Sunday, December 14, 2003


12/14/03 - One flight with a CFI, trying to beat a storm front moving in. We had to release at about 2500' AGL to stay away from clouds. The more we flew, the lower the clouds came, until we were nearly in the soup. Misty rain started, so we headed down. good takeoff, good landing!

CFI went over my pre-solo written test. I did pretty well, about 85%. The next day, CFI emailed the other instructors, saying it's OK for me to solo - two have to approve me.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Rope break!

11/8/03 - Four flights with M. First flight, she pulled a rope break to see if I would put the nose down or just turn. Of course, I just turned.

Three more pattern flights. Takeoffs a bit rocky, overcorrecting with the ailerons. One landing, I used the end of the runway for an aiming point instead of 100' or so earlier. Couldn't figure out why she thought I was too high... She pointed out a pattern to the landing/stopping positions if more than one glider is in the landing area.

Picked up my pre-solo written test, have to take that before the next time with M.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Glider Flying Handbook

10/03 - New Glider Flying Handbook has been published by the FAA.

Friday, October 03, 2003


10/03 - Club campout at a dry lake. Autotowing behind J's truck. Learned all the signals etc. Instructor: B, first time I've flown with him. Takeoff on autotow is not as steep as I had read that it would be - maybe that has to do with the power of the tow vehicle.

First flight, I got a bit too far away from the camp/landing area, should have done some math first to see how far one really can glide from a 2000' tow with no lift. Realized I need to use flaps and airbrakes as tools for the situation, not as rote mechanisms. Realized that one can really FLY the glider on the ground, to get it where one wants it to be, not just stop as soon as possible. Learned about assembling/disassembling the Blanik.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Emergency landing

9/27/03 - Two flights with T.

First takeoff was perfect! Boxed the wake well; it took quite a bit of aileron to get out of a vortex. Straight stalls, turning stalls, sequential slow 720's just above stall speed. No lift (early in the day) - just a little bubble as we flew through a small flock of crows at about 1500'. Near-perfect landing, but a bit short. Gotta remember to pull the stick back after touchdown!

Second flight, I was expecting T to pull a rope break but he instead had the tow plane wave me off at 300'. My first simulated emergency landing was pretty good - I kept speed up in the turns, and got back with plenty of height, although the ground definitely looks close! The only issues I had: I misread the runways and was heading too far right until T pointed out the space between the correct runways; T detected a slight crosswind and was pushing the upwind wing down, but I kept trying to level it out. Other than that, it went pretty well. He said I did about 85% of the landing and was in control of the plane all the way.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Unusual attitudes, turning slip

9/6/03 - Two flights with T.

First takeoff, I let the left wing drop a bit and he had to help. Second takeoff was perfect.

First flight, we did forward and turning stalls, combined turns (rollout from one turn into the next), and a couple of "unusual attitude recoveries" where T did a turning stall and I had to diagnose and recover. No problem, I applied full opposite rudder and then neutralized the stick and it pulled out great.

We descended through the wake - quite a bit of roll to counter!

On approach, we were high, so T talked me through a slipping turn to final, which worked really well. Approach was smooth, speed was good. I think I flared it a bit late and we might have bounced a little bit, and I used the wheel brake a bit too firmly, but otherwise good approaches and landings. I had thought I might be rusty after four weeks missed, but things went really well.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Tehachapi... almost

8/30/03 - The club is having a campout at Tehachapi this weekend, but I can only drive up for the day. 2.5 hours, not too bad. The site is greener than I expected (I thought it would be desert) but at 4400' MSL it's a nice place. Long runways, though they slope. Nice little campground right there, 400' from the gliderport! Bigger office and operation than at home - even a little restaurant

When we went to unload the Blanik to assemble it, the tailwheel was missing! Fell off? Stolen? Whatever, the trainer is grounded! No local repair hangar has one. All the club members who brought their own ships have single-seaters, so I can't fly. Someone will bring a wheel up tonight, but I'll be gone by then. So... I just talked with the instructor, watched takeoffs and landings, discussed winds and slopes. I need to study airspace etc.

Took some pictures, looked at the TG-2 and Bowlus parked ouside the Vintage Sailplane Assn. meeting going on. Then 2.5 hours back home...

I hope to fly next weekend, because I've now missed 4! Need to get in on assembling the Blanik.

Sunday, August 24, 2003


8/24/03 - Hot & humid again, thunderstorms all around but not near the airport. Little CU consistently popping - M said the soaring was great.

But as we were getting ready to go, the t-storm 5-10 miles to the south started blowing up. M could see the dust rising and knew it would get windy, so we cancelled and pushed back. We thought that if we took off and didn't find lift, we couldn't get back down before the storm would finish pushing through. Sure enough, even before finishing tying down, it got really windy. We wouldn't have even had time to take off.

Before long, there was a 30-40 kt wind at 90 degrees to the runway. Two gliders already up had a hard time landing, so we ran out to help stabilize them once they were on the ground. Afterward, I talked with M and M, and their consensus was the student pilot should have chosen an upwind landing, across the airport, instead of going into a pattern and then having to deal with a 35 kt 90 degree crosswind landing. Let's see... normal 50 kt + 15 kt (half the wind) = 65 kt airspeed. Groundspeed would be 65 - 35 = 30 kt, for a nice gentle (but steep) landing. Lots of good learnings even though I never left the ground.

I picked up a book: "Weather Patterns and Phenomena: A Pilot's Guide".

Sunday, August 10, 2003


8/x/03 - I practiced emergency returns in Sailors of the Sky!

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Emergency decisions

8/3/03 - We were planning to do a 1000' pattern tow, but P pulled off at about 800'. I thought he was just entering the pattern early, not liking the position. Truth is, he was simulating a rather high rope break, and I was supposed to return for a downwind landing! I didn't get it, and entered the pattern low. I guess I really didn't think he'd pull an emergency this early, since my upwind landings aren't all that consistent. Surprise! So... now I'll be alert for any pull-offs before 800'.

I also had one takeoff go crooked. The first two landings had some problems, but the third was really very good.

Demonstrated and practiced forward slips - pretty cool. I went away that day mad at myself.

Total: 25 flights, about 8:40. P advises I should get my Student Pilot Certificate soon - maybe that means solo is approaching?

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Thermal practice

7/27/03 - Most people complained about little lift, but after a 3000' tow, we kept finding good lift near the IP. I circled in the same thermal many times, practicing centering and correcting. It's still tough to keep speed consistent in the thermal (some turbulence affects speed), and I don't think I'm banking deeper than about 40-45 degrees, but it's fun and great practice. We had to circle to lose height, and just seemed to float in zero sink. We ended up forcing our way down, total flight 1:12. Max height about 5000'.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

First good soaring day!!

7/19/03 - Hot & humid, clouds blowing over from a hurricane that landed in Texas. I looked enviously at a little set of lennies west of Mt. S.

Pre-flight, P cleared up some info about use of flaps. Halfway out, you get mostly lift, so they're useful during thermaling. All the way out, they increase drag as well as lift, so that helps to reduce altitude during a high landing. The extra lift they generate lowers the stall speed.

1st flight (#19): 2000' to warm up a bit and then land. Landed short - I'm not spotting the landmarks of the field very well.

2nd flight: 1500' and started finding lift around the IP, so we worked it. This is the first soaring opportunity since I started - the weather's never been favorable before. But today, even at 10:30 a.m., the heat and instability is letting a big thermal start. Two or three times, we worked it from about 2600' MSL up to 3900-4200' MSL. Fun to get altitude for free!! We worked a 1500' tow into a 45 minute flight! Lots of work, trying to circle at a constant speed, watch the vario, and keep a lookout. The thermal was kind of turbulent, yawing and bumping. Maybe they're all that way...

3rd flight: 1000' pattern tow. I worked all checklists from memory. Speed got rather high, but rollout was pretty good. P says he's being tough on me but I'm doing well. His advice: when you spot something wrong, like speed, do something about it!

I'm now up to 21 flights, about 7:15 total.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Cross-country tow??

7/13/03 - The club was planning a campout at W next weekend, and suggested a student could assist with aerotow of a Blanik (read: pay for the tow). Sounded good, so I signed up. M recommended I look at the sectional to get familiar with the route. I got W gliderport info, weather forecast, etc. and looked at the route I expect they would take. I also looked at alternate landing sites, go-no-go point if we decide to soar, thermal forecast to see if final soar into W would be possible. Good practice - but then we had to cancel the aerotow at the last minute.

So... two 17:00 flights with P, 3000' tows. Normal takeoffs. A bit erratic on tow, trying to use a lighter touch and keep the wings level. No lift, since the air seemed to be too stable although it was hot. Turn practice - second flight, he just had me go where I wanted and practice turning. P: "I'll just sit back here and not chatter." It's lots of fun JUST TO BE UP THERE!!!

I did the whole pattern pretty much unprompted. Both landings very smooth touchdowns. First landing, I pulled the brake too hard and skidded the nose a bit, so I learned to wait longer before braking. Second landing, I had my hand on the flap control instead of the spoilers! Fortunately, the flaps won't move at 55 kt, and with a headwind our descent was steep enough anyway, so it worked out. On that landing, I focused on speed control and never got below 50, crept up over 60 once, but overall I handled speed much better.

Sunday, July 06, 2003


7/6/03 - Quite windy, so no lift - thermals all blown out.

Two 4000' flights with M. Crosswind takeoffs, which I think I handled pretty well. She helped me quite a bit with turns: using county roads for orientation, using MUCH more rudder on rollout, noting that you pick up speed when you come out of a turn, because ... I don't remember why. Practiced crabbing.

Slow flight - "let's just float along for a while". She pointed out where the Class C airspace for M ARB begins. Steep turns. I thought I was all over the place on the second tow, but she thought I caught errors and corrected very well. In my logbook she wrote "Very good tow!" She pointed out that I let the left wing go low a lot. It seems like I have to keep constant right pressure to keep wings level. Someone said the Blanik N5 is a little tweaked - I'll have to look at it head-on sometime. Anyway, "do whatever it takes to fly the plane."

Crosswind landings, which went OK. She introduced something new: the spoilers on the Blanik can self-deploy if they're pulled out beyond about halfway: the slipstream pulls them open, so you have to control them. It was so windy we had to use stick & rudder to keep the glider stable on the ground between flights. Another surprise: the metal in the cockpit gets HOT on hot days - long pants (light) and long sleeves recommended.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Boxing the wake

6/28/03 - Finally some sun, up to the 80's by 9:30.

Two 3000' flights with P. Takeoffs: takes a LOT of control input to correct. Easy to want to straighten out using ailerons, when it should be rudder. First tow, he demo'd boxing the wake. Second time, I did it. Really very smooth! Smooth and easy, although the tug looks VERY high when you're down below!

Practiced some more turns, up to 45 degrees - still need some work, as I tend to flatten the bank by the end of the turn. Slow flight straight ahead, down to 38 kt. - just fun to FLY for a little break. Turns are still somewhat uncoordinated. I asked about the difference between skids and slips, and P had a good mnemonic: "Slip in and skid out".

Stalls: I again nosed over instead of stalling the first time. But my recovery next time around was really good - I think *very* little loss of altitude.

Approaches OK - need to square off the base leg, not round into the final. Practicing judging the pattern by angles instad of landmarks. Pretty straight, well-aimed final.

Some new info on speed/glide on final: to gain speed, push stick and spoilers BOTH forward. At least on the Blanik, you can't treat speed and glide independently. I remembered to pull the stick back - the second time. I think the set-downs were very smooth. P thinks I'm doing very well - he said I could have brought it down by myself.

14 flights now, about 5 hours.

Saturday, June 21, 2003


6/21/03 - Deeper gloom. Two flights up to the ceiling with T, about 1500'. A few turns for practice, then pattern & landing. Pretty good landings, T said I did "93-94%" and he just had to pull the stick back when I forgot.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Turns and stalls

6/7/03 - June Gloom. Overcast skies for a while, and a haze that never really lifted. No wind at first. Thermals never broke through the inversion layer. That's OK for me to practice turns, stalls etc.

Flew two 24-minute lessons with T - he's great to fly with! I did the second takeoff. I kept the wings fairly level, but used the rudder backwards, so T corrected. Tow was pretty good. Turns - MUCH better! Since last lessons, I've read up on initiating vs. establishing the turn, centering the rudder during the turn. Very smooth turns, although I do let the speed drop down to 40 kt sometimes. I did some steeper banked turns than before.

We did a couple of straight stalls, in which I nosed down too much instead of neutralizing the stick. T demonstrated turning stalls. He also demonstrated a very steeply banked, high-speed imminent stall, making the point that a glider can stall at any speed or any attitude.

I flew my first landings - T said I flew about 85% of them, and he corrected the attitude just a bit. I think I flew it on the ground pretty well, keeping wings level and remembering to pull the brake. The final few seconds are when I am fuzzy, trying to learn how much airbrake and when to sense the ground effect and flare.

I'm up to 10 flights, 4 hours logged. Still a bit tense, but I had fun!

Saturday, May 17, 2003

First stalls

5/17/03 - A day that started off warm and rather humid, partly cloudy. Flew two 20-minute lessons with P again, taking over the tow at 100'. I got rather far out of line on the tow, and P helped bring it back in at least once. Partly I was oversteering, partly it was more turbulent than I had experienced before. I seemed to be very tense today - don't know why.

The second time was better. He demonstrated straight-ahead stall and recovery, and I did it about 4 or 5 times. I think I did pretty well, nosing forward too aggressively just once or so. Better rudder coordination into turns, but came out of some cross-controlled. Very good attitude control on 360's.

No real lift, so we just kind of flew around and practiced turns and stalls. I flew the patterns and followed through on landing, getting the feel of the flare. Need to memorize the checklists better. The weather never did get very good, remaining hazy, with altostratus and wind later on.

C went along and flew a 40-minute ride at SE - wife had given him a gift certificate.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Cloud base

5/4/03 - Got there way before anyone else, so I washed the Blanik and did most of the preflight inspection, except for things that take two people or a few items I didn't understand. There were broken clouds at about 4500' so we waited a while.

Again with P. He released us at 2000' AGL because we were in lift, and then we (mostly he) worked weak lift all the way up to the cloud base. It turned out to be higher than reported, and we topped out at 5000', staying up for 45 minutes. He showed me how the darkest part of cumulus can have some pretty strong lift just below it - we flew some very straight lift and kept going up and up. I also played with the trim and now I think I understand it. I did many circles, getting the hang of flying by attitude (pointing the nose along the horizon) and keeping the yaw string in my peripheral vision, only occasionally glancing at the instruments.

Really good tows - he gave it to me at just 100' the second time out. Good practice with spotting traffic. We had two others in our thermal for a while - that's kind of cool. I'm having a lot of trouble remembering to use rudder at the beginning of the turn! Stick & rudder, stick & rudder!

We did another flight of 25 minutes. I could steepen my banks, I guess, I haven't been even doing 30 degrees. He did a 50-degree bank that made my head swim a bit - that'll take some getting used to. I flew to the IP, planning ahead by about 200', did the whole landing checklist and followed along in the pattern. First time, there was quite a wind, so the downwind leg went really fast. By the time we were done, it was nearly 100% clouded over, so the lift was gone, but we did loiter in zero-sink for a while.

Only one other guy flying today, so I hung out and learned about tying down and securing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Wing running certificate (woo-hoo)

4/29/03 - Read up on the wing runner's job on the Soaring Safety Foundation's web site. Took the CAP test and got 90%. I read a bunch of safety notes. One that sticks in my mind is the need to fasten the safety harness tightly... some accidents have occurred when the pilot got thrown around and hit his head. I keep re-reading the takeoff and landing procedures because they should be introduced in the next couple of flights.

I was talking with J at work... he brought up aborted takeoffs. In his Cessna's they need to be up to at least 1100' to do a 180!

Monday, April 28, 2003


4/28/03 - Received the SSA membership packet. I also learned recently that my dad was much more interested in soaring than I ever knew. I'll have to take him up someday.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Wing running

4/27/03 - Arrived about 8:40. Met A and observed the end of preflight. Washed some of the plane. Learned a bit about BFR - Biannual Flight Review. I didn't see A do a positive control check nor test the airspeed indicator... wondered whether to bring this up but didn't. Two flights with P, didn't fly takeoff but did fly tow. I held height very well but yawed a bit, not too bad. Learned about watching the horizon on turns instead of watching the instruments. In straight-and-level flight, seemed to yaw due to oversteering. P recommends flying with a very light touch: two fingers and thumb. Flew the pattern (got to the Initial Point but missed the island) but not the landing - just called out speed. Observed airspeed dropped quite a bit just before landing - wind gradient? I'm having a little trouble interpreting the altimeter quickly. Learned not to focus on the airspeed indicator - it lags.

I observed the tow prep procedure carefully and did the wing running a couple of times for T and P... hard to remember the whole sequence. The second time, they released early and landed on the runway because they discovered belts sticking out of the canopy and flapping.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

First instructional day

4/19/03 - Arrived about 9:20. Observed preflight checkout with JC - most but not all aspects. Assisted with pushing out for several flights by J and another member. Learned about "pattern flights" (releases at 700' AGL) so now I understand the purpose of the "early bird" program. Learned about takeoff and landing areas - the map provided by SE was a bit confusing.

First lesson as a Flight Group member, with instructor X (very good!). I had not yet seen the syllabus nor the log book, so I did not know anything about the teaching structure. Started to learn ABCCCD checklist. I took control shortly after takeoff and flew most of the tow, pretty well I think. Never got above release altitude. Stayed very parallel, got a bit high once or twice. Tried nosing over, pulling back, yawing, uncoordinated turns. Learned parts of a good turn: bank, coordinate rudder, neutralize stick and rudder, back pressure to "lift" around the turn. some 90 degree and 360 degree turns. Good 360's, but forgot to use compass. Learned that altimeters stick! Struggled a little with yaw string. Learned about IP, used flaps - very stiff! CFI completed the landing. 22 minutes, logged as Flight 2?

Got club papers and log book from C. Got lock combination from L. Left about 1:30.