Tripple Whiskey Double Foxtrot

Triple Whiskey Double Foxtrot We’ve all read the stories of epic wave flights. Climbs to twenty, twenty five thousand feet or even higher. Oxygen. Cold. Wave windows. Frosted over canopies. Lenticular clouds. Rotors. Cracking gel coat and diamond badges. When there is a strong wind blowing against a ridge, the air is forced up to several times the height of the ridge. If the air is cool and stable, it falls back down to the surface, compresses, and bounces back up even higher. The cycle repeats itself downwind of the ridge, and each crest gets higher and higher. People travel hundreds of miles to glider destinations that boast high wave flights, but you can find wave at PGC. Richard Wagner was a member of the Philadelphia Glider Council in the 1980s and 90s. He was a post man in Hilltown, and he was a really wacky character. He always had a joke to tell, but they were never very good. They just made us all groan. Richard owned a Salto- a V tailed, short winded version of the Libelle that JL Agostini has been flying at PGC this season. The Salto was designed for acrobatic prowess, not soaring performance. That, and Richard’s notorious ability to find sink, caused the other PGC members to nickname his glider “The White Rock”. That explains why several members became concerned one Thanksgiving Friday when Richard Wagner took a flight and disappeared. It was a cold and windy day, but even then, PGC pilots were more willing to brave the weather in aluminum and fabric gliders than they were to joining their families at the mall. Everyone took their twenty minute sleigh rides, and put the gliders away when the cold started to soak into their bones. That’s when they realized that Richard hadn’t returned. Based on his reputation for beating the tow plane to the ground, they started to believe that he had landed off field. They even sent the tow plane up to look for him. PGC didn’t use radios back then, so there was no way to know that Richard had found wave. He was looking down on the field and the tow plane from 10,000 feet. He only came down when he couldn’t feel his toes anymore. When the wind is out of the North North West, it strikes the Allentown-Easton Ridge, and can form a wave. We can get that kind of strong wind in the fall and winter. No it isn’t a 1000 foot per minute rocket ride to Class A airspace, but a very smooth and subtle 100 or 200 foot per minute elevator ride. If you aren’t paying attention you can fly right through it. I’ve found the wave several times flying north from PGC around Pennridge. When the wind is that strong and the temperatures are that cold, only a fool would go skydiving. Then again, only a fool would jump out of a perfectly good airplane, so make sure there are no jump operations. I’ve only found it when I was at least 2500 feet high. It isn’t large. Flying into that strong a headwind at minimum sink speed, your ground speed is very low. I’ve found that I fly out of the north side of the lift in as little as a quarter mile. If I turn 45 degrees to the wind to crab back and forth in the lift, I’ve found the wave to be a couple of miles wide. I’ve climbed to as much as 8200 feet, which is legal for a glider in the Mode C veil, as long as it is equipped with a Mode C transponder. When Richard was called to the front of the clubhouse at the Spring Membership meeting to tell about his adventure, he couldn’t resist the captive audience and launched into another one of his terrible jokes. PGC members found wave conditions the following Thanksgiving Day weekend, and the hunt for wave became a Thanksgiving tradition. PGC commemorated Richard Wagner’s wave flight, and started a little friendly competition, by creating the Wacky Wagner Wave and Frozen Foot (WWWFF) award. The competition awards those who can find the wave, climb as high as possible, and survive as long as possible in the coldest conditions. To score points in the contest you multiply your highest altitude, by the height of your climb off tow, by the duration of your flight. You divide that by the temperature measured on the ground, to reward the pilot with the most perseverance. No flight recorders are required. This is a gentleman’s competition using the honor system. So now that the field is frozen, come on out and fly. Don’t let a cold north wind ground you, that’s what you’re looking for. Have a wonderful holiday. I’ll see you when we have our traditional January First flights, if not before. Phil Klauder