Tuesday, October 7, 2008

“Congratulations, you are now a glider pilot”.

By the end of September, I was making enough progress in my solo flying that I started thinking about the flight test. I had accumulated 17 of the 20 required solo flights, and as a licensed power pilot, I was spared the need to pass a written exam, so the only 4 things that stood between me and the glider license were 3 more solo flights and an actual flight test.

Oct 4 started with two solo flights in the two seat all-metal Blanik glider that I would be using for the flight test. Dual followed with the instructor who then recommended me for a flight test, which I had arranged to do the next day, Oct 5.

I then switched back to Junior for my solo #20, had a nice flight, landed and wanted to head home, but decided to be helpful and put the glider in the hangar if no one wanted it. Instead, people on the line told me to fly it to the hangar. Solo #21 went fine all the way till I stopped in the middle of Rwy a short distance away from hangars and had to be rescued. We then discovered someone else wanted the glider and back to the line we went.

Having done 5 flights that day, I was starting to get tired and attempted to go home again but one of the members offered to take me up in club’s DG505 – the glider that I did my aerobatic intro back in May. That offer I could not refuse and soon we were up in the air. It was nice to have someone else flying and just be up, have a nice conversation and stare at the world passing by. It would have been even nicer to have lift, but alas, one can't have everything. After that flight was over, I did go home as I still had to do the last minute preparations for the flight test.

Oct 5 came and I was on the field bright and early pulling out the glider to be used during the test, making sure everything checked out and all the documents were in order. The test consisted of the ground knowledge test and two flights. We got the ground portion out of the way quickly and soon were getting ready to take off.

As examiner was briefing me on the sequence of events in the test, I kept looking at the windsock wondering why it was showing that we would be taking off with the slight tail wind and the cross wind. The answer soon came when the field manager indicated we would be taking off from Rwy 36 but landing on 21 – just what one needs on a flight test!

Climbing up to 4,000 ft height for flight #1, I had another challenge as we were making tighter than usual turns trying to pick our way up around the clouds, so the tow was more exciting than usual. Despite the challenges, I was actually enjoying the experience. We did all the required sequences, I joined the circuit for the Rwy 21, flew it well, did a nice cross wind landings and then turned off the wrong way, realized it, recognized it was too late to correct and ended up sitting in the middle of Rwy. D'oh!

Second flight was to a lower height and the only two major exercises were steep turns and spiral dive plus I was supposed to do a short field landing. Having done the exercises I joined the circuit and concentrated on doing a nice landing AND turning off the right way. I flared just ahead of the touchdown point, touched down shortly thereafter and turned off well before the stop point – a good landing. “Congratulations, you are now a glider pilot” - came from the back seat.

This was flight #46 and exactly 2 months since August long weekend when I had my first dual lesson. And now the journey begins: cross country, aerobatics, towing - so much more to learn...

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