Thursday, June 5, 2014

long time no post!

I originally started this blog to post coverage of glider rides given commercially at the Hollister Soaring Center and privately there with my BASA glider-club ships.  Once in a while I posted some other event but mostly it was all about gliding or soaring.  When I moved to Eugene, OR, I joined a club, WVSC, which didn't fly in the winter.  Because my new club is private and not a commercial operation as was my previous involvement, I'm allowed to fly the towplane with just a private certificate and not a commercial ticket.  So now I can get some power flying and even though it is work-like, it will be fun!

We are very lucky in this club to have as the chief towpilot, an instructor who is also a glider pilot and motorglider owner.  His experience and expertise  put me at ease at the same time making me focus just on flying while forgetting all the excuses I usually am hampered with when it comes to learning and testing!  On the first of our two days, we used the CubCrafters SportCub S2 rented from the FBO that the club uses for towplane maintenance.

The fancy GPS which I didn't know how to operate wasn't needed thankfully and the rest of it was a lot like the Super Cub I got to fly a few times at WVSA in '93.  We flew over to a little airport with nice grass next to their paved strip for take-off and landing practice as that is where all the skill is required.  A good hour of that work and I was starting to really enjoy the little bird.  Eats up $ fast so one has to be efficient!  A great day for me as I hadn't had that kind of power flying for quite some time.
The next day we flew the LSA SportCub to our gliderport, 1OR4, at North Plains, OR for simulated tow training and more t/o&landings, real quick at that.  After about 5 of those he got out and soloed me for 10 more circuits.  After we returned the SportCub to Twin Oaks, we drove the ~20 miles back to 1OR4 where Bob put me in this good-looking Piper "Pawnee" PA-25-260 towplane which was originally designed and used as a cropduster but has found new life as a wonderfully strong and efficient towplane.  The only drawback is that there are no two-place trainers and one has to just get in and fly it just as those young aviators had to do in WWII when they transitioned from the trainers to the fighters!  

He had me highspeed taxiing, lifting the tail and then putting it back down a few times before letting me go.  T/O was easy with that 260 HP and some right foot. Turned easily to a left upwind and climbed "quickly" to 3K and performed some maneuvers, wow, it flys nicely!  First touchdown was perfect, beginner's luck, but the rollout was way to bouncy although I got it stopped OK using all the runway.  Next one was't too good so I did a go-around but all ten others got progressively better.  He signed me off for grass only and I know why after messing with that Cub on the "hard" runway at the other airports.

Now I have to fly in the glider with Bob twice and then tow him twice before I'm cleared to tow. 

I've been wanting to do this since I started flying gliders with the MIT Soaring Asssn. in Boston back in '91!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ridge-soaring as the eagle does it!

One of my glider-club friends posted this nice video on our user-group site.  I was reminded of some of the ridge-soaring flights I've had in the back seat of one of our high-performance sailplanes with a skilled pilot flying from the front.  I'd like to be able to fly like this and share it with my passenger too! 

Flying eagle point of view.

Ridge-soaring in the Alps, from a camera on an eagle's back.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Friday, the 13th, glider rides!

The date didn't cause any trouble but the sky condition did as it was overcast with a very low ceiling to start causing the first potential passenger to leave, planning to come back the next day.  My wife's nephew, Tim, arrived from Corvallis for his ride and the towpilot asked if I wanted to go now that it appeared to be clearing to the west.  Sure, we'll follow him but release and return if necessary.  The sky started to open up as we were on tow so we just went up on top to 3500' and released.  We could see Mt Hood and the coastal range as the clouds dissipated below us.

We landed, Tim got out and Peter got in for his surprise Birthday Ride!

A good time was had by all!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rides at North Plains, OR Willamette Valley Soaring Club site

The day started with a low overcast good for only student training in take-offs and  landings.  Two women arrived for the birthday ride for one but when told it might be a two-hour wait for the sky to clear enough to get to 3500' they opted to go pick peaches!  When they returned we could indeed get towed above the broken cloud layer for a most enjoyable 84th B-day ride for Evelyn.  Here we are level with the clouds after gliding for ten minutes from our release point on top of them.  Now we have another ~20 minutes to look for some lift before preparing to land back at the grass strip that is our airport.

Evelyn didn't know beforehand that she was my first passenger at my new club!

The second ride of the day was with Jane whose slight stature required some extra ballast and when I asked if she wanted to be raised up more in the cockpit, she replied that she was comfortable there, so off we went on tow behind the Pawnee:

We experienced some subtle lift and circled like the birds trying to use it to stay aloft.  Jane liked the turns and enjoyed the maneuvering as well as the great panoramic view.

There are always smiles at the end of a nice flight:

Later in the day, a student with instructor as well as two private owners flew for ~two hours enjoying the light lift.  Afterwards the private gliders are taken apart and stored in their trailers until the next good day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

WWII glider pilot finally gets his medal!

Little known are the 6,000 World War II glider pilots who were towed into combat zones, in a one-way flight to drop off soldiers and supplies. Bob Swenson, 90, of Bellevue, finally is getting an overdue Bronze Star medal for his heroism.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I've joined a glider club in the Portland, OR area!

Had my 2nd flight, 1st solo, from my new club, Willamette Valley Soaring Club, just west of Portland.  We gave 20+ rides to a group of kids from a science museum trip.  I'm still getting acquainted with the new, to me, operation so I just worked the line until most all the rides were done.

Here's the operations/waiting area adjacent to the beautiful grass runway with Mt. Hood off in the distance on the other side of Portland.

 Grob Twin Astir where the passenger sits in the front seat and the commercial pilot operates the controls from the rear.  In the air, at altitude, the passenger may fly using the dual controls.

This is what it looks like from overhead.  There are acutally two parallel runways with takeoffs going east on the closest one and landings to the west.  One glider is on final for 27L while another clears the runway to be prepared for launching while the towplane is ready to tow a glider on 9L.  Private and club glider trailers are on the southern border of the property.

Club members brief and prepare passengers making sure belts are tight and controls are clear.

The Blanik L-23 is used for instruction as well as rides.  This instructor is treating this passenger as if she were a student, that's an extra!  Maybe she'll chose to be a student-pilot after experiencing her flight.

Here's the Pawnee 260 being used for this tow.

There is also a Cessna AgWagon being used for towing:

After all the kids got their rides, I took the covers off this G-102 and pre-flighted it for a solo ride myself.  The last time I flew one of these was about six years ago just west of Orlando, FL from a nice grass strip.

Now I'm ready for the towplane:

After towing to 3000' I released and found some lift allowing me to turn in tight circle and climb like a bird for a 1000' all the while looking outside for other aircraft while also enjoying the view of snow-capped "dormant" Cascade-range volcanos in the distance!

Got back to the airport with plenty of altitude allowing for 15 minutes of area familiarization.  I didn't find any more useable lift before landing on grass, as it should be!

I saw a maze below which reminded me of the Swank Farms corn maze in Hollister.  I'll have to check it out.

Sure is nice to be involved in a glide-ride operation again.  I'll be giving rides soon but I know I'll be missing the Schweizer 2-32!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maybe my last flight for a while!

I had a marvelous few days of nice CA weather, a flight over the Sierra, visits with friends while inspecting their nice ships and a comfortable stay a friend's nice house.  Gee what could one add to that?  Well how about a BFR(biennial flight review) with my favorite flight instructor, Charlie Hayes!  Every two years a pilot must have one of these and it is said to be more an opportunity to learn and/or improve skills rather than a test.  If I had my way all road vehicle drivers would have the same type of operating review.

Here's Charlie "running" the wing of the BASA DG-505 while I'm in the rear cockpit(my preference as I like my passengers up front for the better view)!

 And here's looking forward while I'm holding the canopy open with my left hand as the golf-cart tows us to the runway:

On the runway, Bill is going to get the rope with the ring from the "stinger" of the Pawnee tow-plane that is being piloted by Quest.  There is 200' of rope reeled up inside the fuselage.  Charlie will get in the front seat and off we will go:

We towed off rwy 6 straight to that cloud just over the top cowl of the Pawnee.  All through the takeoff I was ready for Charlie to release us to test my ability to handle a rope-break/uncommanded release event.  After releasing a 5000' over Henrietta we thermaled SE along the East ridge of the Quien Sabe Valley while Charlie was refreshing my knowledge of airspace classifications and rules.  We then headed SW out across the upper Santa Clara Valley over Bikle's airport south of Tres Pinos towards the Gabilans.   
Here the gauges say we are flying at ~50knots with a sink rate of ~150'/min 12.7 miles SE of the airport.  The altimeter reading of 3650' was making me feel low and uncomfortable!  Charlie said, "do the math".  Then I knew we had plenty of altitude to safely return to the runway.  He was "stretching" me!

The Hollister airport seems a long way away!  It is that area between the two sets of white appearing buildings just below the horizon forward of the wingtip.  Nice looking cloud over the Santa Cruz Mtns.  That must be my finger in the lower right!
 Now we are "recreating" above the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreational Area looking ESE along Cienega Rd and the San Andreas Fault Line:
We were finding no lift and it was time to return.  At this position we are closer to the airport than the point at which we released and I know I can make it back to the airport with altitude to spare, a very comforting thought.

And of course we did return for a smooth landing to end a very "instructional" and fun flight.  A most pleasant way to end the visit to my "Old Soaring/Gliding Airspace"!

Here are some pics of the high-performance two-seat DG-505 owned by the Bay Area Soaring Associates.  My 14 yr-old grandson Henry stands next to 5KM tied down with its covers on.

Henry is in the front seat with his parachute on ready to go!

This is a typical launch procedure where Caleb, the line-boy(could be line-person) has attached the rope to a hook in the nose and he is signaling the towplane to take up the slack.  When the rope is tight and the pilot gives the "thumbs-up", Caleb will lift the wing; the pilot will wiggle his rudder; Caleb will rotate his arm signaling the towplane to start the take-off roll; the tow-plane pilot will wiggle his "tail feathers", announce the take-off, throttle up and Caleb will run with the wing until it is pulled from his very light grasp!  A few seconds later the glider will lift off and stay in position waiting for the tow-plane to fly as well.  After that it is just follow the leader!

I don't know when I'll next return to Hollister. When I do so,  I hope to find the same quality of management, equipment, and operations that I was a part of for the last fifteen  years