Monday, December 8th, 2008

Here we go – my second first solo


As (without warning, though I read the signs – Pete wouldn’t normally tell you to have a drink before the next flight) the instructor secures the empty rear harness one is compelled to ask “are you sure?”.  A stupid question; if he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t do it, but one is still compelled to ask. Those with a suspicious mind might suggest the lure of a new AS G29 sitting idle at the take-off point might tempt the best of instructors to rid themselves of the pupil by whatever means.

Pre take-off checks complete. Now I remember the “Placebo” effect. Even though the instructor isn’t there you can feel him having a good effect. Unfortunately this effect wears off proportionally to the number of solo hours flown for some pilots, sometimes with undesirable consequences.

With the take-off roll finished it is instantly evident that the aircraft is 100kg lighter (hope that does no injustice Pete, and I didn’t call it deadweight or ballast!). Then as the boundary fence passes 100 – 200′ below I notice a distinct change of feeling. I feel quite confident that if the launch fails I will handle it safely whereas with the instructor in the back seat I feel fairly confident the launch WILL fail at just that point. Aerotows behind a good tug pilot are seldom exciting, and releasing into a thermal in yesterday’s conditions would happen by accident anyway. Post release check complete where I remind myself that I don’t have flaps or a retractable wheel – and I remember that not completing this check diligently has probably contributed to more than one wheels up landing.  

Quickly through 4000′ in 6 knots and I fall out of the centre. Ah, the freedom of not having an instructor –  I can use whatever language I like without offending – and I did use it. I used to be able thermal well; I should get professional help (no, with thermalling techniques, not psychiatric). 5500′ and I curse again, lost the centre for lots of 1 -2 knots reducing. More bad language – how long does it take to recognise the top of a thermal? It’s easy to be confident at 5000′ so I head off for what I think should work better at this time of the afternoon and soon run the next thermal to just over 6400′ (this time recognising the top).     

By now Waikerie Base has gone home and I’m remembering what a sore bot feels like after nearly 2 hours when Pete radios to check up on me (or to ascertain safe clearance height for his 100 + kts competition finish in the 29). I doubt he knows how to do a normal approach. I’m 3000′ directly above him so try to follow him back. It really is 100 + kts and I just can’t keep up.

I watch Pete land and wait in mild sink for him to clear the grass so I can drop in for a hangar landing and we can lock up and retire for the day.  So I choose and end-of-run point and a new aiming point (I still believe that using the wheel brake on a glider is cheating – it’s only there if you HAVE to use it) and fly an easy approach. All goes well with a perfect touchdown at the intended spot and no wheel brake. Only problem is I end up 50m short – must be a hill in that strip (more bad language). I look around for the instructor standing on the sidelines watching like an expectant father. Not in sight. Good, no more cursing, I rest assured he will never find out about it. Canopy open and feeling great.

What a tremendous day for lots of pilots and the Club – thanks again to all contributors.

Finally the least people that know about it the less the bar bill’.

Regards, JR   (John Ridge)

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