I headed down to Hollister for a bit of Pegasus flying today. On my first flight (1pm or so), I towed to about 4,700 feet and flew into the east hills. It was a little bumpy but I didn't really find much of anything until I got down closer to the terrain: between 3,700 and 4,000 feet. I couldn't really work it well, but I tried.
On the way back, I looked for the low thermals that few thermals that we hit on tow. I didn't find much, so I lowered the gear and headed for the pattern entry point. When I got there I found some real bumps. I decided to give it a shot and managed to stay up an extra ten minutes, going between 1,600 and 1,800 feet. It was hard, but I managed a bit of lift.
I entered the pattern mid-field for 24 and noticed a bit of a right cross-wind across the runway. As I came over the runway I had a bit of difficulty lining up on it. The cross-wind was stronger than I thought. In fact, I fought it most of the way down and the typical wind gradient was almost non-existent. But I made it down safely. It was weird having a north wind to deal with in the afternoon.
For my second flight, I took off on 31 and the wind had shifted again. I had a right cross-wind on take off, which would have been a tail-wind on 24. I towed high to play over the hills and get a feel for what the wind was doing as it blew over 'em. I didn't find much of anything interesting and came back to land on 31.
I was done flying for the day and found myself chatting with a few folks. Just when I was going to leave, Lance, Darren and I got to talking. Lance was about to go for another acro lesson with Drew, so Drew pulled the three of us into the classroom to give us a quick lesson on rolls. Interesting stuff. I need to get some lessons in loops and rolls sometime soon. Very soon.
I had the chance to fly with Charlie in BASA's new DG-1000 (we bought it form Charlie). I wrote about it earlier here.
The glider was setup in the 20 meter configuration. Our flight flight was to 3,000 feet. I got a good feel for the takeoff (with a decent cross-wind), tow (very easy on tow), and then speed control, rudder coordination, slow flight, a stall, and turns. After a bit, I came in and landed on 31. Charlie had me perform a high approach to prove that the spoilers on the DG-1000 are quite effective. I was surprised. I can't imagine ever needed to slip that glider on final.
We launched off 31 and took a higher tow to practice spins. It'd been a while since I'd done spin training but it was easy to get back into. After the spins were done, we played around a bit and then it was time to land. This time I made a cross-wind landing on 24. I landed a bit long because I wasn't worried about getting down on the ground quickly. I spend my time over the runway trying to get a good feel for how the cross-wind was really affecting our flight path. Since I don't have lots of cross-wind experience, I figured that'd be worthwhile.
After our second flight it was getting dark, so we put the glider to bed. All in all, it was a good way to spend a late hour on a Friday afternoon. I took a few more pictures of the glider, but none of them turned out as well as these.
Looking over my log book tonight, I noticed that my first flights with an instructor at Hollister were one year ago today: One flight to 6,000 feet ASK-21 63JJ and one flight to 6,000 feet in 2-32 7531, both with Gus Ponder. It was part of the pack of Discovery Flights that I went on before attending Russell's one day ground school.
This made me stop and think a bit about what I've done in the last year. I've met a ton of great people at the gliderport and have flown with a number of great instructors (Jim, Russell, Drew, Gus, Brett, Jonathon). I've helped push a lot of gliders out to the runway and have probably been pushed out as many times.
Like many of the students from last year, I started in the 2-32s with Jim, soloed in 64E, started into the ASK-21, took a check ride and got my license early this year. Then I did my back seat checkout and gave rides to a few friends. Not long after, I joined BASA, started flying the Grob, worked on one of the first Panoche checkouts, and moved into the 1-34. I even had the chance to spend a few days at Truckee flying in the other Grob and then with Steve Ford in the Duo--and I even snuck in a test flight in the DG-1000.
What a year! Nearly 200 flights. (I guess that's what comes with flying nearly every week for a year.)
But, hey... I'm not addicted or anything. :-)
Anyway, I just wanted to take a second and say thanks to everyone who's helped me along the way. Having a welcoming glider operation only an hour away made much of this possible. It's been a lot of fun and I've learned a ton about flying and flying safely. Looking around at the more experienced folks, I also see that there's a lot more great flying and learning ahead.
Today I got a chance to fly the Pegasus for the first time. That's not a bad, if unplanned, way to celebrate a year of learning and flying.
Yesterday was a rain-out. Several of us attended Russell's judgement seminar, but the weather just didn't clear up. So I headed back this morning with Joyce and Lance. The sky was very blue and there were some nice puffy clouds over the hills. It looked to be a good soaring day.
When we arrived, Drew told me that Brett would handle my Pegasus checkout. That was fine with me, since I know that Brett has actually flown a Pegasus recently. :-)
Darren, Lance, and I worked on getting 2BA and 9JH ready. I was to fly 2BA (pictured on the right) and Lance was going to take 9JH. After I got things situated, Brett came over and we talked about the glider, looked over the cockpit, and got met settled inside. After adjusting things a bit, I got a parachute on and settled in for real. While I was getting comfortable, Lance launched along with a bunch of other guys. Several of the private glider owners came out to fly: Brian (DG3), Peter (2T), Hugo (8L), and even Dr. Jack.
Sadly, none of them had found much lift.
I launched shortly after Lance landed. For my first flight, I towed behind the Pawnee on runway 24. The first 10 seconds of the tow were a bit tense, but I just tried not to do anything dramatic. I was in the air in no time. I kept finding myself a bit low on tow, so I adjusted the trim a bit after we got above 1,000 feet and it made all the difference. We towed to 5,200 feet and then I hopped off tow to get acquainted with the glider.
I spent time getting used to the speed control, trim, and noise levels. Then I remembered to retract the gear, tried some slow flight, turns, and generally just played around since there wasn't any lift to be found.
I had set a rule for myself that I'd lower the gear at 2,000 feet whether or not I was in lift. Not long after, I entered the pattern for runway 31 and landed. I landed a bit shorter than I wanted (I seem to always do that on 31) and had a very minor bounce. I managed to roll the glider all the way to the normal stopping area but couldn't quite get it off the runway. The rudder just isn't as effective at low speeds on the Pegasus.
I launched again off 31 a few minutes later for my second flight. This time I towed to 4,700 for more of the same. I remembered to retract the gear a bit sooner and had fun with figuring out how fast I could get the glider to roll. I planned to land 31 again, but a plane on the ground asked if I could switch to 24 to let some planes take off on 31. I could see at least three of them backed up and 24 was open, so I switched.
My second landing was better--no bounce. Nice and smooth. However, I again didn't hit the rudder early enough and couldn't quite get off the runway.
I took a break while others landed and decided to go up for a third, shorter flight. As I was pushing the glider back onto the taxiway, Lance called on the radio to report that he was in lift. I launched just after he landed (again) and went looking for lift under the nearby clouds. While I didn't find much lift, I did manage to find some zero sink areas. Before long, it was time to land. Again, I landed on runway 24 and this time was able to control my path better (earlier). I rolled off the runway and stopped just where I wanted to.
I recently came across one of the most amazing soaring locations: Torrey Pines. On the southern California cost, pilots fly up and down the beach thanks to the strong winds that often blow on shore. For a sample of what goes on, check out their on-line videos.
I awoke this morning to the sights of lighting and the sound of thunder. Apparently the alarm clock wasn't necessary. I showered and got ready to head down to Hollister. The plan was to do some flying in the Duo with Drew, starting around 9am. (The Duo time is to help transition into the Pegasus.)
The weather was pretty bad and I was worried that I wouldn't fly at all. But I headed to Hollister anyway and called for the weather on my way. The briefer had very encouraging things to say. Sure enough, the closer I got to Hollister, the better it got. I started to see blue around the clouds.
I arrived a bit early and went about getting the Duo ready to fly. I talked with Drew about my past Duo experience (just one day at Truckee) and we were off. We flew three "high" flights (roughly 2,800 feet given the low could bases) to work on takeoff, tow, slack line, general speed control, and landings. Then we took a break to eat while a bunch of other gliders launched.
Next we did five rope breaks. A couple at roughly 700 feet, then a couple at 300 feet, and finally one at 10 feet. The last one was a bit of hard landing, but it worked. As we were pushing the glider back toward the launch area, Drew asked if I wanted to take it up on my own. Of course I did. :-)
After a brief break, I launched and towed to cloud base (roughly 2800 again), spotted a could that should have had lift under it. But I lost a bit too much altitude getting there. I manged to stay around 2,400 for maybe 10 minutes and headed back to the airport. I landed on runway 31 just fine. I pulled the glider off for a bit and chatted with the folks who came over to see that I survived.
The sky had cleared up toward the west, so I launched again and headed that way. I got off tow at 5,200 feet and was at least 1,000 feet above the highest cloud bases. This gave me a bit of time to look at the clouds and think about what I wanted to do.
I found a nice looking set of clouds that I wanted to try in the direction of Fremont Peak, so I headed there. About half way there, I realized they were twice as far away as I had thought. I decided to take a 90 degree turn and try a cloud street closer to the airport.
It worked. I found decent lift and crossed over the airport. Cloud bases were just below 4,000 feet. As I got over near the foothills on the east side of the valley, I noticed a line of dark cloud bases heading off toward the southwest. I headed over and found abundant lift along a 6-8 mile stretch of clouds. The bases were lower, ranging from 3,500 down to 3,200, but the lift was good. I routinely saw 2 knots up. Several times, I ran the street with 4 to 6 knots up. The lift was so abundant that I make many passes at 80 knots while still gaining altitude.
When I got too low, I'd turn out of the lift, play around for a bit to get lower, and repeat the process. After a bit of time, I was joined by Lance and Darren in 9KS. They saw what I was doing and couldn't resist playing too!
We chased each other up and down the cloud street for a while until we parted ways to go off and play elsewhere. But we seemed to return to the same point a few more times. Eventually Mother Nature began calling my name, so I headed back toward the airport. The really good lift was getting too far from the airport anyway.
What a way to end the day. A 1.5+ hour flight in the Duo on a day that looked like crap. And most of the flight was spent racing under clouds at 80 knots.
Next week: The Pegasus checkout.
I just ran across an interesting discussion of the proper turnback altitude. (Actually, it's been a fragmented discussion over the last week or so in rec.aviation.soaring.) First read this paper from 1991 by David F. Rogers. Then, if you're up to it, there's a much more detailed paper that describes the math and physics reasoning behind it.
The most surprising thing to me in the first article was that power pilots don't need to practice or demonstrate much in the way of low-altitude takeoff engine failures. As a glider pilot who's planning to work on a power license, it seems rather foreign. One of the biggest accidents we train for is a low altitude rope break.
It seems that a guy in Ohio is selling his Discus 2b. That's so damned tempting. If I could find someone who wants to go 50/50 on it, I'd go for it.
Anyone wanna split a glider? :-)
Maybe I should go look at it if it's still up for sale when I visit Ohio in December.