28 August 2011

Friday Soaring

With hurricane Irene threatening to disrupt weekend plans, the club had a healthy quorum of Friday flyers. I was happy to get some stick time as the storm remnants canceled my first tailwheel transition lesson in the Super D this morning.

The early afternoon lift was cut up and challenging to work. Cloud bases were fairly low at around 4,000 feet. Some days you have to work for every foot of altitude. I'm beginning to love that about soaring: nothing is guaranteed, and you don't know for sure what you're going to get until you're in it. My first flight in the SGS 1-36 was only 26 minutes. 

After a re-light, I eeked out a 1 hour and 9 minute flight. Less than 30 seconds before I'd need to break off to land, I found some weak lift and scratched back up. The altimeter appeared frozen for several minutes, then it slowly began to wind up. Once at an altitude where it was safe to leave the weak lift, I headed off and eventually felt the welcome jolt of a 3 knot thermal. Later, I witnessed a student's first solo flight take place below me. I briefly shared a thermal with the hottest ship in the club, an ASW-27. I'm still hesitant to fly in gaggles, and I can't help but focus more on the relative position of the other glider than my position in the lift. I eventually fell out and landed on the pavement of runway 10.

25 August 2011

More back seat time

Saturday: yet another instance where several pilots had extraordinary flights and I was back on the ground in under 30 minutes. At one point in the afternoon, the club had 9 gliders and 2 tow planes simultaneously aloft. I took off around 1 pm, released from tow over the ridge, and hooked up with good lift. The Grob 103 was flying elongated patterns in the strongest lift over the rocks. I had an interesting time keeping the 1-36 in a safe opposing position while also remaining within the thermal.

14 August 2011

Soaring Friday

Friday, 12 August, was a great soaring day. The thermals started working at around 1pm, and I launched in the 1-36 shortly thereafter. I could smell the smoke in the cockpit from the forest fire burning between the ridges just south of Signal Knob. Strong thermals quickly lifted me up to a little over six thousand feet MSL, and then I went off exploring, making it as far east as the edge of Front Royal, then over Linden VOR where an airliner passed overhead. Since I don't yet have my Bronze badge, I'm not permitted to stray out of gliding distance from the airport. That's fine for now.

I took my Camelbak along for the first time, threading the straps of the glider's safety harness through the shoulder straps of the Camelbak so that it sat across my lap. That worked well; I was happy to have water during the 2 hour and 50 minute flight.

01 August 2011

Win some, lose some

I had my longest flight to date in the 1-36 on Saturday: two hours and 12 minutes. That's certainly nothing to brag about, but I'll take it. All I could find was strong sink after releasing from tow and I made it back to the 45-degree traffic pattern entry point at about 1,500 feet AGL. I was just about to start my Before Landing checklist and had the fish story ready to explain my embarrassingly quick return to the airport when I stumbled into a booming thermal that carried me up to 5,000 feet MSL. The lift got stronger and stronger; I could have stayed aloft the rest of the day. But I forgot my water bottle. After two hours in the hot sun, I was dehydrated and convinced that I should get this giant winged beer can back onto the ground so that I could get a cool drink. I made the initial radio call and the duty officer replied, telling me to stay up for a few more minutes so that I could claim the coveted "flight of the day." Unfortunately, I couldn't understand him.