New Pilots Sailplane Flight Training Guide
Safety is always our greatest concern, please be mindful of these guidelines.
Know the AMA safety rules, our future as hobbyist depends upon it! These rules supersede all others (other than governmental) as they are our basis for lobbying to the FAA to allow as to fly as we have in the past with our exceptional safety record.
Never fly by yourself, period.
Club Specific Guidelines for Beginners
When Can You Fly - Any time there is not a contest and Addison Oaks Park does not have a restriction.
Flying Area Restriction- No flying at less than 100M altitude over the pit and parking area. Other than that, have at it.
Landing - Don’t walk in front of another pilot who’s on final. Planes on final approach to landing have right of way. Normally “sailplane fields” do not have a “Pilots Box” that the pilot has to be in when flying and pilots do walk all over the field (especially DLG pilots) so one has to be aware of other pilots on the field when coming in for a landing. Landing precision is one of the most important things a budding sailplane pilot must learn. Beginners should always have a trainer next to them but this is especially true when landing.
Winch & Retriever - You are welcome to use the club's equipment. However, do not operate either the winch or retriever until you have received proper training. Launching sailplanes have the right of way and active launch lines are dangerous so do not walk over winch lines if someone is ready to tow, if you are flying make sure you are not crossing the launch lane if someone is “on line”. Common sense rules on the sailplane field, not hard and fast rules.
Ground Hazards - Beware of the holes made by our indigenous burrowing wildlife, our field has quite a few.
Preflight: Range and Battery Check - Test the range of your transmitter and receiver system. Check the condition of your batteries. A high percentage of new pilots’ troubles are equipment or build related and batteries are at the top of that list.
Controls - Make sure all servos are working before each launch and that control surfaces are responding in the correct direction.
Launching (Winch or Hi-Start Launching):
Launch Tension (Speed) - Learn how much tension your plane needs by letting your training officer do the winch launching controls while you run the sailplane controls. Once you are comfortable with this kind of launch, try it yourself and build up a little more tension (or confidence) on each succeeding launch making sure you use enough tension not to stall on the low end and not break your wing on the high end. Remember, when going up the line the rudder is doing the “left-right” (Yaw) control, not the ailerons. If you are not comfortable with the left stick (mode two), ask for help as it is the most important aspect of any “good” launch.
One of the most important things in winch launching is that the CG-Tow Hook relationship if king, you should not have to input up or down elevator to launch (in nominal wind), it should be at a neutral position and the tow hook position should be tuned with respect to the CG to allow for good rotation and climb. Winch launching is very difficult and takes a lot of practice and plane tuning so make sure your instructor helps you with all aspects of this portion of the flight.
Winch - Next learn to tap the winch while your instructor controls your plane.
Solo Launch - Combine what you’ve learned and launch on your own.
Straight Line - You should first become proficient at controlling you plane when it’s flying straight and level. You need to put the plane on a trajectory and keep it there. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to do much with all the dynamics involved in thermaling until you’re able to control your plane in straight and level (objective) flight. Flying straight and level is essential to maximize your air time as you search for your next thermal. You will eventually get the feel that when you plane wants to deviate from straight and level it usually means the energy content in that batch of air is different (could be up or down or sideways but each movement is an indicator of what to do next). Properly set up sailplanes react to air currents in such a way as to indicate what is going on in that space, our job as pilots is to know what these reactions mean. The learning process is what this sport is all about.
Reversed Yaw and Roll Control - Your responses should be automatic when you plane is flying toward you. Remember that half of the time when thermaling and all of the time when landing you are flying reversed on roll and yaw…. I cannot tell you how much a computer simulator helps in this aspect, use one a lot to gain confidence before testing yourself with a real model.
Figure Eights - Figure eights are a good way to test your abilities at controlling you plane while turning.
Landing Zone - Plan your approach and landing and practice at all times with a landing tape even if you do not think you will land “in the points”. Over time you will find that getting to the tape and getting points is easier and easier. It forces discipline (full scale pilots have to land on the tape, every time). Every flight ends with a landing somewhere, why not on the runway?
Wind Direction - Constantly be aware of the wind direction, if it changes during the flight, the landing approach may have to be altered from when you took off. Thermal action can make the wind at the landing site change 180 degrees at times, you may have to land downwind (horrible) in rare conditions but it can be done and over time you should know how to do it (it is asking a lot of a beginner).
Face Downwind - Turn until you can feel the wind directly at your back.
Plane Position - The most practiced technique is to be downwind over one shoulder at 20 seconds from landing and about 30M out and 20M high.. turn on base at 15 seconds and turn onto final at 10 seconds and be 20M from the designated landing spot. Of course none of this happens because of wind and 100 other elements but keep practicing and the final tuning of the process will become automatic.
Straight In - Fly your plane slightly to one side of you on final. Fly beyond you if necessary to land. Don’t make any abrupt turns once you are on final. A walk is always better than a crash. If your plane has flaps, use them and rudder (not aileron) for glide control and placement of the plane on the envisioned glide slope, elevator should not be your primary glide control and used to control speed on final.
Detection - While flying straight and level watch your plane in relation to the horizon. Any change in the flying attitude is an indication of a difference in the air energy. It could be either sink or lift or neither but it is safe to assume that if you circle in this energy and the plane is either maintaining its height or climbing, it is in lift. Many books have been written on the subject so trying to detail what to do in one sentence may not be considered intelligent. Just know that with a lot of practice you will intuitively figure out what is lift and what is not. I would suggest the CD’s by Paul Narton as a good learning tool.
Drift - Once you do find a thermal know that they are unpredictable and you may have to move around the sky to keep in the lift zone. In most cases you will have to allow your plane to drift with the prevailing wind direction to maintain your position within the thermal. Although not always true it is a large percentage of the time so go with it initially until you get the feel for centering the core and staying with it as it moves around.
Repeat - On good lift days, after you've reached a comfortable altitude in a thermal and have drifted downwind, fly 45 degrees in the upwind direction in search of another thermal and do it all again. Flying directly upwind in the previous path of the thermal will almost always result in finding sink. Resist the temptation to "speck out". Loss of visibility is a sure way to lose your plane. A better challenge is to descend to launch altitude and hook up again. “Catch and release”.