I was heading to southern California for business, and had a weekend planned with my son David, who's now residing in Irvine, CA. We had discussed possible clubs in southern Cal for David to join, to finish his training and obtain his Private Glider rating. The Orange County Soaring Association (OCSA) in Hemet, CA, looked like a good potential club for David to investigate.
I found out that the duty instructor for our planned weekend was Mary Rust, the chief instructor for OCSA. Although the club was scheduled to have many of their aircraft and pilots at a club excursion to Coyote Dry Lake, Mary e-mailed that she and the Grob 103 were staying at Hemet for instruction. I arranged for a club orientation flight or two, depending on club activities.
After a 1:15 drive from Irvine, David and I arrived at Hemet-Ryan airport at exactly 10:00 AM. The skies had been hazy with moist ocean air during the drive east, but a deeper blue was spreading over the airport as we arrived. We met Mary Rust and couple of OCSA club members. Mary briefed all of us on local operations and club procedures, and we helped with Grob 103 launches. Mary and her students flew about five pattern flights for practice, and then David and I helped one of the students (David Watts, a fellow AF Academy grad - Class of '70), make his first club solo in the Grob 103.
After the club students had their fill, Mary said it was our turn. Since David hadn't flown in over a year, he and Mary had a good cockpit orientation, but then they smoothly got airborne into a sky filling with cu's! The tow looked great, and after release they quickly climbed under the flat-bottomed cumulus and headed out on a local tour. After nearly an hour, I watched the Grob return with a nice approach and touchdown in the Hemet glider landing area. David had a big grin on his face, especially after Mary complimented him on his flying skills and coordination, even after the long layoff.
Now it was my turn. I've had only five previous Grob 103 flights over the years, but remembered it as an easy airplane to fly, and a decent performer. Mary and I strapped in, and I had a smooth tow behind the towplane from Sailplane Enterprises, the Hemet FBO. As we approached 3000' AGL (4500' MSL) and some decent cu's, I hit some good lift and released into a nice thermal that took us right to 5500' and on our way.
Mary Rust began describing the local area and normal lift generators, and I was able to easily center some nice 6-7 knot lift and climb to near cloudbase at 6300'. I started cruising south under a beautiful cloud street, where we toured the impressive reservoir at Diamond Valley Lake. The lift was hard to miss, and we stayed in a band from 5-6000' as we first headed southwest toward Elsinore, and then cruised easily under clouds all around the Hemet area, finally circumventing Diamond Valley Lake for views from the foothills southeast of Hemet. After some enjoyable wingovers and lazy 8s, we played tag with a 2-33 descending into the pattern, and made a nice landing and rollout to the cone at the Hemet glider landing strip. Although we only flew for 1.3 hours, I got a great orientation to the local area, and felt comfortable for any future visits to Hemet.
Thanks, Mary - I think you have a potential new club member in David, after your gracious orientation flights!