Day -1 at Montague: Team JOY takes it easy

Safety meeting and briefing on day -1 of the 2014 US Open Class Nationals

Safety meeting and briefing on day -1 of the 2014 US Open Class Nationals

Little to report today from team JOY, which decided to recover from long travel days by skipping this practice day, doing some errands, and taking it easy. The actual contest starts tomorrow. Some pictures inside…

Morning on the ramp at Montague

Morning on the ramp at Montague

With our extra time, we decided to take care of finding out how heavy JOY gets when two pilots and all their gear are inside. JOY is already a heavy plane, and with both seats filled, we get pretty close to the glider’s 820 KG max gross weight.

Flying a heavier glider is generally a good idea if strong lift is assured: in exchange for slower climb rates in lift, a heavy glider glides faster than a lighter one. This phenomenon often confuses at first, but the same effect shows up in other, more familiar situations. Burt Compton likes to remind students that it’s easier to toss a baseball long than it is to toss an empty plastic ball; meanwhile, since I grew up from somewhere north of Florida, my favorite analogy observes how a toboggan always zooms downhill faster when you get all your friends on board.

It is a common morning ritual for glider pilots to fill up their wings with water, a ballasting that brings their gliders up to their own max gross weights. This will never happen with JOY, which is already pretty heavy. Or, it does happen in a way, but the ballast is me. We fly with the ballast tanks dry every day, regardless.

Unfortunately, other gliders may also have to go unballasted too, if we are especially unlucky. This part of Northern California is currently experiencing an exceptional drought (PDF link), “exceptional” being a classification that looks like it was invented to establish a way to exceed “severe”. There may be some risk of water being shut off to the airport during the contest, or perhaps provided in limited supply only. Without ballast, the competitive ranking of the entire field permutes itself. “Naturally” heavy gliders (like JOY) gain a substantial advantage over the lighter ones, whose pilots might consider ordering Grande plattera at Puerto Vallarta to keep up.

Water supplies turned out to be problematic even today: low pressure meant only a trickle from the hose to fill up the tanks of over 20 gliders. We had to wait for the next-door ship on the ramp to complete ballasting before its own weigh-in. Some say it was a pump that wasn’t working well. The wing was a shady spot for passing the time:

Waiting to weigh JOY

Waiting to weigh JOY

Eventually the results came back, and just like last year, we were very close but not over. This is fine: it’s what we’re used to.

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Final seat shakedown

Final shakedown of our seating arrangements

Tomorrow: I’ll go flying at last…

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