Friday, August 25, 2017

Getting current again – glider version

I stopped flying gliders in Ontario in 2015 as I embarked on an intensive cycling training that required substantial time commitment every weekend and that meant I could not be at the glider field. The cycling training led to me winning total of six National titles in 2015 and 2016 in Master Nationals Track Cycling Championships so I more than achieved my initial cycling goals, but they came at the expense of significant reductions in my flying of any kind.

 I made it to Invermere, BC, my home away from home, and mountain soaring paradise, in both 2015 and 2016, but the trips were short, the weather iffy and I only had 3 dual flights in those years.

I booked a week in Invermere in June 2017 hoping that by the end of that week, I will remember enough of that glider flying thing to actually go solo in “my” glider. My (rental) glider there is PW-5, a simple fiberglass single seater that is manufactured by the same company that makes my SZD-59, so most of the controls are in the same place for both gliders. I also have a substantial amount of hours in the PW-5 after several years of flying it in Invermere.

But my checkout was to be in a Duo Discus. A beautiful precise two seater machine that can do anything in the hands of a skilled pilot. And a bucking bronco with me at the controls. In the past, getting ready for the checkouts, I did a bit of armchair flying, remembering the control inputs, key points in the circuits, key speeds, etc. But it had been so long since my last solo glider flight, I could not remember enough details for quality armchair flying so I was just hoping it would all trickle back in as we took off.
The first mountain tow towards the rocks could be frightful experience for flatland pilots. There is no horizon reference until you get over the rocks and optical illusions play with your mind and suggest that you are much closer to the rocks than you actually are. Eventually you get over it and your mind invents an artificial horizon and soon everything is normal again. And then you have a 2 year break and it is back to square one... I had to relinquish controls couple of times as we were bouncing around in strong thermals below the mountain tops and also insisted that my instructor flew the first few thermals to get us up high enough while I followed him on the controls desperately trying to remember where to look, what to do and what speeds to fly.

Eventually, things were starting to come back to me: speeds, angles, names of the local landmarks, where to look for thermals relative to wind and sun, minimum altitudes for each ridge, how to transition in certain areas – some of this I remembered right away, some I had to ask about. At times, the amount of information that was surfacing from deep recesses of my memory was a bit overwhelming. 

Two hours flew by and soon it was time to land. And that was a handful. I usually fly my circuits by “that looks about right” angles and distances. You start your downwind at a certain altitude above ground and fly a constantly descending path aiming to give yourself a nice and stabilized final approach at a pre-determined speed. Problem was – after 2 year break nothing looked right and things were happening way too fast for me to be comfortable.

It took two more flights in the Duo and one short circuit in a much lower performance dual seater before I was comfortable enough going solo in “my” PW-5. The day was not soarable but perfect for circuits which I did 3.

I followed the solo circuits with a flight of a lifetime where I flew as a co-pilot in a 973km 10 hr long flight but that’s a topic for a separate post. 

My last day in Invermere, I flew PW-5 for 4.5 hrs and was amazed of how fast I remembered everything I learned there previously. And I resolved to start flying gliders in Ontario again in 2018 as I’d like to be a lot more current before I go for another week of mountain flying. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

6 yrs in one blog entry.

I had not stopped flying for a few years since my last post, but I stopped writing about it. Meanwhile, my glider hour count increased substantially and exceeded my power hours by 75%. As of now, i have over 350 hours in gliders with close to 100 of those in the mountains. I discovered mountain soaring in Invermere, BC i n 2012 and that’s been my home away from home ever since. I make at least one trip per year there even when I do not fly and I just bought land there to build my forever home. The land is next to another airport, Fairmount Hot Springs. 

My airplane hour counts is stuck around 200. I found other people with taildraggers in the local area and for couple of years had a great experience flying yet another Citabria. That experience was amazing, but proved short lived as that club folded and sold the airplanes.

In 2015 I re-discovered bicycle racing and the fact that I was pretty darn good at it and ever since then all of my flying slowed down to a grinding halt, both power and glider. As of summer of 2017, my glider logbook had 4 years on the same page and my power logbook had 8 year covered in 3 pages. And most importantly, I started to really miss flying. So I set up to do something about it – but that’s a topic for future posts.