Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flying at Skylark Airport / Lake Elsinore

Our club has arranged to place one or more gliders at Skylark Airport, where towplanes are operated by the Lake Elsinore Soaring Club. (We're placing gliders at several airports during this transition period, to see which ones work out the best for the club.) LESC has been flying there for many years. Several of us went there this week to learn about their operation and get a "field checkout".

This is a private airport, and consists of two dirt strips. There are a few things that make this field a bit different from what many of us are used to, so we all need a little education before we fly:
  • A very active skydiving company operates here, and in fact is the landlord of LESC, so they have priority. Twin Otter jump planes are constantly taking off and landing. Groups of up to about 24 parachutists land just on the other side of the runways, sometimes coming in from random directions. It's not a problem - skydiving and soaring have coexisted here for a long time - but it's something we need to coordinate with and watch out for.

  • The skydiving "drop zone" restricts where gliders can fly. We can fly through it as needed, but cannot linger or thermal in the DZ. There are plenty of places to soar over the mountains away from the DZ, but we need to stay away from some parts of the town and lake as much as possible.

  • The taxiways etc. are all at one end of the runways (29 /11), up against some buildings and a road with some power lines. Takeoffs are always to the northwest (29) regardless of wind conditions. That means sometimes takeoff is downwind. If the tailwind gets too strong, glider takeoffs stop. Glider landings are mostly to the southeast (11) but are allowed "over the wires" to 29 if necessary. Towplane and jump plane landings are always on 11 too, sometimes on both runways.

  • This all means that takeoffs and landings must be coordinated because sometimes they're in opposite directions. It's not a problem, but it requires some learning. All this coordination of runway use and skydiving means that radio use is mandatory. At Hemet, although the airport was shared with power planes, the power and glider patterns were on opposite sides and exclusive runways. Radio use was optional, and actually was discouraged by the glider FBO... that was a strange situation I won't get into due to pending legal action. Anyway, we all need to be much more diligent about our radio skills.
So I went for a field checkout flight. Takeoff and tow were fairly normal, though the fine dirt of the runway makes for a few seconds of nearly total "brownout". The soaring was not much good since it was late in the day, but the point was just to get familiar with the area anyway. My radio battery died, but the instructor had a backup radio for the landing calls. Pattern and landing were normal, though I did have a tailwind on landing. We didn't snag any parachutes on the way down. ;-) The runway is much longer than the little dirt area we had at Hemet, so there are a few nuances of landing and rollout that we can learn.

All in all, I think this will work out as a good place for us to fly while the Hemet-Ryan complaint makes its way through the FAA. And after I get thoroughly familiar with flying in the area, I should be able to arrange to take my Commercial and Instructor practical tests here - those tests have been on hold for a couple of months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Roger,
Enjoyed reading your blog, have added you to my favorites. I too have commercial goals and the move from Hemet has slowed my ambitions. I hope to continue and finish before summer returns. Good luck to both of us.