April 06, 2006

The Sky is Falling

A week of sitting indoors revising while the skys out my window have been glorious bright blue with just the right amount and type of little fluffy clouds has driven me nuts, but yesterday I gave in and went gliding again.

A few weeks ago we had our weeklong Easter Course, during which I was cleared for 'Check 1', which means that on nice days (like this week) I can fly without having to find an instructor to come with me on a check flight first. At about 14:00 I grabbed a free single-seat glider and pulled it onto the winch queue. It's quite daunting flying up the winch on your own without any practice for a few weeks. You have all of about 3.5 seconds to reaquaint yourself with this whole flying thing, the winch process and the particular aircraft you're flying before you're doing 70mph pointing 45' at the sky. So after a quick mental run through I had the cable attached and disappeared skyward.

I was hoping there would be lots of lift around (air going upwards) since everyone else was dissappearing for ages but all I could find for the first two flights was endless sink (air going down). This, in gliding, is what we call… crap, basically.

For the third go I decided to pull back on the winch a bit more, it makes it a little more difficult to deal with if something goes wrong but does help get a higher launch and sure enough I got up to about 1200'. I thought I'd wander off in the opposite direction and this time found a nice strong thermal. Circling in this for a while, occasionally losing it and finding it again got me up to 2300', a significant climb off the winch for a pilot like me.

After about 20 minutes I was getting rather thristy and hot and wandering down wind from the airfield a bit. I hadn't really prepared myself to stay up for an hour or so and figured it'd take me 10 mins to get down from this height so that'd make my 30 mins flight which I've been trying to get from the winch for a while. Unfortunately, wanding back got me into the hurrendous sink again and after a circuit a little on the low side, I was on the ground in about 3 minutes. So only 23 minutes, which is good for a winch, but not so good when you consider I'd got to 2300'.

Nevermind, there's always next time…


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