UPDATE MARCH 21st 2003
It would appear that the greatest things learned from the magnificent
trip might include the following:
- We live in a truly
- Wherever you go regardless
of country, local folks are friendly, helpful, trustworthy and
- To soar from Point
Barrow Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, it is best to be a flappy bird
(with motor capabilities) instead of an obligatory soarer.
- To find the absolute
best soaring, it is a good idea to have lots more time and to
position yourself in one place to reap full benefits.
- The country of Columbia
is not nearly as scary as the papers would lead one to believe.
- The Stemme S10VT can
fly from Alaska to Argentina and back with only ONE float in the
- Spanish is an immensely
important language to master.
- Always carry a wee
bottle of Clorox with you so you can keep things clean.
- Its good to
- And these last two
things just need repeating---We live in a truly beautiful world
with wonderful people.
Welcome home dinner plans
In an effort to gather as many folks as possible to celebrate the
homecoming of the Stemme et al. Ive canceled plans for tonight
and am testing the waters for another date either next Sunday
afternoon March 30th ( in Sacramento 1441 Folsom Ave at Mommas)
Perhaps that might work for more folks on their way to and from the
mountains. And by that time perhaps Thierry and his helpers can put
together a slide show and some video clips too!
Let me know if that date works and Ill go from there.
MARCH 19th, 2003
Thierry and Al just called from Bishop, California
where it is a beautiful day with lovely sunshine to welcome our
fearless duo home. Thierry plans to drop Al off in Carson City and
then head over the Sierras to touch down in Oakland round 5 or 6
MARCH 19th, 2003
Thierry and Al just called from Bishop, California
where it is a beautiful day with lovely sunshine to welcome our
fearless duo home. Thierry plans to drop Al off in
Carson City and then head over the Sierras to touch down in Oakland
round 5 or 6 tonight. Yeehoo!!!!!!
MARCH 18th 2003
Just heard from Thierry. The new carb. arrived via
FED-EX and they are installing it as I type. Unfortunately the headwinds
are warring todayblowing 40 knots both in Tucson and in Las
Vegas where theyre plan to refuel. So until those gales subside,
our boys will remain grounded in Arizona until further notice.
Pencil in the welcome home dinner party for this Friday night--wind
allowing. Will keep you updated. All the best.
MARCH 16 2003
Back in the U.S. of A!!!! Thierry and Al touched
down in Tucson yesterday and will be spending today going through
the Stemme with Rick Wright. Looks like St. Pats or the following
day will be the big welcome home in Carson City, NV for Al and Oakland,
CA for Thierry. Yeeehoo!! Three very big cheers to a job well-done.!
What an accomplishment. Brings tears to me eyes just thinkin
Stay tuned since well be posting pictures and flight tracks
as soon as we get them downloaded from Thierrys laptop. Hip
hip hoooray! All your good thoughts and
support paid off.
MARCH 14 2003
Just got a call from Thierry. The team is in Los
Mochis and plan to hit Tucson tomorrow!! Amazing! They made the
front page of the paper in Los Mochis- check out:
www.debate.com.mx. They had to do some maintenance--took the carburetor
apart and found some goop inside. Took a bunch of other things apart,
put em back together and presto chango, the engines now running
like a champrevving up to the right rpms, manifold pressure
and ready to go. They really havent any idea what they actually
did to get it working but whatever it was, it worked! Yeehoo!
Thierry related some of the harrowing experiences theyve had
while traversing Mexico. First when they took off from Oaxaca a
couple days ago the Stemme just wasnt climbing. Turns out
the landing gear light said the wheels were up when in fact they
werent. They landed in Morelia, fueled up and then flew onto
Los Mochis. This particular section of the trip provided some great
soaring but was also the absolute roughest four hours the dynamic
duo have experienced during the entire trip! About 200 miles south
of Los Mochis, they encountered some marine air that was instantly
silky smooth all the way to the airport.
So it looks like Monday or Tuesday our fearless pilots will be in
Carson City and then Oakland!!!!!!!
MARCH 13 2003
Just heard a bit from Thierry and Al about their rough take off
from San Jose, Costa Rica. (Sorry this update's a bit out of order
but I wanted to let you know what they weathered in order to reach
Mexico.) The wind was blowing 20 to 25 knots-- but luckily only
20 degrees from straight down the runway. They received permission
to unfold their wings at the intersection of the runway and taxiway
Charlie. But the taxiways and runways are pretty close and they
almost flipped when a commercial airliner took off close by. On
take-off the jetliner caused such commotion that Al had to fiercely
hold the right wing tip just to keep the whole kit and kaboodle
from crumpling over. At last the Stemme was cleared to go. But on
the take off roll, they only developed 4200rpm instead of 5200.
It was a fielder's choice as to abort or continue but with a gust
they were cast up into the air and it seemed better to continue.
The engine finally came to life and they made it into Mexico.
Yikes! I think that Stemme steed is looking forward to some downtime
Oakland barn as well as the pilots.
MARCH 13th 2003
Just heard from Thierry. The team is stuck in Los
Mochis, Mexico. The engine failed on take off. OUCH! Thierry has
contacted the research group at Rotax and Rick Wrightin Tucson.
They have some ideas that they'll try tomorrow. Terry Honikman ,
a Stemme owner that Thierry knows, was very helpful in giving Nina
the phone no. of the Rotax group.
Not so far from home now! Counting the days till we can welcome
MARCH 10th 2003
Thierry and Al are in Guatemala City tonight and they plan to fly
to Oaxaca tomorrow-- hopefully even go as far as Guadalajara.
They had a great time in gorgeous Costa Rica. Our Monterey friend,
Erik Erickson, picked up the team at the airport and took them to
his family's ranch-- 5000 feet up, overlooking the pretty city of
San Jose. Great view! The ranch/farm is an expermental effort that
Erik's step father, Jack, has established. They raise everything
organically and are advising the locals on the technology. Onions
are planted next to artichokes to ward off bugs and all sorts of
other beneficial combinations of plantings are made to eliminate
any need for herbicides and pesticides.
Apparently, they are expanding into the export market in the US
and Europe. All of their farm animals are well-loved pets and will
face nothing more harsh than pastoral retirement and old age. Not
a single one will ever see the inside of a slaughterhouse. Some
members of this lucky menagerie include a rescue dog, an orphaned
spider monkey, four pot-bellied pigs, a coati named Tony, a resident
capuchin monkey named Charlotte, numerous tame deer, goats ,horses,
Jack treated the team to a dinner of enlightening conversation,
hearty Costa Rican specialties and an interesting selection of Chilian
wines (Jack's quite the vino connoisseur, having spent quite a bit
of time in Northern California.) Turns out he chose to live in Costa
Rica because they had no military. Erik's mum, Brigette, has made
a hobby of studying geese--and is particularly impressed by some
species that can reach altitudes higher than 27,000 feet! For an
interesting account of high-flying birdies check out: http://magazine.audubon.org/birds/birds0011.html
MARCH 9th 2003
Thierry and Al spent last night in San Jose, Costa
Rica. The airport officials informed them this morning that no aircraft
under 12,000 pounds are allowed to land at Juan Santa Maria airport
in San Jose and that they would have to relocate the feather-weight
Stemme to Tobias Bolanos airport in another part of town. Unfortunately
that airports runway is only 3281 feet by 60 feeta tight
squeeze for our 75 feet wing-spanned birdship. So after some haggling,
the officials agreed to let the glider stay put until tomorrow.
The plan is to fuel and then fly to Aurora airport in Guatemala
city tomorrow morning.
The airport in San Jose has some interesting aircraft housed there
a C5A and some wild NASA airshipmaybe an old converted Canberraperhaps
for some high altitude work. In town, it appears that Costa Ricas
crawling with Americans and surfers. Fortunately, Erik Erikson,
a friend from Monterey. CA and part time resident of San Jose, is
going to tour Thierry and All around the city today.
MARCH 8th PM 2003
Just got a call from Thierry. The twosomes
in San Jose Costa Rica tonight! My, they travel fast. Turns out
they werent sniffed out by the drug pooches in Cali but got
a sniffing upon landing in Panama to fuel. At that point, the inspectors
brought over a sweet 10 year old black lab and hoisted him up into
the Stemme cockpit. Wearily, the ol lab moseyed around the
seats, sniffed here, sniffed there and managed to survive the rather
close proximity to their stinky laundry section. Thierry admits
that as soon as he gets home he plans on incinerating his clothes.
Tomorrow, Thierry and Al plan to get permission to cross over Nicaragua
so they can hopefully aim for a landing in Honduras on Monday. Most
the flight today was over water and they were once again confined
to the airwaysnot allowed to do much exploring. The plug on
the IPAC broke unfortunately. Theyre getting ever closer and
closer to home!
MARCH 8th 2003
Our tireless pilots were up at 6:00AM this morn--
having been told that the Stemme had to pass the dog sniff test
before departure to Panama. The prospect of this inspection has
the boys more than a bit worried. Aiyyee, what's to ensure the health
of man's best friend when that pauvre perro encounters their dirty
laundry!! I don't envy that dutiful beastie.
MARCH 7th PM 2003
Just got a quick
note from Thierry. They are now in Cali. Strange as it may seem,
being in Columbia seems more like home for our fearless flying friends,
than some of the other countries. In Peru, the fees for landing
,use of airspace, parking and customs amounted to $310. In Ecuador
$187. In Columbia only $37. Bargain.
They're sad they couldn't land in Quito as it looked
lovely from 17000 ft. Something for another trip I guess. They expect
to be in Panama tomorrow and with luck, end up in San Jose Costa
Rica that same day or the next.
They did find some good lift between Quito and Cali near the Ecuador/Columbia
border at a place called Ipiales. But here is the best part of all.
Thierry sends his love to all and says that they're beginning to
look forward to getting home!!! Yippeee!! It's almost time to start
planning the welcome home party.
MARCH 6 2003
The team is waiting for a response from Colonel Luis
German Paez Huerta, the gate keeper for Columbia. They sent a fax
last night with their request to go to Cali but no response so far.
Its 10:30 AM and theyve just learned that the good Colonel
isnt expected in his office in Bogata until 3:00 pm.
The weather right now doesnt look too encouraging, but that
is only a local look. More later.
MARCH 5th 2003
Well the Stemme team is just south of the Ecuador
in Guayaquil tonight. They had planned to go to Quito but those
mean ol air traffic controllers in Peru wouldnt let them change
their flight plan. Turns out that flying in Peru has been an overall
disappointment. The officials keep you on the airways and don
t let you deviate at allso any chance of trying to find good
soaring is pretty much thwarted before you even take off from the
ground. Ugh! The big learning experience for the Stemme team has
been that if you want to soar down here you should just park yourself
in one place and get to know the locals. Once they are familiar
with your agenda then soaring is a possibility but until then, dont
count on it. Interestingly enough thats what a lot of the
soaring birds do too. Perhaps for those large soaring birds who
depend on that natural power in order to stay aloft, remaining in
one place where they can reliably find lift is much safer than going
and looking for it far and abroad. Sad that in the case of our dynamic
duo, politics seems to be getting in the way of adventure and exploration.
Another interesting point is that up here the countercurrent wind
transition point is a bit higher. At 9000 feet there is a steady
headwind (winds from the north up to 26 knots!) and at 8000 feet
there is a steady tailwind (winds from the south) . (Thats
in contrast to the 4000 feet transition area experienced in Chile.)
Lets see what else. Chiclayo was a bit steep on the field
Thierry and Al are leaving for lovely Columbia manana aiming to
land in our favorite placeCali!
Wish them well.
MARCH 4 2003
Got a call on the satellite phone from Thierry this morning. The
team is in Chiclayo right now. There is no gas at the airport which
is not too unusual an occurrence down there. Theyve been buying
some 5 gal plastic containers and then filling the bird with auto
gas. It seems to like it. They dont know exactly how they
will be handled by Customs tomorrow but Peruvians seem to take a
rather casual view of reporting into the countrydespite the
hardships of getting the permit.
The pair flew most of Ohlmans track but alas had no lift since
the wind was coming from the south. They did however encounter about
14 condors along the way yet alas passed by the lovely entourage
at about 95 knots, so that wonderful avian encounter was albeit
brief. As they were soaring in the Andes, the Peruvian officials
ordered them out of the mountains immediately and so they had to
fly the bulk of the day just gazing longingly at the Andes from
the coast. Kinda sad. They overflew the Nazca lines
again and got some better photographs this time..
One amazingly interesting observation they found was that in Chile,
the winds above 4000 are predominantly from the North while
the winds below 4000 are from the south. Im sure the
birds know this fully well but it was news for the twosome. Kinda
reminiscent of anchor sailing in the Med. (more on that later.)
Theyre hoping to get out of Peru by the 6th and head up to
Quitoinching their way ever closer to home.Right now they
are mainly concentrating on trying to get reliable weather reports
and gas .
FEBRUARY 28th 2003
The Stemme team
departed Santiago and flew up to Copiapó--buzzing three observatories
along the way. After two active days of chatting with Peruvian authorities
about the flight permit and great feats of diplomacy performed by
Horacio Parragué (Club Universitario de Aviación)
and George Elder to secure the Peruvian transit permit the team
was on their way. Without Horatio and George, our dynamic duo may
never have gotten the permits!
Before leaving Santiago, Thierry took George Elder up soaring. Thierry
and Al also took a day trip over the highest peak in the AmericasMt.
Aconcagua 22,834 (6960m). Theyre a bit cautious now about
shutting down the engine over rough terrain since theyve had
a number of engine problems.
They plan to detour to Antofagasta for some cliff soaring (2500)
and then head onto Arica, Peru today if not tomorrow.
FEBRUARY 27 2003
The Stemme Team spent Saturday in Santiago lookiñg
over George Elder's quince orchard, and Sunday with his family in
gorgeous Santo Domingo (on the beach). (There was a nice article
in the Santiago paper on Sunday about the adventure. I'll try to
get a copy and post it!)
One this little respite, the team's been troubleshooting. Firs they
had to get their headsets working since the mike on one of them
was defective and shorting out the system. Then it was the logger.
Jose Luis Chiuminato, the Cambridge Rep in Santiago, diagnosed the
logger problem as a faulty antenna and now it is working . Not so
lucky with the LNAV. It needs some factory recalibration but Jose
thinks he might be able to do it here. Then the engine was refusing
to start -- probably the ground on the igniter units--but with some
advice from Rick Wright in Tucson- it now works.
Jose invited the team to a dinner at the Santiago Soaring Society.
Very posh!! Private airstrip in center of Santiago. Elegant club
house and fulltime chef. They all said the Stemme team was incredibly
lucky to have had such good weather at the Cape.
They should be off today or tomorrow to score some more soaring!
FEBRUARY 25 2003
Our fearless team is in Santiago right now taking
a bit of a respite and visiting some close family friends, the Elders.
George Elder is quite an accomplished pilot in his own regard, makes
a mean Pisco Sour and has a lovely place on the coast-- so I think
our boys will welcome a bit of downtime outside the Stemme cockpit.
They should be departing shortly though and Ill give you their
track as soon as I know it.
FEBRUARY 20 2003
Hola todos! Just got a call from Thierry. They are
in a very plush hotel in Pucon right now. They flew the very same
track that Klaus Ohlman soared to set the world gliding record along
the famous Argentinian Wave! The starting point is at Pt San Martin
de los Andes. Alas, it was not a good day for gliding--the wind
was from the southwest which made it smooth for flying but sadly
Just south of Pucon, they flew right into the jaws of an active
volcanowell maybe not smack into the jaws but at least close
enough to get some spectacular shots of the smoke rising inside
from the crater. When they landed at Pucon, some folks from the
Santiago gliding club came over and took the boys out for a beer.
When they took off from Punta Arenas a few days back, Juan Alvarez
was kind enough to call ahead to Puerto Natales so when they arrived
a taxi was waiting to take them into town. Everywhere Thierry and
Al go, they are always met with incredible kindness and hospitality.
I dont think theyll ever want to leave South America!
During the flight from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, they flew
directly over Torres del Paine possibly the most gorgeous
place in the entire world. Spectacular doesnt even begin to
describe the rugged beauty of the mountains there and luminous turquoise
of the lakes. But it wasnt all fun and games. The pitot tube
worked loose one third into the trip and they had to contend with
a loud stall warning for the remainder of the flight.
As they continued on to Coihaique, the fearless Stemme team flew
over some spectacular ice fields that run along the coast there
for over 180 miles. Just before they reached Coihaique though
the glider started shaking something fierce. Thierry said the Stemme
was rattling so hard he was convinced theyd lost the tip of
the prop. Turns out they had two fouled plugs in the no.2 cylinder.
An easy fix after they landed.
Once they got back to Coihaique, Carlos put on a typical Patagonian
barbeque for them at the airport with all of Carloss crew.
The chief mechanic acted as the chief de cuisine and the barbeque
involved an complete lamb skewered and roasted on a bed of very
hot coals. A great treat!!
The Stead Elementary School kids have asked some questions and here
are some answersdirect from the pilots!
"Its been warm most of the time. Generally we wear normal
clothes. We had to use our long underwear once.
Our intercom is giving trouble but it works most of the time.
We have seen many banana plantations in Ecuador and Columbia and
will look for coffee plantations on the way back.
Each wing holds 15 gal
The weather and where we want to go plays a major role in our decisions
We werent really trying to establish an official world record
. That is a complicated process and is controlled by the FAI Federation
The plane takes about 25 sec to take off at reduced power and 2
minutes to prepare to land and actually get on the ground
When we are not flying we do our laundry ,eat and sleep. We have
been lucky and met very interesting people who have given us information
about their country and had us as guests in their homes. We rented
a car in Coihaique and went thru the Rio Simpson National park.
FEBRUARY 18 2003
Just heard that Thierry and Al landed a half hour
outside Coihaique. The engine was running a bit rough but alls
well. Many thanks to everyone who wrote in with their
kind words of enthusiasm.
FEBRUARY 17 2003
Hola and many thanks to everyone who wrote in with
their congratulations to the team. I havent heard from them
yet today but wanted to say, "Dont breathe too big a
sigh of relief yet!" Now their big adventure is really
going to start. Thierry and Als initial goal was to
reach Tierra del Fuego as quickly as possible. Now, as they
head back home, they will be working towards their larger goal looking
for lift in all the right places.
The adventure continues--so stay tuned. It aint over
till they touch tarmac in California and Nevada. Keep those
good thoughts flowing south.
eople run up
to the planefascinated by the spectacle.
Thierry and Al have taken some photos of the Sierra Madre and will
be sending them on tomorrow.
In the morning, theyre headed to Oaxaca and hope to reach
Tapachula on the southern border by tomorrow night.
Adventures: California to Tierra del Fuego
Adventures: Alaska to California