Sunday, June 26, 2005

Checked out in the Grob 103

Today I had a couple more instructional flights in the Grob. I needed to practice energy management during the approach, so we did pattern tows. My speed control was much better than last time - when it crept up a little bit I brought it back down within seconds. My landings were right at the beginning of the box, where they should be. A brisk wind helped stop the ship just at the end of the second box... without a wind, the Grob just rolls and rolls.

On the second tow, there was a bit of turbulence and I got a rather big loop of slack in the line. I yawed the ship away from the center of the turn and pulled it out very smoothly, and lined back up perfectly with absolutely no recoil or overshoot. Instructor B was very impressed.

One surprising thing about the Grob is the abrupt effect of the spoilers. Once you crack them out of the locked position, there's a very noticable drop. Then extending them is pretty linear... but that first increment is really big. Even though I was rather high, I never really extended them to the recommended halfway position during the base leg (the wind probably helped). The good news is that closing them and opening them actively after the flare really gave me good control of the float, allowing me to set it down right where I wanted (because my speed was well under control).

After the second flight the instructor said he didn't need to see anything further, and signed me off to fly the ship.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sharing the fun

6-18-2005 - One of the most fun things about being a soaring pilot is introducing soaring to a new person. Today I took a friend-of-a-friend for a ride. The only passengers I'd taken before were my daughters - never a stranger. This was a 19-year-old named Nathan who's entering the US Air Force Academy in a few days. The Academy uses Blanik L-23 gliders to train cadets, not unlike our L-13. He'd been in a small aircraft once before, a four-passenger power plane, and enjoyed it. So he was pretty excited.

We went up about 11:00, before the thermals were really working, early enough that it wouldn't be too turbulent. We found some zero sink and a few 1 to 3 kt areas, just enough to turn a 3000' tow into a 30-minute flight. He was perfectly fine with circling and had a great time looking around and learning about the instruments.

At one point I saw a shadow cross directly below us, so we quickly scanned around to see what traffic might be near. Nathan spotted a hawk circling about 100' above us. After a few turns he was next to us, then I finally saw him about 50' below. Apparently a Blanik outclimbs a hawk! Then he was gone... Very cool.

Before the flight, an instructor mentioned that the rear ASI was underreporting, and that I would have to watch the front one. That works OK but it's annoying and makes it harder to keep speed constant. But I dealt with it OK. CFI didn't say not to fly or not to take my passenger - he just expected me to deal with it. That felt good. I’m also perfectly comfortable flying from the back seat now… no visibility or control issues at all.

The lift wasn’t strong enough to sustain us very long. When we got down to about 1400-1500’ AGL and it was time to head for the IP, I was further away than I had realized. I had to tiptoe back at exactly the best L/D and hope for no sink… I angled toward the base end of the field rather than the IP in case I needed to use an abbreviated pattern. Fortunately we found just a bit of lift and so we entered the 45 a bit downwind and at just about 100’ less than usual, so it all worked out… but I do need to watch my position better during the last 1000’ before pattern entry. Then we found lift on downwind, and ended up at about 600’ AGL turning base, so go figure. We had a nice, steep final and a perfect landing right in the box.

I had hoped to either fly the Grob with the instructor (still getting checked out) or the PW-5 (and try out my new GPS system) but neither worked out because it was quite a busy day for the club. Next time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

GPS gear

Now I have my GPS system just about ready to go. I have an HP iPAQ 2215, an extra-large battery, and a Transplant CF GPS receiver with WAAS. The Transplant took some weeks to arrive.

I've downloaded three software packages to try before buying, but only two of them can run in demo mode with GPS input. I have not flown with any of them yet.

So far I really like SeeYou Mobile. Nice mix of terrain or plain, nice big buttons, well organized. It has lots of features but you don't have to use them if you don't want. As a programmer, I'm really impressed by this software!

Now I just need to work out the mounting of the unit. In the PW5, we have a bracket for mounting one's GPS or nav device. The iPAQ-GPS combo is tall enough it will block an instrument, so I don't think I can use the bracket. I would have to get a suction-cup mount or use a leg strap. At the moment I'm trying to work out the leg strap idea. I cannot find a ready-made soft case for the iPAQ with the extra battery. I found a company that will custom-make one, so I may go that route.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

More Grob

Two more flights with instructor B. in the Grob 103. Good takeoff, OK on tow, but not as good as with the other ships. It's harder to coordinate turns than the other ships. The rudder is big and powerful (has to be, because of the long wings), and very sensitive. I'm OK in shallow turns but still need to work on rolling in and out of steeper turns.

My first landing was a bit short, because I didn't think to close the airbrakes and just let it float. The second was better. Need to work on speed control in the pattern - it was good most of the time but crept up by about 5kt a couple times.

I would have liked to take up the PW-5 too, because a convergence came in that was generating some CU. But we were working on repairing the battery connector wires, and it wasn't ready to go until quite late in the day.