WWDD 09 – Day 6 – Great Day

Sun. Little Wind. Fun everywhere. Time for the U2 – yeah. The day would see me get 4 flights on the U2.

I arrived at Wallaby and promptly snagged the U2 160 before the other two guys got their dirty hands on it. Smile Everything was VERY wet with dew. I spent 20 minutes drying this all Mylar glider. It had a white UVM leading edge and a gray UVM sail. A lot of people were hear today due to the last two days sucking so bad. But even at it’s peak it was nothing compared to most days last year.

Flight 1

There was a big morning rush. The tandems and new solos got priority and there were plenty. I waited at least 30 minutes from hook in to tow. I had the fin on the U2 and had a great tow. The air was smooth and I had no problem at all towing. This was my first ever flight on a U2. Time to see how different it is from the Sport 2. After release I dropped the VG to about 1/3 and did a few turns. I thought it responded nearly identical to the Sport 2. A few pilots mentioned there was more of a delay but I didn’t think so from these first few turns.

I then pushed the bar to my waist with full arm extension. No vario so I don’t know how fast I got but the air was really rushing by. I was still at 1/3 VG. The bar pressure was light. I’m pretty sure it was lighter than the Sport 2.

I then put the VG to 3/4 and did a few turns. Definitely stiffer but doable. I tend to turn by leading with my feet and hips. In a sloppy turn where I just move my shoulders to the side it didn’t turn until I shoved my hips over good. These all seemed about right so far. But it’s only been 2 minutes.

With the VG back down to 1/3 I did some slower S-turns to get a feel for things I might do on a landing. I never tried a stall – I forgot.

Soon this sled ride was coming to an end and I had to setup my approach. I was still a little high so I did a really wide downwind. For a second I thought I might come up short but this thing really glides. I ended up extending my base because I still a little high. Yep, more glide than the Sport 2. I finally turned final, still to high, but I had lots of field so there were no worries. Long glide with lots of speed. I got into ground effect and waited, and waited. I waited too long. I suddenly felt a lot of back pressure and I flared. Nothing. I did a nice knee, chute, wheel landing. The grass was so wet that I actually cleaned my harness more than getting it dirty. Oh well. No harm done. On my Sport 2 I usually waited to flare just as I felt the start of the push back. That’s too late on the U2 it seems.

So far I like it. The flare timing will take a little practice and I need to relearn the landing glide. But that’s why I’m here. I have lots of field to practice in.

Flight 2

After another pilot got a morning sled ride I hooked in again for a second flight before breakfast. Since the first tow went so well I decided to remove the fin for this one. Yikes. I PIO’ed the crap out of the glider – right from the very beginning. I was over controlling like crazy. I actually went for the release just above tree level and missed. I hit the top of the release and knocked it sideways a little. I then decided to keep going. I’m sure it felt worse than it looked. The wings probably never got more than 30 degrees from level, probably less. I had a brief period were I got it under better control but it didn’t last long. Then I started getting to high and too low. Just ugly all around.

The tug pilot finally waved me off. He took me all the way up so I guess I couldn’t have been too out of control. Yikes that sucked. Now I was all worked up. I tried to relax and focus on test flying the new glider but it was tough after that tow. There were no thermals yet so it was still sled ride conditions so the flight didn’t last to long. I just did a few turns around the field and came in an landed trying to relax and focus on the landing. I did the same basic approach as before. But this time I planned on flaring sooner. After I rounded out and got the glider level I waited for it to trim out. Waited another second or two and flared. It was almost too late again but definitely better. I was on my feet but I still did a few things wrong. My eyes were down, again and my flare was strong and my arm weren’t straight up.

I seem to have this flaring problem at the start of each season. Hopefully in a few flights I’ll get back into my proper flare technique – eyes on the horizon, full arm extension, up, and hold it up.

I handed the glider off to another pilot and headed back for breakfast.

I talked to a couple guys about flare timing and landing setup and glide. Things to put to use later today.

Flight 3

After breakfast one of the other guys beat me to the U2 160 so I waited my turn to get an afternoon flight. As it turned it this worked well in my favor. I got the glider back and was hooked in around 1:30. I put the fin back on – I didn’t want a repeat of the last tow and it was getting a lot more thermally. I was reminded the sky was getting crowded. People were really starting to stay up and there were a dozen gliders in the air by now.

My tow up went really well despite the thermally conditions. I was a lot more relaxed and made much better bump corrections. After release I got a good look around and saw a couple of gliders a bit above me circling. They were also further upwind. I drove around looking for lift not wanting to get too far away. I still have leash syndrome and I still don’t have a good feel for the glide on the U2 after only 2 short flights. I gave up on trying to find the thermal these other guys were in and decided to glide closer to the Wallaby field.

But soon my vario (finally put it on the glider thankfully) was beeping a little. It was wasn’t long before I was gaining in a light thermal. Five minutes later I was in a death gaggle with 20 gliders spread out over hundreds of feet of altitude. I think every glider in the sky was in this one big thermal. Most, including me, were doing left turns. One key exception was a guy at my altitude going right. Come on, pay attention. It was crazy. At one point I had 4 gliders within a 100 feet of me going around. Sport 2’s, ATOS’s, and everything in between. Crazy but cool at the same time. My head was on a big swivel trying to keep track of anyone near me. People kept coming into and out of the thermal. I occassionaly had to leave the thermal and come back in due to another glider or just from flying out of it. All the other gliders made it real easy to find again though.

At about 2600 MSL we were topped out and scattering to find another. I was a bit tired of doing left turns and being in such a crowd so I went off by myself back toward the orange grove. Everyone else was finding another thermal near the one I just left. I suddenly had the sky to myself and did a couple of right turns just for the sake of it.

Then I smelled orange. Yummm. Thermal. Boom. My vario started screaming at over 600 fpm with periods of near 800. I was going up great – and all by myself. I found this thermal at about 2000 MSL and topped out at 3200. And I was still the only one in it. When I topped out I could see almost everyone else in another death gaggle but I was 600-700 feet above the top guy – how cool was this?! As I moved on I saw an ATOS heading my way down low and a few others starting to notice.

I also noticed my flight time. It was about 45 minutes at this point and I knew two other guys were waiting for the glider. So being the nice guy I am I decide I should head in to land. So I spent the next 10 minutes slowly going down. It was too bad because I flew through some more nice thermals. But it was now time to focus on an approach and landing.

I was planning on the same basic approach and landing. But as I got low I saw another glider a little lower setting up and he then did something I didn’t expect. He setup to land in a completely different way and direction. Then I finally took a good look at the flags and sure enough the wind was 90 cross from what they were towing and everyone else was landing. So I followed this other guy’s lead and landed into the wind. It was more of a walk but a better landing. I had a decent flare and landed on my feet OK. Still need more work of course.

After a bit I got the glider on a cart and wheeled it over to the staging area. 30 seconds later, literally, Malcolm moved everyone to the east side of the grounds. The glider was in someone else’s hands now. But I helped the Wills’ guys move a glider. The least I could do for all they do for us. Then I had to walk all the way back to near were I landed to get my harness.

I was grinning big time. What a fun flight. After the switch the gliders were coming down in droves and most were whacking. It was carnage. I guess it got trashy. My timing was pretty fortunate. Fun times for sure.

Flight 4

After lunch I wanted to do another flight, even if it was a sledder. I will be flying home on Sunday so today was it. Even a sledder allows me to get another landing in on the U2.

But everyone else was faster than me and I now had three guys ahead of me on the list and the first didn’t go up until 5pm. It was lightly soarable at first but I finally got my turn about 7:10pm and would be one of the last few gliders to tow up that day. It was real calm so I wanted to try again without the fin. This time I was real relaxed and had a great tow. Just as good if not better than with the fin. Yeah! Amazing how well this glider tows when I’m not in the way. This was a nice little sled ride.

I played with the VG a bit again. One thing I noticed this time was how much the bar moves between 1/4 and 3/4 VG. The bar moves back a lot at the higher VG settings. Much more so than the Sport 2.

But it was soon time to land. I setup a basic approach and was to land into very light west wind. I flared right next to all the gliders in the setup area with several people watching. Happily I saved it. I flared a tiny bit late but was able to get my feet under me and run a few steps for a nice landing.

What a fun day. Four flights, four landings (well three really – the first doesn’t count). Almost 2 hours. And it was now party time.

Fun in Florida.

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