2005 I attended a scholarship course where I earned my glider pilot's license.  Since that time flying gliders has become a very important aspect of my life.  I have continued flying with the Air Cadet Program, and received my instructor's rating in the summer of 2008.  

In the fall of 2007 I joined the Edmonton Soaring Club.  Although my preliminary interest was to be able to take friends and family flying, I soon developed a keen interest in the soaring and cross-country aspects of gliding.  In the summer of 2008 I attended SOSA's Canadian Junior Soaring Camp.  

In the summer of 2009 I decided to follow my dreams and made it my goal to represent Canada at the World Junior Soaring Competition to be held in Germany in the summer of 2011.  Putting my studies on hold, last winter I travelled to Australia to improve my cross-country flying abilities.  This past June I flew at the Canadian National Competition.  Although I did not win the contest, I performed well enough to garner the support of the Canadian Committee to represent the Canadian Juniors next year.  

This winter I will be returning to Australia to improve my contest flying experience.  I will be flying at the Australian Junior Gliding Contest (Joey Glide) and the Australian Club Class Nationals.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my post! I hope you will enjoy the stories and photos that make their way here. I look forward to your comments!