Quest Day 1: Go Go Go!

Something that has been on my to-do list for years is learning to aerotow. A lot of New England pilots start out by doing some towing at Morningside when they’re first learning, but I did not. Later on, it just felt like scheduling the AT training there was complicated for various reasons (among them that on good days I was typically interested in flying at a mountain somewhere). Then when Rhett set up shop at Tanner-Hiller, which is now the closest flying site to my house, he didn’t have a tandem instructor, so the other pilots who are tow rated would be heading there and I’d just say “have a great day”. I had a vague plan that I’d just go somewhere southern and learn at a tow park, and since I have a break from work over the holidays and my girlfriend does not, this year presented a good opportunity. I booked a ticket to Orlando and made arrangements to get instruction at Quest Air.

I arrived in Florida on Christmas Day and spent the night with friends, then headed to Quest the next morning, when it was completely socked in with fog. After saying hello, I took off to meet some other friends who were visiting from Norway for a run in the woods, then returned and went through some ground school with Mark F, learning about the towing equipment, the safety measures, the right way to follow the tow plane, etc. In the late afternoon I went up with Spinner for a couple of tandem flights. He put me in the lower harness position from the start, and although he flew the actual takeoff on the first flight, he had me take the bar right away, and talked me through proper control to stay in position behind the tug. One amusing thing was that, on the way back to the airfield, I had to point out that I didn’t really know how to do a proper wheel landing, since I had never intentionally landed on wheels, so he talked me through that as well. One difference between foot launching and aerotowing is that all of the flights I had had up to this point started with my yelling “Clear!”, but for towing you say “Go Go Go!”. Since things had gone well, we went up for a second tandem, and this time he had me at the controls the entire time. The second flight also went well, though not quite as smooth as the first one. Afterwards we sat on a bench with Spinner holding a model Dragonfly to show me the proper position to be in so that I could think about it without being under pressure, and that helped a lot.

Spinnner and Mark in front of the tow plane

I’m staying in the clubhouse, and I settled in to sleep and to let the day’s lessons sink in.

flights: 2, airtime: 0:24


About cleversky

Hang glider pilot in New England since 2004. Also an avid orienteer, and an embedded systems firmware engineer. And some other outdoor stuff.
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