PAROWAN, UTAH TO ALPINE WYOMING – August 5, 2004
August 5th arrives with 2x4 (Two By Four) assembled and ready to launch from
the Parowan, Utah airport. Cumulus clouds are beginning to form to the north
over the Wasatch Mountains.
2x4 is the name of my Schweizer 1-26A, serial # 024. My profession is as a
carpenter, so 2x4 seemed like an appropriate name. 2x4 fist flew in 1955 and
will celebrate her 50th birthday in 2005. I was only 3 years old when she had
her maiden flight. With a L/D of 23/1, I can count on traveling only about 3
miles per 1,000 feet of altitude. Flying cross-country in a low performance
glider over unknown territory can provide a lot of excitement for a sustained
period of time.
2x4 and I launch from Parowan (elevation 5930 feet MSL). Releasing from tow at
7,900 feet, 2x4 and I climb to only about 9,200 feet before heading north. This
means that we will have to encounter lift in 9 miles or less or land out. The
climb-out is slow. Finally, we reach cloud base at 12,000 ft. With only 6,000
feet of terrain clearance over the flat-lands and only a light tail wind we
continue north. We reach Mt. Nebo, about 152 miles north. I have to decide
whether to continue straight-out toward Wyoming or try to return to Parowan. I
decide to continue north. As we fly past Spanish Fork and Provo we scratch
along below the tops of the ridges. Finally, we are able to climb to the top of
the ridge and make a jump across a valley northeast toward Park City, the home
of the 2002 winter Olympics. Only occasionally are we able to climb to 12-13K
feet. As we cross into Wyoming the ground elevation is creeping up to between 6
and 7,000 feet. We traverse low-level hills and high rugged flatland. I am
always looking for landing spots. The earth comes up to meet 1-26's quicker
than one might think.
We finally get a good climb to 14,500 feet around Evanston, Wyoming (elevation
7,134 ft.). We continue on working weak to moderate lift always keeping an
off-field landing site as my top priority. This is rugged country and there are
no airports for miles. We finally reach a wide ridge-line that separates the
valley I am in from the Afton valley. I am unable to contact lift while trying
to cross the ridge and slowly slide away from the town of Afton. At 500 feet
AGL, with a hay-field selected as my landing site, we contact lift. After an
agonizing 50-100 feet per minute save and about 40 minutes later, we are able
to dive into the Afton valley. Running the ridges, lift is getting harder and
harder to find. As we fly north we encounter over-development. We see heavy
rain and lightning ahead. With no way around the weather, darkness approaching
and the earth coming up to greet us, 2x4 and I land at the Alpine, Wyoming
airport (elevation 5,634 MSL).
The straight-line distance from Parowan was 380 miles. The flight took 8 hours
and 15 minutes. It had been a very long day. It was a long and difficult
flight, with most of it flown only 5-7,000ft above the ground. There were no
airports within gliding distance during 95% of the flight.
Although this was my longest flight, I still had not reached my ultimate goal,
which is to someday break the world’s record for straight-out distance in a
1-26. This record was set by Harry Baldwin in 1981 when he flew his 1-26 a
distance of 432.3 miles. My ultimate goal is to fly 450 miles straight-out and
comfortably beat Harry's super achievement.
Maybe next time. The fun is in trying. I hope all of you enjoy cross-country
flying as much as I do. Have fun. Fly high. Fly safe. And fly far.