07-23-19 | And We’re Flying!

Everything is coming together. The gliders, crews, and equipment are all trickling in. Today, Noah and I had our ships together and had very nice flights. Our goal today was to have a low stress equipment check out. We hadn’t flown these ships before and haven’t used their avionics. We wanted to see how they flew and work out the kinks before attempting a cross-country task.

Luke and I got out to the airport early and worked out getting M8, my LS4a together. I took a step back and let him work through the whole process, offering guidance only when he requested it. He’s a really sharp fellow and is learning quickly. He’s doubly motivated because he will be flying the Aero Club Albatross LS4 soon; learning all the ins and outs of this ship will serve him very well.

Checklist completed, we headed on over to the pilot’s briefing. Notice the word briefing as opposed to meeting. In the Worlds, they have a short presentation on the local procedures, weather and contest announcements. There are no questions allowed from the audience. If a contestant has a complaint or a request for the organization, he must let his team captain know, who then follows up with the Contest Director (CD) or Stewards accordingly. All the contestants have crews and they are expected to do all the ground handling; the organization does not run wings or anything like that. It’s a different and much more professional environment than a typical regional or even a Nationals in the US.

In any case, the briefing today was relatively low key as it was an Unofficial Training Day. They set a task, despite the sullen-looking sky outside. But the CD was optimistic and figured that the soaring conditions should improve in the afternoon. The forecast indicated very unstable air; any sun on the ground and the thermals would cook off in no time. Noah and I were indifferent; all we cared about was to get in the air for a short flight and test out our systems.

We got to the grid by noon and had the ships all ready to go. The overcast burned off and the sun peeked out; looked like a pretty decent day after all!

We relaxed for a while. The day took a little while to trigger. By 12:45pm, the towplanes roared into action. The towplanes at this contest are an eclectic bunch. A Pawnee, 182, Zlin, Virus motorglider and several other types. Hardly more than two of the same airplane!

The Zlin was my towplane today. What an interesting machine! This is the first retractable-gear towplane that I had ever towed behind. It climbed quite well up to release altitude. The procedure in the Worlds is that a pilot must stay on tow until the towplane waves them off; you can’t just release in a thermal like you can back in the States. But this particular wave off was even more special as the towplane drops the gear as it starts vigorously waggling its wings!

In any case, Noah and I were quickly connected after release in good lift. I was very quickly impressed with my LS4. The radio was outstanding. I could hear Noah very very very clearly and loudly. I cannot overstate what a blessing this is. I’ve had to deal with subpar radios and microphones in team flying for a very long time. Very often you will say, “Unreadable” or “Say Again”. When you get tired and your diction starts falling apart, it gets even worse. But these radios work! And man what a relief this is.

These LS4s climb very very well. We were able to get them as slow as 80 km/h in the thermals, though they were happy at 85 km/h in a 40 degree bank. This is ~46 knots or so. They are in great shape and fly very well. Noah and I several times stated, “Did I mention that this is a really nice glider!” We were really happy with how these ships were flying.

We weren’t ambitious with our soaring plans today. We headed into the 23 knot headwind and explored the area. The terrain is mostly flat, with short to moderate length fields. The thermals were actually quite reasonable; fairly wide lift around four knot averages or so. Some of the cores were well into 7-8 knots. The airport is situated right next to Szeged, a fairly large city. This also makes it easy to stay up in this area as all the infrastructure is good for generating thermals.

To the west, there is higher, drier and more wooded terrain. The lift was fairly decent there, although the day started to overdevelop. Our near nil motivation to get out of gliding distance evaporated at that point and we headed closer to the airport.

When we went east of the airport, we found nearly dead air. This area is low ground near the Tisa River. The river valleys here are softer lift areas and this showed. We headed back to Szeged as the day started to collapse.

While we floated around near the airport, I tested out the manual bugwipers. They are a pain in the butt! They deploy by extending a fishing line as they sweep across the wing. Then you crank a little knob for about 90 seconds as it sweeps back to the wingroot. It is fairly vigorous work and required quite a bit of attention, at least on my part. I felt that it was a lot more trouble than it was worth, at least with the dry and non-buggy air that we were flying in. It seems a reasonable bet to clean the wings before start while milling around in the start sector and perhaps before final glide if possible. But I can’t imagine doing it the 4 or 5 times that people recommend to do during the course. It seems that the amount of time needed to do it is too distracting and would burn up that much more energy (in the glider and in the pilot) than can be gained from using these devices. But we will see!

In any case, we headed back after a leisurely 2.5 hours in the sky. We made a list of little items to address to be 100 percent contest ready and are well on our way toward knocking off those items. We’re in great shape and looking forward to flying tomorrow!

Among other news, Jonathan Elie arrived with JP Stewart’s glider. We are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of our teammate and we will soon be a complete team!

Find my flight log here.

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