Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sled Ride

It's happened to every glider pilot: the day looks promising, but the tow is eerily smooth, and you can't find any lift even after trying every house thermal and other trick you know. You enter the pattern and land. "I got shot down," you say, or "I needed a relight." (I like the relight metaphor better because of its focus on energy.) Or "It was a sled ride."

This week's Aviation Week and Space Technology mentions the ultimate sled ride after Virgin Galactic's first test of the feathering mechanism for SpaceShip2, their commercial space tourism craft. They took a high tow, to 51,500' MSL. Then they pulled on the spoilers (the feather mechanism) and descended at 15,500 feet/min to 33,500' MSL. They didn't even look for lift: they just entered the pattern and landed. Flight time? 11 minutes, 5 seconds.

Now that's a sled ride.

A little closer to home, our glider club met last night and decided to look for a new trainer since our Blanik L-13 is grounded (along with the rest of the Blanik L-13's in the universe, including the one hanging form the terminal ceiling in Santiago, Chile). Sled rides are an important part of training, especially for newcomers learning to land. I hope we can get some soon.


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