NO KIDDING SHERLOCK

You can watch the game or observe the game.

Sandy Alomar, second baseman

Desert thermals can be huge and powerful, but bigger usually means further apart, and stronger lift in them corresponds with stronger sink between. When they’re not marked by cumulus you might glide blindly by any number of fine opportunities, getting lower all time, and soon be desperate…

We’d gotten low enough to see a tarp fluttering on a shed below. The pulsing glitter of that sun-beaten rag revealed surface wind’s direction as well as some indication of its speed, and it was really popping. If wind were blowing that hard everywhere the air would be filled with dust, yet it wasn’t. First guess, a thermal in-draft feeding lift somewhere downwind.

As it happened, that’s where we were headed, toward a choice of two dirt strips a mile apart. On we glided, ever lower, finally close enough to see one field’s windsock standing straight out, but in a different direction. It was pointed toward the other strip – whose sock hung quite still… Just then we entered sink.

So, Watson, what now?

Elementary. Turn straight toward the limp windsock, where these surface currents are merging. If it doesn’t work we have two choices. Land there or reverse to the other strip, back into a localized breeze that’s strengthening as we go.

And? We were already climbing when the devil’s first swirl kicked off right below us. Soon it peppered us with material from the ’becalmed’ runway, sounding more like gravel than dust. A mile higher all of that was ejected and falling away, but the lift continued for most of yet another vertical mile…

Seems detective Holmes is not the only one who does his best thinking under a goofy hat.

AGAIN?

Last week was one of our better ones this season, soaring-wise.  Peter Kovari finally got out of town, reaching that well known hotspot of Gabbs, and – stop the presses – Bradley Baum did so too, logging his very first diamond distance flight.  (Judging from what Bradley said afterward, it may not be his last!)   On the same day, Richard Smolinski soared about 275 miles to another hotspot, Mina, NV.

This coming week will be similar, with more light westerlies and thermals maybe not quite so high.

SEE YOU SOON!

CROSSWIND LANDINGS

With a single runway like we have at Crystal and wind blowing straight across, standard landing patterns will involve either a headwind or a tailwind on base leg. Choose the headwind if you have an option, to allow more time for judging and executing the approach. When doing this, many pilots erroneously start their final turn early and then need to extend it throughout most of the approach. This is counterproductive, as it delays lining up and getting the windward wing down where it belongs for the actual landing. Instead, fly your base leg straight to the last turn, make it square, and give yourself more time on final to line up.

That base leg into the wind is where the problem of wind gradient may be greatest. A wide pattern might consume too much height too soon, leaving less than enough for final approach, so move your base leg (and maybe downwind leg as well) closer to the threshold. Then if it still looks questionable, angle the base leg in even further and change the aim point to a spot you know you can reach in normal landing configuration.

As you roll out of this turn to final, the wind under your upper (windward) wing can make lowering that wing and lining up with the runway difficult and time-consuming. This is serious. Many pilots instinctively fly a curved base/final leg in this situation, but that only delays leveling and lining up until the last, lowest moment – or prevents it completely. Whatever you do, retain enough height to make a square, comfortable final turn, allowing ample time to line up a straight approach with the windward wing low, as it always should be.

If you must fly the base leg with a tailwind, do start the final turn early to ensure that you don’t overshoot. It will take only a fraction of the normal time to reach that final turn, and an unwary pilot could turn too late and too high. Overshooting would mean having to face the wind again on a long, curved final approach with that same troublesome turn away from the wind coming just before touchdown.

CRAB OR SLIP?

On final approach in a crosswind, should you employ a slip or a crab to stay lined up? Each method has advantages and disadvantages. A slip may be easier for inexperienced pilots to handle, keeping the fuselage better aligned with the centerline of approach. (Always hold the windward wing low of course, whether using a sideslip for directional control or a forward slip for glide path control. If you slide off center in that direction, it’s easy to correct by leveling the wings and drifting downwind to the proper alignment.) The disadvantage of slipping at very low altitude is that a late recovery could bring the low wingtip dangerously close to obstacles near the threshold, runway lights, or even the ground.

Crabbing requires a subtle feel for the air and the ship. Its advantage is the wings remain horizontal, greatly reducing the chance of a ground loop. But the fuselage is traveling sideways over the ground, and must be redirected with rudder at the last moment to avoid side-loading the wheel and airframe. Try a compromise, using lesser degrees of both slip and crab, to minimize the disadvantages of each.

If you’re slightly off-line from the runway on final approach, with or without a crosswind, the simplest solution is best: bank (very soon and very briefly) in the direction you need to slide. This is an uncoordinated maneuver and therefore inefficient, but you’re trying to get down so that’s not important.

In crosswinds, simply rolling straight to a normal stop requires holding windward wing low and countering with opposite rudder. Turning off into the wind is easy but turning off downwind is sometimes not even possible. Directional control will erode as speed bleeds off, so try to accomplish any turn away from the wind while you still have sufficient airspeed for full control. At slow speed you’ll eventually weathervane off-line from your chosen heading, so be prepared to stop rather than careening out of control.

In gliders with skids or nose wheels, holding back stick during the slow-down phase of taxi makes it easier to steer by keeping weight off the nose. It’s important, though, to not haul back on the stick until you’re well below flying speed, so there’s no possibility of lifting off again. For 2-33s and similar craft, it’s possible to roll nearly to a stop before touching the skid down by using a high angle of attack and spoilers to slow the ship with aerodynamic drag instead of friction. Once you have the knack of ‘aero braking’ it’s easy to be precise about your stopping point this way, with very little use of wheel brake. This saves wear on the skid plate, and feels and sounds much better too. But! Be sure to put the skid or nose wheel down before either wing tip touches. Otherwise the downed wing will slow, pulling the ship into an awkward mini ground loop rocking the nose up and down on the skid, harmless but ugly.

Tail-draggers on the other hand need tail wheels held off for better steering control. If you use too much forward stick or too much wheel brake, though, you risk nosing over. Moderation, moderation!

In strong crosswinds loss of directional control at the end of taxi is inevitable. Plan for that and manage your energy so it occurs in a safe and convenient place – preferably not in the middle of a busy runway… Whatever happens prior to this point, unless you end up pointed straight into the wind you’ll always need fully crossed controls several seconds before stop.

In the most extreme crosswinds with only one strip available it may be safer to land diagonally, or even transverse to the strip There must be no other traffic present and you need a suitable run of smooth ground without obstructions, but at many airports this could be a viable option. If there are runway lights, missing them is your number two priority… (I’ve landed crosswise at Crystal twice, and was glad both times that the option was available!)

With increasing experience you’ll find it easier to rely on feel, executing each landing and taxi individually, one moment at a time. With sufficient skill, crosswinds are not scary, they’re fun!

CROSSWIND LANDINGS

With a single runway like we have at Crystal and wind blowing straight across, standard landing patterns will involve either a headwind or a tailwind on base leg. Choose the headwind if you have an option, to allow more time for judging and executing the approach. When doing this, many pilots erroneously start their final turn early and then need to extend it throughout most of the approach. This is counterproductive, as it delays lining up and getting the windward wing down where it belongs for the actual landing. Instead, fly your base leg straight to the last turn, make it square, and give yourself more time on final to line up.

That base leg into the wind is where the problem of wind gradient may be greatest. A wide pattern might consume too much height too soon, leaving less than enough for final approach, so move your base leg (and maybe downwind leg as well) closer to the threshold. Then if it still looks questionable, angle the base leg in even further and change the aim point to a spot you know you can reach in normal landing configuration.

As you roll out of this turn to final, the wind under your upper (windward) wing can make lowering that wing and lining up with the runway difficult and time-consuming. This is serious. Many pilots instinctively fly a curved base/final leg in this situation, but that only delays leveling and lining up until the last, lowest moment – or prevents it completely. Whatever you do, retain enough height to make a square, comfortable final turn, allowing ample time to line up a straight approach with the windward wing low, as it always should be.

If you must fly the base leg with a tailwind, do start the final turn early to ensure that you don’t overshoot. It will take only a fraction of the normal time to reach that final turn, and an unwary pilot could turn too late and too high. Overshooting would mean having to face the wind again on a long, curved final approach with that same troublesome turn away from the wind coming just before touchdown.

CRAB OR SLIP?

On final approach in a crosswind, should you employ a slip or a crab to stay lined up? Each method has advantages and disadvantages. A slip may be easier for inexperienced pilots to handle, keeping the fuselage better aligned with the centerline of approach. (Always hold the windward wing low of course, whether using a sideslip for directional control or a forward slip for glide path control. If you slide off center in that direction, it’s easy to correct by leveling the wings and drifting downwind to the proper alignment.) The disadvantage of slipping at very low altitude is that a late recovery could bring the low wingtip dangerously close to obstacles near the threshold, runway lights, or even the ground.

Crabbing requires a subtle feel for the air and the ship. Its advantage is the wings remain horizontal, greatly reducing the chance of a ground loop. But the fuselage is traveling sideways over the ground, and must be redirected with rudder at the last moment to avoid side-loading the wheel and airframe. Try a compromise, using lesser degrees of both slip and crab, to minimize the disadvantages of each.

If you’re slightly off-line from the runway on final approach, with or without a crosswind, the simplest solution is best: bank (very soon and very briefly) in the direction you need to slide. This is an uncoordinated maneuver and therefore inefficient, but you’re trying to get down so that’s not important.

In crosswinds, simply rolling straight to a normal stop requires holding windward wing low and countering with opposite rudder. Turning off into the wind is easy but turning off downwind is sometimes not even possible. Directional control will erode as speed bleeds off, so try to accomplish any turn away from the wind while you still have sufficient airspeed for full control. At slow speed you’ll eventually weathervane off-line from your chosen heading, so be prepared to stop rather than careening out of control.

In gliders with skids or nose wheels, holding back stick during the slow-down phase of taxi makes it easier to steer by keeping weight off the nose. It’s important, though, to not haul back on the stick until you’re well below flying speed, so there’s no possibility of lifting off again. For 2-33s and similar craft, it’s possible to roll nearly to a stop before touching the skid down by using a high angle of attack and spoilers to slow the ship with aerodynamic drag instead of friction. Once you have the knack of ‘aero braking’ it’s easy to be precise about your stopping point this way, with very little use of wheel brake. This saves wear on the skid plate, and feels and sounds much better too. But! Be sure to put the skid or nose wheel down before either wing tip touches. Otherwise the downed wing will slow, pulling the ship into an awkward mini ground loop rocking the nose up and down on the skid, harmless but ugly.

Tail-draggers on the other hand need tail wheels held off for better steering control. If you use too much forward stick or too much wheel brake, though, you risk nosing over. Moderation, moderation!

In strong crosswinds loss of directional control at the end of taxi is inevitable. Plan for that and manage your energy so it occurs in a safe and convenient place – preferably not in the middle of a busy runway… Whatever happens prior to this point, unless you end up pointed straight into the wind you’ll always need fully crossed controls several seconds before stop.

In the most extreme crosswinds with only one strip available it may be safer to land diagonally, or even transverse to the strip There must be no other traffic present and you need a suitable run of smooth ground without obstructions, but at many airports this could be a viable option. If there are runway lights, missing them is your number two priority… (I’ve landed crosswise at Crystal twice, and was glad both times that the option was available!)

With increasing experience you’ll find it easier to rely on feel, executing each landing and taxi individually, one moment at a time. With sufficient skill, crosswinds are not scary, they’re fun!