1’000 km in a Shark 304

Rangi de Abaffy tells the story behind one of his 1’000 km flights in a Shark 304 in October 2019 as follows:

Rangis latest distance masterpiece was a flight of 1’500 km at January 27th 2021

I guess this flight started very early this year when Graham Johnson came up to me one day out at Springfield and said something like “You would be a good sort of a person to have a half share in a Shark”. I had not really thought of buying another glider since selling my Ls4 (YH) about 6 years ago. So over the next few weeks I thought hmmm: newish, 18m, self-launch, hanger spot, good price, ok you don’t get this opportunity very often so let’s see if I fit and am comfortable. After 2 ½ hours sitting in it my back was stuffed for 2 months. Fortunately, YH was still at Springfield so I made a copy of the seating position of YH and made a seat insert and put it in the Shark. It worked and I was then able to sit in the shark for many comfortable hours. Next up was: flying it, learning about the LX9000, fitting a larger oxygen bottle, new battery, getting a motor glider rating….

I have been fortunate enough that I have had about four really good wave flights with Terry Delore and so have got to learn a few things about wave and what to look for. Also, the club has been holding some seminars on the odd evening and one was on badge flights etc by Terry. There was plenty of general discussion along with what badge flights we wanted to do. At some stage Terry handed me a laminated task sheet with two 1000 km tasks on it.

Forwards to Saturday 26 October 2019, I had already seen that Sunday 27th looked good for a 1000k attempt but I was on duty on Sunday. About 4pm I got a call from Terry to say that tomorrow looked good and that I had better find someone to take over instructing for me tomorrow. Fortunately, Warwick Bethwaite and John McCaw said that they would look after instructing tomorrow. Preparation, task was already in the LX, batteries charged, watch All Blacks lose, go to sleep,

Sunday 27 October, get up at 6am having stayed the night at Springfield , stuffed about listening to the wind slowly getting up and eventually self-launch at 8am before the wind got too strong. Under power I fly up until I contact lift at 5000 ft about half way between Springfield town and the Lime Works and then shut the engine down. After a while I get good lift and turn on the transponder and contact Christchurch Approach and get clearance to 15,000ft and advise them of my intensions. I then climbed up to 10,000 ft and fly the 10km southwest to start at about 8,200ft at 08:34 at Russel’s Peak. I llew back towards the Lime Works and then into the lee of Torlesse climbing from 8,000ft up 16,700 in 6 minutes flat. On hind-sight I should have got a higher clearance than FL180 and gone much higher with it being such a good climb rate of 14.5 kts.

I then headed off towards Lees Valley but got a bit bogged down because the wave was not as far into wind as it had been on other days I had been in this area and I got down to 10,000ft and backed tracked about 20km before getting back up to 15,000 ft. I had not been much north of Lees valley before except for twice with Terry to Hanmer however the weather on track looked clear with the odd wisp of what I hoped were markers for the wave and so I just flew on the up wind side from cloud marker to cloud marker up towards Hanmer Springs, however as I got closer to Hanmer there was less lift and I was descending through 11,000ft. As I went down through about 7,500 ft Christchurch Control called up to say if I continued descending then I would drop out of radio contact so they were removing my clearance to 18,000, however they also said that should I climb up again then just call them up and ask to be re-cleared to 18,000 and they would give it to me. Continuing on track and at 6,500 I was abeam Mount Lyford so I turned down wind towards it thinking I could always ridge soar it. After a while I thought that Mount Lyford is probably a good wave generator and so I flew down wind of it, after 10km at 6000ft I found rotor then wave, got re-cleared to 18,000ft and climbed back up to 14,000 ft and then headed for the Inland Kaikoura Range lee wave.

Contacted the wave at about 11,000ft and from here through to about 80km from home was pretty plain sailing. The first turn point was about 20 miles south west of Ward. As I got to about 10 miles from it ATC asked me to stay below Fl160. About 1 minute before reaching the turn point I advised ATC of my intentions to turn and back track. Leg 1, 231 km at 94 kph. Having turned and about 10 miles away from turn point I got cleared to FL180 again and again in hind- sight as the lift was strong I should have tried for a higher clearance. 2nd turn point was by Mount Hutt. Leg 2, 262 km at 182 kph. low point 13,000ft with most of leg between 15,000 and 18,000ft.

Leg 3 up to 10 miles south west of Ward. 272km at 191 kph. low point, twice, 13,000ft with most of leg between 15,000 and 18,000ft. I also noticed that there was a bit more cloud towards Springfield and Lees Valley area. The forecasts also indicated a deterioration about and hour or two from then. As I got close to the turn point I advised ATC that I was going to be turning and back tracking in about 1 minute, they asked me which way I was going to turn. This baffled me a bit but I said to the west.

Leg 4 All was going well but as I got past the Hanmer area I could see lots of cloud on track lower down and also the indicator clouds that I could see were about 10km further east of my previous tracks. About half way between Culverden and Hawarden I was about 20km south east of my previous tracks and down at 10,000ft, the wind speeds had picked up quite a bit, maybe even up to 65 to 70 kts at one stage. I managed to climb up to 15,000ft again. I tried to push into wind to get back to where my previous tracks had been but could not because of cloud and head wind. Cloud base was about 9-10,000 feet and so I had to go under it, as soon as I am under it is rough and continues like this until I get home. I get to the north end of Lees Valley at around 5,500ft still getting tossed around and get a little climb to 6,200 and keep pressing on. I am still over the hills on the eastern side of Lees Valley. At about 5000 and about half way down Lees Valley ATC calls up to advise I am descending and below controlled airspace and they are going to remove my clearance. I manage to ask her if she can open G951 which she does but I know that it is 10km west and I don’t think that I can reach into the head wind and I don’t know if there is any lift there either. Soon I think that I will be ridge soaring Lees Valley and or landing in it. About 4,500 I pick up what I think is some lift but its hard to tell because of the gusty roughness of the air everywhere. I climb though 5100ft at 5 kts and 3 or 4 minutes after losing my clearance I am asking for a clearance to 7000 feet which I get which is good because I am now climbing at 10kts at 5500ft. I continue climbing above Mount Richardson, up to 7.200ft at 10kts then head for home. Its still rough and I am 30 km from finishing, now the problem is too much lift and cloud above, I have already put the wheel down and am a bit worried about pulling the airbrakes but not much choice at 8,200ft as the ground is starting to disappear…. Eventually cross the Waimakariri river and into G951 at about 8,000ft, go off control, cross the finish line (Springfield Airfield) at 7,850ft at 15:51, Call up on radio to advise I am back and am happy to see that at least someone is there as I can see the odd car. Airbrakes out, descend through 5,500ft, advise ATC I have finished with G951 and land with lots of speed. Leg 4 237km at 121kph.

It seems I got back at the right time because the wind had dropped and it was raining 10 minutes after I landed. No one else flew that day from Springfield as it was too windy by the time normal club flying would have started.

  • High point was landing back at Springfield and people seeming to materialize from everywhere to welcome me back.
  • Low point was looking at the possibility of landing in Lees Valley in windy and rough conditions.

Advice for those that want to do some XC wave flying: Height is your friend, Organise to get some dual flying with someone in a glider with oxygen in wave but not in local wave, go somewhere and then come back and figure out what you are looking for as indicators of wave lift. Practice talking to ATC, go up and ask for clearance and fly on control, Christchurch Approach 120.9, Be out of controlled airspace, turn on your transponder, Call them, Tell them roughly where you are, your height and what you would like. Source: ‚Taranaki Gliding Club‚.

Flight data of Rangis 1’500 km flight of January 27th 2021. Source: OLC, online contest.

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