(I'm posting this a bit late...)

Thursday was my first day to fly with Jim, my instructor for the next several months. Jim is the full-time instructor at HGC, so he ends up teaching and flying with most of the students.

I got down there a little late because of bad traffic and some stupidity on my part. Next time I'll leave earlier and pay more attention to what I'm doing.

When I got there, Jim and I went over some flying basics and discussed my experience. I told him that I had been in the ground school class the previous week and he took a few minutes to flip thru my log book. After doing that, he informed me that I'd be flying the takeoff and landing on both flights today.

That surprised me a bit, since he and I had never flown before. But I guess the fact that I was already pretty good at flying tow convinced him that it was time for me to get the hang of takeoff and landing again.

Flight #1

He had already done the preflight checks on glider 87R (or eight seven romeo), so we got a battery for it, pulled it over to runway 24 and I got in. I stapped myself in and completed the takeoff checklist. I wiggled the rudder and the tow pilot plane began to move forward.

Since we had no wing runner and the left wing was low, I applied full right stick until the wings came level. I concentrated on holding the wings level and listening to Jim's advice about how much back pressue to use so that the glider would roll along on the main wheel only. Before I knew it, the glider was lifting off the ground. That was my signal to ease the stick forward a bit to keep it 5-10 feet off the ground until the tow plane took off.

After 15-20 seconds, the tow plane was in the air and I was following it just a bit high. We began discussing what to do in the event of a rope break. Below 200 feet, land in the field to the right. Above 200 feet, turn 180 degrees and land upwind on runway 24. Above 600 feet or so, fly a very short pattern.

I flew behind the tow plane for a bit while Jim pointed out a few landmarks that we had discussed on the ground. It's good to get very familiar with the area surrounding your home airport.

As we got to 4000 feet, he asked me to practice rope relases. In the SGS 2-32, we use a soft release, which means you climb briefly, dive briefly, level out and pull the release. This puts a bit of slack in the rope and makes for a more gentle release when the tension returns and the ring falls from the tow hook.

Next thing I knew, we were at 5000 feet and it was time to release for real. So I did. I turned a bit too early, not having actually seen the rope fall away. Jim called me on that, of course. I have to try not to anticipate the release like that.

Up at alititude, Jim asked me to demonstrate various shallow and medium turns, both to make sure I could consistently make coordinated turns and to test my ability to turn to a point/heading.

We did a little bit of speed control, a lot more turns, and talked about stalls. Before I knew it, we were nearing 1700 feet and it was time to enter the landing pattern. I ran thru the landing checklist:

  • Radio
  • Undercarriage
  • Flaps
  • Speed
  • Trim
  • Altitude
  • Look

There was a bit of confusion about which runway we were landing on. Jim intended me to use runway 31 (which he often uses with sudents because it is so long) but I was expecting runway 24, which is the only runway I had ever used at Hollister. Once we got that straightened out, I made some minor corrections on the downwind to 31 and concentrated on landing.

Jim quizzed me along the way, asking if my angle and altitude looked right. My answers were largely guesswork because I have little experince to draw on. But I wasn't too far off. Before I knew it, it was time to turn base and then final. I lined up in 31 pretty well but came in a bit high. After liberal application of spoilers, the altitude disappeared in a hurry and I just had to stay on the centerline and flare at the right time. Unfortunately, I flared a bit too early and ended up floating another 500 feet down the runway while drifting to the right--nearly off the runway.

I used the remaining altitude to get back on the center line and let the glider touch down.

The flight went relatively well and did a good job of telling us what I needed to focus on next time around.

Flight #2

We pulled the glider back on to runway 31 and waited for the tow plane. This time around, my takeoff was a bit better but as soon as we got off the ground, I noticed that the air had become a little choppy. Once we cleared 700 feet, it was nice and smooth again.

This time, Jim used most of the tow watching me practice the low tow position, steering turns, and boxing the wake. Unfortunately, I never was able to complete a full box because the tow pilot thought I was attempting a steering turn, so I'd just fall back in behind him until he leveled out and try again.

The tow went very quickly and before I knew it I was pulling the release at 5000 feet.

The bulk of this flight was spent on zig-zag 90 degree turns at a 45 degree bank angle, steep (60 degree bank) turns, and imminent stalls. I was feeling pretty good about things until Jim demonstrated how he could hold the 2-32 in a stall by using lots of rudder force to pickup the wings as they tried to drop. The recovery from that stall was more dramatic that I expected. We did a fast nose down to pick up speed and the pulled out and into a turn. Let's just say that my stomach was a bit surprised. Nothing happened, but I felt a little iffy for 30 seconds or so.

We practiced a few more turns and Jim kept bugging me about my poor rudder conrol rolling into and out of turns. I'm mostly convinced that I neede to move the rudder pedals in the 2-32 one notch forward next time I get in. I kept moving the rudders without trying and that tells me that they were too clsoe to me.

Before long, we were descending thru 1700 feet and it was time to enter the pattern for runway 24. (Yes, we agreed in advance on the runway to use.) The landing went quite a bit better this time and that boosted my confidence a bit.

Cleaning Up

We parked the glider and caught up on a few administrative details while Jim quizzed me on a few more questions, mostly related to stall speeds, angle of attack, and so on.

We agreed to meet next Thursday morning for a few more flights. He'd like me to fly one normal flight to practice full stalls and turning stalls. Then we'll probably fly several shorter flights so that I can practice pattern flight and landing.

All in all, it was a good morning. I can feel myself inching toward better piloting skills.

Posted by jzawodn at December 15, 2002 12:41 PM

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