Sunday, September 25, 2005

Third flight in PW-5

The weather reports and the soaring forecast did not predict a good day today. A low pressure system was centered right on the local area, and the air was very stable. But since I had not flown for a while I went anyway. As expected, there were very few ships flying... one or two very experienced pilots staying up.

J took a 4000' tow and only got 22 minutes out of it, reporting one area of weak lift right near the Initial Point, at pattern altitude, therfore hard to exploit. I also took a 4000' tow. I should have let off at about 3700' because we went through some OK lift. After I released I went back to that spot but could not find anything.

This was only my third flight in the PW-5, as I've been flying the Grob 103 lately. My takeoff was fine but on tow it seemed a bit squirrely, and I had to make an effort to stay slightly above the towplane. Not too bad, but something to work on. Using a lighter touch on the stick seemed to help.

Off tow, I found it very comfortable to fly. My other flights in the PW-5 were on stronger, turbulent days and I got bounced around pretty well. Today was (unfortunately) quite smooth. I finally did find a bit of lift at about 1500' AGL but only worked it up about 300' before losing it all very quickly to the sink monster.

Pattern and landing were good. Light crosswind from the left. I got a little slow after the flare, but because I had stalled a landing some weeks before I was prepared. I adjusted well with elevator and spoilers and had a smooth, straight touchdown in the box and great rollout.

I had been hoping for a fairly relaxed, satisfying flight and I got it... but short, only 30 minutes since I couldn't find much lift.

Just before takeoff, my PDA/GPS combo got into some sub-screen of SeeYou Mobile that I could not get out of. I didn't want to delay takeoff, so I put it away and ignored it. So I still have not had an opportunity to try it out in flight.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

More thoughts on landings

The last post was basically a description of the weekend's flights. But what did I learn? What do I think?

Out of my approximately 130 flights so far, only 7 or 8 landings have been on an asphalt runway, although we have one at my home field. I think our training should include runway landings, but it doesn't. That's partly because my local field's rules require students to land in the dirt, and only private pilots and the commercial pilots of the FBO may land on the runway. I think we should address this with our club board and the gliderport operator.

Thermal soaring at Tehachapi

The club took a field trip to Tehachapi over the holiday weekend, bringing along the PW5 and the Grob 103. I've flown there before with other pilots in a Blanik, and this time I was looking forward to flying solo over the mountains or maybe flying cross-country with another pilot. It didn't quite work out that way but I had a good time and learned quite a bit.

The winds were not favorable much of the weekend, south or north at 10-15 kt much of the time. At Tehachapi, a south or north wind (a) makes for crosswind landings, (b) blows out the thermals, and (c) does not favor shear line formation.

So I didn't fly Sat. - hardly anyone did. Sun. was better, so I did what I thought would be a checkout flight over the mountains with an instructor. (I have my cert, but club rules require an instructor checkout for new environments in club ships.) It turned out that the lift wasn't working over the mountains so we thermaled over the valley for about an hour. We spent quite a bit of time working on getting the most out of the best side of a thermal, and tighter control of speed and bank angle. We had up to 5 ships at a time in the same thermal, and unlike other gaggles I've been in, we were often at nearly the same altitude. So I got some good practice at spacing and speed control and lookout.

My landing was good but my rollout was terrible. Unlike Hemet, where we land in 800x300 feet of dirt, Mountain Valley Airport has two asphalt runways, one for power and one for gliders. I don't know how long the glider runway is - maybe 3000', but only about 8 feet wide! Think about that - an 8' wide runway to land a 50' wide aircraft! Last year I had landed there 3 times, and I think some of them were on the wider power runway, and in the Blanik, which has a swiveling tailwheel. The Grob has fixed wheels, so steering is harder. I was all over the place and, sincer there were gliders staged in the center of the runway for takeoff, I was concerned about running into them, so I braked too much and stopped way short. So... It wasn't unsafe, but it certainly wasn't pretty! After that, I knew I'd need some more flights with CFI before I'd get signed off to fly the Grob solo here. The wind came up again, so no one flew very late into the afternoon.

Monday morning was pretty calm. Several of us did pattern flights. I did two, and both were good landings and good rollouts, much straighter and rolled nicely back to the starting line, stopping perfectly level! So CFI signed me off for solo. Unfortunately the lift got a late start, and the crosswind returned - not strong, but definitely cross. A couple of us were going to fly again but with the late start and marginal lift and knowing we had to tear down both gliders and drive home, we gave up and stayed on the ground.