30 June 2015

Commercial Pilot Glider Checkride Complete

I took the Commercial Glider practical test yesterday, passed, and walked away with a handwritten Temporary Airman Certificate. The preliminaries and oral portion of the test lasted almost 2 1/2 hours. I was well prepared for the questioning.

The flight portion was straight out of the practical test standards: boxing the wake, turning stalls, minimum controllable airspeed (MCA) turns, 720-degree steep turns, a simulated low rope break, precision landing, etc. I completed the flight portion in 3 flights, the first of which was a 4,000 ft AGL tow where I did most of the air work. The second flight was a pattern altitude tow to demonstrate a forward slip to landing without the use of dive brakes, and the last was a simulated rope break at about 350 feet AGL.

I found the no-spoiler landing to touchdown the most challenging of the maneuvers. Unlike many higher-performance fiberglass sailplanes, the Schweizer 2-33 slips very effectively. But when that forward slip is removed before touchdown, it can take a long distance to dissipate energy without the luxury of dive brakes in ground effect. I am currently flying at a field with a hilly vineyard on the approach end of the strip. With the usual westerly afternoon winds, the geography creates a wind gradient that feels like flying through an area of very strong sink. It is good practice to carry enough energy to counteract the wind gradient, as landing short will mean being impaled by the metal rods--resembling punji sticks--that support the grapevines. Once safely over the airport fence, the job becomes getting rid of any extra energy. It wasn't the prettiest thing I've done, but I managed to get the glider safely down and stopped.

14 June 2015

Preparing for my Commercial Glider Checkride

It's been a while since my last post. If anyone happens to be reading this, I hope this broadcast finds you well and flying often. Since the last update, I relocated across the country to Santa Barbara, California. I'm grateful to be able to fly gliders in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. The soaring climate and terrain here differs remarkably from what I was accustomed to back east. Maybe I will discuss those differences in detail in a later post.

Cub on final for Rwy 26 at IZA
I'll soon be due for a flight review, and I'm planning to satisfy that requirement by (hopefully) earning my Commercial Pilot certificate. For the past few weeks I have been working with an excellent flight instructor to prepare for the FAA practical test. I am in the midst of studying for the written test, which I will take this Wednesday. My IACRA login thankfully still works, and now I have a bunch of logbook totaling to do.

Most of my recent flying has been in aircraft with very few instruments--gliders and aerobatic airplanes--and I'm surprised how much written test material I'd forgotten because I hadn't used it. I needed to re-learn the method to intercept NDB station bearings, how to read an RMI, compass acceleration errors, and IFR currency requirements, to name a few. The only required instrument in the Schweizer 2-33A that I am now flying is an airspeed indicator!

Simulated low-altitude rope break