CAP Glider Ops – A New O-Ride Pilot Debuts

Tupper Feltun Full

Yesterday, I debuted as a cadet orientation pilot for CAP. Yeah, I’ve been a CFI and a rated CAP instructor pilot since last June, but I had only recently gotten around to getting qualified as a cadet orientation pilot.

I’m comfortable in the ASK 21, but less so in the SGS 2-32. Thus, I started out the day with three flights with Maj Chris Felton in the 2-32.  I flew in the back and had the controls for the first two, then we switched and Chris took the controls in the back for the third flight. (It’s a sign that you’re taking operations seriously when you go fly with a friend and the PIC wants the back seat. The front is too easy. There are instruments up there and it’s too easy to see the tow plane.)  I managed to bring the 2-32 to a stop in reusable condition twice, and then rode along on the third one mostly to get the sight pictures while an acknowledged master of the 2-32 flew the ship.

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After a break, I hopped in and flew three cadets. (Studiously avoiding telling the first one that she was my first until after we landed.)

The Schweizer SGS 2-32 is a 1960s-era two-place glider built like a Buick with a large main wheel in the middle, a tiny tailwheel in the back, and a skid under the nose. Although it’s most fun to fly from and to the grass, CAP frequently flies it from and to paved runways. No worries. You just have to replace the metal on the skid more often. (And, if you’re as good as CAP expects you to be as a pilot, the airport has to re-paint the centerline stripes a little more often.)

MIWIG glider operations for cadet O-rides are usually split evenly between the more modern glass ASK 21 (equipped with all wheels and no skid) and the SGS 2-32, so it’s not uncommon for a cadet to show up for a 2-32 ride after having flown in nothing but the ASK 21 for up to four flights.

On my second O-ride, I had a pretty good landing, which usually consists of initial contact by the main wheel, followed by braking and the skid making contact with the runway and the noise attendant thereto for 50-100 feet until the aircraft comes to a halt.

The cadet, who was on Flight 3 after two flights in the ASK 21, was clearly concerned. He turned around and said, “Was that supposed to happen?” We explained that the skid makes that noise and that I had not snapped off a nosewheel on the landing. I’m not sure that we was convinced. We’ll see if he shows up for Flight 4.

The thing about which I’m most pleased is the progression that I’ve managed to get. I acknowledge that I’m a baby CFI. 100 aerotows total with 55.3 hours of dual given (including the TG-7A self-launch time, which is the majority of that dual). I hit the CAP glider ops weekend right after getting my CFI and got a Form 5 as a CAP instructor pilot. But then Capt Mark Grant helped me to use a very gradual slope to increase my role.

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I started out by flying with rated pilots in the front seat. Pilots with airplane ratings but little or no glider time. Later, beginning this season, I flew in the back seat with my son, C/MSgt Nicholas “FOD” Tupper in the front as a student. A few weeks ago, I did a new Form 5 with Mark to add on the orientation pilot endorsement, as well as refreshing my pilot and instructor endorsements.

This progression allowed me to gently add responsibility and workload.  Airplane pilots flail around the sky and don’t know how to use their feet in a glider, but the IP’s role is pretty much to explain this while observing. Yes, you have to take off, fly (and/or save the front-seater’s bacon) on tow, and land the ship.  With FOD, I was a little more involved on tow and following the controls on landing.

On a cadet O-flight, it’s all about you as the orientation pilot.  You’re not going to get any help from the front seat. In fact, the front seat occupant is usually additional work and requires additional skill and bandwidth. You have to lean to one side or the other to see the instruments and/or the tow plane, explain things to the cadet, and be ready for things like the cadet hurling, getting in the way of the controls, or otherwise making your job harder.  In fact, cadets have an uncanny ability to hold their smart phones so that they perfectly block your view of the tow plane. And you’re supposed to do all of this in a way that leaves the cadet excited and looking forward to the next O-ride, as well as going on to the academy and becoming the fighter pilot that saves the free world, Mazer Rackham -style.

It’s a pretty heavy responsibility and I take it seriously.  The good news is that I flew three cadets yesterday and I felt well prepared. I think that each of them will be back for rides 2, 3, and 4 respectively. And that’s what this flying is all about.

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Thanks for Chris Felton for the picture that leads this post.


Early-Season Training Continues – Team Tuskegee and CAP Form 5

Tupper Craig TG-7A

Time has been amazingly scarce these past few months.  But that doesn’t mean that I can let the rust build up on my wings.

Last weekend, I got up with Team Tuskegee for some three-ship formation deep in the Detroit Class B.  I needed some echelon takeoff and landing experience, so I flew 2 in a phantom 4 configuration, landing and taking off abreast of lead on 21L at Detroit Metro (KDTW).  John Harte ably flew Lead and Chris Felton flew a very competent 3 (or, as he likes to be called, “Element Lead”).  We also got in some tail chasing and other more general formation work with me flying 3 and Chris as 2.

I took along Alex Craig, one of CAP’s check airmen in the Michigan Wing, with whom I’ve flown several checkrides over the years.  Alex is an ATP with thousands of hours logged, but little time in gliders or in formation.  Alex sat left seat to observe the formation work.  And, as Tim Brutsche likes to say, flying an aircraft with an empty hole is a sin.  Aviation is always best when it’s shared.

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Then, this past weekend, Alex and I switched seats and aircraft and I flew a CAP annual Form 5 stan/eval ride.  I hadn’t flown the CAP glass C-182T in maybe six months.  Needless to say, I spent a fair amount of Saturday preparing for the Sunday-morning ride.

I approached this ride with more trepidation than usual, largely on account of the rust build-up.  But I suppose that I needn’t have worried.  I goofed up the throttle work a little (one of the few cross-contamination problems that I experience between the TG-7A and the C-182T) and I managed to forget which way the glideslope indicator was supposed to move and I got fairly high on the glideslope on the ILS 27 at KFNT.

But, generally speaking, the ride went far better than I expected.  I’ve always hated landing the C-182T.  I still do.  It’s so nose-heavy.  You run out of elevator pretty quickly in that aircraft if you’re CG-forward, as you almost always are when you’re flying with two guys and 60 gal. of fuel.  The usual way to deal with that, namely keeping a little power in on the flare and flying it all the way to the runway like an airliner, isn’t an option for practice engine-out work.  So it was all attitude and airspeed on many of the landings.

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I did use one technique that I recommend to anyone who has hot hands with a C-172 but has problems with the C-182.  Put 50 lbs of something in Cargo Area B.  It moves the CG back a little and makes the landing flare a lot more controllable.

We rocked out the high airwork, did most of the landings (engine-out, soft-field, etc.) at Lapeer (D95), shot the ILS 27 and the RNAV 36 (twice) at KFNT, then flew back to Pontiac (KPTK), where I think I did my best short-field landing ever in that aircraft, getting it down and stoppable before the 1,000-foot markers.

Work and other commitments are still keeping me out of the cockpit more than I’d like to be, but I think I’ve done as good a job of getting active and proficient early in the season this year as I ever have.