Posted by: quienessupa | September 5, 2011

Front Range touring – Atos

Red Rocks2

Above:  Cars streaming in for Santana concert tonight at Red Rocks

The weather had been setting up for the best flying conditions in a couple years and I’d hoped to launch early and try making a huge out and return.  Unfortunately, I got hung up at Sniagrab, then had to drive across town to borrow a winglet for the Atos(Thanks Fred), and to ice the cake, had my zipper blow out.  The BIG flight just wasn’t in the cards today.PG

I’d already climbed up to 9,000ft when the zipper popped open and with shorts it was as cold as a witches who-ha in a glass bra.  Thank goodness there were top-landable conditions so I fixed the dad-gum zipper and got back in the air without too much lost.


Mark Denzel (PG) made it 20 miles south to Roxborough by noon!  I re-launched at 3:15pm and resolved to head upwind to Boulder and then to Morrison. 

Raston Butte

Above: Getting up again after some struggles.

Once over Coal Creek I struggled low in an 8-11mph NE wind for a while.  I’d been pushing upwind in a significant blue hole and the air felt more and more subsident so opted to call it a success and turn back to Golden.  Continuing into the headwind low would put me in air coming from less likely thermal generating territory (heavily tree’d up wind), less favorable ridge facing direction for wind deflection up, and the rising ground to the N meant NE wind coming downhill would be a little extra sinky.  2 out of 3 upwind trips this direction have skunked me this way.Coal Creek 

The westerly winds were shearing against the NE wind at 10.5kft and above it felt weird to drift East for a change.  Cloudbase looked to be 16kft and still seemed to indicate convergence activity near Lookout and I-70 off and on.

Sam-Maddy Furrari

I came into widespread lift over I-70 and even though I was shaking from the cold I had to tank up to 11k.  The rest was gliding like superman to Morrison, watching 4 different drag races at Bandimere (one was a photo-finish), and then oggling over the late day sun lighting up Red Rocks as folks trickled in for Santana.  Clouds shaded everything back at Lookout.  I worked down to warm up and milled around with the late round of PG’s while watching for more southy toplanding conditions.  Buzzing the RC guys made a satisfying end to a beaut of a flying day. 

rc flyby

Soaring forecast models always fall short around frontal activity as someone said it looked dismal for today.  Maybe they can develop another module or variable in their model to reconcile cold-front-ground-heat activity.  I’m sure it’ll happen some day but till then it’s a soaring pilots’ secret I reckon.

Brandon D. flyby

Above:  Brandon D. flyby.

Below:  Circling with Steve who’d been exploring lift lines upwind.


My Falcon 2 Tandem is due to arrive Tuesday!  Lookin forward to playin with it and getting ready for a Jackson Hole trip to get my Tandem1 rating with Bart and Tiki!

Flights: 2

Airtime:  3 hrs

Mileage:  32

Flight tracklog:

Posted by: quienessupa | August 11, 2011

Zapata World Record Encampment (WRE) 2011- Parte Dos


Above:  I’m south of (or upwind) of our home at the Zapata Airport.  Across the Lake/River is Mexico.

I had used SeeYou to draw up a 265 mile FAI triangle in hopes of flying the biggest triangle ever (previous record is 250 miles).  It was more than a long shot but there wasn’t any fruit in sitting around.  However, after spending 3 hours to cover 32 miles, my gumption called a mutiny and I limped home.  Look at the drift on the thermals below: 

Laredo and Back

Below:  Stalwart of the WRE and friend Pete Lehmann let his knee have an affair with the runway.  Needless to say it was short and dirty and needed antibiotics as the bone made contact. Pete kept a great blog of the WRE here:


Weak links were going like hotcakes so we doubled them up.  On my Atos, I had my only break right as one hand let go of the cart so I held on like crazy to the other side and skidded to a stop. 


Above:  Neighbors’ truck at the Lakefront Lodge.

As much as I didn’t like it, a few of the yanks between me and the Dragonfly (tow plane) were like an accidental wheelie on a dirt bike (2 stroke) and would have broken the single links for sure.


Above:  Falcon Lake view from 72 degrees

Below: We have Lift-OFF!!!


Below:  Flights laid out over Google Earth

GE WRE2011 flights

I had a sketchy moment at 184 miles out when I got into some sinky air over no-mans land.  I was down to 1100 AGL and having to make tough decisions fast.  With the 110 degree moonscape, cactus, mesquite, rocks, and no clean air below, I didn’t see many good ways to land safely.  Below show’s it well on Google Earth.  No Roads… That’s just a river bottom.  Would have ruined several days flying to land here.



Above:  I drew a 5 mile line from the Airport to represent the Airspace boundary and illustrate just how close I got to it.  On record attempts, an airspace violation would void any ratification.  On this flight, I was able to stay with a great cloudstreet because my 6030 map screen showed me exactly where I was in relation to the Laredo Airport airspace cylinder.  Otherwise, I would have had to leave the street WAY before this and cross a fairly large blue gap to the next street.  Fantastic. 

One thing that I don’t regret, but with hindsight would do different is I would have tried for a new personal best on the 270, 245, or even the 187 mile flight.  It would have ruined the following potential record day but hindsight is 20/20 afterall and 340-360 was definitely possible.  Oh well.  No regrets.

Trip Highlights:

-Eduardo’s story of handcuffs (I have video)

-Over-running airtime on many flights. PURE MAGIC  I had one 7 mile glide around 10:30am that ended 400ft higher than it started!!

OverRunning wSailplaneGary

-2 days in a row getting 15% ahead of 438 mile pace by 1pm.  (Until the most oppressive High Press Airmass made it hard to even soar)

-Belinda’s Key Lime Gin and Tonic’s at the spiffy new OzReport HQ.

-Learning about bird species, navigation, and the 4 agreements from my driver David McElroy

-Gary’s unsinkable outlook.  The ultimate “make it happen” guy.

Zapata 2011

Flights:  6  (I might have misplaced some)

Airtime:  35 Hours

XC:  965 Miles

Posted by: quienessupa | August 9, 2011

Zapata World Record Encampment 2011 – Part 1

Snapshot during a fantastic story by Brazilian Pilot Eduardo as he’s about to demonstrate what it’s like to get hand cuffed in the Texan desert when 7 Border Patrol vehicles and 4 Police cars converge on your location!  Really nice guy.

Eduardo Story

Anyway, for our first Zapata breakfast, David McElroy and I sauntered into the best buffet in town.  There’s ‘bout 7 different buckets of eggs to scoop from.  Eggs swimming in brown stuff, eggs floating in fantastic red sauce/sausage, eggs with hash brown/green chili’s, etc., all fantastic.  You slap them in these smoking hot fresh flour tortillas and you’re good for the day.  Beside the rolling egg buckets are old school donuts, freshly made Texas style, big, meaty, and a skosh of crunch on the outside.  So Damn good.


Whatever, my head wasn’t in the game obviously and there was also a poor wind speed forecasted.  But, then we sat down next to the window to a sky rapidly organizing into the above sky-hiway around 8:45 AM.  This is the sky I only knew in folk lore… the once-in-a-lifetime over-running phenomena happening right before my overstuffed face.  My appetite disappeared instantly as I realized that I may have just screwed the pooch by breaking my own rule… “Luck favors the prepared”.

I should be launching RIGHT NOW@#$%^#!

Anyway, I’d been excited to meet up with the Brazilians team and to meet the legend Mike Barber who currently has the longest HG flight in the world at 438 miles.  With barely bridled panic inside me, I screeched the already tired Prius to a halt next to Barber’s car at the airport just in time to see Mike and Pete Lehmann walking their wings out to tow up.


Above: Earlier picture from a different day.

A passing “HI” from them was warming as David Glover confirmed my anxiety by saying: “THIS IS THE BEST MORNING DEVELOPMENT WE’VE SEEN…. EVER”.

My Atos-VR practically set itself up and we were airborne at 10:27am and soaking up what felt like God’s gift to me.  Gary said it best, it was truly a privilege to get to experience this sky.  I was there to give the record a shot, but it seemed less important now.  The gentle cloud suck pulled me along and flying was more simple and beautiful than it’s been for a long time.

SeeYou 6-21-11 245miles

Navigating around the Laredo Airspace was a piece of cake this day and with it loaded into my Flytech 6030 I could tell that I didn’t need to waste any time jumping anymore cloud streets. Below show’s departure and flying over the horizon.


First day:

Airtime:  7 hrs. 37 min

XC Miles:  245

Glider:  Atos VR

Records:  Zip

Posted by: quienessupa | June 7, 2011

Zapata 2009 Round-up

Crested-Caracara-F5 Dustin and Laura

**Reposting this on my new blog here.  Originally posted 8/21/2009

Mexican Eagle (tequila version) with Laura and Dustin.  Laura could bust through locked gates in this desert like she owned the place.

Eric Thorstenson on my 9

Think that’s Eric Thorstenson from Oregon above.

Dustin off wingtip4

Dustin Martin in the above picture.  On Gary Osoba’s advice, several non-record days were spent going up early to practice scratching low in light conditions.  Every moment spent in the air here in Texas was valuable practice.  There seems to be a subtle convergence going on all the time.  When clouds would show up, they’d usually be on top of the airport.

After 2 or 3pm, thermals were like looking for hay in a haystack until at least 7pm.  However, in the early part of the day, and below 1,200msl (800agl), they were wide enough for one medium banked circle and that was about it.  For the 10-11am timeframe, it was all too easy focus on LZ’s or get distracted by my inner commentary (which was stuck in a Borat accent for some reason), and just glide straight to the ground.

borat-10So distracting.

What made the difference for me in this hour was scanning for birds.


The Mexican Eagles were ubiquitous and once you noticed one down low, there would often be 2-5 more all team flying.  Amazing snake hunters, always in the best lift, and usually they’d circle with me like one of their own.  On several low glides in the morning, I’d see a bird leap off a tree or already circling and I’m pretty sure these little diversions kept me from gliding to the ground.  It was ideal to aim over the less dense mesquite where the contrast of the dark birds over sandy-colored dirt made them easier to spot.  More importantly, I believe the less dense foliage put out more thermals in the light conditions.  Then there’s the whole landing options benefit too!

I think I had 2, maybe 3 sink-out days where you’re only 18-30 miles from the airport, but it takes 4-7 hours to get back.  It’s just a puzzle of locked gates and permission getting.  Always seemed to work out fine if you had water.

Sunk out day

In the above "sink-out" tracklog, I launched EARLY at 10:03am.  The special thing about this day was the 21mph tailwind!  Maybe if I launched 15 minutes later I would have stayed up?  I’ll never know but the weak lift forecast or weather system at 300 miles would have likely messed things up anyway.

LZ gas

From reading Davis’ account of his 407 mile record, him and Manfred got to where they were only turning in 700fpm or better lift.  BTW, you can read his story and some very interesting history of HG records here:

Some highlights pulled from the SeeYou data for my recent attempts and some open distance world record flights here:

Big Flights Comparison

My 296 mile flight had clouds and a faster average speed in spite lighter winds.  The clouds definitely helped although I got punished by my fair share of dying ones too.. PUNISHED!  A record pace comparison we used was that Manfred was at 100 (Davis at 86) miles by 1pm.  This just blew my mind as 1pm would come and go and I’d be struggling to get 50 or 60miles by then.  The tailwind has greater effect in the early circling/drifting hours I tell myself and then I’d spend the last 6 hours going for broke hoping I could make up time.  The lack of wind or weaker lift or blue sky conditions just weren’t helping.

Zippy and Laura Dustin, Zippy, and I

Laura gave us all a mustache for Authentic bowling night (non-Wii).  In Dustin’s case, a molestache.


1:  Days that the wind approached 20mph made the pre-10:30am soaring trickier.  The perfect scenario that eluded us was the over-running/cloudsuck that could offset the issue, showing/producing lift lines, and the ability to stay high in better lift until the heating gained momentum.

haybale guard

2:  Like Gary says, there’s always some piece of the puzzle that didn’t look perfect on the days when past records were set!  If 4 out of 5 things (wind speed/direction on course, clouds, no storms, strong lift forecast, over-running clouds) are looking acceptable, absolutely go for it.  My standards were lower.  2/5 seemed good enough for me but I like the hail-mary stuff the best and we had to take what we were given.

Woodstock thermaling close

Above, non-record day circling with Pete Lehman in Gary’s Woodstock (super light sailplane).

3.  Something that made a huge difference for me was my newly cut HD vision. After Lasik in April, I got lucky and the doctor says my result is the best they’ve had from that office.  I’m seeing 20/10 now.  I did it for flying and now, in hindsight, I think it’s better than 5 L/D points in glide when you really need a thermal from low.  Be sure to get orbscan and all the bells and whistles if you do it too.  And lay VERY still!


"slowly close your eyes for a moment Mr. Herring so the flap gets put pushed back in place, thanks" f’ing terrifying…2 gliders, looking North

Above, Dustin and Eric gliding South with me.  Looking N along the open distance course-line.  LZ’s? not too bad.


In hindsight, do I still think I have a shot at the 438 mile flight?  Do I want to spend more time/$/sweat for another try?  My best comparison to pick apart is my 302 mile flight.

If I had the 20mph tailwind that Manfred and Davis had to set the current records, or more, I’m almost there.  (50-80 more miles)

I think stronger lift like they had could have given me a boost.  (20-30 more miles)

Glover photo shoot

Don’t depend on this guy to bring back dinner…

Manfred’s flight was about 10.5 hours long, mine was just shy of 10 hours.  I think the wet ground in central TX thwarted my shot for late day thermals.  Also, clouds at that time would have helped immensely as the late day thermals get so far apart but are SO valuable with bouyant glides.  With a strobe, I think that launching at 9:45am and landing 30 minutes after sunset (Sunset 8:49 in Big Spring that day) is somewhat possible and in a perfect world would have added about 1hr 40 minutes to my 10hr flight.  (20-100 more miles)

IMG_1665 IMG_1678

Hail-man from yesterday’s hail storm above…

The benefit of clouds would have been great for longer glides and avoiding sink streets.  I remember on most cloudless days I’d wander through SEVERE sink once in a while.  Clouds also could have netted at least SOME time dolphin flying with their easy to see lift and associated sucking making crucial miles tick away.  (0-60 more miles)

So, I think it’s super possible to bust through the current records.  Any 2 or so of the things, like good wind and clouds, or late day luck/bouyancy would have been enough to push my 302 mile flight into record striking distance.  With enough perfect ingredients, I’d even say 500 miles is reachable.  Analysis over, time to look for sponsors, or a job.



Dad (above aka: Benroi) and Gary Osoba really made the successes happen.  Great mentors in life and fun to be around.  I was lucky to get all that time with Dad.  He’d gotten all kinds of border scoop from locals, not to mention invitations to weddings/receptions in his spare time.  Pretty cool that the town knew our names when we left!

911 flyby

Not to mention, his driving credentials are unrivaled.  Here’s a video snapshot of him taking my doors off at 75×2 somewhere between San Antonio and Zapata.  The Garmin Rino 530 Hcx’s were worth their weight in gold.  Dad could "poll" my unit and it worked 43.3 miles away when I was at 6,200ft, him at 1000ft.

10hr flight


Lots of people stress and strain over the stock market’s rise and falls.  Many of these Zapata flights were like packing a lifetime’s worth of market swings into one flight.

I want the open distance record bad.  The hardest thing wasn’t the flying because I’d prepared and practiced for it.  By far, the toughest thing was making a decision to land early so I could try again tomorrow.  After surviving the early morning scratching and making it around the Laredo airspace, the decision to let the day go and land was heavy.  The numbers would say that today’s chance of getting over 400 miles has whittled down to "slim to none", and slim left town.  I equated it to quitting, or admitting that the long-shot isn’t possible.  Time to jump into the world of the working again.  If the stars align again, I’ll be back to Zapata!

Flights:  20

Airtime:  58.6 hours

XC:  1,165 miles

World Records:  50km Triangle in 1hr 40seconds and 25km triangle in 27.5 minutes.  Pending US and FAI "world" ratifications.

Windmill sunset

*afterthought story:

On the 196 mile flight, I was going for broke to try to make up for insufficient tail wind and I was really moving until a high band of cirrus slowed me down.  Then, the low altitude and the hot struggling mixed with a camelbak full of city water (which was supposed to be boiled per the radio alert) and the stress of deciding to let the day go after 7 hours of pushing caused a puking sensation that just retarded my brain into 2nd grade reasoning.  In the hill country, and finally admitting a best case of 300 mile pace, I decided to land just as it was getting strong again.  I went over to the riverbed where I thought the highway was and got there LOW and found the highway wasn’t following the riverbed anymore and was several miles further away.  The urge to puke was so bad for some reason but retrieval options were bad below so I flew over 4 Mexican Eagles while 2 dogs saw me and were blazing across an open field to say hi.  Luckily, I got up and over to the highway and put down between cactus.  Very soarable down there.  Just tried to keep myself together while I broke down in the hill country heat.  That flight/fight will stick with me to help tame my obsession to fly so much.  I hope.  :)  It’s the NEW, less obsessed BJ starting now.  😉

**afterthought story 2


People have mentioned that the LZ’s are intimidating.  They sure are when you drive in.  But, once you get up and look around, they’re fairly abundant.  Above is a good example of the LZ situations out there.  With the strong winds and low altitude, small LZ’s like the gas line patches were great options as well as patchy/smaller mesquite areas.  The above viewpoint/altitude is probably the lowest my morning glides would take me before finding a thermal, or I’d be destined to land in 5-10 minutes of drifting struggle!  Zippy had a save from under 100ft, my best was 230ft (kinda).  Maybe this blog is a world record length now.

Posted by: quienessupa | May 25, 2011

We’re Back Mortimer! We Are Back.

First real flight of the year.

Soul food

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