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.


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: 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...]

Glider Rating – Part 1 – Audio Episode Show Notes

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

If there’s a 350-hour private pilot out there who has a more diverse logbook than I do, my hat’s off to him or her.  I have everything from Cessna 152s to a DC-3 to the mighty F-16D in my logbook and my certificate reads ASEL, AMEL, and ASES, among other things.  I’ve flown for everything from lunch to competition aerobatics.

The key for me is experiencing the broadest possible swath of what aviation offers.

Coming up on three years ago, I got a ride with Mark Grant in a Schweizer SGM 2-37 motor glider.  The aircraft is one of three operated by the Tuskegee Airmen Glider Club, headquartered at Detroit City Airport.  It’s a beautiful yellow longwing bird and the ride was a lot of fun.

I also met John Harte that weekend, who was flying one of the other club motor gliders and I got good footage of him in a gaggle climb.  John and I have since begun to share an aerobatic instructor and we both fly the Acro Camp Pitts at Berz Aviation at Ray Community Airport.

Fast forward to this spring, when John offered me a chance to go up in one of the aircraft for some giggles.  I climbed in and was surprised to find myself doing most of the flying.  It turns out that the whole thing was part of an evil plot on John’s part to addict me to flying longwing aircraft. [Read more...]

Video Episode – CAP Glider Sorties

Airspeed – VIDEO – CAP Glider Sorties from Steve Tupper on Vimeo.

Subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your favorite other podcatcher. It’s all free!

These are the show notes to a video episode. If you want to watch online, please use the direct link below.

Here’s the video from my first two glider sorties. I went up during the Oakland County International Airport (KPTK; “Pontiac”) Open House 16 August 2009 with Mark Grant.

These were CAP sorties with CAP equipment both towing and towed. And we were in some pretty busy Class D airspace, as you can hear. Great experience. I need to get out and get some stick time as well. Maybe a project for next summer.

BTW, I’m a CAP major and member of CAP’s Oakland Composite Squadron in southeast Michigan. That’s how I got access to these great rides. I also volunteered at the event, handing kids and adults into and out of the CAP aircraft.

I put this footage up in and Airspeed episode because it was a great experience and because I promote CAP to anyone who’ll listen. But you should know that CAP doesn’t endorse or promote Airspeed. Fair enough?

First Motor Glider Flight

This is a regular blog post. Looking for show notes or links to show audio? Please check out the other posts.

I’ve always thought that motor gliders are cool. Really long wings. Crazy glide ratios. And engines.

Yeah, the purists probably have their issues with the motors, but not me. It a motor in the froint is the price for not having to have a tow plane, tow pilot, and at least one wing runner in order to go soaring, I’m good with it.

Crazy-skilled glider and powered pilot Mark Grant flew the demo. He has access to the two Schweizer SGM 2-37 motor gliders owned by the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum and we went up as lead in a formation of two.

The Schweizer SGM 2-37 is a two-place, side-by-side, fixed gear, low wing, motorized glider. These two represent a sixth of the total production run between 1982 and 1988. None of them saw service with the Air Force Academy, which flew them under the designation TG-7A until 2003.

It’s about 28 feet long, 57 feet wingtip to wingtip, and eight feet tall at the tail. The Lycoming O-235-L2C engine puts out 112 hp, plenty to get us up to 3,500 feet above the airport.

We launched as a flight of two and flew a loose right echelon for the first thousand feet or so. Maybe 200-300 feet of clearance between aircraft.

You solo the SGM 2-37 from the right seat and that’s where Mark was most comfortable, so we flew the right echelon for his visibility and because we were going to make right turns in the climb. Here’s a show of the other aircraft in the formation.

Above about 1,000 feet AGL, Mark accelerated his right turn so that we ended up climbing in a large circle, wingtip to wingtip. You can see the other ship pretty clearly in this shot just before we got to 3,500 MSL.

Here’s a good shot of Mark and the landscape just after we cut the engine and went into the glide phase of the flight. We stayed in a roughly circular rotation over the airport until we descended to pattern level (about 1,800 MSL) and then entered a left downwind for 27L. We lead and the other ship followed about a half mile behind.

Here’s the view as we rolled onto final. A formation of five T-6’s did two or more sorties consisting of low passes with smoke on. We coordinated with the tower and glided in behind them. Kind of cool to see the smoke down the runway from this perspective.

I gather that a lot of gliding is understanding the sight picture, being able to judge your sink rate, and having a good stick-and-rudder feel for the aircraft. Once we shut down the engine, I felt pretty good about the glide. It was stable and the maneuvering was a lot of fun.

But then I had that immediate power-pilot urge to turn directly for the airport and set up for a huge slip to get it down on the big runway. Gliding is hanging it out there and knowing what kind of ground the aircraft will cover given the winds, density altitude, and lots of other factors. I’m sure that that will come with experience. You just have to know the sight pictures and develop a new set of decision points to assure that you can make it to the airport and land gracefully when you get there.

Motor gliders have some of the best of both worlds to offer. In any case, it was a great transition to flying something with no engine at all.

Which, by the way, was the very adventure that I had (twice!) within the next few hours.

Stay tuned to the feed for video and audio from the flight!