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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Leah's flight report

Leah posted this on the WSPA forum.

First Flight- Monday November 15, 2010

For insurance reasons I have had to wait until I have my certificate before being able to fly Triple Tango. Not only was Monday's flight my first flight in a single seater but it was also my first solo flight in a glider besides the SGS 2-33. As fall is finally starting to catch up with Kansas I wanted to squeeze in a flight with my glider before the end of the season. She has mostly been sitting in the hangar gathering dust. Tony has flown her a few times along with our friend Pete at the Wichita Vintage Sailplane Association Rally and Tony's former student Luke, but mostly she has been patiently been waiting for me to be ready to begin our partnership.

I was hoping to get my first flight with her in on Sunday but Tony and I arrived back in Wichita from Kansas City a little later than we had planned. We did get in some incipient spin training in the Cessna 150 as Triple Tango has a tendancy of dropping her left wing when stalled. Cherokee II's in general have a reputation for spins so it was really important that I got some extra training besides what spin entries we could coax out of the 2-33. Future plans include my getting some more training in a Lark sailplane with a friend who is an aerobatic pilot (and future CFIG student of Tonys....I get to be his guinea pig).

On Monday I was able to line-up a tow pilot and Tony agreed to run my wing. First we had to empty out all the other gliders out of the hangar as Triple Tango was WAAAYYY in the back. After the extrication we got to work dusting her off so she would look good in front of the cameras :) I then performed a pre-flight and positive control check of Triple Tango. Tony performed my ground check out by introducing me to the cockpit controls. He then lifted up the tail to show me what attitude to expect from the glider upon landing. He positioned the glider with the tail on the ground, and with the nose on the ground as well. We then had to figure out the best place to position my ballast. I was too tall with it in the configuration I use in the 2-33 with ballast (could not close the canopy). At 5'4" I never thought that I would be considered to be tall! The problem was solved by spreading out the weights and by removing the cushion under my "seat". While I felt a bit like the Princess and the Pea I was able to get full control movement, and the canopy shut!

I was fairly nervous. Ultimately after enjoying myself sitting in Triple Tango on the ground Tony asked if I was ready. Truly the answer was that I was as ready as I'll ever be. I felt like I had under gone all the preparations that I needed too and that I would not be completely ready until after the towplane started up with me in the glider. Tony stressed that I was going to lift off sooner than I would in the 2-33. He warned me that the pitch in Cherokee II's is more sensitive and that once I initially ballooned up I needed to level off there instead of trying to drop back down and risk PIO. Sure enough I popped up right away (even Tony was surprised) but I am proud to say that I managed to follow directions and leveled off without PIOing (is that a term?).

Next I was surprised at how smoothly it flew on tow. The conditions were calm and there were not any thermals working, but it did not really require much pressure from me on the stick to keep it in position. In fact it was a bit unnerving to just calmly sit there with the feeling that I should be doing more but I managed to just let the glider fly and did not over control too much ;) Tony told me to take a 3,000 ft tow and even with our 4:30 arrival at the gliderport, I knew that the maturing daylight was only going to allow me this one flight. Typically I take either 1,000 ft pattern tows or 2,000 ft tows so I felt really far up @ 3,000 ft. I released (which was interesting in and of itself as the release has very little movement compared to the yellow knob in the 2-33) and made a smooth turn to the right.

Through out most of the flight I had to remind myself to relax. I was on my best piloting behavior and trying to do such a good job that I kept unconsciously tensing up. I just had to remind myself that I can fly gliders and that Triple Tango was just another glider. I worked on dutch rolls to get a feel for how she coordinated. Next I did some medium banked turns. Then while I still had the altitude I knew that I had to do some stalls. I am not a huge fan of practicing stalls in general. I know that it is an important thing to do, but there is just something in my nature that cringes inside every time I start to pitch up into a stall. My body is screaming that the nose is too high up but my brain has to reassure myself that I am aware of this and that it is intentional and then continue to pitch up. This time this feeling was intensified by the knowledge that I also had to be prepared for a wing to drop and to react to that. I did two stalls in a row. I did not stare at the airspeed indicator the entire time but the last time I looked before the stall, the needle was dropping under 30 mph. Sure enough as expected my left wing dropped once I reached the stall point. As soon as I felt/saw the wing drop I relaxed my back pressure and kicked in opposite rudder. I did not really give the wing the opportunity to develop any where near as sharp as in the C-150 but still I am proud of my reflexes.

After stalls I made a conscious effort to slow my descent rate by slowing my airspeed down. While I was expecting that the quieter travel through the air (Tony had me open both air vents so I would have some noise) compared with the 2-33 I was flying closer to 60 mph so I dropped it down to 45 mph as after all I did not stall until below 30 mph. I then did some slower flight maneuvering. After this I figured I needed to practice slips. Stan Hall is known to have said that if he had to opportunity to design the Cherokee II over again he would have extended the air brakes out another rib. The air brakes are not very effective, Tony says they mostly just change the sound, so most landings are reliant on slips.

This is where I made the first error of my flight (that I remember of course). While practicing slips, I focused more on the direction that my nose was pointing along with my track over the ground and not enough on my rate of descent while in the slip. This error was made apparent when I set myself up to land. I have a history of coming in a bit high and so landing a bit on the fast side. I set up the perfect pattern for either myself in the 2-33 for a no spoiler landing with wind....or myself in the 2-33 for a no wind, spoiler landing. Unfortunately neither of those conditions was the Cherokee II with no wind and weak spoilers. I realized that I was high when I turned to final and I just kept floating. I usually try to be around tree height when I pass over the road at the North end of the runway, and I was way above that. The only thing I could do was just to keep my slip in. When I transitioned from the slip to the flair I majorly ballooned upwards as the runway was rushing by underneath of me and I knew that I just had to keep burning off energy. In fact I was a little bummed that I hit tail wheel first (I was trying to land low energy/keep the flair) as this was something that Tony and I went over. Once on the ground I opened to full airbrakes (which I should have done sooner) to engage the wheel brake and let the glider drop to the nose skid. All told I had maybe 100 or so feet (Ok Tony says I had a few hundred feet left but to me it felt like I only had 2 ft left so 100 ft is the compromise) left of the runway before it went into the weeds.

While I was a little frustrated about my poor landing (I was just verifying how long it was) I tried not to let that deter me too much from the rest of my flight which was fantastic! I could see the lights on over town which was pretty and the quiet solitude that I was up there with just myself and Triple Tango. This feeling was more pronounced than when I have flown the 2-33 solo. I did see 2 airplanes, one of which was a jet, a bit closer to me than I prefer (of course there would be traffic on my first Cherokee II flight) which made me more alert but there was plenty of room between us. Overall I walked away from the flight with a sense of what I need to work on once spring arrives. I plan on taking Triple Tango out to the 7,000 ft long Sunflower Gliderport and see many pattern tows to work on landings in my future :) This of course will only take place once Triple Tango has had her winter make-over completed. After recovering Tony's N373Y last winter, it is now N4653T's turn to have her 1964 original fabric replaced. I am hoping to have her ready for flight by mid April when we will continue to get to know each other.


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