Sunday, 24 April 2011

Glider release: now!

Flying towards the bright side of the mountain ridge, I'm expecting the kick in the seat that will give me a hint when I reach the rising air.
The speed looks stable, the glider 200 ft behind me is following my path nicely, and I can now clearly spot the dozen of gliders already flying along the ridge and using the steep slope as a way to gain altitude as the wind is blowing towards it.
It's deep blue pretty much everywhere today, hot as well, a nice soaring day. The glider I will release is going to stay in the air for at least 5 hours and complete a closed circuit of more than 500 km (300nm).
Here it is, the push feeling in the seat, the speed increases and the rate of climb doubles initially before increasing even more.
Looking over my left wing, it looks like we're in a lift. Or it could be the ridge falling down very quickly. My VSI indicates more than 1500 ft/min when the glider decides to release the cable, and the fun begins...

Flaps up with full ailerons deflection well past a normal steep turn, enough to allow the nose to go down and the speed to settle around VNO / VNO + 20.
When we tow the gliders to a close hill, we usually have quite a bit of height to loose over a short distance, giving us some interesting descent rates of 3-4000 ft/min.
Most of the time, the final approach is flown under a path angle varying between 10 and 15% instead of the usual 5%.
Needless to say that flying-wise, it is a lot of fun, and it sharpens the hand flying skills.
We sometimes get to do some formation flying when two tow planes release their gliders at the same time in the same area.

I included two drawings of the airfield configurations. Being a busy airfield, it can get a bit confusing at times with gliders landing everywhere, tow planes taking-off from three different concrete strips, other tow planes landing between them, and the winch in use at the same time.

Airborne life continues...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A month of glider towing

Roughly 40 hours in the tow planes, 12 hours of soaring, nearly 300 tow flights, not bad for a quiet month.
It's actually getting a lot busier now, and the nice weather does help a lot. We've reached 32°C (90°F) last week, way above the average for this time of year.

The airfield is home of the national soaring centre, we get all the different teams training with us for this summer's championships.
Last week was the female week, and the previous one was focused on the Soaring National French Team.
A dozen of young glider pilots are also here every week-end as part of the "young team".
Also on the airfield are about 30 german pilots along with dozens of pilots from other countries.
Needless to say we get very busy at times, especially around 12:30pm where up to 8 tow planes (3 of them belonging to the French Air Force as they have based 15 gliders on the airfield) and 2 winch launch trucks are used to put all those gliders in the air.
Everything calms down around 3 pm, and we usually get to tow another dozen of gliders between 4 and 5.

Most tow flights last between 5 and 11 minutes, with an average of 8 minutes, and a tow for an aerobatic flight is done in 12 minutes, 11 minutes of which are spent in the climb and the remaining minute is enough to loose 5000ft and land ...

When we are not in the plane, we're either in a glider or in the control tower, or watching the gliders high speed fly-by's which can be pretty amazing!

Airborne life continues...