Sunday, August 10, 2008

Airplanes and Mother Nature

The weather in Southern Ontario this summer was more reminiscent of South Florida sans the extreme heat. I think we have had thunder showers almost every day since the beginning of summer.

The glider field was being drenched thoroughly on a rather regular basis and was very wet in spots. A week ago, we were towing the glider to the starting position. I was running the tow cart trying to avoid the wettest spots when I noticed the giant white stones ahead. I initially thought they were edge markers, although I was not sure why they would use stones. Then I noticed that more stones right in the middle of the runway, set up in concentric circles. Just as my brain was about to explode trying to guess what they were for, we came close to one. It was a giant white mushroom and the beginning of runway was full of them. As soon as we put the glider into position, I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures.

A week later, we were flying in the morning when the very active weather was moving all around us. I got up twice and every time there was a wall of dark clouds and rain somewhere close to the airport. But somehow, the T-cells kept missing the field completely. I only meant to stay for the morning, but there were not a lot of people flying and instructor was available, so I signed up for another 2-flight (each instructional sign up = two flights as long as each is under 30 mins). As I was waiting, the skies around the field changed from blue to ominous black.
My turn came and soon instructor and I were fully strapped in a ready to go when the call came from a pilot above the field that one of the big cells was turning our way and we should be putting everything into the hangar ASAP.

As we got out of the glider and hooked it up to the tow cart, the rain intensified, and by the time we got to the hangar, I was completely wet. We put the gliders and tow planes in a hangar in a record time. As soon as the doors were closed (talk about good timing), the skies opened up and emptied right above us. The noise inside the aluminum-roofed hangar was deafening. Outside, there was a wall of water and hail, interrupted by an occasional lightning. Since we had to wait it out inside, and the noise made talking all but impossible, we had nothing to do but take pictures.
After a while, there was a break in the weather and some members made a run for the clubhouse and I made a run for my car, having to wade through ankle-deep puddles to get to the driver door. I got inside, put the heater on and drove home via the nearest coffee place and through the endless waves of showers, interrupted by occasional dry spells and some postcard scenery.

Gliding - the beginnings.

Last weekend, I finally made it to the glider field that I visited in May for the glider acro ride to start my lessons.

After few flights, I am slowly getting more comfortable with every phase of the flight. I now know I can plan the circuit and land. It may not be the worlds' smoothest landing, but it’ll be safe. My flying once off the tow could be better in terms of speed control and coordination, but I am working on that. I think it’ll come once I get used to sight picture and stop subconsciously pulling on a stick. I had exact same problem when switching between Cessna and Citabria as one flew in a much more nose down fashion than the other.

And after my last 2 flights, I was finally getting comfortable with the takeoff and towing. I’ll need couple more flights to feel fully comfortable, but I felt like I made a big progress compared to my earlier flights.

But flying is only part of the fun. The big difference between the glider operations and flying the airplanes out of a busy airport is the camaraderie and the grassroots nature on the gliding field. Everyone pitches in the get the glides and the tow planes out of the hangar in the morning, get them into positions, hook them up, run the wings, and put them back into hangar at the end of the day. I liked helping to hook up, running the wing and glider retrievals as much as flying. And the best part was, i could get close to the towplanes to take decent enough pictures even with my little travel camera.