Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Too hot to fly

9 January 2010

One of the things about being a member of a gliding club is that there's an expectation that members will "put in" to do their bit to help the club operate, rather than just turn up and fly. I've always been conscious of this and make an effort to be part of the club's operations. This usually involves arriving out at the clubhouse early to help pull gliders and the towplane out of the hangar, wash them (I haven't finished my DI course yet so I'm mostly muscle at the moment) and tow them down to the launch point and then later running around to help launch and retrieve gliders.

On this day, which was an unusually hot summer day even for Sydney, getting to about 44 degrees C (over 110 degrees F), I made the decision not to fly when I was due for my second flight, because I was exhausted from the launch and retrieve duties I took on.

By getting out to the club early (about 8.30am which requires me to leave home around 7.30am) I got my name at the top of the list to fly. Initially I was slated to fly the club's K-21, but when in my walk-around (the ABCD checks my club does before beginning the CHAOTIC check) I discovered the plane had not been signed off after its DI (this necessitated tracking down the DI-er and getting him to sign it out), so we pushed it off line and I climbed in the IS-28.

The day was heating up and the buckles and even the harness straps were almost too hot to touch. It was coller aloft but no thermal activity had been triggered yet. I took a tow to 3,000 feet
to work on my angles and circuit heights. While there wasn't lift, there was almost zero sink and so the flight consisted mostly of reviewing and commenting on the angles to the strip without reference to the altimeter, judging when to join the circuit and then doing the circuit without the altimeter. My notes indicate that the instructor thought I was flying well, speed control was good, though I joined the circuit a little early (the fault I am trying to deal with), didn't get more flap out when we hit lift in early base (about the most reliable source of lift at most glider fields) and so was then was a little steep on final, using more brake than the half-brake I want to be using. This landing, while a little steeper than ideal, was better than previous high finals I've been guilty of (where I've even needed to sideslip).

After this flight I spent hours running wings and retrieving gliders (it was so hot I couldn't pick up metal towbars with bare hands) while the day turned into a boomer, with Cu's everywhere (see the photo above - one of many I took in wonder at a sky usually blue and clear of clouds) and pilots talking of the whole sky going up and having difficulty staying within the 4,500 foot airspace close to the strip.

It was too hot to be outdoors, let alone running about in the sun. The sun had a big dark halo and at one pount I looked up and saw a strange zig-zag horizontal rainbow in the sky (I found out later this was a Circumhorizon Arc, an effect created by sun shining through high ice crystals in high cirrus clouds) - it was a strange day indeed.

The upshot was, even though it was a dream day to be in the sky, I was so dehydrated and exhausted, feeling sick and light-headed, that when it came time for my next flight at about 2pm, I declined. I'm pretty sure I made the right, safe decision.

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