27 June 2011

(Statute) Mile High

I had my best solo flight to date yesterday, 27 June: 49 minutes in the SGS 1-36 Sprite. I released from tow at the customary 3,700 feet above sea level (3,000 feet above the ground) and climbed to 5,600 ft. MSL thanks to a few thermals north of the airfield. This was the first time I've encountered well-defined thermals while flying solo. Those numbers are hardly worth mentioning--the duration isn't quite good enough for even the "B" badge--but it felt great: the air was comfortably cool above 5,000 feet and the vario's consistent staccato beeping--indicating lift--was a welcomed change from the last month-or-so of flight attempts. For the first time, I was able to sit back while circling in a 35-degree bank beneath the shade of a dark-bottomed Cu and just take in the view. Despite my appalling lift-hunting skills, I am utterly and completely hooked. This is flying, pure and simple, as written on our club T-shirts.

21 June 2011

Happy Summer Solstice

Here in the Washington D.C. metropolitan sprawl, we will enjoy 14 hours and 54 minutes of daylight today, the longest of the year. It is officially summer. The long days are great. The heat, humidity, haze, and afternoon thunderstorms are already here. Anything above 6 miles of visibility will be a luxury until fall.

I went glider flying on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of this past weekend, racking up a total of 11 short solo flights in the SGS 1-36 Sprite. The conditions on Friday were sporty with a nearly direct crosswind from the southwest. The turbulence off of the tree line tossed the 1-36 around enough during takeoff that I hit my head (lightly) on the canopy on the third flight of the day. Now I really cinch down the straps of the 4-point harness, starting with the lap belt.

14 June 2011

First Flight in the Sprite (SGS 1-36)

On Sunday, 12 June, I got my logbook endorsement to fly the club's Schweizer 1-36 Sprite and promptly made two flights in it. This is the first time I've flown solo in something without going up with an instructor beforehand (you don't have that luxury in a single-hole aircraft). Here's a video of the first sortie:

Glider Flying at High View Farm (61VA)

On Saturday, 11 June, my soaring club held an outing at High View Farm Airport, a private grass strip near Berryville, VA and Summit Point, WV. Many thanks to the owner for giving us permission to conduct glider operations there. Two of the club gliders were ferried to the airport by cross-country aerotow in the morning. The runway is tricky to see from the air, and the duty officer successfully used a signal mirror from the ground to help the arriving pilots locate the runway; it was surprising how well that worked.

I had never taken off from a grass runway before. It was a great training opportunity to make an approach and landing on an unfamiliar field. The runway is 2,600 feet long with trees at both ends and tall grass to each side. It slopes up, then down again past midfield. I got the first dual flight of the day in the Grob 103. This turned out to be fortunate because the density altitude eventually exceeded 2,500 feet (field elevation is ~600 feet), which put a stop to dual flights in the afternoon for safety. The heavily loaded trainer, high density altitude, sloped runway, and slight tailwind all contributed to increase the length of the takeoff roll.

09 June 2011

HEF to PVG and back

Future Pilot
On Tuesday, 7 June, I made my longest cross-country flight to date: Manassas Regional (HEF) to Hampton Roads Executive (PVG), a 133 nautical mile trip each way. That is admittedly not a very long journey by airplane, but I'm content to take one baby step at a time. My brother and two-year-old nephew/godson were there to meet me when I landed.

10th Glider Solo Completed

I spent the last two weekends flying gliders. As of Sunday, 5 June, I've logged the requisite minimum of 10 solo flights per my club's rules to transition to the Schweizer SGS 1-36 Sprite, a single-seat glider. Hopefully I can get checked out in it soon, as that will allow me not to compete with flight instruction activity in the club's two seaters. I'm told to expect some pucker factor on the first takeoff because it is very sensitive in pitch and prone to PIO. Since there is only one seat, you learn to fly it on the first attempt.

Lynchburg Airshow

On Sunday, 22 May, I drove down to Lynchburg, Virginia (KLYH) to see the airshow. The threat of thunderstorms in the afternoon and an uncertain departure time following the show prevented me from flying in. My source of rental aircraft prefers that I not fly at night until I have a few more cross-country hours logged, and I agree with that restriction.