A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Gliding update

May 24, 2022
Emilie Phillips

The Greater Boston Soaring Club has this great checklist for students. It has lists of tasks and check boxes for levels of proficiency. I have been trying to check off all the boxed need for solo flight. Saturday May 14th I got in two flights, though I had to wait from 10AM until 6PM for my second flight. Then I got two more flights on May 24th, a mid-week afternoon dedicated to instruction.

On the tows, we boxed the wake. This is an exercise to demonstrate control while being towed. You fly a rectangle around a normal tow. I need to remember to keep outside pressure when flying up the left side and down the right side. The tow rope pulls you towards center. At the sides, you should see the tail wheel and the main wheel of the tow plane lined up.

We practiced handling slack rope. You can end up with slack rope if you aren’t paying attention and let the glider dive relative to the tow plane, or cut corners. I think it can also happen in turbulence. The problem isn’t the slack, the problem is the hard jerk when the rope goes taught again. That can break the rope or it can send you careening off in a new bad direction. Two different instructors taught me two different approaches to handling slack.

The key to both approaches is to fly almost at the tow plane’s speed. That way the slack is very gradually taken up. One instructor taught to point the nose slightly away from the tow plane so that when the rope goes tight, it first rotates the nose back in line and then pulls the main mass of the glider forward. The rational is it reduces the acceleration on the glider.

The second instructor said to focus entirely on slowly taking up the slack. Make sure the nose stays pointed at the tow plane when the rope goes tight. Why? Tow ropes can attach either at the nose or at the CG of a glider. With a CG hook, the rope won’t pull the nose towards the tow plane. The glider will go shooting off in the direction it was pointing. A lot of modern gliders are made with CG hooks, so it is better to learn a technique which will work for them.

There isn’t much new for stalls. I need to remember to wait longer for my speed to increase before finishing the recovery. You can’t push the throttle forward like in a power plane. The instructor’s concern was that I would immediately stall the glider again.

Lastly I worked on landings. One instructor had the insight that a proper landing attitude in a glider is the same as a wheel landing in a tailwheel airplane. On my way home in the RV4, I tried a wheel landing and bounced horribly. Clearly a weak point in my skills. Since then, I have been practicing one wheel landing at my home field before flying the 10 minutes to Sterling.

I got a lot of check marks on my spread sheet, but at the end of the day when people asked if I was having fun, the answer was kind of “no.”

I emailed Taylor, my club mentor, looking for advice. When forced to put my thoughts into words, I identified two sources of discontent.

One of my goals of joining the glider club is that it is necessarily a social activity as a club. I haven’t found good social connections with the pilots we usually fly with. This is partly because I’m not interested in talking about engine specs. It’s also because social norms say a guy can’t be friends with some other guy’s wife. And since I know of exactly 2 other active female pilots, that isolates me from the group. Unfortunately, the soaring club is proving to be even less inviting. It’s all old white guys. Half of whom seem to think I am a college student. Taylor didn’t have any suggestions here, and he’s one of the younger ones in the club.

The other issue is that I wanted to learn how to soar and how to play with air currents. That list of requirements to solo is about whether you can safely fly a tow and safely get back to land. I have been trying to get through as many of those requirements as fast as possible. Once I get to soloing, the real fun would start, right? I pondered in my email, what if I didn’t limit myself to the soloing checklist and instead asked instructors to focus on soaring technique. Would I have more fun?

I’ll let you know in the next update how that went.

Day 2

GPS track from the InReach mini which only logs every 10 minutes. That’s far too infrequent to capture turns around a thermal.

Day 3

More frequent GPS track from open street maps on my phone.

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Comments (2)

  • Tracking with the inreach. You can set the tracking rate to finer than 1 per minute, but these are not transferred to the inreach server until you “sync” the unit. If I really want the data, I sync while on cell-service instead of waiting for wifi access.