A quick post today - out to the club for my first stint as Duty Pilot (tasks to open the clubhouse, download the weather and the club members' flying intentions, collect batteries, radios, cool drinks, camera and printer (for AEFs), then to the hangars to get out and DI gliders and then to coordinate operations for the day. I had the assistance of a senior club member for the first part of the day.
It was raining in Sydney when I left early this morning but it was clear and quite warm at Camden and by the time we were moving aircraft down to the strip Cu's were already forming. It was not going to be a busy day - 2 students plus me, an early solo pilot and a plethora of instructors.
I helped to allocate students and check flights to aircraft and instructors and logged flights, did some wing-running and retrieving (the usual stuff) and even got time for a joyride in the tow-plane (man those things are noisy). My camera was playing up so i couldn't take any photos. I had my new GPS flight logger with me but I had technical issues with that too when I tried to download my flights.
Since it was quiet, one of the instructors, R, offered to take me up for a flight or two (he's a very good instructor - good at teaching, not just showing people how to fly). After looking through my NZ and Australian logbooks, he concluded I was probably ready to solo after some tormenting, which included simulated rope breaks. I have to say I got pretty flustered and made a mess of the first rope break exercise, starting to turn back to the field when we were high enough for pretty much a full circuit, then crowding the circuit. I even started to line up for the grass 28 strip instead of 24 which we were operating on! Horrible. I got a pass on the landing and afterwards he told me he'd established a few things about me - I didn't panic, I looked out of the window and I could get myself out of trouble.
We had two more circuits, releasing at 1,500 feet, concentrating on moving in and out as conditions changed on downwind and talking about the importance of the turn to final and then he asked me if I felt ready to fly by myself, because he thought I was.
So I strapped up the rear seat harness of the K-21, got in the front by myself and the next thing I was in the air. My instructor told me he'd be watching and he'd call me on the radio if he thought my position wasn't good on downwind. Two-seaters are so light the first time you fly them alone and I ballooned a little before the tug got off the ground (though my initial position was good and low - we must have hit a little warm pocket and it went up a few feet, I then found the trim had come back by itself, probably when I was checking control movement) but I quickly got it back in position. The tow was nice and smooth, I released at 1,500 feet, took a look at the field and then made a series of turns and excursions perpendicular to the field before deciding it was time to join downwind. I made my radio call, did my downwind checks and then adjusted my position as I flew. There was almost no sink, so I extended downwind a bit until I judged it was time to turn base and then, as I turned final I realised I was a little high. I got some full brake out immediately, corrected my height and then did a half-brake final, rounded out a trifle high, ballooned just a little, settled the glider and then held off for the best landing I've ever done. A gentle kiss, stick right back by now and then full brakes, keeping the wings level and the aircraft straight and ended with the glider coming to a halt wings level and the gently leaning onto the left wing.
I let out a whoo, slowly climbed out and pushed the glider off the strip. But mine was the last flight of the day again and I waited for the two-car reflecting on meeting my resolution to go solo again before the end of May.
Now, the fun really begins.