Saturday, November 17, 2007


Today I shared a flight in the Grob 103 with L. Now that the days and therefore the lift periods are shorter, it makes more sense to do a couple of 2-person flights in the middle of the afternoon than to try for several individual flights and have some people miss the soaring times. Though it does mean that we can only log part of the time as PIC, the part when we are actually at the controls. This time L did the takeoff and all the soaring, because he was not happy with his previous takeoff and because he doesn't fly as often as I do. I did the landing and flew from the rear seat because that's what I want to work on in preparing for my Commercial rating. (I'll start writing about the Commercial soon.)

The forecast was for just about 250 fpm of lift, and the day just reached the calculated trigger temperature. There was a lot of haze in the air, clearly showing an inversion. The previous flight reported no lift, so we didn't have high hopes. We let off at 3100' AGL, above the inversion, and we never got that high again. I worked hard at spotting sources of lift and keeping a general lookout. Twice I did find crows nearby, higher than us, and we were able to find some lift under them. I also spotted swallows very close - we nearly hit one - and they can be helpful because they are often hunting bugs that have been brought up by a thermal.

We found some weak lift and worked it extensively. All we got out of it was about 300 feet, and combined with some zero sink, we accomplished a 42 minute flight. I think for a while we were at the junction of two air masses, because to the west the ground was far less visible due to brown haze, and to the east it was much clearer. But there was no obvious shear line lift.

The Grob's wheel brake is kind of weak (we'll be working on it next week) so we wanted to have plenty of space to land in. So another pilot recommended I use the little dirt strip that the tow plane lands in, which I've never done before. It worked out fine... I could perhaps have floated a little further (eased the stick back to a higher angle of attack and landed with less speed) but it landed smoothly and straight. Actually, landing in that spot helped avoid sun glare which can be a problem in the late afternoon. I get to log a whopping 5 minutes of PIC time.

Flying like this with another pilot is fun. We can share ideas and learn from each other, but it's more relaxed than flying with an instructor. And we split the tow fee.

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