On June 6th and 7th the Florida Soaring Society had their 3rd contest of the year. It was held at the IRKS, Indian River Kontrol Society, field at the Central Brevard County Waste Disposal Facility just west of Cocoa, FL. This event was a mixed winch and ALES contest and had contestants ranging in skill levels from their first year of soaring competition to top calibre pilots. I had the pleasure of flying both days.
The IRKS Field
I grew up just a stone’s throw away from the contest site. The Central Brevard County Waste Disposal Facility, or the dump as we called it, is located just on the other side of I-95 from my parents house. This made lodging very convenient. Also, I was able to pretty much roll out of bed and get to the field without much thought. Heck, if I would have left something behind it would take only a few minutes for someone to run back to the house and grab any spare parts or even a spare plane!
The field where IRKS flies is relatively new in the sense that it has only existed there since I left the area. It is a great facility with areas designated for control line, helicopter, and powered plane flight. Everything looked very well maintained and the grass was cut to make a great runway over where the power planes fly. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to say that if you live in the area then you should go checkout their field.
Growing up so close to a dump one knows that it can get rather smelly at times. I’m pleased to say that even in the hot Florida sun there was minimal nose offense. The field is located south of the actual disposal area and even with some wind coming from the north east I wasn’t bothered by any offensive odors. I’m sure members who frequent the field can give a better report to as how weather affects the over smell, but it is such a nice facility that I wouldn’t mind dealing with a few smelly days in order to get have such a nice open place to fly.
Saturday, Day One
I got the field with plenty of time to setup. This was the third event I’ve ever attended so I had a better understanding of what was needed to be done when setting up. For this event I had some new batteries that came in from HobbyKing earlier in the week. Prior to this event I was moving between a 4 cell 2200mAh and a 3 cell 2700mAh. I decided to stick with the 4 cell since it gave me the best climb performance. I’m happy to report that with new batteries I’m able to get 4 good climbs to 150m at full power. My guess is that I’m pulling around the full 700w that the motor can support. Telemetry is reporting 55A of current pull with no temperature spikes over 106F on the ESC. The 4 cell also allows me to adjust the CG because its size allows for fore and aft adjustment.
I had a bit of an awkward moment when getting ready. A gentleman was walking around asking something about a timer. I chimed in and ended up volunteering to time for him and for him to time for me. My dad was there as support and I had anticipated that he was going to time for me. It turned out great, though. Jim, as I found out later, is a pretty good pilot. He ended up providing some good feedback on my flying and I was able to pick up on some of his tactics. All-in-all it was a good thing the situation worked out this way. It is always good to have a good pilot pass along their hints and tips.
The first round is always somewhat of a warmup for the rest of the day. To get the jitters out, at least this is the way I look at it, the round is shorter than the rest. The contest director set the first round for 6 minutes. I was able to score 5:59 but ended up with no landing points. This ended up being a theme for the weekend. I am vastly improved on getting my round times but need to really work on scoring landing points.
There ended up being time to get in a total of 8 rounds. For the other 7 rounds 8 minutes would be the goal time. My second round, the first of the 8 minute goal times, was my worst of the day. I couldn’t find any lift and was only able to stay aloft for 3:01 and scored a big fat zero for landing points. If you don’t count the kid who landed his plane in the woods then it was the worst score for the round. However, landing out of bounds is an issue and two people didn’t get scores for the round. In the end the 181 points that I scored in that round put me higher in the overall standings than those two pilots that got zeros.
Rounds 4 and 6 were among my best for the day and the weekend. I nailed the goal time on the 4th round getting exactly 8 minutes! I only earned 15 points for the landing. Round 6 was the best of the day. I went only 3 seconds over for a time of 8:03 but was able to get a great score on landing, 84 points. I didn’t get the best time, but on round 5 I did do really well on the landing. I was able to skid my plane in for a total of 97 points! That’s good when you can’t dork the nose to stop the plane!
The 8th and final round of the day ended up being both good and hair raising. For the last three rounds of the day Jim did not time for me. He had a friend show up and wanted to have him time his flights. Since we didn’t have to trade off between flying and timing I was free to launch whenever I thought the time was right. My dad ended up timing for me this round. I was able to spot a thermal coming right down the field and got up to the launch area just as it got right in front of us. I put my glider up there at a height of 150m and it never looked back. I cored the thermal and just went up. One of the masters class pilots was able to get right in on the ride but he never got close to my altitude.
I so impressed my dad that he completely forgot that I had to land the plane after 8 minutes of flight. He kept going on about how awesome it was that I had my plane up so high and how it looked so good against the clouds and sky. I got a nagging feeling that I had been up for a good while and asked him how much time I had left. To our astonishment I hit the two minutes to go mark! Normally at this time I want to be down around a hundred meters reading how the lower air is so that I can predict how to make my landing approach. Also, my glider isn’t a fully molded composite plane. It puts a ton of stress on the airframe to dive and turn to get rid of altitude and speed. I had to have been at or above 400m. I put the glider into speed flight mode and started making wide turns with dives trying get the plane down. I was very nervous watching the wings, which under normal glide conditions have a bit of dihedral, flatten out. With under a minute to go for the round I had the glider where I like to be for the 2 minute mark. I did my best to get in the best position to start my landing procedure when the 30 seconds came up. Unfortunately I was about 10 seconds behind and still had too much speed. I decided that I’d take the over time for the round but I had to get some landing points. In the end I went over by 13 seconds but did get 22 landing points.
For the first day of flying I came in 2nd in the Novice class and 10th out of 16 overall. Now the gentleman who got first place in the Novice class out scored everyone in the Expert class. In other words, the gentleman who won Novice would have came in first if he was in the Expert class! I’m not sure if that’s sandbagging, but he did fly really well. For 8 rounds I got a total of 298 landing points for an average of 59.6 per round.
On the second day I was able to convince my brother to tag along. I wasn’t able to persuade him to fly, though. We set up again, this time in a different location. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when we were ready to start flying. This day I would have two people on my support crew. My dad timed for me for 4 or 5 rounds and my brother did the others.
The first round again when rather well for me. The round’s goal time was again 6 minutes. I went under by two for a 5:58. This time I was able to score landing points, a not bad 41. Like the first day the second round didn’t go nearly as well. For the 8 minute goal time I was only able to get a 5:44 flight. I did manage to get 85 landing points which made the round not horrible.
Sunday ended up being a great contest day for me. Except for a 4:27 with no landing points in round 6 and a 6:41 with 86 landing points in round 8 I did really well. Round 6 was the worst of the day. I had just rained in the previous round. The clouds that were hiding when we got there showed up and dropped some rain. When I launched in round 6 I tried to surf some lift coming off the trees upwind. It was windy enough that I knew my glider would not be able to penetrate back upwind if I cased downwind activity or tried to slope the trees. When I got too low I knew that I wasn’t going to find anything to climb out. I ended up setting up my approach for landing points back too far and ended up coming up a good 150m short of the landing area. It was such a walk of shame.
For all the other rounds on the day I was able to get right within a few seconds of the goal time and score landing points. This was very, very pleasing! Immediately after my rocky second round I stuck an 8:00 perfect time with 81 landing points!
On the most exciting round of the day, round 5, we all could see the rain coming. My brother looked at his weather app and said we had about 30 minutes. I thought everyone would be able to get their flight in. Generally a round doesn’t last more than 30 minutes. The lift was lightening up and I decided to go right at the beginning of the round so that I could make use of any thermal activity before the clouds wiped everything out. I ended following some of the more advanced pilots down wind and was able to jump from bubble to bubble of lift and mostly used the wind coming off the treeline to get some slope lift. With about two minutes left in the round I felt big cold rain drops start hitting me. I knew it was going to be cutting it close. I started working the glider down the tree line so that I could use the slope lift to stay up. The treeline was about 200m, maybe a bit more, from the landing area. At one minute to go I broke from the trees and started trying to make it upwind to get some landing points. At this point the rain started falling. It didn’t start all at once. The wind was strong enough that I started to get concerned that I wouldn’t make it back to the landing area. In full speed mode with as much reflex as I felt comfortable I made my way back up. At about 20 seconds to go the rain really started coming down. You could hear it on the ultracote of my glider! Right as I landing it really let loose for a good shower. I feel like I should somehow blame the rain for me getting a 7:56 for the round. But without the helping keep me up with slope lift and holding the plane just perfect I don’t think I would have made time or got the 86 landing points! So with the rain it was my second highest round score for the day!
As I mentioned previously my round 8 wasn’t that great when compared to my others. I was glad when they announced a 9th round. I really wanted to leave the field and end the contest on a high note. The sky had cleared up enough that I thought there was going to be some good thermal activity. Yet, I waited for some of the masters pilots to launch so I could see what they were going to do for strategy. After seeing where they went I decided to follow. I had a brand new 60c 4 cell 2200mAh battery in the plane and was able to launch almost vertical. At the end of a brief zoom I leveled out the glider and turned to head down wind. I had decided to follow the other guys down wind because I had seen some birds flying around and thought they were going to signal some thermal activity.
When I got there I found the lift to be very light. After making some rookie mistakes like stalling the plane or not making nice level turns I had lost about half of my launch height. I then decided that this round was going to be an all or nothing round. I move the throttle lever to full on with the intention that I would ride out whatever thermal activity or slope lift I could find in the area until the plane got to the treeline. If I got to that point I would flick the flight mode back to launch and have the motor yank me back to a safe height and take a zero for the round. At about 3 minutes into the flight I felt that the outcome was going to be bad and that I would have to take that zero for the round. I decided to start heading back upwind and to line up near the landing area. As I started making my way north I spotted a buzzard down right above the trees. Since the rain the birds had gone away. This one just had taken off and was working to get past the tree line. Now these big birds don’t hardly flap at all. Watch a buzzard, they get up there and move from thermal to thermal. I decided to try to work the same lift he was. While I never got back to launch height I kept working it and working it and was able to stretched what and my dad was sure was going to be a crappy 3 minute flight into a 7:57 flight with 92 landing points!!! It was the best flight of the weekend!
That level of satisfaction was worth all the frustration on all the other rounds where I didn’t make time or landing points. I felt like a million bucks!
On Sunday I was the only one in the Novice class. I took both first and last place! The biggest surprise, though, was how I did in the overall rank. Out of 14 pilots I came in 8th. The most surprising is that if I were in the Expert class I would have came in 4th place only missing 3rd by 149 points! Having a better 2nd or 4th round could have put me into a place in the standard Expert class! I guess I really am improving!
With the end of the FSS #3 there is a lull in thermal duration contests in Central Florida. The next contest is in October. I already cannot wait!!!