Home Menu Recent Contact

Saved by a sunbeam
It´s late in the afternoon after what´s been a beautiful summer day. I´m sitting in the glider "Charlie three", my std. Cirrus, enjoying the view of southern Småland from the air, with its forests and lakes, bathing in the eveningsun. I have been in the air for more than 6 hours now. A little while ago I rounded the last turningpoint on a 600 km long task with three turningpoints, and now glides north towards the goal, Ödestugu airport. Hopefully I will land there in about one hour. If I make it I will score a new club record in long distance flight! The weather has been relativly good with 2-3 m/s climbs and a cloudbase that reached more then 2000 m in the afternoon. A short while later I begin circulating with a little more then 1 m/s climb under a deacent cumulus, which saves me from an unwilling visit to Feringe. Slowly I regain my altitude, and eventually I am able to leave the cumulus on 2100 m. Once again I go to the north. From here I can reach Hagshult airport, only 36 km from Ödestugu. If I get there, it will at least be a shorter drive to get me back by car. I maintain the speed for maximum glide, 90 km/h, and prepare myself for half an hour of straight forward flight until my altitude runs out.

About ten minutes later something unexpected happens. 15 km ahead a small hole in the cloudlayer has formed, and I can see a beautiful sunbeam shine in a low angel towards the ground, straight in front of me. Evening sun doesn´t produce much heat, but in spite of that a small fraction of a hope comes into my mind. Imagine if the sun could produce some thermals! Since the small sunbeamed area is in my way, I aim straight on it. For another ten minutes I stare on the suspotted peace of forest ahead of me, while I come closer but also lower. What if…

At that moment, just before I reach the sunspotted area, I see a small cumulus start forming way up there straight ahead of me. I don´t even dare to think… Straight ahead, continue straight ahead…Yes! 0,5-1 m/s climb!

The climb is slow, but for every circle I get closer to Ödestugu and a triumphant homecoming. Dear God, don´t let the climb stop now! This thermal shouldn´t really be here at all, it´s to late, and there is definitly no other if this one stops.

The climb doesn´t stop. I stay there for a long time and gain much more altitude then I really need. Thanks to my extra altitude I can afford a grand passing of the finishline at maximum speed, 220 km/h, screaming of joy. The feeling of finishing this day is not possible to describe in words!

As the sun goes downwards the thermals get weaker, and when I reach Feringe airport, 75 km from home, it´s hard to find much more then 1 m/s climb. Up till now I have believed I could finish the task, but when I look to the north from here my hopes of coming home dissapeares. 5 km north of Feringe there is a last cumulus, and after that I see an unbroken layer of stratocumulus as far as the eye can reach. No sunshine and therefore no thermals either, all the way home. I can´t reach my homefield from here with 2000 m altitude.

As if this wasn´t enough, I get no climb under the cumuluscloud either! To continue straight ahead is pointless, so I turn back south again. If nothing else I will have to land on Feringe airport.

                                   © Mats Olsson

Coming home after a long flight, a wonderful feeling!
 All material: Copyright ©Mats Olsson