Dude, Where’s the Ground???


I went up for another long flight to gather fuel burn data last night. I got a really cool surprise.

Between Rives and Mason Hall there are dozens of square miles of row crop fields. All the corn is cut and the beans are starting to be harvested. This means there are dozens of square miles of bare dirt getting warmed by the sun.

Approaching this area at a gentle climb, I intended to level out at 1200′ and just cruise there for an hour or so. I hit my altitude and reduced throttle to stop the climb, but I didn’t stop climbing. At first I thought I had an altimeter problem. I didn’t think I had entered a thermal, normally you feel a bump going in and if you don’t turn to stay in you feel a bump as you fall out the other side.

I stayed on my heading and kept steadily climbing at idle. It wasn’t fast, 50-100 feet per minute, but the lift was there over this entire area. I did a few turns to change heading and lose some altitude but even in a decent turn I kept climbing.

It was fun but not the flight I needed so I headed back to a forested area to leave the lift. By the time I got out I was at 2300′ and If I had stuck with it I might have gotten to 3000′ with no power.

The rest of the flight was great. I followed I-69 construction around Union city, buzzed the Titan missile at Discovery Park, met Kate taking pictures at a walking track, and put on a mini airshow for some kids that chased me out of Graham park. But feeling that huge area of lift taught me a lot about how to find free altitude.

As for the fuel burn. I flew 2hrs 15min, transferred 3L from my homemade Aux. tank and landed at sunset with 3L left in the tank. That’s about 45min worth if I’m careful. That fuel burn was a little above normal due to all the playing I did down low when the air stabilized. I couldn’t resist. That took me 51 miles with an average speed of 24mph.

With careful throttle use I’ve got no doubt I can break the three hour mark. Especially If I can find a little lift like I did last night.

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