Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 4 – more circuits and some progress

Usual routine for day 4. Some classroom revision to go over what I had covered the day before and to identify objectives for today (more circuits, more tows, a spiral dive) and we get out and prep aircraft. The towplane gets fuelled, but when Tom tries to start it, he finds that the previous temporary tug pilot had left the master switch on, with the result that the battery is dead. Takes a while to get it started, and this puts us a bit behind.

I do my first real Daily Inspection (DI) of the aircraft I’ll be flying today (Papa Whiskey) and manage the find two minor faults – a crack on the rear canopy vent rail and a smallish cut on the tailwheel tire, near the rim. Neither are judged enough to ground the glider, but it felt good to find something on such a thorough and methodical DI.

I am flying with Gordon again today. My first two circuits are not real special. My tow still needs work and I get out of position in the first 50 feet. He never has to take over, but I’m working harder than I should be. Anticipating a fair bit and getting back into position, but it’s messy and worrying to me. I’m waiting for aerotow to “click” and it isn’t. On my first landing my approach is okay (it’s still a bit of a mystery as to what is happening and when, especially judging the descent), but for some reason I balloon. Gordon thinks I applied some backward pressure on the stick after the roundout, but I don’t remember doing it. Tom (who as tuggy, had watched the landing from the ground) later said that it had looked excellent until, at the last moment, I had closed the brakes! I don’t remember doing this, but there’s no doubt I did!

In the second tow I’m a lot better, but we bung off very early – at about 700 feet agl, (the tow plane has a problem that needs to be fixed) so we have an abbreviated circuit which is a bit messy – Gordon’s comment “not good”. I’m still not judging descent properly and managing brakes.

After lunch, when the tow plane is sorted out, I have a longer flight with Gordon.

On this attempt I am supposed to box the tow (getting deliberately out of position to the left and right and then moving up and down – showing control of position). I make a royal mess of this. I can get out to the side, but when I try to drop down while out to the right, I can’t hold it out there, and I end up back in line with the tow-plane! A second attempt is no better. More work needed

We thermal for a while, getting up to cloudbase, which is something special – seeing the whispy clouds getting closer and some graying around the cockpit – very cool. I’m happy with my thermalling and so is Gordon. There is a single seater out and we watch as he comes to join our thermals. We cross in front of his nose on our way out to do some stalls but he doesn’t see us. We give him some more room then perform the HASEL check, before trying some stalls. These go well and we follow it with a stall and spin, booting rudder over as the aircraft stalls, but my recovery is almost too quick and the spin (though I let it develop into a full spin, soon becomes a spiral dive. I try another stall off a steep turn, but again I catch it almost too early, but my recoveries are good.

My approach and landing are pretty good (though still requiring some input/advice from Gordon) and this time, on roundout, a gust of wind causes me to balloon – I don’t do anything stupid and we get down fine if a little long. I need to concentrate more on steering with the rudder on rollout.

On my last three circuits my tows get better – with the last one being near perfect (I was concentrating so hard on my upcoming landing that I forgot to be anxious about my tow!). Landings are getting better but still not good enough. My last one it starts to make some sense and I control my descent and speed much better. Some study tonight, and maybe I’ll iron out the kinks tomorrow.

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