I headed down to Hollister today with a 11:30am glider reservation. I hoped to go fly around a bit and just celebrate the fact that I now have a license. The weather in the South Bay sucked but things looked a bit better south. At least, they were supposed to be better. So I headed down around 10:15am.

The closer I got, the clearer the skies got. Once I was out from under the low (1,500 feet) overcast, I got to see the Sun and realized that it might shape up to be a pretty good day.

Part way there, it occurred to me that if there were any instructors free, I might try to get one to sit in the front seat while I worked on flying from the back seat. I figured I'd need a few days of that to get checked out, so why not start soon?

After I arrived and found a glider to use, I began the preflight only to find out that someone else needed it for a ride. Doh! There was another 2-32 on the ground, but it's one that I've never seen fly. I asked around and nobody knew if it was flyable. I had to find Drew to find out.

Drew was up with a student in 64E, so I hung out for a while, waiting for them to come down. I was hoping to either steal their ride (assuming they were done with it) or find out that the mystery glider was flyable.

It turned that the mystery glider was not flyable and they had several more flights planned. So I decided to hang out and see what developed. Surely one of the 2-32s would be back. The others (87R and 7531) were up for rides. I took some time to eat my lunch.

Eventually, Gus brought 7531 back from a Monterey Bay ride and I asked if he was done with it. He was, so I commandeered it for my solo flights. I ran into Drew again just before I was ready to launch. I asked if he had any instructors free that I could have in the front seat (hoping he might be). Instead, he suggested Russell or Gus. It turns out that Gus was free--with a minor schedule adjustment. His next ride was at 2pm, so that gave us a little over an hour to work on my back seat checkout.

Part One

First things first, I had to install the control stick and the airbrake handle in the rear seat. Having never done that before, it took a few minutes. Once that was done, we took off into the increasing wind, planning to take a 3,000 foot tow so I'd have time to get used to flying from the back set before needing to land.

The tow was interesting. The view from the back is rather different. With someone sitting in front, I don't get a very good view of the tow plane. But being closer to the wings, it's easier to notice when I'm flying level or not. And having more of the nose in front of me makes it a bit odd too.

Once off tow, I tried some medium turns and then a few steep ones. It turns out that flying from the back set isn't bad at all. (Landing proved to be a bit more challenging--as expected.) Having all that extra nose to look down makes speed control a lot easier. I more readily notice small attitude changes.

Once we got down low, the pattern looked a bit busy, so Gus suggested that we land on runway 31. That meant having a 5-10 knot crosswind. I needed more crosswind practice anyway, but hadn't planned on getting it in the back seat.

I liked the idea of landing on 31 anyway. Being over a mile long, I figured that having all that length might make things easier on my first back seat landing.

My first landing from the back set was... uhm... interesting. It wasn't bad. I had the controls the whole time. But it wasn't the most pretty sight you're likely to see.

We flew two more and I got a bit better each time. Since I needed the practice, we kept landing with the crosswind on 31. After that, Gus went to fly his ride. Drew mentioned that if I wanted to stick around, he'd fly with me later in the day. Since I wasn't in a hurry, I agreed.

Part Two

After I hung around for an hour or so, Drew told me that Russell was available to fly with me for a bit in 64E. We flew four flights off runway 24 and landed on 24 each time. Having a headwind made it quite a bit easier to land, but I was having trouble with my flare. Each time, I managed to flare a bit too high. I was working to develop a good feel for how high it looks from the back seat, but I wasn't quite getting it.

On one fight we had a mishap with the radio and my not paying close enough attention to the pattern. A Mustang was landing in front of us (to my surprise) and another glider was coming right in behind us. Oops. Lesson learned. Pay more attention when it gets crowded. The funny thing is that I've been in crowded patterns before and have never had a problem. What was different this time is that someone was with me. I had a distraction inside the cockpit--and I was distracted.

On one of the other flights, I thought I was getting better about my flare, but I managed to land the tail first. Doh!

The other two were pretty good. I was making minor adjustments and getting closer to what I needed to do. But I wasn't quite there yet.

Part Three

Russell was ready to fly with someone else, so I got the chance to do three more pattern flights. My first one was a little sloppy. Came in a bit too high and didn't adjust my glide very well. I flared a bit too late on landing. I guess I was over-compensating. But the second and third landings were pretty good. In fact, the third one was good enough that Gus didn't have to say a word and I knew it was good when we touched down. I hadn't flared too early or too late.

That was enough to convince Gus that I probably know what I'm doing from the back seat now. When signing my log book, he put a "back seat checkout -- OK for SGS 2-32" entry next to my last flight.

So... If I want to take a passenger up on a flight, s/he has the option of sitting in the front or back now.

Not bad for a day's flying.

Next up: getting checked out to fly the ASK-21 solo and/or from the back seat. And sending in my BASA application.

Posted by jzawodn at March 22, 2003 10:18 PM

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