Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good stuff today!

As often happens, the first day after a cold front made for very good soaring today. The forecast was for lift up to 6,800' MSL in the morning, and then up to 9,000' or so in the afternoon due to further cooling aloft. And that's exactly what happened. The early pilots stayed up and reported getting over 6,000. And late in the afternoon, one of our instructor/student flights did indeed get to 9,000'. There were small CU clouds to mark the lift in the early part of the day, but most of them disappeared by midday.

We assembled the PW5, since we had trailered it for the planned trip to the desert. We replaced the safety harness with a new one that the club just bought. T took it for a flight and got to 8,500 and nearly two hours.

As I mentioned, I was planning to just fly a Blanik and practice landing to the tighter tolerances required for the commercial test. I told the tow pilot I'd go to 2,000' AGL... I didn't want to just release at 700' and land, since I had not flown a Blanik for a while. I figured I would do 2 or 3 patterns. Well, at 2,000' AGL I was in strong lift, so I let off and decided to go up for a little while. That very first thermal took me up to well over 6,000' MSL, with 6 knots of lift at times. I decided that landing practice could wait. This was too good to pass up! I practiced 45-degree banks, did a couple of stalls. My maximum altitude was 7,800' MSL, and I could see gliders and cloudbase about 1,000 feet higher than me.

I flew over to the little town of Winchester and back. I thought (correctly) that another student might be waiting, so I eventually forced it down with 60-knot circles and spoilers. So many days we scratch to find lift... and then days like this, we just have to waste it!

Approach and landing was weird. I hit some heavy sink on the downwind leg, and ended up turning base really early because I was quite low. I knew from looking at a flag and the wind socks that the wind was from the left (south) side. But then after flaring to land, I floated... and floated... like I had a tailwind. I touched down, did not bounce it, but suddenly I was in the air again and yawed to the right! Apparently the wind abruptly shifted, got under my right wing (it would have been up slightly due to the original left crosswind) and launched me into the air again, and "weathercocked" the glider to the right - at least 25 or 30 degrees! I got it under control and landed safely, but certainly not within the space I had been planning. And after I touched down, a strong crosswind from the right was blowing a bunch of debris my way. I let the glider weathercock into it, kept flaps and spoilers deployed, and stayed inside the glider until crew came out to help. (In strong wind, it's better to stay in it and be able to control it than to get out and have it get away from you.) So apparently I landed into a thermal. It certainly wasn't visible as a dust devil, but it caused a lot of shifting wind. It was probably responsible for the sink on downwind, too.

A very fun flight on a nice, easy day.

3 comments:

PlasticPilot said...

Excellent ! I'm both happy for you, and envious. I feel like I'm slowly making the decision of adding a glider rating to my PPL/IR.

Axel said...

I have yet to try flying a sailplane, but you sure seem to have a great time flying around without an engine! :) I have got to add a sailplane rating to my license and try that some time... :)

x said...

If you have never gone for a flight in a glider, I urge you to either ask a fellow pilot with a PPG to take you up, or pay for a ride at a commercial operation. It really is great fun!

Many instructors and the FAA examiners I've spoken with believe that learning to fly without an engine teaches one so much more about the atmosphere, energy management, planning ahead, etc., that it is immensely helpful to power pilots. A power pilot friend of mine went for a flight (in a power plane) with a glider pilot friend, and was amazed at the smoothness of his landings. It really can be a complement to, not a distraction from, your power flying.