Monday, June 20, 2016

Flying Over the Plateau de Valensole

Valensole and lavender fields
For the last 6 years or so I've been flying my paraglider in the mountains. But my new sailplane club is situated in pretty flat terrain (it's about 40 km to the mountains) and I find the lack of obvious lift sources a bit intimidating. Today started off blue all around the airfield (although cumulus clouds were visible in the distance) and that made things seem even worse. But I took off at the end of the pack and slowly built altitude as conditions improved. 

I flew over the Luberon for about an hour before coming back to the Plateau de Valensole. By then there were plenty of little clouds and the flying was pretty easy. I cruised around and took some pictures before landing back at the airfield for a flight of just over 3 hours.

Some pics

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Old Renaults

In addition to the normal St Andre market, we had a 'brocantes' (somewhere between antiques and junk) market today. The thing that got the most attention was a little exhibition in the main street of a couple of old, lovingly restored, Renault cars. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

First Single Seater - Mike Lima

I'm now flying a single seater sailplane. It's an Astir and it's the most basic single-seater at my club, but even so it feels quite different from the two seaters I've been flying up to now. The controls are more responsive - when you move a pedal, the rudder moves immediately while on the ASK 21 it feels like a long line of elastic is slowly stretching before the rudder moves. It seems more pitch sensitive - a small change in pitch produces a bigger change in speed than I'm used to. Overall, it's more responsive and needs to be flown more accurately - even if the raw performance numbers like glide ratio aren't hugely different. 

It has very low wings, and this gives a lot of ground-effect when landing. You need a delicate touch to hold it just above the ground on the round-out and you use up quite a bit of runway. It's easy to find yourself climbing when you wanted to be touching down...

Dashboard with vario suspiciously stuck at 0.5 m/s
The dashboard is suitably basic but adequate except for the vario. Varios on sailplanes are more complicated than those used in paragliding; they are compensated to ignore altitude changes due to airspeed changes (you can easily climb 100 meters when slowing from cruising speed to circling speed). It's hard to get this compensation right on a mechanical vario and I'm less convinced by the Astir's vario than those on other sailplanes.  

As is common in 'learning' sailplanes, the vario makes no noise. Experienced sailplane pilots climb more 'by feel' rather than by using instruments. But my feel isn't good enough yet and I'd much rather have some beeps and keep my attention outside rather than to look at the dashboard every couple of seconds. Hopefully my feel will improve fairly quickly...