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Wills Wing Sport 2 in the Owens

George Stebbins <<george>>

I flew my Sport 2 in the Owens Valley last Friday (July 5th) and
had a blast. What a fun glider to fly. Not the glide of a topless, of course,
but so easy and fun to fly. Thanks Wills Wing!

At the last minute, I had sweet-talked my way onto a vehicle, and gone up just
for one day. The plan was that my flying partner and his driver would do their
thing, and I’d work around it. After hearing their plan, I told them that my
plan was:

Walts->Tinemaha->Black->Inyo Mt->Lone Pine Airport (Maybe, if it was
particularly good, I’d throw in Gunter.)

My fallback plan, if the wind was too strong to come back against the predicted
Southerly winds, was:


Both of these plans were ambitious for a pilot flying a Sport 2 and who has been
flying less than regularly recently, but the day did look good, despite the
chance of stronger-than-desired Southerly winds.

I launched at 10:45, and a bit later, I heard on the radio that the driver had a
flat only a short way down the mountain. She asked to use my car, which was at
the airport and I agreed readily. I had shown her where the keys were hidden. I
got a confirmation that she planned to chase using my car, but I heard nothing
on the radio after that. I made the assumption that we were still going to plan,
just with a different car.

At Tinemaha, I crossed the Valley, and got extremely low – lower than I’ve ever
been in that area. I finally managed to scratch my way back up. Still no word
from anyone. And the wind had picked up. Too windy to make it back to Lone Pine
in a Sport 2. So, I flew to Gunter – alternate plan, right? On the way, I got so
high, I thought maybe I could fly back at least to Big Pine. Therefore, after
the turnpoint at Gunter, I headed back south. (Going North made more sense, but
I had promised not to go farther that way.)

Much headwind. I got almost to 17k, but I had Oxygen, so it’s ok, right? As I
approached Black Mountain, I kept thinking I was still at 16k, (I wasn’t, I had
stopped checking my altitude, and was going by guess.) And the thermals just
seemed to be too much trouble. So I kept flying straight, just slowing down a
bit in lift.

I passed Black high, but lower than I would normally want to cross the pass and
continued flying straight. I kept skipping the lift. Shortly, I was down to 12K.
I started looking for lift and thinking maybe I could actually get across
Westguard Pass and get back up. But I’d need luck. I started to wonder about why
I passed all that lift a few miles back, and why I didn’t top out at Black.
That’s not like me. If anything, I tend to stop for lift too often, and take it
higher than needed. I pressed on. Well, I did make it across, but so low that I
couldn’t get up, and I bailed off to the side so I wouldn’t slow down my friends
with a long retrieve.

After I landed, I realized that while I had turned on the electronic delivery
system, I had not opened the O2 valve. Sheesh. No wonder I was flying like an
idiot above 14.5k (My personal limit without O2.) From personal testing, I know
that one of my first symptoms of hypoxia is starting to think nothing is worth
it, that everything is just too much trouble. Just like I did with those
thermals. Sigh. In retrospect, I might have had a chance at getting back to Lone
Pine, even with the wind. Not a big one, but a chance. Lesson learned: When I’m
doing something I don’t normally do (like O2), I need a checklist. Also, pay
more attention to the “It’s not worth it” signals. Sigh.

In any case, I got a great flight. 90+ miles on a Sport 2:
Walt’s->Gunter->Landing, and about 100 miles if you count the turnpoints that I
set up to use.

Thanks again, Wills Wing for such a fun glider! Fun even on such a bumpy day.
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