May 2, 2010, with a free day before I headed to Sydney, Kieran Schultz and I headed to a flying site that William Oates had told Kieran about, knowing only that it was somewhere near Gundowring. A quick bit of google-ing while driving through the Kiewa Valley gave us a location, and some helpful directions, apparently written by the kind owner of the property where the site was located. A directory of flying sites hinted that the road was suitable for 2wd vehicles, but I wouldn’t take a car I cared about the condition of up the hill: rain has cut some deep channels into the steep and winding road, making it almost, but not quite beyond the reach of Kieran’s car.
At the top there is plenty space to park and some bits of astro-turf-style matting dotted around the west-facing slope. The launch is a small bowl-shape, seemingly making it suitable for launching into a range of NNW-SSW winds, although, without further exploration of the site, I’d say it’s better suited for the north-end of that spectrum of wind directions. For Kieran, on his restricted licence, and I, just on my intermediate rating, it was our first time at a site without any instructors, and our first time at a site that we’d received no briefing on, so it was quite cool to be there, assessing the conditions, hazards, landing options, and launch options ourselves. After a while of observing the wind, which was a fairly consistent 4 knots with steady but very light cycles coming through, I was happy to launch, but then I wasn’t the one launching, and didn’t have the adrenaline, invoked by the prospect of jumping off into the unknown, running through me.
There are a couple of trees down the slope from launch that, if it were quite sinky, might need avoiding, and we mulled over the possibility of that happening for a while, deciding that the steady wind up the face should afford a fairly bouyant launch. A rough flight plan was discussed on your first launch without an instructor present I think being absolutely sure that you’ll launch ok and just have a good glide is way more important than getting big ideas of ridge-soaring down the valley or soaring in your head, so Kieran wasn’t too bothered about making plans other than to land in a flat paddock near the road where we’d entered the property.
Opting for a forward launch from just below the top lip of the bowl, Kieran was off, although he had to take a few extra light steps before the slope of the hill was enough to fall away from his feet. The glide out from launch was so buoyant the trees below launch paled into insignificance and I wondered if he’d find any lift before taking his car back down the hill. Not finding anything significant, Kieran glided down to one of the paddocks south of the road entering the property, making a last minute turn as a nice looking field suddenly sharpened up to reveal a carpet of thistles.
With some more wind there’s probably some ridge-soaring potential on the range that extends north of the launch. We noticed cumulus over the range across the valley to the west of us, but not a lot over the range we’d flown off.