This year’s Panoche Gliderpalooza was a banner year for accomplishments. Although the weather did not bestow upon us the extremely long cross country flights we have had in past Paloozas, we did manage to get out and fly all four days of the event. A big thank you goes out to HSC and the instructors and mentor pilots that made this happen. This made it possible for several new people to experience flying solo from a new and remote soaring location: Panoche International Airport. Notable this year were three BASA checkouts and two NCSA checkouts, the first time in recent memory that there were so many new area checkouts from two clubs all within such a short time.
Another notable event was when the 8 year old grandson of the owners of Mercey Hot Springs showed up at the airport with his mother in tow. His mother asked if it would be possible for someone to give her son a glider ride. Well, how could we resist? We plopped him in the front seat of the NCSA glider and we took a tow up into the morning thermals just starting to bubble up over the Panoche valley. I gave him some practice thermalling and experiencing a few other fun maneuvers that an 8 year old kid would especially enjoy.
As in past Paloozas, this year I was also able to take student and non-cross country checked-out private pilots on cross country mentoring flights. I love doing this as it shows them how they can make their playground in the sky so much bigger. Because the conditions were not booming, we had the “opportunity” to experience releasing from tow and almost immediately committing to an alternate airport and using speed to fly as we pushed through 6-10 knots of sink on the way to our first thermal. Then there was the thrill of climbing in the blue, and also under a big fat clouds, with continuous and complete circles at 10 knots up. Oh yeah, I love that feeling.
As with all Paloozas, once we were in the air, there was plenty of company to share the sky and help each other out. On Saturday, there were 22 tows rendered, 15 on Sunday, and on Monday there were 7 tows. All in all a very successful weekend.
The mentee pilots also got to experience a 30 km final glide, without a landing strip or sign of civilization in sight, and searching for the convergence line in the blue (some call this flying by Braille or like a drunken sailor). I am hoping they didn’t liken my flying style to that of a drunken sailor, but my bird name at Air Sailing is Thrasher... but that is a story for another time.
After attending my first Gliderpalooza last May, I knew I was hooked and there was no way I was going to miss this year's event. I literally booked my camping reservation the first moment I could. Although this year's soaring conditions weren't quite as epic as last year's beautiful cloud streets and well-marked lift, the soaring was still fantastic with several long flights, including my flight down to EL5 and back, not to mention some of the great flights late Sunday afternoon.
It's truly special to see every single person attending volunteer to help set up the glider area at Panoche, assemble gliders, run wings, help others get set up, work the radios, etc. We have a very close-knit community that is at its best at this event.
Then, sitting at the campground in the evenings, sharing stories of the day and learning from the masters like Buzz about the conditions that day and what they did, really makes for an unmatchable experience for those looking to take their skills to the next level and build their confidence.
The support from Hollister Soaring is also noteworthy with Johnathan basically spending 3 straight days at the field all day to support the group and make it all possible.
If you couldn't make it out this year, let's get you fired up and have a record-breaking attendance next May. I guarantee I will be there, this is one event you don't ever want to miss!
P.S. - The Dry Sauna and the hot mineral baths looking at the stars at night aren't too bad either. :)