Monday, February 27, 2012

Update on Blanik L13 situation

We are still waiting for the FAA to complete their assessment of a Supplemental Type Certificate that has been submitted to deal with the Blanik L13 airworthiness issue. It's been in process since about May 2011.

The parts kit alone would cost about $8,700.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Seagull Soaring Index

I have a 2-meter "foamie" radio-controlled glider that I occasionally get to fly, mostly ridge soaring along ocean cliffs. It's relatively heavy, so it takes a pretty strong wind to keep it aloft, unlike the little Zagis and molded foam warbirds that have been developed in recent years.

On some long trips to the dunes at Pismo Beach, CA I invented my "Seagull Soaring Index". I watch the seagulls that are ridge soaring, and mentally count the longest intervals between episodes of flapping. If they can soar for 6 seconds at a time or longer, the wind is strong enough to launch my Highlander. Any less, and I will be trekking down the hill to retrieve it.

Smaller ships would probably fly on a SSI of two or three. I've thought of getting a wing or smaller glider, but since I really don't get to fly R/C all that often (I'd rather fly "full-scale") it's not worth the cost.

What weather-related "rules of thumb" do you use to help decide whether today (or tomorrow) will be a good soaring day?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More Hemet-Ryan shenanigans

The County of Riverside is determined to force gliders to stop operating at Hemet-Ryan Airport. The FAA ruled that we have the right to fly there, and ruled that the management must negotiate in good faith with us. But the FAA does not oversee the details of the negotiation process, and will only step in if we formally protest again.

First, the CoR wanted us to fit into an FBO model, offering a full range of aviation services (repairs, instruction, rental, etc.), and tried to enforce some "minimum standards" for amount of land and hangar space we must rent.

They eventually said we could rent just an acre of land for tiedowns, or just a hangar for storage. But they are not offering a lease of any specific duration, they are only offering a month-to-month rental. That would make it tough to rent tiedown space to private pilots - who would place their glider there if they knew they could be evicted at any time? And what club would invest in any kind of improvements to the tiedowns, hangar, or land if they knew they could be kicked out and their improvements seized or destroyed at any time?

We could rent tiedown space at the power-plane FBO that exists, but guess what? The tiedowns are of the ring-in-the-ground kind, and sized for GA aircraft, not the staked-down-cable kind. Gliders don't fit into them. We tried. We could use two spaces, but guess what? The CoR insists that the FBO charge us for two spaces AND charge us parking for the glider trailers. So that works out to about $150 per month per glider. That doesn't fit into a club's budget.

So the FBO rented us some space in a dirt area that they lease, and we put down stakes sized for our gliders. Guess what? The CoR orders the FBO to tell us to vacate that space, that tying down in the dirt is "incompatible" with the intended use of that space, and the FBO is forced to go along with it. Guess what? There's a nice twin-engine Beechcraft, some other twin, and two privately-owned military jets also tied down in the dirt. If the CoR does not force them to move, then we will have some pretty solid grounds for a complaint of selective enforcement with the FAA.


I'm sure there's more to the story than this, but this is what I have observed so far.

We're moving our aircraft to other gliderports, because we have no choice, but that does not mean we are done battling the County of Riverside. There are significant principles at stake here, and we are not giving up.

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.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Mobile format

I've just turned on the mobile option for this blog. It's fully automatic - you don't need to go to a different URL. This should make it far faster and easier to read and navigate from your iPhone-type device, and I imagine from Android devices too. It does not seem to make any difference on my Blackberry device. Please let me know if you encounter any problems with this additional layout.