2008 USA Open Class Nationals

Dave's Blog from

Uvalde, Texas

Last Update: Monday 18-August-2008


Uvalde is one of the great soaring sites in the world. Kerry Huffstutler, Noreen Buchanan, and crew always host a classic event. The soaring weather here is legendary for its strong consistent streeting. This year Uvalde is concurrently hosting the USA nationals for both open class and 15-meter class. 15-meter competition is gradually being eclipsed by 18-meter gliders, but its still a vibrant racing scene especially in USA. Most of the big guns are here, minus the USA team members now competing in the world championships in Lusse, Germany. I'm racing my Antares 20E electric-powered glider, flying in the 20-meter configuration in open class.

For me its a long trek - 2,230 miles. This year I was fortunate and encountered only very minor construction and traffic delays, and made the trip from Boston in 3 very long days. We'll probably have a few hardy Canadians who drove even further !

Practice Period - Friday 1-August

Though the official practice period hasn't yet started, we already have a handful of pilots warming up. Dick Butler with his highly-modified ASW-22, Roger Buchanan with his Antares 20E, Bill Elliot with his ASW-27, Brian Milner from Canada and his Nimbus 4, Tom Kelly with his ASG-29, some of the Harris Hill gang, and a few others.

Classic Uvalde weather today started late. Self-launched at 1:30 and headed out on the practice task at 2, but it was too early. When I left on task cloudbase was a bit under 5k (4k AGL), and there was moderate streeting. By 2PM the bases and thermal strengths were both up. Seems like the lift is much stronger high, so its important to stay with the clouds. And of course try not to circle. Good thing its a practice day ! Nice flight of 475km (293 miles), but slow as I circled too much !
OLC view of 1-August practice flight

Practice Period - Saturday 2-August

Assembled at dawn, already 80 degrees and drizzling. The low overcast would be discouraging anywhere else, but in Uvalde good days often start this way. Preflight, fill with water, park the glider on the grid, and go have breakfast before the sun burns off the haze and it gets hot (today will again be around 100 degrees max). Help some ILEC SN10 customers with software updates, database updates, etc. Did the registration paperwork and procured the mandatory new soaring shirts. The humidity is so high my glasses fog up every time I walk outside from air-conditioned shelter...

Nobody did an organized task for the group, so various buddies flew different tasks. A few of us planned to go up into the hill country north-north-west, then south- south-east down past Cotulla. Launch was rather late, tomorrow I'll stage further forward so I can launch early even if the tugs aren't yet pulling up the un-motorized. Left Uvalde after 2PM, and found lowering cloudbase and less organized thermals over the hill country. We switched and went south first (flying over the hill country low is just too exciting). The good cores, when I could find them, were 7 knots, as usual here better as I got higher. Cloudbase of 5K (4K AGL) moved up steadily. Tried to minimize circling but the streeting was not super-organized and/or I didn't read it well. Drove to the far end of the southern turn area and headed back north over Uvalde. Didn't see another glider after starting - all day !

Bases kept rising, streeting kept improving, and thermals kept getting stronger - would have been better to be heavier though I'm already at something like 10.7 lbs/ft2 with full water. I'm looking forward to flying the Antares 20E with 18-meter tips, which will permit well over 11 lbs (same 660kg max gross at 18-meter span). Late in the day the bases were up around 9k, which makes the hill country a bit less worrying. And less circling required as the streets organized.

Today I was a bit better disciplined about looking down course several thermals ahead, and picking good lines. I circled about 19% of the time which is still too high (though that percentage does include messing about prior starting). Lots of the guys headed home early but I pressed north to within 15 miles of Sonora up in the hill country, and returned to Uvalde after most were already packed up and gone... About 400 miles, 5:45 aloft, not too shabby for such a late start. And tomorrow looks like another super day !
OLC view of 2-August practice flight

Official Practice Day 1 - Sunday 3-August

Heavy dew but no drizzle at daybreak. Rig, preflight, water, stage the glider by the runway, back to the air-conditioned hotel for breakfast at 9AM just as the sun starts to burn through the morning cloud cover. Even had time to re-read the rules at breakfast ;-)

Our task has three turn areas. First west to the Mexican border, then north-east, then south-east down past Cotulla (which should give us streets and a tail-wind on the run home given the prevailing south-east wind). 4 hour minimum time looks to be and undercall to me with a nominal distance of around 230 miles. Driving all the way into each turn area will not take 4 hours with classic Uvalde weather.

I self-launch with full water to the first thermal, then climb out over the airfield watching the tuggies enjoying themselves doing high-speed passes to drop the tow ropes. The day develops really, really late - soft looking clouds with unimpressive lift and no streeting. Uvalde is in a bit of a blue hole with better clouds away from our assigned start cylinder (ain't it always so). I finally start around 2:30PM, and that was too early.

The first leg is soft and not super fast but not taxing. We get a good view of a massive reconnaissance blimp stationed at the Mexican border (and stay out of the restricted area that includes cables reaching up to something like 7,000 feet). I press almost to the edge of the first cylinder, turning where I can line up a good street (finally !) heading into the second turn area. Now its starting to cook. 7 knot thermals, some bump and run without circling, to the back of the second area. On the third leg the averager is briefly at 11 knots and the vario sings ecstatically. Some streeting but while I'm picking lines to follow the clouds, mostly its MacCready run at 110 knots and stop to climb at 5-7 knots.

High bases and not too much streeting have me driving hard and reliably finding solid cores, though I could have perhaps chosen a better line (more clouds) going deep into the third cylinder where it ultimately blues out. As expected, a fast run home from Cotulla with streeting and a 14 knot tailwind. I muff my final glide by hitting more lift than I expected and having trouble understanding what the Antares can do at speed. I end up flying the last bit at 150 knots and still finish too high.

Can't help myself, this weather is too good to be true. I pull up from my finish, climb out (no, didn't use the motor), and head north under a beautiful street into the hill country for another 100 miles XC (though I dumped my water ballast during the finish which slowed me up a bit). Finally back to Uvalde at around 8PM, place is deserted ! OLC says I did 425 miles in 6:16 aloft (of which 40 minutes was hanging around prior the start) - good for 10th place today on worldwide OLC and the first not done in Fuentemilanos Spain. I'm guessing around 75mph and 325 miles for the practice task scoring - gotta go faster ! Tomorrow, last practice day, is forecast to reach a max temperature of 103.
OLC view of 3-August practice flight

Official Practice Day 2 - Monday 4-August

No low cloud cover this morning, and the temperature goes up really fast as the sun comes up. Better to assemble at 6:30AM ! The day developed much earlier, launch at 12:30. Quick 3 hour MAT as we have the mandatory meeting this evening at 6:30PM - so no flying until 8PM today. Classic Uvalde if not strong in the entire task area. Saw over 10 knots for a few turns down by the Mexican border, but the area around Dilley (middle of the southern task area) was largely blue and only 4.5 knots.

The MAT (Modified Assigned Task) starts with some mandatory turnpoints, after which you choose from the list of legal turnpoints. There's a minimum time, go as far and fast as you can for at least that much time. For MAT you need to visualize the weather over a wide area, overlay that on the available TPs, and choose long legs through areas of available TPs. Each turnpoint has a 1-mile radius circle, which ends up wasting time as there's usually not a great thermal street over the turnpoint - so short legs waste a lot of time. Since you can't see 75 miles ahead, you need to choose legs that allow deviation if you find yourself facing declining conditions - as I did at Dilley, so instead of going north I went down to inspect the Rio Grande. Fun day !

Great mandatory briefing and dinner as usual here. Mark Maughmer II just arrived and is working late to get scoring in place. Tropical depression Edouard is now forecast to miss affecting our area. Tomorrow is race day 1 and we're ready. Life is Good !
OLC view of 4-August practice flight

Race Day 1 - Tuesday 5-August

Moisture from tropical depression Edouard is pushing towards us. Tom Kelley volunteered to do the weather (Thanks Tom !), and gave us a good briefing on the changing weather. We are tasked with a 6-turn AAT to keep us in the south-west quadrant away from the storms the additional moisture will bring, 3:30 for Open and 3:00 for 15-meter. Good lift developed early, though very low wind meant no streeting. Initial thoughts of starting around 2PM for this short task were dashed by the wall of high cloud visible out to the East, and most open class started around 1:15. We headed west to Eagle Pass in a huge bomber formation, no circling required even without streets; just find the good energy lines and bump and run. Over 100 mph average to the first turn; I passed many on the way to the first turn.

My plan was to capitalize on my wing-loading and high-speed performance advantage. The Antares 20E is the highest performance glider here except for Dick Butler's highly modified ASW-22. While the open class machines have higher max glide ratios, they use older airfoils not as good at high speed, and fly at lower wing loadings. The Antares climbs as well or a bit better, partly because its very maneuverable (the open gliders are not), and partly better airfoil. I wish I could get it heavier than the 10.7 lbs/ft2 I'm flying ! Anyway, plan was to catch and pass the others, go further into the cylinder and have them again in front of me for markers on the second leg.

Passed most everyone on the first leg and almost caught DB. Went to the far side of the first cylinder - and lost sight of most of them as they took a line I didn't like. Second leg was much weaker and required circling, but still decent to the far corner of the second cylinder. Passed a couple again on the third leg, but mostly I flew by myself. There was a line of good clouds (though not really a street) in the middle of the task area which I was able to follow for portions of legs 3,4, and 5. A bit of extra distance (and possibly reduced speed) in return for reliable lift.

By the 4th leg we had a thunderstorm east of the task area, and things began to look "interesting". North and final turnpoint area is already under a heavy cloud deck and starting to sprinkle. But there's still an open area back to Uvalde, keep going ! Up under the overcast under a line of clouds with DB again, but I'm getting a bit nervous. Can't tell what will happen if I press on - whopping strong lift, or will it rain on me ? Dick keeps going, but I chicken out, take the turn, and head due south back to the sun instead of east direct to Uvalde. Better to go for the sure lift then get caught ! There's also a line of clouds running back east in front of the weather approaching from the north, possibly a convergence of some sort.

Took a five knotter to final glide and followed the cloud line, at 50 miles out I can see its starting to rain at Uvalde. Hit a ten knotter and burned 2 minutes for an extra 2000 feet of insurance in case I hit rain and/or nasty sink. Blew around the last steering turn and in to Uvalde at max warp speed, blasting through light rain approaching the finish gate.

315 miles in 3:41 at 85.37 mph is good for 4th today, in back of DB (surprise) at 88.71 mph, Ron Tabery at 86.92, and Liz (last years winner) at 86.6. At least the only ones that beat me are former or current national champions ! 15-meter went a bit faster with their slightly shorter task, led by Jae "I don't need no stinkin flaps" Walker in a Discus 2A at a screaming 90.69 with Al Tyler right on his heels.

This was an amazing task call. We flew in an area bounded by disaster on all sides, and got home just as the storms were approaching. A few drops of rain as I finished solo de-rigging the Antares, and then lightning to the east of the field as we enjoyed the great evening hangar social. Kudos to David Coggins (Competition Director), Tom Kelley (weather), and the advisors - masterfully done.
OLC view of 5-August Day 1 flight

Wednesday 6-August

Rain day - hopefully it will dry out a bit this afternoon and we'll be back to the Good Stuff tomorrow !

Race Day 2 - Thursday 7-August

Looks like a good day if a bit late starting. Weather forecast is a bit confused as different models are predicting very different things. Tom Kelley judged the best area again primarily southwest, and possible late start gave us a 3:30 three-turn area task (3:00 for 15-meter which launched after open class).

I missed getting up in the wave prior the start which would have helped speed on the first leg. A group started early, but the day was still building and the clouds looked very soft out to the west on the first leg. I waited and started a bit after 2PM, probably still too early, if I'd waited a bit I would have had better lift plus markers from the 15-meter class starters. Surprisingly blue on the first leg, circled in some junk and cruised a bit slowly. Aaarg. Better clouds to the back of the first cylinder and gradually improving on the second leg, reaching 9kt or greater climbs - pressed all the way to the back of the second cylinder in fabulous conditions. Next leg south had spectacular lift, including a 9.5 kt thermal with Steve Leonard in his beautiful vintage Glasflugel 604. Fast bump and run with some circling in better than 7 knot lift, gradually bluing conditions confirmed the decision to go deep into the first two cylinders. Pressed into the blue until I had 3:30 exact forecast for completing the task, then turned and ran downwind towards the finish. Too conservative on final glide cost a couple minutes and I finished 2 minutes over.

Dick Butler wins again though tied for points by Chris Woods. Top three did over 84 mph, then four of us did 79. Time wastage on first leg and some dithering at the beginning of the second leg cost me a lot of speed - I should have beat the early starters as I flew in better lift. Gotta go faster tomorrow !
OLC view of 7-August Day 2 flight

Race Day 3 - Friday 8-August

Morning overcast and heavy dew normally means we'll have good clouds. 4 hour area task today, 30 miles to the south, then 160 miles north up into the hill country, then down south to Crystal City, then home. Nominal distance 336 miles, min 230, and max 443. South wind will enforce streeting unlike some prior days. It's going to be GOOD.

We launch as soon as its soarable, which means a long time milling about but plenty of time to really assess the weather. As usual, it develops slowly and steadily from isolated reasonable climbs with 5k MSL max, to nice-looking cumulus with grey centers. Some of the guys started a bit early, but I wait until a bit after 2PM. Climbed in very weak wave above the cloudbase, and started a couple minutes after Ron Tabery SS, and a minute or so after Chris Woods CW. Glided back down into the convective and tried unsuccessfully to bump the clouds and wisps - kept pressing but ended up dithering about and wasting some time. Caught SS and CW at the turn and pressed off in front of them on the second leg.

Now we're into classic Uvalde weather. Try not to circle at all, and certainly only in 8 knots or better. Look way down the course line and make absolutely sure to choose a line of dark-bottom fat clouds. Cruise at 115-120 knots, then pull up hard, drop flaps, nose at the sky, and climb straight ahead at 7 knots. Take climbs to top out just as you leave each area of cloud, and do not get to near cloudbase because you'll be unable to see the good lines.

I gradually pull away from CW and SS, with the performance advantage of the Antares 20E. No markers at all in front, but the clouds are easy to read. Tactically, I'm pretty sure it will blue out to the south (last turn area) late in the day, as it has on prior days. Thus I drive to the far corner of the first and especially the second cylinder, 20 miles north of Sonora. The north sector was fantastic, with bases up to 10k MSL at the northern edge of the second turn. Its usually good over the hill country (but don't look down).

At the second turn, I'm around 140 miles out of the last turn area. The ILEC SN10 says I can nick the last cylinder and hit 4 hours on the money. Average speed is well over 90 mph aided by the 14 knot tailwind on the second leg. Next 140 miles will be into wind, critical not to circle if possible and keep the speed up. Looks like I can break 90 mph for the task. Except, its starting to blue out ahead !

I dithered and slowed up too much. Almost final glide around the remainder of the course as I leave the clouds (definitely final glide if I dial back the speed). Bumped and circled unnecessarily under the last wisps, then ended up blasting in at warp speed and 7 minutes over the 4 hour target time.

361 miles at 87.6 is good enough to win the day. Coulda broke 90 mph with a bit less dithering and a less conservative final glide. Antares rules ! But, still 80 points in back of Dick Butler. Gotta go faster tomorrow !
OLC view of 8-August Day 3 flight

Race Day 4 - Saturday 9-August

Assigned turnpoints today. Big bowties take us west over the foothills, south to Eagle Pass, way east to Castroville in sight of San Antonio (this leg direct over Uvalde), south to Cotulla, and finally home. At 80 mph, 333 miles would take over 4 hours. And I'm not expecting 80 mph, as I think it will blue out for the latter part of the task. Open class is launching after 15-meter. This will not be a day to start real late...

The day developed really slowly, even a number of relights. My competitors waited to start. At 2:23PM I was high, line of clouds on course, figured I really had to go. Bounced along clouds not working, utterly failed to read the clouds. Had to cross between cloud lines and found silky smooth 3 knot lift in the blue. No idea why, but pulled the nose up and dropped flaps to climb straight ahead. Next clouds had sink underneath ! Followed by more weird lift in blue. No markers, flying by myself. Around 75mph to the first turn, with the tailwind. Can't find a decent thermal and keep pressing. Catch up to an early starter circling in... not much. Keep going.

Mid-air ! The radio calls describe the Genesis II in a flat inverted spin, pilot bail-out, good canopy, and after a time that seems like eternity, "Pilot walking around and gathering his chute". Location is given near Bracketsville - close to my location. I find myself circling looking at the wrecked glider in a field, reflecting how terribly unforgiving of mistakes our sport. The other pilot calls OK, glider controllable, flying (slowly) back to Uvalde.

OK, focus, circling in sink is not the best way here. Gradually gather my composure and press towards the second turn, near which the gaggle that started later passes overhead. Aaarrggggg.... Climb in 5 knots, knowing that there is 8 knots somewhere, and press under the good looking clouds back to Uvalde. Under which I find - sink ! Again ! These clouds are miserable evil liars. Ignore the clouds, press on low, start looking for alternates in case I need to land.

Repeated this cycle several times. Best lift was actually downwind of the clouds, despite their appearance and tempting gorgeous black bottoms. I'm by myself on a day where the lift is hard to find and the cores small - really slow.

4 miles prior the Castroville turn I meet the open class gaggle circling, but they're coming out of the turn and I'm going in. So they are 8 miles ahead of me. And its now blue. Aaarggg... Struggle, keep pressing but not too fast, keep trying to find a decent thermal. At 5PM I have 115 miles to go ! It was a very long day for me, and the gaggle beat me back handily.

Ron Tabery in SS wins at 76 mph, I did a miserable 66. Hero to Zero, in serious contention for slowest finisher today. Still in 5th overall, but 200 points back now.
OLC view of 9-August Day 4 flight

Race Day 5 - Sunday 10-August

Briefing today focused on yesterday's mid-air collision. How not to have this happen, and what to do if it does. We're going west to Eagle Pass, north up into the hill country, then south (arrggg, into the blue again), for a downwind run home. Nominal distance 306 miles (minimum 206, max 406).

Unfortunately there are no cumulus clouds at noon as we grid. The sniffer, a Libelle H201 that can stay up in anything, can't stay up. Launch is delayed, then delayed again, then we get a shortened 3 hour area task: west, north, south, and home. Today I am first to launch and when we finally do launch I sit in a 1.5 knot thermal grinding up in the blue. Eventually get high enough to head out and find something more respectable under a wisp, but it is really late for this. There are even a few relights as a few folks are unable to climb away.

Even though its only a 3 hour task, I'm really worried about the day ending early. Some guys got up in wave prior the start but not me. I decided to leave by myself about 2:30, followed a line of wisps, cruised slowly on the first leg following blue streets, bumped and only circled in decent lift, OK but not great speed upwind to the back of the first turn area, stayed high.

Conditions continued to improve as I drive into the hill country, with a 9 knot climb from 2K AGL to cloudbase at 8.5K MSL. With strong lift I drive to the back of the second turn area, then top up and follow a street all the way into the last turn area. Last 90 miles with no circles, just pull up in lift, follow the clouds, and turn at the end of the street and final glide is about right. About 20 minutes over as I was picking up speed at the end following the street. Late starters did much better, as conditions improved on the first leg plus markers, and the magic street was still working when they got there later. Another slow showing, about 75 mph.

Ron Tabery SS won with 81 mph, while in 15-meter Roy Cundif did 88. 15-meter launched second and was forced to start really late, with open markers in front, hence the faster speed. We had a nice dinner in the hangar this evening. At 9:30PM the temperature is down to 97 degrees. I guess that's why the days work late...
OLC view of 10-August Day 5 flight

No Race Day today - Monday 11-August

Kerry mentioned at briefing that scoring would go faster if she and Noreen had a bit more cold beer and red wine and perhaps Margaritas. John Cochrane gave an outstanding safety briefing which he's promised to make available (it was videotaped). Today its still overcast at the pilots meeting, David Coggins tells us this is influence from the approaching front and not the usual moisture brought in by late night sea breeze. It was still overcast at scheduled launch time, and only gradually clearing by the last possible launch time for the fleet. Day called off. I couldn't help myself as the Antares was already ready to go on the grid, self-launched, and flew 30 miles out to Hondo. Max altitude was only 6k, lift wasn't great, visibility was horrid, definitely not a taskable day. Flew home, put the bird away, and did my laundry...

No Race Day today - Tuesday 12-August

The morning weather radar looks bad, but I rig, water, and stage by the runway. Back at the hotel for breakfast at 8:30, the edge of cloud that was well north at daybreak is almost over us. We had a brief pilot's meeting (day cancelled). Ken Sorenson and John Cochrane ran a masterful rules committee meeting, minimizing the length of discussion about our various hair-brained schemes for improving the rules. It poured, at least the dust got washed off the Antares. Thanks to Bill Elliot for helping me dry it off and get it stowed between downbursts. Weather looks better for Wednesday and Thursday, last two possible race days. Back to the laundromat to dry the canopy cover...

Race Day 6 - Wednesday 13-August

Kerry tells us that she saw her first ever rattlesnake on the airfield a few days ago, and subsequently a second. John Murray was very impressed. Mark Huffstutler hosted a great social in his warbird hangar last night. Chris Woods showed us a fabulous preview of his Gray Eagles documentary on the remaining pilots who flew P-51 Mustangs in World War II. Chris and Mark auctioned off two rides in Mark's P-51 to benefit the Gray Eagles Foundation, won by Dennis Linnekin DL and - Dave Nadler ! Dennis briefed on his ride at pilot's meeting this morning, and I'm looking forward to my ride ;-) Have a look at GrayEagles.org and make a contribution - its a good cause !

Weather looks better today: David Coggins expects 6k to 7k MSL with 6kt lift. We're going on a 4 hour modified-assigned-task (MAT) with mandatory first 3 turnpoints west to Pinto Creek, south to Eagle Pass, back to Uvalde - then we choose our own turnpoints.

Dick Butler

Dick Butler is an amazing pilot and also brings his own version of the world's best sailplane. Dick modestly calls his glider an ASW-22, and while it did in fact start life as an ASW-22, it is a bit different now. In collaboration with Loek Boermans (Delft University, aerodynamic designer of Antares and major contributor on many other gliders), Gerhard Waibel (the W in ASW gliders), and others, Dick has made a few minor changes. The wing was disassembled, beefed up structurally, extended to 28 meters span, and fitted with an airfoil from Loek's team with blowing to turbulate the undersurface at high speed. The tail was cut off, tailboom lengthened, a new larger tail with modern airfoils constructed and fitted. The cockpit also features ventilation improvements including a proper exit duct in the turtledeck area.

Dick completed this glider a number of years ago, and won the open class at Uvalde with it in 2006. While it may already be the world's highest performance glider (a contender to the Eta), Dick is not content ! Dick is now well into a new from-scratch open class glider called Concordia, featuring super-high aspect ratio tiny chord wings and a wide range of wing-loading. Concordia should fly next year, and Dick plans to use it to win the world championship in 2010.
Dick Butler Dick Butler's air exit, cockpit view Dick Butler's air exit, exterior view Mustang takeoff over Butler ASW-22
Dick, his modified ASW-22, two close-ups of the exit air duct (not invented by DG), and Mark's Mustang taking off in back of Dick's glider.
Click on image for a bigger picture...

We launched on time at 12:30, of course followed by lots of milling about until it was really time to go. I was disciplined and started late with a bunch of markers in front, 2:20 PM for 4 hours on task (expecting the last 20-30 minutes are final glide). Flew well around the first (non-optional) part of the task, arriving back at Uvalde with almost no circling and just under 90 mph average speed. North into the hill country looked soft, but south looked excellent. Headed down to Chupadera near the Mexican border, then turned and headed east to Uno Mass. Clouds looked better in this direction, and they were pretty good, but I was unable to string them together and ended up circling a bit and dropping my speed into the mid 80's. Turning east to Uno Mass was a tactical blunder, as while the run to Uno Mass was OK (though not stellar), a huge blue hole lay between Uno Mass and Uvalde. Headed back west to Big Wells to stay with the clouds, figuring I'd still be fast and tack on a bit more distance. Turned into a bit of a struggle, on 3 knot final glide until I finally found a 7kt thermal in the blue. Aaaargggg... Speed dropped to 78.8 mph, on a day easily good for 90 mph.

In open Tim Welles W3 won at 86, with Dick Butler only 1 point back solidifying his lead. 15-meter guys did a bit better, Rick Indrebo winning at 88. Tomorrow I go for a ride in the P-51 Mustang and then go race the Antares ! Life is good !
OLC view of 13-August Day 6 flight

Race Day 7 - Thursday 14-August

This morning I flew in Mark's P-51 Mustang with Chris Woods CW. Awesome ! Pictures later. Chris and I readied our gliders in the dark to fit this in before the pilot's meeting. 4 hour area task without too much room for variation today (small turn areas limit choices): west, north, than back down south-east so we can have a bit more fun in the blue on the last day.

Flying the P-51 Mustang

The Mustang was incredible. Mark's P-51, as with many examples, was originally a single-seater, and converted to include a second seat with stick and rudder in the back (originally this area housed radio and extra fuel). No instruments in back (nor flaps, gear, etc). I'd been warned about the noise, but with the Bose noise-cancelling headsets it was more a deep sensation than painful. Chris Woods is an experienced warbird pilot, started in his dad's Spitfire, then flying for museums, then his own P-51 - well qualified to take me for a ride ! We headed out through the morning haze up into the hill country near Concan. Chris demonstrated an aileron roll then let me do one - its too easy. Amazing feel to the controls, really responsive, just pull the nose up 45 degrees and apply ailerons, minimal rudder input needed - round goes the world. I asked if I could loop it, which Chris let me after a demonstration. 300 mph entry makes a BIG loop (Chris reminded me to grunt if I started graying out). As I came down the backside pulling maybe 2.5 or 3 G, the noise-cancelling headsets fell off my head - the noise was shocking. I finished the loop prior putting the headsets back on... Chris demonstrated a 4-point hesitation roll, then we flew down the river back to Uvalde (slowly, peacefully, and at very high altitude of course). We did the mandatory pass down the runway into a half-cuban-eight reverse to pass in the other direction, pull-up into an overhead break and pattern to land. Chris makes the take-off and landing look easy ! What a privilege and treat to get to fly in this rare and historic bird, Thanks again Chris and Mark.
Mustang Grin Mustang Taxiing
Dave and Chris, Grinning in the Mustang back seat, Taxiing out.
Click on image for a bigger picture...


The fastest possible speed race would end with a glide a landing direct on the finish line. However, that would leave no safety margin, as with the tiniest bit of sinking air we wouldn't make the field. So, we carry some reserve altitude, then push over and burn it off as speed crossing the finish line. As long as you have around 120 knots speed, you have enough energy to pull up and comfortably fly a landing pattern. Each day we blast over the finish line and pull up, still dropping the last of our water ballast.

Photographer Bob Rasa took a sequence of nice photos during one of my finishes:
Photographer Bob Rasa's site

Dave flying across the line, pulling up, and landing.
Click on image for a bigger picture...

Last day brings an excess of start-gaggle madness. The cylinder start may avoid the start-line dive excitement of old, but everyone crowds together trying to start as high as possible from the optimum point, where we have a traffic jam at the top of the nearest thermal. The traffic makes it hard to plan the first leg - too busy playing dodge-em. The group finally starts, and the first gaggle on course is a bit rowdy. The third time a certain Nimbus showed me his belly trying to outclimb I decided to go fly by myself... Flew outside the course line under a good street, caught the gaggle again at the second turn. Went to the far side of the second turn to top off in a strong thermal marked by a building wisp, then took a line north which didn't work. Ended up scoring a 7 knotter 3000 feet off the deck near Spoffard. Got my act together after that excitement and cruised north under the streets, with minimal circling. Pushed to the back of the northern cylinder to minimize time in the blue down south, and followed the streets south back towards the blue. As I got into the blue there were markers, including John Seaborn A8. Topped off, and pressed into the second cylinder just far enough to ensure I wouldn't be undertime. Watched the markers on final glide not hitting lift, so picked a different line and was rewarded with 7 knots to top off. Finish at warp (too conservative again) for a 7th place daily finish. Ron Tabery SS wins the day, but only .8 mph and 9 points in front of Dick Butler. Dick clinches another championship !
OLC view of 14-August Day 7 flight

Uvalde 2008 Wrap-Up

Another classic race. For me, some big milestones:

The Antares 20E is awesome, and gives up nothing to the older open class ships. The aerodynamics are two generations newer, so even at higher wing-loadings the Antares gives up nothing in climb, and at high speed its better than the open class (especially as they are limited to 750kg). The V2 and 27/29 don't go as well at high speed; their aerodynamics are a generation back. In the hands of a better pilot Antares could certainly win open class at Uvalde.

Uvalde weather was a bit different from normal this year. David Coggins remarked to me that we didn't have the classic streets, but rather short segments. Only in a few instances did a single street go for a great distance, and consequently we spent more time circling than years past. It was also unusual to lose 3 days out of 10 scheduled to non-flyable weather (we missed our usual rest-day trip tubing on the Rio Frio).

Statistics: I drove 4,500 miles (in 72 hours), to fly about 3,700 miles cross-country including the practice period, about 57 hours aloft. Average XC speed for the trip was a bit over 80 mph (that's in the plane, the driving was slightly less ;-) It was a bit tiring, assembling and watering and staging at dawn, then flying 4-6 hours, then cleaning and stowing the glider - plus fitting in shopping, laundry, chores, oil-change, etc. I'm told it might be a bit easier with a crew.

Thanks again to Kerry and Noreen and crew for a fabulous organization, David Coggins for a super job as Competition Director, and to Mark and Chris for the Mustang ride. It's a privilege to fly this site and to race against the competitors here. I'm already looking forward to the next race at Uvalde, and I will fly faster next time !

Hope you enjoy this and please email with questions or comments,
Best Regards, Dave "YO"

Links for more information...

Antares 20E Electric Motorglider Information
Google Maps satellite image of Uvalde airport
Contest Results at SSA Site
Tom Kelly's blog
Dave's 2008 Blog from Mifflin USA 18-meter Nationals
Dave's 2006 Blog from Hobbs USA 18-meter Nationals
Dave's 2005 Blog from Uvalde USA 15-meter Nationals
Dave's 2004 Blog from Uvalde USA 18-meter Nationals

Copyright © 2008 - Dave Nadler - All Rights Reserved

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional