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.

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