WAC Blog #6 - 22 August 2009

Good morning from Silverstone! We awoke to a beautiful morning with blue skies, some high cloud, and winds well within limits. The warm-up pilot will take to the air at 09.00 and we will only have one warm-up flight before we resume Programme Q to save time. Our first competition pilot will be Mikael Brageot of France flying the CAP 232. Last night, we had a flight abort due to a technical problem. Alex Leboulanger came back in and landed, without starting, as one of his wing root fairings on his CAP 232 had come loose – a common problem – and his airplane is the same Brageot is using so he will be re-inserted into the flight order later this morning. The organizers hope to complete Programme Q today and we will keep you posted on progress. It will require a fairly rapid launch rate but everyone is cooperating as they know time is of the essence and with Alan Cassidy in charge of flight operations, I am confident the WAC flight line team can get it done.

Two important people here are Alena Kaftanova and David Kaftan, our wind observers. They are familiar faces to us at European competitions as they are the ones usually running the weather balloon operation and are extremely proficient and quick. Balloons are launched at 30 minute intervals, unless weather is rapidly changing, which then requires us to make them more frequent though the time required to take the wind readings precludes much tightening of the time. Wind is always of great concern to pilots and Team Managers and the organizers here are now sending the wind information out via SMS (text) message to all of the Managers after the readings are taken. With aircraft and the briefing tent somewhat spread out, this is very helpful. In addition, the latest information is also posted right at the runway starter’s position near the take-off point.

Traffic control is done with flags. Red for stop, white for ground movement, and green for clearance to take-off. Two Americans, Bob Harris and Patty Anderson, are near the runway and are launching the aircraft under Alan Cassidy’s overall direction. Pilots are kept advised of the pilots numbers by a display in the small tower. The pilot number who is up is displayed in the tower. In the photo here, the orange color means an “free break” is allowed in the sequence due to the cloud level. It is now 09.00 and we are launching the warm-up pilot ... Francois Rallet of France in an Extra 330SC. Some cloud has moved in -- but higher that the 800 meters required for a free break -- so flying is continuing with the break authorized. It slows down progress a bit but not much. To continue ... the situation changed in just the past 30 minutes and low cloud has plagued us again (at about 400 meters). The first competition pilot did not complete his flight and a Jury flight was launched with Osmo Jalovaara with Alan Cassidy in his Pitts S-2A. They verified the low ceiling and we will launch another weather bird at 10.15.