I was setting up to land after a double ride, everything pretty much normal — except the spoilers wouldn’t open… Eeek! What to do? Time to employ that oft discussed, yet seldom seen solution, slip to a landing. Except I’d never flown one before, or even seen it done by anyone else…

But I was an instructor, you say. How could that be? Well when I started this journey in the 1970s, things were different. I slid through with so little training, we discussed emergencies once, but never did any actual simulation. Nor was the topic even mentioned during my check ride!

Nevertheless, the inclusion of ‘slip to a landing’ in the Glider Practical Test Standards has made it a hot topic over the years (in some jurisdictions anyway). According to the PTS, the objective is to determine that the applicant:

1. Exhibits knowledge of the elements related to forward, side,
and turning slips to landing, with and without the use of drag

2. Recognizes the situation where a slip should be used to land
in a desired area.

3. Establishes a slip without the use of drag devices.

4. Maintains the desired ground track.

5. Maintains proper approach attitude.

6. Makes smooth, proper, and positive control applications
during recovery from the slip.

7. Touches down smoothly within the designated landing area.

Sounds simple enough, but what do those words really mean? Are you required to bring that slip all the way to the ground with NO drag device, or may you return at some point to straight and level with open spoilers? If your examiner demands the latter, no sweat. Demonstrate a slip same as you would a thousand feet higher, then resume standard configuration and land normally. It’s the former case that can blow the lid off Pandora’s notorious box.

Ask examiners for clarification and they all say, “It’s right there in the book”. Yet personal interpretations of those 76 words – identical for Private and Commercial – have varied widely from one examiner to another. #1 can be completed on the ground, verbally. #2 could be air or ground, but doesn’t necessarily involve physical action. #3-6 are simple and easy, and all of these first six should be within the grasp of any solo student. #7 though, in its strictest interpretation, may lie beyond the capabilities of some beginners. In a Grob 103 for example, a novice without specific training faces one of the most difficult and critical maneuvers in the entire repertoire, potentially consuming several thousand feet of open space, and exposing the aircraft to high risk of damage from PIO or ground loop.

For years, some examiners insisted on the most stringent interpretation (and pocketed extra cash when retesting failed applicants). Now it seems they’ve become more reasonable. Fortunately for the new applicant, a recent decree suggests you only have to show a few seconds of slip somewhere on final approach. That makes the check ride easier, but dismisses the eventual real-life problem of actually getting down and stopped – perhaps in a constricted area – with no brakes whatever.

This procedure, while no longer required, remains one of the most vital to ultimate safety, and you need to know you can perform it when necessary. As with spins, if you haven’t already learned and practiced it, don’t try it the first time solo. Arrange for at least a demonstration with someone you trust, to keep you out of trouble. There are many ways to execute (and teach) no spoiler landings. What we offer here is not the ‘only’ method, but one that works well and helps to limit the risk of unwelcome results.

First, it’s smart to leave spoilers closed but unlocked, with your hand on the lever so you can open them smoothly when the far end does eventually near. Some say modern sailplanes don’t like to slip, but that’s hogwash. Bring in heavy rudder at first, and you can slip some glass ships twice as far sideways as a 2-32 or Blanik. Coming out of that slip just above ground level, though, requires twice the finesse — and if you level out a touch too high you’ll be needing maybe twice as much runway, too.

For transitioning power pilots, you don’t need to hold nose low when slipping a glider. In fact higher is better, up to a point. Gliders usually won’t stall in a slip unless you just haul back, something there’s rarely any call for. Think of it this way: the slower you are the steeper you’ll come down in a headwind, and the faster you are the more energy you’ll need to dump before touchdown. Also, slipping at comparatively high speed unduly stresses fragile T-tails and feels a lot less safe…

Think beforehand about which wing to lower, and for what reason, such as crosswind or direction of pattern. My preference is to start downwind leg in a full slip from the usual location and height, banked toward the landing area, so all you need when turning in is to temporarily relax your opposite rudder. Stay with a smallish but normal pattern.

Whenever it starts to look like you’re too low, just come out of the slip for a moment and you’ll be surprised how quickly you end up high again. (A left-hand pattern to a right crosswind might necessitate changing slip directions while turning final, a hiccup that always seems to result in a higher/steeper approach.) Then any time you’re not low, get right back in the slip. Warning: if you don’t stay with the big fat slip you will not get down in time!

The final phase of a no spoiler landing requires extreme PATIENCE. If it doesn’t look spooky low approaching the threshold, you’re probably still way too high. Stay in the slip until it almost feels like you’ll drag a wingtip, and only then smoothly rudder around to straight and LEVEL… Now comes the hard part: waiting, and waiting in ground effect while those last inches of altitude bleed away. At this point, if you panic and nudge the stick even a smidge, all unholy heck may erupt. Be brave and do nothing! If room ahead does begin to look tight, that’s when to smoooothly ease spoilers out and get on the ground while you still can.

So it’s recommended that you practice (don’t say master!) no spoiler landings, with supervision as necessary. Not to pass a check ride, but because it’s challenging and fun, and confirms that you truly can handle your aircraft near the edge of its envelope. Most importantly, you WILL be needing this esoteric skill some day soon! See you then.


Summer doesn’t officially end for another week, but autumn moved in quickly at Crystal last Sunday morning, resulting in delightfully fresh weather all week. Now we’re due another slight warming trend, peaking near 90 on Saturday, and (don’t tell anybody) a chance of wave for Sunday and Monday. (Saying that jinxed it of course, so blame me when it doesn’t happen.)


We had four pilots soar cross-country last weekend, two on Saturday which was ‘promising’ and two on Sunday, which was a little more so. None made the coveted diamond distance, but all had a fine time trying, as their stories make clear.
Sean Eckstein, 48 miles to Nelson strip in San Bernardino county.

I landed at Nelson airstrip, it’s an old private strip north of Lucerne dry lake. The altitudes and winds toward Las Vegas showed the best chance for some distance.

My takeoff time was at 11:40, the tow was uncommonly smooth over the flats and the 2nd. ridge, I didn’t release until I reached the house thermal by the labor camp, and not in lift. I dove towards the hill east of the labor camp and got a little teaser that eventually took me to 10k.

Leaving the Wrightwood area at 11.4k towards Apple Valley I noticed the absence of teaser thermals, and the winds turned from WNW at 3 knots to W at 13 knots. Both Dave (SAS) and I were struggling low on the hills east of Apple Valley, and not making any progress in the 100 plus heat. Thermal lift was maintaining me between 5.5k and 6.7k so I decided to leave the area to look for better lift, I had enough altitude to head east in hope of better altitudes. I continued to struggle with the same results.

I landed at Nelson, an old airstrip that looks like it hasn’t been used in a long time, but still in good shape. Both Peter (6PK) and I have visited this location a few times over the years and it has always looked landable.

For anyone interested in flying cross country, flying in conditions and altitudes were you must fly proficiently, and make decisions about what to do next is the best way to improve your skill and knowledge.

Dave Raspet:
Simple report: Dr Jack showed good weather for a flight out to Williams [320 miles], I flew to Apple Valley [36 miles].
Mike Koerner 268 miles to Mesquite, NV:

I flew to Mesquite for my season closer on Sunday.

It was like two different days. One was a good day. Anytime you were above 8,000 feet you were immediately whisked to 13,500 by powerful thermals which averaged 280 feet per minute. That happened both behind Crystal and over Clark Mountain.

The other day, when you were below 8,000, was only marginally soarable. It was brutally hot. Lift was weak, averaging about 100 feet per minute, but often less and distributed sparingly. I had to turn back toward 031. After a low save there I orbited around East Cronise trying to get high enough to move on. I viewed the runway at Baker with longing as a I passed overhead, having decided to give the radar tower a go. I turned back toward Mesquite 3 separate times before finally switching to Unicom and calling it a day.

You may wonder why I didn’t stay high, stick with the good day. I’ll have plenty of time to think about that in the months ahead.


Richard Smolinski, 110 miles to Cinder Cone dry lake:

Originally I planned to fly on Saturday but after looking at the forecast, I switched to Sunday.

Chris and his tow crews are getting better and better at launching all XC flights fast without letting us sizzle in the sun waiting. Big thank you for that.

I took late afternoon tow toward ridges. Tow took me to usual place by the Work camp and from 7500ft I started circling until I reached 12k and begin my hop through the desert.
There was lot of wave clouds and I was using sporadic rotors on my way. At Rosamond I found rotor that took me to 11k and after that I head toward mountains having Cal City as a backup.

Mountains work but only up to 10k and here the fun begin. Using rotors going up and down 1.5K each time, I pushed toward Inyo Kern AP. It was fun flying low at 8 – 10K between rotors. Finally, I got into 8K sink and since was getting late I decide to land at Cinder Cone. I was thinking of more fights on the hills but I spotted glider already on the ground and think “hey people are there so I do not have to seat alone waiting for my awesome wife to pick me up” so I landed… I was welcomed by Tom and Britton from Inyo Kern just packing (BB) in to a trailer. It was awesome flight it was long time since last time I was hugging hills going fast and low….


Plenty of accomplishments to celebrate this week: Joe Batwinis got his private glider add-on rating, sixteen year old Robles Fisher passed his initial check ride (second teenager this month), and one of our tow pilots, Justin Gillen flew his first solo in a glider.

We’d been mentioning recently how our usual ‘monsoon’ season of comparative humidity and cloudiness seemed to have never come in late July or August, then sure enough, in the first five days of September, (today) will be the fourth with modest buildups and isolated fair weather showers. It’s always interesting to watch them grow from the southeast, into a westerly breeze, and leave us pleasantly cooler right at the hours of maximum heating.