Saturday, April 30, 2005

PW5 second flight

An interesting day, weather-wise. Rain a couple of days ago, so it wasn't exactly a post-frontal day. High cirrus until about noon, then that cleared out and the sun started heating things up. We could see CU in the distance, but all clear air at our field. Early landers said there was a lot of lift but a lot of sink too. When I went up, it took quite a while to find ANY lift but I eventually kept finding decent stuff. (Hard to tell how strong it really is - the vario in the PW5 seems really nervous to me - big swings up and down. I don't think I'm flying in and out of it that badly. But maybe that's just a result of how light the ship is compared to the Blanik.) I was up about 5800' MSL when CU started forming right where I was, and it just got more and more puffy over the next hour. I topped out at 6300' MSL. Up in the 5-6 range there was lift all over the place - but BUMPY! Bounced me around pretty good - I'll just have to get used to that, since the PW5 seems to react really fast. I stayed up an hour - that's our club's time slot size, and I thought another guy was going to want to go up again. (I should have checked by radio - he had already left!)

VERY smooth landing, right in the box. Having two inflated tires instead of a hard tailwheel makes it much nicer. It was so smooth and quiet that no one from the club noticed I had landed.

Some dual glass ship joined me in a thermal for a while. He was higher, so it was easy to keep an eye on him. I've gaggled before, but this time I think I was climbing faster than he was, and he was making a bigger circle, so I tended to climb up inside him which made me a bit nervous. I lost sight of him a couple of times but we were never quite at the same altitude so it worked out. He eventually headed away before I topped out.

I also shared a thermal with some seagulls at about 4000' AGL.

Next time I definitely need to try the Camelbak. A water bottle just doesn't fit in the PW5's pocket.

I practiced again keeping track of my location with a map. We have a topo map that's been conveniently marked with names of local landmarks. (I haven't gone far enough yet for a sectional to be useful.) I spent a bunch of time thermaling over a little lake with a campground, and realized I had camped there with my parents when I was about 10! At the time I had no idea where we were... but the name on the map and the layout of the lake matched my memory.

At the end of an hour I was pretty well done anyway. The PW5 takes a little more concentration than the Blanik, especially for speed control.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

GPS and Navigation

A couple of months ago I realized that when I start flying a higher-performance ship and start learning to go cross-country, I should get a GPS system and/or navigational computer. At first I thought I wanted a little handheld GPS, like a Garmin. I got some recommendations from club members and RAS members. I priced Garmin and Lowrance units that seemed popular. But they don't really have any features specifically for soaring, and the screens of the low-priced ones seem too small to be useful.

I thought about PDA-based nav computers. I decided against Palm OS devices. I have a Palm and I love it, although I don't use it much anymore now that I have a Blackberry from work. But I've had my Palm crash enough times that I don't trust the OS for flight duties. Plus they just are not as powerful CPU-wise as Pocket PC's. I was skeptical of Windows-based devices because I have a lot of experience with Windows on PC's and servers. But the best soaring software seems to be written for that platform. No one seems to be complaining about stability. I have decided that it will be more stable if I don't load a bunch of other personal software on it: it will be a dedicated navigation tool, not a PDA.

There seem to be some very nice slot-based GPS receivers that integrate well with the pocket PC platform. It's no longer necessary to run a cable to a standalone GPS box: the GPS becomes part of the handheld. 

So at the SSA convention I attended a session comparing features of soaring software. I remember narrowing in on one of the programs, although at the moment I don't recall which one I liked. I don't need all the racing features at this time.

I read lots of opinions on RAS about screen legibility. It's not perfect but some are pretty good.  Cumulus Soaring has a great rundown of devices and packages. So I settled on the HP ipaq 2200 or 2215. With a Transplant CF GPS and a big battery, it can run for many hours. Only problem is: it's not made anymore and it was expensive ($600 new). So ebay sounded like a good option.

After two tries I found a good deal on a (I hope) lightly used ipaq 2215 with lots of memory and the big battery. It's coming to me via UPS as I write. I hope I'm not buying someone else's problem device, but the refurb units from HP are too expensive.

Now I need to order the GPS unit. And I need  to dig thru my notes to refresh my memory about software, and get that on order.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Endorsements and Documents

After having to postpone my Private Pilot practical test once due to a couple of missing endorsements, I did some research and came up with 15 (yes, fifteen) required endorsements and documents. This list is for Private Pilot - Glider with no previous ratings, as of November 2004. This may change, and may be different if you're adding Glider as a rating to your existing certificate. As you prepare to take your practical, show this to your instructor(s) and see if they have anything to add or subtract. Better yet, fax this and copies of your docs and endorsements to your examiner in advance of the test, and make sure HE/SHE is happy with it!

1. Part 61.31(j)(ii) requires a logbook endorsement for aerotow in order to be Pilot In Command using aerotow. (You need an endorsement for whatever type of tow you will use in your test, because you are acting as PIC for the flights.) The SSA logbook (even the new one) does not have a preprinted spot for this.

2. Part 61.35(a)(1) and 61.105(b) requires an endorsement for aeronautical knowledge.

3. Part 61.39(a)(1) requires passing the knowledge test within 24 months of the practical test.

4. Part 61.39(a)(6)(i) requires training time within 60 days of the application, in preparation for the practical test.

5. Part 61.39(a)(6)(ii) requires endorsement that the applicant is prepared for the practical test.

6. Part 61.39(a)(6)(iii) requires an endorsement that the applicant has demonstrated satisfactory knowledge in the areas missed on the knowledge test.

7. Part 61.39(a)(7) requires a completed application.

8. Part 61.87(c) requires pre-solo flight training.

9. Part 61.87(n)(1) requires an endorsement on the student certificate (not logbook) for the specific make and model.

10. Part 61.87(n)(2) requires an endorsement for solo every 90 days.

11. Part 61.105(b) requires ground training for aeronautical knowledge.

12. Part 61.107(b) requires ground and flight training.

13. Part 61.109(f)(1) requires 10 hours of flight in a glider.

14. Part 61.109(f)(1)(i) requires 20 flights in a glider, including 3 training flights in preparation for the practical test within 60 days of the test.

15. Part 61.109(f)(1)(ii) requires 2 hours of solo time and at least 10 launches and landings.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Here's a list of the stuff I take along for a day of local soaring in club ships at my home airport. If you're just starting out you might not think of some of these items. There's a lot MORE stuff I would need for cross-country soaring!

Flashlight A little Maglight for looking inside the wings and fuselage during preflight inspections.

Multitool The first time I went on a club trip, when we started to assemble the ships, everyone had a Leatherman on his belt, so I figured I better get with the program. I always used to take it off before flying (just more junk on my belt), but then I read accounts of in-flight emergencies wherein the pilots had to use pliers to crimp a wire, or a knife to cut something that was jammed, so now I leave it on.

Stopwatch I got a cheap digital stopwatch for timing my flight. Then I learned that cheap digital stopwatches black out when they get hot, so I wear it on the inside of my wrist to keep it shaded.

Sunscreen There's no shade at our field!

Ziploc bags Airsick bags. I've never needed them but passengers have. Get the kind with the slide closer, so if you do need one while flying it's easier to close with one hand on the stick.

E6B electronic flight computer Used more during training and the written test than in real life.

Hat Sorry, I just can't do the "bucket hat" that seems to be so popular with soaring pilots. I like the AOPA's baseball cap because it has NO BUTTON on top. These are really hard to find elsewhere. In a tiny cockpit, a button is a real hazard to your skull and the canopy!

Radio Our trainer doesn't have a built-in radio, so I got an ICOM IC-A5 handheld. Also handy on the ground for accessing AWOS, learning communications techniques and keeping in contact with local pilots.

Radio gear:
  • Headset I cannot hear the handheld with the wind noise, so a headset is a must. I got a cool little earpiece-type that clips onto my sunglasses.
  • Push-to-talk switch This has velcro so you can stick it to the stick.
  • Patch cable This ties the radio, PTT switch, headset, and mic together. Also makes for quite a tangle in the cockpit.
  • Velcro strap So what do you do with the radio in the cockpit? Stick it in the dumb little pocket where you can't reach it? Get a wide velcro strap and clip the radio to your right thigh. It's visible and within reach but out of the way.
  • Battery pack The ICOM NiCd only lasts so long... I got the extra pack for alkaline AAA's.
Log book

Notebook To keep all my training materials, glider manuals, sectional, plotter etc. in one place. I got the view kind and I stick the Soaring Forecast in the front and the wind forecast map in the back and leave it out so others can use the info.

Personal soaring notes I have a "cheat sheet" on which I list things I need to work on or remember. Once those things have become instinctive, I drop them off the list. Actually, this is a note in my PDA so I can jot things down as I think of them wherever I am.

Pen For the preflight checklist, aircraft flight log, and my log book.

Plotter Cheap plastic one.

Sectional chart Current!

Lunch If I have time to pack one.

Snack In case I don't.

Spare contact lenses

Eye drops

Soaring Flight Manual Gotta have it.

Soaring forecast Our local NWS office produces a daily soaring forecast for the whole Southern California region.

Water bottles A little twist-top one that fits in the cockpit pocket. A quart one that I freeze so it lasts nearly all day.

Camelback water pack I got one of these 'cuz it looked like a good idea. It doesn't work out in the Blanik because of the cushion shape, but I think it'll work out in the PW5. Try out every model you can find because they vary widely in capacity, comfort, and the location of the tube can interfere with radio etc.

Wind forecast I print the winds aloft map from ADDS (See the Java Tools tab at ).

Coat or sweatshirt


Sunglasses This is a whole subject in itself. I use American Optical's FG-58.

Handkerchief For cleaning my sunglasses.

Digital camera Since I write the club newsletter, I need to take pics of members, activities, etc. It would also be important to have a camera in case of an incident or accident.

Cell phone

PDA Several soaring-related things in my Palm. I'm going to change from a Palm to a Pocket PC with dedicated soaring software and a GPS.
  • HandyShop is a program intended for shopping lists, but makes a great checklist tool.
  • Weight and balance calculator You can use your e6B for this, but a dedicated program lets you store the moment arms for your particular aircraft. You can buy/download these. I wrote my own in a database called HandyBase.
  • Soaring notes mentioned above.
  • Phone numbers of club members in case of a land-out!

Monday, April 11, 2005


Books I have read over the last two years:


The Art and Technique of Soaring by Wolters
Very good

Glider Flying Handbook by the FAA
Very good - goes into much more depth than the FAA standard Soaring Flight Manual

Going Solo by Piggott
OK - not really about going solo, just about soaring in general.

The Joy of Soaring by Conway
Very good as a training book. Now rather dated.

Learning to Fly Gliders by Bob Wander
Not so good. It's a syllabus with not much real info.

Soaring Accidents that Almost Happened by du Pont
Very good, lots to learn from. Don't show this one to your spouse.

Soaring Flight Manual by the SSA
Good, the standard manual used by instructors and referenced by the FAA tests.

Transition to Single Seat Made Easy by Bob Wander
Very good workbook

With Wings as Eagles by Halacy
Wonderful!! One of my favorites. The first chapters are a great non-technical, inspirational intro for non-pilots.

Aviation in general

Aerodynamics of the Airplane by Millikan
Very technical, tough to get through

The Art of Instrument Flying by Williams
Good, assumes you are working with an instructor. I haven't finished this one yet.

Private Pilot Test Prep by ASA
Very good practice material

Congested Airspace: A Pilot's Guide by Garrison

More with Less by Ciotti
Bio of Paul MacCready, very good

Pilot's Guide to Weather Reports, Forecasts & Flight Planning by Lankford

The Proficient Pilot by Barry Schiff

Simplifying the FAR/AIM by Guilkey
Bad. doesn't simplify or explain anything, just quotes the FAR/AIM

Stick and Rudder by Langewiesche
Wonderful!! This one tells you how an airplane really works.

Understanding Flying by Taylor

Weather Patterns and Phenomena: A Pilot's Guide by Turner


This blog will focus on the sport and art and science of soaring - that is, sailplanes and gliders. I hope this will be helpful to other student pilots... and maybe fun for others as well. (When I started out, I found a wonderful web site about a student's experiences in Aboyne, Scotland. It's offline now... if anyone knows where it's available, please post! This won't be nearly so organized... )

I got my Private Pilot Certificate - Glider a couple of months ago. It would have been good to blog from the beginning, but I was too busy at the time. I did keep a journal, tho, and have posted all of it here. So the past is in reverse order from here down.

Because my experiences may reflect on other pilots, instructors, examiners etc., I won't use their names and for now I won't post much that will identify me and my club...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Finally into the glass ship!

4-9-05 First flight in the PW-5 single-seat glass ship (first in ANY glass ship). I had been signed off many months ago, but weather, scheduling and focusing on the PPG prevented me from ever taking it up.

I had worked through Wander’s book on transition to single seat, and J went over many aspects of it with me, so I really wasn’t nervous or worried. Well… I did fail to finish the pre-takeoff checklist, so I wasn’t perfectly focused, but it really did go well.

Wind was from the left quarter about 5 kt, no bother on takeoff roll but did push me sideways a bit after liftoff. Climb was really fast compared to the Blanik – I was at 500’ by the time I’m usually at 200’ (maybe the wind helped, too). But I seemed to be below the ideal position for about the first 1000’ of altitude. I finally got up where I should be.

I let off at 4500’ MSL and tried out turns, slow flight, near stall, and spoilers. First time using an audible vario, so I had to get used to that a bit. The PW5 has a bit of a nose-high attitude compared to the Blanik, so it kept fooling me into flying too fast: the pitch that felt right went about 50 or more, but the min sink is 40 and the best L/D is 44. Finally I trimmed back a notch and that helped.

VERY responsive. It also overbanks a bit in 45 degree turns, so I need to remember to use top aileron next time.

Lots of lift – a post-frontal day about 68 degrees with lots of CU. Turbulent but not bad. I thermaled up to 5300’, just below cloudbase. A little jet went by me about a quarter mile away and 500’ above. Some turbulence over the hills but not a lot of wind that I could tell, although it was a windy day elsewhere. Lots of sink, too, so I headed back to the IP area. At 1100’ AGL (or less) I found some lift, at first 100-200’, then stronger and stronger. I ended up about 4500’ MSL again. With so much sink around, I did not go far. In the last 500-800’ before reaching pattern altitude at the IP, *LOTS* of sink, 800’ to 1000’ DOWN! I got to the IP at 1000’ AGL, but was worried about sink on downwind. Fortunately that never materialized, and the PW5 is efficient, so I was OK and actually used spoilers on downwind and then on base.

Final was pretty good – I experimented with spoilers and found they are very effective and immediate. Pop them out, go down steeply. Push them in, float for a long way. Cool! I did end up just a bit short but no problem. Nice smooth landing, and Dave later complimented me on it. No bounce or balloon. Rollout was not quite straight, but not bad. 46 minutes total.