Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sharing the fun

6-18-2005 - One of the most fun things about being a soaring pilot is introducing soaring to a new person. Today I took a friend-of-a-friend for a ride. The only passengers I'd taken before were my daughters - never a stranger. This was a 19-year-old named Nathan who's entering the US Air Force Academy in a few days. The Academy uses Blanik L-23 gliders to train cadets, not unlike our L-13. He'd been in a small aircraft once before, a four-passenger power plane, and enjoyed it. So he was pretty excited.

We went up about 11:00, before the thermals were really working, early enough that it wouldn't be too turbulent. We found some zero sink and a few 1 to 3 kt areas, just enough to turn a 3000' tow into a 30-minute flight. He was perfectly fine with circling and had a great time looking around and learning about the instruments.

At one point I saw a shadow cross directly below us, so we quickly scanned around to see what traffic might be near. Nathan spotted a hawk circling about 100' above us. After a few turns he was next to us, then I finally saw him about 50' below. Apparently a Blanik outclimbs a hawk! Then he was gone... Very cool.

Before the flight, an instructor mentioned that the rear ASI was underreporting, and that I would have to watch the front one. That works OK but it's annoying and makes it harder to keep speed constant. But I dealt with it OK. CFI didn't say not to fly or not to take my passenger - he just expected me to deal with it. That felt good. I’m also perfectly comfortable flying from the back seat now… no visibility or control issues at all.

The lift wasn’t strong enough to sustain us very long. When we got down to about 1400-1500’ AGL and it was time to head for the IP, I was further away than I had realized. I had to tiptoe back at exactly the best L/D and hope for no sink… I angled toward the base end of the field rather than the IP in case I needed to use an abbreviated pattern. Fortunately we found just a bit of lift and so we entered the 45 a bit downwind and at just about 100’ less than usual, so it all worked out… but I do need to watch my position better during the last 1000’ before pattern entry. Then we found lift on downwind, and ended up at about 600’ AGL turning base, so go figure. We had a nice, steep final and a perfect landing right in the box.

I had hoped to either fly the Grob with the instructor (still getting checked out) or the PW-5 (and try out my new GPS system) but neither worked out because it was quite a busy day for the club. Next time.

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