Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two thirds of Silver

I received confirmation today that my Silver Badge distance and altitude claims were accepted! Now all I need is the 5-hour flight to complete the badge.

The Badge Lady pointed out that I had miscalculated the height penalty, but I still had enough distance to meet the requirement. I'll have to go back and reread that rule... something about flights over 100 kilometers.

She also pointed out some helpful things about dealing with the Volkslogger. I had entered various landing spots into SeeYou on my PDA, to help with navigation along the way. Well, SeeYou uploaded all those into the Volkslogger which treated them as turnpoints. For this badge flight, that's not important, but for other badge or record flights, those turnpoints would be part of the official declaration, which complicates things. So I'll have to try uploading a simple task for the declaration, and then using a more complex task just on the PDA for navigation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Passenger and Contest Flight

Today was the second half of our club's "Family Soaring Contest". We have several events, including accuracy landing, altitude gain, speed triangle, and timed flight. By coincidence my daughter N (age 20) wanted to go for a flight. (She's been up with me in Blaniks twice before.) So off we went.

The forecast was for good soaring weather. The NWS forecast said 739 fpm lift to 10,376' MSL, which I thought was optimistic. My Thermal Forecast spreadsheet gave a thermal index of -2 up to 7,500' MSL. Clear skies and very light winds were expected, with a maximum on the ground of 94F. The air was very clean!

We planned to use the Grob 103 because our main purpose was a pleasure flight, not a contest flight. Most pilots were flying Blaniks and trying for the accuracy landing. I figured that was pretty hopeless since the Grob has such a long rollout (it's heavy and the brakes are weak). No one in our club was staying up, though some other pilots in glass ships were doing OK. Not knowing if the conditions would be strong enough to do the triangle course, I decided to just enter for the 1-hour timed flight and the altitude gain.

We launched at 14:21, and let off at 4,500' MSL in decent lift. Using no more than 30-degree banked turns because of my passenger, I worked it up to about 5,200, then soon to 6,000, and eventually topped out at 7,200' MSL (very close to my forecast). At times the lift was up to about 5 knots, though the thermal seemed pretty narrow. We saw only one other glider get very much altitude, and he was never more than about 1,500' below us. So my altitude gain was 2,700'... not anything great, but I'm sure it was more than anyone else in our club today. It will depend on how people did on the other contest day(s).

Since we seemed to be topped out, and had been up about a half hour, we just flew over to Diamond Valley Lake for some sightseeing. N was doing fine with the circling. I offered to let her fly the ship but she declined. We encountered a big string of helium balloons obviously from a car lot or somewhere, and circled it at a safe distance. Soon enough we needed to plan our descent to try for exactly 60 minutes. I was still up over 6,000' so I used airbrakes and faster speed to get us down. (This was the first time I've heard the Grob's gear-up warning... I had the gear up for most of the flight, and opening the air brakes sets off the beeper.)

Trying for an exact flight duration is an interesting challenge. You have to estimate how long the aproach pattern and the landing will take (I guessed 4 minutes), then get to the Initial Point at pattern altitude at exactly 4 minutes before the target touchdown time. As it worked out, we landed 1 minute early for a 0:59 flight. Again, I don't think anyone else tried the duration flight today, so we'll have to see how people did on other contest day(s).

The landing rollout was long, as I expected. There was little or no headwind to help us stop, which was also expected. But I forgot to back my aim point up before the landing area, so we rolled out the far end almost to the taxiway, thereby blowing the spot landing part.

N had a great time flying! The visibility in the Grob is so much nicer than the Blaniks. She had no motion problems, and was glad to get up in the cooler air.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good stuff today!

As often happens, the first day after a cold front made for very good soaring today. The forecast was for lift up to 6,800' MSL in the morning, and then up to 9,000' or so in the afternoon due to further cooling aloft. And that's exactly what happened. The early pilots stayed up and reported getting over 6,000. And late in the afternoon, one of our instructor/student flights did indeed get to 9,000'. There were small CU clouds to mark the lift in the early part of the day, but most of them disappeared by midday.

We assembled the PW5, since we had trailered it for the planned trip to the desert. We replaced the safety harness with a new one that the club just bought. T took it for a flight and got to 8,500 and nearly two hours.

As I mentioned, I was planning to just fly a Blanik and practice landing to the tighter tolerances required for the commercial test. I told the tow pilot I'd go to 2,000' AGL... I didn't want to just release at 700' and land, since I had not flown a Blanik for a while. I figured I would do 2 or 3 patterns. Well, at 2,000' AGL I was in strong lift, so I let off and decided to go up for a little while. That very first thermal took me up to well over 6,000' MSL, with 6 knots of lift at times. I decided that landing practice could wait. This was too good to pass up! I practiced 45-degree banks, did a couple of stalls. My maximum altitude was 7,800' MSL, and I could see gliders and cloudbase about 1,000 feet higher than me.

I flew over to the little town of Winchester and back. I thought (correctly) that another student might be waiting, so I eventually forced it down with 60-knot circles and spoilers. So many days we scratch to find lift... and then days like this, we just have to waste it!

Approach and landing was weird. I hit some heavy sink on the downwind leg, and ended up turning base really early because I was quite low. I knew from looking at a flag and the wind socks that the wind was from the left (south) side. But then after flaring to land, I floated... and floated... like I had a tailwind. I touched down, did not bounce it, but suddenly I was in the air again and yawed to the right! Apparently the wind abruptly shifted, got under my right wing (it would have been up slightly due to the original left crosswind) and launched me into the air again, and "weathercocked" the glider to the right - at least 25 or 30 degrees! I got it under control and landed safely, but certainly not within the space I had been planning. And after I touched down, a strong crosswind from the right was blowing a bunch of debris my way. I let the glider weathercock into it, kept flaps and spoilers deployed, and stayed inside the glider until crew came out to help. (In strong wind, it's better to stay in it and be able to control it than to get out and have it get away from you.) So apparently I landed into a thermal. It certainly wasn't visible as a dust devil, but it caused a lot of shifting wind. It was probably responsible for the sink on downwind, too.

A very fun flight on a nice, easy day.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winch trip canceled

There's a cold front moving through the state this weekend, and fairly high winds were forecast. So the club pres canceled the trip. We had set aside next weekend as a "rain date," but now it appears not enough people are able to go... so that's off too.

The winds aren't supposed to affect Hemet, so it looks like some of us will be going there tomorrow to put the gliders BACK together, and hopefully fly. It's supposed to be cold, so I'm probably just going to practice precision landings in a Blanik.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

All work and no fly #2

Today we needed to disassemble two gliders and trailer them to get ready for next weekend's club trip to Coyote Dry Lake. We plan to spend next weekend winch launching using a new two-drum winch that is being developed for sale by a fellow from San Diego. The disassembly of both the PW5 and a Blanik went pretty quickly.

The day was gray and cold, with a storm coming in. I had thought that I might do a few pattern tows in the Blanik to practice my precision landings (needed for the commercial practical test), but by the time we were done most everyone had left. And as I drove out of the airport, it started to drizzle. So... no flying this week.

I'm hoping next weekend to do one or two refresher winch launches in the Blanik with an instructor, and then fly in the PW5. The times I've been to Coyote, there have been no thermals. The last time the club went (and I didn't), the thermals were great. If I can get cell phone signal out there, I'll post updates during the weekend.