Thursday, January 19, 2012

Motion-induced blindness

A friend shared this link and I think it's worth sharing here as well. We're taught as student pilots that when we're scanning for traffic, we need to look at different sections of the sky for short periods and not fixate. The reason has more to do with our optic system architecture than with our conscious ability to recognize objects. The brain does many things for us automatically at levels below our awareness, and it does not do all of them well! Try this on-line experiment. If you look at the yellow dots you can see that the demo is honest - the dots are there the whole time. If you fixate on the central dot the yellow dots will disappear. This is not the classic optic nerve blind spot demo - this is more about the neural networks that perform pattern recognition. If you shift your gaze slightly, the dots will reappear. So to compensate for this effect in real life - to spot air traffic - it's essential to shift your gaze frequently.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review of 2011

2011 was quite an interesting year. It started off badly, but I had some terrific flights and gave some great passenger rides. It ended with our club returning to Hemet-Ryan airport on a limited basis.

I had a total of 24 flights, four less than in 2010, but 18 hours and 12 minutes, which is more time.
  • Six flights with instructors
  • Two flights with other private glider pilots
  • Six passenger flights
  • Ten solo flights
  • No cross-country flights
  • Six winch launches - the most I've had in any year so far
  • 16 flights in the Grob 103
  • 8 flights in the PW5
  • Two flights over two hours each
  • Four flights between one and two hours each
I only flew at Crystalaire and Hemet-Ryan this year. Our club did not take any field trips.
  • 16:44 at Crystal
  • 1:28 at Hemet
I flew at least once every month except August, and that was because my family took a 3-week vacation.

Early in the year I had to put my plans to get my Commercial and Instructor ratings on hold. It became apparent that I needed a lot more practice in the Grob 103 if I was to have the accuracy I needed to take the practical tests, and due to a variety of family needs I was not able to accomplish that before my written tests expired. With our club training program on hold due to the Hemet and Blanik situations, I would not have much opportunity to instruct anyway, so the cost of restarting the process did not seem worthwhile. Now that we are planning to fly regularly at Hemet, I may resume my training and testing in 2012.

At Crystalaire, I had some really interesting flights. The north-facing mountain terrain makes it possible to soar even when the weather is doing some wacky things. I found mountain wave lift several times and learned to recognize and work it. I explored what I called "mountain wake" lift and wrote a lengthy article about it, which got some attention among the pilots at Crystal. I didn't do the kind of really high mountain wave flights that some others have done, but I did get up to 12.2 and 12.6 thousand feet a couple of times - pretty exciting. I'm looking forward to moving our club ships back to Hemet because it is closer to home (less driving), and in some ways the thermal lift is more consistent, but I'm going to miss the challenge of the mountains - I learned a lot there! And I never did get to the top of Mt. Baldy…

In the spring and summer I took my cousins and some friends for flights. We found thermal and wave lift, gaggled with other gliders, and had a great time.

The club continued to face challenges in 2011: 
  • The Blanik grounding situation continues to be unresolved, putting a damper on our student training program. 
  • One of our two Blaniks was damaged in a storm at Lake Elsinore, and was totaled by the insurance company. 
  • Although the FAA ruled in our favor in the Hemet-Ryan situation, the process of establishing operating rules and negotiating a reasonable fee structure with the County of Riverside has been painful. Operating there is laborious and inconvenient until we get tiedowns, storage, and facilities on the north side of the airport near runway 4-22.