Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I had the opportunity to spend a day at Omarama gliding while on a a tour of the south island over New Years. It was about half-way through our trip and the weather had been mixed but mainly good up to that point. We showed up in Omarama the night before at about 9:00PM to see a couple gliders landing so that was a good sign. They were just starting to pack up shop at Southern Soaring but Chris Rudge and I went though the weather maps for the following day. He predicted westerly wave in the morning changing to a south westerly at about mid-day.

After a restless night of sleep trying to shake off the visions of wave flying we woke up and were on the field by 9:30 and in the air by about 10:00 as the wave was working with a 15 knott westerly wind on the ground just as expected. We took a slightly higher tow to try to tow into the wave using rotor thermals but after a couple attempts we failed and went back to the ridge which was working nicely. Initially Chris was flying to try to get us set up in the wave but I found that in those bumpy conditions I got seriously motion sick if I wasn't flying. We almost had to come down because I got so sick.

Luckily though I powered through the sickness and worked the ridge up to 8000 ft which we hoped would be enough to break into the wave. We pushed forward into the wind and went through some seriously bumpy air and then all of a sudden it was smooth with a 2 knot climb. We held solid and eventually that 2 knot climb turned into 4 and we were up. Chris called Christchurch Control and we turned on the oxygen and we broke though 10k ft. The 4 knots then turned into a solid 8 knots and at one point we were averaging 12 knots.

We put the nose down and tracked towards Mt. Cook climbing the whole way. When we got to Mt. Cook we were at almost 21k ft and although there was thick cloud cover on the mountain the views were amazing. We spun it around and came back to Omarama still at about 19k ft. It takes a while even with full airbrakes and in the down going portion of the wave to get down from that high. The flight was 2 hours 25 minutes long and one of the best that I have had.

So that you know that I am not making this all up here is a picture of the vario on 8 up and the altimeter on 20k+ ft