I be turnin’

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
I know I said I wouldn’t be able to train for a few weeks but I managed to get out anyway. The plan was to meet at the scooter towing site at 7am. By the time a few of us arrived and we got all setup it was closer to 8:30. I did two ground runs to get warmed up. Both went very well. There were two guys that were on their third lesson and were hoping for their first tows today. After they got in some ground runs it was time for the scooter.

Mark, our instructor, called me out to get ready. Cool, my first tow in three weeks and the first for the day. The wind was real light and variable today. I put on a school stirrup harness, radio, hook knife, and headed to the glider.

I reviewed the tow commands with Mark since it’s been a few weeks. I did a hang check and got all hooked up to the tow line. Mark and I talked about the flight plan. He was going to tow me up high enough to get some turns in and set up a landing. OK, I haven’t made a turn in over 9 years but I remember how.

Mark got the scooter going, released the brake, and then it was up to me. The wind was straight and light. I picked up the glider and quickly got it balanced. Clear! Slack! Tension! I took two steps and darn near got pulled out of my shoes. The tow pressure was much stronger than the last time I went. I got off OK but I was a bit behind the glider for a few seconds. Once off of the ground I did a nice steady tow.

Mark pulled me as far as he could and I released. I was about 150-200′ up. Mark mentioned over the radio that I flew the glider a bit slow on tow and reminded me to keep up the airspeed. I did a wide 180 degree turn back toward where I started. Quickly I needed to turn back into the wind for landing. I did about a 120 degree turn. At that point I was too low to safely finish the turn. I leveled out and setup for the landing.

Since the wind was so light being a bit cross wasn’t an issue. I got down into ground effect and let the speed bleed off. I got my hands up nice and high and at just the right time I flared and landed with just a few steps. All right! What a great way to start the day.

A few of the newer folks got short tows. Once of them got into a turn and landed strange. He was fine but he did put a heck of a bend in one of the downtubes.

Shortly before I was to get my next turn the wind started to switch as expected so we spent the next hour swapping ends.

Eventually it was my turn again and I did all the usual setup. It was mid day and warm. We were getting some light cycles coming through so I new the tow would require some more corrections. Mark and I talked about the first tow and the take-off I had. He assured me that he would use less pressure – which also meant a lot more running.

He wasn’t kidding. I really worked for this launch but it was a good one. I also kept the bar in a bit better this time while towing up. I went through two small thermals and had to work a little to keep straight and level. No big deal but I had to pay attention. This was a little shorter tow due to how everything got setup after swapping ends.

I released and did a 180 degree turn. Most of the turn was in sink so I was a bit lower this time heading back to the start. I knew I was now too low for a 180 back into the wind so I opted for a 90 degree turn. Unfortunately the wind had shifted a bit and I was now fully committed to a real downwind landing.

I knew what to expect. The ground would be whizzing by but I still needed to ignore it and fly the glider at the proper air speed and then flare at the proper time – all while ignoring the green blur under me. At what was probably 1 second or two too late I flared but not well enough. I was still cruising. I was expecting to whack in pretty hard but luckily I kept the control frame out enough and ended up sliding on my knees while the glider rolled on the wheels.

I was fine and so was the glider. After talking with Mark he was actually quite pleased with two things I did. First he liked that I was wise enough not to attempt a full 180 degree turn as low as I was. Second, he liked that I recognized my downwind situation and that I flew the glider at the proper air speeds, not ground speed.

Later in the day I was hooking in for a third tow when the winds starting switching again. We had two big cells growing near us and they were starting to effect things. Mark made the right decision to call it a day and we packed everything up.

All in all I’m happy with today. I got two nice tows. I still need lots of practice but that’s the whole point of taking lessons again. Weather permitting I will be back out next weekend – at least one day anyway.

Here’s a video of my two tows:




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