Adventures on Planet Earth

Solo

Gliding circuit

First solo flight recap:

  1. Winch ground run and take-off. Keep wings level. Hang on for dear life.

  2. Ascent. Realise my aileron rudder-control needs more practice. Crosswind isn’t helping. Try fewer control inputs.

  3. Cable release. Hear the characteristic back-release knock and give a sigh of relief. Fiddle with the trim control - very trial and error.

  4. Glide. Reflect on the moment - I am in the air and there is no instructor in the seat behind me…

  5. High key area. Drop altitude by circling. Take in the view.

  6. Downwind leg. Go through checks. Angle looks okay, but there is way too much activity on that grassy patch I am expected to land on. Abandoned gliders. People walking around. Hopefully it clears. Think through alternative scenarios.

  7. Low key area/Diagonal leg (merged). Not clearing. Maintain angle to landing site.

  8. Base leg/Final turn (merged). Still not clearing. Resort to backup landing site. Going to be interesting.

  9. Approach. Open airbrakes and commit.

  10. Round-out & float. Crosswind means I am pointing at an angle to the ground track. Keep the plane flying, straighten up just before touch down.

  11. Ground run. Instructors voice in my head:’Remember the brakes’. I avoid the fast approaching field of rapeseed.

  12. Solo!

The majority of the learning curve to attempt this was traversed in two 5-day ‘gliding holidays’ (read ‘bootcamps’) at Cotswold Gliding Club. At least 6 flights a day for 5 days in a row - enjoyable and utterly exhausting. It’s been many years since my first flight at university, but I am glad I kept at it.

Cranfield University Gliding Club article, Entropy magazine, 2010

Further reading:

  • British Gliding Association: https://www.gliding.co.uk/
  • Cotswold gliding club updates: http://www.cotswoldgliding.co.uk/members/node?page=7