Jeffrey arrived at 7:20am so we could car-pool down to Hollister. No sense in us driving separately. The ride down was excellent. There's very little traffic on 280, 17, 85, or 101 that early on a Saturday morning!
I wasn't sure what to expect. He briefed me a bit, since he'd been to Hollister twice before for lessons. I was going to sign up for their Discovery Soaring Package. That gives me 4 "discovery" flights. It's intended to give folks a feel for flying before they commit to taking lessons for real. But since I knew I wanted to fly again, I was planning to use my discovery flights as lessons if possible.
We arrived and I got to check out the facilities. They've got a nice setup. I wasn't used to seeing gliders stored outside. But, hey, the weather is nicer in California than in southern Michigan. The club has a good collection of gliders.
We met Jim, Jeffrey's instructor, and sat with him for a while to go over flight basics. I helped a few folks move gliders around and helped to launch Jeffrey on his first flight of the day. It had been 11 years since I ran a glider wing, but it came back easily.
I then got to meet Gus, my instructor for the day. I helped him pull out the ASK-21 for my first flight.
Before I knew it, I was strapped in to the glider and we were on the runway. Moments later, we were hooked up to the tow rope and ready to fly. Gus flew the takeoff and the first 1,000 feet. He then offered me the controls so that I could try flying tow for a while. I was pretty bad. I had the glider going all over the place. It was quickly clear that the skills I had developed back in High School were still buried somewhere in my memory.
Gus took the controls numerous times to straighten things out. I took time to look over the local landscape and get a feel for the area. Hollister is located roughly between Monterey Bay and a mountain range.
We released from tow at 6,000 feet and I took the controls. I spent a fair amount of time practicing simple turns, getting the know the area, speed control, and orienting myself to flying again. Gus pointed out major landmarks along the way and demonstrated medium and steep turns. He also stalled the ASK-21 to prove was a gentle stalling glider it is. I was impressed. It was a lot smoother than I remembered.
Before long, he asked me to head back toward the airport and guided me through the landing pattern. I flew the downwind, base, and most of final. He flew the last 30 seconds of final and landing.
Back on the ground, I was feeling a bit of motion sickness. My body really needed some time to re-adjust to flying again. I was also feeling rather warm. I shouldn't have worn the sweatshirt in in the cockpit. Since it was sunny and the canopy acts as a greenhouse, I was very warm. The ASK-21 doesn't have very good airflow.
After sitting on the ground for a while, helping others launch, and just hanging out, I got to go up for a second flight.
This time around, I flew in a Schweizer SGS 2-32, the primary trainer model used in Hollister. Gus explained that the 2-32's controls are bit less sensitive and figured that'd help with my tendency to over-control the glider during tow. It turned out that he was right--to a degree. Not only did I fly a little better on tow, the 2-32 has a lot more headroom in the cockpit.
It turns out that the 2-32 also has much better ventilation and airflow, I wasn't nearly as warm during the second flight.
The second flight was more of the same. I flew a bit more on tow and then practiced turns and a couple of stalls to get a feel for how the 2-32 handles. I quickly decided that I like the 2-32's handling characteristics a lot more than the ASK-21's.
Gus demonstrated a few more maneuvers including a couple of steep turns (2+ Gs of force) that made me feel sick. I again flew most of the landing. Pulling out the spoilers on final was quite a shock. With full spoilers, the 2-32 falls like a rock! The big warehouse we were flying over suddenly was coming up at us very rapidly!
Back on the ground, I felt like shit but was glad to have flown a second time. The 2-32 was clearly a better glider for me--at least while I'm re-learning everything.
Once I got back home, I still felt quite bad. It wasn't until a bit later that I figured out why. First, I had a lot of Sun. I had forgotten to take a hat with me, so that gave me a bit of a headache. Secondly, I had been flying on an empty stomach and was quite hungry. Finally, I hadn't had nearly enough fluid. I was quite dehydrated. After about 3 glasses of water and 45 minutes of laying down, I felt A LOT better. I vowed to make sure I had adequate liquids to drink next time around.
Back in High School (1990 and 1991, to be specific), I was a student pilot in the Adrian Soaring Club, flying out of Lenawee County Airport in southern Michigan. I trained with various instructors in their Schleicher ASK-13 wood and cloth glider.
According to my log book, I flew 23 times totalling roughly 6 hours and 41 minutes of time in the air. Yes, some of the flights were short--like the unplanned rope break exercise at 180 feet. It was challenging and fun. But I ran out of money before I could solo. I was close. Quite close if I recall.
By the time that ended, I was flying on my own. I'd fly takeoff, tow, landing, and everything in between. The instructors were along for the ride to make sure I didn't screw up and to help me practice more advanced maneuvers (I had a few left to learn).
Fast-forward 11 years. I recently discovered that a friend of mine at work had just started taking flying lessons--in gliders! I had always planned to get back into the cockpit someday so I jumped at the chance to start flying again.
We fly as part of the Hollister Gliding Club in Hollister, California. It's roughly a 1 hour drive south on highway 101 from where I live in the Santa Clara / Sunnyvale area.
I've started a separate flying blog to record my aviation adventures and related stuff. I may occasionally post any really interesting or important stuff in my main blog, but if you're curious about my progress, I suggest to read my flying blog.
Oh, there may be a couple bugs while I get the flying blog working. Lemme know if you see problems.