A Day at CAP MIWG Arctic Glider Ops

FOD TG-9A 2017-03-11a


I spent yesterday at the Owosso airport (KRNP) in the fashion that is becoming ever more frequent: As a an instructor pilot for Civil Air Patrol’s glider program.

Michigan Wing has one of the most active glider programs in the country.  This despite the fact that Michigan’s weather is not always hospitable to glider operations. We fly year-round, sometimes in single-digit temperatures that require bundling up like the Michelin Man and changing chemical heaters in our boots and gloves at least once in the middle of flight operations. The result is that we often rank at or near the top nationally in terms of cadet orientation flights, as well as cadet flight training.

We operate two gliders: A Schleicher ASK 21 (TG-9A) and a Schweizer SGS 2-32 (TG-5). Both types operated at the U.S. Air Force Academy and we know that the N975AF airframe itself was there. We have two regularly active instructor pilots, a third IP who participates when he can, and a fourth pilot who flies orientation rides and doubles as a tow pilot.  We have two frequent tow pilots and several others who tow as they’re able.

I frequently get strange looks from those who hear about MIWG glider ops. And those strange looks are deserved. But days like yesterday make it all worthwhile.

Temps started out at -9C and stayed below 0C all day. Cloud cover ranged from few to broken at around 4,000 AGL and winds were pretty consistently down Runway 29 at 12G18. But, to everyone’s surprise, we found lift.  Lots of lift, in fact. We hit four to six knots up pretty consistently and, although there was some corresponding sink, we had enough to keep us up for much longer than the usual 0.3 from launch to landing.

To be sure, we can do everything that we need to do for a cadet orientation flight within that timeframe. But a little additional time allows us to let the cadets fly longer and spend more time demonstrating altitude-eating maneuvers like steep turns.  Even an additional 0.1 or an extra few hundred feet make a big difference.

I flew 13 sorties: Two C16 flights with FOD (and would have re-soloed him if the winds weren’t above CAP cadet solo limitations), two C12 flights with senior members, and nine A15 cadet orientation flights.

Nicholas “FOD” Tupper is flying very well. Other than talking briefly on the radio to ask an incoming CAP airplane to give him room to get in and land, I was baggage there in the back seat. When I get bored, it’s time to get out of the glider and let the C/2Lt ply the skies without all that weight and noise in the back seat. I’m unspeakably proud of what he’s done since his first flight with me in 2012, and especially as certificated student pilot since last year.

The C12 flights with senior members are fun. First, during winter operations, you only get the senior members who really want to fly. They’ll come out and stand in the cold all day launching and retrieving gliders and supervising cadets just to get a flight.

Most senior members like that are in it for the stick time. I don’t disappoint them.  For one of them, I fly the takeoff and tow and he takes the controls from release until downwind. For the other, today was the first time I let him fly from takeoff to landing. I learn things when I fly with guys like the second one. He’s nervous and uptight. From the back seat, I can see his shoulders up in his ears from the time he straps in.

We got the bird in the air on the takeoff roll and immediately shot laterally to the left. “Um, help me on this?” No problem. Boot a little rudder, get us back behind the tow, and hand it back to him. Off we go to the left again. Lather, rinse, repeat.  Then we’re up above 200 AGL (the safe return altitude after which it would be really hard to get hurt in a glider) and he’s finding his way on tow.  Pretty consistently high, low, left, and right. Shoulders in his ears. But it’s best to let him figure stuff out.

As an IP, I’m finally developing a decent sense of how far I can let a student get away from where he or she is supposed to be before intervening. This is important. Correcting from error is a valuable process in which the student teaches himself or herself about flying. If I’m on the controls more than I need to be, I’m depriving the student of that valuable experience.  My job is to sit there and protect everybody (the student, the tow pilot, and me) from Bad Things while providing a sandbox in which the student can play.

Neither of the senior members has yet found his feet. As a budding aerobatic, then glider, pilot, I did my share of uncoordinated flying. This is the universe’s way of revisiting my early training on me. It’s not uncommon to be sitting in the back seat, forced into one side or other other of the glider as the student has a wing down and no corresponding rudder. (Or pull to make the turn happen. You just kind of sit there uncoordinated and see the puzzlement exuding from the back of the student’s head.)

But that’s okay. Here’s my view: We tell students that these controls have such-and-such effects. But the students initially have no kinesthetic sense of how much of what input does what or how inputs combine to give the desired effect. It’s only right to let them get up in the sky and try out those controls. I’m absolutely fine with a student thrashing all over the sky. When they get it, they’re really going to get it. And I expect that it’ll happen suddenly and neither of them will actually know why. It’ll suddenly just feel right and they’ll be doing what they’re supposed to do.

“The glider already knows how to fly. The sooner you get out of the glider’s way and let it do what it wants to do, the better your results.” Yes, some jerk said those words to me. And I now regularly say them to the senior-member students.  They’re true, even if a little frustrating at first.

Cadet orientation flights were the mixed bag that they usually are.  All good, but a mixed bag.  Cadets show up feeling everything from unbounded enthusiasm to abject terror. As an orientation pilot, you have about five minutes to size up each cadet. You see him or her step to the glider, you get his or her name, CAP ID, and weight, and then you see the backs of their heads from the time they strap in until the time they unstrap.

You owe each cadet an orientation flight that teaches what the syllabus says to teach while reaching out to the cadet where he or she is. A cadet who’s terrified, but doesn’t want to show fear in front of his or her fellows, needs a ride that’s going to get him or her back to the airport for the next ride. No shucking or jiving. Talk in soothing tones. Explain everything. On the other hand, a cadet who’s on his or her fourth flight and wants to see big turning stalls again is going to get another kind of flight entirely.

I had a cadet today who among those that make brutal cold, withering heat, and lots of Saturdays more than worthwhile. We have a policy soft spot for 17-year-old cadets who are about to age out of eligibility for orientation flights. If they show up, we make every effort to get all of their O-flights in under the wire.  That sometimes means that we’re flying that cadet as much as five times that day. Today’s was one such cadet who had four flights to go.

On the first flight with her, I ran into nothing but sink. 4-6 knots of it wherever I turned. We eked out Syllabus 2, but after we came to a stop on the runway, I apologized to her. Then, on the next tow, we hit lift.

Like I said, lift is time and options. Even an additional six minutes or a few hundred feet means additional opportunities to teach and let the cadet explore the envelope. We rapidly found ourselves at 4,100 and about 500 feet below the clouds. Syllabus 3 is where you introduce stalls, so this seemed to be a good point at which to lay off the thermals and let the relative wind see the bottoms of the wings.

I demonstrated a basic stall, then let her fly one of her own, which she accomplished perfectly. She had done well on the first flight of the day, so I thought it appropriate to go a little further than I otherwise might. I showed her a stall with a much higher deck angle at the break (maybe 20 degrees), which tends to result in a pronounced break and a good 30 degrees of pitch down at the conclusion. And she yelled and laughed  Well, a yell and a laugh in my ship is going to get you the opportunity to fly your own stall like that. So she took the controls and pitched for the stall. And pitched. And pitched. Hmmmm . . .

When the break came, the nose pitched precipitously and I noticed that there was considerably less than 1G on the seat. Quite considerably. And considerably more planet in the windshield than I was accustomed to seeing. As we pulled out (to the sound of laughter and other positive noises from both seats), it occurred to me that the overall effect was much more like a pull-push-pull Humpty Bump than a stall and recovery. All safe and well within the capabilities of aircraft and aircrew, but nevertheless an experience to throw into the flight bag for future reference.

On the third flight of the day, we really got into the lift. It was everywhere. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. We’d pick a direction to fly with zero sink for a minute at a time, then get a kick in the pants and be hard-over into four to six knots of lift. We got right up to the cloud bases again, this time with me giving spoken suggestions, but her doing all of the flying. It was the fastest I’d ever seen someone develop an intuitive sense of how to thermal.

After nearly a half hour, I decided that we needed to get back on the ground. There was a reasonably deep stack of cadets who still needed to fly and I wanted her to have a chance to fly the other glider as well. When faced with extra altitude, I take it as license to practice those maneuvers that eat altitude, here meaning steep turns.

I talked her over to an area where it was clear below and clear laterally of the other glider, then demonstrated a 45-degree steep turn. She took the controls in the turn and, with the nose bobbing a little and some airspeed excursions, she got it going around pretty well.  We leveled out and then I put us in a 60-degree commercial steep turn going the other way. Once established, I pulled to +2G, as befits that bank angle. The noise from the front seat was what every IP hopes for.  I gave her the controls and she kept the commercial-grade steeps coming as we came out of the sky like a hot set of car keys. Recovering a little before 1,500 AGL, I took the controls and got us on the ground.

Like I said, yesterday was one of those days that make all of the cold, the heat, and the work worthwhile. 13 total sorties for 4.3 hours. And lift that the other IP (a 10,000+ flight glider guy) said that he’d never seen before in those kinds of conditions.

Aviation frequently brings on the feeling of disbelief that they let us do things like this. We feel like we’re getting away with something every time we show up at the airport, raise the hangar door, and see the birds sitting there in the pre-dawn light as the tow plane taxis onto the ramp behind us.

Of course, we’ve paid for this many times over, we hold ourselves to brutally high standards, and we’re not “getting away with” jack. But it’s not hard on a day like yesterday to feel like we do.

The Labor of Decades Repaid in Moments


Yesterday, I smelled burning leaves. I heard a steam locomotive’s whistle. I saw the colors of the changing leaves. All of these things visited me while sitting in the back of a glider flown by my son, who left me little to do but receive these indica of the world around me.

There are those who view the calculated risks we take as irresponsible. Our studies as wasteful of valuable time. Our labors as tilting at windmills. They fail to understand labors of decades that are repaid by moments. But we know that moments are more than enough.

You and I will again meet those people – probably at the coffee machine tomorrow morning. Do your best to suffer them.



The Assignment

Letter 2016-06-02

28 May 2016

C/SMSgt Nicholas Tupper, CAP

Re:       Expectations


I understand that your language arts teacher has invited you to give me an assignment.  The assignment is to tell you, in the form of a letter, who I think you are and what my expectations are for you.  This is that letter.

Simply stated, I think that you’re the Analog Kid in every way that’s important.

You’ve spent a lot of time in adult social circles and I think your radar is tuned pretty well to a wide range of social interactions. You know how to size up a situation and wade in and work well with other people. You have all different kinds of friends. You go beyond brain, athlete, basket case, princess, and criminal.

You make things with your hands. You conceive of those things with your head. You’re also good at conceiving of things that others can do with you and you’re usually hatching or working on at least a few hare-brained projects at any given time.

I think that you lack certain focus and attention to detail that could help you get where you’re going if you spent a little more time on things like organization and keeping physical spaces let cluttered.

I think that you’re doing alright at this stage.  Just remember that the better you get, the better you better get. Your time as the Analog Kid is limited.  In many ways, it is about to end.

Which leads me to the things that I expect of you. Some are instructions. Some are facts. Some are philosophical statements.  They are all, in their own ways, my expectations.

Never run out of altitude, airspeed, and ideas all at the same time.

There is no courage in facing a thing of which you are not afraid. The bravest thing you will ever do is to face a thing of which you are afraid when the only person driving you to do it is you. When you could back out without anyone else knowing. Where the dream is a just a whisker larger than the fear.

Be Fletcher Lynd Seagull. Or Jonathan or Terrence or Henry or the others. All in good measure. But mostly be Fletcher Lynd Seagull.

Speed is life.

You should go ahead and cry when you hit a rough spot or get discouraged. If it’s not worth crying about when you run into a rough spot, it wasn’t worth doing in the first place. And you shouldn’t take on projects that aren’t worth crying about if you fail.

Respect the patient and unsung competence of nurses.

Short of a guy who has actually bent your aircraft, there are vanishingly few line personnel or gas jocks who aren’t deserving of a $5 tip before you climb back into the aircraft.  Index this to the CPI and tip accordingly.

All of our eggs are in one basket and that it is a species imperative that we place live, walking homo sapiens DNA on other celestial bodies as soon as practicable. If your situation and other responsibilities permit, volunteer for Luna, Mars, or such other destination as becomes available.

We have about a billion years before Sol makes Terra uninhabitable and a few more billion years before Sol well and truly goes red giant. We need a place other than this solar system to live. Get going on that.

Homo sapiens has taken 100,000 years to get to the point where ordinary men and women can fly. It is your sacred duty to make up for as much of that lost time as you can.

Find out who the Mercury 13 were and are. Learn their story. Find one of the Mercury 13 and ask her to tell you her story.

The most important films ever made are as follows. Watch them.


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Apollo 13

Field of Dreams

Tim’s Vermeer

The Breakfast Club

Schindler’s List

The Shawshank Redemption


Four Weddings and a Funeral

Twelve O’Clock High


The most important 48 minutes of television ever produced is Spider (Episode V of the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon). Watch it.

The most important song ever written is Defying Gravity.  You can even tell your sister I said so.

Jonathan Coulton’s A Talk with George is also very much worth your time.

Read Animal Farm and watch for its lessons throughout your life.

There is no volume at which the works of Arron Copeland or David Kneupper can be played that is too loud.

There is no music that cannot be enhanced by a trombone solo.

Understand and appreciate your time as the Analog Kid. It will be important as you become the Digital Man. You will spend much longer as the Digital Man and, accordingly, will require as much Analog Kid as you can absorb while you can.

See one, do one, teach one. Then keep teaching.

You don’t really know a subject until you’ve taught it.

Shut up, be where Lead expects you to be, and don’t hit anybody with a number lower than yours.

Fly slow enough that you don’t lose the outside wingman, but fast enough that you don’t stall the inside wingman.

Your life is made up of time. People and processes that waste your time kill you in subtle but irrevocable ways. Protect yourself. Be rude if you must.

Do not, under any circumstances, waste a moment of your life reading Catcher in the Rye.

Read at least one book each year that has been banned in a southern state.

You’re not going to read every book that’s assigned to you in school. You have a mind capable of picking up the Cliff Notes version and doing well on the tests. But, after school is done and you’re out in the world, you should make a list of the books that you shortchanged by doing this and you should go back and read them.  The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, and Brave New World are several from my own list. But under no circumstances should you waste any time with Catcher in the Rye.

Picking a landmark on a map and then locating it out the window – in that order – is a great way to fly cross country. And that that order of operations is the worst possible way to do science.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

When it comes to truth, there’s no such thing as no harm, no foul. Veritas! Veritas! Veritas! Pascal’s wager is for the lazy and the criminally self-deceiving.

Moderates in a wrong-headed doctrine make it okay for the extremists.

Anything worth writing should go over the head of at least 50% of any general audience. Otherwise you reduce the writing to mediocrity. An audience that must be spoon fed and refuses to learn through context is not worth writing for.

It’s okay if you don’t know something. Not knowing is thrilling! It means that there’s an opportunity to discover the truth. In any case, don’t fill the lack of knowledge with a god or a dogma. Gods and dogmas can only shrink as we learn more and others are going to find out the answers anyway. Gods of the gaps can only be as large as the gaps.  And gaps decrease in size.

If you will be walking around in any large city, keep several dollar bills in your pocket. Drop one in the hat or case of every street musician or other performer you pass. If you stop to listen or watch, drop two. It does not matter how good or bad the performance is. People who make art on the street are brave. They take their art to other people and expose their souls to the withering criticism or disregard of the world. That first dollar is for bravery. The second dollar is for love.

Memorizing the first chapter of Moby Dick and being able to quote it at social gatherings will be a valuable skill. You can measure the quality of any social gathering by the reaction you get from reciting that chapter.

A Santa suit is useful all year ‘round. This will become more obvious to you when you begin being invited to the right kind of parties.

Never miss an opportunity to walk into a drug store, gas station, or restaurant while wearing a flight suit. It does not matter that you do not require Q-tips or a fountain drink or that you are not hungry. It also does not matter that you’re not even going to, or coming from, the airport.

People deserve respect.  Ideas do not deserve respect unless they are supported by evidence and reason. When challenging an idea, structure your challenge to address the idea, not the person.

Some people will not be unable to separate a challenge to their ideas from a challenge to their person. Explain this if you have the chance, but don’t let this fact keep you from engaging in principled discourse.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Remember Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Returns: “This would be a good death. But not good enough.”

Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman.

Never judge a person solely by his or her appearance or vocation. Appearances and vocations are deceiving. I first met Tony Kazian in Indianapolis. He said that he was an  auto mechanic. Later in the day, I saw him walking around in orange Spandex leggings. I said at the time that that sure looked weird and wondered out loud why a guy would walk around like that. Pretty strange. It turns out that the leggings are so that the crowd can see his positioning better while he’s on the top wing of a 500 hp Super Stearman at terminal velocity on the downline of a loop in front of an airshow crowd. Turns out that not all superheroes wear the kinds of uniforms we’re used to thinking about. I was a jerk for saying what I did. Don’t be like I was that day.

Remember the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want. But, if you try, sometimes you’ll find you get what you need.

Accelerate North. Decelerate South.

The only morality is the prevention and relief of suffering. Any other morality, the extent of the difference, is no morality.

Plant trees in whose shade you will never sit.

A flag or other object or symbol is never, ever as important as the propositions for which it stands.

The essence of democracy is that there are certain principles that are not subject to vote. It’s fine to roll with the majority on most matters. But the rule of the majority (what de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority”) stops at things like the freedoms of thought, speech, press, and similar matters, many of which we find in the Bill of Rights.

Remember K: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

Learn to write well. That includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The things that you most want will very often depend on your ability to convey important ideas in writing. Further, people will, and do, judge you for your ability to write. And those judgments are usually justified. One’s use of language, and especially the written word, is a reliable reflection of the one’s internal thought, rigor, and intelligence.

Use the Oxford comma. Do not conflate Kennedy, Stalin, and certain other persons.

The answer to life, the universe and everything is: 42. It’s perfectly okay if there is no question.

There is no question.

We’d all be a lot better off if people asked “why” a lot less and asked “how” a lot more often.  This is especially true for processes that have no discernable purpose and where ascribing a purpose is counterproductive.

Never worry that you’re not converting your opponent in an argument to your point of view. Don’t worry even if your opponent will never come around to your view. But have the argument where others can hear, see, or read it. Most often, the greatest dialectics are carried on for the benefit of the audience. Glaucon and Thrasymachus are sock puppets and that’s okay.

You are here and reading this because every single one of your ancestors for billions of years has survived and reproduced. Billions of years. No exceptions. That is both amazing and not amazing. But you have at least this much going for you.

Understand the following and be able to identify them in the wild. Avoid them yourself and don’t tolerate them from interlocutors.

Argument from ignorance

Ad hominem argument

False balance

False dilemma

The lottery fallacy

False premises

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Moving the goalposts

Special pleading

No true Scotsman

Argument to moderation

Burden shifting

Circular reasoning

Begging the question

Naturalistic fallacy

Argument from antiquity

Red herrings

Cherry picking

The plural of “anecdote” is not “evidence.” It’s “anecdotes.”

Alternative medicine that actually works is called “medicine.”

We are living in a time during which there’s an upswing in authoritarianism. Along with that, there’s a growth in people’s willingness to accept simple and convenient answers that don’t require them to work to understand the issues. Religion is a major contributor to this trend. This is not the first time that this has happened. It won’t be the last. Fight this. Be impolite if you must. Civil society depends on it.

Make friends and make enemies. Make each justly.

I’ve been to every one of my high school reunions over the last 30 years. Things that were hair-on-fire-important in high school turn out not to matter so much. If you can, interact with people in high school the way you’d want to interact with them at your 30-year reunion.

Stick with the right thing. The moment you cave is the moment immediately before doing the right thing would have been vindicated. You don’t need to experience the feeling of having just caved when the right thing is finally vindicated.

Live a life of doing. There is a breed of men who spend their weekends watching the exploits of young men half their age in athletic contests and then spend the remainder of the week talking about them. These same men will then assume that your ability to fly, to play, to write, and to lead others to do magnificent things is a result of foolish distraction. Tolerate these men as long as you can but, occasionally, a fool will become intolerable. When he does, explain the life of doing. Explain it in powerful and precise terms. Hit him only with your words, but hit him with the coldest, most withering force you can summon.(Such force will, by then, be considerable.) Hit him so hard that he does not get back up. This is best done in the presence of his friends and children, standing at the crowd-line fence next to the aircraft that you just flew for a crows of tens of thousands.

Robert A. Heinlein put it best in The Notebooks of Lazarus Long. “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

I know that this is a longer letter than you wanted. It’s almost certainly longer than your teacher wanted or expected. But it’s my letter. I hope that you understand.

May a bright and nameless vision have you longing to depart.







O-Flights, Dual Given, and the Camera Rig

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 5.40.23 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 5.47.55 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 5.44.47 PM - Edited

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 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.