Ridge Soaring in a VSO-10

Air Smolik Winter SoaringToday I’ve spent two hours soaring on the range of mountains known in Czech Republic as “Železné hory”. These are part of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands right in the basin of the river Elbe. It’s not coincidence that my home airport “Podhořany” is located at the same place.

Yes, I recently renewed my GLD licence. However I’m a glider pilot since 15 years old, I didn’t practice gliding for a few years now. I’m sure many PPL, CPL and ATPL students had the same problems.

Back in 2004 I got my lessons some 30 km (18.5 mi) south-west of Podhořany at the Zbraslavice airport. There are no mountain ridges there, so I’ve spent all my local gliding lessons by looking for thermals and flying in tight circles with L-13 Blaník.

The ridge soaring has been a complete new type of experience for me today. The ridge lift is very similar to a wave lift. It is generated when the wind blows against a steep hill ridge or escarpment causing the air to rise.

Ridge lift meteo map

It’s simple as that. And it means virtually unlimited time aloft. In Czech land, such conditions are usually in stable layers where circumference is not disrupted by thermal movements of the air mass, i.e; Autumn and Winter season. Which is now.

Tight wind speed at “Železné hory” needs to be at least 10-15 kts from direction 230 – 280°. When these criteria meets, you can get into strong and rising stream almost immediately after takeoff from the airport. And you can be soaring, copying the mountain ridge from Chvaletice up to Zdirec nad Doubravou and back again. That’s some 60 km (37 mi) route.

Air Smolik Winter Soaring SelfieIt’s inside of a military CTR Čáslav so during a week you usually have altitude limit above which you can occasionally watch passing JAS-39 Gripens or L-159 of Czech Air Force. As happened today.

Interestingly enough, not such a high mountains are needed for a ridge lift to occur. The average height of Železné hory is 1,574 ft AMSL and airport itself is at 1,250 ft.

Today we had also airspace limit due to military exercise. That was distance limit to approximately half-length of the Železné hory slope. Up until the remains of a castle Lichnice above the town of Třemošnice, about 15 km east of Čáslav.

For my first ridge soaring experience I used a small wooden and steel one seater glider of 70’s Czechoslovakian production ‘Orličan VSO-10 Gradient’. It’s similar to Libelle, Standard Cirrus, LS1 or Pilatus PC-11. Maximum glide ratio 36:1, wingspan 15 m.

It’s been great but a rather cold. I would also go as far as to say it was bloody freezing. Next time a thick socks are certainly on my check-list. Anyway I feel tired and satisfied. Looking for next time. I hope in a week or so. Happy Valentine’s everybody!

Pardubice and Hradec Kralove

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