Sunday, June 29, 2008

As it should be...

Friday was one of those aviation days where everything goes right.

The morning started around 9am with a presolo student in a 172. He has been making steady progress in the pattern, and now can reliably deliver himself to the threshold on speed and in configuration. The flare itself is eluding him, but it won't elude him for long at the rate he's going.

The flight school was having a pizza party, so he and I ate and talked with some other pilots, good airport bum time. But it was time to go: I was headed to the gliderport in my club's Archer. Heading from business-on-the-airfield to business-on-the-airfield, is there any other way to go?

The flight was just miserable, steady turbulence and lots of up-and-down drafts, so I had a big smile on my face when I landed. It was going to be a good soaring day.

(In a power airplane, you blast through the thermal, each one giving you a little slam. In a glider, you circle inside at least some of the thermals. The turbulence comes from passing through the thermal, not from being in it.)

We got my Jantar ready and I launched. The tow was rough, and once I was very surprised to see that I was above the tow plane but in its wake. WTF? The tow pilot thought that I had released in one of the bumps, so started to descend with me attached.

I had a student due at 4pm, and I kept calling down to see if he had arrived. "No sign of him, enjoy your flight," Adam reported. Brad was in the 1-34 and we thermaled together for a quite a while.

But I had more than enough altitude to explore, and headed north. I got about 10 miles from the airport, still above glide path, alternating between dolphin flight and circling. I called on the radio; André still wasn't there. But I did not not want to stray too far.

André finally arrived, but said that it would take some time to get ready, so I began to circle the field well above pattern altitude. I headed south to a thermal, then made a high-speed run back to the airport to see how André was coming with the Blanik. It hadn't moved yet, so I did a chandelle and headed back to the thermal. Another run to the airport ended in a pair of steep turns, then back.

Finally I saw the Blanik moved and headed in to the airport. I ran the speed up to 90 but was only sinking at 2 knots, and even found some zero sink. I was way too high for the downwind, so I did a big wide circle around the airport to enter downwind, still a little high. Gear down, dive brakes out, a nice pattern and an absolutely rotten landing. Yucko.

André is post-solo but it had been a few weeks so I wanted to ride around the patch with him in the Blanik once before sending him off. He flew the pattern well, so I had him take a high tow and headed to the FBO for an ice cream. We watched him release, right in the thermal I had been working, so I was sitting in the FBO office for a while enjoying the ice cream.

When we came back out he was entering the pattern. He had not been able to stay in the lift. Since the tow pilot had left, he was done for the day.

We put the Blanik away and I headed back to the Archer for the flight home. I took off at 8pm, exactly, and ended up with a 12 hour duty day by the time I landed. Charter regulations limit pilots to 14 hours, and I have gone longer on ferry flights, but on autopilot in the flight levels is less work than centering a thermal, so I was pretty tired.

On paper, it was a lot like a charter pilot day: 12 hours of duty, 5.2 hours, 10 landings. But, I flew four types in two categories, and I really flew, rather than sitting back and drinking coffee.

One more thing. A charter pilot would have been paid, and while the students paid a little for my time, I still had to pay for the Archer, so there was a small net loss. But who cares? I did it for fun, after all.

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