I’d like to share the story about my first tastes of flying a glider. This is a long story and a personal experience. I mean I could have very easily included incorrect or misleading information.
First a small bit of background… I’m Tamara Koyn and I’ve been skydiving since 1983. (You may want to visit my web site at: http://www.koyn.com/CloudDancer. In 1985, I began my pioneering efforts in freestyle skydiving and went on to be world champion in 1992. I’ve been teaching freestyle and 3-D skydiving courses in the US, Australia and Europe since 1988. While teaching those courses, I had mentioned in casual conversation that I’d wanted to try landing a plane sometime. In 1994, someone invited me to try and since then I’ve accumulated quite a few landings in a powered plane. About a year ago, one of my friends got involved with soaring.
I was visiting my friend in July 1998 while he was at Estrella Sailport and yes he got me to try flying the gliders. As soon as he got me onto the sailport, he had me introduced to one of Estrella’s CFIs and there I was in the front seat of a Schweizer 2-33 for my first flight. The CFI sits in the back seat. My CFI did the take-off, flight in tow and thermaling to get us the altitude for me to try some air work. In tow, I asked him to descend to show me where the top of the tow plane’s wake turbulence was–It was surprisingly low and it seemed that I was really looking up seeing the bottom of the tow plane–it seemed almost 45 degrees upwards. He pointed out that the wake is much lower behind the Cessna than behind a Pawnee. To release from tow, the sailplane is moved to the right, brought to a gentle climb and then a slight nose dive to slacken the rope so it doesn’t spring or snap away with tension when the release knob is pulled. During the thermaling, it seemed that thermals could have two stronger cores in them with lessor lift between them.
At least, I felt somewhat prepared and less likely to be in for a shock since I had read “Learning to Fly Gliders: A Flight Training Handbook and Syllabus” by Bob Wander and watched “Discover Soaring! A Transition to Gliders” by Niche A/V, Inc. Aviation Videos according to my friend’s suggestions. The video targeted power pilots making a transition to gliders. Both items covered only the basics in a very easy to absorb format.
During the ride up, I kept wondering how it was going to feel to use a stick. Some pilots have told me that a stick is really natural to use while my friend said that a stick was really difficult to adjust to. With some apprehension and anticipation that it would feel really sensitive, I took the stick. We fly 60mph airspeed.
As I turned, my CFI told me to position the nose so the pitot tube would be divided in half by the horizon. On the Schweizer, the pitot tube is on top, not on the side. (He mentioned that this ASI was probably less susceptible to errors in a slip.) The yaw string was tied to the pitot tube rather than taped to the canopy. Yes, a surprising amount of rudder for establishing a bank angle is needed and then in the turn the overbanking tendency was clearly evident as I use some opposite aileron to keep the turn at a constant bank angle. And the turns were generally a little less than 30 degrees. He asked me to fly at 75mph and return to 60mph in straight and level flight, 90 degree turns to a heading, some slips, 60 degree 2G banking turns, etc. Then, I tried two stalls. I held the stick back and balanced the wings using the rudder pedals–I needed to be more on top of this than with power plane (C150 or C152). The stall broke and I recovered it. The second time, the stall refused to break. I had the stick full back and kept working the rudder and eventually my CFI told me it wasn’t going to stall and that this was just an exercise in slow flight. However, during all of this, I didn’t think to monitor how these maneuvers affected loss of altitude. Using the stick was fine for me. In fact, it seemed that I needed to make ridiculously large movements on the stick to accomplish various things and that the control inputs on a C150/152 are significantly more sensitive! The rudder pressure for a given response also felt greater than for the same effect in a C150/152.
Then, I try flying with the spoilers deployed more or less. Spoilers, operated by a sliding handle on my left, are flaps that come out of the wing to disrupt smooth airflow around the wing. The video told me that power pilots can think of the spoilers as the throttle. It seems that the nose is lowered only slightly to maintain the airspeed but the spoilers effect in steepening of the glide path was clearly felt as a dropping feeling of the seat. To my shock (and possibly to my horror??), my CFI is going to have me land! I simply didn’t expect it, especially on the first flight. So, using the spoilers more or less, I work myself to be at the mid-field position at 1K AGL (2300′ MSL). I made the mistake of flying downwind too tight to the runway and had turned to final way too high. At Estrella, the gliders generally land on their 18′ wide gravel runway. But this time, he let me shoot for the north most runway, a wider one at 20′! He takes the controls and says, “We are going around!” I gasp to myself in a little confusion about what he was thinking. What!? In a glider? He makes a 360 turn and says “you have the plane.” Still too high. The Schweizer 2-33 has no flaps. Glide path control is accomplished by using spoilers and slipping. I deploy the spoilers fully. Still too high. If full spoilers are not enough to steepen the glide path to avoid overshooting, then a slip is applied. I dial in a right forward slip. I had an easier time controlling the slip itself than in the power plane. And I straightened up with no ridiculous excess airspeed like what happens to me in the C150/152.
My CFI cautions me to not land with full spoilers because the same lever engages also the belly wheel brake! In spite of the video tape’s warning in particular for power pilots, I still went to flare too high. He discouraged me verbally and lightly communicating to me through the stick too. Even on following flights, I just couldn’t get myself dive bomb the runway quite as much as the he wanted. While I got smoother with the landings, I think he gave up on me trying to get me to roundout to flaring at that very last instant he was looking for.
The flare feels much different from the power plane–much less pronounced and requires a higher sensitivity level to “feel” well to regulate the altitude of the float over the runway. In a power plane, the kinesthetic sensation of the flare is more dramatic. The flare happens much more slowly throughout a long float just over the runway surface. While it is said that gliders land more slowly, it still seems like we’re zipping along at a pretty good clip in the float while sitting in a relatively low profile arrangement. And it was generally intense to me to control the plane in the float insuring that I’ll stay positioned over the runway’s narrow surface. The belly wheel came down and I wavered from side to side a little in my effort at directional control with the rudder. And then the nose skid came down making grinding noises in the gravel runway. He suggests to apply the brake and I did so too quick and we jerked to a halt as my harness lightly grabs me. Aaaah. I just didn’t know how all this was going to feel. Wheew. I think I was panting a bit.
On the second flight, my CFI lets me try flying the tow after he does the take-off. Controlling the glider on tow was more difficult than I anticipated. Not to mention having to compensate also for the turbulence generated by the hot desert floor. He instructed me to use the rudder pedals to keep the glider behind the tow plane and to use aileron to keep the wings level. Also, because of the tow plane’s airspeed, forward stick pressure is needed to keep the sailplane in position with the tow plane’s wheels just above the horizon. He had to get on the controls to resolve problems resulting from turbulence. Also, he told me that if you see the tow plane balloon up in front of you, don’t be so quick to use the elevator yourself as the sailplane will hit this same air an instant later. He had to do the procedure for releasing. Once I got it in my head to use the inputs separately from one another in the tow (rather than coordinated), the tow became easier to fly. A few tows later, he never had to touch the controls again. There were times in the turbulence that I found myself doing full stick right, for example, just to keep the wings from going off level. I got to the point that I would make actions to reduce the relative differences and to soften movement tendencies just as I would in freefly (vertical relative work) skydiving. When the tow plane turns, the video cautioned to never allow the glider’s bank angle to exceed the tow plane’s so I followed this rule. I also allowed the glider to be a little on the outside of the turn figuring it was better to error to this side rather than suddenly finding myself on the inside of the turn with slack rope to deal with.
The second landing, he had to get on the controls. The third one, I flared lower but was ballooning out of control of my altitude in the float. I finally got too slow at the peak of a balloon and dropped somewhat hard to the runway.
Just in the 4th tow, a pattern tow, he lets me do the take-off. I finish following the pre-flight list on the instrument panel. Thumbs up to the wing runner who then lifts the wing to a level position. I didn’t really feel ready to do this. Knowing that the control of the take-off is as critical as the landing, I wiggle the rudder signaling ready to the tow plane with some apprehension. The rope comes tight and the glider starts to drag with the nose skid on the asphalt runway. Estrella’s asphalt runway is used only for take-offs.
Take-off involves what may seem to be confusing control inputs to the uninitiated. When take-off roll begins, back stick is used to lift the nose skid off the runway as early as possible. Then during the roll, I am having to use rudder for directional control, use the aileron to keep the wings level and the elevator to keep the plane balanced appropriately on its single belly wheel. And yes, this is a balancing act. On a later flight, I started to lose control as the wings got off level and I lost directional control. Whoa…scrambled to recover both while being pulled along by the tow plane. The glider is ready to fly before the tow plane actually lifts off so it is then flown in the ground effect requiring me to regulate the 3 axis control in close proximity to the runway. As the tow plane continues to accelerate, more and more forward stick pressure is needed to stay flying just a few feet over the asphalt runway. Not having the hang of this, I’d balloon up behind the tow plane. Oh shit. If, I do this too much and it will pull upwards on the tow plane’s tail and cause inability to rotate as well as a possible prop strike on the runway. On the following take-offs, I was better at keeping it to a few feet above the runway. But then, sometimes, I’d mistakenly let the glider shift sideways upon lifting it into ground effect. As the glider is held in ground effect just a few feet above the runway surface, the forward acceleration is visually obvious and then the end of the asphalt runway zips by with the tow plane just off the ground. Since I’m flying relative to the tow plane and I’m seeing it more like a stationary reference, it seems that the ground descends away from us as he rotates. Now, farther from the ground it is less intense for me and I can breathe a little but I still have to concentrate on control in tow. But of course, I forget to call out 200′ AGL which is the decision height to make a 180 turn back for a downwind landing should the rope break.
In concluding this flight, my final is better planned and I use more or less spoilers in controlling the glide path. On short final, I find myself having to slip right against a crosswind but then the xwind didn’t seem to affect the float. ?#$^&% As I control altitude in the float -trying- to be relaxed to feel it out with a higher degree of sensitivity, I notice my somewhat rapid breathing–3 4 5 breaths before settling to the runway.
For the 5th tow, a pattern tow, my 3rd day at the sailport, my CFI basically told me to manage all the flight decisions and to let him just ride. I complete the maneuvering and pull the knob to get off tow, watching the rope fall away limp. He reminded me of a few things but then got completely quiet for the rest of the pattern flight. Perhaps, leaving me with a feeling of being alone in the front seat?? On downwind, I wasn’t sure about where I’d turn base–I made a guess which was about OK. Half brainlocking, I felt a half step behind things. I was reading in soaring books earlier about actions to do and not do in the landing process. Tell me something to not do and the idea is still somewhere in the back of my head! Once turned to final and lined up, it looks like the 18′ wide runway would fit between the legs (not just the centerline)! I have to be right in the slot. I had full spoilers deployed and was still high. I engage a left forward slip but I realize this wasn’t so smart in consideration of a right crosswind, although light. In -trying- to be relaxed crossing the threshold and just holding it off in the flare, I manage to touch too soon and yes the glider -easily- bounces off the runway surface. Flailing to restabilize my float, I land again. Being another half step behind and feeling out of control of the roll out and swerving toward the left edge of the runway, I let the nose skid down and one wing drag on the ground and applied the wheel brake. I’m supposed to time the application of the wheel brake to stop in front of the hangers for convenience but I am too overloaded to consider this! I was applying the wheel brake because I was out-of-control (and I’d done this again in landings to follow). Once still and as I let my hands off the controls, I was quivering quite visibly and badly. I was panting out-of-breath. My CFI heard me. “Tammy, are you OK?” he asks. My forearms were even lightly tingling. Still quivering, I had a difficult time with the coordination necessary to get out of the glider.
OK, I admit. The landing thing is scary all over again–maybe more than a little bit scary to me!? This is turning into a psychological game of my ability to control anxiety. I say game as I’m with the CFI all the time and he’s not really going to let anything happen. (Believe me, if I’m feeling -real fear- as in a -real- threat to my safety, life, etc., I won’t be around!) But it was still hard to go back dealing with the landing. I mean have you ever been too excited that you wondered if you could stand it again? I find the landing tougher than the take-off.
I talk to my CFI about how much glider time he has. He tells me 30 hours. I’m thinking and looking for signs that he is joking. Oh God! He’s not joking. He joined the operation just two months ago and has 30 hours for real. And he’s letting me land from the getgo??
I make myself head over to the glider for another pattern tow. I’m going through the pre-takeoff checklist and suddenly the tow plane started to pull us. I squealed a little. “Whoaa.. I’m not ready!” It turns out that the tow pilot was just taking out the slack. Once again, I am on short final just off the end of this sidewalk them folks call a runway, successfully forcing my body to be relaxed to feel out the roundout and flare. But I still feel myself quivering in my skin. No shit! Why in the heck am I doing this??? I landed short so from the next pattern tow, I set up steeper but I overcorrected. I’m turning from base to final and seeing that I’m high, I slip the turn–as much as I could move the controls and still guide the plane to a lined up position. The airframe was vibrating from the airflow in the slip. My CFI, sitting in the back, remained quiet saying nothing. And then, during another landing, I bounced down the runway. During one of the angled bounces, I bit my teeth together, cringing. Eick.
And then, the next final, I flailed a slip and find myself lined up with the asphalt runway, one of the other parallel runways there. Oh F***. In spite of that flail, I managed to reline up with the 18′ golf cart path runway and make finally a wonderful flare in a nice flat float, landed on the wheel using rudder to keep the directional control, the ailerons to keep the wings level and the elevator to keep the skid up. Done correctly, it definitely felt like a balancing act rolling on one wheel. (In the power plane, you don’t really have to fly the ailerons anymore once the wheels are down.) Later, I finished a landing still balancing the wings keeping the wing tips off the ground while stopped. Once the plane is still, it takes rather big stick movements (and a little wind) to keep on balancing the wings. I didn’t get to do this on many of my later landings because there was a slight crosswind and once still after the rollout, the downwind wing tip was committed to drop to the ground.
I ask about boxing the wake during tow and my CFI lets me have a go at it after he demonstrates the maneuver. The move starts from the normal tow position with the tow plane’s wheels just above the horizon. This normal tow position is referred to as high tow by glider pilots since the sailplane is located above the wake turbulence of the tow plane. To start, one descends to the low tow position going through the wake. To my surprise, the turbulence of the tow plane was obvious but not at all violent nor difficult to deal with in anyway. The low tow position really does look way down low! And I am looking up at the tow plane clearly viewing its bottom instead of looking forward to it. To box the wake, you move to the bottom left corner, the top left corner, transition across normal tow to the right top corner, down to the right bottom corner, transition across back to the low tow position and then back up through the wake of the tow plane to the normal tow position. I think boxing the wake often starts from low tow. In this way, the tow pilot knows that’s what you’re about to do. For the sides of the box, application of the same rudder pedal is needed to keep the glider from drifting back to the center position. Aileron is used to assist the rudder. However, if one tries to use the ailerons more intensively then slack rope situations and loss of control tends to develop. I was lucky to not encounter much turbulence while boxing the wake the first time. There was more turbulence the second time and I think I ended up spending a little more time in each corner. It’s like Formation Skydiving in that it’s best to not hurry the points.
Some landings later, I’d deliberately plan my approach on the high side so that I could slip on final. The slip would work more smoothly if I start it by aileron input and then applying the rudder. In this way, I could more smoothly keep it on centerline and then vary the magnitude or aggressiveness of the slip to adjust my glide path angle. When I did slide off centerline upon entering a slip, it was because I didn’t lead enough with the aileron input. The shape of the Schweizer’s airframe lends itself to effective slipping.
I’ve also been listening to the sounds of the airspeed. The sound of the airflow when it’s disrupted by the spoilers is louder for a given airspeed. The sound changes still more when I slip for a given airspeed since now the side of the aircraft is at least partially presented to the relative wind. It seems hard to be able to know what it “should” sound like when the airspeed is correct in the slip. I was told by others that I should know the sounds of the proper airspeeds rather than using the ASI. I did find that in the Schweizer, I never had any problems with coming out of a slip with too much airspeed like I do with the power plane (C150/152) unless I blatantly messed up. The Schweizer seems to behave more stable when entering the slip. But also the control inputs are less sensitive and if I was making the same error that I did in the C150/152, it probably wasn’t effecting me in the Schweizer for this reason.
I played with making slipping turns from base to final. Noting that I was really high, I turned final with a turn changing it over to an aggressive slip putting in the rudder, I was looking down the runway fine tuning my bank angle to stay fixed on centerline with the horizon angled and my weight falling over to the side. It feels funny. *giggle* I had the slip stabilized on final and then thinking that I burned off enough altitude I level and then visually see that I didn’t burn off enough altitude and just continued the roll right over to the opposite forward slip feeding in the left rudder and regulated its intensity to control the glide path angle. Given a crosswind that was headwind in base, I needed to shift to a slip in the opposite direction. I was having fun with this particular final. I was in clean control of alignment (not drifting off) and glide path control as well as the visual looked pretty interesting all the whilst watching and adjusting the relative movement of my aiming point. Afterwards, it dawns on me that this could be terrifying for the uninitiated passenger–feeling their weight shift, seeing the nose not point toward the runway and the constantly changing horizon angle. But it was a safe and completely controlled final. My CFI stayed quiet.
When I went to do this the next day, I didn’t remember to initiate my slipping starting with the aileron and then feeding in the rudder to regulate alignment and glide scope. I slipped off some altitude but not enough and then was sloppy getting into the slip again. I found myself low and misaligned. Oh God. Geez, boy when I mess it up that 18′ wide runway suddenly looks -really- narrow! My CFI had to save me from my potential wreckage.
Among the pattern tows and higher tows, I did try some thermaling. It was quite strange watching the Estrellas Mountain range pass somewhat closely below us as I was flying in normal tow. It made me want to ascend a little higher rather than staying slightly below the tow plane but I didn’t. In getting off tow, I watch the rope fall away limp as we turn freely off to the right. As I flew free of tow in or out of thermals, I caught onto the idea that the changing windscape caused fluctuations in the airspeed. To the uninitiated, I suppose that this could make it seem that they never have the stick in the best place for the airspeed that they wanted.
Another soaring pilot joined me and my friend in the Estrella bunk house near the end of our trip and he talked about thermaling a little bit. He mentioned that as you fly into one, you rarely run straight into it so one wing will tend to lift and the other drop. In other words, the thermal tries to kick you out of it and in order to get into it, you would turn toward the wing that got kicked upwards. I’m just now coming to the realization that these glider pilots must have an awareness of the moving atmosphere only in a way understood by themselves. I envision how they must, like an extra sense, have a feeling and picture in their minds in how the thermals are shaped, moving and changing. I feel lost in this “thermal scape” and know that I’m far from being able to really read and feel the sky.
During a flight, I tried looking for the falling wing feeling but I was too quick to compensate naturally on the stick that I didn’t know or feel and I’d fly straight and level whenever I’d wanted. As I’d look for thermals, I found myself glancing over to the sailport as if it were a drop zone through a “skydiver’s” eye verifying that I could reach it for landing. Glider pilots think about “speed to fly” and distance calculations so that they don’t glide out of reach of the sailport. I’ve learned to visually tell from flying my parachute. In the first flights, I didn’t catch on right away to using the perceptions that I learned from flying my canopy to flying the glider. The weak half-useless thermal I was trying fizzles completely and my CFI suggests to go over to another spot. I wasn’t feeling so great that our reach to the sailport looked marginal but I trust his judgment. And as a result of it, I looked back to the sailport flying 60mph really wondering if we could make it now. He says fly at 70mph. My brain says “That’s trading away even more altitude more quickly?” I hesitate to do it and then once establishing 70mph, the sight picture changes and I’m amazed to see that our reach is actually approved at the faster airspeed.
For a following flight, I wanted to be on tow just long enough to box the wake again and then shoot another landing. Once off tow, I get lucky and find a thermal. As I fly into the good part, I notice the feeling of the seat, the suddenly louder wind noise outside the canopy and the increased airspeed. So, I strive to raise the nose in response to the arrival of the louder wind noise so the airspeed would stay at 60mph. I was figuring that in this way, I would ride up more in the thermal by converting it to potential energy of height instead of kinetic energy of airspeed. With each circle, I am looking more and more downward to see the sailport. A feeling that is somewhat reminiscent of the climb to altitude in a jump plane as I see the drop zone a little further below once each time around the circle.
Now, the air coming through the vent is cooler and we have enough altitude (4K AGL) to try some wing overs. My CFI shows me the first one. Dive the nose to 70mph. Raise the nose. As it passes through the horizon, I put in a steep bank (60-85 degrees) using coordinated actions and then after 90 degrees of rotation, I use the rudder only. The wing over feels slow, graceful and 3 dimensional as the nose comes over sideways towards the ground. And then the airspeed increases and the wings must be leveled and the nose raised again to keep the airspeed from increasing too much. My CFI cautioned me to not turn too steeply so as to avoid a stall. In hindsight, the thought makes me want to play more with the wing overs and deliberately explore doing them incorrectly (of course with plenty of altitude for recovery)!
I’m refining my landing skill at this point but never got past the feeling of that anxiety on short final approaching the threshold for this narrow runway as I force myself to be relaxed. Because of the glider’s flat glide, the aiming point really ends up being around 150-200 feet in front of the actual touchdown point. Upon landing a little short, I immediately close the spoilers and keep balancing the plane on it’s belly wheel keeping the nose skid off the ground for as long as possible to roll out as long as I can in order to at least roll up to the spot in front of the hangers.
If I have the spoilers fully deployed as I start to round-out, I have to retract them slightly to disengage the wheel brake. This is like adding a little power in the power plane and causes me to slightly balloon. I’d gotten better at compensating for this and keeping the float from ballooning. Now, that I am keeping my landing float nicely level just over runway surface and smooth, I can feel the ever so gradual pitch change (raising nose) previously disguised by my flailing on previous landings earlier in the week.
My CFI exclaims, “You don’t have to do your landings holding the plane off as long as you can like one does in power planes!” So, when the float starts to get long enough and I need enough space so I can stop in front of the hangers, I’ll use a little elevator to put the wheel down on the runway, have the spoilers mostly open, let the nose skid down and then apply the brake.
Crosswinds have shown up but in all cases variably light wind speed. While flying in the ground effect on take-off, I had to crab a little bit. When popping into the ground effect, I’d have to compensate right away to avoid moving sideways out from behind the tow plane and take care to not let the glider belly wheel touch again to avoid any side strains to it. It’s a little funny flying like this just over the runway’s surface and then the end zips by below as it seems to descend away.
As I round-out into the float of another landing, it was a bizarre feeling to see the tow plane with another sailplane in tow zipping past me on the left in the opposite direction. Take-offs were toward the East with landing toward the West. It was a light crosswind favoring the west in my opinion. After I was finished, I saw another glider come in going toward the east. It hadn’t occurred to me to check the other end of the runway when I was landing. I’m still concentrating on the landing itself rather intently. While a glider can’t go around, it can move over to any of the other three parallel runways to avoid something if necessary.
I’ve gotten consistent in making my 200′ AGL call outs during the take-off. And viola. On one of the last few flights I did, not long after my call out, the tow rope sprung from the nose of the glider with a “ping.” (Since it was nearing the end of week, I knew I needed to ask for a rope break drill if I wanted to experience one. The drills have been done unannounced to the student prior to solo flight.) It was real all right. We weren’t on tow no more. Controlling the take-off itself is still somewhat intense and now I must turn back and land without a moment for recomposing myself. I make a left turn with 45 degree bank angle keeping the airspeed at 60mph. I couldn’t see the field until my 180 turn was just about finished. It was a direct crosswind so turning back did not result in a downwind landing as it normally would. At Estrella, the turn back is always toward the north, downwind today since the wind is from the south. (Books on gliding say that the turn back is normally done toward the wind.) So my question mark shaped ground path back to the runway was exaggerated. I still had to bleed off altitude by deploying spoilers and slipping. And in this particular landing, I had to only fix the plane’s yaw axis to compensate for the crosswind during the landing float.
But a following crosswind landing was more awkward. I took out the crabbed angle relative to the runway with the rudder but then started drifting downwind. 9 feet of margin to one side is not much. I arrested the movement dipping the upwind wing lightly but didn’t recover the centerline. The belly wheel came down and I flailed the roll out. Instead of the left rudder input needed for the crosswind correction in the float, now right rudder input was needed to fix my directional control in the roll out. But I didn’t catch on to this straight away and had an awkward roll out letting the nose skid down. Hey, if I flail in this whimpy 5 knot xwind, wait till I have a real xwind to deal with! No shit.
I’ve been having some thoughts about the 180 turn back for power pilots in case of engine failure. I know attempts at this have led to accidents. Firstly, I note that a turn back procedure is not taught in power lessons. Also, a glider pilot on every flight makes a point to notice when he ascends through the minimum height necessary for a safe 180 turn back to the runway. While it is typically 200′, it may vary from one sailport to another pending surroundings and given weather conditions, etc. Going to a different sailport is something like going to a new DZ and checking out the local policies and procedures. Anyways, I was thinking that power pilots should also have a decision height on each take-off. The video pointed out that typical trainer gliders have a 30:1 glide ratio and a power reference mention that typical light weight power planes have a 10:1 glide ratio. In my glider drill, the rope “broke” just below 300′ and there was plenty of space to work with to land safely on the runway. So, if 200′ is safe for a 180 turn back then that would be equivalent to 600′ for a power plane. Power folk turn crosswind at 500′. This logic seems to tell me that power pilots can forget any 180 turn back procedures for a downwind landing. Also, for power folk, when the engine is dead, a glide path control device is missing. If the electrical system is also out, then another glide path control device (flaps) is missing. That leaves only slipping as a means to glide path control. Everything in the glider is mechanically independent of need for power or electrical and it has 2 glide path control options. If the headwind on take-off is stronger, the easier it would be to overshot the landing going downwind.
In my last flights, the yaw string was hung up around the pitot tube. I noticed it once off tow and tried to get it loose by slipping one way and then the other. It wasn’t going to budge. I then played with shallow banks varying the coordination of my inputs. I wanted to -feel- the differences between coordinated, skidding and slipping. I just couldn’t always make sense of everything that I was feeling.
I ended up making 19 flights spanning 4.6 hours. Many of my flights ended up to be pattern tows. And comments about lacking lift were abound mostly in the form of complaining that there wasn’t enough difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures to get things kicken’.
About my CFI… It turns out that he had heaps of time in power planes and CFI for power pilots. This enabled him to get a “glider” rating as an add on. Also, many of his power skills transfer to flying the glider. In this way, he became competent in the gliders really quick while, at which on the other hand, he is still very close to the cognitive aspect of flying gliders. This enables him to speak quite clearly with his students and to be able to relate to his students being new to gliding. Additionally, he’d made 250 jumps as a skydiver and has taken things he’s learned from Formation Skydiving to the glider. When he explained how to do the release from tow and how to box the wake, he focused on the concept of doing each step individually, slow and smooth. Rushing only makes a mess of it. I found him to be dynamic in nature because he was pulling together experiences from other sources into his gliding.
Regarding idea of soloing…
1) I’d want to do a series of flights in which the CFI would create problems and then make me fix them such as obnoxious rope slacks, rope breaks, entirely messed up final which I would have to salvage into a decent landing, etc. Also, failure of rope release from glider and tow plane in which both must land in formation.
2) There were a few flights after which I got out of the plane and got a little bit dizzy in the head. My last flights were 4 pattern tows in a row and because I stopped my landing roll just in front of the hangers and the wing runners were nice, they just pushed us into position for the next tow while we sat in the plane. After this, I got out of the plane and got dizzy in the head bad enough that I had to sit down immediately. The heat of the Arizona desert certainly was effecting my physiology and I wasn’t managing my diet and fluid intake properly for this environment.
3) I’d need to adopt my own personal minimums with regard to various flight conditions that could occur.
4) More ground study just to educate myself on areas that I probably didn’t know but areas that I should be familiar with. Other than this, the idea of soloing didn’t feel too far away.
Well, that’s the end of my little story!