24 July 2011

Glider rating checkride and first passenger

The ASK-21 that I flew during the test
On Wednesday morning, 20 July, I took the practical test for my glider rating in 97°F heat. The high density altitude and tailwind on takeoff made the rope break maneuver on the second flight interesting. Overall, I was disappointed with my performance. I flew sloppily, but everything was within PTS and certainly safe. I never seem to be at my best during a checkride, and I suspect that lack of sleep the night before was a contributing factor.

I am so happy to have earned this rating. Now I can start learning how to better keep the glider aloft and actually go places. I have begun reading Helmut Reichmann's wonderful Cross-Country Soaring (Streckensegelflug) which recently went back into print.

15 July 2011

First Flying Anniversary

One year ago today, 15 July 2010, I took a demo flight in a Cessna 172, my first time sitting in the pilot's seat of an aircraft. I earned my private pilot/airplane rating in March and started working on my glider rating immediately thereafter. My Google Docs logbook/spreadsheet says that I've accumulated 123.7 total hours so far, 26.9 of which have been spent flying sailplanes.

Today I practiced for my upcoming glider checkride. I made one flight in the K-21 beneath a broken cirrus ceiling. There was no lift, but the smooth air was ideal for working on the PTS maneuvers.

Later on, the winds aloft whipped up and south/southeast surface winds made for squirrelly takeoffs, sporty aerotows, and turbulent trips around the traffic pattern. My first takeoff in the 1-36 today was so bad that it rattled me: after releasing from tow, I just wanted to get the glider back on the ground rather than working the thermals.  

14 July 2011

Glider Flying at Burner Airport (VG55)

The 1-36 landing following cross-country aerotow from FRR
On Saturday, 9 July, I had the privilege to fly out of Burner (formerly Woodstock) Airport, a beautifully manicured 3,000 x 100+ ft. private grass strip. My club held an "away day" there. At one point I counted 8 gliders, 3 towplanes, innumerable pilots, and a record number of family on the field. Soaring is inherently social; you can't do it without teamwork.

I wanted to make the first flight with an instructor to be sure that I'd get the approach and landing right at an unfamiliar-to-me field with a sloping runway. The high density altitude made it unwise to tow the heavy Grob 103 loaded with two people using the Aviat Husky, so I took the 1-36 and just gave it a shot solo.

13 July 2011

"B" Badge

I flew four consecutive days, July 1-4, in order to start practicing for my upcoming glider rating checkride. On Friday, July 1st, I managed a 104 minute flight in the 1-36 Sprite, which was good enough for my SSA "B" badge. A club member was waiting for the glider and I didn't want to be rude, so I opened the dive brakes at 3,500 feet AGL to get the ship back on the ground quickly.

I found decent thermals on Saturday afternoon during a solo flight in the club's Grob 103. I wound up with an hour-and-13-minute flight, climbing to 4,700 feet AGL while attempting to fly triangle courses around the airport. These numbers are really nothing to be proud of, but I'm content to take one small step at a time. The lift seemed to shut down on me so I beat upwind back to the airport. Near the initial pattern entry point, I joined a gaggle with a couple of gliders in a "house" thermal. The distances still seemed too close to me--I'm still getting acclimated to flying in close proximity to other gliders--so after a few turns, I decided to land.