Linda Salamone's Blog

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Estrogen Fest 2009 aka Women's Fly In at Lookout Mountain, Georgia

I can call this now our "annual excursion" and can say that "the regulars" (me, Katrin, and Caitlin) headed down to Lookout Mountain, Georgia right on schedule Thursday at 4m for the Women's Fly-In. The driving routine worked well: each of us would drive away a tank of gas then rotate positions in the car. We were dragging the oversized pop-up camper so we were getting around 3 hours drive time before refueling. I haven't been able to put 3 whole hours together driving in a long time, but the wicked sciatic pain was what kept me up during my late (early?) shift. By the time we arrived, some 15 hours later, we were wasted enough to crash on the floor of Timothy's cabin for an hour, then set up camp in the Landing- a site with regular water and electric hookups. Getting going was slow. It was already hot and muggy out and the trailer had a couple of issues. But we got it together and went up top to register and get a schedule.

Lots of familiar faces on launch, a few people flying, and Jen ready to get us all checked out with our goody bags and tow tickets. Awesome job on the Tshirts - Caitlin and I were about to buy one off the rack until Jen told us they were included in our fee. Katrin wanted to foot launch in the light southerly crossing wind; Cait and I headed down bottom to just hang out. I had to see about a glider for Matt Calladine so I figured I'd get that taken care of. The seller was going to be home in a few hours so we headed to the pool in the LZ. It was really hot and muggy- it's been so wet there the last few weeks. Erin from last year, and a member of Tom Lanning's Team Aerosnauts doing the Team Challenge was getting wet with us and trading bullshit stories.
I headed to this guy Nate's house later in the afternoon. He had a 155 Sport2 for sale, and I deemed it pretty perfect for Matt. We did the deal and got back in time to do a roundtable discussion with Mikey and Steve and others where Wills Wing came under fire from all the girls (and some guys) for not having more choices for smaller pilots. I wonder where all THAT was coming from??? Dinner by Judy Foods and some open mike stuff made for a pretty rowdy evening.
I got up before dawn and watched the sun rise... well, actually, just the cloud lifted from the valley and then moved back in again- never really saw the sun. During a torrential downpour, Claire tried to do a talk on some issues specific to women and flying, but we had to pull in close to hear over the rain. Even Katrin was grounded for today since the rain never let up until evening, but Sunday's forecast was looking good. A decent band was playing and us three girls spent the night dancing like white girls.
Sunday there was wind when we arose but too much hemming and hawing had us putting the training hill last on the list for Caitlin. Katrin headed up with Timothy for some foot launching and I set about trying to find Stacey who offered me her Sport2 135 since Wills Wing had moved over to Henson's Gap with their demos. I found her and she was willing to let me tow it so I started setting it up. I was going to wait til Caitlin came back from driving Katrin back up after a sledder but they were putting the tow planes away since it was getting towards 1pm and the air was getting really rowdy. Timothy showed up with his Russian friends and said it was blowing too hard to footlaunch. So I had to fly now, or not at all. I considered the variables and the risks... New to me glider, but a kind I have flown before and know to be really easy. Aerotowing which I just did two weeks' prior and found to be no stress on my arm compared to foot launching (changing grip fast and scratching to get up near a ridge). An underwater field that was about to be experiencing lots of variations in wind direction, but huge as anything to land in. Hmmm, what else.. Oh FEAR, lots of it. Mostly irrational but certainly the obviously rowdy tow was a valid source of stress. So I went for it. My tow pilot was briefed on what to do if suddenly my right arm was dangling below my base bar (pin me off!) and then the crew wound us up. I was immediately careening off to the left but just hung on and got some extra speed before coming off the cart. It was all good until 300' agl when my tug pilot and I decided to part ways for a second or two. Then we righted things without breaking the line and it was rock and roll all the way to 800m agl. We had flown through some booming lift and I went back for it. It was stupid easy to get up, and I spent the next hour at 1300m over the field and having a great time with this glider and trying desperately to just forget about the landing for now. It was really cold at altitude and of course I had no gloves on, but I would find some sink, come down a bit to warm up, and then have no trouble getting high again. Every once in a while I would look at the landing field. Each time the windsock was visible, it was 180 degrees from the last inspection. Shit... Nope, not gonna worry about that just yet. After a time my arm was a little sore so I started thinking about when to go land. I saw big huge clouds would cover the LZ at times so I thought if I picked to land after it was shaded over for a bit, I would be unlikely to be landing in the middle of a thermal breaking off down there. So that was my brilliant plan. Of course, I couldn't find any sinking air when I wanted it, and of course 500' off the deck there was NONE AT ALL so I spent a long time hovering and trying to lose that last bit. All the while the sock is showing me its INCREDIBLE range: it can be dead, hard N, hard W, hard SE... dead.. UGH!!!!!! Finally I got low enough where I just had to pick a direction... and of course, it was downwind. Ah well, come in fast, get bounced around while it all switches, then flare hard and a bit earlier than I usually do and... tada! A few running steps and I look like I've been landing downwind all my life. So Caitlin had been watching and she came over while I excused myself to GO PUKE.. nah, not really. But I was pretty adrenalined out. I took some time to gather myself together and headed over to Stacey's to break down her sweet little glider and offer up my first born for letting me fly it. It was only for an hour, but it was so good for me to fly in these circumstances. The Sport2 is such a confidence builder. If I could, I'd run out and buy one tomorrow.
And then it was time to get the tire changed on the trailer (it was flat- dunno when that happened), hitch it to the car, shower, then head on out of there. The wind had picked up a lot, but it looked like the air was getting more glued together as we left. Gliders dotted the sky as we drove out. 15 hours later, at sunrise, we get to my house, sort all the gear, then I head to work, Caitlin to school, and Katrin home for a day off (she's a smart cookie!). Here it is Wednesday and I'm only just now beginning to feel human.
I really hope the next Women's Fly In at Lookout gets a few more pilots. The flooding in the area from weeks of rain just prior to it surely had a lot to do with the turnout. But also, if they hold it every second year, I think it would be better attended. I went more for the socializing than the flying, but wound up getting a great flight in as a bonus. We should have spent more time convincing Caitlin to head to the training hill- conditions there were reportedly very good on Sunday. So lessons learned... next time....
I'll post some pictures later- we only got a few, but I know how much people hate blogs without pics....



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