A PENSIONER’S TALE
It was in November 2015 when there was a nagging desire to have a particular item ticked off the bucket list. This was to return to Gliding after a lay-off of nearly 20 years with 570 hours logged, during this time I constructed and learnt to fly many Radio Controlled aircraft. As a new-comer it was not an easy task learning not to crash, but the instructors were always nearby initially to take over the controls if required.
The Twin Astir (WZ) or (Whale Zulu) was found to have a mind of its own at times initially, but during the re-training phase not one instructor took over the controls other than to demonstrate a manoeuvre. Some instructors would talk during the flight but one particular instructor would only say ‘Use more %#@$*&^% rudder’ and on flying the downwind leg ‘Keep the airspeed on the yellow triangle’. The sound of snoring coming from the back seat was common…………………………….
It was interesting to have a range of instructors as they all had slightly different slants on various actions, but the main point emphasised by them all was that WZ requires boot loads of rudder in turns. It was a while before this was appreciated and implemented as it was nothing like flying a Blanik or any other glider for that matter. Thanks to Peter W, Peter C, Les, John T and CFI Tim for their patience and after 13 dual flights a solo was deemed to be a safe option after a check flight circuit. On take-off WZ leapt into the air without the weight of an instructor in the back, the handling was like a heavy single seater and ‘sort of’ a joy to fly and was delighted in clocking 33 min on the first flight.
The ultimate joy in gliding is to fly a single seater and on Saturday 5th March Tim offered up the PW5 (Discus was preferred though) which was grabbed with both hands as 22 years had passed since the last flight in a single in Std Astir NG out of German Hill. Jim towed with TGC, the acceleration on the ground roll was surprisingly rapid and the ailerons very responsive. Managed to stay aloft for an hour in strong lift with equally strong sink in places which was why the flight was cut short. A later flight under the convergence was not as prolonged as the system appeared to be decaying.
Looking forward to many more jaunts in TE.
When I told Rangi de Abaffy that I was planning to go to Benalla for a “Going for Gold” course in late November, he said, “When do we leave?” He has no need of going on a course but he has a friend who has an ASW 19 at Benalla and that tied in just nicely. Graham Garlick, an ex-airline pilot and who flies an ASW 20 in his spare time would run the course. Our Spring being what it usually is, I’d not had much useful flying other than some abject scratching around in scungy thermals, not getting more than 1200ft agl and felt rather underdone.
Rangi’s friend Louise O’Grady met us at Melbourne. The next day she drove s to Benalla. Benalla is about 200km north of Melbourne, separated from the coastal area by a continuation of the eastern high country. Thus, much less sea breeze effect, though sea air comes through a couple of the mountain valleys. We both had check flights in on of the IS 28’s the next day and also given authority to perform DI’s on gliders as well as doing the necessary club paperwork.
The course started on November 24th and after the morning met briefing the course participants, assembled in the upstairs lecture room. Myself; Robin Rose, (a private investigator and who now enjoys coming back to earth in aeroplanes rather than jumping out of them); David Goodley (a local police officer); and Tony Tidswell, ( ex-pat Kiwi and an IT person). Both David and Tony had hang gliding and/or, parapenting experience.
The course would run through Dec. 1st and Graham outlined what he expected would happen……. like…….. we each would do our 300km Gold Distance flight by the end of the course. How’s that for positive thinking? That can do, go and do it attitude most impressive. Each morning for the following week, we were treated to a power-point presentation on aspects of weather, thermals, paddock selection, out-landings, speed to fly, MacCready theory and practise, on being organised and so on. It was a comprehensive presentation and Graham had put a lot of work into it. Each day at 9am was the weather briefing. I think it its the best in terms of detail and available information that I’ve ever seen. All shown on a drop-down screen from an overhead projector. Interesting to note the effect of a trough-line that extended down from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Victoria. The upper air over us was moist enough to produce cu over the thermals and at times, spectacular thunderstorms over the mountains.
Coinciding with us being there, was the annual influx of pilots and their gliders from the UK. As well, a Canadian and one from the USA. Most would be there for some three months and were regular visitors. The quality of conversation was fascinating, always interesting, stimulating, often humorous.
Each course member was to have a flight in the Duo-Discus and I was up first. Robin would fly the LS7 and David would be in his Hornet glider. Out to Rennie and back. The Duo would go there and then to Mt Buller. About 300km. Volksloggers loaded, gliders prepared and we were off. I might say here, that I’ve had years and years of having to make do with the only thermal that seems to be around and that habit is hard to break. Simply not the way to progress cross-country. Graham is patient, but he has his limits! We had a reasonable trip until we set out from the Warbys to Mt Buller. Arrived over the hill country too low to get to some decent looking cu. Spent some time sculling around in zero sink and/or 1 to 2 knots lift. Benalla was at least 50km away and within final glide, so we headed home. Picked up a bit of height on the way, arriving there for a comfortable circuit and landed. Robin had had difficult time at one point and had to get back up from about 900ft agl. I swallowed one of Australia’s gazillion flies when I got out of the Duo. Not good. Rangi got some head nets for us next day.
I took the LS7 to Rennie the next day. A bit dismayed to find that, as we went out over the airfield boundary that I couldn’t observe the altimeter, hidden behind my hand and the control column. The LS7 is not the roomiest glider around and each time I raised or lowered the wheel, I ripped my arm on some bit of steel. The water ballast dump lever, I think. Never mind the problems, fly the glider! Robin and Graham in the Duo went to Tocumwal, but got low near the Explosives Factory on their return, before they got enough height for the circuit.
On the 26th, Robin and Graham were given a 300km task. Benalla/Burrumbuttock Silos/Tocumwal/Benalla. Robin made a valiant attempt but Tocumwal was in the blue and he couldn’t get away from there and landed. An aerotow retrieve. His eyes took on a glazed look when he calculated the cost! But he got his Silver Height and Distance. Well done. Tony and Graham got round in the Duo but the days honours belonged to David Goodley who completed the task and so gained Silver Badge, plus Gold distance and Diamond Goal. All in one flight! Rangi took the 19 out to The Rock and home again. About 360km.
The next day, I was given Benalla/Rennie/Tocumwal/Benalla as a task. A bit slow getting to Rennie and heading for Tocumwal at 4pm with the day starting to look a bit ragged, didn’t seem like a good idea, so I came home. An enjoyable flight though. More skin off my arm. Tony got round OK. Rain during the 28th & 29th which the local farmers would have appreciated, even if it was a bit late. On the 30th, it was Benalla/Bendigo/Benalla. Robin & Tony headed out that way but things weren’t that flash so they landed back. Tony flew the LS7 the next day, but landed out. Robin had another try for Bna/Bendigo/Bna on the December 1st but still feeling the effects, I guess, of the difficult day he’d had on the 26th, settled for a short flight.
On the evening of Friday the 30th, it was the Kiwis’ turn to cater. Masterminded by Rangi and help from Robin & Louise, we put on a good meal, earning instant approval at the table and honourable mention for a “superb meal” at the next morning briefing. The course members clubbed together and we presented Graham that evening with a couple of bottles of wine, a book voucher and cash. There was no charge for this course, Graham would have been well out of pocket, had put a prodigious amount of time into setting it up and had only asked for expenses to cover the cost of putting the lecture folder together. Commercially, that course could have been fairly charged out at A$250 per day, plus aircraft hire. The value of effort by individuals and people collectively, for the benefit of their club and others is immense and needs to be acknowledged from time to time.
My day though, was Sunday the 2nd. I’d worked out a task, Benalla/Henty Silos/Rennie/Benalla. Some 318km. Graham loaded the task into the logger for me and I was on my way at about 12.40pm. A bit of a breeze from the north. Thus, going on the southern side of Lake Mokoan put me into “lake effect’ and I soon found myself at 1700ft agl and taking a closer look at paddocks than I really wanted to do. It took some time to cobble some height together more towards Wangaratta and get going properly. About this time I noticed the wheel was down. More skin lost. About this time, Max Kirschner had come past in his Ventus, saw it and tried to notify on the radio-and related the event to me the next day. No escape there! The rest of the flight was great; I kept close to track all the way and worked a height band of, generally, 3500ft to 5500ft. It got better as I went along and later, was 5500ft to 7000ft. A tail wind of 8kts for the last two legs improved my overall speed and it was not long before I advised Benalla traffic that I was on final, ten miles out. A welcome cold drink from Robin and later, a cold beer from Rangi were just what I needed.
The logger record was OK and claims for Gold C Distance and a Diamond Goal were processed and forwarded to the Australian Claims Officer. Though booked in for another week, I didn’t fly again. I’d more than achieved what I’d hoped for and spent past my budget. So, I just enjoyed doing nothing, talking with people and enjoying the atmosphere of a good club. I’d flown further by myself than I’d ever done before, the best single I’d ever flown and met some fine and interesting people.
I don’t know about Rangi, but I’ve booked a couple of TGC members in for next year and then, there’s the 500………