Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day Six

Weather for Day 6 fell under one of two headings: Severe Storm or Blue. Pilots’ descriptions of it ranged from “interesting” to “terrifying” to “ghastly.” As a result of what Weatherman Dan Gudgel described as a “smile” of a front reaching completely across the state, all three classes had the potential of facing storms in the Hill Country. For 15-meter and Open Class it was Fredricksburg (Turnpoint 3 for 15-meter, Turnpoint 2 for Open Class), and for the 18-meter Class, it was the second turn at Kerrville, just 25 miles from Fredricksburg. The few pilots who reached that second or third turnpoint early escaped most of the drama, which included multiple simultaneous lightning strikes, strong winds, pounding rain, dark skies, and finally a wall of storm. Rain shredded tape and tore off yaw strings, but most of the damage seemed to be fixable. Gudgel said thunderstorm tops reached 53,000 feet, releasing energy equivalent to an atomic bomb.

From that maelstrom, pilots flew south to cloudless skies and tried their best to make it home to Uvalde, which was under a tornado watch. According to CD Ken Sorenson, 80% of the 18-meter class made it home, 70% of the 15-meter, and 65% of the Open Class. Several pilots landed just before sunset.

Open Class pilot Petr Krejcirik (RX) of the Czech Republic had some trouble at the launch. Unaware that his dive breaks were open, he found himself unable to self-launch, rolled off the end of the runway, and damaged the gear box. He did not fly, and it is unlikely that his plane can be repaired for this contest.

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