Monday, June 22, 2009

Above & Below the Clouds

On Saturday I shared a flight in a Blanik L13 with another pilot. The weather was much worse than expected... nearly overcast until about 2:00. When it finally broke up there were still some little cumulus clouds that looked like they could be useful, but not very high - ceiling had been reported to be 1900' AGL. I planned to practice incipient stalls, so we took a tow up to about 4000' AGL to buy some time. He flew the tow then handed it over to me. As we climbed, we passed those CU's with cloudbases about 2200' AGL, so we knew that was as high as we would ever get back up. But from 4000' we had a nice view of the tops of the retreating overcast to the south. We rarely get to see the tops of the clouds on glider flights.

I did some straight and turning stalls, some incipient stalls during slow, shallow turns, then when we got below cloudbase I gave the glider back to him. Although there were a few little CU right around us, they were pretty ragged by the time we got there - already dissipating. He and I took turns trying to work the weak lift we found - no more than about 150 feet/minute in places.

Pretty soon we were back down to the pattern altitude. Since I'm working on my no-flaps approaches and my precision landings, we had arranged that he would do the tow and I the landing. Although I made a couple of mistakes in the downwind leg, my speed control and glide slope were good in the base and final. With about a 14-knot headwind, my landing and rollout within the first target box were really good. I continued to fly the wings level whole he opened the canopy and got out of the glider... finally setting the wing down to push back. Our total flight time was 27 minutes. Pretty short, but not bad considering the altitude I lost doing four stalls.

Later in the day the club operation switched to winch launching:

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