A Wave Flight Over Nova Scotia

by Charles Yeates

Saturday - October 11th.


Fall soaring over Nova Scotia's relatively flat countryside is mostly a desultory experience consisting of infrequent and generally weak thermal days, with height limits of three or four thousand feet, that are good for training, early solo flying and 'keeping current'. But there are exceptions.

A classic cold front passed Friday night and we awoke on Saturday to a crystal clear sky, ground winds gusting 15 to 20 knots out of the northwest and an urge to go flying. A clutch of Bluenose (and blue-nosed?) pilots gathered at Stanley and set up the winch. A Ka7 first launched into a varied cumulus sky but returned as drift beat out its climbing rate. The next launch by the PW5 resulted in a long flight during which over three hours was spent VFR on top.

The initial cloud base was reached using boiling air that exuberantly tested the Smyk's great agility and capability of tight turning at low speed. Cloud streets into wind were used to work against the twenty-five knot wind at the 3500' bases. A half hour into the flight there was a mighty change. Thermals became more broken, irregular and inconsistently located relative to the clouds. Concentrating on staying up during the confusion , it took a while to realize that clouds had re-aligned in streets across the wind. All the cu were still whistling down wind but scraggly bits of new cloud were continually forming in the clear areas upwind and growing rapidly. This condition we had seen before while flying out of Keystone and during the second practice day before the Nationals at Rockton. WAVE!

Entry involved climbing tight to base under the cumulus closest to a clear area and then pushing foreward toward the scraggly bits, slowing to minimum sink speed when clear of the cumulus. This produced an entry into glassy smooth air slightly above the new-forming cloud. Four knots climb that gradually reduced to zero at 7000 made the brilliant Fall foliage drop away and the brilliant reds, yellows, golds and fir green melded into a pretty backgound for the brilliant white cloud tops. Halifax International Terminal was obviously surprised to hear that glider N202HB was in the Stanley practice area VFR ON TOP- but no problem.

An airspeed of 38knots at 7000' netted a position suspended, seemingly motionless in space, not climbing, not descending and not moving over the ground. Western pilots will recognise this condition but they reach it downwind of the Rockies and at far greater altitudes.

Exploring upwind, converting altitude to the high speed needed to cross the next gap, we darted through the down-side heavy sink, tight under the next cumulus and foreward for a pull up in the next wave. This one was at the Bay of Fundy shoreline. While cogitating at the top once more, it seemed likely that the wave system was triggered by Cape Blomidon, 15 kilometers away across nothing but water. Perhaps we were in the tertiary wave but the secondary and primary would remain unexplored. Surfing sideways at the speed necessary to hold a position in the wave, proved that it extended about eight kilometers before becoming ragged, choppy and useless.

As the afternoon passed the air became more stable, thermals weakened according to comments from the Ka7s below but the wave stengthened a little. This enabled a final climg to 8000' before a necessary descent in time for easy derigging and return to the other life in Halifax. It was a giggle to advise Halifax International Terminal that glider HB was out of 8000' descending for a landing at Stanley. He thanked me for keeping him advised.

It was an exceptional Fall Day in Nova Scotia.

Charles Yeates
105 Dunbrack St, #110
Halifax, NS,
Canada, B3M 3G7

Top of Document