This year’s Panoche Gliderpalooza was a big success. We had good soaring weather all three days (26-28 May), and a good turnout as well. The strip at Panoche is in fine shape, and the new owners of Panoche Inn took care of us with the food and beer. There was a good mix of the usual suspects and some newer faces. Ramy and Buzz passed down some valuable local knowledge to us fledgling cross country pilots around the picnic tables at Mercey Hot Springs. I had a good time getting to know some newer BASA members like Max and Chad, and Bruce from NCSA. Philip Lee and I enjoyed some team soaring and encouraged each other to expand our limits in XC soaring. Good flights and good times were had by all.
Cumulus clouds started popping early on Saturday morning and many of us got off to an early start from Panoche. However, bases were low and the clouds often didn’t have lift under them. It was slow going and a bit uncomfortable for me, having to fly closer to the mountain tops than ever before. Things improved as the day went on, but cloud coverage in some areas was so extensive that no sunlight reached the ground, killing the lift. I had to search out the little patches of sun peeking through to find the thermals. There were lots of clouds in the central valley and some ventured out there, but finding lift was reportedly difficult. Ultimately, three Palooza pilots landed out, and one re-lit.
Sunday was a better day with fewer clouds but more predictable lift. The clouds didn’t extend south past highway 41, but I managed to bag my second 300km flight by flying past Panoche on the way back, up to around Henrietta.
Monday was the best day, with bases over 10K. Buzz and Ramy made long flights to the south. Philip and I followed them down past Camatta to the area around Pozo. From the Indian Valley south, it was blue except for tiny fast-cycling wisps that marked the thermals. It was a leap of faith for us to venture out there, but it was generally easy going. Philip and I both made personal best distance flights of over 330km. We were beaming when we landed, and celebrated with a cold beer! Max had a good flight getting familiar with the San Benitos and beyond in his nice LS-8. Valentin did a long local flight around Panoche in 4D, and we saw Wolf and Darren in the air as they joined us from Hollister.
5KM flew Saturday and Sunday with various pilots such as Chad Hutchins, Peter Reischl, and Michael Majors. Michael took his 13 year old son out for a few flights, which he seemed to enjoy.
The BBQ at the Panoche Inn on Saturday night was fun. We all sat outside on the picnic tables and talked soaring. Sunday night, we barbequed together at Mercey Hot Springs and soaked in the hot tubs. We saw a couple of power planes parked on the runway at MHS; a Maule and what looked like a Piper Arrow. The runway surface is in decent condition, but they’re building a new restaurant next to it that reduces the available width.
This weekend felt like a breakthrough in XC flying for me. Much of my nervousness about venturing out of final glide has been erased. By Monday, I was quite used being far from home. I always had a paved runway or gliderport in range, and that was enough to feel comfortable. I think my landout at Bikle the previous weekend really helped my confidence too. Getting that first one under my belt made me less apprehensive about landing at unfamiliar strips. I’m really looking forward to XC Camp at Air Sailing next week!
Lastly, I have to throw in a plug for my app, GliderLink. We had at least six pilots using it over the Memorial Day weekend; four from Panoche and two from Avenal. The new mesh feature seemed to be working well. Morgan Hall in 5H said he saw me from 70nm away! Unfortunately, many users noted that their goTennas kept disconnecting. This is certainly annoying, but goTenna has said a fix is coming in the next firmware update in June.
Big thank you to Dan Colton for organizing the Gliderpalooza, despite not being able to attend himself! Thanks also to Jay Jaeckel, Philip Lee, Michael Majors, Chad H., and anyone else I may have forgotten for helping with organizing and logistics. Thanks to Jonathan Hughes and Hollister Soaring Center for the tows and retrieves, and thanks to everyone else who showed up and helped out. I’m looking forward to next year!