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30/11/2009

Permalink 20:00:00, by admin Email , 493 words   English (ZA)
Categories: no fly day, cross-country, ASW 20

Today was going to be one of my better gliding days and only now, looking back in retrospect, I realise just what a great day it was and also just how much opportunity there was to be had. I'm still very inexperienced at cross country flying so I fly super conservatively and even though I'm learning my own limits and that of the aircraft, the weather is still a huge mystery to me.

Final glide back homeIt was the usual dusty aerotow behind the super cub, but fortunately not as bad as before as earlier that morning a water tanker had sprayed down some water over the first few hundred metres of the runway causing the dust to cake nicely in places into a firm mud. This same mud was later, during my last day in VW, to cause a bit of a problem, but more on this later.

The tug dragged me through the sky, just barely, and took me to a release height of about 1400 ft in what felt like an age; ok, it was an age. The tug used all its horses and a few more donkeys up front might have made life a little more pleasant.

I released into what felt like lift, but as I have learnt so far with Karoo soaring, down low the thermals aren't that great and there is much bumping and turbulence and finding and centering good thermals is hard.

Landing after a successful day's flyingFeeling brave and with some good height and a few clouds about I headed west, into wind and towards a farm called Meltonwald (20 km) were I was reliably inform was an airfield. On passing the farm, nice and high (2500m AGL) I didn't see anything that looked like an air strip, but any how, with lots of height I headed more north west towards Canarvon 70km away and lots of blue sky.

Day end and a hangar full of planesThings were going very well and about 40 km from Carnarvon and just out of glide of home, for some reason, I chickened out. It may have been the big area of strong sink that I hit, just as home became a marginal glide, but I did a u-turn and headed back to safety. Thinking back I should have pressed on; I had enough glide for Carnarvon, where there is apparently an airstrip (and later I found out quite a good one), but NO. Also in my mind I was thinking, hey, this is only day 3 and there will be lots of nice gliding weather ahead (a bird in hand!!)

About 10 km after doing my U-turn I found a stonking thermal and climbed to 2600m AGL and as I was 50km from home I decided to practice a final glide and stuck the nose down and cruised back at about 140 kph speeding up to about 160 kph 20 km out. I arrived back with plenty of height (560m) and speed around for a few minutes to loose this height before landing.

Thinking back, what a great 2.5 hours flying.

29/11/2009

Permalink 20:37:00, by admin Email , 473 words   English (ZA)
Categories: solo, circuits & landings, cross-country, ASW 20

The day started with the usual briefing and a caution prediction of good flying weather for the day. After giving the 20 an abbreviated clean down, as it was a little (very) dusty and little (very) dirty, after having slept it's first night outside, we towed the gliders to the launch point for some soaring.

The runways were dusty, REAL dusty, and the aerotows scary, REAL scary, especially to watch. My first IMC takeoff, the day before, actually went very well and though I was cautiously confident for today's launch, I hopped aboard with with only a few nervous tingles in my stomach, perhaps too few!

Dusty take offs Part 1
Now you see it.

Dusty take offs Part 2
Now you don't.

I got horribly out of position behind the tug during the initial blind ground run and only noticed that things were some what a miss when I popped out from behind the dust well to the right of the tug. By now the 20 was almost flying and it felt like the right wing would be clear of the bushes to the right so I kept on going. Soon I was flying, but only just and decided to get back behind the tug. I can only imagine how scary it must have looked from the ground with me slowly banking to the left to get behind the tug when I was a mere 4 or 5 feet off the deck. That left wing tip must have got very close to the ground. Not my brightest day behind the stick. Never-the-less it all worked out and I got a good tow. I found a thermal pretty quickly and was at 10000 feet MSL chop chop.

Airfield far belowNow what to do with this height? My plan, before takeoff, was only to have a good look around and to stay up as long as possible without being too daring and going too far from the airfield. The thermals were working well, but it was very very bumpy and turbulent up there as I got higher and higher over the Karoo. The good weather was more towards the north east in the rough direction of De Aar, 115 km away. I managed to get to 13000 ft MSL at one point and if I was braver I would have ventured further in that direction, but I wasn't. I was also not feeling very well and was extremely flying unfit and after a measly hour's flying I was tired, nauseous and exhausted and head back home after not venturing out of gliding distance of the airfield.

The landing was lots of fun and with the runway being over 1.5 km long and the taxi way to the hangars about 3/4 the distance down that runway one can come in very high. My goal was to roll and turn off by the hangars but I missed it with a good 300m. Oh, well, perhaps next time.

28/11/2009

Permalink 20:51:00, by admin Email , 547 words   English (ZA)
Categories: solo, circuits & landings, ASW 20

Today was the first day of my annual soaring excursion, this time to the Karoo to join the Cape Gliding Club (CGC) at a week's gliding camp hosted by them in Victoria West.

Small DustyVictoria West (FAVW) has proven, historically, to be a good place to fly out from. It is located in the dry Karoo and to the west of that annoying trough line that brings so much rain and thunder storms to the central South African interior over summer. Other good points are that it is also relatively close to home as it is only a five hour drive towing a trailer and the airfield is in a pretty good condition with three serviceable runways and a few hangars. The town of Victoria West is also a reasonable size with a few shops and guest houses for accommodation.

My day started off early and I drove straight through to arrive in Victoria West at 2 pm in the heat of the day. With some help the 20 was quickly rigged and as the afternoon was getting late, I pondered the merits of taking a late launch or not. Shortly after the 20 was rigged another guy with his Cirrus arrived and he was determined to get a flight in for the day, so I thought, what the hell, let's go for it.

The sooner I get a take off and landing at a strange airfield behind me, the better. Tends to be a little nerve racking at the best of times.

Standard Cirrus ready to launchThe sun was still nice and high when I took my 4 pm launch. The launch was however anything but fun and rather (very) scary. The runways at FAVW are dirt (i.e. pure dust) and the wind was blowing straight down the runway. The initial 20 metres of the ground run was pure 100% complete IMC as the tug plane, a 180hp Super Cub, kicked up lots and lots of dust. Some how I kept the wings level and the glider behind the tug and after a few seconds, that felt like a few hours, the 20 popped off the runway and I managed to get a slight view of the tug in front of me as she ran along the ground. As the speeds increased the visibility got better and better and soon things were fine behind the tug.

So here I am, off the ground, behind a strange tug at a strange airfield and the tow is going very well with little turbulence or bumps. Mmmhhh, been behind the tug for quite a while now, aahhhh, that felt like a nice bump. Pull the yellow knob. Darn, no so good, it's not working, oh crap, I released at like 800 feet and the runway is all the way over there.... So with my tail between my legs I land over another glider for an expensive and very short first FAVW flight.

A bit silly of me, but why did I release so low? Back home after 5 minutes behind a tug (which it what this felt like here) I would have been well over a 1000 ft and I think, with this programmed in me, and the bump, I released. Next time check the altimeter first and do nothing less than like 1400 ft AGL.

So that was day one. Interesting and FUN.

22/11/2009

Permalink 17:38:18, by admin Email , 388 words   English (ZA)
Categories: solo, circuits & landings, thermaling & soaring, ASW 20

Today was one of those exciting days at the airfield - but for all the wrong reasons.

There was a fairly strong south-westerly blowing (30 kph) and we all headed to the threshold of runway 26 to start with winch launching. It was there that we witnessed attempt number one of a Cessna C150, who was practicing circuits, trying to hang himself on runway 26R's threshold fence. Those that know our airfield are well aware that it sits high on a type of escarpment and that the runway thresholds (left and right) are at right angles and fairly close to the edge of the escarpment. When runway 26 is in use and the wind BLOWS there is often serious amounts of curl over that can catch the unwary pilot by surprise and drag them down. Power pilots can generally power out of this predicament but more than one glider pilot has landed on the wrong side of the fence.

Today our C150 friend was playing with fate. He set up a long finals, LOW, routing straight for the curl over that would greet him a few hundred metres short of the threshold. Large amounts of power (well as best as the C150 can do) were required to get him over the fence. Not satisfied with tempting fate only once, our fearless pilot friend, whom we had now determined, with a quick phone call to the aircraft's operator, was accompanied by a an "instructor", went for his second badge.

This time we all watched in amazement, you know, that weird yet fascinating feeling one has when watching say, a house burn down or those slow motion re-plays of some horrible accident on the television, as out fearless friend went for his second badge.

Weighing our Falke - Nothing to do with the C150 in this story.Again, long finals, but this time really LOW. For the first time at our airfield I witnessed how an aircraft flew finals, into a strong headwind, BELOW, yes, BELOW ridge height and thus airfield elevation. By some miracle, or with the assistance of an army of guardian angles, they some how managed to drag the aircraft over the fence and plonk it down on the other side. Whew!

Well, after that, our flying for the day was just plain dull. I had two short flights in the 20, fighting in the very very broken lift for 40 minutes of air time.

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