Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flight Academy with Mike Barber in Andradas – Part 2

(Please refer to the pictures below in the portuguese version of this post.)

Thursday greeted us with a blue sky, a beautiful day promising a classic flight! We decided to change our “base-camp” to the Pousada Pico do Gavião, a much more bucolic environment at the foot of the ridge, and, upon getting settled, we were soon driving to the ramp, where we set-up while a consistent South-Southwest Wind exerted pressure on our faces and gave the tone of what seemed to be a nice flying day. Notice the hand-painted Sky waiting for us!

We decided to come up with a task just so we could fly with an objective and the task comitee called for a triangulation between the launch, the city of São João da Boa Vista, the city of Aguaí and back to the launch at the official South LZ; making up a total 75Km.

Even though the sky looked real nice we stayed for a good while at the ramp waiting for some positive sign of sure lift.

Fabinho on a low-performance Quero-Quero glider, single surface, king-posted wing took-off first and lost a lot of height as he sinked towards the South LZ. I thought his flight would be over then, but the kid is very talented and held on, scratching real low.

Meanwhile at the ramp some signs of lift started to show: swallows diving at the ramp and a giant buzzard turning lazily on the middle of the valley.

Still a little unsure, Mike decided it was time to take-off and went next, clinging to a weak thermal really close to the terrain to the left of the ramp. I asked him on the radio if he thought the thermal would hold and he said I might as well give it a try. So I took off next and, in a good oportunistic move, turned really tight to catch the end of the thermal, a little lower.

That it was the end of the thermal was soon proved as Armando took off third and went to the same spot not finding anything. While our climb rate only improved, we could only watch Armando sinking along the ridge, while Fabinho still scratched at a height that, from our p.o.v. seemed like 1 meter above the terrain.

While we waited for armando to do something me and Mike drifted over the back reaching 2.500m amsl with comfortable lift.

I got distracted for a while, and was surprised to see Armando higher than I was, closer to the city of Andradas on the left, I thought he should have caught a real good one, Mike cheered him up through the radio “Good job Armando!”.
While I admired the view and Armando´s quick climb I got a call from Mike “Fabiano where do you think you´re going? You´ve just lost 100 mts in this last couple turns, get back NOW! Ashamed of myself I tried to recover, losing even more height but quickly relocated the core and continued climbing.

The thermal centering techniques were already beggining to work out.
Mike calls this technique the “clover leaf pattern”. If you´ve read the book “Secrets of Champinos” by Dennis Pagen, you know that this technique consists of extending the turns always alittle bit on the direction of stronger lift, continually relocating.

At this time I heard Mike telling Armando to slow down, I looked for him where I had last seen him but the slippery Armando was already at the right end of the ridge gliding towards the first turnpoint. Meanwhile Fabinho had slowly climbed and was starting to move in our direction. This was the last I would see of him during this flight though his single surface unable to stand the long glides in descending air.

While Mike tried to hold Armando back a little bit, so that we could fly together, he told me to fly faster. I am more of a contemplative pilot, or at least I was, truth is that I wasn´t prepared for the speed and intensity that mikes teaches us to put into the XC flight.

Armando, already more used to that, took the lead and glided ahead, glued to a dark cloud base. Mike came on the radio and told Armando to get closer to the edge of the cloud and not to fly so close to the base on the middle of it. A few seconds go by without an answer from Armando and Mike calls again: “Armando you´re in too deep, get out now!”. Again Armando was silent. I was gliding towards Armando´s base getting there a little lower than him. I tried to locate him looking up, until I saw him, his Aeros Combat glowing bright orange against that dark grey base. I thought “What an amazing view, too bad I don´t have a camera in my hands right now!”. Mike came in a third time: “Armando you´re getting whited-out, get outta there now!”. I was starting to get nervous and came in the frequency in portuguese and told Armando that Mike wanted him to leave that base immediately. Armando finally answered quite calmly saying “Oh ok, I wasn´t hearing what he was saying.”

Soon I was starting to grasp the speed of the glides and the quick analysing of the conditions of a high level XC flight. I had the privilege of following Armando and Mike and take advantage of their lines. Mike was now leading and explaining his decisions real time. The first leg towards São João was crosswind and it was fast.

Between São João and Aguaí the leg was upwind and we had our pace greatly reduced as we took on a piece of blue skies. A lot of work was put into the upwind leg! I started to get a little behind the “main gaggle” but still kept on pushing. When I finally had Aguaí within glide they were both high over there and starting to come back. I decided to give up the turnpoint and stick along to them.

On the way back, the formations over the ramp had darkened considerably and we could see some rain showers on the horizon. As we got back over the São João airport we had close to two hours of flight and, on my third straight flying day, with six accumulated hours , I was feeling my arms quite tired. With some 32Km away from launch and some 50 Km flown total, I reasoned that my fatigue and the general strengthening of the condition closer to the ridge wouldn´t make a nice combination and I decided to land at the airport, where the wind was blowing hard and variable.

Landing wasn´t so smooth, I came down vertically against the wind but on short final the wind stopped and I didn´t get much lift on flare and did a classic nose “caboiiing” and scratched my knee. No further damage! Looking back I should have had some VG on and should have come way faster than I did. Anyway I was stoked!

Then I was quicly retrieved and we went to retrieve the other two, who had made goal with height to spare, and even took a quick leg to the city of Espírito Santo do Pinhal before coming in to a comfortable landing.

End of third day, everybody with a “big head” (brazilian slang for “satisfied”)

This flight data is published on the brazilian Leonardo server at:

The most important thing was that the condition kept improving. We went to sleep early with real bad-intentions for the next day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ler todo o blog, muito bom