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Simon Hackett wave Tasmania 1

By Simon Hackett

Our farm in Northwest Tasmania at The Vale (http://www.thevale.com.au) includes a remarkable asset in the form of a 1,300m grass runway. We are at the foot of a magnificent 4,000ft mountain called Mount Roland, part of a very scenic and, for glider pilots, very interesting system of ridges and valleys.

Mole Creek, the valley on the immediate south of the Mount Roland ridge system, gives way in turn to the northern end of the Tasmanian Central Plateau. This plateau, including the world famous Cradle Mountain, is a magnificent alpine zone. When the wind streams across the plateau from the southwest, as it frequently does in winter, it creates a magnificent wave system that sets itself up right beside our airfield!

Simon Hackett wave Tasmania 8

Winter Wave

I had been looking at the SkySight wave predictions for this area for some time, along with the associated lenticular clouds, and I have long appreciated the remarkably fortunate location of our airstrip. Indeed, on many days in winter, the SkySight forecasts show strong wave lift in this area up to more than 25,000ft. Even with the need to start at around 5,500ft to get above the local terrain, Diamond Height potential is clearly present.

On 7 August, I observed the prediction shown by SkySight. (see image) Having organised a local oxygen supplier so I could charge up my recently acquired Mountain High Oxygen system, it was time to start my first real exploration of this wave system.

I fired up the battery electric launch system in the Taurus to take off and motor over to the middle of the Mole Creek valley, and shut down at around 6,000ft.

I was almost immediately rewarded with the wonderful, smooth, sensation of wave lift. While slowly climbing, I pointed into wind and crabbed over to the east toward the area that SkySight predicted to hold the best wave lift. During this initial climb, no clouds could be seen in the valley at all. As I climbed up toward 10,000ft and continued to track east, a cloud band set up behind me, giving me a good visual indication that I was in the right place.

Simon Hackett

Climb Rate

The closer I got to the best part of the wave system, the better the climb rate was, with the best climb rate being around 4 to 5kts. I wound up in that wonderful situation that happens in wave systems where I was pointed into a 40+ knot wind with essentially zero ground speed, sitting hands-off and just watching the world as the aircraft climbed all by itself in the silky smooth air.

Gradually I worked my way up to almost 16,000ft, for a height gain of about 10,000ft. The cloud systems built up down below me on each side of the valley, but the Mole Creek valley itself – in the lift zone – remained clear. I was rewarded with a really magnificent view of the central alpine plateau to the south, the valleys stretching out to the east and west, and a view to the north all the way to Devonport on the coast, and well into Bass Straight.

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Sensation

The sensation of flying in wave is really quite wonderful. It has a peaceful aspect to it that is quite unlike the effort and motion involved in thermal or ridge soaring. The process is one of gently feeling out the lift system, aligning to it, and then just letting it generate a quiet, smooth, magic carpet ride up into the heavens.

The OLC trace of the flight, with some annotated pictures along the way, is here: https://www.onlinecontest.org/olc-3.0/gliding/flightinfo.html?flightId=600763676

On some days, the SkySight prediction shows wave systems that not only run to more than 25,000ft, but that sometimes can extend in large northwest-to-southeast bands from our airfield all the way to Hobart. Beyond the obvious potential for height gain, this creates the possibility of interesting wave-driven cross country flying as well!

I look forward to continuing my flying exploration of this remarkable place in future months and years.

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Skysight forecast

Simon Hackett wave Tasmania 14

OLC trace