I headed down to Hollister this morning for another 2-hour training session with Jim. I wasn't sure what he'd want to do for my first post-solo instructional flight. He suggested we do two high (~4,000 foot) flights. On the first one, I'd practice aerotow signals during tow. Once off tow, I'd cover the altimeter, practice some steep (60 degree) turns, and perform a no-altimeter landing on runway 31. On the second flight, I'd fly the low tow position until just before the release. Then I'd cover the altimeter, practice some deep stalls (45 and 60 degrees nose up), practice unusual altitudes, and perform a no-altimeter RIGHT pattern and landing on runway 31.

Flight 1

The weather was quite nice. It was warming quickly and there was little wind (as usual). I asked Jim if we'd take off from runway 24 or 31. He left it up to me, so we took off from 24. I was already quite used to flying from 31 and hadn't taken off on 24 in a few weeks. So I figured it'd be good to get back in practice. Plus, it meant we didn't have to push the glider as far.

The takeoff went well. For the first time, there was no ground fog, so I got a very good view of the fields on the other side the hill at the end of runway 24. That's good to see in case I ever need to abort a takeoff and land in a field off the runway.

After we got up a couple thousand feet, Jim took the controls and demonstrated the slow down (yaw the glider) and speed up (rock the wings) tow signals. The tow pilot picked up on them and did as instructed. Then I got to try them. It was a little odd intentionally moving the glider like that on tow, but it was pretty easy to control. After that was done, he demonstrated the signal which means "glider cannot release" (move to the side (usually left) and rock the wings). The trouble is that the tow plane thought it was a steering turn, so he began to turn. Then I tried the maneuver three or four times, but every time the tow plane thought it was a steering turn, so I had to keep aborting and getting back in formation. Grr.

The tow plane eventually gave us the "release now" signal (rocked his wings) which I mis-interpreted, so Jim popped the release. (Oops. Duh.) Once clear of the tow plane, I flew a few gentle circles to look for other traffic. The Jim took the controls to demonstrate a 60 degree banked 720 degree turn. We started aimed at Pocheco (sp?) peak, turned twice, and rolled out aimed at the peak again.

After his demonstration, I performed two or three 60 degree turns and then tried a couple of 45 degree turns too. Jim was happy with my turns and then asked me how high we were. Since the altimeter was covered, I took a semi-educated guess and said we were around 2,600 feet. He then asked me how we looked in relation to the airport. At that point I realized that we had better head back at best L/D speed so that we'd have enough altitude to fly a normal pattern and land.

As we got closer to the airport, I felt a little low but not too bad. So I made my pattern entry and radio call. After turning downwind from cross-wind, I looked down at the runway and noticed two things: first I noticed that our angle to the runway looked good, but the second thing I noticed was that we were lower than I first expected. It felt like we were around 800 feet instead of the normal 1,200 feet. So I kept that in mind as the pattern progressed.

As we flew along the downwind leg, I got a little worried and angled toward the runway just a bit. But when I go ready to turn base, I realized that we didn't have much space for a real base leg. So I made a "base to final" call on the radio and did just that. After we rolled out on final, I pulled the brakes and began a normal descent. We descended and landed pretty well.

Flight 2

My tow on the second flight was a bit more interesting. After I got 10 feet off the runway, I held my position while the tow plane climbed above me until I was in the low tow position. Then I climbed to match the tow plane's ascent rate and tried to hold that position for the duration of the tow.

Flying in low tow was odd. It wasn't as hard as I expected, but it certainly was different. Since I was looking up at the plane the whole time, I didn't see the horizon very much. That made it a bit harder to tell when my wings were level, so I found myself oscillating back and forth a few times.

After we got up a few thousand feet, Jim asked me to try a few steering turns for low tow. That worked pretty well. As soon as I began the maneuver, I realized (and said) that it was just like a wake boxing maneuver. Knowing that I had done it many times before made it that much easier.

We released at 4,700 feet and I performed a gentle 720 degree turn to clear the area around and below us in preparation for our stalls. Before the stalls, Jim reminded me to cover the altimeter again.

Jim took the controls to demonstrate what he called a 45 degree deep stall. He began by diving to pick up speed (roughly 80mph) and then pulled the nose up steadily, looking off the wings to the horizon for angular reference. (It seemed quite a bit steeper than 45 degrees to me, and he later agreed that it must have been.) The glider stalled, the nose went down, and he recovered.

Then he asked me to perform a 60 degree deep stall, so I did. I recovered with about 80mph of airspeed, which is just about right. Then he asked for two 45 degree deep stalls. Both went well.

With the stalls out of the way, we played a new game. Jim would take the controls, ask me to close my eyes, and fly the glider for a bit. Then he'd ask me to open my eyes and correct whatever he'd done. The first time he had me in a 45 degree banked turn with the nose a little high. I recovered just fine. The second time, he kept the wings level, pulled the nose high (roughly 30 or 40 degrees), and said "open your eyes and recover." I opened my eyes and saw blue sky so I put the nose forward right away to prevent the stall. Jim, said "good!" and I was happy.

I figured that'd be it for the flight, but he then asked me to close my eyes again and fly the glider. As soon as I heard this, I knew what he was up to. He wanted to demonstrate how a loss of visual references will always mess up your flying. He'd ask me to turn left, level out, turn right, and so on. Eventually he asked me to open my eyes. I did and was surprised to see the glider in a moderate right turn when I thought it was flying straight. We did that exercise one more time. After several turns, he told me to level the glider and I said, "I can't level the glider, because I can't even tell you which way it's turning." He chuckled and said, "okay, open your eyes." I did and found myself in another right turn..

Lesson learned. Stay the hell out of clouds or anything else that will kill visibility.

After that, I headed back toward the airport because we seemed to be close to pattern altitude. Again, the altimeter was covered. This time, I was to fly a RIGHT pattern and land on runway 31. I entered from a 45 degree to downwind and flew the pattern. This time I was at a more reasonable height, so didn't have to worry much about altitude. As I finished the pattern, we noticed a light cross-wind, so my landing was a little sloppy. I had not flown a cross-wind takeoff or landing yet.

Jim said the pattern and landing was good, considering that I had zero cross-wind experience. His time with me was up, but I could tell he really wanted me to fly a bit more to get some cross-wind practice. The wind picked up a bit more (to roughly 5 knots). He noticed that Russell had arrived and said he'd go see if Russell would fly some cross-wind takeoffs and landings with me while he (Jim) flew with his 10:30am student.

Cross-wind flights

I waited in the glider and after a few minutes noticed Russell heading over. We chatted for a bit, he pulled the glider out to the runway, and hopped in the back seat. We flew three cross-wind takeoff and landings (left closed traffic). The first landing was sloppy as I got used to controlling the glider more on descent and slipping when necessary. The second one was better. Russell suggested I float for a while and land long. That game me a good feel for tracking the centerline with more margin for error. The third landing improved upon the first two. I put the glider into a slip without even realizing what I was doing. I just happened. After we got on the ground, Russell told me that he was amused when, 15 feet above the ground, I commented that there didn't seem to be much of a cross-wind anymore. Apparently, if I had looked at the yaw string, I'd have noticed that there was a cross-wind and that I was slipping into it--just as I should have been.

We wanted to fly one more time but the cross-wind all but died while we were waiting for the tow plane to come over for hookup. So I called it quits for the day.

I found out that Jim had signed me off for a 7-day solo window, so I reserved one of the 2-32s for a couple hours Thursday morning. I also signed up for 2 hours next Sunday with Jim and the ASK-21. He said that he'd like to take me up in the ASK-21 next time. I think we're going to try some steep turns with full stick back. And he probably also wants to give me some experience in a different glider too.

It was intersting to fly with a different instructor (Russell) for a while. Each instructor has a different style, focuses on different aspects of flights, and so on. Hopefully I'll get to do that again sometime.

Posted by jzawodn at January 26, 2003 02:50 PM

Reader Comments
# said:

Is it a common practice for new pilots to journal their trips? I'm intrigued. It reads like naval pilots, keeping logs of a passage, noting the waters, landmarks, and ship handling.

Now aeroblogging.

on January 27, 2003 01:26 PM
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