Saturday started out looking good in the forecast but didn’t actually deliver on the promise. The best flight of the day was David Stuart in the club Jantar. The 2-seater was prepared by Liam but he was called away to work in Western Australia just as we were about to tow down.
Sunday started with a busload of cadets arriving unannounced. That caused a bit of consternation as we didn’t have enough instructors or 2-seaters available and we’d already made plans for other students. Fortunately the cadets start early so we were able to get launching started before 10:30. The sky didn’t look very promising, with yesterday’s clouds looking thicker and flatter.
Then the radio call came down from the instructor in the air, “Put everything back in the hangar.” Within just a few minutes of putting the toys away, the rain started coming down. Thunder, lightning and heeavy rain poured down.
Half an hour later, the storm was gone. Completely gone. Damian and Graham inspected the runway…
Since the storm passed through so early in the day, there was still a possibility of some solar heating lifting off some thermals in the afternoon, so we towed down to the launch point again. Looking at the sky, it was impossible to say if there was any lift at all or there may have been a couple of hundred km in the day. Well, only one way to find out: James and Morgan took a launch in the Duo.
A tentative exploration out to the hills found a good thermal, just as we were turning back for home. That got us up to cloudbase and heading out into the strong westerly wind. The moisture added by the thunderstorm resulted in some very strange cloud bases, we were under clouds producing lift and above other clouds. Working west, we found the wind getting stronger and dropped down into an area where we expected to get some ridge lift. Of course the ridge lift in the Hunter is never like the book says it should be. The best lift was the thermals popping off the top of the ridge and drifting back behind the hill.
Eventually we got far enough to identify Denman on the map. According to the GPS, 35km from Warkworth and just out of glide range. With 20 knots wind behind us, the trip home was pretty quick and, following the cloud streets, plenty of height to spare.
After we thought that we had had enough weather for the day, the wind swung around 180 degrees so quickly that Mick was surprised to see the the wind sock reverse itself between “take up slack” and “full power.” The landing that previously pulled up neatly in front of the pie cart now ended up at the hangar.
The “sea breeze” came in with a carpet wind only 800ft high. It brought with it yet another cloudbase. So we were flying under clouds, around clouds and above clouds in full sunshine with a thunderstorm. And there was still lift! A really really interesting day.