For the first official competition day of JWGC2017, “pretty good” won out over “rain by noon”. The weather forecast at the morning pilot briefing spoke of weak-ish lift to only moderate altitudes and an early end to the day – but the reality was a bit friendlier than that. Which is not to say that the day was trouble-free. In truth, many pilots struggled on their way home, and a number came up short.
Typical of many good soaring days here, the task took pilots southwest into Poland. The total amount of Lithuanian airspace available for tasking from Pociunai is limited, and Poland is a friendly country, so tasks often head there. The border between these two countries is a tolerably narrow “gate”, just a little more than 60 km wide. To the southeast sits Belarus and to the west Kaliningrad, both reliably hostile to airspace incursions by any flying machine.
US pilots Noah Reitter and J.P Stewart flew well together and managed decent speeds that earned them 15th and 16th places. Daniel Sazhin had some radio problems that led to a later start (on a day when early was better) and some struggles on the first leg. He managed a respectable recovery on the return north toward home, good for 22nd place.
Our crew cars are an interesting collection of mostly high-mileage vehicles, veterans of many gliding competitions and no doubt vast numbers of retrieves. They have their quirks. The one 4WD example is a Hyundai SUV, a turbo diesel. We used this for a retrieve last week, which it managed – but at a very disappointing level of power (with trailer, max speed on level ground was around 90 kph). It turns out it had gone into “safe mode”, in which the turbo is disabled and provides no boost at all. This vehicle is happy to warn you sternly about open doors or unfastened seat belts, but remained entirely silent about having decided to cripple its engine power. A car mechanic was quickly able to put this right, but was unable to say what had caused the problem – so we don’t know whether to expect a recurrence.
This afternoon, I took the black Audi A4 (300,000 km) on a mission to scout landable fields. A refueling stop was planned, but at the gas station I entirely failed to find any way to release the door that hides the refueling cap. The key includes two different wireless remotes with numerous unmarked buttons, and I was tempted to start pressing these in hopes that one would cause the fuel door to open. But we’ve had lots of cases where our vehicles’ theft alarms have sounded for no good reason, and were not always quickly silenced. Since I was headed off to remote rural areas, I thought it would be wiser and less potentially embarrassing to wait to try this until I was well away from civilization. Far off in the countryside, I tried all the buttons – and they all failed. With a weak phone signal I called Tony Condon back at the airfield, who was able to Google the problem and discover that provided all 4 car doors are unlocked, you can simply press on the edge of the door to open it. So it proved, and I was able to bring the car home full of fuel.
I wrote about the BMW’s trials during a practice-day retrieve. Like the others, this car has given good service. But it is said to be fond of occasionally locking its own doors shortly after being parked – if you have left the keys in it, you are then locked out. We’d like to have duplicates, but these are “high security” keys – hard and expensive to copy. So we try always to take the keys when we exit the car.