Monday, August 20, 2007

Glider Solo Flight

Most, if not all, pilots remember their first solo. Friday I did my first solo in a Glider. While not as memorable as my SEL (Single Engine Land) solo, it was still an awesome feeling to go up in that glider and know when to return to the airport and land.

Mile High Glider has two SGS 2-33As they use for trainers. One has almost no brakes and the other has very good brakes. I did most of my training in the one with no brakes. The 2-33 glider brakes are activated by pulling back on the dive brake handle.

For my solo flight I was in the one with good brakes. This wasn't ideal as I tend to get to the airport with a bit more altitude, a good thing right? You can always lose altitude but it is difficult to gain, since you don't have an engine. Evidently, when landing I had enough dive brake on at touchdown to activate the brakes. I immediately realized my mistake as the nose pitched down to the skid right away. I let up on the dive brake to get off the skid, but ended up stopping short of my destination point, across from the tie down.

I haven't flown the 172 since I started my glider training. My hope is that my stick and rudder skills, which are critical in a glider, will improve my SEL skills. After all landing a glider on a 3 foot wide pavement strip, and tracking on the pavement, is much more difficult than landing on a 50 foot wide runway.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Morning Glider flight

Finally got in some morning glider flights. Scheduled my lesson for 9 a.m. on a Friday. Not the best time to start as no one gets there until 9, then they get the office open, boot up the computers, call for the tow plane, etc.

Sat down with my instructor at 9:30 and talked through airport procedures, use of the dive breaks, and TLAR for landings. I was familiar with the acronym from my single engine training, but didn't remember what it stood for.

TLAR = That Looks About Right

Basically, cross from south to north at mid field, turn down wind when you are at a 45 degree angle from the ground, turn base at about 35 degrees and final at 30 degrees. The "look" of the pattern is more critical with a glider because you may not always know the elevation where you are landing, as you won't always land at an airport when going cross country.

The smooth air in the morning was great for getting my air tow skills down. I did four takeoffs and landings with only minimal instructor control of the glider.

Sunday I took another lesson in the afternoon and even though the thermals were quite active with the hot weather, 90F, I was able to control the aircraft without getting into oscillations. I think the calm air flying helped me understand the delay between the control input and the glider movement. Did three more takeoffs and landings, with stalls (at altitude not in the pattern) and slips thrown in. At the end of the lesson my instructor said that if I had my solo written complete and had done low altitude tow line break practice he would have sent me up to solo.

So, now I'm working on my pre-solo written exam, quite a bit more extensive than my pre-solo written for powered aircraft. I'll try to schedule for Thursday or Friday morning and hope to do the tow rope break practice and then solo.

I will probably break my rule about not flying if I don't have the money in the flying account. At the start of my learning to fly I set up an account that has money transfered to it on a regular basis. If there is money and I want to fly, then fine. This will be the first time I'll be flying without money in the account. But after talking with my wife, she says to just keep moving forward and get the rating. Once that is done, my glider flying should stay well within budget.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Glider Rating

I started working on my glider rating July 20th. The Mile High Gliding school has a different philosophy for training. After three sessions, I've been with three different instructors. I'm on the fence right now as to preference between a dedicated instructor or different instructors throughout the training.

My first instruction flight was with an instructor who has studied weather and currently works in a weather related company. We rode thermals for most of the session, while I worked on coordinated turns. Much more critical and harder to hold than in the 152/172 aircraft. After getting to 10,500 MSL (5,200 AGL) went through stalls and impact of the dive brakes.

My second session involved two tows and I started working on controlling the glider while being towed. Everything would go fine and then we would get a bit of a bump and I would over correct, correct again and start oscillating until the instructor would take over and tuck us right in position without any problem. The instructor talked me through the landing pattern and then took over when we were on final.

My third session was with the school's chief pilot. I would not recommend a first session with him. While you are flying with him you also get a knowledge dump. He talks the entire time about what you are doing and why. Very informative, but I would recommend this for after a few sessions so you can focus on what he is saying. Continued to work on controlling the glider when under tow. I worked the ailerons during the take off, until the speed was where the rudder and ailerons needed to be worked together. The instructor took control until we were 200 feet AGL. I did better at controlling the glider, but would still get to a point where I was oscillating left to right. Did more stalls, both straight and turning, coordinated turns at 30 to 45 degrees, and worked the dive brakes when in the pattern.

I've been trying to fly twice a week, but the only way to do that is if I fly in the afternoons when the cumulus start building. All three instructors have now recommended that I try a morning flight as it will be easier to control the glider when in the tow.