Today was one of those days with some really cool stuff and some really crappy stuff.
First the cool stuff:
About 10 minutes before launch was set to open several large black SUV’s arrived at the airport and everything was abuz with talk about the President of Bolvia, or Belize (no was was really sure at first) flying in to Americus to meet former US President Jimmy Carter who lives about 15 miles away. We worried that they would shut down our launching, but were amazed to find that they didn’t seem to find us to be anything of a security threat. In fact, they even let us pose with the Bolivian secret service for photos.
President Evo Morales touched down on the runway right next to where we were all staged and taxied over to the FBO. We managed to gather all the pilots for a picture of the Bolivian version of Air Force One as it taxied by to our cheers and waving. The Bolivians must think we’re crazy. I can’t imagine any other place where this could happen.
Unfortunately, that was the most fun part of the day. Although yesterday’s thunderstorms were gone, they may have taken all the lift with them. When launch opened, there was quite a bit of high cloudiness that pretty much killed all the lift. We towed over and over and over again. With the exception of Christian Ciech, everyone had a minimum of 2 tows and the entire crew was out there getting everyone in the air right up until the last minute that launch closed. It was exhausting and frustrating for us – and, of course, the same for the pilots. Eventually people started to glide on course and mostly straight to the ground. In the end, it turns out there was some lift there because a few pilots got as far as about 25 kilometers away. Most were inside or near the edge of the start circle though.
We also had a protest related to the height that some pilots were towed to. I heard several complaints about a few pilots being towed much higher than the pin-off altitude of 2000 AGL. Although the tug pilots are only trying to help under difficult conditions, this results in an unfair advantage and creates a lot of frustration for those who pin off when they are supposed to. The local regulations specifically state that pilots “must release from tow at or below 2000 ft AGL.” There will be much discussion about this at tomorrow morning’s briefing but the end result was the protest committee upholding the protest and canceling the task today. Luckily, the day winner would have only received 56 points, so this wasn’t a hugely damaging mistake.
Hoping for better conditions tomorrow.