O-Flights, Dual Given, and the Camera Rig

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Despite some pretty iffy-looking TAFs for the surrounding areas, FOD and I showed up at Owosso yesterday to find nicely flyable weather. Overcast between 5,000 and 11,000 feet, but good visibility and the even the occasional convection that allowed 2,500-foot tows to result in flights of up to 0.5 hours.

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I had a few objectives for the day. Fly such cadets as were there for orientation flights, fly with a couple of cadet students, and test out the camera rig for shooting video aloft. All three missions accomplished.

A quick word about the camera rig. Actually, calling it a camera rig is a little overblown. It’s a first-generation GoPro attached to the sturdiest selfie stick I could find. The attachment is essentially lots of gaffer tape. Theres no housing on the camera so the form factor is as small as possible, creating very little drag. This helps in positioning the camera and also making sure that there’s no risk that any part of the rig could depart. I tested it using the car and it performed well driving at 70 mph (about the peak speed that I’d expect in the airflow outside the gilder.

After safety, the most important thing was testing angles and dangles. I quickly found the right vertical angle that would keep the telescoping pole out of the frame and also tested a couple of perspectives.

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I think that my favorite angle is straight out the window looking back. It’s the most vertiginous and it also clearly shows both cockpit seats. Right-hand turns with good landmarks in the background (like the airport here) seem to work best. A close second is the view looking forward, like the second shot in this post. The lead shot (looking back at the rear seat) is okay, but the others are better. I want to shoot some video from the front seat as well, but I was only flying cadets yesterday and I want a qualified glider pilot in the front seat to operate the camera, so those test will have to wait.

I flew three cadets on four orientation flights: Everything from Syllabus 1 to completing one cadet’s glider O-flights with Syllabi 4 and 5. Most cadets never complete all of their O-flights. It’s becoming more common in the Michigan Wing for cadets to get all of their flights, especially their five allotted glider flights.

Probably the most satisfying part was flying cadets on C missions. Two cadets are actively training to become glider pilots and I gave dual instruction to both today.  The first is a Johnson Flight Academy graduate who’s getting close to solo. He has all of the 30 flights required to solo and we’re just working on getting him to where he needs to be in order to do the solo. Flying on tow, boxing the wake, doing slack rope drills, performing all of the required maneuvers, and landing.

FOD KRNP Grass 2016-05-07

Probably the best part of the day was flying with the other cadet, namely my son, Nicholas “FOD” Tupper. He has about 12 hours of dual instruction (not counting the 20 or so hours or so flying the TG-7A as my guinea-pig student while training up for the CFI checkride) and 50 or so flights, of which nine are aerotows, including the three tows today. He flew very well on tow and all of his free-flight maneuvers looked good.

I demonstrated boxing the wake for him once on the second flight. On the third, I gave him the controls and let him try it. He flew the most perfect box I’ve ever seen flown by a student. Not that I’ve seen many as an instructor – I’ve only been a CFI for a year or so. But it was checkride-perfect. Really nice. I just sat in back with my arms crossed and watched.

On the last flight of the day for each glider, we usually land on Rwy 6/24 and get is stopped right next to the ramp, which makes it easier to get the glider back in the barn. For Rwy 6, that means landing on the last 1,000 feet or so of the runway, past the paved runway and taxiway. This helps with retrieval and also prevents hitting the pavement of the runway and taxiway, which feel like sidewalk curbs if you hit them while on the roll. FOD picked the aim point all by himself and got the landing very nicely in the grass.

I like the grass. I miss the grass. But Owosso’s grass runways are pretty short and a little shaggy, so operating from them isn’t an option. Takeoffs would be a little close to the trees at the end of the runway if we tried to launch from the grass and it’s not an option to land on the grass and then drag the gliders a half mile back to the launch point on Rwy 11 /29. No biggie, but I miss the grass.

Flying with both cadet students gave me another chance to work out my instructional technique and figure out what I’m doing. Both cadet students are flying very well, but have a lot to work on. They’re past the basics and neither is going to bend the aircraft, me, or themselves, so I got to work on figuring out how to get each to the next level. That’s a very different thing from flying early ab initio glider students (who have no idea what they’re doing) and it’s also different from flying with ASEL pilots (who know airplanes, but are mostly scared about making it back to the airport in a glider and don’t know how to use their feet).

I didn’t know anything about flying until I started flying in formation. Then I realized that I didn’t know anything about flying until I started instructing. I suspect that there are many more experiences that will cause similar epiphanies.

In the meantime, I had the kind of day that people envision when they decide to have kids. FOD was perfect in every way. Running wings, lining up a powered O-flight for himself (of which he flew nearly everything above 1,000 AGL), and flying the ASK 21 better than I’ve ever seen him fly anything before. I’m really proud of my son and I can’t wait to continue this journey.

CAP Glider Operations Pick Up the Tempo

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I spent Saturday at Owosso (KRNP) doing CAP glider operations. The biggest rodeo I’ve done to date. 38 cadet O-flights and seven C flights, all among three pilots, two gliders, and a single tow plane. I flew nine of the O-flights, seven in the ASK 21 and two in the 2-32. To add complexity, the airport hosted a fly-in lunch that kept the pattern pretty busy from about 1030L to 1400L.

This was a confidence-builder for me. Yeah, I’ve done O-flights, but this was a genuine high-throughput operation trying to get all of the cadets flown in the time available. To preserve my duty day, I got into the cockpit at 1030L and flew on and off until coperations concluded around 1600L

I was looking forward to getting some dual instruction for FOD, but the main tire of the ASK 21 went flat around 1500L and wouldn’t hold air. The ASK 21 is the primary training ship, so that put an end to the instruction for the day.

I was pretty impressed by FOD’s reaction.  He had been running wings and dashing for the rope all day and could be forgiven for being disappointed about not getting to fly. I was really proud of how understanding he was. We’re going to try to get back up on 9 May and make up for lost time.

Engine-Off Approach KDET

I rarely change my Facebook cover photo. That’s mostly because it takes a pretty cool photo to displace the old one. I’ve used a shot out the front window of the TG-7A on approach to Rwy 33 at Detroit City Airport (KDET) with the prop stopped since late last year.  It’s pretty cool. It looks like the cockpit is unoccupied and one could be forgiven for thinking that it’s photoshopped except that the airspeed indicators are alive (and on speed). But I had a cadet late in the day who flew well enough that I could get out the GoPro and shoot some video. I happened to get a pretty impressive-looking sot of myself, so that went up today as the new cover page. Nice lighting, blue sky, canopy reflections, and other elements that make it a pretty cool hero shot. Now all I have to do is fly as well as the picture suggests that I do.

Next weekend, I’m off to tour Fermilab with Deadly, then it’s more glider ops the week after. This is what we do and thins is how we do it.


More CFI Training – Focusing on the Fine Points

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Another session in the mighty Schweizer SGS 2-33A Absteigend Reibungmaschine. Two flights this time.  The first was a basic flight with wake-boxing, slack line, some thermaling, and an interesting landing abeam lots of other waiting gliders.  The second flight was a lot longer and involved a lot more thermaling and then the PTS airwork on the way back down.  The track from the first flight is reproduced below.  I apparently ham-handed the iPad on the second flight and didn’t capture the track log.  Bummer, because we maneuvered a lot and that would have been cool to see.

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It was a really good day for soaring.  Lots of bumps on tow, but lots of thermals as well.  A generally cool day through the whole relevant range of the atmosphere, but clear skies allowed the sun to heat the surrounding area unevenly and it was sporty.  Lots of non-school gliders lined up to get towed. The nice thing about training at Benz Aviation is that the tow operation belongs to the school and tows for other gliders are on an as-available basis while I go to the head of the line each time I’m ready.  Yeah, it costs money, but I get the training in and that’s what matters at this point.

This was my third time in the back seat and my fourth week of flying at least once each week.  I’ve nearly doubled the 30 tows that I had in the logbook when I first showed up.  I’m reasonably good in the maneuvers.  I need some work on the precision of my landings and dialing in the SA that I need in order to make the peanut butter and jelly of altitude and distance come out roughly evenly.

I’m scheduled to fly next Wednesday and Thursday.  We’ll go through the other maneuvers to make sure that I still have the inertial and muscle memory, but it will likely be mostly pattern tows to dial in the landings.  If I fly well on Wednesday, Lee says that he’ll sign me off and I’ll call the DPE/FIE to schedule the checkride.  That could be as soon as the first week in June, depending on schedules (and on whether I suck next week).  If it doesn’t happen the first week in June, I’ll probably have to put it off until after the Tuskegee Airshow 20-21 June. But I have a clear path forward one way or the other.

A lot of work stuff to do this weekend, but I’ll also spend a fair amount of it studying for the oral.  And David Allen and I will likely record another Airspeed episode about the impending airshow.

Glider Rating – Part 2 – Audio Episode Show Notes

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here: http://traffic.libsyn.com/airspeed/AirspeedGliderRating2.mp3. Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

This is the second part of a two-part series covering my glider rating. To bring you up to speed, in March of this year, I began training in the TG-7A motorglider to add a glider rating. In May, I soloed the aircraft for the first time. Part 1 covered events up through the solo. On to Part 2.

After the solo, things move more quickly. You’ve proven that you can operate the aircraft without the instructor aboard. Or at least that you’re so lucky that you don’t need the instructor. Same result.

Now it’s all about the checkride. It’s not as though you haven’t been preparing for the checkride since your very first flight. But now is when you think about it a lot more.

I bought Bob Wander’s commercial checkride guide. I borrowed some of John’s Harte’s materials. I looked (briefly) for commercial glider knowledge test prep software or online courses, but that was futile. I can perhaps forgive Gleim and the other test prep companies for not having a course tailored for commercial glider guys. We can’t be much of a market. So I paid for Gleim’s regular airplane commercial pilot ground school. It’s geared toward airplane pilots, but the regulatory review was bound to be helpful and I’ll probably go after the commercial for ASEL and AMEL soon anyway.

John and I started hitting the training once a week or so, usually first thing in the morning at the crack of dawn. Sunrise was coming earlier and earlier and we made it a point to turn the prop as soon after sunrise as possible on each of those flights. Mostly, we explored other parts of the glider PTS. We did stalls and slow flight and went looking for crosswinds to work on that technique. [Read more...]

FAST Formation Ground School

You’d have to have worked pretty hard this Sunday to beat my Sunday.  I kicked it off with the FAST formation ground school at Detroit City Airport (KDET).

The Formation and Safety Team (FAST) is a worldwide educational organization dedicated to teaching safe formation flying.  FAST is made up of 16 signatory organizations whose mission is to support education in the restoration, maintenance and flight of their members’ aircraft.  FAST does not itself promulgate standards that reach into the cockpits of the individual formation ships.  Signatory organizations take the core FAST materials and customize them to their aircraft-specific missions.

This specific session was hosted by the Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club, a club that operates three of the remaining nine Schweizer SGM 2-37 motorgliders, all surplus from the USAF Academy since 2003.  The club wants to be able to fly the gliders in formation in waivered airspace at airshows, which requires that the pilots have the appropriate FAST cards.  The ground school is the beginning of the process, so they hosted one. [Read more...]