Managing the Ridge Tow

Ridge days are windy and require dealing with a gusty, direct crosswind. This can make the tow very sporty and sometimes the most challenging part of a ridge day.

In order to manage the ridge tow effectively, you must be 100 percent ahead of the glider before the tow begins. You’re completely ready for the challenge ahead.

This means the glider was perfectly prepared during pre-flight. Everything loose was stowed. When you get strapped in, you cannot be rushed. And before you give the go-ahead to the wingrunner, you should have completed your checklists and completely thought through your emergency plan. You should be in the zone as the wingrunner lifts your wingtip.

When you begin the tow, you should be ready to input crosswind corrections. In the case of a crosswind from right to left, this means left rudder and right stick. You should also keep your right wing a bit lower than level.

Once you get airborne, you will then adjust a bit upwind and transition into a crab to remain in position somewhat upwind of the towplane.

Be ready for significant turbulence and shear. Often times when you get above a tree line, the towplane will accelerate and the glider will then hit a massive gust. This will likely cause you to hit your head on the canopy.

Hitting your head on the canopy is dangerous and will cause you to momentarily lose control of the glider, while in an awkward position to deal with a rope-break. Instead, you should be prepared for the gust beforehand.

The best solution for slack line recovery is to never let it happen in the first place. By being vigilant and actively maintaining position and adding tension to the line BEFORE the big gust throws you out of position, you can avoid almost all slack line situations.

To avoid getting flung out of position, you must maintain good position behind the towplane and some tension on the rope. First, this is by remaining just above the wake (which is a bit lower than “normal” tows.) Secondly, this is by strategically opening up the divebrakes when appropriate. If you see the towplane get flung up, open the brakes 1/4 of the way. The added drag and tension will keep the glider in position.

If you do get out of position, deploy some spoiler and correct accordingly. But be ready to release if your situation is not recoverable.

Always be ready for a rope break. You’re much more likely to experience a rope break in turbulent conditions. When it occurs, treat it like an emergency that it is, rather than an inconvenience. Be willing to go straight ahead for an alternate field well up to 400ft AGL rather than attempting a marginal turn, at or a little bit above 200ft.

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