Dylan's Flying Page

Session 4

WHEN     : Sunday 27th Feburary 2000
WHAT     : Over an hour without engine power in a Schweizer 2-33
WHO      : Dual instruction with Ken Alexander
HOW LONG : 1hr 17 minutes in 1 flight

Blanik waits for a tow The Blanik waits for a tow from the 235-hp Pawnee

  There were only three requirements for solo I needed at the start of the day - and we got two of these out of the way. The first was instruction in glider assembly/disassembly. This was basically ground schooling, looking at the various different gliders and discussing the various methods of putting them together (and important things like doing control checks afterwards!) Some time very soon, I'd like to see one assembled.

  And then onto thermalling techniques, a pre-solo requirement. We did thermalling techniques and then some. We kept the draggy old 2-33 up for over an hour. Thermalling is a lot of fun, I got a huge kick out of releasing the towline at 3,000 feet and then almost immediately finding a thermal, and climbing another 1000 feet without an engine.

  Finding thermals on a day like we had was sort of like groping around in the darkness. The day was brilliantly clear - with no cumulus buildups marking the thermals. We just had to hunt them, then start circling. The birds made a good indicator. Hawks are good at coring thermals, so it's good to watch them. Thermal rules dictate that if a glider is already in the thermal, you should make the turns in the same direction as the one that's already there. We were in a thermal at one point with four other gliders, at distances that made a loose formation! Ken told me to obey this rule with the birds, too. Apparently, the birds start squawking at you if you thermal in the other direction ("What is that idiotic big bird doing going the wrong way?" they are all yelling)

  Not only can you look for birds on a day like this (the best indicator), ground features indicate the likely areas for thermals. Dark areas such as ploughed fields and parking lots radiate heat. You can also look for other gliders to see if they are climbing. It was quite interesting to see the other gliders come to us when we found a thermal. I'm sure the logic went like 'if the 2-33 is climbing, then we'll certainly climb very well!' Knowing where the wind is coming from is important so as thermals don't rise straight up - the wind causes them to lean. Also, it's a good idea not to stray downwind of the gliderport if you want to get back home again (of course, this isn't an issue for cross country soaring!)

  After an hour of remaining aloft by solar power alone, it was time to head back since Ken had another student. Thermal activity had increased during our flight, and we had a little difficulty trying not to climb! Even green areas seemed to be giving off lift, or at least zero sink. In the end, we spiralled down, doing 60 degree banked turns to vector lift elsewhere than up. Good practise, and it got us down. I was a bit high again on base/final, but those trees sure do give me the willies!

Downtown   The flight home in the C140 was fun. I decided to come home via the I-10 corridor, which is the closest to direct route that's normally available (due to Houston's class B airspace). I called approach and got flight following due to traffic density. I also got some nice photographs of downtown Houston to cap off a very successful day of soaring. Thermal activity had died down by the time I started home, so it was a smooth ride. It's funny the contradictions I live with - as a power pilot I want nice smooth air, but as a glider pilot I like rough air with lots of thermals!

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