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.