Benalla Storm

Benalla Storm

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The launch time was delayed and delayed. They kept saying that it would get better, but it really to me looked doubtful. The sky was covered with low dark cumulus and higher cirrus. Finally the cirrus moved by and the ground got some heating and the bases were able to lift. Club Class was launched. I was near the front of the grid and it felt like a long time before the rest of the fleet was launched. The air was pulsing and cloud bases were no higher than 1400m. A couple of gliders had to take re-lights. I managed to find Johno in the air and we started with a few other gliders as the bases were lifting to 1500m. The first section of the flight out was a huge struggle. Climbs were far between and sporatic in strength, some of them 3knots, others only 1knots. I really focused on staying within the working band. Johno managed to slip above me as we flew, and at one point I decided it was very important to stay within the working band so took a climb that he didn't need to and we were separated. I was still loosely flying with several other gliders, using them as thermal indicators ahead of me. I reached the first turnpoint with a very low airspeed so decided to turn directly for the second circle. On the way to the second circle I found an amazing cloud street. I was flying with two other gliders, but I was cruising at cloud base and they were significantly lower. I reached the edge of the second circle in no time, and realised that I couldn't turn directly for home or I would have been 30 minutes under time. I decided to fly further into the circle. This was the good decision. The poor decision came a few minutes later. I hadn't anticipated flying so deep into the second circle, so forgot to take into account in my pre-flight planning the Stuttgart airspace that was located in the second circle. An airspace warning popped up on my PDA. I pushed the nose down to decrease my altitude. What I should have done at this point is to turn around for home, keeping myself out of airspace and within the working band that was just sucking you in at cloudbase. Instead what I did was keep pushing further into the circle, marginally increasing my distance, but putting myself out of the working band. As I turned to home slightly beneath the working band the air was calm calm calm. I knew immediately that I was in trouble. There was no lift to be found anywhere and I was still 2000 feet below final glide. I did manage to find one climb around Horb am Neckar, but wasn't able to fly much closer to Musbach as the terrain was rising and the outlanding fields increasingly poor. I decided to try to fly towards an alternate airport, hoping to find some lift along the way. I was unable to find any lift, was unable to find any lift, and was forced to land in a paddock only 15 km from the airport.

This was a very simple mistake that I made. The more I fly the more I realise how much of the skill in this sport is directly correlated to how much experience you have as a pilot. I know that if I had more experience I would not have made this mistake. So it is all I can do to learn from this so I can be better in the future!

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