Friday, July 29, 2005

First remote field checkout

I achieved another goal today: renting and flying a sailplane at a gliderport where I have never flown before. Business took me to Orlando, FL, so I found the closest gliderport and made plans to fly there. Seminole-Lake gp is near Clermont, just 20 miles from where I was staying. They have a Grob 103 and some Blanik L23's. We decided the Grob was the best choice even tho I only had 6 flights in it, one solo.

So, this was my first "field checkout". We went over the airspace (they're in Class C and near B), and an aerial photo with their patterns drawn out. Runways are 18 and 36, grass. Due to the choices of emergency fields available, they take off to the north (with up to moderate tailwinds) and land to the south. This is a huge expanse of green grass, mowed pretty short, with a few humps and mild swales.

Their Grob 103 seems to be a later model than ours. I preflighted it mostly by myself and noted the following differences:

* fixed gear
* elevator trim is a tab, not a spring
* stab attachment is different
* control linkages are different, and don't have safety pins
* wing attachments
* harnesses
* canopy locks
* airbrakes don't protrude much when first opened, so their effect is more linear

This was good experience to see how other locations operate. Several differences in field and tow methods.

Since there was no one to run the wing, we did a wing-down takeoff - my first! Very easy, since it's off grass.

It was HOT and HUMID! About 90 degrees and 85% humidity. There was lots of lift, marked by nearly 50% CU cover, but in a narrow altitude band. Cloudbase was about 2500' AGL, and SLGP has a lower thermaling limit of 1200'. Field elevation is 120'. So... Not able to go very high that early in the day (11:00).

We turned a 2000' tow into a 25 minute flight. Lots of narrow thermals. Vultures and other birds helped. I still need some work on coordination and speed control, but after a few minutes I had it working pretty well.

One of my concerns was terrain recognition. That turned out not to be much of a problem. Although it's a sea of green, there are several roads and some distinctive lakes that served as excellent landmarks.

I had a smooth landing, shorter that the instructor would have liked, but nearly in the middle of this 3000' field. Then I found out why he recommended the spot he did: instead of stopping as short as possible, as we do at home, we just closed the brakes and rolled - and rolled - and rolled - what seemed like 200 yards or so back to our starting point. The Grob on short grass feels like it has an engine!

So then he made a couple observations and signed me off. We turned the ship around (you can do that with 1 person on grass) and I took off again. I let off at 1800' in lift, and worked it up to cloudbase at about 2350'. It felt no cooler up there, due to the high dew point and obviously 100% humidity at cloudbase. I was dripping! Then I could not find any other usable lift and at 1200' got ready to land.

My landing was in a better spot this time but I had some excess speed and bounced it a bit. Not bad, but I need to be smoother opening the brakes when floating. I rolled it back to the takeoff point. After pushing the Grob off the field mostly by myself (heavy, but it can be done - on grass), I was done for the day. I was hoping for more than a 17 minute flight, but was too hot to consider flying again.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Later I realized why I landed so fast. During preflight checkout the instructor pointed out that the airspeed indicator underreported the airspeed. I remembered and dealt with that on the checkout flight, but forgot it by the end of my solo flight. So when I did my approach at what I thought was the right airspeed, it was actually 5-7 knots faster.