Third time’s a charm

2014-08-24: Since I had been away on vacation for a couple of weekends, it had been a month since I’d flown, and Tanner-Hiller was the place to go. Quite a few other pilots were there by the time I arrived, and Rhett was towing them up continuously. There were thermals to be found, and some were staying up pretty well. I put my glider together, and there were several others already in line ahead of me. Two months since my last tow flight, so I was maybe a little rusty. The takeoff roll went well, and I tried to remember to not worry if the glider was yawing, but I overdid the “not worry” part, and was seriously undercorrecting. I was just a rag doll on the end of the tow line, really. I got pretty far off line, but got it straightened out without a lockout, and Rhett brought the tug in front of me. But then it happened again, I was way off line. I saw Rhett gesturing wildly, in a manner that I interpreted as, “Get off the line, you idiot!”. (Turned out he was actually telling me to correct hard to the left.) We were almost 500 feet off the ground at that point, and I decided to quit while I was alive, because I had enough room to maneuver. I hit the release, and Rhett and I both turned around. He headed back to where the gliders were set up, while I turned again in about the middle of the runway and came in for a clean landing. Not so bad, no harm done. I had the option of going back for another try, but I was feeling like it just wasn’t my day, and there were some other things I wanted to do in the late afternoon, so I packed up and headed out.

I’ve known Phil A for many years, but this is the first time I ever actually saw him fly!

2014-09-01: Labor Day looked beautiful, so I headed to the airport again for another try. When I pulled in, I saw Tom P chatting with Manager Bob (both in their cars), but the hangar doors were closed. Bob said I was the fifth one who had showed up so far, but Rhett had figured everybody would be busy on the holiday, so he didn’t come down to tow. Serves me (and the rest of us) right for making assumptions and not calling ahead. Still, a beautiful day provides opportunities to do other things outdoors, which I did.

2014-09-07: This was the big camping weekend for the orienteering club, and with a threat of thunderstorms on Saturday, that was a better choice than being in the air. I left late Saturday night, though, because Sunday looked like promising flying weather. There was some debate about where to go, since it was a NW wind, but not too strong. Ascutney would have been the obvious choice were it not for some car races going on that meant that the road was closed. I was leaning toward the Trail, but others seemed to think it would be too light or too cross there. So… Tanner-Hiller again, though I was rather concerned about the prospect of towing there with a NW wind (the runway goes SW-NE). Pete J was setting up when I arrived, as was Nick, and a number of other pilots arrived a bit later. Rhett said that they had done some tandems early, and the wind was a bit strong then, but seemed to have calmed down. The flag showed that it was generally 90 degrees to the runway (ugh), but occasionally would switch and blow from the SW, which was a tailwind from where we had set up. We spent some time discussing the best landing approach pattern to use in those conditions.

Nick towed up first, and he seemed to stay up pretty well. Pete was next, and went up just after Nick landed, then I was in line after him. My original plan had been to arrive early and do a flight while the air was mellow, but it was now mid-day, so I opted to fly with a tail fin to improve my odds. I was determined to do a better job than I had two weeks earlier. It wasn’t as easy as other flights I’ve done with the fin, the air was pretty active and the tug and I were both getting jostled around a lot, with the line going slack a couple of times and suddenly snapping back taut, though not with enough force to break the weak link. Maintaining the correct altitude was a little difficult, with me mostly being a little high, but then when we were about 2000 feet up, the tug was suddenly way above me… and then suddenly way below me. What that meant to me was that I was in a place where up was happening, and the tug was in a place where down was happening, and I liked the idea of up a lot better than down, so I hit the release and turned to stay in the thermal. Pinning off early, yeah, I’m a cool guy.

The thermal was in fact pretty good, and I climbed about 1700 feet as I drifted to the southeast. Once I was comfortable in the climb, I tried to zip up my harness, but something was wrong, it felt like something was wrapped around my left leg. I was concerned that I had gotten myself in a situation where it might mess up my landing, so I headed upwind and tried to straighten it out. I couldn’t feel well enough with my gloves, so I took one off, and realized that the problem was that the velcro on the release cord had gotten stuck to my pants — easily solved. I cruised around some and check out some likely spots for finding another climb without much luck, until I got one directly over the runway. When that one died out I looked around again, and noticed that Pete was below me, and so was Kevin (who had launched right after me), and nobody was going up. It could have been a busy traffic situation as we all came in to land at the same time, but Pete burned off some altitude fast while I slowed down to stretch it out, and we had ample separation. Pete landed perpendicular to the runway, Kevin went parallel, and I went directly into the wind into the slot on the far side, and all of the landings went well.

I was pleased with how things had gone, and wasn’t especially looking forward to the rough tow and crosswind conditions again (Rhett admitted later that it was pretty nasty up there), so I just brought my glider over to the parking lot and broke down. Rhett towed Max up right after I landed, but then nobody else looked very enthusiastic, and even after I packed up and retrieved my car and loaded the glider and headed out, everybody was still on the ground and some were packing up. So I felt like I made the most of the day.

Max landing perpendicular to the runway

2014-08-24: flights: 1, airtime: 0:02
2014-09-07: flights: 1, airtime: 0:31


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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