Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stability and visibility

Last Saturday I just had a "sled ride" in the PW5. The air was extremely stable, due to a weakening Santa Ana condition. It was quite warm: 87 F at ground level in mid afternoon - in November! The nam Model Forecast Soundings showed a thick inversion, about 5000' of constant 79F. No thermals seemed to be working at all. One expert pilot got away and stayed up for 2 hours, but all others came straight down. But since I'm trying to build up time and experience, I went up anyway.

I've been trying to get accustomed to my PDA/GPS unit. The biggest problem is that the screen on my HP IPAQ is just not bright enough to see with my AO sunglasses on. I found that Serengeti makes aviation sunglass with gradient lenses, so the bottom part is lighter and should let me see the screen better when glancing down. So I bought a pair and tried them for the first time on this flight. It does seem a lot better, but at certain angles it's still unreadable. I've been using SeeYou Mobile in trial mode all this time, because I don't want to spend the money if it's not going to be usable. But now I think I'll go ahead. I still need to play with it and see if I can get the fonts to be bigger and more readable.

The other thing about the Serengetis is the color and its effect on the contrast of objects in the sky. They are a yellow-pink color, unlike the neutral-gray of my AO's. This seems to help enhance the contrast between clouds and blue sky, by cutting down the amount of blue that is transmitted. Driving around this week, they really do seem to help. The edges of clouds are more distinct than without sunglasses, and the details of cloud structure really stand out more. I haven't tried them head-to-head with the AO's but will try that sometime. The only thing I don't like about them is that the main part of the lens is not as dark as I would like. But it seems OK.

I've started filing the weather forecasts that I print out each soaring day, and making notes on them about the actual soaring conditions I find or that I hear about from other pilots. I plan to look back at them over a long period of time and see how well the forecasts correlate to the results.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A useful sled ride

The forecast for today was lousy, 250' lift and a 5000' inversion top. No one was staying up. But since I had not flown for a while, and not much at all yet in the PW5, I wanted to fly anyway. With very stable air, no traffic, and essentially no thermals to pursue, I decided to use the time to finally try out my PDA/GPS combo, work with the speed-to-fly indicator, and work more with the radio controls in flight.

The main problem with the PDA/GPS is that the screen is not bright enough to see with my sunglasses on. I kind of got the hang of looking at some of the numbers, such as the AGL, airspeed, etc. (After reviewing the trace on the ground, its recommended speed-to-fly seems consistent with the STF indicator on the vario. But I want to learn more about the flight computer settings for next time.) The numbers for the glide ratio required to reach an airport are WAY too small. So... I think I'm going to have to shop for gradient sunglasses.

Aside from the stuff I was doing with the instruments, it was just pleasant to fly around. In stable air, the PW5 takes only a very light touch on the stick. I found a little zero-sink. A 4200' tow turned into a 30-minute glide.

My landing was straight and very smooth... but short. I think I am using the runway as a visual cue for the landing area, and that is just wrong. I've made a note for next time to specifically look for the landing-zone cone.

I'm now up to 39.5 total hours.