Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Daily Inspector and last flight of the day

Saturday 8 May 2010

I’m finally up to date with my blog! This weekend I came out to the club primarily to finish the DI course, with hopes of also fitting in a circuit or two afterwards. The DI course was to start bright and early out at the hangars and it was a cool sunny morning. The car’s thermometer read 9˚ Celsius as a drove through the gates at 8.15am. It was quite still on the ground and I was surprised to see a partially deflated balloon on our strip. A Sydney company, Balloon Aloft, operates out of Camden and this was the first time I had seen them here. As one balloon on the ground was being packed away, two more were approaching from the south-west. Apparently there was a SW wind aloft and they were using this to come back to Camden. As I watched, a second balloon descended for a perfect landing on the glider strip.

How do they do this? The third balloon apparently missed his slot and crossed overhead at about 1,000 feet to land east of the field, but two out of the three balloons landed where they wanted to, simply using what wind there was.

Apparently, the balloonists launch things called Pibals (short for Pilot Balloons) and then track them to judge ascent rate and winds aloft. Apparently they used to do this with special theodolites combined with lights on the balloons. Fascinating.

The second day of the DI course was interesting and involved getting hands-on with two aircraft – the club’s K-13 (complete with trick airbrake handle) and the single seat Astir, carrying out DIs in small teams (there were 6 of us doing the course) complete with little “traps”, being briefed on the idiosyncrasies of the different club aircraft and then finally pulling bits off to see how they work – the tailplane on the K-13 and the tailplane and port wing on the Astir. After this (all of us passed the course) I got to sign off an independent control check of the K-13.

The course finished about 2.30 pm and I headed down with some of the participants to put my name down to fly. I ate a late lunch and then watched the gliders and power planes doing bumps (including a nice little Chipmunk). It was a lovely calm Autumn day, and warm at about 23˚ C and there was lift to be had (a couple of guys in the club’s DG-1000 had a flight just short of 4 hours), but by the time my chance for a flight came around, it was the last flight of the day. I climbed into the K-21 with half the strip in shadow and took a tow to 2,000 feet in lovely smooth air. After release I obscured the altimeter with a little suction cup provided by the instructor and marvelled at the lovely late afternoon light as I wandered about south of the strip. I concentrated on constant speed coordinated turns at 50 knots until I judged it was time to join the circuit. There were no other aircraft up at that time (getting on to 5.00 pm) so it was a calming, smooth flight, with the field in full shadow and the last afternoon sun on the Razorbacks. I managed the circuit well I thought, and after my landing the instructor (who had been having student flights all day) said “you didn’t scare me once”. He wrote in my logbook “Flew a good circuit and landing” which I was most happy with.

After the flight I stayed to pack away gliders and the tug, then carried batteries back to the clubhouse, leaving well after dark. Satisfying.

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