Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some days are diamonds…

Nope, I didn’t achieve a gliding goal, I’m referring to the next phrase – “some days are stone.” I was duty pilot again on the weekend and my only goal achieved was to barely keep things operating on a busy and very hot and sweaty day. I didn’t even get to fly myself which is a bit of a pattern for duty pilot days.

I attended an extraordinary general meeting at the club on the Saturday evening to help make a quorum for a vote on the club buying a new ASK-21 (which vote passed successfully). The club’s two metal IS-28s are essentially either unserviceable (awaiting parts) or life-expired. Now with the club’s only K-13 in the workshop (and the previous K-13, which would have required extensive work to bring it back to flying condition, sold), the shortage in two-seaters exposed the need to keep the fleet current and supported.

The current ASK-21 has been popular and resulted in a jump in use. Plus they are pretty bullet-proof, benign, so a good trainer, rarely subject to ADs still being made, have been around a long time, but still look modern.

I think this latter point is important for air Experience Flights (AEFs) and trainee pilots. While I learnt a lot flying IS-28s, I never liked the look of them – like a cross between a vintage car and a Russian tractor. Lord knows what an AEF would think of it. And while the K-13 is a pretty aircraft and nice to fly, it looks like a world war one vintage plane.

I think the ASK-21 is the right way to go for a glider that will be used potentially for training as well as air experience flights.

I slept overnight in the clubhouse ($8.00 – bargain expect for the mossies) but it was a hot uncomfortable night. However, it helped me to be there for duty pilot duties the next day without having to drive more than a hundred kilometres late at night and early in the morning.

It was one of those days – hot – about 35 degrees and incredibly humid, with a building sky threatening thunderstorms, there were a bunch of students, an AEF (and another who walked up with a gift certificate) and two families inquiring about flying for their kids. Along with a shortage of two-seater gliders for training and AEFs, it made for a busy day. A general absence of experienced club members meant that the workload was pretty high (experienced members will grab a car or tractor for retrievals etc) for me.

In addition, two new tug pilots were being trained and in addition to making some of the launches a little bit slower, the tug disappeared for a while over to the fuel bowsers for a new tuggie to be briefed on fuelling procedures. I gained a new respect for tow-pilots though, as one of the new guys positioned the tug just beyond the rope length from the glider, meaning I had to push gliders (complete with crews inside) forward a couple of times so I could hook up the tow-rope!

Organised a reasonable number of launches, but the day seemed to be hectic the whole time, not to mention hot. Two senior members took the DG-1000 off on a bit of a cross-country, which meant we only had one two-seater for a while, so after an hour I got Camden ground to call them back.

All in all, a busy day, not an enjoyable duty pilot experience and I didn’t get to fly myself.

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