It seems most important stuff but without understanding your glider on ground, it is both slower and more dangerous to trying understanding it in the air.
Winch vs. mountain – just some facts
I do not prefer winching but it has some advantages:
- You can land at the take off easily from giant field
- Wind direction is often no issue
- If you end on reserve you will probably hit the soft field
- Nice altitude quickly
- Waiting line
- Not choosing your takeoff window
- Costs money per each start
- Missing shelters combined with strong sun are annoying
Pure soaring – efficient turning
Using a wind blowing up because it has a ridge in its way is the easiest way how to spend hour in the air with limited skills/experience. If wind is optimal, there is still a space to improve.
Turns can be performed by several ways. Probably every newbie starts with slow and broad turns, do not think you are special in this way. While having a great conditions and some height, try to turn tighter. It is good if you can check how much altitude you have lost in turn. You will notice, that fast turn drops altitude faster, but in the end you gain some meters back. There is some danger going to negative spin if you pull brake too hard, if brake feels soft suddenly, just release it immediately and wait until glider stabilizes.
Turning is basic skill but making a perfect turn is a mastery. It means a pendulum effect will not go opposite direction. Example: you turn right, after start turning you are transitioned bellow left ear. In a perfect turn you maintain stable position relative to left ear and when end, you shift back to the middle. In poor turn, you start under left ear but are pulled back, usually pass the central position and end closer to right ear at some moment. This pendulum movements costs energy, energy costs height. This technique is important in weak conditions.
Also try flying slower, while immediately release the brakes after some time. You gain speed and energy, but loose altitude. It is like sink air simulator. While having extra energy, you can convert it to altitude by pushing the brakes. Getting know size of this effect can save your ass sometimes. If repeated, it is called “dolphins”. Nice exercise and often used for build energy before landing. Big dolphin jump can cause a frontstall, jab the brakes strongly but shortly, if they tend to continue past 45 degrees in front of you.
TIP: Small wingovers are also nice to try. Soaring is perfect if it can be combined with takeoff+topland training.
Soaring with some thermals – training of lowsaves
Best conditions for training climbing effectively is when you soar a ridge while thermal bubbles are also present.
Try 180 degree turns within bubbles and gain as much height as possible (check gain on your vario). There is huge difference if you do this perfectly. If you feel fine, move more in front of hill and try 360s and get up. This is basically practice of low saves. But here you can return closer to ridge, gain altitude and try it again when instead bomb out. When you find thermal close to ground on your 80th kilometer, you will thank yourself (and me) to train this all that day!
Also, watch and feel how conditions are changing during the day. If you start early, first bubbles are weak and rare. During the noon they get strong and common and in the evening they get gentle but still common. However conditions can weaken faster because of various reasons and it is very helpful you can feel it, comparing to previous experience the same day.
Unfortunately perfect conditions for this training are uncommon; therefore use it as much as possible when it occurs.
Strong thermic conditions – important stuff
At the beginnings try to stay in the air and gain altitude. This is vital action for flying!
It is best to train on a hill which is thermally active all day. You take off, gain maximum height, fly away, lose altitude, fly back, gain altitude, fly away, lose altitude…etc. Trying to do cross country before mastering thermalling in different thermal days is a good way to bomb out losing rest of the day. Train this until you are tired.
During thermalling watch and feel the glider. It is usually sucked by thermal in, and it lets you know thermal is ending by tapping the outside ear. Also try finding the core, which is usually not as close to the mountain. It is stronger, but calmer than the rest of thermal. You can sometimes hit it when going directly to valley to get rest from thermalling. Also notice how thermal change its speed and size with altitude.
When you start feeling tired, fly to another place and try thermalling there. If you bomb out, you can finally go pee at least, having an XC trip if successful and building XC experience in all cases.
To lose altitude you could train descent techniques and collapses at trim speed. You are high above ground in relative calm valley/flatlands air and there will rarely be better conditions, except expensive SIV courses. Also, men can try pee in the air.
Turning efficient, tight and well timed/placed is more difficult than it seems. If someone climbs faster, (with few exceptions) it is not by a glider. Think what he makes different. Some pilots tries to shadow better pilots, it always fails by 30 seconds, do not waste your time.
TIP: Stronger thermals (5+) shouts to you more information. Generally better conditions to learn but be prepared for collapses.
Collapses – train at every suitable opportunity
Disclaimer: In short, you can get injured or die doing this without proper training! If in doubts, do this under supervision of certified instructor.
Every wing will collapse from time to time. Having enough experience before first real collapse happens can save your life. Many pilots think that flying a school glider do not require a training of collapses. I do not share this idea as I saw EN-As falling into difficult condition caused by poor pilot’s reaction. The sad fact is, that pilots dies at school gliders too. Training collapses builds your confidence, and confidence is a must for any longer XC flight.
You need to be high to try this safely; conditions should not be very bumpy. As you are losing height, the best situation to learn is before landing while having 300+ meters above ground. Another option is when train thermalling and going in front of hill above the valley to descent (thermalling chapter). During soaring, you rarely have enough altitude unless on some great acro spots. Doing it at SIV is the safest way but if you have experience from basic course, you should be able to do/repeat basic maneuvers by yourself.
Ears – vital. It is necessary you automatically grab ears when required. This is great maneuver if you are too long on landing in final phase. Tapping ears for 5 seconds will get you aligned again usually again, in worst scenario, landing with ears is safer than trying turns or stalling the glider in final moment. More often, when being sucked by cloud you are under the stress, trying to remember ears is not a good situation. Once ears are in position, you can push speed bar to get even more sink (pushing bar first should be avoided). Just remember to release speed bar before release ears when going out of maneuver (p. ears -> p. bar -> r. bar r. ears).
Asymmetrical collapses – vital. The most common collapse, also very dangerous as it can change your direction, or with wrong input, quickly morph to a deep spiral. If you are scared, try just doing a one big ear. Once comfortable, pray, lean slightly to one side and push all opposite side’s A lines. Leaning has more effect than brakes. Many newbies are surprised by their first collapse, falling to unhealthy side, changing a no issue maneuver to brown pants maneuver. At school glider with enough altitude, there is no need to be afraid if you release A lines and do not touch brakes. Danger is stalling the healthy side, therefore try control as much as possible by weight shift.
Front stalls – important. First try short small push the A lines and release immediately. Later, progressively increase your strength and duration before release. If glider falls behind you so you cannot see it, tap a brakes shortly. Holding brakes for longer than second in this position can cause a fullstall easily. After bigger collapse there is bigger overshoot, just jab brakse strongly but shortly when glider passed 45 degrees in front of you.
Full stall, Negative spin, collapses on half/full speed, spiral, these are recommended on SIV course with instructor even at a school glider. If messed up, you could always put hands up and wait a little. Common mistake is that people are pulling brakes in stall like in frenzy not letting glider fly again. Of course, know where your reserve it and use it if felt you really fucked up.
TIP: Try to get through full SIV course as soon as possible; it will improve your limits significantly.
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