Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Breaking up the band

Thanks to everyone's least favorite microorganism, we've been forced to divide our efforts between Post Mills, Franconia, and Sterling recently.  It was more fun when we could all fly together.

On Monday, Evan (T8) made a great flight out of Franconia, shuttling back and forth between Moosilauke and Berlin, making a couple of wave climbs along the way.  It was too windy to fly at Post Mills.

Then yesterday, in winds that were only slightly more reasonable, a couple of big counterclockwise flights out of Post Mills were made by Tim (BU) and Greg (JD)

Finally, today, Dan (EA) and Evan (T8) took off at Sterling and flew west and north for 420 and 352 kilometers, respectively.

We're thinking about getting the band back together.

Friday, June 5, 2020

I guess I'll have to buy the White Album again

There's news from FAA for those of us seeking pilot certificates or additional ratings.

The FAA branch responsible for testing has just published an outline of updates and near-term changes in the Knowledge and Practical Tests and associated publications:

We learn from this handy reference that:
  • There will be new Knowledge Test questions.
  • There is a new way to schedule Knowledge Tests.
  • There is a new source of practice tests.
  • there are (or soon will be) new versions of

    • Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
    • Aviation Instructor Handbook
    • Risk Management Handbook
    • Airplane Flying Handbook

  • There are no more "students."  We're all "learners" now.
  • There are no more "cockpits."  Now the proper term is "flight deck."
  • If you ain't got an FTN, you ain't nobody.
As for the practical side of things, you may recall that FAA plans to replace the Practical Test Standards (PTS) with the more modern Airman Certification Standards (ACS), one category at a time.  So far they have done this for airplanes and drones.  Next on the priority list are helicopters and balloons.  Gliders aren't even mentioned, so for now at least, we have the PTS.

PMSC Learners who are about to buy an FAA publication, make sure you get the latest edition!

I bought my first aviation handbook in 1965, and I still have it.

I suppose it's time to get the update.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

T8 goes for a thousand

Congratulations to Evan on a spectacular 1015 km flight on Sunday down at Mifflin!

His first leg took him down to Snowy Mountain on the Virginia/West Virginia border, 280 km from home.  Then he turned around and flew to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 360 km.  Then back down to the Pennsylvania/Maryland border.  He made his final turn at 4:45pm, 145 km from home.

The flight took a little over 7 hours, and you can see from the barogram that he didn't waste too much time in thermals.

According to OLC, this was the second longest flight in the world on May 31, 2020.

COVID update III

Flight instruction is back!

Be sure to read the updated operational rules.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

August weather

The Wednesday afternoon slackers showed their respect for our chief towpilot and were ready to go right on time at noon.  Andy towed everybody and went back home to finish his workday.  Other than a brief pause when we thought we had lost the towrope (false alarm), Andy made nine tows without shutting down.

It was indeed the best weather of the week, as Tim predicted.  However, it wasn't all that straightforward.  And it was hot and humid. There were clouds over the mountains, with a westerly wind aloft.  Some of the clouds got out of hand, causing rainshowers and blowoff.  The wind down low was from the south, which put us square in the middle of weak valley conditions, with the cloudfields to the east and west, just out of reach.

The trick was to leave town early, and Greg (JD), Tom (2W) and Tim (BU) did just that.  They made it to the clouds on the Vermont side and followed them all the way to Island Pond, returning via the clouds on the New Hampshire side.  You could not have done any better than that.

Evan (T8) and Rick (LEL) struggled to get away, with Evan making at least three desperate returns to Post Mills before climbing back up.  At least he didn't land.  Rick needed a relight.  They both headed for home when the lightning started.

The day ended early with a ten mile diameter shadow due to blowoff.  Luckily everyone saw it coming and we made long smooth glides into the darkness to land by about 1600.  Evan managed to stay up the longest of all.  After that the sun came back out.  Typical.

Keith (BA), Dennis (DC), and David (505) were all trapped at Post Mills by the big shadow.  Dennis set a record for circling, and David got his first flight of the season in the 1-26.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Weekend report May 22 - 25

PMSC finally got underway at Post Mills this weekend, thanks to all the work on the towplane performed by our chief towpilot and chief mechanic.  It's never obvious how much work the two Andys do in order to keep us flying.  It's a lot.

We did a pretty good job of observing our amended COVID operational rules.

Under our new (hopefully temporary) rules, every day is a Slacker Day.  This isn't great for our primary students, but it makes it easier for our instructors and towpilots to fly on the weekends.  Don't let them tell you that they aren't enjoying this.

Another consequence is that our first weekend of the season was also our first 4-day weekend.

The conditions were blue with light west winds.  The day started with thermals to 5000 feet, rising to 7000 feet by late afternoon.  Evan, Tim, Dennis, and Eric flew out of Post Mills, and Rick launched at Franconia.  Tim and Evan flew nice round trips to the White Mountains.  Eric did that as well, but was a bit more ambitious.  He wound up landing at Claremont after rounding his final turnpoint at Springfield.  Rick also landed out, conveniently, at Post Mills.

Dennis was the hero of the day, driving down to Claremont to pick up NT, bringing Eric back to Post Mills, then turning around again and driving home (not that far from Claremont).  He walked into his house at about midnight - and was back in Post Mills the next morning.

Technically, Saturday can be called Assembly Day, since the 2-33 and 1-26 went together, thanks to the efforts of David, Peter, Karl, Andy, Don, and Karl's buddy Dave from Florida. That leaves the Blanik, which suffers from lack of pilots so far this season.

The weather was strange.  It wasn't blue, but it might as well have been.  High bands of stratus and a few altocu didn't help at all.  Thermals were sparse and difficult to center, but with patience, they could be worked up to 6000 feet.  The wind was southeasterly, which was disorienting.

All flights were local.  Kari probably had the longest flight, with Evan and Peter not far behind.  Dennis had a short one, and Rick couldn't even stay up.  David flew the 2-33 twice and is back on track to get his license early this year.

The day dawned clear, but a thin overcast moved in just before launch time and hung around for the rest of the day.  From the appearance of the sky, you wouldn't have thought there was any lift at all.

But this is May.  The airmass is so good that it doesn't take all that much sunshine to get things going.  Tim (BU), Peter (505), and Greg (JD) all had local flights.  Peter's total time in the 1-26 this season is 5 hours already.  He got to 4800 feet and was the last to land.

Nobody flew.  But before you deny that this was a 4-day weekend, thank Tim for standing by to be the towpilot all day Monday.  The overcast was solid, and the slackers gave up early, as they always do.

There are 12 trailers on the field now (including HK, which just arrived from Florida).

COVID update II

In accordance with the latest Vermont COVID guidelines, we have decided to allow some limited (very limited) instructional flights.  We will be doing Flight Reviews and annual check flights for pilots who request them.  There are new cockpit sanitization procedures, and, of course the decision to go dual rests with both pilots equally.

Our operational rules have been amended to reflect this change:

Other dual flights such as student instruction, rides, etc., are still not allowed.  But we are hopeful.

Please read the amended document, and if you have not already done so, email a copy of the signed last page to the club Secretary (or bring it to the field).

Monday, May 18, 2020

Weekend report May 16 - 17

The season got off to a modest start with three local flights by club members at Springfield.

Evan (T8) reported that it wasn't as good as forecast, but he got to 5500 feet in thermals and wave.  Tim (BU) and Dennis (DC) also had shakedown flights.

Our towplane is still hors de combat; Andy has stopped making predictions when it will be back.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Air pockets

How many mistakes can you find in this article?  I lost count at "windshield."

500 kilometers the hard way


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Online success

We conducted our first online spring checkout last night. David and Peter patiently tolerated Rick's first Zoom meeting as host. All we need now is a plan to assemble gliders without getting too close to each other.

Zoom works. We are planning to do more of this.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

COVID update I

We will fly this year!

In order to resume flying responsibly, we have imposed upon ourselves a new set of rules and procedures, effective immediately:
PMSC Operational Rules During COVID-19
All members have received these rules by email, and we have all been asked to sign a statement that we have read them.  Wait, make that "required," not "asked."  This is serious.

These rules are sensible, conservative, and we hope, temporary.  They are in accordance with the Vermont state guidelines and the Governor's latest Executive Order.

The synopsis is that we will start with solo flying only.  The spring checkrides will be skipped, but not the ground school talks that go with them.  Please talk with an instructor before flying, choose a day with benign weather, and stay local at first.

We will also try to keep the "gatherings" small.  No rides (even for family members), no new members, no encouragement of spectators.  No cookouts, phooey.

Obviously, we will monitor the situation closely, and we will relax the rules as soon as it makes sense to do so.

The BOD has worked hard to come up with this plan to get some gliders into the air at the earliest possible time.  They deserve our thanks and cooperation.

Annual Meeting

The first official event of the 2020 season was the Annual General Meeting, which took place last night on the screens of 22 digital devices.

We heard the startup plan for the season, which will involve solo flying only, at least for now.  Greg presented the new, non-negotiable, COVID procedures.

There won't be any dual checkrides, and everyone is encouraged to talk with an instructor before the first flight.  The towplane isn't quite ready, but it should be back in the air soon.  Flying days will be arranged individually, like Slacker days.

We spent some time talking about how there's really no good solution for getting a retrieve.  The major takeaway is that we are all responsible for our own retrieves, and that the normal pressure we put on club members to volunteer to be a crew has been removed.

Tim presented the Treasurer's report, which led to a discussion about how to pay for the painting of the towplane, scheduled for the end of the season.

Our July 4th encampment at Franconia is cancelled, with an unlikely chance that it may be revived at the last minute.  No commitment one way or the other on Gorham.

It was really good news to hear that all of the current members of the Board of Directors were willing to serve in their positions for another year, and all were re-elected by acclamation.  Thanks Greg, Mark, Tim, and Eric!

Thanks also to Eric for being the ZoomMaster.  We should meet like this more often.

No burn permit needed

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Teaching new tricks

One of the things I like to do is to review in my mind how flight instruction has changed over the years.

In these modern times, we teach our students things that, in the old days, our instructors never heard of.  It is interesting to me that it isn’t just the pilots who learn from experience – the state of the art of flight instruction has evolved as well.  “Best instructional practices” have come a long way since I learned to fly fifty years ago.

A troubling side effect of this evolution is that we old guys sometimes downplay or ignore hazards that have been discovered since we became instructors ourselves.  “It wasn’t part of my training, so it can’t be that important.”

A good example of this is towplane upsets.  We were taught to verify that the rope was disconnected before turning, but that was about it.  My instructors never mentioned anything about suddenly yanking the towplane’s tail upwards, or the factors that might lead to this happening.  Consequently, my attitude for many years was a casual “stay in position and nothing will go wrong,” and as a young CFI, I began transferring this attitude to my students.

Then two things happened.

First we started hearing about towplane upsets in the UK.  Some of these were fatal for the towpilot.  The initial reaction of the British Gliding Association was to place an urgent emphasis on doing a better job of teaching the transition from winch launch to aerotow.  Our initial reaction was nothing to be proud of – we dismissed the problem as something that occurs only in foreign lands where primary training is by winch launch.

The second thing that happened is that I became a towpilot.  I would like to say that this caused me to lose my casual attitude, but I cannot.  I tell myself to think of the release handle every time I advance the throttle for takeoff, but I still fail to do this every time.  Old casual attitudes die hard, I guess.

We need to understand that this is much more than a problem of transitioning from winch launch to aerotow.  There are many contributing factors:  short ropes, light towplanes, CG hooks on the glider, upside down hooks on the towplane, etc.  All of us - towpilots and glider pilots – need to be experts on this subject.

Fortunately, the BGA has stayed on the case.  Their research on this is the best in the world.  Start reading HERE.  Follow the links.  Watch the video clips.

If, due to my former casual attitude, I forget to emphasize towplane upsets in my conversations with you on the airfield, remind me that it’s important.  Thanks.