___ Proposed legs
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9/14/2015 - Alby arrives at First Flight, Kitty Hawk, NC!
Heartfelt congratulations to Alby pilot Eric Lambert, who found reliable lift on a blue day to get Alby safely to Kitty Hawk, for a well-deserved rest. Eric's notes on the flight are found in more detail below.
Briefly, he said, "I will return to First Flight in the morning and plan to meet with Karen Warlitner, the Executive Director of the First Flight Foundation, for a photo-op. We would like to have a photo of Alby next to the Wright Flyer. On Thursday and through the weekend, we hope to take advantage of this spell of good weather to fly Alby north."
8/31/2015 - Alby flew Sunday from Chesapeake, VA to Currituck , NC with Albypilot Eric Lambert in his motorized Grob 103.
Eric said that he found clouds to 5,000’ and lift up to 4 knots. He got low (1,700’) at the Academia facility (U.S. Training Center) but got back up to 4,000’ and then to Currituck. He said it was not difficult – sure I believe it, when the conditions are good! The flight of 25 miles required only two thermals, but it was one of the very few days that there were clouds and workable lift and no adverse winds. Clouds and lift disappeared soon after the landing.
Eric wants to spend four days of the long Labor Day weekend trying to fly with Alby the 33 miles from Currituck to First Flight Airport, a place that is so historically important for all aviators. Not an easy thing to do since near the coast the weather is not favorable to soaring in general, and in this case in particular the glider has to fly for several miles directly above water.
Alby flight No. 25 and pin No. 14- Elizabeth Maynard 7/25/09
Two weeks before the Alby flight…
I must have had sunstroke because after three days of playing with airplanes and gliders in record high temperatures of 108F I announce that I will fly Alby from Decatur to TSA. I, who only got her gliding licence last September and who had never flown more than 16 miles from her takeoff airport, now thinks that flying 65 miles for a first cross country, over twice that required for the Silver distance, makes perfectly good sense. When I get home, I email Dean Forney, one of the most knowledgeable glider pilots I know, and inform him of my decision. “Go for it”, he writes back. I email Francis, one of the officers of our club, and ask her to let Sergio know. She does, but politely asks me “isn’t it rather like jumping into the deep end after just learning to swim?” That strengthens my determination to do the trip. I always rise to a challenge. So it is all set; everyone is informed. But by Thursday, when the sunstroke is fading and the reality of the task ahead is sinking in, I realise I must have been very ill indeed.
You may wonder what gave me the audacity to believe I am capable of such a distance with such little experience. Since buying a beautiful Russia (AC-4C) earlier this year I have wanted to fly cross country. I have been practicing all the exercises suggested by the experts. I have practiced flying small cross country triangles around Decatur. I have made many flights of over 2 hours and if other pilots can stay up, I usually can too. Through writing articles for my club newsletter I have spent much time considering landing out and cross country planning. I was beginning to feel ready for the club standard 35 mile jaunt up to Gainesville. Then along comes Alby.
One week before the Alby flight…
As Alby gets closer to Decatur, on the wings of Dean’s Libelle, I can see more clearly what I have volunteered for and I start to think I have made a really stupid decision. I email Sergio so no hopes will be built up. Two things I don’t tell him. Firstly, I will actually have to fly 85 miles around DFW’s class B airspace. Secondly, my small trip to an airport 16 miles away was actually at Moriarty on a day when other pilots were flying 500 km courses. His reply informs me many people will be following my flight. Secretly I pray for an internet meltdown.
One day before the Alby flight…
I had originally intended to fly to TSA in very loose formation with my good friend and gliding guru, Steve Altman. But as I watch the weather forecasts, it looks like I will be able to make the flight the weekend after Alby arrives at Decatur. I know Steve will be working then, so hope I can delay the flight until the following weekend. I meet up with Dean on Friday afternoon. He gives me a serious look over his café au lait. “Well, Liz”, he says. “It looks like tomorrow will be the best gliding day of the year”. I know I can’t pass such a day up and will have to make the flight without Steve. It will be just me and Alby.
The Alby Flight...
The most important things I take with me into the cockpit are three pieces of advice:
1. If you don’t want to deal with an emergency, don’t create one – Jim Vickery (He actually tells a short story, but this is the moral of the tale.)
2. Get high, stay high – Dean Forney
3. Only worry about the waypoint behind you and the waypoint ahead of you – Steve Altman
Launch No. 1:
I had arranged with the tow pilot for a 12 noon tow and things are going pretty much on time. I plan on sampling the conditions before I leave. I am not going if the conditions are not as good as Dean has promised. After releasing at 2500 ft AGL into a clear blue sky I find a marginal thermal that keeps me from descending, but doesn’t offer me any decent lift. But feeling it might grow into something bigger, I decide to work it for a while. Unfortunately it is in the power aircraft traffic pattern and, for the first time ever since I have been flying at this normally very quiet airport, three training aircraft simultaneously arrive to practice touch and goes. Floating 500 ft over them makes me nervous and I move off hoping to find another thermal. Nothing. Neither lift nor sink and I gracefully float back to earth.
Launch No. 2:
Despite the still blue skies, and despite two other pilots launching and finding nothing I relight immediately. I release into a strong thermal. It takes me up to 3200 ft AGL and then breaks up. I lose it, try to find it again, give up, try to find another thermal, hit sink, head back to Decatur, hit strong lift on final, deploy full spoilers and still need a slip to get down. I land and look up. Cumulus clouds are beginning to develop. High ones, with dark concave bottoms and well defined development. I run my glider backwards up the runway to get relaunched.
Launch No. 3:
A little before 3 PM I release at 2400 ft AGL, this time into a whopping thermal that drives me up to 7000ft AGL. I know this is it. Just to be sure before leaving Decatur’s airspace, I fly towards a neighbouring cloud and again, find 4-6 kt lift. No question, this is it. I radio to my ground crew, a.k.a. husband, to switch to 123.5. This is the signal for him to start driving south.
My progress is slow going. Firstly the winds are from the southwest, with a 10 kt headwind component. Given that the best L/D of my Russia occurs at 50 kts, my ground speed is unimpressive to say the least. Secondly, I am following Dean’s advice and staying high. Cloud topped thermals are abundant and I am able to dolphin from one to the other, straying only slightly off course. Occasionally I stop to thermal in the strongest for the pure joy of rocketing upwards at 6-10 kts. (You have to understand, here, 2 kt thermals are normal; 4 kt thermals are considered a treat.) In this fashion I am able to stay above 6000 ft AGL…until I get to Parker County Airport, a third of the way on my route.
Then everything seems to stop – the road I have been following, landmarks, the abundance of clouds. A few scraggy, poorly developed cumuli break up the blue, but these are miles apart (25 miles at my guess), far too infrequent for the glide performance of my Russia. I stop in a thermal just south of Parker County and try to squeeze every last inch out of it. Given that the southerly wind is blowing me back up my track, I know this isn’t a great idea, but I need time to think. Was I about to create an emergency? At that point my crew asks for my position. After I answer, a second male voice comes over the radio.
“Are you the pilot bringing Alby to TSA?”
“Yes,” I reply. “If I make it.”
“I’m the next Alby pilot,” he says. “And you’ll be fine. You’ve got a few hours left.”
For the first time I look at my watch. 4:30 PM. I have paid no attention to the time until now and it is later than I would have liked. I can feel panic seeping into my bloodstream. There’s no way I can do this, I think. It’s too late. There’s no lift out there. I’m doomed. And the internet meltdown hadn’t happened. I start irrationally veering off to the west towards a deceptively good looking cloud. Panic is beginning to affect my thinking. I kick myself as best one can in a small cockpit. I read Steve’s words in my mind – one waypoint at a time. I look south. I can see the bend in the east-west road that curves around Bourland airport, 11 miles away. I am at 6000 ft AGL. I have two choices. I can land now and end this anguish. Or I can just head out to Bourland. I have enough altitude to make it there. I will either find lift or not and once I get to Bourland I can re-evaluate my position. So like a diver jumping into the water, I hold my breath and turn south.
There is little I can do other than fly along like a blind man with a cane and hope I will bump into another thermal. I can’t reach any of the clouds and the ground is uniformly brown and barren, offering few clues about thermal generation. After only 5 miles a small bubble allows me a few turns and I gain a 1000 ft, and so pass by Bourland at 6000 ft AGL. Things are still not too bad. My next waypoint is Embry, almost 20 miles away, although there are a couple of landout airfields enroute if I need them. I fly in smooth air for 10 miles and then finally stumble into a moderate thermal that bears me back up to 5500 ft AGL. I continue on, my vario alternating between crooning and lazy chirps. Three miles later I feel something good. I turn but sink like a rock. I have just been tricked out of 500 ft. I am down to 4000 ft AGL. With one of my landout airfields almost under me I continue southeast, expecting that I will soon have to turn back and land there. I give it a thorough checkout as I fly by. This is where it will all end. The slow descent is like a slow death. Part of me wants to land and get the inevitable over with.
Some gentle lift tickles my wings. My vario chirps with a little more enthusiasm. I slow to milk this for all I can get. Then suddenly…Bam! A giant bubble of air slams against the underside of my glider. My vario screams like a hyperactive canary. I throw the glider into a 50o bank, drop the nose a couple of degrees on the horizon and kick the rudder to quickly get my nose around. There is no way in hell I am losing this one. And bingo, I hit the bullseye and ride 6 kt lift like an express elevator through 4000 ft AGL…5000 ft…6000 t then…
My GPS gives me an airspace alert. The southwest wind has blown me uncomfortably close to the Class B. I have no choice but to leave and pick up a heading that will keep me close to, but out of the airspace. And so I learn a new definition of pain – leaving the only thermal this side of DFW while it’s still bubbling like the brew in a witch’s cauldron.
With enough altitude to continue on, I start looking ahead for Luscombe, my next landout field. I see it and it looks like a comfortable glide. I check the distance on my GPS and I notice that TSA is now within gliding range. I pause. I am surprised. I had been so sure I would be landing out I had forgotten about TSA. But now it slowly dawns on me I might actually make it and a small flame of hope ignites in the back of my mind.
I turn east. If I hit sink, I can still make Luscombe, but I find neither lift nor sink. For 15 miles, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Luscombe becomes an unreachable dot on the horizon behind me. My GPS tells me TSA is only 4 miles away. In this featureless terrain, I still don’t see it. I am at 2200 ft AGL and I can’t see the place I’m hoping to land at. It is disconcerting. But the numbers tell me I will make it, and I have no choice but to believe them. Still, I am picking out suitable fields as I go. I see a long whitish building and I remember a long hanger on the airport diagram on their website. That must be it. I head straight for it.
At a little after 6 PM I cross the centreline of the runway at 1600 ft AGL. I have little altitude to spare. I enter the traffic pattern and land. As I step out of the cockpit it occurs to me that if my life was a movie, at this point the orchestra would start up and I would give some teary speech about this being the best moment of my life. But, after hours of keeping my emotions under a tight rein so reason and common sense could prevail, I can only feel hunger and the need for the bathroom. We tow the Russia in. I wake up Alby who’s fallen asleep watching the barograph. After Terry Stroud lands, I pass Alby into his care for the next long and difficult leg of Alby’s voyage.
The day after the Alby flight…
My excellent crew and I sleep late, then treat ourselves to a leisurely breakfast. I am still exhausted, but Glenn needs to get his gliding fix so we head out to the airport, arriving later than usual. We are assembling the Russia when Dean drives up.
“Hey Liz,” he calls. “Everyone is waiting for you in the hanger.”
As I walk in I am greeted by congratulations and well dones from my fellow club members. Jim presents me with a bunch of flowers. Dean shakes my hand.
“Well done, number 14,” he says.
“Thank you, number 13,” I reply. I can’t help smiling. To hell with reason and common sense. This feels good. This feels really good.
The flight of the Albatross across our Country caught the attention and the fantasy of a newsmaker, Adam Breen, who published a well written and inspired article in Hollister's "The Pinnacle" newspaper: www.pinnaclenews.com/news/contentview.asp?c=255106
Alby is a Laysan Albatross. He was born and raised in the Midway Islands, not far from the very same Laysan Island that gives names to all the individuals of his species. His parents fed him for six months. They alternated trips of one or two weeks, during which one of them was feeding and the other was protecting Alby and the nest. The long intervals were necessary because often the food was very far away, up to 400 or 600 miles away. They fed him until he became as big as them, and then suddenly deserted him. They did that because they instinctively knew that he was developed enough to take care of himself from then on. And they could not spend all their energies in raising a chick. Although they can live 40 to 60 years, they can only raise a chick every couple of years.
The young albatross did not know all the tricks of life at sea, and the first year he had difficulties at times. One half of the fledglings do not make it through the first season, but Alby did, and everything was much easier after that. He went out on the open ocean and did not come back for years, not touching land at all, living off the bounty of the ocean, sleeping on it, learning to travel using the wind forcing the air up against the moving ridges formed by the waves.
Alby came back to his native island when he was three years old, because his biological clock was giving him the urge to look for a mate. His tentative dances with prospective mates were as clumsy as those of the other young albatrosses around him. Naturally nothing happened, but he experienced and practiced the ways of the elders.
He is 4 years old now. He has wandered the ocean all this time. He has gone through the vast expanses of water finding food, freedom, and safety. He has gone to the north Pacific and flown around the Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska and the fiords of British Columbia. Next year he will try again to go back to his birthplace to search for a mate, and probably will find one.
Albatrosses are at home in the open ocean, keeping at least 30 miles offshore. But Alby is different. He is curious about the land, just as curious as a young soul can be. In his voyages near the northern seashores he watched eagles fishing for salmons. That was not his preferred food, but he looked with interest at this different method of fishing. He communicated with the eagles, answering their whistles with his screeches.
He is fascinated by the land, but unable to penetrate it - he is used to mastering the wind over the waves, and the different way of flying inland is unfamiliar to him. He asked Eagle about the extent of the land, and Eagle said that there is land up to the summit of those far away mountains to the east, and more.
One day he met Pelican, and while they were floating and chatting over the gentle waves of a mild afternoon he learned that Pelican had actually been inland while flying with his flock. He had flown across the fertile valley of California, and over the magnificent mountains of the Sierra Nevada and farther more to the northeast. Alby learned that inside the land, beyond those far away mountains, there is a great lake, and peaks with snow, and forests and valleys, and towns and people.
Pelican described the beauty of the land, which is called America, according to what he heard when people talked about it. Being a sociable character, when he was inside the land Pelican also had contacted other big birds and knew a good deal about what lay farther inside that large country.
Pelican learned from the other birds that there are large deserts and arid mountains in the interior highlands. There are very few people in those deserts, few roads, few machines. Nature is mostly untouched by man there, with many animals running free. The air is not disturbed by artificial smells and mechanical noises. It takes many days of overflying this natural environment before reaching the majestic mountains of the Continental Divide. Here the land is green again with large forests. Snow may remain up to late summer, the rocks are harsh and austere.
From there one can overfly the vast farmlands that gradually decrease in elevation until they make room for the mighty rivers that cut the America land in two. Pelican had also contacted seagulls that told him about more land to cross going east, with plenty of houses and towns and people. There are cities sporting very high buildings that tower up toward the sky. There are rivers and lakes where an aquatic bird can feed. He heard tales from vultures and hawks that there is another long range of lower mountains and beyond that, couple of days away as the crow flies, there is ocean again.
Alby would like to go inland, see the beauty of the country, but he is not fit to go there. He does not know how to master the thermals the way eagles, pelicans and other birds with big wings travel there. He is made for the ocean.
Still he would like to go and try to cross this enormous island that he cannot cross, and get to the sea on the other side.
One day he flies along the shore, and sees some very big wings flying along the cliffs of the big town called San Francisco, as he understands people call this place.
Approaching those big wings, he realizes that there are people hanging on them. He discovers then that people cannot fly on their own, but have created artificial wings that support them. He knows what they are doing; he knows how to fly along the cliffs. He knows that, ‘cause such was the very kind of flight he took when he left his nest for the first time.
Soon those cliffs become a favorite place for Alby. He flies there often and so close to the flying people that learns many of the words they speak. He listens and learns that there are even bigger and faster flying machines with long wings for the people that like to fly like birds, which are called gliders or sailplanes. And there are flying crafts with propelling engines, capable of transporting many people at high speed. He understands now what are those enormously high flying machines that cross the ocean, so high that he barely can hear their sound through the whistle of the wind.
The flying people are impressed by the unusual behavior of this albatross, which so often flies with them instead of flying far away in the ocean like others members of the same species. They imagine that Alby wants to travel ashore, but does not trust doing it by himself.
The soaring people offer to take Alby inland, and to show him the beauty of the countryside. They offer to take him aboard their flying machines and let him cross this big island in silent winged crafts, no noises, no vibrations, no offending gas smells.
Alby accepts the invitation. He wants to see the mountains, the valleys, the lakes, the deserts and the forests, and the towns and the towers, and the roads and the bridges and the rivers of this beautiful land called America. He realizes that it is not possible for him to travel here alone, without the help of the flying people.
So the soaring people take Alby in their silent aircrafts across that vast territory. They understand. Because they themselves share the curiosity, the need for adventure, the thirst for knowledge of that young spirit. They share the independence that flying gives, the endless autonomous decisions that need to be taken in this constantly moving environment. They know the far-reaching view that this privileged position allows. But most of all, they share the elation of infinite freedom by being immersed in the sky, floating, suspended in the brilliance of this transparent ocean. Those are the reasons why they aimed for the skies, and now they cannot live any more without the magic of flight.
They take Alby with them, in the togetherness that unites all aviators. Alby’s great voyage has just begun.
ORGANIZATION OF THE VOYAGE
This website is recording the flights of Alby, his whereabouts and his flight log. The webmaster of the site is the Albymaster. All news and inquiries about Alby will be handled by this site.
Alby wishes to soar across America. He wishes to see it all, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, and then resume his wandering life across the seas.
Alby flies only in aircraft that use the energy contained in the atmosphere as a means for traveling. Motorgliders can use their engine only for taking off.
A proposal to fly with Alby shall be sent to the Albymaster. A proposal shall include a pre-declaration of the proposed flight.
Preference will be given, in order, to the site that is closer to Alby’s current location, to the first proponent in order of time, to soaring clubs or associations, to groups of pilots, or to an individual pilot. This means, for example, that an individual pilot has to wait for the soaring club to fail its attempt, before making its own attempt.
A club or pilot that has proposed to fly with Alby and has been accepted by the Albymaster, will be called the Albypilot. When a proposal is accepted, the flight should be made before the end of the next Friday.
If no other Albypilots have made the flight on their assigned week, the hosting club or pilot will have the right to make the flight before the end of the next Friday. If the host did not propose or is not able to make the flight, the next Albypilot shall make the flight before the end of the next Friday. And so on.
RULES FOR THE FLIGHT
Gliders can be towed to an altitude not exceeding 3,000’above take-off. Motorgliders will shut off their engine before that altitude is reached. The release or engine shut-off point shall be west of the take off field.
Each landing point will be to the east of the take-off point. If difficulties arise, an occasional back leg may happen, when accepted by the Albymaster.
The flight should end in a soaring site, or a place from where a glider can be towed out. If the flight does not end in the pre-declared location, the Albypilot or a pilot of the same club still have to the end of the next Friday to try and complete the flight as declared. If the pre-declared location still is not reached, Alby must be taken back where it started (not necessarily by flying).
Both the current host of Alby and the new host shall communicate the outcome of the flight to the Albymaster.
If the flight cannot be made before the end of the next Friday by the first Albypilot, it is the responsibility of the first Albypilot to give notice of the inability to make the flight, with timely courtesy, to the Albymaster, to the host, and to the second proponent in line.
The Albypilot who flies with Alby is responsible for keeping good care of him. When the Albypilot represents a soaring club or association, the representative of the club or association will be responsible for the well being of Alby.
The above rules may be superseded by the Albymaster when atypical circumstances arise.
Order of Preferences:
1 - The club that is closer to Alby’s current location
2 - The club that proposes first in order of time
3 - Clubs, soaring associations, soaring centers
4 - Group of pilots
5 - Individual pilots
When start altitude, release to the west, landing to the east are difficult because of special local conditions, an exception may be requested to the Albymaster.
When an Albypilot cannot make the flight in the week he/she has been assigned, another Albypilot can make the flight provided he/she has been accepted by the Albymaster.
LOGBOOK, LAPEL PINS, SPOT DEVICE, GPS TRACE
LOGBOOK - Alby travels with a logbook. The Albypilot will fill out the log entry and sign it. The flight data will be e-mailed to the Albymaster and an entry will be placed in the website logbook. A description of the flight and pictures may also be sent along with the flight data, to be posted in the website. Enter all flights, successfull or not.
LAPEL PINS - The Alby case contains lapel pins. The pilot(s) successfully accomplishing a flight will get one pin each. The lapel pins are numbered. Check in the log book for the last pin number and take the subsequently numbered pin(s). If the flight is not successfull, place a bar in the last column (Pin No.). Please guard carefully the pins, we do not want them to misteriously disappear.
SPOT DEVICE - The SPOT device is to be placed in the glider in a place where there is sufficient visual contact with the outside (inside a shirt pocket is OK). It is to be used during the flight and placed in Alby's case when not flying. Instructions for use are in the case.
GPS TRACE - Pilots are encouraged to send their GPS log no matter how successfull the flight, as it will be posted in the map (flying with Alby is already a great success, to be recorded and displayed). Alternatively, it can be downloaded to OLC.
Pilots who participate in Alby’s voyage acknowledge that it is a voluntary effort, and that the timing, route selection, weather decisions, and all other aspects of the flight are the sole responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft in which Alby is transported. The Organizers of Alby’s voyage, retain all rights to the concept, images, logbook, Alby trophy, and eventual chronicle of the journey, but neither they nor volunteers involved in the project nor the Pacific Soaring Council (PASCO) nor the Soaring Society of America (SSA) are in any way responsible for the decisions of the pilots that carry Alby in their aircraft. When pilots propose to carry Alby on part of his journey, they warrant that they have sufficient experience and will exercise all due caution to ensure the safety of their flights. By allowing pilots to carry Alby, the Organizers of the Alby project are merely keeping track of and attempting to facilitate the continued progress of Alby’s voyage.
WAIVER AND ASSUMPTION OF LIABILITY
Please accept me as a participant in the Alby voyage. In consideration of acceptance of this entry, for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, personal representatives, successors or assigns I hereby release and discharge the Organizers, The Pacific Soaring Council (PASCO) THE SOARING SOCIETY OF AMERICA, INC., and their agents, representatives, employees, successors or assigns from any and all claims for damages or injuries suffered by me or by any member of my crew during the aforementioned soaring venture.
I further agree to assume full responsibility for and to indemnify, defend and hold the aforementioned entities and persons harmless from any and all legal obligations for damages to personal property owned by, or injuries suffered by, any spectator or contestant or personnel of the aforementioned entities, or by any other person or entity, which may be caused directly or indirectly by my participation in the venture. I further certify that I have read, understand, and agree to abide by the rules and regulations of the aforementioned endeavor.
I fully understand and agree that I am waiving any claim for damages that I may suffer by virtue of any act of negligence arising in the future by any act or omission of any of the aforementioned entities or persons or their agents, representatives or employees, and that the consideration for this waiver is the permission by the sponsoring or presenting bodies of the aforementioned venture allowing me to participate in the said venture and that such permission is being granted me in the reliance upon this waiver as set forth in this entry form.
Tracking the flights with SPOT
Where in the world is Alby?
Scroll below to follow Alby flying in real time. For more detailed information on the flight go to our Spot satellite tracking page.
Position updates are broadcast in real time every 10 minutes, although occasionally there may be delays. If Alby is not flying at this time, the trace shows Alby's most recent flight. Traces are left posted for the duration of one week only. However, the flight can be seen on OLC.