Friday, May 27, 2016

Flying Solo

Today was a strange day's flying - 6 flights using 2 different runways in increasing winds, but I had finished my day's flying before noon. It was all part of the (long) process in gaining sailplane qualifications - I'm now allowed to fly solo.  

I've spent yesterday and today doing a bunch of different things, mostly take-offs and landings. I've got to do some new things like a simulated cable breakage on tow, when the instructor releases the cable unexpectedly and you have to land the aircraft. 

We were turning round the flights so quickly I also got to take off without a 'wing-runner' (so, you start with a wing-tip on the ground and have to 'lift' it up with the control stick) and taking off directly from the grass (rather than the tarmac portions of the runway).  

All important entry in my fight log
Provided you can do all this consistently without terrifying the instructor, he authorizes you to fly solo and you then take your first solo flight. Generally, this takes place in the tandem you learned in; in my case, a club ASK 21. 

The solo flight was suitably uneventful. With the reduced weight, the sailplane takes off super quickly. In the air, it didn't feel any different (it seemed to turn just as well). I used the same landing speed but the round out seemed much more 'floaty' with the reduced weight.

I'm sure there will be moments when I miss the reassurance of having an expert sitting behind me, checking on what I'm doing, but right now I'm looking forward to some flying without a 'back seat driver'.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sailplane Changes

Vinon airport, looking down runway 16
My sailplane flying has pretty much stalled and I decided that I needed a new club and instructor. It wasn't a very easy decision, but I already know it was absolutely the right one. I've recently joined a bigger club at Vinon; they've got lots of instructors and sailplanes and I can pretty much fly as much as I want.

Antoine prepares the WT9 Dynamic
There are a bunch of new things to adapt to, including the airport. It has three runways, separated into sailplane and powered aircraft sides. This morning I flew in a WT9 Dynamic lightweight aircraft (more info here) to practice landing patterns. The club is experimenting with it to tow up sailplanes. But it's also light enough to act as a sailplane for learning purposes (e.g. practicing 'landing out'). 

Lots to read as the engine warms up
(oil temp is only 16C)
So I was able to do three touch and goes in about 15 minutes. The chief pilot, Antoine, operated the throttle and commented the patterns while I worried about the other stuff. It's the first time I've 'flown' a powered aircraft and the differences with a sailplane were very interesting. No adverse yaw (so no need to use the rudder when turning). The control stick felt very direct. Three wheels rather than one, so very different on the ground. A lot more dials, displays and switches. But it didn't feel that different in the air either...