16.02.2010 - Shark attack

I woke up at seven to prepare my glider, took me nearly an hour to fill up more than 210 L of water, place the charged batteries, drinking water, snack and other equipment to have my „AG“ 304 Shark ready for action. Then breakfast, shower to cool down and back to clubroom to check the weather. The RASP forecast for January 26th indicated the instability line with later clouds located on the line Narromine - Wanaaring at 13 PM local, stationary during the day. After short discussion with Mac Ichikawa, my team partner, who just arrived from Argentina a few days ago, I declared 1048 km O&R from Narromine to virtual point ZZ S 29 52 11 E 143 27 24 and back to Narromine again.

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The warm up this year was great here in OZ, I completed my 1041 km FAI triangle on January 10th with Massys Nimbus 3 / 2 czech records /, then relaxed a few days on Nelson Bays beaches before coming back to hot paradise. After my return I flew clubs LS 4 „CQO“ a bit past Benalla on 15th to beat another two national records, open distance and the goal flight. I landed there in the evening and spent a pleasant overnight stay with local club, where I enjoyed the kind help of Max Kirschner and the others. Next day CQO headed back home north, surfing the northern edge of trough was great past Forbes except it died to early and I became more familiar with the Peak Hill aerodrome, than what I would like to. My new toy arrived from Waikerie next morning, Andrew Georgeson explained to me all the tricks of HPH 304 Shark so I did not have an excuse and had to fly declared FAI triangles 555 km, 779 km, 643 km, 676 km in the next days.


Mac arrived just before the weather turned into what we call excellent, we did 811 km FAI declared triangle with outback TP called „Roto“ together to remind both of us of our pair flying seven eight years ago. Sunday 24th we declared 1019 km polygon along the arriving trough, but realizing the task is too short, when flying, we elongated the second leg from Byrock to Burke, trough was straight and active till the dark and we both flew over 1200 km via four TPs, cruising often at 4000 m AGL and experiencing strong lifts exceeding 5 m/s.


Back to our todays business, we took off just before 11 AM, crossed the start line and glided towards to Trangie and local brown fields. That was really the beginning of the thermal day, we found ourselfs in less than 300 m AGL in „zeroes“, Mac being a bit lower had to drop more than 60 l of water balast from his Ventus 2 CX to be able to stay in the air. Long circling, search again and we gained some 100 m altitude. We both decided to return some 4 km back to the dustdevil and in weak 1m/s we finished in 800 m AGL. What a relief! Punching the light headwind on the course we curiously looked for the first clouds of the forecasted trough. The ceiling was slowly rising, we passed Nevertire in 1200 AGL and Nyngan in 1300 m AGL, then the first Cus popped up some 30 km nort of us and soon they formed into the trough line. Finally we reached the line at 14 PM but only 150 km from home, averaging some 50 km/h task speed. But the change was excellent, now we were hitting 3 – 5 m/s thermals with the cloudbase in 3400 m AGL. This was also the moment to say bye to civilisation with the landible areas and to head for the desert, well only 370 km there and then back, who would be worry? Sort of cloudstreets ahead, base was rising up to 3600 m AGL when I crossed Darling river between Bourke and Louth. I went 10 years back in my memory, when flying hang gliders here from Willcania, that were my best flights ever and 7 world records with the flexies as well. I really liked this adventure with Bill Moyes here, I remembered stopping in Louth to get fuel, drink and snack in this village with two local inhabitants and one building only, well here I was again. I could see, when high, the red sand desert towards Wanaaring, beautiful cloudstreet with the huge dustdevils underneath and even some isolated farm often accomodated with the airstrips. My task speed was rising constantly but still not looking good enough to complete the declared task at all. Mac felt a bit behind due to the lack of balast and then he decided to turn back at twenty past four. I was hitting 4 – 5 m/s thermals constantly and thought I cannot turn before reaching my turnpoint, even if this will result in outlanding farway from home. Did not wanna look like chicken J. Luckily the trough turned left in the direction my „ZZ“ turnpoint was located and I rounded it at quarter to five.


Having another 524 km to go and 3 hours 50 minutes till the last light I started to pray and to promise to our God of thermals and of course to push the stick of my Shark as well. Soon after that I made a mystake and instead of following the trough line developed to the left from course line I decided to cross the blue cloudless swamp area / yes, in the desert after the heavy flooding of Darling river /. I found myself in 1400 m AGL in the middle of nowhere, could not see these remote farm with airstrips anymore and started to think about the long walk among the sand dunes. I could not hit any strong core of course and changed to survival gear. There was a beautiful huge dustdevil ahead some 30 km down the course, beginning of the cloudstreet towards south east. I moved slowly and carefully there to find solid 4 -5 m/s up all the way to the moon. That was at 18 PM, some 380 km from home. Then I got the chance to enjoy gliderpilots heaven. Trough formed into solid cloudstreet, base in 4000 – 4150 m AGL, blue towards to SW and overdevelopment the other side. Cruising 200 – 240 km/h and staying high, minimum of circling, mainly gaining the height in straight flight I started to believe first to outland in civilised area, than in Nyngan, than maybe past that. The evening was arriving and thermals weakning, but luckily the cloudstreet I joined 170 km from Narromine was still active at half past seven and for another 80 km, so I pushed the stick 80 km out in 3200m AGL for the final. Mac also made it safely back home at that time, giving me the info about the air ahead and I could enjoy the end ride of my best soaring flight with the glider I ever experienced. I passed the finish line, the runway crossing in Narromine just before sunset and landed safely on RWY 11. I made another three czech records today and later after the succesfull battle with two pound scotch fillet and few glasses of australian port I went to my own so hardly deserved bed in Narromine caravanpark.


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12 consecutive days of gliding plus that thousander the week before, 110 hours airtime and some 9000 XC km, no wonder I packed up my new baby „AG“ and drove back to Sydney the next day to revive on Bronte beach a bit.


Thank you Andrew and Jaroslav in HPH, that you let me fly your 304, which I enjoyed quite a lot.


Happy landings


Tomas Suchanek


Tomas flights can be viewed here