Well, today (Saturday 12 January 2008) it finally came together. A warmish Saturday and we drive down to Camden for the first time. While looking for the Camden Airport sign, I see a glider above us. My heart beats a little faster.
We find the club, I sign up and then we settle in to wait for my flight. Most of the club's aircraft are still out at Cootamundra at the summer camp, but there are two two-seaters doing duty for flights and TIFs - a K13 and an IS-28.
There's a few people here getting joyflights (these are being given in the K13) and students and it's not until almost 3pm before I get my flight.
First time in a glider since 25 November - more than a month and I'm feeling rusty. The weather's pretty good though - a blue day, a gentle breeze but some black stuff brewing in the south.
My instructor takes me out to the IS-28 - India Uniform Juliet and runs me through the different checks done at Southern Cross, compared with NZ.
They do a pre-flight ABCD check (Airframe, Ballast, Controls, DI), then their cockpit check is CHAOTIC instead of the CBSIFTCBE I'm used to. I take a little while familiarising myself with the aircraft, which is quite different to the PW-6 I've flown in NZ.
The IS-28 is aluminium, has retractable undercarriage and flaps and the cockpit is set out differently, more like a Soviet spacecraft, lots of metal bits. The rudder pedals are a long way away and the stick is tall. Instead of holding it in a relaxed hand down near my lap, it sits up tall.
Before launch it's flaps zero, trim set nose-down.
After launch I get to see another difference between the way they do things here and in NZ. Australia does a low tow, beneath the slipstream of the tow plane and it takes me a while to get comfortable down there.
After release, I trim for 50 knots and make some turns to get comfortable with the glider. It feels weird. The rudder pedals are a long way away, even with the seat well forward and the pedals wound back and I'm not sure I'm getting full rudder. The stick also feels clunky and almost feels like the instructor is fighting my movements (though he's not).
After a while I relax a bit and can carry out a few coordinated turns. It's very dirty and hazy outside with some dark stuff building up in the south, so the view's not up to much. My instructor tells me when it's clear the Sydney skyline and Blue Mountains can be seen, but not today. He shows me some local landmarks, including Camden.
It's a busy piece of airspace. In addition to runway Glider 06, there's also Camden's 06 for GA (lots of Cessnas, Scouts and Tiger Moths blatting about), so a good lookout is essential here. I see plenty of power planes as well as the club's K13 (below us) and an Astir from Sydney Gliding Club above.
While it's a blue day, there are some good thermals around, but I find them tricky to centre. Eventually I latch onto a good one - 5 to 10 knots, a real bump in the seat of the pants - and ride it from 2,000 feet to 2,500. It was nice to have the feeling of riding the thermal again, watching the ground and the sky, seeing an Ibis riding the same thermal, but beneath us.
We then try a few stalls and an incipient spin. The IS-28 is gentle in the stall, but a bit wicked in the spin.
We only had a half-turn in the spin, starting from a steep turn, but I remembered my bit and managed not to mess anything up.
Except for the landing... We arrived at the circuit a little high, so turned upwind to lose some height, then turned, flew downwind and made my call "Glider India Uniform Juliet joining downwind for Glider zero-six" without any hiccups. During downwind checks, I discovered I'd never retracted the landing gear after release!
Flaps are set in downwind, gradually, aiming for full flaps by final. This was the acid test, judging when to turn in and then making a decent landing. My turn in was okay (maybe a little high) and with a bit of a crosswind I felt I struggled to get lined up right. My speed control was a little wonky and I had much the same problem here as I did in NZ - my speed creeping up in the approach, to about 60-65 knots (about 10 knots too fast). Accordingly I had a couple of bounces on landing. 35 minutes aloft.
A bit of a disappointing end to the flight, I still have some work to do to get back to where I was 6 weeks ago. No chance of another flight that day - a queue for the aircraft and the sky lookign threatening.
Oh well, I have paid for 5 flights, I have 4 left and if the weather cooperates, I'll get back there as soon as I can.