PTT, Dave Un­win

Pilot - - CONTENTS -

In­tro­duc­ing new peo­ple to glid­ing - but watch out for air­craft ‘tres­pass­ing’

As Pi­lot’s Flight Test Edi­tor I’m very for­tu­nate to get be­hind the con­trols of some real aero­nau­ti­cal ex­ot­ica. Con­se­quently I think some of the mem­bers of the Buck­min­ster Glid­ing Club are sur­prised to see me in the back of a K-21 or Puc­haz sailplane, fly­ing trial lessons. Yes, I know they’re the avi­a­tion equiv­a­lent of a trip around the light­house, but I re­ally en­joy them! It’s not just about the plea­sure of in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple to the sky, show­ing some­one their vil­lage from the air or be­ing an am­bas­sador for the sport I love — it’s also re­ally good fun.

I’ve met some fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple, from the 95-year-old WWII Royal Navy vet­eran (com­plete with an ex­ten­sive and im­pres­sive ret­inue of chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and great-grand­chil­dren) who I took fly­ing on his birth­day, to the ex­tremely ex­citable Span­ish girl I flew last week.

Some­times hit­ting a big ther­mal can gen­er­ate quite a re­ac­tion, and while you’d ex­pect an old sailor to pos­sess an ex­ten­sive vo­cab­u­lary of cuss-words, dig­ni­fied RN man Al was a model of pro­bity. Not so Francesca! Her knowl­edge, and in­ven­tive use of An­glo-saxon in­vec­tive was truly re­mark­able and a won­der to hear. “I some­times swear when I get a bit ex­cited,” she’d ad­mit­ted when I was strap­ping her in — but this side of her char­ac­ter re­mained hid­den un­til we hit a re­ally big ther­mal. She shrieked out a se­ries of… Well; use your imag­i­na­tion. A pause, then “oh, I am sorry!” “I should think so too,” I laughed. “I’ve never heard such eff­ing lan­guage!” She gig­gled, we flew onto to an­other ther­mal and the pro­fan­ity con­tin­ued. I don’t think I’ve ever heard quite so much imag­i­na­tive vul­gar­ity but we cer­tainly had a lot of fun that flight even though — at times — I could barely fly for laugh­ing!

I also re­mem­ber be­ing en­thralled by pas­sen­gers from the el­derly Trans Canada Air­lines Cap­tain whose ca­reer had spanned the DC-3 to the DC-8 and was par­tic­u­larly fond of the Vis­count, to the lit­tle old lady who had never left the ground un­til her 80th birth­day, and the surly teenage aero mod­eller whose de­meanour changed as soon as the canopy closed and proved to be the most nat­u­ral avi­a­tor I’ve ever flown with.

Stay­ing at the glid­ing club (where I’ve been spending a lot of time over the sum­mer hol­i­day with my young sons) there is a counter side to all the good times. I’ve be­come more than a lit­tle con­cerned about the num­ber of air­craft blithely tran­sit­ing Saltby’s ‘over­head’. Last week I watched from the cock­pit of a sailplane as what looked like an RV-7 went right across the mid­dle of the air­field, on a course per­pen­dic­u­lar to the run­way at about 1,200ft. Only a few days later I was stand­ing by the launch point when a pis­ton twin ap­peared to be about to do ex­actly the same thing, but abruptly sheared off at the last sec­ond. Both air­craft were head­ing more or less south at around noon, but that’s no ex­cuse — there are some very good land­marks in the area, such as Rut­land Water (one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe) the mas­sive run­way of the former RAF Cottes­more, the East Coast main­line, Belvoir Cas­tle and the A1. All of these are ready aids to visual nav­i­ga­tion.

I think that part of the prob­lem is that some GPS units don’t show glid­ing sites, and too many pilots are sim­ply slav­ishly fol­low­ing the ma­genta line. Now, I am — and al­ways have been — a huge fan of GPS, but as good as it is, it isn’t magic. If the unit you’re us­ing doesn’t have glid­ing sites then you’re def­i­nitely ex­posed to er­ror. And it’s not just Saltby where this is hap­pen­ing: too many other glid­ing clubs are re­port­ing near-misses be­tween the winch cable and pow­ered traf­fic. Last month the UK Air­prox Board cat­e­gorised four such in­ci­dents as Class A — the high­est, and in­dica­tive that a col­li­sion nearly oc­curred.

A sailplane can ac­cel­er­ate from sta­tion­ary at the launch point to fly­ing at sixty knots 1,000ft above the run­way while trail­ing a long length of steel cable in about the time it has taken you to read this sen­tence! On a good day at Saltby with a fresh west­erly, winch launches to 1,800ft (or al­most 2,300 on the QNH) are not un­com­mon. If this doesn’t strike you as a hazard, pic­ture all that cable as a gi­ant cheese-cut­ter and your wing as a fine vin­tage ched­dar — be­cause the one will cut through the other in ex­actly the same way.

Fi­nally, no mat­ter where you are or what you fly, please keep a good look­out. And if you were fly­ing a Cessna 152 on Thurs­day 18 Au­gust at 13.56 lo­cal and were south-west of Gran­tham on a south-east­erly track at 2,000ft QNH, you re­ally need to raise your game, be­cause you sim­ply never saw the bright red tug (com­plete with func­tion­ing strobes and land­ing light) or the great big sailplane it was tow­ing, did you? The only rea­son I’m still here to write this — and I hope you’re read­ing it, dear Cessna pi­lot — is that both the sailplane pi­lot and I saw you. De­spite hav­ing to break vi­o­lently I still got your registration (yes; you were that close). An­other Air­prox to be filed...

It’s not just about the plea­sure of in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple to the sky... Many other clubs are re­port­ing near misses with pow­ered traf­fic

DAVE UN­WIN Pi­lot’s Flight Test Edi­tor op­er­ates a Jodel D.9 from a farm strip and has logged stick-time on ev­ery­thing from ul­tra­lights to fast jets

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