Saturday, May 13, 2006

Every flight is different

The forecast soaring index was OK, 5kt to 7500'. The weather looked iffy, though: 90 degrees, an inversion, some cirrus, light wind at about 4kt. I took off in the PW-5 at about 2:30 not expecting much.

The tow was really weird. Very early on, it seemed as if I could not get the glider to get up to the high tow position. I pulled up and the nose was high enough I could barely see the towplane, but it wouldn't get up. I checked the spoilers - no problem. When I'd nose back down to see the towplane I'd get slack. After just a few seconds, still going straight out from the runway, suddenly we were at 800' AGL. I felt like I was PIO'ing a bit, but not bad. Finally I got the glider into a decent position, and it was bumpy but not as bad as I've felt before.

We were climbing sometimes 8 to 10kt. Up at about 2000' AGL I again had trouble with nose-high attitude and getting slack in the line. I almost released because I was briefly unable to see the towplane, but a bit of yaw took out slack and got it back to normal. At about 3000' AGL I didn't like the climb rate so I held out for a while, and finally released at about 3300' AGL. I could not see my end of the rope after release.

I flew around for a while, looking for lift. All I found was sink. I practiced using the speed-to-fly indicator and it matched my mental numbers for speed in sink pretty well. At two different times I was in 10kt down for 30 seconds, and (do the math) that ate up 1000' really quickly. I found a bit of zero sink but no lift, and had to land. The flight was only 18 minutes - really lousy. But my landing was quite nice.

Talking it over with J and an instructor the only thing we could figure is that we (towplane and I) got into strong, turbulent lift right off the end of the runway. The towplane was climbing really fast and I could not clime fast enough to stay in high tow position. It seems to me that strong lift should affect the glider with its long wings more than the towplane, but maybe not. Or maybe the tow pilot was just climbing out fast (intentionally or not). Driving home, I thought I should have gone ofer to ask her.

Now I'm thinking it reminds me of my flight in Florida where a relly strong towplane took me up in a much heavier Grob 103 at 10kt. In that case, if I recall correctly, the instructor said it was customary to maintain a position a little lower than the classic high position because you're climbing so fast, the glider just can't stay higher than the towplane.

Anyone else had an esperience like this?