My friend Pete had just flown the Grob for 1.6 hours. He could have stayed up longer but knew I was waiting to fly the plane so he came back. I launched about 3:20 PM and immediately found a very nice thermal that took me up to about 5,400 MSL. The forecast said it would be a good day. Pete’s and several other people’s flights seemed to bear that out so I decided to head for Hornell (HTF).
From my first thermal on the point, it only took about 10 minutes to fly the 9 nm to HTF. Not encountering any thermals enroute, I was down to 3,400 MSL about a mile NW of the Hornell airport. I switched to 122.7 CTAF and knew if I didn’t find a thermal that I would need to land at HTF. Happily, I did find a thermal and climbed to 4,700 MSL. I knew that wasn’t quite enough altitude to get me back to DSV but I thought by taking a different route I would surely get at least one thermal on the way back.
I lost 700 feet immediately upon turning north, was dealing with an 11 kt headwind and mostly sink. Encountering occasional 900 fpm sink, I thought heavy sink would equal a good thermal on the other side but that didn’t happen. I lost 2,500 feet in about 7 minutes, was down to 2,400 MSL over 1,800 MSL terrain. I had 2 good fields picked out and still had the option of flying down to the valley. I found a thermal, gained 200 feet and then was back in sink. Time to commit to landing, actually past time to commit to landing. Gear down, check spoilers, land into the wind, field looks really good, left pattern, land. The landing went well, it was an excellent field and no damage to the glider.
After just sitting there for a few minutes I called back to the hanger to let them know I had landed out. I was able to tell them my bearing and distance from DSV but giving them my exact latitude/longitude took a little longer. I curled up in the warmth of the cockpit and called my wife to let her know what happened and that I and the glider were fully intact but I would be home a bit later than originally planned. I then sat there thinking about the convenience of the cell phone and the GPS to pinpoint my location compared to when my mentors, Ed Seymore and Kai Getsen, were in similar situations.
While waiting for my dauntless retrieve crew to arrive, a farmer driving a large tractor appeared. I quickly got out of the glider so he wouldn’t think I was injured. After chatting a bit, he went back to work. A little later, another farmer appeared driving a pickup truck. After being assured that there were no injuries, he too went back to his daily chores. Next, Jari W, Chuck Z, and Dave R showed up with the Grob trailer in tow and shortly after that, two more young farmers arrived. These two young men were extremely helpful, aiding us in the disassembly and loading of the Grob into the trailer. I landed in the field about 4 PM and we were back at DSV about 6:30 PM – not bad. To round out the day, the four of us had a nice dinner at Scoville’s after which I headed home with one more major life experience under my belt and feeling very fortunate to be in such a great soaring club.