Monday, May 27, 2013

Back in the Air after Refinishing

I have not posted since early March because... I have not flown since then. Our Grob 103 Twin Astir has been out of service in order to have the top surface of the stabilizer and elevator stripped and refinished. It was peeling very badly, so we took it out of service between the late-winter BFR season (it seems several of us have our BFR dates in January-February), and the start of the good soaring season.

The stabilizer was peeling, but that's not quite the right term for what happened to the surface of the elevator - disintegrating is more like it! Over this winter, the surface really just started crumbling before our eyes.

We chose a shop in Tehachapi to do the work. Getting the stab there and back was a bit of a trick, because it is is 10.8 feet wide. That's too big to fit in my full-size pickup bed, which Pythagoras says is 8.9 feet diagonally. Letting it hang out over the tailgate or stick up over the cab seemed like a recipe for disaster. So one of our club members put it in his camper, which allowed it to go over the cab and be protected.

To bring it back, I decided to put it in the glider's trailer, since there's a nice padded pair of brackets for just that purpose. From home to Crystal (to get the trailer) to Tehachapi, back to Crystal and back home is about 320 miles, so retrieving and installing the stab a couple weeks ago was an all-day affair. It looks great! As it turns out, the surfaces had been reworked but not stripped before, so this time two or three layers of material were removed. The elevator is now measurably lighter, so it should be somewhat more responsive.

Then the ship was due for its annual inspection. Fortunately nothing else major came up, so last week it was signed off as airworthy again. This Saturday several of us spent the morning lubricating all the control linkages, washing the ship, putting a coat of wax on it (gotta protect that new finish!), polishing the canopy, and doing general maintenance required for a ship that sits out all the time.

Since significant maintenance had been done, a solo test flight is required before any passenger flights would be allowed. That job fell to me, so I took it up to 1,000' AGL for a quick checkout. On takeoff, I  PIO'd it a bit, recovering after the second oscillation - maybe the lighter elevator made it react more quickly? Or maybe it's just that I haven't flown for a month and a half...

One of the fellows who came out this weekend is a former club member who is looking to rejoin. Recently he has been signed off to fly in high-performance gliders and at Crystalaire, so now he will need to get a checkout in our Grob 103. I took him up for an orientation flight so he could start to learn the specifics of this ship. I let off tow in lift over the "second ridge", and between us we took it up to about 8,700' MSL a few times. We landed after exactly one hour.

Another club member who hasn't flown much lately wanted to get some practice before tackling his BFR, so we went up again. This time we got a-l-m-o-s-t to 10,000' MSL. We headed over the the area near the top Mt. Lewis, expecting to find some thermals popping, or wind blowing up the sides of the "bowls" between the mountains. Nothing. It was weird - way calmer than we usually would find up there.

Back down below the second ridge, we found some more lift, but not quite as high, and then out over the desert we found some marginal wave lift. There was a fairly strong wind out of the west, and weak wave had been reported there a couple of hours earlier, and sure enough it was still there. That gave us enough time for him to practice stalls, slow flight, etc. which might be requested during a BFR flight. We came in after exactly 90 minutes.

So... I flew for 2 hours and 40 minutes, but since I let the other pilots do much of the flying, I only get to log 50 minutes. But it was really great to be back in the air again!


Larus Pacificus said...

Hey Roger, Glad you're back in the air and having some fun flights.

In between your last two posts, I got my PPL checkout and so am a newly minted glider pilot.

I just wanted to let you know that your blog has been important in (i) getting me interested and back into the sport in 2010 (I soloed in 1983, then dropped the sport to follow other pursuits - I think back then I was discouraged by the lack of girls at the club!) and (ii) during my recent training as a constant reference and general source of enjoyment.

I wish more people blogged about their experiences. I sent you the link to Dartmoor club whom I have visited as they do such a good job of describing club life in their almost daily updates. But I also know how hard it is to make the effort. Maybe I'll in the meantime - Thankyou! - and please keep writing!


Hugh, Evergreen Soaring, WA

Roger Worden said...

Congratulations! I'm glad you stuck with it. Now the fun begins!

I do enjoy blogging about soaring. In addition to hopefully helping others make sense of the crazy progression of learning it involves, it helps me solidify my thoughts about it, plus gives me a good record for looking back at progress.

Thanks for reading and for the comment.