19 May 2007

Arska flies 303 km!

As reported a few days back Ari "Arska" Sahlström flew an astonishing 303 km on Thursday 16 May. Here some more details from Arska (as reported on the forum of ESV, the club of Paragliders of Southern Finland).

In the evening of Wed 15 May Arska suggested that a group of pilots would get together in the morning at the Oripää airfield. They declared Selänpää airfield as the goal. Oripää is located not far from the west coast in the south of Finland. The weather prognosis indicated a westerly flow and good thermals in a west-to-east corridor, approx 100 km wide, in the southermost part of the country, but some 50 km north of the coast. This is close to ideal as it is north of the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, but enables flying south of the other major TMAs (airport zones) and MIL CTAs (military zones). Thu 16 May was also a bank holiday which means that most MIL CTAs were closed. As is quite common here the pilots contacted air traffic control and informed about their plans so that the controllers would know what to say to inquiries....

Arska reports that conditions looked good, but that in the early phase of the flight it was difficult to stay up and that he was down to 500-600m several times. He also had to deviate a bit from the course. The cloud streets didn't really work well, there was typically very strong sink between the lines up thermals. But those thermals! They were strong for Finland, the best ones averaged 6 m/s.
Apparantly the goal was too difficult to reach (a bit too far north ?). Jouni, the other pilot that tried the task, came to within 15 km of the goal. Arska flew south of Uti airfield (picture), with a lot of parachuting activity.
Arska decided to forget the goal and fly as long as possible, in the direction of Lappeenranta (picture after 264 km). He radioed the airport control but control was closed and there was no traffic at all. Meanwhile cloudbase had gone from the initial 2000m up to 2700m. Such a high cloudbase is rare, and in our flatlands allows for long glides. So conditions improved all the time and once Arska had crossed the 300 km mark (picture, see bottom of XC-trainer on the left) after almost 8 hours of flying, he still had 1000m height and had to "work" his way down to land a bit.

Despite good preparations, but in line with Arska's style, his GPS logger didn't save a single track point... However he found some witnesses for his landing (picture). But then, for him this was only a training flight, to prepare for a world record attempt!

All pictures by Arska himself as published on the ESV forum.

17 May 2007

Record week!

The last 6 days saw a number of extraordinary long flights in Finland. On Friday 11 May Kari "Karlos" Rämö flew a personal best of 155 km. This inspired Ari "Arska" Sahlström and myself to attempt a Finnish record on Sunday 13 May with a 235 km task. That didn't work out, but I flew a personal best of 152 km in not-so-easy conditions (see picture by Arska). The best part however was that this flight started a lively discussion about the possibilities to make long flights here and about being prepared for good days.
Today was such a good day and top-pilots Jouni and Ari arranged to be ready for early towing at Oripää airfield. Word just came in that Jouni did over 200 km and Arska an incredible 303 km. Congratulations!

Where does "LokkiLok" come from ?

People ask me about the name of this blog. "Lokki" is Finnish for (sea)gull, a bird that I admire for its soaring skills. They are really opportunistic and use everythig from the slightest turbulence to dust-devils to get up. "Loki" (with a single k) is informal Finnish for the English "log", from which "blog" is derived.
I was looking for an easy name to remember that somehow could be associated with flying and that was not taken already....

14 May 2007

New personal best: 152 km!

Sunday 13 May doubled my personal distance record, to a whoppy 152 km. A small group of pilots met at Kiikala airfield. Top-pilot Ari "Arska" Sahlström thought that it could be record day as the predictions were for good thermals, a cloudbase of almost 2000m and a moderate south-easterly winds that would change to south later in the day. Thus the winds would help to fly around the Tampere TMA and he suggested we set ourselves the challenging taks to fly to Kauhajoki, 235 km to the north.
Arska was towed up first but didn't catch any thermals. Some 20 minutes later it was my turn and I got a reasonable thermal and started to work my way up. The thermal wasn't very strong and drifter northwards but it felt good enough to hang on and leave the airfield.
The sky was overdeveloping quite fast and soon virtually all the surface was in the shadow. Nevertheless thermals were quite plenty albeit not very strong. It didn't take vey long to pass Somero. In the neighbourhood of Jokionen found a small stretch that got some sun and by following that made a bit faster progress for a while. When I'd passed Humppila I could see the charicteristic waters around Vammala in the distance and headed for those. Most of the time flew between 800 and 1800 m, and often encountered light hail, funny enough usuall when going up. Before Vammala was really low for a while only 300m above the ground, but luckily found a thermal again over some rocky terrain. That was a great joy as I realized that I would now anyway pass the famous 100 km mark, a first for me.
From Vammala it was easy to navigate northwards to Jämi, in more familiar terrain, but everything was still overcast and thermals were getting fewer and weaker. I choose to take the easterly route to Jämi, as opposed to the westerly lane of fields to Kankaanpää. This as the Tampera TMA to the east was baking in the sun, and as it was getting later and making it to Jämi would be really nice. Moreover the Jämi ridge usually works at the end of the day. If I only could get there. Near Suodenniemi got low again, but once again could get up, but only to some 1300 m. And that was enough to make it to Pirttikylä, 4 km south of Jämi. After 5:40 hours I landed 152 km from my starting point!
Getting home wasn't very easy but also not too difficult. Tanneli from the Jämi hotel arranged for somebody to pick me up. And ordered me a taxi from Jämi to Ikaalinen where I was just in time to fetch the last bus to Tampere. In the bus heared how Finland lost from Canada in the ice-hockey world championship final; the roads were really empty! In Tampere then took a train to Helsinki and finally a bus home to Espoo. It took as long to get home as to fly!
I'll try to create a Google Earth track later this week.

12 May 2007

Physical condition

Throughout the years I've noticed that allthough paragliding doesn't require a lot of energy, being in a good shape helps a lot. Long flights require stamina, and being able to run out a landing after several hours of flying can avoid minor injuries. Likewise being able to walk up a hill with all the gear without getting exhausted increases the possibilities to practice.
I've always done some running and almost always ride my bicycle to work but I was not nearly in as good shape as I could be. So 7 weeks ago I started to make more runs, and make them longer. Now I run almost every day and usually approx. 10 km at a reasonable speed, 14-15 km/h. Throughout the winter I also went swimming once a week to train my arms a bit more; and for the variation.
I feel quite good about all of this and have decided to keep up with this regime until at least the Nordic Championships in Piedrahita.

01 May 2007

Groundsuck remedies

As a 44 year old father of 2 teenagers and with a real job I encounter the usual amount of "groundsuck" (the term pilots use for all mundane duties and obligations that keeps one on the gound).
However, I've found a couple fo good remedies. First, I've managed to get work with a high level of flexibility. Often, but not always I can work more when the weather is bad, and quit early or for a whole day when the weather is good for flying. Second, since 4 years I've been fortunate to be able to work part-time, only 4 days a week. This gives me on average one day a week more for flying or for those other obligations. I am very grateful to my former and current employers (Nokia, Trustgenix and Hewlett-Packard) that have been so accomodating.
Finally, I've often involved our children in the flying activities. When they were smaller just coming along to one of the Finnish airfields, e.g. to Jämi, always was an adventure. With camping, campfires, etc. And at Jämi there is always something going on: parachute jumping, model planes, expiremental planes, and of course hang- and paragliders.
Now that the children are teenagers they, as well as my wife, like to come along to flygin trips abroad, such as to Southern France or Denmark. And I've learned to fly tandem paragliders and the children really love to come along for the ride! Soon they will probably learn to fly....