by Greene, Johnson, Moffat and Smith
Would each of you comment on the designated start; pros and cons. I understand that it will be utilized in the 1972 Internationals. Tell what it is first, exactly.
DICK JOHNSON: Well, the designated start is a European innovation. It makes it easier on the organizers. Some people feel that it's fair competition and others feel that it's much more frustrating. This is where the organizers tell you when you are going to take off and you have no choice about it. In England we usually go out onto the grid at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. and are arranged in an order. The tow planes stand by on the side.
Question: How is that order determined?
A: The order is determined by drawing very much like we do and they change the order about one- fifth or two- sevenths every contest day so the order is fair. It's just that you sit there until the contest director says there is a thermal sufficient strength or it is good enough to start the task. Then everybody is launched in about a 20- 30 minute period. It has its good and bad points. I don't like, it because of the complication of not being able to fly when you want to. Generally, as it was in England, they tend to wait until the heaviest, fastest ships can stay up, instead of when the lightest ships can stay up. This takes away a lot of the small advantage that a light ship might have in the early part of the day. But if everybody is going to have a racing ship you have less confusion at the start line and take- off line because everybody has to sit there until they say go.
BEN GREENE: Well, I have had a little experience with it. I was crewing in England where they used it. The points Dick made were very valid there where the weather was weak and there were a number of distance tasks. I am opposed to it primarily because it is another loss of the freedom of choice that we had. But conversely, I think it has less importance with emphasis towards speed because you still go through the starting gate at your own discretion, so it really doesn't affect that part of the flight. With the emphasis toward speed tasks more and more, it seems to have less of an over- all effect.
GEORGE MOFFAT: I agree with Ben that as long as you have practically entire speed flights; it's just annoying. It makes very little difference in contest standing. The annoying part is that you may get launched at 12:00 o'clock for a 100 mile task when you don't really want to get going until 3:00, so you go round and round and round. I noticed in the contest in Poland particularly there was a very strong tendency to start way ahead of your planned time just because everybody else does. There you are circling all by yourself thinking, "My Lord, I must be doing something terribly wrong."
I have noticed in Germany a very strong tendency to start too early. That's something you have to discipline yourself on quite a lot. The other problem is when we use designated start for championships on distance tasks - it's totally unfair. In Texas, in 1970, on the second distance day just by luck of the draw I happened to be last on take- off list and Wally Scott was about 30 ships earlier. He was already 15 or 20 miles out by the time I got in the air. I felt that if this had been a pilot's choice, I would have been able to do as Dick recommends, select a take- off time a little bit early and just struggle along and stay in the air somehow or other until it got good enough to leave the field.
I kind of like the idea in theory and I think we are going to come to it willy or nilly, but in practice it has a lot of difficulties that only show up when you are actually flying.
A.J. SMITH: Well, I really don't have any strong feelings in one direction or another and this is primarily why I encouraged Dick to speak first. I don't much worry about things like that or what the rules are. I'm much more concerned that everybody is put into the same air mass and in the same conditions and all this sort of thing. I think it is much more important, for example, that the organizers get everybody towed off on time. If you have a selected start time system and you are down the list in selection and get on the tail end of what you think is a good take off time and then find that the organizers are 20 minutes, a half- hour or even 40 minutes behind in launch times, then you are really in bad shape. Under those conditions, I would much rather have a designated start system with better controls. I think that these may be some of the detail problems that George alludes to and I suppose that if they solve some of these problems the designated start will be pretty good. I'm not worried too much about it.
About Dick's comment. He implies that the light ships will be discouraged in development because of this qualification. I tend to dispute that because I think that there are a lot of other conditions that occur out on course, constantly, even during speed tasks that have tended to hold down the development of what he likes to refer to as the "lead sleds", and I refer to as heavier and faster machines.
ED BYARS: From a safety standpoint, actually it is not any safer - and may be less safe. Would you agree with that?
GEORGE MOFFAT: I remember very clearly in Poland in 1968 when we got towed off on what was obviously a pretty sick day. They launched about 67 ships in pretty good order. There was one thermal over a little town about two miles from the airport and it started about 900 feet. You have to leave it by 300 feet to get back to the field. I tell you that was a pretty well populated thermal. And when it gave up, well, you just haven't lived till you try to line up with 67 ships on a single runway!
ED BYARS: Discuss street flying techniques both on cloudy days and blue days, and what tactics do you use when streeting occurs across the course. Discuss lift streets, in general, in other words.
A.J. SMITH: A lot of us have been saying for a number of years and the meteorologists are beginning to say maybe there are conditions more often than you'd think that tend to organize areas of rising air in some kind of pattern. Whether they are streets or not is open to debate. There seems to be more opportunities than we realize to put together a flight path that takes advantage of rising air masses. The simplest thing to look for would be fairly constant wind direction at altitude. Beyond that, there may be other things to look for such as a very positive kind of shear condition when you may have low velocities at low altitudes, higher velocity at your operating range and low velocities again or the other way around - high velocities, low velocities and high velocities again. You get a shearing action. I think you should have a wind direction essentially the same with altitude but this shearing action tends to impart rolling motion to the air mass. This, depending on other factors, can get to be a highly organized, even a fantastically organized situation. If you can sort that one out you can certainly take advantage of it. In my opinion it's just as likely to occur on blue days as it is to occur on days when you have good soaring type clouds. So you go back to the business of trying to determine whether there is this kind of activity in the air mass before you make your start, or even before you get launched.
Try to realize what the direction of this activity might be in relation to your course and begin to anticipate what the patterns might be like. Try them out before the start and if you find they are not working, continue to try out your concept of these patterns as you go along your course. I think you will be mightily surprised to find that you can put together some really good glides in this fashion. Particularly if you use a philosophy similar to the one that Wil is talking about where you spend a little bit more time thinking about this sort of thing and looking for it and putting together these glides with relatively lower cruise speeds than the optimum might indicate. You get to a point, of course, where using this pattern at right angles to the course line is disadvantageous, but on the other hand I have found it pretty good business, if you recognize a pattern to exist, to figure out what the spacing of these patterns might be, if they are repeated, and use your knowledge of the pattern to pick up a better area of lift.
If you feel you are crossing a series of lift streets and you get to the next to the last one before you hit the ground, or the second to the last one before you hit the ground, then you had better seriously consider running up or down the thing to see if you can't pick up a concentrated area of lift in that general pattern. It's hard for me to visualize a flight in which you could ignore the pattern because it is oriented wrong to the course. It just can't happen really; there's always a way to use it. I think you should try.
GEORGE MOFFAT: A couple of other points, however. A.J. mentioned that you are just as likely to get streets on dry days as on a wet one and the spacing is likely to be about the same. You should be able to predict spacing of streets within a fair degree of accuracy, especially after you have encountered the third or fourth one.
I think it is terribly important in contest flying, or in any kind of flying to always be aware of this possibility. Try to visualize in your mind, particularly on dry days, what the mass of thermals really looks like so as to make the best possible use of them.
When actually flying a street it is frequently advantageous not to circle and climb if the street is more or less lined on course. I remember in Reno on the first day, a particularly good example, there was a street of about 20 miles. I made a long glide from the start with only one thermal and got to it with about 2,000 feet; then I just flew all the way along this street, climbing at about 60 miles an hour right on Wil's figure. I didn't know Wil in those days, but the figure still worked. I went all the way to the end of the street. There was a real nice looking cloud just before the end and I used that to circle up to cloud base and went on, having gained say about 6 to 7,000 feet in straight flight. That contributed very strongly to winning the day.
It's a great mistake to circle immediately if you are coming into a street of any length at all. Because when you get right up to cloud base, you are going to be parading along in the murk and can't really see what is going on. You can't tell where you are in relation to the street. It is surprising to find yourself more in sink than not. Or conversely, and this is especially true in Texas or Reno, you may find yourself so high in the murk that you are steaming along in about a 40deg.dive with full dive brakes trying to stay out of the clouds, which isn't terribly efficient. I have often stopped circling at 1,000 feet below cloud base in a street, just so that I could stay better oriented as I went along. Then when you get to the end of it, use the last good thermal to go all the way up. Using your head about cloud street flying is particularly important.
One other thing that I don't think A.J. mentioned. Don't be too surprised where you find streets, just to give an example. On the first day at Bryan, the wind was oriented along the second leg of about a 130- 140 mile triangle. There were streets which could not be used effectively on the first leg, unfortunately. I got to the first turn just about 15 minutes out of phase. I found no streeting on the second leg. I had a very slow flight there, however, on the third leg, dead across the wind, there were a series of little clouds about five miles apart, just wispy things. I circled once at the turn and I don't think I circled again all the way in, about 60 miles. Many other people reported just about the same conditions, just bumping along from cloud to cloud. It's not common, but it's not that uncommon either.
A.J. SMITH: When we start to talk about streets and whatever, I think most of us tend to have too idealized a picture of what they are. This is why I started years and years ago to correct my own verbiage and call these things patterns of lift. George pinpoints it exactly. This summer, for example, I got a great deal of credit for climbing straight ahead in sink and all that sort of stuff, on a couple of those occasions they were fairly well- organized street situations. There was really no good lift in any part of them. They were sort of classical street organizations, not parallel to wind or whatever. One of the more effective ones in the competition was similar to the one that George talked about.
There was just one area and it happened to be perpendicular to the wind and almost perpendicular to the course. Until I got to that point I had been unable to climb effectively in thermals at all. I was sort of bumbling along with everyone else. When I began to recognize this condition, indicated very faintly by a lot of wisps, I turned right angles to course and flew probably 15 miles or 20 miles at relatively low airspeed just bobbing up in this very turbulent thing using the little lift that was in it and maybe using a little gust condition or a Little increasing wind shear, and I was able to gain probably on the order of 3,000 feet or so. It turned out to be very, very effective, because as I made my glide from this position way off course line to the first turnpoint, I caught everybody in the crowd. I must have passed about 30 or 40 ships in that one segment. This was a condition that wasn't the classical kind of cloud street but a pattern of lift that for some reason or other developed. I was fortunate enough to recognize it. It turned out to be a lot better way to go than to struggle along in very weak and turbulent thermals. The point is - don't go out next spring and start looking for big, long streets because a lot of them are little, short streets and are oriented in different directions as George suggests.
BEN GREENE: Wally Wallington has an interesting article in, I believe, November '71 Australian Gliding He makes a distinction of thermal streams and thermal streets. The thermal stream is created by a point source, some object or a series of object on the ground. I was reminded of it when I saw Karl Striedieck's film of a smokestack pouring out smoke. This is a similar thing, the source just keeps spinning off thermals that are literally joined. So you get in one of these things and you think, "uh, huh, streeting." Well, it is one kind of street, but it is a peculiar one. This is a distinction that might explain some of the vagaries that you run into in these things.
Secondly, it seems that the conditions that are conducive to streeting are the same that are conducive to wave, although, of course, they are oriented normally in a different direction. Fairly steady wind velocities of the same general direction with a very firm inversion up on top for the streeting to occur under.
DICK JOHNSON: I think the panel has covered this subject very well and I won't try to add much to it. Except that when you are able to find and use these streets or streams, advantageously on the course, you shoot my classical calculated cruise speed to pieces because you don't spend as much time climbing. This is a real way to get a lot of point to up your average speed.
Question: How about calculations on speed to fly along a street? I noticed in an article by the Poles a few months ago they said that the most advantageous way was not to climb at either end of the thing but to climb the length of it which seems to be in direct argument with what George says?
A.J. SMITH: I would do exactly what George says. What I try to do is fly the speed that keeps you in the clear below the cloud. Incidentally, I usually find that when there is a visible cloud street, the good part of the street is about where you might visualize the good part of a thermal would be going into a single cloud, that is shifted slightly to the upwind side. The speed to fly is the speed that will keep you in the position vertically that you want to be. If I was climbing from there, I would just go faster.
GEORGE MOFFAT: One thing about streets I feel strongly about is that you just can't visualize them as being nice, steady, 400 or 600 or 800 foot a minute lift. They are a series of individual thermal cells, sometimes sink, sometimes reduced lift in between. Consequently, I don't believe it is a good idea to be flying along at 40 or 50 mph or minimum sink speed because you just lose your shirt when you hit one of the down segments. I prefer to cruise along at 65 or so, and realize that the penalty you pay between cruising speed and minimum sink speed at say 65 knots is very, very slight. It is very flat through that range.
One of the things I am always looking for in a street is a real super- thermal--50% or even 100% better than average. In Poland one time, I went down a street about 30deg. off course for 10 miles looking for the big thermal because there were a lot of cumulus along it. I finally found a beauty, climbed on up to about 12,000 feet, just a lovely cloud, and then, went all the way to the next turnpoint. No problem. I flew along at maybe 60- 65 knots below the street until I got to the big thermal.
You could make the mistake in trying to sort out fast and hard rules here. If there is anything about soaring, it is that there are no hard and fast rules. It depends upon your altitude and what you anticipate as you come to the end of the street and what the weather on the rest of the course is going to be like.
Question: What can one do about the tendency to play follow the leader?
GEORGE MOFFAT: Well, a cloak of invisibility would be very handy if you have a prominent contest number on your tail. Frankly, it is not as much of a problem as you would think. People very much exaggerate the ease with which you can follow another ship. Believe me it takes a slight superiority of performance, very, very good eyes and a great deal of attention to follow another ship for any length of time. I, for one, very rarely go to any great trouble to lose people, simply because they seem to get lost in the natural course of things. Surprisingly, enough, this seems to be just as true in clear weather as it does in very hazy weather. In Bryan and in Elmira the year before it happened to be particularly difficult to lose people because we were operating in a very, very narrow operating band of altitude. One of the crosses that I felt I had to bear flying a standard class ship in Bryan was that the operating band of altitude was seldom much over 1,500 feet thick and often not that. With that depth of altitude to play with, it was really hard to lose people. On the second and the second to the last day we had thicker operating bands so losing people wasn't so much trouble. The standard class ships showed up in speed more nearly to the open class ships.
DICK JOHNSON: That prescribed area task was a real tough day because of weak conditions and low cloud base. This gentleman flew exactly like I would if I were he, that is, he stayed above the other guys and let them go out and find that next thermal because we were only getting up to 1,100 or 1,200 feet above the ground Contrary to what it says in Soaring magazine I wasn't really mad at that guy. I just respected his judgment for letting me go out and find that next thermal. One of us had to do it or Jim would have gotten all of the points that day.
I think this is interesting and I have done it a number of times before when conditions were weak. In this case there were six or eight of us and gradually in every thermal we came to somebody got scraped off. We ended up with only two of us getting out.
I have to admit that I did it in Texas on a weak day. (I don't like to admit to a weak day in Texas but we did have some in 1950. ) We only had a dozen ships leave the airport. It was one of those backside of the high situations. I frankly just held back and let Coverdale and those other people go out and look for that next thermal. I circled a few more turns and then went out. It pays, but finally you run out of gliders. I was still in the air and I didn't get too much further but it did help a lot to fly that technique. If you see it is to your advantage you certainly should do it.
To get back to that day at Bryan in 1971. I think we started out with about four ships. We really didn't start out together but seemed to congregate about five or six miles west of Bryan. There was a thermal coming off the next town and we picked it up about 5 to 6,000 feet above the ground, got up to 1,000 feet and I ended up with what I thought was a pretty delightful three or four guys to fly with. Nobody hung around in the top of the thermal waiting for the other guy to start. The guy who obviously knew he was first took the responsibility of going out. It was a nice crowd of people - each guy took his turn at the responsibility to out and find the next thermal and I thought that was delightful.
However, one character, and everybody told me later that he was a very fine and experienced pilot, came in last every time because he would stick around and gain a few more feet and cruise slower. He came into the thermal after we had located it and had centered it. The thermals were hard to center so it took a couple of turns or even more. They were shifting so rapidly it was hard to climb. He always came directly through the middle of the thermal in an head- on condition. He was skillful in that he could repeat that path through the thermals about four or five times. The only reason he didn't hit anybody was that the people were better at evasion that he was at shooting, you know that sort of thing. I thought it was quite annoying and I frankly breathed a sigh of relief about twenty miles out when he didn't appear in any more of the thermals.
What is interesting is that the other three passed the responsibility around in finding the first thermal and that's sort of the way it works in the competition, I think. Pretty nice.
WIL SCHUEMANN: Jim Smiley and I flew together for about a year and a half every other week or so. By nature Jim is very aggressive and I'm kind of passive so when we first flew together we tended to get into a pattern where he would go out and I would leave after him and come to the thermal. If we were flying side by side and he found a thermal I would go into his thermal. That just didn't work. It was absolutely impossible even though we were comparable pilots. The guy who is following after somebody would slow up and every thermal he'd lose a hundred or two hundred feet and soon just fall way behind. I really think this is just a myth. I don't think people can follow each other.
The only way we were able to make it work when we flew cross country was for him to do his thing and I'd do mine and we kind of keep track of each other in the sky. Then if one of us would get into trouble, we would get together and then it really pays off. But the rest of the time you've just got to do your thing if you are going to make any performance at all.
Question: Water ballast is quite new to me and I'd like to hear any generalization on the rules of when you carry it: how long do you keep it and how much do you carry?
A.J. SMITH: How, and when, and how much water ballast should you carry? I think you should start every flight with a full load. You have a good dump system, of course, and one that you've time and can control. It might be well if you are able to get up and make a sort of textbook start at maximum altitude and maximum speed. Then you might immediately consider if things are going to be sticky out on course to dump an intelligent portion of it. You just have to gain some experience in this area. I'd say that if you got low on that first run and were having a hard time getting into a thermal and back up then don't hesitate to dump the whole mess right there because it is just not worth the risk of going down, that is the kind of philosophy I follow. Out 15 or 20 miles I'm even more inclined to dump the ballast if I am getting into trouble. As a matter of fact, the incident that Dick Johnson referred to the other day was exactly that condition. We were in a pretty weak and low thermal with a lot of other sailplanes and it looked like a good possibility that we were not going to get up very high and beyond that it looked like there might not be any more thermals. That is when I called Dick on the radio and asked him if he wanted to look out for my water because I was going to dump it. I suppose I could have been a little more gracious and waited until I had left the thermal but the point was that maybe I wouldn't be getting up in the thermal and I had to do something so I gave Dick a choice.
GEORGE MOFFAT: I agree with A.J. that you want to take off with all the ship can hold with an exception or two. In the standard class ships there seems to be little point in carrying over 110- 120 lbs. under anything but unusually strong conditions. I have tried everything up to 160 lbs. in my ship and it is quite clear to me that if you are not getting 500 feet per minute, I mean really 600 feet per minute on the barograph not that occasional bump you see in the variometer, then it is not a good idea to carry over 115- 120 lbs. All the standard class ships are quite similar in wing loading. What goes for one quite likely goes for the others.
On the next to the last day at Bryan when we had a rather long stretch into the wind and particularly strong thermals, I carried 160 lbs. I was flying even with the Kestrel I was not able to climb quite as well, but there was a lot of street work so I wasn't having to thermal all that much. There is no question in my mind that the weight was a great help on that leg. It gave you a good deal more punch into the wind. But, I'd be pretty quick to dump it if I'd get in trouble or if the average lift dropped below 250 feet a minute.
I have done some calculations and on most ships somewhere between 250- 300 feet per minute seems to be the right time to dump. Figuring again, average thermals. Another factor certainly in open class ships. The big Cirrus and the Nimbus, are very moderate performance ships without ballast. The Nimbus is really nothing special at all until you have 240 lbs. of water in it. So it is extremely important to carry water in those. I tried not carrying it one day and, oh boy, did I regret it. Even though it was supposed to be and was quite a weak day. The big Cirrus never went particularly well at all until you got it loaded up with 180 lbs. or so.
BEN GREENE: Well, it has been my experience that this is one case where Murphy's law really applies. If your name is Murphy, you can call this Greene's law. That is immediately upon dumping your ballast, the weather skips from terrible to boom.
A.J. SMITH: If you are going to fly with water ballast, you have to have the courage of your convictions, something Karl was mentioning when he was talking about record flights. It's all very easy to talk about getting up at six o'clock in the morning afterwards, but believe me, getting ready for a record leaving at six o'clock in the morning takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude. So does carrying water on the first part of the day when it is kind of stuffy, but if you have reason to believe that it is going to pay over the course, you had better hang on to it.
WIL SCHUEMANN: I believe I had water earlier than anybody on the East Coast. It was at a time when I really didn't have any good judgment worked out as to how much to carry and so on. I tended to over do it from a safety standpoint, a capacity standpoint, and from a speed of dumping standpoint. I was able to carry 240 lbs. in a Libelle which has a relatively low wing area and so I was able to shift my wing loading over quite a range.
In the first contest that I flew it there were two days where I carried a full load all the way around the course. The speed staggered the imagination. But from that contest on there was not contest day where I ever succeeded in carrying a full load all the way around. If I golf around with any water at all left, I would get around with at the most 150 lbs. Which is in the same general ballpark as George is talking about.
Reflecting back on it, I would tend to make the following statement. Let's say about a one- lb per square foot in wing loading is about the amount you can stand as an increase and still maintain reasonable performance. That may not be the optimum value maybe little bit on the conservative side. What you lose is negligible compared to what you save in terms of filling the tanks and, the ability to stay up if you get low, the trouble of dumping it, and of deciding how much and all. You pretty much can forget about it and keep it until you are really in trouble then get rid of all of it because it isn't that big of a difference then.
Just one last point. If you are going to carry water, don't wait until the contest to put it in. A ship flies differently with water in it and you'd better get used to it with plenty of practice. It basically becomes a new sailplane when you add water and consequently you want 20-30 hours anyway with water before you first fly in contest.
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