Adamsfontein to Petrusville and return

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Adamsfontein to Petrusville and return (30 December 2011)

2011 turned out to be even busier than usual, resulting in too little time spent on my favourite pastime. Since obtaining my GPL (Touring Motor Glider) in 2008 and since owning a share in a Lambada TMG I have spent relatively little time in the clubs’ single Astir. I love pure gliding and switch off the built in thermal whenever I can. I really enjoy the versatility of the Lambada and have found it performs very well as a TMG and tug and reasonably well as a glider. From a pure gliding point of view I still needed to complete a solo cross country flight. The Eastern Province Gliding Club is based in Uitenhage, just inland from Port Elizabeth, and the cross country aspect of the gliding syllabus is typically done on camps further inland. I was determined to complete this long overdue cross country flight during the December holidays.

20111230 ZS-GZR Adams_5856I came to hear about Peter How and the Adamsfontein Gliding Club from a fellow glider pilot. It is relatively nearby and apparently offered great gliding conditions. Peter is extremely friendly and clearly very knowledgeable; I waited for a promising weather window and confirmed this with him before departure. I decided against taking the Astir and instead chose to further explore the gliding capabilities of the Lambada. On Thursday 29 December 2011 I flew the 360 km from Uitenhage to Adamsfontein in 2 hours 15 mins. The field was easy to find situated on the southern bank of the Orange River, between Gariep and Colesburg. The runways were wide and smooth and Peter and his wife Frannie were there to extend a warm welcome.

Peter is extremely thorough and he checked that all the necessary paperwork was in order, briefed me on the rules, regulations and local conditions and then made me a temporary member of the Adamsfontein Gliding Club. In the mid-afternoon I flew around Adamsfontein to familiarise myself with the area. My attempts at engine off flight were not very enduring and I wondered if I shouldn’t have towed up the Astir after all. The Lambada was easily accommodated in Peter’s large hangar and we enjoyed a great meal at a Gariep Dam restaurant.

The 30th dawned and Peter’s prediction of good gliding weather seemed to be correct. After a very thorough weather briefing by Peter, the cross country flight was declared as Adamsfontein to Petrusville and return. Terrain, key land marks, farm strips, out landing possibilities, airspace and radio frequencies were all covered in detail by Peter. At 11:30 I took off on runway 10. After 3 minutes I picked up a thermal and switched off the engine and feathered the prop. I was somewhat nervous in this unfamiliar terrain! My key objective was to safely complete a cross country and I guessed a 50 km flight away from Adamsfontein with an out landing on a farm strip would suffice. Could I reach the next thermal? Could I land safely if the engine failed to start?

20111230 ZS-GZR Adams_5855

I gradually gained height and thermalled my way down the scenic Orange River, constantly  looking out for safe landing sites. I felt that the conditions were steadily improving and so too was my thermal centering. With increased height and range and increased horizon my confidence also increased. I had exceeded the 1000m height gain, a 50 km cross country was definitely within reach. The views were stunning! Mapwork was not a challenge since it was an “I Follow River” flight. The river widens into the narrow Vanderkloof Dam adjacent to Petrusville.

Peter had taken off shortly after me in his DG 505 self-launcher and was well on his way to De Aar! I was steadily gaining height and had to be aware of staying clear of Air Way 95 above  14,500 ft. Petrusville gradually came into view  as did the various farm strips that Peter had marked on my map. After about 2 hours the safe haven of the Petrusville and its long runways were directly below me. The splendid vista of the nearby Vanderkloof Dam wall, intermediate Philippolis and distant Gariep was breathtakingly beautiful. The radio was quiet, with just a few foreign sounding pilots pushing for their 1000 km flights from Gariep, and Peter checking on my progress every hour or so.

20111230 ZS-GZR Adams_5873The Cockpit was cool - so high above the baking Karoo landscape. The conditions were getting even better and I began to think that a 5 hour flight might just be possible? Once clear of AW 95 I thermalled to cloud base at 15,500ft. I couldn’t go any higher and the temperature became quite chilly! It would be close but by my reckoning I got just enough height to give me a 3000m height gain. Eventually I was back over Adamsfontein and, with time to kill, I routed east towards Gariep and then west to Colesburg.

After 5 hours 30 mins. I touched down on runway 28.   That evening Frannie prepared a lovely meal for us and Peter down loaded the flight stats from the Colibri logger. The Total time was 5 hours 26 mins, the OLC optimised distance was 262 Km and the maximum height gain was 3041 m. With the benefit of hindsight we could have declared a 300 km task. However I had far exceeded my expectations (and Peter’s too) and I was thoroughly delighted with all aspects of the flight. I felt a great sense of accomplishment in what the Lambada and I had achieved. I also felt privileged and humbled by my interaction with the forces of nature and her majestic beauty.

The following morning (New Year’s Eve) I flew back to Uitenhage and the celebrations at home. My sincere thanks go to Peter and Frannie for their helpfulness and hospitality. Peters’ gliding and meteorological expertise is legendary, but more importantly, he takes obvious pleasure in sharing it with others. Thanks to Peter I ended 2011 with a sense of accomplishment and memories that will last a life time.
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