Monday, May 30, 2005

Some FAA benefits

I went to an FAA-sponsored seminar this week at the local airport. It was on the legal and liability aspects of being a pilot, owner, or operator. The main speakers were two attorneys who deal with aviation accidents, one on the plaintiff's side and one on the defense side. Both had excellent experiences to share about how liability lawsuits work, which parties can be sued, and what kind and amount of insurance is helpful. They also touched on various asset-protection methods and estate planning methods, although they did not have a lot of time to get into those aspects. Very good!

I picked up a copy of a bimonthly magazine named FAA Aviation News: Aviation Safety from Cover to Cover. Lots of good articles - I'm going to subscribe! Check this out: full back issues are available on line in PDF format at

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Looking instead of flying

Camping at Big Bear Lake this weekend... The soaring forecast for the local field was for thermal tops to be over 10,000 ft and over Big Bear to 17,000. I know some of the pilots go from the valley up over the mountains, so I thought maybe I'd see someone soaring. Sure enough, while we were out on a boat in the middle of the lake, I spotted two: one north of the lake and then one just south, nearly at cloudbase. Very cool... a goal to look forward to someday.

We've camped up here a number of times. I bet there have always been sailplanes above us and I never even knew it.

Let's see... 17,000 ft * a conservative 25:1 glide ratio / 6020 feet means you could glide 70 nautical miles...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Comparing three gliders

Now that I've flown three different models, I find myself comparing them. I'm sure I'll think of more aspects, but here are several:

Weight: Empty, PW5 about 440 lbs, Blanik about 650, Grob about 880. So PW5 with one person weighs about half the Grob with two. This all affects the feeling of inertia and stability. Rollout distance is influenced greatly by the weight.

Wingspan: P < B < G. Noticeable effect on roll rate! Will have to remember that when trying to enter a thermal in the Grob.

Attitude: B seems to fly level (or maybe it just feels more "normal" since I've flown it so much more. P seems nose-high: if I fly it "level" it's really nose down and flying too fast. G (only once so far) seems nose-low: I had to push it over to get it to fly fast enough.

Roll-out: B is a taildragger with rotating tailwheel. It'll go where you want it on rollout: for example, you can steer it to a desired point to ease the next takeoff. P is a nosedragger with non-turning gear. Once on the ground, it goes in a straight line. G is a taildragger with non-turning tailwheel, also tarcks straight. P and G: better get 'em straight before touchdown!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

First flight in Grob 103

5-7-05 First flight in the Grob 103, a two-seat fiberglass ship. The club recently reactivated it after having put it in storage for about a year. Since it’s bigger, heavier, and flies differently from the Blaniks, the club rules require additional training, so everyone is clamoring for instructor time in it. The weather was mostly cloudy. There was lift around – several glass ships were staying up – but not really a very strong day. So I flew one 18-minute flight with a CFI. The way it’s built gives it a much more solid feel than the Blanik – none of the rattles etc. The long wings and greater inertia make it roll slowly. But it’s very slippery – it floats forever after flare and before touchdown. We did a few stalls, straight and turning. This ship will hardly stall at all – a lot of buffeting and then a VERY gentle stall. I bet it only loses about 10 feet of altitude.

My flight was fine, my landing fine, except that I misunderstood how the wheel brake worked and reached over to grab the trim handle thinking it was the brake. Later I learned from other pilots that the wheel brake is not very effective in the Grob, so I probably couldn’t feel it grabbing even when I was pulling the right handle. I figure it will take about 5 flights or so before getting signed off in the Grob. It will be a much nicer ship than the Blanik for giving passenger rides.

Aside from flying, it was a very busy day on the ground. That’s part of being in a club – everyone has to share in work. Most of the club is going on a campout next weekend, so some people disassembled and trailered the PW5, others packed up gear for it and a Blanik. I helped T and N get the pitot-static system working again on the Grob. I also helped transfer a half-mile of steel cable (used for auto-towing) from one spool to another.