Ephrata 2012 Dust-Up - The Student Experience

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This year's Annual Ephrata Dust Up replaced the straight-up competition format with one that put an emphasis on learning and mentoring. An important part of this new format was dual-ship cross-country student mentoring featuring three glass ships and several very experienced cross-country pilots.

The whole weekend was a great success for newbie and wannabe X/C pilots, and the low-key atmosphere made it easy to immerse yourself in the action. Depending on timing, conditions, and other factors, every mentee's experience differed, but in addition to the flying itself, there were opportunities to learn about rigging, planning cross-country flights (students attended the pilot's briefings each morning), setting up GPS software, and of course the post-flight debriefings over great food, and bevvies in the in the comfortable SGC clubhouse.

The goal each day was to have each ship - two DG-1000's and a Grob 103 - fly two, two-hour cross-country flights. The ships were the SGC Soaring Foundation's DG, Tony Wiederkehr's DG (a huge thanks to Tony for this very generous loan) and the Evergreen Grob. Mentoring pilots were Noel Wade, Kevin Finke, Heinz Gehlaar and Jim Simmons - Thanks to you all!

To give you a sense of these mentoring flights here are a few short summaries from students Hugh Davies, Mason Killebrew, and Greg Gohsman.


I flew with Kevin Finke in Tony's DG. What as ship! By the time we prepped, it was getting late in the day, being the second mentoring flight that day and most other ships were back on the ground. The sky was not nearly as promising as it had been earlier so the plan was to go up, sniff things out and if conditions warranted head west to Waterville and "reassess" our progress en route.

We took a tow to the radio towers and we immediately found some weak lift. Encouraging. Then after a minute or two we spotted Noel in the Grob thermalling and climbing a little East of us. We quickly joined him and climbed to 8000 ft - enough to head out and try our luck to westward toward Waterville. It was my first time away from the Ephrata area (well, not quite. I had a 2-hour flight the previous year with Dave Reusch but the visibility was horrendous and I have no idea where we went!) and I was amazed by the topography of the land up on the plateau. Kevin told me all about a big lake, a big flood, some dry falls, and an amazing speed it all happened. Sounded rather implausible to me, something dreamed up while being too high without enough 02 ?!?!

Not just sightseeing though, we spent time identifying landmarks, landing sites and looking for dust devils. Conditions were pretty weak so I got plenty of practice scratching in thermals, trying to center them, and then working on speed-to-fly between thermals. It seemed we had the sky to ourselves; there was virtual no radio chatter and conditions were generally weak and the air pretty benign.

After 45 minutes we were on the east edge of Moses Coulee the GPS said we had Waterville made if we chose - but would we get back? Neither of us wanted to miss the dinner prepared by Chris Young so we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and started picking our way home. Little did we know that the only person who was going to miss Chris's lovely dinner was Chris himself as he had landed out earlier in the day (I think he did get some leftovers! Thanks again Chris for that great dinner!)

We started to head back with good altitude but practicing thermaling whenever we got the chance. We'd got pretty used to the "benign" conditions, but about halfway back things got interesting. We hit an absolutely screamer of a thermal - really quite violent. Kevin took the controls and showed me some pretty "assertive" flying as he tried to center this tiny little beast. We didn't stay with it for long though and quickly found ourselves in massive sink - averaging 14 knots down - and that seemed to go on for a long time. Suddenly Ephrata felt much further away (at least to me - another learning moment!!)

After what seemed a long time (does time stretch in proportion to sink rate?) we flew out of it and proceeded back toward the airfield. We arrived with lots of height (that DG has legs!) and Kevin took us in for and uneventful landing. Total time 1:50 minutes. Trace at http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=2423728 . Thank you Kevin!!!


After months of looking forward to the Dust Up and Evergreen Soaring Encampment in Ephrata, I think I was fortunate enough to be among the first to log on to the Dust Up sign up when Noel posted it. As such, I was the first to take a cross-country mentored ride on Saturday. I drew Kevin Finke as my mentoring pilot and we flew the almost new and quite beautiful DG 1000 that Tony Wiederkehr generously allowed the use of for the Dust Up weekend.

After Kevin, Hugh and I assembled the DG (not as big a task as I anticipated), Kevin declared a task to fly to the Grand Cooley Dam, cross-country, and back within two hours. Kevin flew the initial take off roll and allowed me to take the controls as we climbed out behind the tow plane. Having almost no experience in a glass ship, I was over-correcting for a bit before getting the feel of the DG. If your world has been confined to Blanik L-23's and 33's, you can understand the different needs of a very slippery glass ship.

The flight to the dam was a series of straight glides and thermals guessing where the best lift would be found. At all times, the computer showed that we were above final glide to return to Ephrata. Along the way, Kevin pointed out fields and airports.

Upon getting to the dam and still being above final glide, Kevin declared that we needed to be below that altitude in order to accomplish a true cross country flight (by definition) and order to accomplish that, he dove over the dam and we were finally below final glide.

The return to KEPH was a straight shot with lift found all the way without needing to thermal…it was that kind of day. In fact at thirty or so miles out, Kevin gave me the controls with the instruction to fly it at eighty knots straight back. At several miles still out from Ephrata and being too high, he took the controls and kicked it up to one hundred twenty to burn some altitude. Slowing and getting into the pattern at the airfield, Kevin executed a perfect landing on the numbers at one minute short of the two-hour goal.

All in all, a spectacular flight with lots of experience gained, some of which I had a chance to practice over the next two days flying the L-33.

Big thanks to Kevin and Noel for putting together a really fun, learning experience for the Dust Up, and to Kevin for being a patient mentor. Trace at http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=2423724 .


I went in the (SGC) DG 1000 with Jim Simmons, who has been gliding for 30 years. He started with a weight and balance check and then showed me software that takes the log of the flight, showing the ground track and circle after circle thermaling. It was very cool to see a flight he had made.

Once on tow it was great to actually get to use a slack line maneuver - due to turbulence. After an hour of searching we made it to 10,500 ft and I learned how to use the LX7000 flight computer. Three hours later we entered the pattern with a 45 degree 18 knot crosswind. Jim mentioned the large hangers would cause turbulence and as we encountered the sink I had to close the spoilers to arrest the descent and then get them back on, once through. We landed at an angle across the runway to reduce the cross-wind component. In hind-sight I needed 60 knots Vs. the 50 knots - and could have landed past turbulence zone of the hanger. I learned a lot that day. Thank you Jim. Trace at: http://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-2.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?dsId=2439272 .


As Mason said, there was a lot of chance to practice our flying skills over the rest of the weekend; I don't know how many student flights were made over the 3 days but there were many - more thanks to Dave Reusch, Paul Adriance, Ron Bellamy, (am I missing someone?). Ephrata presents a terrific world-class soaring facility right "next door" and certainly had the student all talking about how they could come back more often! Once last huge thanks to the mentors, and to Tony Wiederkehr, Evergreen and the SGC syndicate for the use of their ships!

The mentees: Don Flinn, Greg Gohsman, Jim Rise, Movses Babayan, Pat McCartan, David Dyck, Hugh Davies, Mason Killebrew, Jennifer Hunt, Tom Flandro, Dimitry Rudas and Daniel Dyck.