Saturday, February 21, 2009

Work day and a practice flight

The forecast was for broken cirrus clouds and little lift. Actually it was unbroken thick cirrus, so there was no lift to be had. That was fine with me, my plan was to do a high tow and practice maneuvers for my commercial practical test. I need to log 10 solo flights specifically in preparation for the test, and I have 4 logged so far.

Few people were flying, because it was an unofficial club "work day", with projects involving deck roof repair, trailer repair, radio installation, and general trash cleanup around our operating area. Also, the club is beginning a "Duty Officer" function to schedule student flights and help make the instructors' job easier and more efficient. I helped design the role, and volunteered to be DO on the first day. So I didn't work on any of the big projects, but I did some general trash pickup and a lot of glider pushing.

I took a Blanik up on a high tow in the mid-afternoon, to run through the practical test steps. Here's an abbreviated list of what is generally done on a practical test (from a 4000' tow) to demonstrate all the required tasks:

  • Box the wake
  • Slack line control
  • Signal tow plane for turn
  • 360 degree turn to heading
  • 720 degree turn to heading,clearing turn
  • Straight stall w/o brakes
  • Straight stall with brakes
  • Turning stall w/o brakes
  • Turning stall with brakes
  • Slow flight
  • Slow turns, right & left
  • Straight flight @ min sink
  • Straight flight @ best L/D
  • Speed to fly in sink
  • Thermal soaring if possible
  • Pattern, including all radio calls
  • Land & stop in the designated box
All the airwork went fine, and I was surprised to find that I only used up 1,000' doing all the turns and four stalls. I worked on making my turns steeper. I found a little zero sink but no workable lift, so my flight was 24 minutes long.

Before my flight, the previous student and instructor noted a significant loss of wheel braking power. We could see that the brake actuator was not moving quite the way it should. I decided that it would be OK to fly, but to plan on landing as short as possible to leave a lot of stopping space. As it turned out, the brake was totally inoperable. With my airbrakes fully out, and no wheel braking, I used up the entire landing zone and then some, stopping about halfway between the zone and the taxiway (which is our don't-go-there limit because of the hump it presents). But I was expecting it, so since there were no other gliders in the landing zone it was not really a problem. So much for landing within the tolerance of the commercial test!

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