Sunday, February 12, 2012

Flight # 300

Saturday was designated as a day for test launches on our winch after reversing the cable on the spool. The weather was broken clouds, not much potential for thermal lift. No one was expecting to soar, because we wanted to do as many launches as possible. We had some work to do in the morning, and a meeting of members, so we weren't ready to fly until about 1:00. At this point in time I'm one of the few members who are both winch-qualified and current (several are needing biennial Flight Reviews), so I was up first, flying the PW5. Others would go up in the Grob 103 with an instructor.

The wind was about 10 knots with gusts to 15, but it was only slightly off the runway heading (maybe 15 degrees), so I was comfortable flying the PW5, which does not do so well with crosswinds. The field was fortunately clear of the tumbleweeds which have caused us some problems in the past. The initial acceleration was smooth, not a strong G kick like sometimes. I kept a close eye on the line and parachute to avoid overrunning it, and rotated into a nice climb. Before long the airspeed was exceeding the maximum of 65 knots allowed, so I called down a couple of times for less speed. The CG hook automatically released at 1100 feet AGL, and I went off in search of lift. There was just a little over the auto mall parking lot, but not enough to keep me up, so I was back down in about four minutes. I kept a little extra speed to deal with the headwind, and had a good landing.

Our instructor pointed out that I had drifted downwind during the climb due to the fairly strong wind from the left. True enough, I had not paid any attention to direction on the way up. I was focused on keeping a wings-level attitude and on my airspeed. It's really hard to get any sense of horizontal direction during a ground launch, because the climb angle is so steep. You cannot see the ground below unless you consciously look down and back behind you. Look at the backward-looking shots in this video, and you'll get some idea of just how steeply we climb. Looking forward or to the side, all you see is sky.

That was my 300th flight as a glider pilot.

We pushed right back and I went up again. This time I crabbed to the left to counteract the wind, but I'll admit that the amount of crab was a guess, as I still could not see the ground. Apparently it was enough, because the instructor said I was right on track this time. The speed stayed about 65 knots and I had a nice smooth climb to 1400' AGL. That's equal to my other best solo winch launches - I've reached 1500' AGL once with an instructor. This time I was able to work a little bit of lift, but only gained about a hundred feet. The sky was nearly overcast and it was windy, so thinking that the lift might be wave or otherwise wind-generated, I moved around a bit to see if it would extend beyond this one little area. Nope. It really wasn't much, and I came back in for another very short flight. After landing and rolling to a stop, I "ground-flew" the glider for about a minute, keeping the wingtips off the ground by working the headwind with the ailerons.

We conducted four more winch launches, all instructional flights in the Grob 103. One of those launches ceased at 400' AGL when the short rope that connects to the Tost ring came open. The other launches were to 1000' or so. So it was a very successful test of the winch - no further main cable breaks.

The last launch was an aerotow of the Grob. We are again relocating our aircraft to other gliderports while we continue to engage with the Hemet-Ryan management. We will be placing the Grob at Lake Elsinore for a few months, so we asked an Elsinore towplane to come over and tow it there. We disassembled the PW5 and it is being trailered to Crystalaire.

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