14 June 2011

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.

Nearby Winchester Regional Airport had a Young Eagles event, so there were airplanes everywhere. I was calling out traffic left and right during my flight. I took a tow to 3,000 feet AGL and could only find a few weak, narrow thermals so it was a sled ride. Thankfully I managed not to get lost, and the instructor helped by pointing out good landmarks to use: Summit Point raceway, silos from a quarry, and railroad tracks.

The approach and landing were interesting. I was surprised that I could not perceive the slope in the field until we were on final approach, a good thing to remember if I ever need to make an off-airport landing. The uphill slope made it difficult to judge the roundout, and the ground roll was rough and bouncy on the grass.

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