Freesteel Blog » That was the winch that was

That was the winch that was

Friday, May 18th, 2012 at 6:22 pm Written by:

I snuck off for a couple of days down at airways airsports, which is the UK importer for Wills Wing, and where they allegedly do Aerotowing, like that Wallaby place in Florida.

Except this is England, so it’s a bit like comparing Southport pleasure beach in the grey and windy February rain to Walt Disney World in the blazing sunshine with all its smiling people. They are in the same market. But this is home and it’s available two hours down the M6, and there are a lot of good reasons not to live in Florida.

The first day (Wednesday 16 May) didn’t go very well. Aerotowing has been off for the past year, so there was the offer of a winch tow. I remember I dabbled with this form of launching once before in a place in Norfolk when I lived in Cambridge many miles from a hill, and swore never to do it again. But I forgot exactly why I hated it. Probably because it seemed like a waste of time, with too high a fear to flying ratio (scary wires, lockouts, frequent landings, risk of crashing into stuff on the ground). But today I’ll do what it takes. I think I got 4 “flights” during the day, between the wind gusts, less than 50 feet off the ground, ripped my trousers on some broken concrete, putting up with instructors dicking around doing donuts with the quadbikes used to pull out the wires, and so on. Left me all pretty depressed with the whole deal.

I planned to give it another day and had put sleeping bags and stove in the car, intending to head up to some layby in the hills for the night. But then some people turned up in the evening, and someone cooked a nice chilli in the clubhouse and shared it around with a few beers in spite of my unsociability, and I cheered up a bit. I had an early night owing to missing so much sleep the previous night in anticipation of driving off at 6:30am to get here on time. There are static caravans dotted around the site for resident gliding bums, just like at Wallaby. Without a employee chart pinned to a notice board it takes days to work out who is who, in terms of knowing the difference between some first time punter like myself and the actual owner of the joint.

It was a drizzling on Thursday morning. Luckily I had my laptop and did some coding on HSMWorks, attempting to get someone interested in my Wills Wing connection. It was lucky I did so as some horrendous software bugs came down the wifi, which I had to work hard to fix, and apologize for wasting so many people’s time in St Petersburg in the last few days.

Then the air cleared and we were out again. This gave me the opportunity to put to use two things I had learnt from the instructor the day before. The first was to pull your weight to the left and right on the uprights, not push it, as pulling will tend to pull your body forwards and bring the nose down, rather than pushing which will push you away diagonally (because you are hanging behind the frame), which slows the glider and give it a tendency to stall.

The second one-sentence lesson was how to flare. The trick is to fly the glider down to the ground, bleed off the speed till you are flying at trim, count 3-2-1, and then shove out. I never knew that. I began to get it right every time.

Back at Wallaby I watched them run a landing clinic for about 20 pilots on one of the days. This involved tying a mylar streamer to the participants for identification, flying them up and filming their landings at a distance from a movie camera on top of a jeep. They all went into a dark room to review the footage on the big screen.

After I learnt to fly, I flew for eight years without ever having an instructor take a look at what I was doing. I also did most of it on a fairly crappy glider called a Magic IV that I was convinced had a left turn in it.

I got in about 8 winch flights using the donkey-leg release with the string under the bar and wearing a harness with these funky knee straps on ropes that should have made it harder to run than it did. Gradually the pilot induced yaw was reduced when I remembered to stop pulling the bar in and not over correct the turns. And I had one incident where the release didn’t release at first, and the winch engine guillotined the wire so that I didn’t, for example, stay connected and swing down into the ground on the far side of them like the head of a sledge hammer [only if the 100kg breaking weak link failed to fail]. But then I got it released and flew back to the take-off zone. I even managed a small degree of low level thermaling on the last two flights.

Okay, this seems all right, I thought to myself. Can I buy one to take with me to Austria please?

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1 Comment

  • 1. Freesteel&hellip replies at 3rd December 2012, 11:44 am :

    […] some winch flights on the Falcon training glider on Thursday to get some experience again (since last May) and learn about the harness that feels like a turtle […]

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