Fwd: [wgcmember] The 250KM PW5 Cross Country Challenge

Matt Sternberg 

The 250KM PW5 Cross Country Challenge

After returning from my hiatus and getting myself current, I went for a flight in the PW5 in late October to get back into single seaters. While up, I did a meandering local bash with a Clifton run added on. Unfortunately, I did not have any logging, but I figured it must have been close to the  200km mark in 3.5hrs which was about 60kph. After landing, I asked around and found out the 250Km free flight in the PW5 had not been claimed. Seeing this was not an impossible task, I aimed to take the PW5 out on a good day where I could fly for at least 4 hours and crack the 250km challenge.


On the 13th November, I planned a task for Dalby return, and set off with David in the LAK17FES. It was a promising day that in reality became a difficult day and my speeds on the run up to Pittsworth were a little slow for my liking. I knew thermals would shut down in the early afternoon and I decided at Pittsworth to head to Killarney as the weather was better behind us. I snapped a photo of Pittsworth town, weather and airfield, in part for my own reference as I had never spotted it.


I rounded Pittsworth and headed for Killarney, however, as I got closer to my target the clouds appeared to have stopped working. Like the philosophy of a blind man running through the woods will eventually hit a tree, I too kept trying the next cloud for the thermal that would get me back to final glide. At Killarney, I was in a weak climb and realised that time was running out.

I made the decision to edge out of Killarney while I had height to try and connect back to the good airmass. David was inbound as he had final glide and I let him know that I wasn’t sure if I’d outland. He wished me luck as I pushed for the next 10km, 2000Ft AGL, gaining a few hundred feet each bubble I found before it disappeared, edging my way closer to a cloud that still looked promising. When I connected, I voiced a sigh of relief, as I had gained enough for final glide, and decided that there was enough adventure for one day and it was not the day to crack the 250km. I downloaded my trace, uploaded it to WeGlide and it was a close 210km in 3hrs 45 mins.


The next weekend looked like a better day to try the 250km, however, the PW5 was booked and WA was not. I sporadically decided I would take the Discus out for a bit of a bash because the weather looked so promising. I got a bit low over Clifton and instead of basing myself at Clifton, erred to try to get back to Warwick. XCSoar said it was a tight glide back to circuit but sink ate into my margin and I decided to try the welcome at Talgai given we have been told not to land there for years. Turns out, many pilots have landed recently and the owners were quite understanding. Being so close, I figured the tug could do a retrieve and the owners seemed to prefer this retrieval method. Turns out, the cost is negligible as the tug’s letdown joins a nice circuit into Talgai. Special thanks to Laurie & Clyde for relaying my messages back to Ivor in the tug.


Feeling sheepish and needing to redeem my reputation as a competent XC pilot, The next weekend (this weekend) I booked the PW5 for the 250KM attempt. The weather was lining up well with 9Kt declaring even the wooden gliders could do 300km. I studied the weather the night before, and planned Warwick - Killarney – McCaffery – (Killarney) – Warwick. If I turned McCaffery early enough and the day looked good, I could play in the convergence in Killarney, if not, a return to Warwick was 250km. Laurie was intending on flying a similar task and we made a plan to team fly.


Laurie Launched at 10:30am and I was right behind at 10:38am. I pushed the little peewee to try to catch up to Laurie, but he wasted no time leaving the airfield. I even left thermals with a comfortable return glide margin just to keep closing the distance gap. As I approached Killarney, I finally caught up to his height but, XCSoar; linked via WiFi & Traffic, had the Foka 8km in front. Feeling like I was in a good position to lead, I radioed Laurie and let him know I was turning for DDSC. Looking at my required height for the task, 37000Ft, jolted me back to reality of the magnitude of such a task.


The thermals up to this point seemed to have sheer layers every 1000Ft, and I hadn’t figured out the corrections required to pass through these layers. It was also a blue day and only Goomburra to Killarney had clouds. As I approached the 8-Mile intersection, I was watching glide back to Warwick become marginal when I found a climb I was needing. I reached the sheer layer again and the thermal at this point was average, under 2 knots bottom to top. Clifton was within glide so press on for a better climb.

Allora’s industrial estate hill had what I was looking for, a thermal to get me above the sheer layer again. Pushing on as I knew Laurie was hot on my heels. We remarked that out average speed was slow up to this point, under 50kph for both of us. Time to change gears as the forecast suggested it would be going Orff by now.


Clyde showed up in ZDZ for a couple thermals north of Clifton. This area was seeing 5 knot bottom to top climbs with a ceiling around 9000Ft MSL. This gave even these pinnacle of performance machines some margin to select thermals and a race to turn McCaffery was on. Clyde turned at Pittsworth, as we pushed on.


It was 1:30pm and I was within 15km of DDSC at a good height. I was recalling the weather forecast and SkySight had climbs to die off after 3:30pm. With 100km back to Warwick, or 2hrs if maintaining my height, I need to be turning back, but I think I can stretch an extra 15 minutes and turn DDSC like I had tasked. I radioed Laurie that I would turn DDSC but will be on my way back and he also agreed it was time to turn around. I hit 10,000Ft just south of DDSC and I had 15,000Ft required height to go.

Getting closer to the goal, I checked my alternates and I had glide back to Clifton. This meant in a few thermals, I would have glide back to Warwick and a free flight. Both Laurie and I both progressively lost height, and at 5500Ft, I felt like I was at circuit height. I was concerned I’d outland in Pittsworth, but checking my trace after the flight, I was 4000Ft AGL within 10km of the airfield.


As I edged towards Clifton, Laurie announced he was getting low over the Clifton township. But in a climb and gaining height. I was over Banges airfield gaining enough to catch up. Laurie had found a whopper, 6 Knots bottom to top for 3500Ft. I’ve got glide back to Warwick, I’ve got the free flight! Wait, my accountant cap told me “get your monies worth”! Lets do the Killarney leg, its only another 7000Ft.


“SDE GEF”. That’s not Sid’s voice, it’s the Acro though. 9Kt was inbound. We both caught up to Laurie and flew the convergence developing on the range. I t would have been nice to stay longer, however I was over 5 hours and not plumbed, so I broke off to head to Killarney. I had final glide and was on the home stretch, I pushed a little further South as I had 2000ft above glide and chose to keep 1000ft spare. I kept an eye on my arrival height and; watching it going up, decided to turn at Allora due to the extra height. As I crossed Hendon, I realised I was still too high for an immediate join to circuit and chose to punch the speed up. The PW5 sinks rather nicely at 80knts. A nice landing rounded off the flight and I must say it was a close 2nd favourite flight.


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