Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A club member named Peter (you'll have to guess which one) spotted a glider trailer in the Centerra parking lot today, Contest ID Zulu Papa. I guess Thomas has plans to fly his new glider this weekend.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Double digits

This just in: the number of privately-owned gliders in our club is now ten! Congratulations to Thomas on the acquisition of an ASW-20C. It came from GBSC, and I forgot to ask what the competition ID is. We may get to see it this weekend.

Today's trivia question is obvious: name the ten gliders.

Addendum (04/28/08): Gregg sent me his list last night, and sure enough, there were twelve gliders on it. I guess that cancels the trivia contest. After studying Gregg's list and thinking about it for a while, I came up with a thirteenth member who has his own sailplane.

For the record, here's the list:

1-23, 1-23, 1-26, 1-26, ASW-20, ASW-20, ASW-24, HP-14, Discus CS, Discus 2, LS 4, PW-5, Silent 2.

We should have a contest one of these days.

Thanks to Gregg for the correction.

Weekend Report April 26 - 27

We're back in business, despite some bad luck. On Saturday, about 10 eager volunteers showed up to assemble and wash aircraft. Unfortunately, we discovered that felled trees and power lines were blocking Bob's driveway, preventing access to the 1-23 and the Blanik. All that was accomplished was the washing and test-flying of the towplane. Thanks to everyone who showed up, anyway. The driveway was cleared Saturday night.

On Sunday, after the rain quit, a small band of diehards returned to the field, and actually managed to fetch and assemble the two gliders.

Andy wrote:
Many thanks to Donn, Tom, Sonny and Gregg for retrieving and assembling both the Blanik and 1-23 today (Sunday). Next job is to get them both washed although I did see Tom working with a large bottle of water on the 1-23 so maybe that's done? The Blanik is definetely pretty yucky but has been completely lubricated and is otherwise ready to fly. The 1-23 does need lubrication btw.

The 1-23, Blanik and 304 are ready-to-fly so all you'll need is your annual check ride with Rick or designated instructor and we're off and running in our 20th year of operations!

Andy also worked on the 2-33, and has issued a call for volunteers to finish up the prep work before the recovering of the fuselage. In case you didn't know, there is another blog dedicated to this project.

It finally looks like an airport again, with three planes at their tiedowns. Let's go flying!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Signs of Spring

Things are starting to happen.

PM and S1 were moved to firmer ground where they are nicely accessible. However, both gliders need to move again before the first of May. If you can provide a parking spot for either of these planes until the end of mud season, please leave a comment.

Paul, Skip, and Rick have been working on their cockpits. Paul has decided to become an expert on gadgetry. By the end of the season, he will be the go-to guy for advice on glide computers and flight recorders. Skip (who has never sat in his glider, can you believe it?) is overhauling his new instrument panel entirely. Rick is attempting to install a gigantic navigation display in a very small cockpit.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is opening day for NESA, and Evan will be flying with them at Springfield in T8. I believe that our insurance has kicked in, so someone should grab PM and go join him. Evan is also planning to leave for Mifflin on April 25 to join a large group of early-season ridge flyers.

The runway is free of snow, but still soft. I don't know the condition of Bob's driveway going up the hill to the Blanik and 1-23 storage spaces. Andy is sticking with his story that April 26 will be our Assembly Day. We'll see.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


We wear parachutes all the time. Occasionally we talk about using them. But very few of us have ever jumped. Despite this, we seem to be confident in our ability to do the right thing in an emergency. How hard could it be? Dive over the side and pull the ripcord...nothing to it, right?


Yesterday afternoon Sonny, Mike, Skip, Rick, Nancy, Gordon, Tom and Mary traveled to West Lebanon where Gregg presented "Jump school for dummies." It was fascinating. Gregg took us through the procedure in great detail. We learned the right way to do it, and we learned the consequences of the myriad ways of doing it wrong. We all got the chance to pull the ripcord, and we got to watch Nancy demonstrate proper steering technique.

Gregg pointed out that there is a lot more to survival than bailing out properly. We learned how to swim out from under the parachute, how to get down from a tree or a powerline, and the wisdom of attaching a survival kit to the harness.

Gregg, who has experienced about 3000 more takeoffs than landings in aircraft, has agreed to give the talk again later in the Spring. He also directed us to some reading materials.

And now for today's trivia questions: a) which club member (other than Gregg) most recently made a descent by parachute? and b) which member has bailed out of a glider in an actual emergency? The first right answer wins a fantastic prize (to be determined later).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Field conditions

We have 8-12 inches of snow on the runway. But it is melting fast. The ground underneath is still "solid," and if we're lucky, the mud phase will be brief. It is probably possible to move PM and S1 from their winter parking places without damaging the parking area, but this situation won't last long. When the ground gets soft, those two gliders will be trapped again until it dries out.

I'm planning to go Cub flying this afternoon, probably the last ski flight of the season for me. On Saturday, I'll be at the "Bailing out for beginners" course at Signal Aviation in Lebanon at 4pm. I hope that it will be followed by dinner at the 7BB.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Penultimate Breakfast

We added a new restaurant to the breakfast list this year: the Colatina in Bradford. Their "Tuscan Brunch" was quite good this morning, despite having to wait for their 11:00 AM opening. Some of us didn't wait: a Champ and a Chief were spotted flying up the river during the meal.

The next PMSC Breakfast will be the last one of the 07-08 season: EBA's in Hanover at 10:00 on

Friday, April 4, 2008

SPOT Check

As previously reported, there is a new gadget on the market that may help with search-and-rescue. Glider pilots are beginning to experiment with it as an alternative to Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLB).

Skip is carrying one on his trip to Ohio to pick up his new glider. If he doesn't shut it off, I will put links to various depictions of his progress here:

April 3 - Google Maps
A nice parking space at the motel - Google Earth
April 4 - no updates. His battery must have died.
April 5 - It's going again. Here is his start point: Map, Photo
April 5 - No updates today. I suspect Operator Error.
April 6 - On again, beginning at 11:31 am.

You might be wondering why glider pilots are unhappy with ELTs and PLBs these days. That is a very interesting topic - I hope to write about it in the near future.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Old Story

Here's an old story, parts of which you've probably already heard.

I was at MIT in my mid twenties. The MIT Soaring Association has been around (off and on, with various names) since 1910. The modern club was re-established in 1968 by a group of alumni and professors. I joined in the fall of 1973. I was active in that club until I moved to Vermont in 1986. MITSA was absorbed into the Greater Boston Soaring Club in 2002, but it still exists on paper. I like to think that I am still an honorary member of MITSA.

The Post Mills Soaring Club was founded in 1988, and just about every rule, procedure, bylaw and financial aspect of PMSC was copied directly from MITSA. Shortly after our founding, we were visited by my friend Ira Blieden, another MITSA oldtimer (not quite as old as I am, but almost) for one of the very first PMSC cookouts. At the cookout, Ira made a speech congratulating us on our new club, which he called a "wholly owned subsidiary of MITSA." This year we celebrate PMSC's 20th anniversary, and MITSA's 40th (or 98th, depending on how you count).

Back in the seventies, when Ira and I were young punks, along with Todd Pattist, Rand Baldwin, Guppy Youngren, Dave Nadler, Mike Newman, Steve Bussolari, and others you may have heard of, the "real oldtimers" were the alumni and professors who kept MITSA on track and kept a modicum of control over the youngsters who were convinced you couldn't get hurt in a 1-26. (Once, Todd got cut off by a sea-breeze front and decided to glide across Buzzard's Bay to Cape Cod. This seemed like a reasonable decision to us at the time).

One of the real oldtimers was Walter Lob. After taking a few years off from flying, Walter became active again at about the same time I joined MITSA. I remember that he refused to use the standard pre-takeoff checklist, preferring one of his own design. It was a long checklist that included items like "hankie" and "bezel" (the latter being the item associated with noting the time on his watch. The term bezel – pronounced "beezle" – seemed strange at first, until you realized that the entire checklist rhymed).

Walter and I both finished off our Silver Badges in 1975. He had been working on his since 1941. After his Silver Distance flight in the 1-26, he calculated that his average speed for the 50 kilometers was about the same as he could do on his bicycle. I remember being impressed that such an old guy could still ride a bicycle. He was about the same age I am now.

That's the end of my old story. If you want to read a better one, read this recent account by my 89 year old friend, Walter Lob.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sometimes, you just have to go fly

The word came from Walter Striedieck Saturday morning: "Tomorrow will do, see you there!".

Sunday: cold but severe clear. Okay, lots of clothes and warm gloves.

Three of us show up with gliders. A pair of Disci and me with my as yet unflown ASW-20B.

The Disci rig and depart. I barely notice as I am deep in the details of a not-yet-familiar assembly, pre-flight check and cockpit check. But the Disci stick. Cool.

The last part of the preflight check is to roll the ship for about 50 feet, paying close attention to how it tracks. The 20B has a tiny roller blade wheel mounted to a glue-on rubber skid. They are rarely perfectly straight. Yep, expect a little right drift.

Finally stuffed in the cockpit with too many layers, I select flap position 2 (per the book), roll, pull in flap position 3 and we're off. Happily, I am immediately at home. On tow it flies just like the ASW-24 I am familiar with, but with better forward visibility.

Off tow, it flies even better! I trade licks with the Disci for 3:20. I even get in a little ridge running on Hawk's Mtn. The "B" streaks down the ridge line at 80 kts with barely a puff of wind. The airport in the valley reports wind calm. The tree tops are completely stationary. It feels like sorcery.

A Discus comes down to try the ridge -- and immediately falls out. Well, I'm not far behind. The other Discus has been thermal soaring and he's about a minute behind me. However, no one is complaining, it's been a beautiful day.

Soaring Seminar II

Day 2, AM Session

Lee Kuhlke, correctly identified as an "oral surgeon extraordinaire," addressed a near and dear topic, "Beginning Cross Country" to start the day off. He passed along a number of gems which follow. Raptors are fun to thermal with, but be extremely watchful if they soar up and over you. Any drawing in of the claws or closing of the feet together is a sign of aggression and apparently large hawks and eagles have made more than one assault on a canopy causing considerable and costly damage in the willful strike. This caveat aside, he outlined several speakable rules which need repeating in flight: 1) Never get low; 2) Never proceed over unlandable terrain without safe altitude; 3) An ASW-27 (and other similar gliders) sink on average at 2.5 knots, a 2-33 sinks at 3.5 knots: updrafts must be at least as strong as this to be of any practical use; 4) Use the 3-5 Second Rule: The distance traveled in 1 second at 60 knots is 100 feet -- given the radius of turn at moderate bank angles, a thermal is probably not worth stopping for (i.e., its diameter is insufficient to make full turns worthwhile) at this speed if it doesn't pass the 5-second test -- at 90 knots it would be 3 seconds; 5) For most gliders, the optimal thermaling bank angle is 35-40 degrees, and in most gliders instruments are mounted with screws in a square pattern. The diagonal represents 45 degrees: this line on a high, center-panel ASI, for instance, can then can be used as an angle-of-bank reference; 6) At or above 3000' agl, fly aggressively. Between 3000 and 1000' agl, seek landable fields and take any thermal at 1000' (or your safe lowpoint--Lee's is 600' agl, but he's been at this a while. Once committed to a landing, don't second-guess your decision; 7) Perception of height above ground fails over 1500' agl; 8) Cloud shadow tracks are not necessarily indicative of ground wind direction; 9) Never land under a wire; 10) Never land in dark dirt (it is wet and sudden stops with pilot whiplash often ensue; 11) Don't join the White Stripe Club (landing a white glider gear up on black pavement leaves a white stripe for all to see...); 12) Barbwire is often strung under tension, so never cut it to retrieve your glider. He next reviewed several pre-outlanding checklists but none seemed close to Rick's all-encompassing (Size-Orientation-Slope-Surface-Obstacles-Street), and I choose to omit them here. I know that I may be presumptuous here, but U-STALL and WWSSR just didn't work for me and, in my judgment, left out one or the other of the important SOS/SOS components (see if Rick comments otherwise below); or they just seemed redundant, i.e., the LL in U-STALL implores us to LOOK (outside the cockpit) and LAND (the glider).

[Aside: in the flight from State College to Philadelphia, I was picking fields and found one particularly appropriate: length of 4 football fields, so about 1200' or a little over 1/2 of Post Mills' glider runway, which is where many of us roll out; east/west orientation (the windsock back at State College Airport had been straight out and from the west); flat valley floor, so no slope; plowed light-tan furrows without any green yet, plowed parallel to the wind direction(so no field vegetation: if you can see furrows, the plantings are not yet over 2 feet high and landing there is safe--without furrows, however, higher plantings can be expected and you run you the very real risk of a quick groundloop on entering the corn, etc., with glider damage or worse to be expected); no trees, fences, tractors or farm animals about; and, finally the field terminated at a deep black roadway perpendicular to the west end of the field. Further inspection confirmed this roadway to be demarcated in its center by a dashed white line that ran due north, up to a turn-off point where a tiedown area for 100 general aviation aircraft resided. This made me chuckle, of course. What would they think of me landing in that field when a perfectly good runway lay just ahead. The answer is not immediately self-evident.]

This decision point had arisen at the meeting: if you have the choice, land on a runway UNLESS the wind dictates otherwise. On this day, a high cross-wind landing would probably have been a bad decision.

Mark Keene took on Advanced Cross Country - regaling us with tales of winning one championship contest in a 1-26, and of averaging 120mph for 25 miles in a Discus repeatedly over a non-cloud street course during another contest, but his real advice was to plan your day's flying well in advance to ensure such outcomes. 1) PREPARE YOUR GEAR: food and water (for flight and outlanding time); locator: SPOT (suggested, see previous post), cell phone (may not always have service), ELT (good for general location notification but only pinpoint if GPS-enabled and not many are); charge all battery-dependent devices in full; survival satchel (including emergency kit, air horn, LED bicycle headlight, Swiss Army knife or universal tool, reflecting mirror); 2) PLAN YOUR FLIGHT AND SET A GOAL: avoid "touring" ; talk with local pilots before arrival at the flightline; expect weather to vary considerably en route; 3) FLY: KEEP MOVING THE WHOLE TIME; fly the height band (the sweet spot is not always at the top of each thermal, but does, in general, rise as the day goes on); on weak days, set the Macready Ring to one half of your last three thermals averaged (so, if the last three thermals are averaging 6 knots, you should set the ring to 3.0); KEEP MOVING FORWARD: the lower you get the more chance you'll encounter a thermal, albeit a weaker one, than if you stay where there isn't one at all; DON'T GIVE UP: find a landable field and a backup field in case the first reveals an unexpected obstacle, rock trench, etc.; search for lift but DON'T DRIFT AWAY from your 2 fields; once you are committed to land: LAND THE GLIDER; if you save the flight, DON'T RE-LIVE THE LOW POINT: congratulate yourself and move on. As the day ends, recognize that you will be tired, hungry, thirsty, and maybe mouth-breathing shallowly and need to prevent these. Stay nourished, hydrated, peeing (Q90min) and express occasional forced yawns, sighs or deep breaths. Finally, after you land, ANALYZE your flight with someone else and learn what you might have done differently to improve your skills.

Richard Kellerman concluded the AM Session with his outstandingly understandable PowerPoint on Thermal Forecasting: he has offered to send his slides so if anyone is interested, please let me know. His topic was laced with physics, meteorology and graphs which I have never comprehended. After Richard was done, I now can predict cloud base height from a skew-T graph (given predicted daytime temperatures and the morning dew point and so long as the closest balloon sounding data is available), I can believe Dr. Jack's blipmaps for what they are: excellent mathematical models but lacking in hard data for foundation (Dr. Jack predicted blue thermal tops of 4K on Seminar Day 1, Richard predicted 5.5K, and pilots flying at Mifflin returned to report max gains to 5.2K agl), and I know how to type in "FXUS61KCTP" on the web so as not to have to bother with any of the above...

Day 2, Afternoon

After lunch, Dale Kramer, aided by his wife, Carmen, and wingman John Good, recounted Dale's tale of sheer thrill for 200miles at 100mph, 100 feet above the Allegheny ridge on a cold and snowy day in mid-April last year, countered by the three seconds of sheer terror he experienced while crashing his LS-8 into that ridge having no control authority or just plain "mush" despite an IAS of 53 knots, followed by the arduous and painful steps and waiting that ultimately lead to his rescue 24 hours later with the outcome never entirely certain until his six month stay at the University of Pittsburgh's Level 1 Trauma Center and subsequent rehabilitation were negotiated. The details of this flight and crash are found in Soaring magazine, lacking only the anguish audible in the speakers voices evident at the meeting.

Regrettably, due to travel home, I missed Frank Pascale's presentation on Installing a Transponder, but if the NTSB letter released today to the SSA about the subject is any indication, I probably should have taken a later flight home myself.

This meeting is a highly recommended must which can only serve to solidify the skills we all have now due to the hard-fought efforts of our Club Instructors who, by the way, are all quite well-known in the soaring community (some because they still owe money back in Pennsylvania...). I for one, however, am very grateful to come home to them and learn some more.