Saturday, October 25, 2008

Passenger and Contest Flight

Today was the second half of our club's "Family Soaring Contest". We have several events, including accuracy landing, altitude gain, speed triangle, and timed flight. By coincidence my daughter N (age 20) wanted to go for a flight. (She's been up with me in Blaniks twice before.) So off we went.

The forecast was for good soaring weather. The NWS forecast said 739 fpm lift to 10,376' MSL, which I thought was optimistic. My Thermal Forecast spreadsheet gave a thermal index of -2 up to 7,500' MSL. Clear skies and very light winds were expected, with a maximum on the ground of 94F. The air was very clean!

We planned to use the Grob 103 because our main purpose was a pleasure flight, not a contest flight. Most pilots were flying Blaniks and trying for the accuracy landing. I figured that was pretty hopeless since the Grob has such a long rollout (it's heavy and the brakes are weak). No one in our club was staying up, though some other pilots in glass ships were doing OK. Not knowing if the conditions would be strong enough to do the triangle course, I decided to just enter for the 1-hour timed flight and the altitude gain.

We launched at 14:21, and let off at 4,500' MSL in decent lift. Using no more than 30-degree banked turns because of my passenger, I worked it up to about 5,200, then soon to 6,000, and eventually topped out at 7,200' MSL (very close to my forecast). At times the lift was up to about 5 knots, though the thermal seemed pretty narrow. We saw only one other glider get very much altitude, and he was never more than about 1,500' below us. So my altitude gain was 2,700'... not anything great, but I'm sure it was more than anyone else in our club today. It will depend on how people did on the other contest day(s).

Since we seemed to be topped out, and had been up about a half hour, we just flew over to Diamond Valley Lake for some sightseeing. N was doing fine with the circling. I offered to let her fly the ship but she declined. We encountered a big string of helium balloons obviously from a car lot or somewhere, and circled it at a safe distance. Soon enough we needed to plan our descent to try for exactly 60 minutes. I was still up over 6,000' so I used airbrakes and faster speed to get us down. (This was the first time I've heard the Grob's gear-up warning... I had the gear up for most of the flight, and opening the air brakes sets off the beeper.)

Trying for an exact flight duration is an interesting challenge. You have to estimate how long the aproach pattern and the landing will take (I guessed 4 minutes), then get to the Initial Point at pattern altitude at exactly 4 minutes before the target touchdown time. As it worked out, we landed 1 minute early for a 0:59 flight. Again, I don't think anyone else tried the duration flight today, so we'll have to see how people did on other contest day(s).

The landing rollout was long, as I expected. There was little or no headwind to help us stop, which was also expected. But I forgot to back my aim point up before the landing area, so we rolled out the far end almost to the taxiway, thereby blowing the spot landing part.

N had a great time flying! The visibility in the Grob is so much nicer than the Blaniks. She had no motion problems, and was glad to get up in the cooler air.

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