Benalla Storm

Benalla Storm

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Final Australian Stories

I left Australia a few months ago now, but there are still a few last stories and photos I would like to share before moving on to the flying adventures which this summer holds.

Mountain Flight with Tobi Geiger

On February 26 Tobi and I decided to go for a flight together in the mountains, him in his LS4 and me in the GCV's LS4. With equal performing gliders Tobi was adamant that this would not be a coaching flight, but rather a fun team-flying adventure. Although I know he is the stronger pilot, I was determined to have fun, take the lead at times, and enjoy a fun flight! In this picture Tobi is blue and I am red. As you can see we flew very close together for most of the flight.

We set off on the first leg towards Mt Buller, not really expecting to get on the peak. Along the first leg Tobi took a track further west than I did. It didn't take long for him to get quite low, scraping for a good climb. I couldn't resist getting on the radio and saying, "Now Tobi, if you only get to cloud base there are 5 knot climbs!" He managed to climb back up and we continued onto Mt Buller. Surprisingly we even managed to make it on top of the peak!

From Mt Buller we continued on, past some breathtaking waterfalls on top of Mt Cobbler, past the townsite of Mt Beauty, towards Mt Bogong. On the northwestern side of Mt Bogong is a ridge that extends out. I knew from talking that it is best to approach the top of a mountain at ridge-top height. When we got to this mountain we were below this height, so it was to my great surprise when Tobi turned his glider dead towards the ridge and started flying quickly towards it! Next thing I knew he was climbing, climbing, climbing, so I decided to get on his tail and follow along! Sure enough, 2kts, 3kts, 8kts, 11kts of lift! What an incredible sensation! Before I knew it we were on top of the highest peak in Victoria! I was still keeping a very close eye on what Tobi was doing to learn and mirror his actions. He was cruising along the peak, not very high, but still climbing, and even stopped to wave his wings at the climbers below us. I dipped my wing just long enough to see that my shadow was indeed very big!

We continued past Mt Bogong a little ways, but were mindful that we still had a long distance to cover to get home, and the day was forecast to cut off early. Shortly after we turned back I got a little bit lower than Tobi. He started circling in a strong bubble, but I was having a hard time hooking into the source of lift he had found. I wasn't losing height, but I sure wasn't climbing as fast as he was! He decided to open his spoilers to come back down to my height. Just then I hooked into the bubble and started climbing! Unfortunately Tobi wasn't able to re-connect and he had to fly further down the valley to find some lift. This wasn't much of concern as the Mt Beauty flying club operates out of this valley with a beautiful landing area.

On our way out of the valley we decided to take the southerly route past Mt Buffalo as I had never flown this path before. I was following along at this point, a little bit unsure of how to head out of the mountains. We passed over the saddle of Mt Bogong with little height but plenty of energy. What a thrill! 
We then began to head out of the mountains back towards the flats. At this point I decided to stop following Tobi and make my own way, which was, of course, a mistake. Although we were still flying relatively close, all the difference was made when I got forced to take one poor climb to get back up. The ten minutes that I spent in this thermal were the ten minutes where Tobi managed to make it home on final glide, and I landed off-field, cut off by high cirrus cloud. 

Nonetheless it was a great flying adventure, and one of the best flights I have ever had! I never would have flown the route I did unless I was with a more experienced pilot. In choosing to do so I was greatly challenged, learned a lot about mountain flying, and enjoyed the beauty and thrills of the mountains in a whole new way!!

Bacchus Marsh Vintage Glider Museum and Avalon Airshow

On Saturday, March 5 I enjoyed a great drive out to the gliding clubs in Bacchus Marsh with my friend Kah Chong on his motorcycle. We enjoyed meeting many members from the three clubs that operate together out of this airfield. Kah even got a flight in the Zephyrus! The highlight of my day was visiting the Australian Vintage Gliding Museum. For me it was incredibly cool to catch a glimpse of the roots of the sport I love so much. I think it's easy today to get caught up in the fancy schmancy ships while forgetting all the amazing feats that were accomplished in gliders with much lower performance. I even got a chance to sit in a primary glider! If you don't know about those, Google it!

On Sunday, March 6 I was given an opportunity to volunteer at the Gliding Federation of Australia's booth at the Avalon Airshow. I had a lot of fun talking to people of all ages about gliding. It was interesting to hear the various levels or response towards the thought of actually getting in a plane, everything from "I would love to do that!" to "You would never get me in one of those!". And of course, it was great to be able to catch glimpses of incredible fly-bys of a wide range of airplanes. The glider demonstration consisted of a Salto with jets!


GCV Goes to Mount Beauty 

The very last weekend that I was in Benalla the club took a bunch of gliders to fly out of Mt Beauty. I also managed to convince all of my favourite people at the GCV to come along for the weekend (what luck!). As a result we had a good collection of private and club gliders available for flying that weekend. My friend Craig Collings was kind enough to host me at his house for the weekend. Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate and I have to admit that more coffee drinking was done that weekend than flying. I did manage to still enjoy a flight with Craig, and had two flights off the winch in an ASK 21 with Tobi, one of which turned into a reasonable local soaring flight at the end of the day. We finally decided that we needed to come down to pack up for the weekend, and so (unfortunately) Tobi was forced to do a sweet beat-up over the field! He increased the airspeed to 90kts, pushed down over one valley, up the other side, down the next valley, came back up and around, set up for the field. On the final part he pushed it within metres of the lake at the end of the strip, causing some people walking along it to duck (even though, silly them, there were trees right beside them that were much taller than them that we had to pull up for)! Then we passed low over the field before pulling up to set up for a circuit.

Queensland Flying

The last adventure I had in Australia before I left was a quick trip up to Queensland. During this trip I got to see many of my JoeyGlide friends which was great! My mom was also in Queensland during this time for a work contract so we were able to spend a few days touristing around the area together. I dragged her along for an opportunity I was given to fly in a motor-glider thanks to the generosity of Phil Behnke, a man I had met at the Avalon Airshow. (I think she loved it!)
Although the conditions weren't phenomenal on the day we went flying, I still got to see some pretty incredible views along the Queensland coastline. With the pilot I also got to practise going through the shut-down and start-up procedures. I was greatly inspired by the presentation Diane Davey gave at the WIG week, and learned as much as I could about motor flying in hopes of one day pursuing it further to chase the Morning Glory!
I also had the opportunity to meet with Lisa Trotter, top Australian Glider Pilot and Sports Psychologist. We talked about my strengths and weaknesses as a pilot, mental aspects of the sport, positive self-talk, and many other things. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the many things I had learned while in Australia, and to begin the mental preparation for the World Juniors.

I was also invited by my friend Mike Codling to go to his gliding club. I had an LS3 lined up, kindly on loan by Graham Hennessy, and we planned to go dual in the Duo Discus the following day. Most unfortunately the weather did not line up, and although we made the drive to the field, we spent most of it debating whether cloud bases were at 500' or 300'.

Overall though it was a great last adventure in Australia, filled with a bit of flying, and some great times with my mom and Queenslander friends!

Australian Summary

Paper airplane contest at my farewell barbie.
While in Australia this year I learned an incredible amount about flying and contests. A summary includes:
- 2 contests
- 3 new glider types (Speed Astir, LS7,   Standard Libelle)
- great mentorship from Tobi Geiger
- new skills flying in a mountain environment
- first participation at a Women In Gliding event
- aerobatics flight
- motor glider flight

- experience as an Operations Manager at the GCV
- 100hrs+ total time

I am really appreciative of all the friendships I deepened and the new ones I made. Many thanks to everyone who spoke with me about gliding, allowing me to learn new tid-bits along the way. I am also very thankful to the GCV for allowing me to fill the role of Operations Manager. This allowed me to learn new leadership skills and gave me more time in a thriving flying environment. 

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