Monday, July 18, 2016

Sometimes the best laid plans...

I've been brought to a standstill this soaring season by personal health issues.  No need to go into them here, suffice it to say that I likely won't be flying this season.

That's too bad.  This was my breakout year!  The weather has NOT been very cooperative this year and we spent most of April, May, June with pretty bad XC conditions except the occasional weekday.  Unfortunately, I have to earn a living like everyone else in the world and it's been particularly busy during the spring and early summer.  Many weeks, I've been working 7 days a week on my projects.  It's always good to be needed, but I was ready for a little less of work and a lot more of soaring.

My plan was to (after getting out from under all my work) watch for a series of days that looked good and take 2 or 3 off.  I'd set off in the club 1-34 and get my silver badge distance.  I'd practiced during the winter on several different possible routes and felt like I was ready to head out on any of those trips.  Just saddle up and go.  The likelihood of success would be good and the cost of landing out would be pretty low in the 1-34.

But the work didn't let up and the right weather didn't come along until after my health issue emerged.  I'd expected earlier in the year to get my altitude climb with ease, especially after last year's booming spring weather -and that would also be a great time to get my distance, too.  Well, it didn't work out on the weekends, so I was back to waiting on summer ops to start so I could go 7 days a week.  Didn't happen.

Now, I'm on the sidelines for the season.  I'm not wistful about it, but I *am* missing the soaring, even just local flights around the Hill.  Maybe next year!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Learning from Simulation - Week 4 Mifflin ridge task

Each winter season, I organize a group of folks at Harris Hill to fly together in what we call "Flight Night".  We're into week 4 of the season and I thought I'd post about some things I learned in a miserable performance this time.

I don’t have very much experience with ridge flying and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to include a task with Mifflin, PA in our online flying.

The task was pretty straightforward up the ridge to the first turn point at sawmill, then back down the same ridge to Allensville and back to the Finish line at Mifflin County Airport.  There were two twists.  The first was the Allensville turn point was across the valley - into the wind.  The second was the finish height was 5,000 feet.  Even though I set up the task, I caused myself trouble in both cases. 

Leg 1

The start and first turn point to sawmill went smoothly.  On a ridge task, the lower you fly, the faster you can go, which can be very disconcerting if you’ve never done it.  The key here is to keep a plan in mind at all times as you move along the ridge.  That usually translates into the maxim that “speed is life”.  If you have speed, you have options.  You can quickly pull up, put a reasonable amount of altitude between you and the ridge and turn upwind, fly out into the valley and land.  I flew along at between 100 and 110 knots to the turn point and made it without too much trouble.

Leg 2

Returning along the same ridge, I noticed after about the halfway point that the lift was a bit weaker as I approached the second turn point.  Checking the wind on the PDA, it was down to around 13-15knots, which is indeed weaker.  I had to fly lower to maintain 100knots and maintain altitude.  I was closing on Tom Hogrefe at this point and was in full chase mode.  

Here’s where my problems began.  The Allensville turn point is ACROSS the valley, which means I had to fly into the wind to get to it.  That slows ground speed and requires altitude.  How high does one need to be to get to the other side of the valley, tag the turn point, and get back?

I didn’t really have a mental math model to do this.  Knowing that the turn point was not at the top of the peak across the valley, I wanted to fly to it, then use the tailwind to fly back to the ridge, then pick up that ridge again and make it to the finish line.  I looked at the PDA and it said I had the turn point made by just a bit.  I’d already made the mistake of not stopping to thermal about a mile back when I encountered good lift on the ridge as I flew under a cloud.  I turned back to that cloud, but as I looked, it was beginning to die.

The First Stupid Thing I Did

That’s when I did something pretty stupid.  I circled in the thermal near the ridge.  I was above ridge height, but as I turned onto the downwind side of the circle (towards the ridge) I re-learned something that I’d been told - NEVER CIRCLE IN A THERMAL NEAR RIDGE HEIGHT.  It only takes a brief pass through sink and you’ll slam into the ridge.  This has caught many real life ridge pilots. 

I was lucky.  Period.  I made the circle, realizing my error, then flew a figure 8 ALWAYS TURNING AWAY FROM THE RIDGE to sort of ‘elevator’ myself up in the lift.  Turns out the cloud was dying and the lift wasn’t great.  At that point, the PDA showed me making the turn point with a bit of altitude to spare, so, impatiently, I headed across the valley.

The Second Stupid Thing I Did

I arrived with far less altitude than I should have.  In real life, I’m sure I would have turned back to the ridge behind and waited for a good thermal to come along.  In the simulator I didn’t do that and this is a good point to make about simulated flying - you need to distinguish between what your limits are in real life and what you sort of science experiment you've decided to conduct in the simulator.  At this point, I noted to myself that I was departing from my real life decision making.  I would normally have ended my real life flight right here.

I pressed on as I could see the turn point was close, but learned something - it was still further up the ridge than I was comfortable with.  There were plenty of fields around for landing, but I hadn’t really scoped them out on the way across.  Another bad decision on my part.  At that point, I was really flying behind the glider, not ahead of it.

I did make the turn point a few hundred feet above the ridge and turned back across the valley but Condor doesn't simulate the sink on the backside of a ridge and I'm certain that would have sunk me for real.  Again, I'd already noted that I was now conducting a science experiment, not a real life flight.

Finally, my brain got in gear to plan for contingencies.  I knew with a strong tailwind I’d be back pretty quickly but would be about 1/2 way up the ridge.  I sidled along the ridge and had a plan to land immediately in the valley if I couldn’t find the lift I needed.  I had my eye on a field as  I passed over it and found the lift.  I kept my speed up climbing slower than I wanted because I needed to keep my speed.  I found lift and was pretty quickly up the ridge to the top.  At this point, I need to emphasize that my flight so far had relied on LUCK, not planning.  It was going to get worse.

The Third Stupid Thing I Did

Fairly quickly, I was back to Mifflin County airport.  Knowing that the finish line was over the airport, I left at ridge height planning to finish and if I needed to land, the airport would be right underneath me.  As I approached the finish line I realized that it had a MINIMUM FINISH HEIGHT.  I’d failed to plan for this!  So here’s the situation:  I’m in the middle of the valley, too low to reasonably go back to the ridge and I NEED A THERMAL to finish.  I tried a nearby cloud, but got nothing.  I turned back to the airport and thought I’d try a cloud on the other side but as I flew downwind, realized I really needed to stop soaring and start landing instead.  So, I did.  No task finish.

What can I learn from this flight?

1.  I should plan further ahead.  I knew I was going to have to transition across the valley and should have kept an eye on possible thermals EARLIER than I did.  When I turned back to catch one I’d flown through, I was already behind on my decision making.  I made things worse by deciding I had enough altitude to get across and back when I really needed at least another 500 feet to do so comfortably.  Upwind transitions to another ridge line are tricky - I know this.  Now, I have no excuse for making the same mistake again.

2.  I got behind in a risky transition and return to the ridge.  I remained behind by not checking the finish height.  That was just poor decision making and caused me to effectively land out and not finish the task.

3.  The whole chain of mistakes was set off by not being patient enough to find a real thermal to climb off the ridge before crossing the valley.  Going fast is sometimes also about being patient.

I’m worried about my ability to fly at a place like Mifflin.  The mistakes I made were ones I’d read about and the solutions are known.  Worse, I committed a cardinal sin by thermaling at ridge height.  In real life, that could cost me a lot more than time.

This flight showed both the value of simulation and the pitfalls.  There’s no ‘gut-check’ in the sim-world.  In real life, I would probably be more careful, but if that’s true, then it’s an issue with simulation.  It’s not that it breeds overconfidence, it’s just that the consequences don’t affect your decision-making as directly as they do in real life.  Many times I read or have been advised that “You just have to go.  Just go.”  But, a lot of pilots don’t do that because they are afraid of landing out.  It’s presented as a concern for risk that you have to manage.  This was the opposite - in “Just going” without that real-life filter, you are aren’t flying like you do in real life.

In any case, I learned a lot in this flight and being able to analyze my mistakes will help me in real life.  Putting aside the non-reality simulation issue, I can still learn lessons I can apply to my real life flying.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mifflin photorealistic scenery

Mifflin County airport in Reedsville, Pa.  Click any picture for a big view.

I spent a LOT of time last year learning how to make a photorealistic scenery for Condor.  So much time, in fact, that I took a break from it after finishing my Harris Hill scenery.  However, several people have been using my comprehensive tutorial and spreadsheet to generate their own scenery and I thought that now I know so much more about it, that I could generate a new one quickly.

Sure enough, I have it down to about a week of off/on effort.  I took one of my favorite nearby soaring areas -Mifflin, and built a photorealistic version to supplement the existing terragen one.  Figuring I didn't need to reinvent the wheel, I used the same size soaring area as the original.

Upper left corner points are: 41.3868, -79.2801 and lower right is 38.6139, -76.7205.  The blue markers show the corners of the soaring area and the map below is the flight planner map from Condor.
Blue markers are the corners of the scenery.  Almost 32,000 square miles of soaring 171 miles across and 186 in height.


1.  What are the 'must have' airports for this scenery?  For soaring, I have just a couple so far - Mifflin County, Eagle field, Ridge soaring, Mid Atlantic Soaring Center.  I'll put certain airports around the map just because you may want to start in different sections of the map.  For example, soaring over the nation's capital might be fun since you'll never get to actually do it.

2.  What waypoints?  I've included the Mifflin points but as you go further south, there's still plenty of room for more points to the south.

3.  Is there a need for a 'learning' landscape?  The texture that goes on the surface of the scenery is an aerial photo.  But, I can edit that photo and add ANYTHING.  For example, I could paint the name of a ridge on the side of it, put arrows or circle good landing fields, etc.  While I'd keep one version clean and just with the aerial photos, making a second version with those markings on it is a cinch.

4.  Condor doesn't simulate ridge lift very well and unfortunately, that's something I can't change.  It has to do with the resolution of the terrain and the angle that Condor sees the ridge meeting the wind.  Unfortunately, you'll just have to crank up the wind and fly it that way.

I'm linking to this blog entry from Rec.Av.Soaring so if you've come here from there, you can either comment in that thread or put your comments in here directly.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Well, that's a little embarrassing.

Two days after I posted my rant about having to fly my 5 hour flight....I went out and flew my 5 hour flight!

I'm really lucky it worked out - I had my eye on the weather and aborted a Thursday attempt when unforecast high cirrus moved in.  The next day looked good, though, and I set my attempt for then.

My flight path over 5 hours.  The straight line isn't part of the flight.  It is a measurement that shows I flew about 40km from the east to west side.  I'll need 10 more to get my Silver badge and I'm confident I'll be able to do that.

I arrived early at the Hill and assembled the Discus.  I certainly could have made the flight in the 1-34 but the Discus is simply more comfortable to spend that amount of time in.  The forecast was good, but the clouds were low and cycling quickly by 11:30am.  I laid out a hopscotch course to fly that put about 8 miles between landable airports but didn't necessarily plan to fly it unless the conditions really improved.

I took off at noon and was under a thermal fairly quickly.  The lift was there, but still cycling quickly and the clouds were sort of ratty looking, not the dark-bottomed well-defined clouds one would prefer.  I headed West over the higher ground as that is usually where the clouds worked best.  I was still in gliding distance of Harris Hill but further out than a normal 'local' flight I would make.

After about an hour of circling, I started to think if I was going to have to work this hard all day I was definitely going to get sick eventually.  I'd brought an airsick bag with me just in case but it turns out I never needed it or even got close to it.  I kept alternating my circles and my early day strategy was to take every scrap of lift out there and not get low early on.  Even so, I eventually got down to 3,200 before finding another thermal to climb in.

After 1pm, the cloudbases kept getting progressively higher and each cloud would work to some extent.  I'd thought about trying to get to Blue Swan (to the Southeast past Wellsburg) and thought I'd work the high ground east of Elmira to see how close I could get.  By this time, I realized that I had a good shot at making 5 hours, so I made sure not to get too low.  As I moved out there, I could see Blue Swan in the distance and it would be an easy glide there.  However, I encountered weaker clouds further away and decided to turn back to what I knew was stronger lift.  If I was going for distance rather than duration, I would have had no compunctions about continuing but I kept reminding myself this was my duration day.  "Get high, stay high, complete your duration," was my mantra.

I headed back west and south of Elmira and found some good lift along the way, stopping from time to time but the wind was at my back and I was covering ground nicely without much altitude loss.  In no time I was almost 40km west near Cownesque reservoir.  This was nice, since making my distance flight will involve a 50k flight and I could have easily done that on this day.

I turned north at Cownesque, intending to head up to Corning, but wanted to get some altitude before I did so.  After scratching around a bit and trying several clouds, I was no higher and no lower but if I wanted to glide back to Harris Hill (into the wind) and get back without being too low, I needed to head back.  Again, if I was on a cross country, I would have kept going.  There were plenty of good looking clouds within easy gliding range, but today was for duration and there were also some good clouds on the way back.  I turned towards Harris Hill.

This was when I got the lowest (except for very early on).  Returning into the wind with a couple of clouds not working, I wasn't worried about making it back to the Hill, but I was worried I might not be able to climb back up and make my duration.  Suddenly, the vario began insistently beeping that glorious climb sound steadily.  I turned and centered at 2kts, which quickly strengthened and up I went.  Ahhhh!

The thermal petered out lower than I wanted, but gave me plenty of altitude to the Hill and as I approached, I spotted the 1-34 circling in what looked like lift.  I slotted in underneath him and we both rode to over 6,000 feet.  At this point, I need about an hour more to get to 5-1/2 hours and be sure I made my time.

The late afternoon clouds (4:30 or so) began to merge and form enormous black-bottomed, steady lift clouds that would suck you up if you just flew in a straight line for a mile or so.  I happily flew at high speed in 4kts or better of lift, zooming under the cloud base, popping out the other side, making a jet-fighter style high banked turn to reverse direction and plunge under the cloud again.  Each time, I lost no altitude and was at about 6,200 the entire time.

I did this until the cloud began weakening and had already picked out the next cloud to try.  When I could no longer maintain 6,200 I moved to the next cloud and repeated the pattern.  There were multiple formations like this in easy gliding range and I knew I had my time made.  After 5-1/2 hours, I laid off and went into coast-down mode, making huge victory laps around the Hill and a 'speed' pass at 3,000 feet (1,300 ft AGL) that I finished off by absolutely sticking the landing and looking like a pro.

To my surprise, the Juniors were waiting for me with full buckets of water for a 5 hour dousing.  Auggggghhhhhh!!!! It was cold and I had squeaky shoes while disassembling the glider.

To the point on my earlier post - am I better pilot because I flew my 5 hour duration (and I actually managed a 3,000 foot climb, too)?  Nope.  I'm not disagreeing with the requirement to do a 5 hour duration flight but to be frank, the flight was just 90 minutes longer than my previous longest flight and since the conditions were so good at the end of the day, it took little skill to beat it.

On the other hand, you really do have to draw a line somewhere to say, "Okay, this shows that you have a particular level of skill."  If that line is at 5 hours, then that's where the line is.  Now that I've done it, I'm ready to move on and try to fly some turnpoint tasks.  I ought to be able to get my 50k flight during that time and I'll officially graduate to the next level of my soaring career.

A couple of things I learned - this was the first time I got 'sleepy' flying.  I realized as I was thermaling at two different points that I was zoning out.  My attention level was falling and I felt sleepy.  I drank some water and felt more alert, then ate a power bar and that made a difference.  A couple of hours later, I could feel the same thing coming on and did the same thing with similar results.  I presume I was getting some low blood sugar and so I learned the importance of having food and water with you during your flight.  I made sure to drink regularly all flight and had the appropriate and thankfully functioning, plumbing that made it easy for pilot relief inflight.  What a difference that makes!

The season is coming to a close as we go into September and I'm on vacation the next two weeks -away from the Hill.  I'll keep my eye open for cross country opportunities and see if I can finish up that 50k requirement for my Silver badge.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The agony of it all.

If you've read this blog, you know I've been trying to get the 'next level' of soaring by flying cross country.  I'm starting to think it won't happen and I have to blame myself for it.  The problem is I don't have my Silver C soaring badge.  Silver C says that you flew 50km away from the field, climbed at least 3,000 feet and stayed aloft for at least 5 hours.  You don't have to do all three in the same flight.  Think of it as the beginner's cross country badge.

It turns out that you need to accomplish 2 of the 3 Silver badge requirements (climb and duration) to take one of our club's Schweizer gliders cross country.  And you need the actual badge to take the Discus cross country.  Makes sense.  You can't just take an airplane that isn't your glider out and about without proper training.

But, I'm not a badge guy.  It's not that having a goal to shoot for and achieving it aren't worthwhile, they're good things.  It's just not my thing.  When I approach a topic, I have a tendency to measure myself against myself.  I can't compare myself to a championship soaring pilot any more than someone who cycles measures themselves against a Tour de France winner.

Instead, I prefer a measure approach that builds on things I know with gradual extensions that a) minimize risk; b) are achievable.  That's what I've done with my cross country training.  First, I read everything I could on the subject.  Then I tried it out in my simulator.  Then, I flew numerous training flights with our cross country instructors.  Then, I cautiously pushed out to be just one thermal away from the field on various occasions.  Now, I'm ready to push out further.  Each time I fly, I review, analyze, ask questions, and make changes.  I'm no ace, but I know for a fact that I'm improving in measured steps.

As for the Silver badge, I've never pursued it with any real energy.  I figured when it happens, it will happen.  One of these days I'll be out on a flight and I'll do 5 hours.  One day, I'll be out on a flight and will go more than 50km.  Maybe on the same day.  It's totally within my capabilities.  In fact, I've already flown that far and climbed that high.  

Having those (Silver) numbers to shoot for are good, but anyone will tell you that just because you make them doesn't mean a switch has suddenly been flipped that now makes you an ever-wise cross country pilot.

So - what's the problem?  If it's easy, I ought to be able to get it, right?  Sure - all you need is the right weather conditions and complete schedule freedom to take off work when they happen.  Hop in the glider at 11am, land around 5pm and you've got your duration.  I've climbed numerous times over 3,000 feet so that one is pretty easy to get one afternoon.  The distance is a little more difficult, but 50km isn't that far and is easier.

No, it's the 5 hour that is the more difficult one.  And I don't mean difficult in the sense that it is hard.  It's certainly no cinch to stay aloft in changing conditions continuously for 5 hours, particularly when you have to stay in range of the field, but I've stayed up for 3-1/2 hours before and if I just hadn't of landed on that particular day, I could have easily stayed up another 90 minutes.  But, I'm not a badge guy, so I saw no reason to saunter around the sky.  Stupid me.

So now I'm stuck waiting for the right set of conditions to come along on a day when I can get things arranged the day ahead at work (unless I'm really lucky and a free weekend day works out) so I can fly for 5 hours.  Stupid me, I should have gotten my badge.  So, I'll try to get it.  But that may cost me yet another year simply to get the opportunity to move to the next level.  Good thing life is a marathon, not a dash.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Wet Spring - yecch!

The glorious early spring soaring left and the rains came, keeping me grounded over the last few weeks, mostly.  Twice my commercial pilot duty was washed out by overcast and rain.

However, our operations are now picking up pace as we started 7 day a week ops this week and will keep it up through the end of August.  The weather today (Monday) was predictably glorious with beautiful blue skies and puffy cumulus clouds.  Sigh.

I'll have to be targeting a day to go XC during the week.  That's better than hoping a weekend will work.  I'm so eager to fly, I scheduled a couple of Junior intro tours this Wednesday during our senior training so I can take the kids for a quick demo ride!

Also, coming up quickly is the Standard and 15 meter National contest we'll host at the end of July.  It's a lot of effort, but also great exposure for the Juniors as they work the line and learn from the best each day.

There's still plenty of soaring to be had - I've just got to position myself for it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

First REAL cross country - cutting the apron strings

Wow.  I accomplished my first 'real' cross country flight yesterday.  It almost didn't happen, but due to a freak weather occurrence, it did.

This weekend was supposed to be all about attending the National Soaring Museum's soaring symposium and the induction of Dr. Jack Glendenning into the soaring hall of fame.  And it was.  I met and interviewed Dr. Jack and learned about his soaring history and the creation of one of the most widely used tools in soaring - his Blipmap forecast.  Even after speaking with him, I'm not sure he fully understands how integral to soaring this forecast is.  It is THE authoritative and go-to forecast for soaring.  It's the first, and often, last stop for information about how good the soaring will be today or in the next day or two.

The only problem is that the weather outside was INCREDIBLE.  After the symposium, I headed over to the flight line and heard stories of nine and ten thousand foot maximum climbs.  Tim Welles, one of our best pilots, returned from a several hundred mile flight with a giant smile on his face.

Usually, when we have a great day of soaring, the next day is never as good.  I'm happy to report that this was NOT the case this weekend.  Sunday turned out to be a better soaring day than Saturday, and that is saying quite a bit!

Dr. Jack's forecast said it would be pretty good all over with a possibility of overdevelopment.  With that in mind, I put in a task of about 100k to fly, wanting to stay relatively close and start out in short steps.  I knew if I could connect, that high cloud bases would make it a stress free first step into the beyond.

Two of my fellow club members took off ahead of me in the Duo Discus and after I was airborne I saw them above and climbing to cloudbase.  I quickly connected with a strong thermal (yay me!) and in short order was crushing my previous altitude record of 7,400 feet.  I topped out at 8,700 and started towards Mount Pisgah, some 25 miles away.

My mantra for the day was "get high, stay high" and that's what I did.  I flew slower than I needed to - about 70 knots.  There was good lift but also strong sink, so I spent most of the flight speeding up to pass through the sink, or slowing down to take advantage of the lift I encountered.  About 3/4 of the way to Mount Pisgah, I was dipped below 8,000 feet and stopped for a thermal.  I knew I didn't need to stop, but thought I'd sample the difficulty of connecting as I got lower.  I climbed back to 9,000+ feet (!) and set off again.  I was there in short order and still looking good on altitude but it was beginning to cloud up a bit.

I realized that it was over developing and wanted to make sure I was high when it closed up completely so I could survive while the sun was gone.  I headed across a blue hole towards Blue Swan and the air was completely smooth - no thermal activity at all.  But also no significant sink, so I was able to cross the hole with relatively little altitude loss.  I arrived shortly at Blue Swan, near Sayre, NY. and turned for Harris Hill.  I was pretty sure I could glide the whole way back and still make it, so I was feeling pretty confident but I decided I wanted to do a little more.  I punched Watkins Glen track into the PDA and started looking for a thermal as I worked my way back.

About that time, I flew under the overcast and thought that it would shut everything off.  I tried the a cloud or two that was darker than the others and got no lift.  In the distance I saw a very dark and large cloud and headed for that.  It was pretty much in line with my course and I thought I'd see if it was working.

It was.  I circled and climbed above 9,500 feet.  As I circled, the lift got stronger and stronger.  I explored my circle, moving towards the southern edge where I'd observed earlier that the lift was strongest and found even better lift.  I decided to take it all the way up since the rest of the flight would be under the overcast and just as I started back out on the course line, the cloud began to suck me into it.  I put the nose down to speed up but I kept going up as I was flying under the rest of it.  No problem, I popped the spoilers open and descended a bit to stay clear of the bottom and pretty soon I was on my way.
The view from 10,000 feet.  Harris Hill is to the left, about 1/2 way up, Watkins Glen is near the base of Seneca lake near the top.

Pretty quickly I realized I recognized the terrain!  I've been flying flights in this area using the Condor flight simulator and a photorealistic scenery of our soaring area.  Earlier, I'd recognized the windmill farm near Mount Pisgah and now I could see from Sayre up to Elmira and beyond to Harris Hill.  I recognized a warehouse from the scenery and could follow certain landmarks I'd seen before in the simulator.  Nice!

I headed slightly east of the Hill and in the general direction of the track, stopping at the Northeast side around 7,000 feet to tank up.  It had been mostly sink with weak lift, if any, under the overcast so I decided I'd really need enough altitude to glide all the way to Watkins and back before going up there.

I didn't find much and after working it for awhile, I wasn't making much vertical progress, so I headed back to Harris Hill.  Eventually, I found another thermal over there as the overcast began to break up and headed North again towards the track.  Over there I found a small thermal, headed for another cloud that didn't work and though I'd better turn back.  On the way back I flew under another dark cloud and turned to try it.  Success!  This time, the lift seemed to improve with each turn and pretty soon I was climbing through 9,500 smartly.  I decided to hang on and see if I could break the 10k mark.  Sure enough, pretty soon the altimeter was indicating 10,000 feet and the bottom of the cloud was approaching.  I set off for Watkins Glen track. 

I arrived over the track with plenty of altitude and decided to tag the city of Watkins Glen itself, which I did.  I turned for Harris Hill with a massive altitude reserve and completed my first cross country flight!

Stats - the straight line distance between the turnpoints was 142 kilometers, or 88 miles.  I actually flew about 140 miles or 225 kilometers.  I could have been more efficient, but since I was considering Watkins Glen as an add on, I returned to the Hill, found lift, then headed back out in a not so straight line before finally committing to going there, so the overall trip was even less efficient than my newbie status would suggest.

In any case, it's not unreasonable for me to consider a 150k flight as a goal in the future.  I need to keep in mind that the flight this weekend was practically a no-brainer.  Future flights will be more challenging as the leaves come on the trees and the cloud bases get lower, requiring more thermaling and skill to get to and from my turn points.

Nevertheless, a great accomplishment for me.  I had no compunctions leaving Harris Hill and didn't think twice about getting out of range.  Once out on course, I was able to read the sky, see the overdevelopment building, made a plan to deal with it, and kept flexible when trying to reach up to Watkins, trying different ways to get there until I found one that worked.

A great day, indeed.