Soaring with the Buzzards
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Home > Articles & Tips Index > Flying > Soaring with the Buzzards

[Courtesy of Dave Register, August 1998]

Went out to the local schoolyard with the Tahlequah HLG we've been designing in RCSD. Just for fun flying and setting trims. Wind was down a lot - maybe 5-7 mph which passes for dead calm around here.

Tried out Joe Hahn's suggestions for throwing motion as reported in Dave Garwood's column in MA. Wow, what a great approach. Takes a little getting used to but launches are a bit higher and completely painless. That column is a MUST read. Thanks, Joe. First time in a year the alleve/ibuprofen, etc. stayed on the shelf. What a relief!

After about 5 tosses, the 'sweet' spot on the field was found and a bunch of neat flights followed. Longest (and last) was a little over 20 minutes and was a hoot playing with the buzzards for almost all of it.

Thermal developed pretty slowly and it was tree top circles for ~ 2 minutes. Then it really broke loose and we're off for a great ride. After getting up a ways, I noticed four buzzards (well, turkey vultures) playing around on the back side of the thermal. When the HLG went past them, they took notice and re-centered on my part of the core. All five of us practiced formation flying for another five minutes.

It was pretty obvious that the Tahlequah was still above them. What was really interesting was finding out they were following me!. When I tightened up, they all tightened up. When I opened up, they opened up. I'm not sure if they were impressed, in love or just plain hungry. But we played follow-the-pink-winged- leader for the first part of the flight. Only thing they didn't do was loops, although it looked like one almost tried to follow that, too.

Bubble finally popped and they went west and I went east. They hit sink, I hit another core. Guess what. They came back. Same routine - they followed my lead everywhere. After a while I switched from left turns to right turns. So did they!

This bubble played out after a few minutes and they split for parts unknown. I went north and hit a bunch of sink but got through it and found the core on the other side. Worked that back up after a few minutes and along comes Daryl, Daryl, Daryl and their younger brother Daryl again. It was like old home week. Should've been playing Emmy Lou Harris in the background - Together Again, circling and looping and flying formation just like old times. And this old guy standing out in the middle of the field giggling out loud just for the fun of it all. Couple of kids gave me a really strange look so I just pointed and we all had a good laugh at the show.

This was the longest part of the flight - maybe 7 minutes or so - and they followed me wherever I went to try and stay in the core. Again, the HLG was outclimbing these guys. Against the background of the large cloud at the top of the thermal, we were all very easy to see even though things were getting smaller and smaller.

Uhh, wait a minute. Large cloud! Small plane! Holy ****! We're almost history here. Plane got tucked into a steep spiral dive. Expected to see foam and balsa splatteerd all over the sky but it held together. And here comes Daryl and his crowd with their wings tucked spiraling down with me! They followed all the way down until I leveled out at a more comfortable altitude and got back over the field.

I'd like to think this was motivated by concern for their flying buddy rather than carnivore instincts. Who knows? I'll assume altruism on their part. So Tahlequah came home to the old geezer and the buzzards circled over head for a turn or two trying to figure out what had just latched onto the nose of their pink-winged friend.

I waved. They wing waggled. And we went our separate ways. What a great flight!

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