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  • Steve

RV-8 and the Really Cool Cloud Formations

Saturday 2/3/24 was a nicer day than expected. Most of the week called for either rain or cloudy all day Saturday. The Model Output Statistics (MOS) forecast on Friday night was calling for between 1,500' and 2,500' overcast pretty much all day so I really didn't think there would be much chance of flying on Saturday. In fact, I was so confident that I stopped on the way to the airport to get a sandwich so I would have something for lunch. I didn't even wear my flying shoes, though I did bring them, just in case.

By late morning, it had cleared to between scattered and broken and the clouds were high enough to allow me to commit aviation. I didn't really have a destination in mind, but I could tell, even from the ground, that the conditions today were creating some very interesting cloud formations, so I decided that I would just fly around and look at them.

I was, once again, having a problem with my GoPro Hero 10 camera (curses, foiled again!). This time, it just simply would not turn on. This has happened a few times before and nothing I try seems to make it want to turn on. I try swapping batteries and trying every button I can find (all two of them) to no avail. This time, as in other times, I was able eventually to get it turned on, but it was about 30 minutes or so after I took off.

It is really a shame since GoPro cameras create such great images and their image stabilization is second to none, that I know of, but they are so unreliable as to be almost useless, certainly as anything other than a secondary, or even tertiary system. The DJI Action 4 that I have put on the wing is a rock solid reliable camera, but the image stabilization built in leaves a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully the next version will be better.

The airport was a little busy, so I took off on runway 29. That was kind of nice, because I hadn't been that way in a while to check on the progress of the new hangars. It looks like there are already some people moving in to the most recently completed, or almost completed, building. On of them is one of those hang glider with a gondola things. I don't know if it technically qualifies as an Ultralight, but they seem to fly out of the Ultralight area.

As previously stated, I had no real plan on where to go so I went where the clouds took me. It was a bit dark to the west, but there were some interesting formations to the south, as well as southeast and southwest. I headed south past Lake Goodwin and then over to I-5, then towards Snohomish and then continued generally south for a while. I was sort of following cloud canyons and valleys and just seeing where they would take me. I got most of the way to Snoqualmie Falls, then decided to head back to the north.

It was exceedingly smooth for pretty much the whole trip. There was very little wind on the ground when I took off, nor when I landed. There was very little wind at altitude for most of the trip. I don't have any of the fancy newfangled gadgets that give me wind speed and direction in flight, but when the True Airspeed and Groundspeed are almost exactly the same number, within a couple of miles an hour, there can't be much wind. That is also born out by all of the little clouds that would not have been able to stick around if there had been any significant wind.

By the time I got past Lake Stevens, I decided to head west until clear of Paine Field, then head southwest down the Hood Canal. There were lots of towering cloud formations and some really interesting colors coming through the clouds but, as usual, the lens just doesn't do them justice. Aside from the video (linked below) I also took a number of stills, but the camera lens just doesn't capture everything that the human eye does. While the video and photos do capture some nice images, it just isn't the same a watching it live.

As I passed the southern tip of Whidbey Island I saw some odd looking ships. The first one was most likely some form of cargo ship, but it looks different than anything I have seen before.

Some form of cargo ship, I guess.

There was another ship behind it that looked interesting. I couldn't really tell what it was, but it looked much older. Rather than go investigate, I figured I would wait till the trip home since he wouldn't get that far in the time I was flying south.

There were lots of cloud formations both big and small.

Cloud formations.

As I got south of the Hood Canal, the clouds got smaller and closer to the ground. They were small puffy things that I call Popcorn Clouds.

Smaller clouds.

Once I got southwest of Shelton, the clouds at my altitude began to thicken up. I still could have made it out to Hoquiam and the coast, but I figured I would head back.

I took a slightly different path back than usual. Instead of going up the Hood Canal, I went several miles to the southeast and came up on the backside of Bangor. Once I passed Bangor and got past the Hood Canal bridge, I saw another interesting looking ship. This one was similar to the first one, but it was red instead of blue. The way the sunlight hit it through the clouds, really made it stand out.

This time a red one.

Maybe next time I see one of those, I will have to pass by a little closer to see if I can figure out what it is.

I continued north to try to get a look at that other ship I noticed on the way through before. I was almost caught up to it when I noticed that I was about to enter the restricted area south of Coupeville. Now, being a Saturday, it was almost certainly cold and it was probably OK to proceed but I didn't want to chance it. Sure, I could have called Whidbey Approach and asked the status of the restricted areas and then known for sure but...

From there I headed back to the airport and made one of the best landings I have made in a long time. I just rolled it on with very little sensation of touching the ground. If I had been a couple of inches further to the right, it would have been about perfect. As it was, I was quite satisfied. Of course, conditions were almost ideal, so I would have no real excuse for not making a good one. Sure, there was a tiny bit of a tail wind, but three knots is not really worth even mentioning.

The Track Log is here.

The rest of the photos I took can be found here.

The video is here.

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