I headed down to Hollister today to work on my ASK-21 training. My goal was to get at signed off to fly it in time for this Thursday when I'll take Ray for a few flights. Jim is back in the hospital, so I got to fly with Drew.

We chatted a bit about my ASK-21 experience before heading out. I explained that I had a few hours in the glider and that my high stuff was already did. What I really needed was work on the low stuff. I knew that landing the 21 is a bit different, and I figured that I'd need some practice. With that, we pulled out to runway 24 to start flying.

He reminded me to call our my rope break procedures during takeoff. Of course that's always a good idea when flying with an instructor. (When flying with non-pilots, it's probably gonna freak out your passenger(s).)

Little did I know he had given me an important hint.

On our first flight, Drew popped the release at roughly 600 feet. I was a little surprised (I usually have a sixth sense about premature releases when flying with Jim, at least) but did what I had been trained to do. I flew the glider back into the pattern for a landing on runway 24.

Drew could tell I was a little surprised and criticized a few things I had done. Most importantly, I made a misleading radio call. Instead of calling a mid-field crosswind entry for runway 24, I called a crosswind entry for runway 24. I forgot to say mid-field. That means anyone in the pattern to land on 31 would have been looking for a glider that wasn't there.

I was rather annoyed with myself, because I knew that. I've done this before without any problems. Grr.

For our second flight, we launched from runway 24 again. I called my rope break procedures again. At roughly 1,000 feet, Drew popped the release again. Damn. I wasn't expecting that. I looked at where we were and realized I could fly a mostly normal pattern for runway 24, so I proceeded to do that. Except that I hadn't factored our altitude quite right. We ended up high on downwind, so I flew a longer downwind leg. That put us farther from the runway that we should have been, so I didn't need the spoilers on final until we were pretty close to the runway.

Drew and I talked a bit about what I had done wrong this time. I should have flown the angles. I hadn't followed my training on using angles to size my pattern instead of using altitude. There are a few things I could have done to correct it. I probably should have cracked the spoilers on downwind and burned off a few hundred feet. That would have solved the problem nicely.

So far, the only good news was that my landings were fine. I guess the back seat flying in the 2-32 last weekend helped me get a better handle on the proper flight attitude to use when touching down. So far I'd landed right on--close to the prescribed two-point landing (tail and main wheel).

For the third flight, I finally got it through my skull. I expected a rope break. When we were about 25 feet above the runway on takeoff, I called out "we still have runway left" to let him know that I'd land straight ahead if he pulled the release. And just as I said it, I realized that he was going to pull it. That sixth sense kicked in, I guess. I put my left hand on the spoilers and a second later, the rope popped out.

I popped the spoilers to get us down, but I pulled 'em a bit too far. I recovered from that and landed just fine. Drew asked me to just let it roll to the end of the runway and to keep "flying" it there. No problem.

His only complaint this time was my technique for opening the spoilers. He showed me an easier way and I got it. It made more sense than what I was doing. He also said that I was doing fine and didn't appear to have developed any of the bad habits that new pilots often do. That was reassuring, because I was feeling rather beat up at this point.

Of course, his job is to tell me what I'm doing wrong so that I can learn from him and fly better. But it seemed like I was getting too much wrong.

For our fourth flight, we launched from runway 6 (downwind on 24, if you prefer). At roughly 300 feet AGL, just as we were discussing the great selection of fields to land in, he popped the release again.

This time, I was fine. I made a radio call, turned us base to final, opened the spoilers gently, and landed just fine. Once we landed, Drew said something like "now you're getting it."

At this point, we had done just about every possible rope break scenario, so I figured we might actually have a normal fifth flight.

We did. We flew to 2,000 feet and released. Drew suggested that I attempt to find lift and then land when the time was right. I was largely unsuccessful at finding anything, but my pattern and landing were fine.

Back on the ground, Drew told me that I was okay to fly the ASK-21 on my own now. After the first 4 flights, I was confident in my ability to get back on the ground safely. He made the relevant entries in my log book and I took a break for a few minutes.

I chatted a bit with Dave (who I neglected to mention), the SGI visitor from Canada who happens to be a recently licensed glider pilot. He's in the San Jose area, and decided to find the local glider operation and hang out. I found that he'd signed up for an acro ride in the ASK-21.

A few minutes later, Mike and I went for a ride in the 21. Mike wanted to fly and likes flying from the back seat, so I was his human ballast in the front seat. We flew toward Fremont Peak and wandered around a bit. There wasn't much lift to be found, but it was a nice day. Rather clear. I commented that I should have brought my camera up. Doh!

By day's end, I had been up six times. Four of 'em were rope breaks. I was signed off to fly the 21. Mission accomplished. :-)

Posted by jzawodn at March 29, 2003 08:58 PM

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