Sunday, 26 August 2012

Day Two - Lessons underway...

The start to my second day of gliding lessons was somewhat bittersweet.  As before I got away before dawn and headed up the hills towards Cunderdin, however when the early news bulletin came on the radio I was greatly saddened to learn that one of my heroes, Neil Armstrong, had passed away overnight.  He was one of those figures I just assumed would be around forever, and his loss shook me up considerably.  Shortly after hearing the news however, I was passing through the hills west of Northam just as the sun was breaking the horizon, and I was treated to one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen... a gloriously clear sky with clear sunlight streaming between the hills and illuminating a cluster of hot air balloons, drifting slowly west above a mist shrouded landscape.  I hurriedly tried to find somewhere to safely park and take some photos, but alas this was not to be - by the time I'd stopped and gotten my camera out the balloons were almost down and mostly hidden behind a hill.

Arriving at the club early, there was little activity about and the gliders and towplane were already out for the day.  I helped out with minor jobs around the club until briefing, after which I assisted in rigging and doing the weight and balance on a Nimbus up from Narrogin for inspection.  The rest of the morning was spent helping out with putting up new cornices and mouldings in the newly refurbished clubhouse.

Trusty Piper Pawnee, VH-FSJ, our primary tug
The Pawnee was back from it's inspection and service, so we would be towing from that instead of the old Auster today.  Also different was the glider I would be flying.  There were a number of check flights that needed to be done today, so the PW-6U was set to doing those.  My instructor for today was Rod Carter, and we flew in the IS-28B2 that had recently been acquired from Southern Cross Gliding in Camden.

IS-28B2, Rod Carter in command taking up an Air Experience passenger
Sitting in the IS-28, much bigger control panel than the PW-6U, roomier all round actually
After a brief quiz on the ground to assess what I had learned in my previous lessons, Rod had us out on the lineup and towing up to 2,000' for some work on control coordination - lots of use of the rudder.  As with many others, this was something my previous experience had failed to prepare me for... I had hardly had to touch the rudder pedals in the Cessna while banking.  Nevertheless, after a little instruction, I was able to demonstrate the primary and secondary effects of each of the controls, and how to counter them effectively.  There were some weak thermals around and the odd turn here and there allowed us to stay up a few minutes longer to practise, but soon enough we were down to circuit height.  Rod quizzed me on circuit planning and had me fly the bulk of the circuit and approach.  My speed control was way off, I kept chasing the airspeed indicator and over compensating for changes, and needed a fair bit of control input from Rod to safely make the landing.  I expressed some anxiety with the landing afterwards, and Rod reminded me that I'm only 5 lessons in at this point, and can't be expected to be landing properly for some time yet.

The second flight of the day was quite a bit longer than the first, with nearly half an hour in the air.  I flew most of the 2,000' tow myself with some great encouragement from Rod, and released into a weak thermal of around 2.5kt lift.  Rod got me started on thermalling, helping me into the thermal core and coaching me through the turns.  We stayed with it for about 10 minutes and reached a height of around 4,000' before the thermal became too weak to continue with.  I had been querying Rod on some safety aspects, such as stalling speed with and without the spoilers deployed, and while circling.  Rod advised that the best way to learn this was to try it out, and given that we had a little height, he demonstrated a stall and recovery.  First, however, he performed and had me repeat the pre-aerobatic checklist (HASLL.)  The IS-28 stalls quite gently, with plenty of pre-stall buffet to warn the pilot, so I then had the opportunity to try it myself to learn to recognise the symptoms and correct recovery.  I performed three stalls - two with the spoilers in and one with them out, and had a good enough handle on stall and recovery that Rod signed off my stalls competency after the flight.  By now we were getting low but were still over the airfield, so it as a simple matter of joining downwind and making the approach.  I got this one down a bit better, flying the stick and rudder myself, with Rod on the spoilers and giving instructions.  Felt a bit happier after that landing :)

Flight three was another quick one, up to 2,000' for some more control coordination  then circuit and landing.  I flew the aerotow independently, and the landing as per the previous flight.

IS-28 on tow behind the Pawnee, heading off into a blue sky over lurid golden Canola
While I only had three launches today, I learned quite a lot.  Rod was an interesting instructor to fly with, his friendly nature and laid back attitude make learning from him a pleasure.  He found lots of things to quiz me on during our flights, and at the end of the day he signed me off on a number of skills - including preflight checks (ABCD, CHAOTICCC) and the primary and secondary control effects.  He also signed me off on making sustained turns after the time spent thermalling.

After packing up the gliders for the day, there was still some daylight left so it was back to the renovation work in the clubhouse, before heading back on the drive home.  A great day overall!