Greg Hewgill (ghewgill) wrote,
Greg Hewgill

first flying of the year

On saturday, after four full months of not being able to do any flying at all (and not for lack of trying), I finally got some stick time! Not very much, but it was a lot of fun.

On saturday morning, Rich (one of the instructors) did a ground school session where he reviewed airspace and chart materials. I was actually the only student pilot who showed up for that, the rest (about 8 others) were already licensed pilots who needed to do a BFR (Biennial Flight Review). The BFR consists of at least one hour of ground instruction plus either one hour of flying, or three flights, with an instructor.

I was not optomistic about the weather, but I brought my logbook with me just in case the weather cleared up. It turned out to be a great day, and several pilots did their required three takeoff/landings with Rich to satisfy their BFR. Gonzo thought that since it was reasonably windy, it would be a good day to do auto tows, so he and I got the tow car ready.

The club tow car is an old (80s) Buick that was donated by a club member a few years ago. In its time, it was probably a pretty nice car. But for the last few years it has served duty as glider tow car, which means it sits outside in the open hangar with the windows down, has various holes punched in it for the tow rope release mechanism, and generally gets the crap beaten out of it running up and down the grass runway.

For those who are unfamiliar with auto tow, the general concept is similar to flying a kite, where you are the kite. The plane is connected to the car with a 2000 foot rope, and the car gets up to about 30 MPH. Combined with a 20+ knot wind, the plane can easily climb to over 1000 feet like a kite. When the car reaches the far end of the runway, both ends of the rope are released and the rope drops to the ground. The car then drives back to pick up the glider end of the rope and pulls it back to the launch area, laying out the rope in position for the next launch.

I was the first one to do auto tows that day, and they are fun! You climb much more steeply than aero tow. We did three launches and then let others have a chance. Gonzo did his three BFR launches on auto tow. We were running the tow car back and forth as fast as possible to get all the flights done. I even got to drive the tow car for a couple of launches.

With a grass airstrip, the grass and flowers grow really well especially with the extra rain we've been getting this year. Particularly in the far ends of the runway, the grass and flowers are easily thigh-high. We managed to overheat the tow car because the radiator got almost completely blocked by grass cuttings! Even after we brushed the grass shards away, we eventually blew a radiator hose so that was pretty much it for the day.

I finally left the field at about 6:30pm after a great day. Hopefully this weekend marked the real start of the soaring season this year. Now, I must get back to studying the material I need for my pilots exam...
Tags: flying

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