F1 all ready for a great day of soaring
The 28th was the first official practice day, and that's when all the real fun began. We're now starting to nail down a routine as a team, and by the time the contest starts we should be a well oiled machine. The past three days I've been helping either Nick or Dave, whoever was flying that day. It means early mornings and long days out in the heat until 8 at night, but I'm having so much fun! It is an unreal experience. The amount of pilots and crew is crazy, there's literally hundreds of people here. The tie down field has an impressive amount of trailers in it, all organized perfectly so that everyone has plenty of room to rig and pull out. I'll have to climb up on something tall to try and get a picture of the magnitude of it. Only problem is that some people seem to like to speed down the dirt paths which causes huge dust clouds...not so nice for the clean gliders.
It's best to water and pull out to the runway early in the morning before it gets too hot, then have some down time for a quick breakfast before the morning pilots meeting at 10am every morning. They had to move the meeting to the gymnasium on the college campus because the auditorium was too small for all of us! For clarification there the Southwest Texas Junior College shares a fence with the airport and they have generously let us use some of their rooms and gym for out meetings. After the meeting it's time to get the last things together, get ourselves organized out at Canada base back at the tie down area and get out to the runway in time to pull out for grid time.
Canada base (one of the only shelters on the field that has proved strong enough to withstand the winds at night!)
Grid and launch is a frenzy of activity, all happening incredibly efficiently without a hitch. The ground crew does a fantastic job launching, especially considering they're running around in 100 degree weather. Having 10-12 towplanes does help though...there's literally never a moment where a glider isn't taking off or a towplane isn't landing. This is one of those times that I'm glad to not be running or working the ground ops. The freshly paved runways are nice and smooth for the gliders but the dark black sure makes you feel like your shoes are going to start melting into the runway. Light, white clothes! Though it's only the first week and my sock, tshirt and short tan are already becoming quite prominent...I need to spend more time by the pool apparently. After launch we head back to Canada base and take shifts listening and working the radio and sending starting times in. It's really nice to have that little hour break to head back and grab some lunch in air conditioning! I have a whole newfound love and appreciation for AC, it is a saving grace out here. Then we're all back well before landing to get them off the runways safely and fast, because there is a TON of people all coming back within an hour. It's an incredible hour of contest finishes, water dumping and jam packed circuits that keeps pilots and crews alike aware and focused on the task at hand. When you have 10 gliders landing one after another in a line down the runway, a mistake it not an option. Needless to say, I have never seen that many gliders landing at the same time before, it's spectacular to watch.
This was the stack up that happened within about a minute and a half!
Tomorrow I will try and make a more detailed description of the day, because honestly the past few days have all just melded into one big blur of airplanes and dust. So my apologies for the slightly scatterbrained and broad post that this was, but hey better then not writing anything at all right? And now it's time to sleep because 6am sure is going to come fast.