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:

The Sprite has a nose skid which drags on the runway until there is enough elevator authority to hold it off. I didn't use quite enough back stick to do that cleanly on the first takeoff (concerned about PIO) and the skid touched a few times before the glider popped into the air. I found it to be a bit twitchy in pitch on takeoff, just as I was warned because the elevator is relatively close to the wings.  It is preferable to land in the grass due to the aforementioned nose skid. I had to consciously push the nose over as the dive breaks were deployed, a noticeable difference from the ASK-21 which will roughly maintain the trimmed airspeed when the boards are extended.

This glider is aluminum and it sounds like you're riding inside a giant beer can. It is very light, too: the empty weight is around 500 pounds. It felt like I was strapped to a kite when passing through the usual bumpy air above the ridge on tow, prompting quick--and surprisingly large--control inputs to stay in position behind the Pawnee towplane. When the straps are properly cinched down, the safety harness is uncomfortable. She will spin if you stall uncoordinated.

Despite the minor annoyances, the Sprite is a wonderful sailplane. While she is a few years older than I am and she is the lowest performing of all the club gliders according to the book numbers, this ship is now my favorite to fly. Even a weak thermal is sufficient to lift this light glider. She happily flies slow (minimum sink at 42 miles per hour and Vs0 is 35 mph) so it is easy to make tight turns to stay in a narrow thermal.

There was a rain cell rapidly approaching the field from the southwest during my second flight. I didn't know what the storm would do to the winds on landing so I decided to pull the dive brakes and head in. The rain started while I was on short final and it turned out to be no big deal.    

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