10 May 2011

First Glider Solo

On Sunday afternoon, May 8, I flew my first solo in an ASK-21 glider:

It felt great, especially after some pretty poor flying on my part in the past two lessons. I'm grateful for all the patient flight instruction that I've received since joining the club in late March.

I flew on Saturday and practiced slips and boxing-the-wake. In steep forward slips, I'd let the nose kick too far out, something that I don't think is possible to do in a C-172. And, curiously, I got a little too much spoiler in on one final approach and had to close them completely at about 100 feet, came in shallow, and touched down right on the runway numbers. Then I did the same thing again. So it goes.

On Sunday, I took one tow to 3,000 feet with the instructor to practice slips, and then two pattern tows to 1,500 feet to practice a no-spoiler approach and normal approach. Then the instructor turned me loose. As we were pushing the glider out, I was reminded to recite the Pilot's Prayer: "Please don't let me f*ck up!"

As you can see in the video, a Cherokee pulled up to the hold short line just after we got the glider onto the runway. I ran my checklist at a little more deliberate pace than usual, and he called out on the CTAF to remind everyone that he was holding short. I was simply not going to rush. I'm sorry for the brief delay, but that is just the way it had to be. In the coming flights, I will work on getting this checklist done properly and completely in a shorter amount of time.

The air was smooth on tow, and I released at about 2,600 feet AGL since it looked to me like we'd be too close to the cloud bases if I held on for the full 3,000 feet.  I worked a few thermals about two or three miles northwest of the airport. I got down to about 2,300 feet MSL and then rode a thermal back up to about 2,700 feet before getting into some really strong sink. I noticed that the bump that you feel in the seat of your pants when entering a thermal is much more pronounced with just one person in the glider, which I'm sure is due to the reduced weight. At 2,200 feet MSL (1,500 ft AGL), I ran my Before Landing checklist and entered the traffic pattern. I think the landing was OK. My thermaling chops aren't so hot right now, so it wasn't a very long flight: 23 minutes. 

After walking the glider back, my instructor shook my hand and handed me my "A" Badge. What a fun day.

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