Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fabulous February Flying

Well, maybe "fabulous" is too strong a word, but we had pretty decent conditions all day yesterday. Two days post-frontal, very clear, about 10 degrees above trigger temperature. Lots of people had hour-long flights, and came down only because their time was up. Pretty amazing for February!

In the morning I took a visitor up for a flight in a Blanik. Fortunately this was not his first glider flight, so he was OK with all the turning and ups and downs and was looking forward to soaring. Unfortunately (due to scheduling) we took off at 11:37, before things really heated up. We found a bit of zero to 1 kt lift, enough to keep us up for just a few minutes beyond a simple glide. His friend went up about 15 minutes later and got an hour-long flight. He wanted to try his hand at flying (he flies R/C, and has been flying the Condor glider simulator for a while), so I let him. He found out pretty quickly that the real world is harder... after just a few seconds of straight flight he was ready to hand it back.

Then in the afternoon I took a flight in the PW5. Although I didn't take off until 15:37, lots of lift was being reported. I pulled the release at 2200' AGL (3700 MSL) in good lift... and immediately flew out of it. After wondering for a few minutes about the wisdom of this low release, I found a good thermal that had been reported in the same place all afternoon. It wasn't really strong, but did produce about 3 kt at times. I circled right up below a fellow club member in his Standard Cirrus. The thermal topped out at 5800 MSL. With no smog to speak of, and no visible inversion layer, the view was spectacular!

I wandered around for a while, then came back and tanked up in the same thermal, this time sharing it with a Krasnow. I was above him by a couple hundred feet. Circling at the same speed with another glider is fun. They stay in the same relative position, and the world goes around in circles below you. It's like there's an invisible rope or something linking the two aircraft. Unfortunately I did not bring my camera along this time. Eventually he headed northeast toward the "S" ridge, and I headed southwest and flew over the town of Winchester. I eventually sped up and did lazy circles just to get back down after an hour.

On downwind in the pattern, I hardly lost any altitude at all, so I ended up really high on the base leg. I needed a turning slip and then a forward slip for most of the final approach to lose altitude. My mainwheel touchdown was pretty gentle, but the nose wheel came down pretty firmly. Rollout was nice and straight, and I came to rest with my wings level. I think I need to learn more about "wheel" landings - how to keep the nose up after touchdown, and set it down gently, or how to touch down in a more level attitude. This probably comes from having learned in taildraggers (Blaniks) where you "hold off" by slowly pulling the stick back, letting the mainwheel and tailwheel touch down simultaneously. Comments welcomed! Always something more to learn!


  • First time I've allowed a passenger to take the controls
  • First time I've flown two models aof aircraft in the same day

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A short flight

The public forecast was for a storm to move in this afternoon. The thermal forecast was dismal. I figured if the weather was bad I'd just do some patterns to practice landings in the PW5... They've been bumpy lately. But the ground temperature exceeded the trigger temp by 6 degrees by 11:00, the cloud cover was thin and no more than 50%, so it turned out to be soarable.

The tow pilot took me to an odd location, so I knew she was trying to take me to lift. I let off at 3300' AGL and found a little 2-3 kt lift. But all I could find was sink until I was down near pattern altitude. Then I found some zero sink and a knot of lift.

A hawk was at my level a short distance away, so I coasted over near it. It was hard to tell whether it was circling, hovering, or what, but it seemed like I was going around it. At one point, to stay centered in what little lift I could find, I passed right under the hawk. I was no more than 30' below it. Then it was gone! I guess I was too close for his comfort.

I ended up with a 24-minute flight. The pattern was weird... First sink, then lift, so I ended up high on final. Then I ended up short in ground effect. I think I need to move my aiming point closer to my intended touchdown point so I can flare and touch down without needing to close spoilers during the float. Touchdown was pretty gentle and very straight. I think the PW5 touches down on the main wheel and bangs down a bit on the nose wheel. Maybe if I let the nose down a bit (unlike the tail-dragger Blanik) it will touch down on both at the same time, more smoothly.
Sent from my Blackberry.