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26/09/2009

Permalink 06:10:05, by admin Email , 399 words   English (ZA)
Categories: solo, thermaling & soaring, ASW 20

Again not a promising looking sky; though there were lots of clouds about, they mostly looked like they had blown in from the south west pushed by a 20-30 kph wind from the coast far away.

Visiting Cessna CitationThe weather report had also advised that there was some bad weather pushing in from the sea and that the motor gliders were advised to return for home this afternoon, asap. This, sadly, would cut our gliding camp short.

The Motor Falke went up scouting for a good hour and came back reporting that there was lots of lift about, but it was extremely bumpy and turbulent.

The wind was blowing and I was the only volunteer for a tow. What following was probably the bumpiest aerotow that I have ever experienced. The work load in the cockpit was HUGE, watching the tug for even the slightest change in height as we flew through some very rough areas of sink and lift. More than once I watched my PDA's wiring and other loose bits, like the hose from my water bag, rise up along side my head under the effects of negative g-forces.

Our destination was a ridge 8km upwind and I released as planned on the other side. I again had problems calling my release to the tug and wasted precious moments speaking and listening on the radio over and over. Again: Aviate, navigate, communicate. It was extremely bumpy behind the ridge where I managed to find much more sink than lift. Within two turns I had dropped below ridge height and decided to high-tail it back for the airfield. I blasted through most the sink on the way back at 150kph and arrived high enough for a circuit onto 33.

HangarDuring my circuit planning I noted that the tow-out vehicles were still parked in the middle of the runway on the threshold of 33. The people on the ground may not have expected me to be back so soon, I beat the tug back, but they are all experienced glider pilots and should have had the presence of mind to move the vehicles.

I flew in and flared over them, but it wasn't ideal as I again hit some nasty wind gradient just before flaring. Anyway, again some good lessons learned, i.e. staying behind a bumpy tug, bugging out and heading for home before it was too late and aviating before communicating.

25/09/2009

Permalink 14:14:37, by admin Email , 464 words   English (ZA)
Categories: no fly day, solo, thermaling & soaring, ASW 20

Day 2 - Friday

Day two was a whole lot more relaxed than the rush of the previous day, what with driving to Graaff-Reinet, rigging the planes and so on.

The weather looked promising in the morning but pretty soon some nasty inversion took over and the small cu's that had formed disappeared. Later that afternoon a light south easterly picked up and I hoped into a Falke with one of the experienced pilots to go scout the ridges.

Once I was in the air, and with the luxury of an engine, I managed, for the first time, to have a good look around at the ground close to the airfield to look for landed spots should there be a low eventually behind the tug. Should runway 20 be used there is lots of nice open ground just before the dam, so that is good. Should runway 02 be used it does look a lot less favourable. Not far away are some fields but they are small and fenced off - Not so good. Should runway 33 be used there is some bushy flat land just north of the runway. Not ideal but one should be able to put the plane down without damage to one's person.

So once we were back on the ground we all organised the gliders, hoped into and were towed to a nice ridge 15km away downwind (like 10 to 20 kph so nothing serious).

Soaring some serious ridgesI spent the next 1.5 hours having lots of fun exploring the different faces of this ridge and even hoping over to another ridge close by to experiment. I got in some quality time with the 20 and enjoyed myself. When the day started getting later and the sun started to set the wind slowly died down and me and the remaining guy on the ridge headed for home.

The circuit was interesting an challenging. The other guy got there about 1km ahead of me and about 400 feet higher and I decided to hang around and give him space to land, though I did request him to land deep (never happened). All this was made more fun by an impatient motor glider that wanted to depart and that by the time I had turned base (like 300 ft) the other glider had just rolled off the runway. This gave me place to land shallow and I did a great job of just skimming over the runway lights on the threshold for my first landing on tar. It went off well and I ended up having plenty of place and let the glider roll as far as possible down the tar on its own steam.

Though not the successful thermalling day that I had hoped for, I still got in a good aerotow, some nice ridge flying and a great (crowded) circuit and landing.

24/09/2009

Permalink 15:06:00, by admin Email , 812 words   English (ZA)
Categories: no fly day, solo, circuits & landings, ASW 20

Thursday was a public holiday and a few of us got together, a few weeks back, to arrange a flying weekend (away camp) at the nearby Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet which is about 250km by road. It was a little early in the season so the weather would be a big gamble as to if it would be soarable or not.

Graaff-Reinet Airfield FAGRI spent two Saturdays, in previous weeks, sorting out a few small things on the ASW20 and come Thursday morning the plane was nicely boxed up in her trailer and we were ready to hit the road. We left early 7:30am Thursday morning for the +- 3 hour drive there and after arriving we all helped each in rigging the four gliders. A very long 3 hours later we were ready to fly. None of us had previously flown out of GR and sadly the organisation as to runways to use, radio frequencies, radio calls, where to fly (and not) and contingency plans was pretty much neglected and left mainly up to the individual pilots.

Day1 - Thursday

GR has a nice long (1.5km) tar runway that is 30m wide and points 02/20 with a shorter (about 800m) cross gravel runway, 33/15 and airfield elevation is 2550 feet. There are some lowish runways lights spaced about 40m apart on the tar runway that need to be considered when rolling the glider off the runway after landing. The windsocks are darn difficult to see from the ground and impossible to see when sitting in a glider on 02. They are also darn tricky to spot from the air unless you know exactly where to look. Runway 33 is surrounded by some high bush (say 2m or so) and this creates some serious wind gradient when landing (I found out about this the hard way).

My first aero-tow was from 02 with a complete 90° cross wind blowing lightly at about 5-10 kph. This was the second launch of the day after the previous glider not finding any lift and slowly gliding back home. For my first launch at GR I sat behind the tug and though the wind was cross, I had no idea what lay beyond the far threshold of the runway and I couldn't see the windsock I was surprising relaxed. This, I thought about later, was a seriously shitty attitude and may have also helped with the fact that I missed one of my pre-take off checks. Thankfully for an ASW20, it wasn't serious. One bit of information I did know it that one of the other pilots had inspected the cross runway, which was in a good condition, and I at least knew I could land there.

The cross wind aero tow went of beautifully and I just manged to keep her from dropping back onto the deck when she popped up and immediately crabbed straight into the cross wind (all by herself). The tow was uneventful until right near the top of my tow where I must have lost concentration and got badly out of position, and elected to release. I then radioed my release to the tug and for some reason the pilot didn't hear the call and, so I later heard, continued climbing for another 1000 feet or so.

Rigging the 20I found a weak bump and started to work it, but I was slowly drifting downwind of the airfield (GPS said 40kph wind at about 4500 MSL). Never-the-less I managed to gain about 500 ft or so before I headed back up wind and over the dam. I have got to say that though the dam is not that big it's the biggest body of water that I have ever flown over and it felt really nice. Anyway, over the dam I picked up a very weak and broken thermal and started to work it. After 2 turns or so someone from the ground started calling me on the radio asking all kinds of questions. After trying fruitlessly to understand the call (twice) I briefly radio for them to shut-up (nicely) but by then it was too late. I had lost the thermal, was getting low and needed to land. NEXT TIME I TURN THE VOLUME DOWN!

The circuit planning went off okay for runway 33 (the gravel one), though I did turn finals a little late and low and due to the headwind only came in with like 1/3 brakes. About 5 metres up I got a huge scare as suddenly I was dropped and I shut the brakes immediately also pushing the nose down (later I figured out that this was due to the wind gradient caused by the bush shielding the runway from the wind). So now I was low and had no brakes and needed to float down the runway very slowly and carefully opening the brakes to about 1/3.

In the end this flight (including tow) ended up being 25 minutes and afterwards I had plenty to think about.

20/09/2009

Permalink 21:49:00, by admin Email , 108 words   English (ZA)
Categories: solo, circuits & landings, ASW 20

We are planning a gliding camp to Graaff-Reinet for the coming long weekend so most of today was spent getting in some valuable aerotow experience. I only took one tow to circuit height and then landed.

Working on the 20Very late in the day some guys found some very nice wave over the Lady Slipper and soared there until just before sunset. If was apparently really GOOD!

So after all of this, the gliders were boxed and everything prepared for our trip to Graaff-Reinet the coming Thursday. It was a late day and I only left the airfield after 7pm. Today's cost, yet another aerotow and some brief time in the 20.

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