Saturday, December 25, 2004


12-25-04 is Christmas, so no flying. Although an instructor is available Sunday, I have other commitments and can't go fly.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


12-18-04 B signs all the endorsements I need. Also he extends my solo endorsement for the L13 and PW5. I need three instructional flights within 90 days of the test, and my October flights will expire before 1/19. So I need to fly... but winds ground us in the afternoon and I have to leave without flying. Should not be a problem to get flights in the next month.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Practical test day ... NOT!

Oral & Practical test day. I'm worried about the weather because the wind is easterly and strong. If they reverse operations, I've never flown that way! But that turns out not to be a problem.

The BIG problem is that when they check my paperwork, I do not have a couple of endorsements I need! Apparently none of my instructors knew this: you need an endorsement for aerotow in order to be PIC on aerotow. Also, I need my written test endorsed stating that I have received instruction in all areas missed. Plus, they never endorsed my student pilot cert for solo, just my logbook.

So I can't take my test. R's next available date is Jan. 19, so we rebooked for then. Big bummer!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Practical practice

12-04-04 One solo flight from 4000' AGL, to practice the practical sequence. Lousy weather, cold with a front coming in, but a 8000' AGL ceiling so at least we could glide. Funny takeoff - I kind of oscillated back and forth laterally. Maybe I was not reducing my rudder inputs as speed picked up. Good wake box. Good straight stalls and turning without spoilers. Turning with spoilers did not seem to want to fully stall. Some turbulence over the hills, maybe wind picking up. No lift, just a little zero sink. Fine landing.

I thought T might let me fly the PW5 but he left while I was flying the Blanik - I guess he was not feeling well and I don't think he wanted to be the one to send me up, although he did sign my book for it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


11-27-04 Tried to beat the weather, but before we could take off the fog and mist came in, so we all left.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Floating and hanging

Nov: Consensus of the instructors and rec.aviation.soaring comments is that you can't do this in a Blanik unless you have a lot of room to float. Someone pointed me to an FAA bulletin that clarified that you don't need to land without brakes. I pointed this out to the inspector and he agreed. But then I had three weeks when I could neither practice nor take a Friday off for the test.

Then after Thanksgiving I called back and T's retiring! He pushed me off to R. I called him the next week, and he pushed me off a bit. He wants to have another guy work with him on my test for training purposes. So we're tentatively set for Dec. 16 or 17.

Also studying the PW5 manual and the Transition to Single Seat book.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

It's not just me

10-30-04 Five pattern flights with a CFI to work on slips to landing.

  • First time, I let the speed get way too high.
  • Second time, did not use enough rudder, so he kicked it in to show me how much I really can apply. Very extreme yaw!! Still came in too high.
  • Third time, better use of slip but too fast on final. The ASI is inaccurate, so you just have to go by sound... it's tough to pull the nose up after learning so much about stall avoidance on final. Each time, we pushed the downwind and base further from the field.
  • Fourth time, still floating, he (we? no firm transfer of control) decided to go over the taxiway. I did better last week - this time we ended up in the rough part of the gully, but in control and no damage.
  • Fifth time, way out on base, STILL came in too high.

Instructor was rather mystified... surprised at how little the Blanik comes down with just the slip. He'll talk with the other CFIs and get back to me with ideas. I now have over 100 flights in my log!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Slipping but not enough

10-23-04 Three solo pattern flights, working on landing without flaps or air brakes. Could not get in touch with the instructor, it turns out she was out of town and had scheduled to fly Sunday. Each time, I ended up too high and had to use the air brakes to get down. One time, I floated beyond the boxes and decided to balloon over the taxiway and land in on the far side. The slip seems to be far less effective than the flaps and brakes. Need to do this with an instructor!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Not ready!

10-19-04 I was scheduled to take my Practical test on Friday 10/22, but in talking with the FAA examiner T, he indicated that I needed to do one landing with no drag devices - only slipping to the landing. That's different than I've done before. I've used forward and turning slips to lose altitude, but always used air brakes on final. To make a long story short, I decided to postpone the test and get instruction and practice.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


10-9-04 Two flights with T. One to 4000', worked on crisper turning stalls. One rope break, which went great. Ready for my test!

Saturday, September 25, 2004


9-25-04 Hot - about 100 degrees. One flight with a CFI, one solo, each 30 minutes. With CFI, we didn't do the practical sequence, we just soared... or tried to... Found a little lift, he helped me work it with half flaps and low speed. Pulled it out from 1100' AGL back up to about 1500', but then nothing more. Good landing, came in high and then with airbrakes did a very good landing right in the boxes.

Second flight, I released in strong lift but then it weakened and I had to work 1kt-3kt lift up to about 5300'. Glass ships were going far but I didn't find any more.

Then CFI took his mother for a 1.5 hour flight.

The good news: CFI endorsed me for my practical test! We talked about approaches to taking the test, what the instructors want to see.

Later, I helped L and J put away their glass ships.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Hot and humid

9-11-04 Two solo flights. Hot and humid - 106 in the afternoon. Both times, took a thermal up to about 6200'. Shared a thermal with a hang glider, and with a glider. Not great lift, I got a 33 minute and a 49 minute flight.

Both had very smooth, straight, short landings in the boxes. Noticed how very effective and immediate the spoilers affect the final float. Second approach was very low - sinking air all the way in. I cut it short, should have cut it even shorter. It worked out OK, but very low over the racetrack.

Monday, September 06, 2004

12,000+ MSL

9-6-04 Tehachapi with J. Again from the rear seat. Hooked an awesome thermal over the ridge and just kept going up! Topped out at 12,200' MSL, then headed out to the other side of the valley. Nice to have so much altitude and just fly for fun. Lots of practice and feedback and tips, such as slowing up when the vario just reverses and starts going up, and feeling the lift instead of relying on the instrument.

Sharing thermals with up to 2 other gliders. Later we got a thermal in the valley and ended up staying up for 1:17. Landed again, bounced a little... but then the crosswind died after touchdown and I dragged a wing and rolled off the side. Not rough, but not at all straight. J didn't make a big deal about it. He later said I flew very well.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Rear seat

9-5-04 Tehachapi with H. First flight from rear seat - not so bad at all. He flew the takeoff (not so well - got high right away), then gave it to me at about 500 feet. Skylark's 9 dumps you out over a reservior - there are a few seconds where you hope you don't have a rope break! He didn't want to let me land, but I talked him into it. Not quite as smooth as yesterday, largely because of not looking straight ahead at the touchdown. Not bad, but a slight bounce.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Ridge soaring

9-4-04 Tehachapi with L. Introduction to ridge soaring. Combination of wind lift and thermal lift. It's amazing how the ridge lift can just float you up the spine of the ridge. We ended up going over the top of a 8000' peak (takeoff was at 4200'). I flew the whole flight, including landing on the asphalt power runway - silky smooth! He said I was flying "f---ing great!"

Sunday, August 29, 2004

All by myself

8-29-04 Two high solo flights, no club members at the field as it was a Sunday. I got there rather late, so the lift was gone. That's OK, the first time I went to 4000', boxed the wake, and did stalls, focusing on full opposite rudder in turning stalls. That went OK, although I think I was just a tad slow in pulling out, sometimes getting quite a bit of speed.

Practiced steepening turns beyond 45 degrees and flying faster.

Great landings! Right in the first part of the first box. I could probably aim even closer and not cut it close to the line. With a 12-18 kt wind from 40 degrees left, stopping was really fast. The first time I closed spoilers and pushed it into the second box. The second time, I stopped in about 150'. Although I fully compensated for the crosswind on the downwing and base legs, the first time I forgot about it on final. No problem, my crab/correction seems to be instinctive. But the second time I consciously kept the left wing low.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Very nice

8-21-04 Two patterns with B. Both times, landed in the right spot, fairly early in the box. First time, he pointed out I was going too fast, and we rolled rather far. 50 kt is fine in the pattern, but slow it down close to the ground. Also, I need to get lined up on final earlier (further out) and not be turning as I'm getting close to touchdown. Second landing earned a "very nice" from B.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Practice, practice

8-7-04 Three solo patterns, working on accuracy. All three pretty good. First touched down just before the line, second perfect, third just overran the second box by 3-5 feet.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

More stuff to straighten out...

7-31-04 Missed four weeks due to wedding preparations and my back pain. One practical practice with B. He pointed out six things to work on:

1. Thermalling too slow. I forgot to raise my speed due to the extra weight of the instructor. Plus, I was shooting for about 40 kts based on an article I had read about using minimum sink during thermalling, but that was based on a glass ship. I thought I was in a turbulent thermal, but actually I was near stalling - I was feeling the buffet and not recognizing it. I need to go back and calculate the speeds for varying bank angles, both solo and dual.

2. Not using full opposite rudder during turning stall recovery.

3. Not combining maneuvers, i.e. use the end of a 360 turn as one of my clearing turns.

4. Not turning steep enough.

5. B thinks it would be wise to do no more than two stalls after each set of clearing turns. Not sure if there's a reg on this or not.

6. Landed about 15' short of the box. Need to choose a landing point closer to the box, and use spoilers more actively to place the ship where I want it to touch down.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Shear line lift

7-3-2004 One solo flight, first part was the practical practice. After that I went looking for lift and found a mix of thermal and (for my first time) shear line. I stayed up for 1:07, went from about 3000' MSL to 5100'. Good landing, a bit short.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


6-26-2004 Two flights. One solo practical test sequence practice, one with P. He says I'm flying doing fine, need to make boxing and stalls crisper. He had me test the G-meter with a pullup and he tested it with a steep turn.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Practice for the Practical

6-7-04 Ground school with A.

Then two 4000' in N5 to practice the test sequence. A smooth, stable day. No one else on the field, so D helped push.

Both flights nearly identical except the left-quartering headwind picked up from about 10kts to about 15kts. Great takeoffs. Boxed the wake fine. Some problems keeping speed up. Turns pretty good, paid attention to coordinating aileron and elevator during turn entry. (I had spent some time thinking about the proper curve for the stick during turn entry.)

Stalls pretty good. First time doing stalls with spoilers. Both flights: forgot to put in spoilers on first such stall, had to try again. So I ended up with 5 stalls per flight. No problem completing all tasks with plenty of height. Focused on landing checklist and crosswind correction. First approach, only announced 45 entry, then got busy. Second time, announced all points.

Both landings, glide slope a little erratic due I think to gusts and wind shear. Both landings bounced and ballooned but then stopped very short in box. (Later reading The Proficient Pilot, it seems that taildragger landings with the tail high can produce this. So maybe I was nosing down too much and forcing the main wheel to the ground instead of floating and letting speed decay, then pulling the stick back.)

Very windy putting away. I helped someone named Geri (sp?) put away her Libelle.

Saturday, May 22, 2004


5/22 - Ground school with T, 2.5 hours on aero and ground tow procedures, stalls, spins.

One flight. Variable head/crosswind about 10-15 kts, but I had a real good takeoff. I intended to go to 4000' AGL and try the test sequence, but I pulled off at about 2800 AGL because I kept getting lots of slack - lots of turbulence! I did put up the landing gear - first time. I found a bit of lift and stayed up about 25 minutes. Really got bounced around a lot, tough to have good speed control when thermaling.

On approach, wind was strong right down the runway. Instead of shortening my downwind, I extended it. Fortunately I was high. I used too much spoiler then had to close them up and try to extend my float. I had to avoid a glider in the right front spot. Touched down about 50' short but very smooth and very straight. When I stopped, I had a nice headwind so I "ground flew" for a good 15-20 seconds before letting the wings down.

J suggests I not worry so much about hitting the front of box 1 - I just need to touch down IN box 1 and stop IN box 2. He's right, since my rollouts had been quite long in the beginning before I got good with the break, I've been tending to try to keep all the box length available. I should aim closer.

J suggests M's approach to slack removal: don't yaw, just get dead center and level and let the glider bounce the slack out gently two or three times.

C gave me a cable spool to use for half the autotow cable. I took it to the field to check it out... the right size, but it needs a wooden hub instead of cardboard.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Written test practice

5/15 - No soaring.

Worked a lot on the ASA written test practice guide. Glider test is NOT the same as power, so there's a lot I can skip... but I do some of the power questions anyway. Really going well!

E6B is really nice!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Ground school

5/8 - Ground school with B.

Three pattern flights. Pretty good - I'm writing this later and don't remember any details.

Ordered a Sporty's E6B flight computer.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

10,000 feet !

5/1 - Ground school with M, about 4 hours on FARs, airspace, VFR, charts, preflight checking. Also new ideas on diving approaches.

Then a solo flight in N8. A big day for firsts and personal records:

  • First time using my radio gear (handheld, headset, and joystick-mounted push-to-talk button.
  • First flight with a map, using it to identify landmarks.

Awesome lift - 800-900 ft at times. Also awesome sink - 800 to 1,000! I thermaled to 8600, 9300, then 10,300, my highest ever!

J. came over in the PW-5 and shared a thermal for a while.

With over 9,000 ft, I flew over to the ridge, about 8.5 miles across the valley. The night before, I had calculated how high I needed to be to get there and back to the IP, and so it was an easy decision. I got back to the IP area with about 3K to 4K to spare, so I practiced some new stuff: turning slips, and dives with spoilers (up to 80 knots). I also did two straight-ahead stalls.

Then it got interesting. I got to the IP at 1000', but in sink. Apparently that distracted me enough that I didn't finish the FUSTALL checklist, so I wasn't trimmed for 55kt, and I did not get a look at the wind sock. Sink continued all the way on downwind. I closed flaps to half (should have closed all the way). I ended up cutting the corner, in front of the racetrack, not doing a base leg, and hardly using spoilers at all. Then when I was in float, I was about 15 degrees crooked. I misunderstood the crosswind (it was from the right and for some reason I thought it was from the left), and straightened up just before touchdown. Then because I had the wrong wind in my mind, my corrections on the ground were wrong. I didn't touch a wing, and didn't drag the nose, but I was all over the place. Not at all smooth!

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Written test prep

3/13 - No soaring today, camping at S. Studying the private pilot sample questions (looking many of them up in AIM/FAR) because I'm told the glider written is the same as the power written, so there are lots of things I haven't studied that could be there. Slow going.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Solo flights

3/6/04 - Two short solo flights. Takeoffs very good! First one a slight wobble I corrected right away, second perfectly straight and level. Air too stable to find any good lift, although a Nimbus seemed to stay up for hours. I only stayed up :17 and :19. Landings pretty smooth (very slight bounce on one) and stayed straight, now need to work on rolling out to a point. Touched down early both times - maybe 50' before the box. I guess I need to pull my aiming point closer to the box now.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Booming lift

2/28/04 - Two awesome solo flights in N5 on a booming day after a storm. First flight, P says I touched a wing, and although I knew it dipped I didn't feel or hear anything.

The tow pilot ("Alaska John") took me right into lift under a cloud. Right away I was in 5 kts, and shortly into 8-9 kts. I went from 4500 to 5000 (just under cloud base) in no time. Lots of small, gray cu's to play around under! First flight, I never got below about 2000' AGL, so no problem staying aloft. I touched down after 1:02. Pretty good landing, smooth and in the box but wandered a bit and touched down a wing wheel while still moving pretty fast.

Second flight, lift not as strong, but still lots of 5 kt thermals. Some very strong, pushed me around quite a bit as I blundered into them - takes a little getting used to, getting reoriented. So much lift, I had to use slips to lose about 1000' to get back down. Next time I'll try spoilers to come down faster. Second flight: 1:15! Same issue on landing - wandered a bit, but better. Need to focus on rollout. Also: N5 definitely pulls to the right - takes a lot of left aileron just to stay level!

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Second instructor not convinced :-)

1/31/04 - One checkout flight with a CFI, wherein (after a pretty good but not perfect takeoff) he had the towplane wave us off at 1,000'. I correctly interpreted, adjusted my pattern, and did a good landing into a slight headwind. The only real comments he had were about not going too fast on downwind, not giving up height with spoilers until on base leg, and not rounding out the base-final legs. He gave me the go-ahead for solo.

Next flight: perfect takeoff, nice flight although I keep getting a little slack on tow now and then. Not much lift, but some zero sink and a few turns of 1kt lift. Had I remembered to look under dark clouds, I probably could have found more. Nice turns - well coordinated, need to work a bit on speed control, and I probably didn't bank very steeply. Very fun.

Landing was PERFECT!! Touched down very smoothly just inside the box, remembered to put the stick back, stopped gently in about 200' (!) and angled to the right side. Even CFI said it was excellent! Very exciting and satisfying!!

I won't be flying at home for the next two weeks, as we're going on vacation. I might set up for a lesson in New Orleans.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

SOLO! !! !!!

1/24/04 - SOLO!! It's a gray and cold day, with a front going through and rain forecast for late afternoon. B is the instructor, and I haven't flown with him at all since the dry lake, and was intimidated by him then, so I'm not looking forward to today.

We did three patterns, good takeoffs, good landings. He doesn't have much to suggest, except that I'm not flying the plane all the way through the touchdown and rollout, and I'm not perfectly coordinated in turns. When I critique some landings, he says I'm being too hard on myself.

After three, he says "I think you should do another three." So then on #4, he pulls a rope break at about 400'. No problem, I'm half expecting it anyway. Without saying a word, I nose down and do the 180. I spent a few seconds too many searching for the emergency landing area, so we end up a little high over it, but I decide to hop over the taxiway and land in the regular area. No problem.

Then one more regular pattern. Bill gets out to help push back, and doesn't get in again.

I fly an 800' pattern, good takeoff. I notice the glider floats higher with just one person in it, so I have to nose down quite a bit to stay with the towplane. Other than that, no problem. Great approach, great landing. Touched down a little before the box, stopped straight and well inside the box! Very good flight!!

Later, after A flies, I go up again to 2000' AGL, just below ceiling. Over the airport it's clear, but away from there I have to dodge descending clouds. Actually a lot of fun! Very fun to just fly around without any commentary. I get upwind of the IP with a couple hundred to spare, so turn around a bit and then go in the pattern right at 1000'. No sweat. I remember there's a 10kt wind down the runway, so I adjust position and altitude well. (Still a bit uncoordinated, but OK.) Approach is good, I adjust and float toward the box. I guess I forgot the headwind at that point, because I land a little early and bounce a couple of times. Rollout is not the straightest or smoothest - I drag a wing wheel a little before stopping, but again nicely inside the box. I had adjusted my aiming point back a bit in the last couple of weeks, so now I guess I need to bring it a bit closer to the box. Other than that - awesome!!

Now 58 flights, just under 13 hours. (I forget and write my solo time in the Dual column!!)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Stick and Rudder

1/17/04 - Reading Stick and Rudder.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Unhappy landings

1/3/04 - Three 2000' tows with a CFI. Chilly and breezy, the day after a storm, a little bit of CU here and there. Still having trouble with takeoffs - letting a wing drop for too long before correcting. Flying well.

Third flight, we found a thermal, about 100-300' up for a while, stretched a normally 10-minute tow into 17. First landing, I didn't use airbrakes properly, came in fast, bounced a bit, overshot, and then overbraked. Not good!

The next two were better, making better pattern adjustments. I need to not be afraid to put in the airbrakes when very low on final, if my speed is high. CFI won't sign me off for solo until I'm more consistent. In Nov. and Dec., I was able to get in only one weekend each month due to trips, Christmas, instructor vacation... it really hurts my consistency!