Saturday, July 11, 2009

Training in the Heat

It was 105F in the shade today. Unfortunately, many of the activities of soaring do not occur in the shade: assembling gliders (we put the PW5 back together), washing & inspecting, pushing out to the line, and back from the landing zone. "But it's a dry heat!" Actually, that's true, and after doing this for 6 years, I'm pretty well acclimated to it, up to about 110F. Unlike some very hot days, the atmosphere was somewhat unstable and the lift was working. Several students had some pretty long rides, and even though I launched at 4:15 pm, we found strong stuff to work, but only up to 5500' MSL where the inversion seemd to top out.

I had a single 45-minute training flight with the instructor I've been working with to prepare for my Commercial rating. Quite a bit to do on these flights: box the wake, slack line correction, steer the towplane, multiple stalls, multiple incipient stalls, slow-flight turns, steep turns, thermalling. Fortunately we found lift to recover the altitude we lost with stalls. Flying the pattern with no flaps or spoilers, which means slipping the entire pattern in order to get down, and only using spoilers in the last 100' above the ground. I got a lot of pointers and will need to work on my accuracy with some of these during my solo flights. Plus I need to do more spins, up to 1 and a half turns.

And now I have a deadline! We just found out that our gliderport is closing on October 1. The county (or the airport) wants to close the glider runway as of that date. The owner of the glider operation is the local FAA "designated pilot examiner" and I've been planning to take my tests with him. Trying to take my tests anywhere else (Warner Springs, Crystal, Tehachapi, or wherever else there's a DPE) would be a logistical nightmare! So after consulting with my instructor, we decided that I will try to complete both the Commercial and Instructor ratings before he leaves. I had been planning to do the Commercial by about that date, and figured the Instructor would take quite a bit more training, but we think (hope) I can get this done. Many of the requirements are very similar, so lots of people do both very close together. I have about half of my specific "preparation" flights logged, but of course those are just minimum requirements: I need to do as many as it takes to show my instructor that I'm ready. It'll take some coordination, especially since I have a two-week trip planned in the middle of all this. I'll keep this blog updated as I go along. If any readers are CFIs, I'd welcome comments about how you went about your Commercial and Instructor ratings.

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