05 May 2010

Finland 2010 season opened in style

It's that time of the year again. We've endured the long cold winter, did some flying in southern and exotic locations, and now we're ready, no make that eager!, for the famous long XC flights that are expected in spring time Finland.
So I was not surprised when Ari S. called me Wednesday evening to urge me to leave early on Thursday morning for the Oripää airfield. The forecast promised moderately strong thermals, quite much westerly winds and a reasonably high cloudbase, in short record weather. So there I was, a bit before the agreed 10 'o clock. It was quite windy already but as the sky looked promising indeed I prepared my gear. Within 20 minutes Ari and Jyrki arrived, soon to be followed by the local pilots Pekka, Jukka and Ari L, who were kind enough to immediately roll out the towing line. So at 11 we were all ready to go, with a number of sailplane zones activated, and an agreed goal of Selänpää, at 222 km.
Conditions at the airfield looked quite turbulent and the clouds small, broken and far between, but Ari S and Jukka were eager to try. They took 3 tows each which included a couple of heart-stopping starts, one reason why we others figured it was worth waiting a bit. They did encounter only broken lift over the airfield, and lower down the strong gusty wind caused very turbulent air. Some time later I felt that things look quite a bit better and lined up. Ari S. took this as a clue and asked if he could go first. After another difficult start up he went and then found a reasonable thermal. It didn't take him very high but off he went. I then had two attempts, one with nothing but strong sink, and the second with only some broken lift. It seemed time for a coffee break. I couldn't really stay for the late afternoon and drove the 2 hours back home
Later Pekka made a very nice 42 km flight to Forssa, and still later we heard from Ari S. who had managed to stay up in the broken stuff next to the airfield and after some 40 km found better conditions and eventually made it to the Hyvinkää airfield, a 118 km trip! I'll never let him jump me in the towing queue again ;)

Update (Wed 5 May): Mika P. reports from the Leivonmäki free-flight paradise that hang-glider pilot Vesa has been in the air for at least 4 hours now, so could have gone far! And Mika himself did a 24 km triangle.