Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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.

1 comment:

PMSC Member said...

Skip -- thank you! Your summary is a seminar in itself. Great stuff.

The NTSB letters are a real concern... thanks for the heads-up.