Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 5 – Exercises

Today I fly a circuit with instruments obscured, so needing to judge airspeed and altitude by eye and ear. For the last two days I have been trying to get familiar with the landmarks around the circuit and the look of the ground from different heights, as well as listening to the sound of the wind at around 55 knots (the speed I am flying most circuits in the conditions). My instructor “bungs me off” (his instruments of course not obscured in the rear cockpit – I’d joked with him that I’d had a good look at the instruments in the front on the ground before they were covered up, and I’d memorised them!) and I start my circuit. Afterwards, he told me that my height assessment had been good, but my airspeed was way off – thankfully on the fast side rather than the stalling-potential slow side. I came in for the landing at a blistering 85 knots, instead of the intended 55! It felt okay to me and of course the main thing is we got on the ground safely.

I also reasonably successfully boxed the tow today, getting more control over the glider in the tow. Not much flying today because of the needs of other students (including a guy who soloed with a lovely landing), so we finished with a nice social fly about in the afternoon thermals. We took a high tow, to 4,500 feet, placing us over Mount Tauhara where we hoped the mild westerly may have got the ridge working. It hadn’t to any great degree, but this was another of those flights that reminds me why I’m doing this course. It is a beautiful afternoon, about 5.00 pm, clear as a bell, with Taupo spread out beneath. We work west of the Mount Tauhara ridge and find big lift, which I work to above 5,000 feet. I spot a bright pink skydiving plane (looks like a Fletcher) losing height near Taupo airport and then the instructor spots the skydivers just off our nose. Despite his directions, I can’t see them. There’s a funny thing about spotting things in the air – one observer can see something (an aircraft or a bird for instance) as clear as day, while a second person sees nothing. Many times I’ve looked at a glider in the air, looked away for a second, and then, even when I know where it should be, not been able to pick it up again. The eye’s blind spots, and the brain’s ability to fill in the gaps the eye can’t see, are remarkable when demonstrated this way – I never saw those skydivers.

Gordon suggests, instead of circling more in this thermal, we head north east, along a well-defined cloudstreet – a little quasi cross-country style flying. As we beetle along at 50-55 knots, we have almost constant 2 knots of lift, so we end up, after several minutes of flying past the club and over to the nearby river and timber mill, several hundred feet higher than we started! We land long on runway 22 – a so-called hangar flight. After getting on the ground Gordon closes the brakes and we roll and roll towards the clubhouse and hangars. Gliders really are slippery things, with the brakes in (ie closed) they really don’t want to stop.

End of the day, only three flights and 38 minutes.

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