A Family Adventure

in the mountains, ocean, and air

Emilie Sterling Day 1

April 17, 2022
Emilie Phillips

I finally got off the wait list to join GBSC (the Greater Boston Soaring Club). Tyson and I put our names down last spring. Despite signing up the line after me, Tyson is still on the wait list. Saturday was rainy, and I had other commitments. So Sunday was my first day.

Down here, Sunday was forecast to start sunny, then mid day a front would come through with chance of rain and thunderstorms. Farther north, there was a chance of snow storms overnight into the morning. At our house, the morning dawned clear and sunny. That was good, but the weather forecast for the afternoon now included hail. I scrapped my plans to arrive by Bearhawk. Instead I drove to Sterling MA first thing in the morning.

Tyson’s flight to Jaffrey

About an hour after I left home, Tyson flew the RV over to Jaffrey. He got chased home by a snow squall. Here is the report he sent me:

Barely got in and out of AFN before snow squalls hit. IFR now. Blue sky’s at NH16.
Winds are “interesting…”. Frontal type. Shifty, gusty.

Meanwhile, I arrived at Sterling where it was still sunny. The club’s season doesn’t officially start until next weekend, so things were a bit disorganized. Also not many people showed up. Thus, by the time we had a tow pilot, an instructor, and a glider ready, the clouds had started moving in. I showed the tow pilot Tyson’s message about weather at Jaffrey. He was already debating whether the winds were too strong for flying. The two glider pilots there for their spring checkout were game to do a short flight. The instructor, Eric suggested it wasn’t worth my while. The broken clouds were at ~1,500 AGL. There was still some blue showing, but he considered the highest safe tow to be up to pattern altitude. For a good instructional flight, you want to go at least 3x higher — 3,000′ — so you have plenty of time to learn the glider and do exercises on the way down.

In the end, what scuttled the day is the Pawnee tow plane failed its magneto check. Their alternate tow plane, a Bird Dog, was deemed too hard to fly and tow in the winds (10kts gusting to 15kts). I hope that sort of equipment failure isn’t a harbinger of the way the season will go. While we were putting the glider and the golf cart back away, someone pointed out a hawk overhead. The others all stopped to watch. In particular they noted that the hawk was flapping. I’m guessing they were evaluating if the hawk could find any lift to soar. I assume a glider needs more lift than a hawk.

Instead of real flying, some folks stayed to fly the simulator. I gave it a try. I have heard that rudder control can be difficult in gliders, so I focused on keeping the yaw string straight. I was ok there until I got to the landing and had to pay attention to pitch also. Then I started over correcting on all axes. Part of the problem, I realized, was I didn’t feel any accelerations. It was so disorienting that, when I got out of the cockpit, I felt dizzy. I hope a real glider is easier. On the plus side, I got some free instruction time, and an introduction to the landmarks around the airport.

The other three put the simulator to good use trying out “what if” scenarios. They programmed in today’s winds and flew it. They tried again with the tow plane dropping them off at the edge of their gliding range. They practiced a tow rope break at 500′. I headed home while they were still coming up with more scenarios.

Here’s to hoping this coming Saturday has better weather and more cooperative equipment. I’ll try to take at least one photo next time.

Links to all my training days