(reprinted from March, 2014)

Fact: a final approach of moderate steepness makes it easy to judge the glide path, control it, and touch down on your intended spot.  It’s that simple. Flat approaches leave you vulnerable to sink or other difficulties, and extremely flat approaches are downright dangerous.  Very steep approaches on the other hand can be too effective, like showering with a fire hose.  Take a clue from Goldilocks.

Many folks habitually deploy spoilers too early and end up low before ever turning base leg.  Then for the rest of the flight, the lower they sink the fewer options they have, all because of using too much spoiler too early.  There’s a no-brainer solution to this unnecessary problem that’s apparently too obvious for some brains, yet it’s guaranteed to work, brain or no – so long as you DO IT in time.

And here’s your no brainer:  the moment you sense that you might be lower than ideal, at any point before late final, CLOSE SPOILERS!  (That’s why they call it a no-brainer.)  Say you let your airspeed – PITCH ATTITUDE – wander.  Maybe you hit sink and didn’t feel it. Or too wide a pattern results in too long a flight path. Plus some other excuse.  No matter.  NOW is when to break the chain of errors.  The worst thing you could do is chase your airspeed indicator while leaving spoilers out, but we see it all too often!  Come on Goldilocks, just close spoilers, reset pitch attitude where you know you need it, and wait a few seconds to regain a healthy glide angle. Then reopen the spoilers as needed to resume a sensibly moderate descent.  It really is that simple.


And one more thing. When you do open spoilers for real, quickly glance at one wing to confirm how far out they actually are, just so you’ll know. It’s very useful information that costs nothing to obtain, but does you no good unless you look.


How embarrassing!  The the information I used for discussion of this weekend’s weather was for the other side of the country…  Turns out this weekend will be the best for thermals so far this season at Crystal, hands down.  Come and get it!

Saw the feature on ABC about our Wounded-Veteran-Glider-Program — how about that!



One year a fellow pilot died and we all attended his funeral. Coming in to the service, we were given the usual small memento printed with the deceased’s birth and death dates and some comforting or inspirational verse. It’s intended as a keepsake, but after holding mine politely through the service I must have dropped it without a thought when I got in my car to leave.

That car was a sandblasted junker given me by an appreciative student who’d been reassigned at work and had to move away. I used it in ways never intended by the manufacturer, ramming it around the desert like a dune buggy, even hauling firewood in its seats.

A couple years later time came for another sad memorial when my father passed away. After roaring along the interstate for hours at 80 with all the windows down, traffic began to slow for the first time as we entered the outskirts of Phoenix. From some hidey hole in back, under the rusty tools, bark chips and trash, a small piece of paper shot up in the wind, zoomed around the cabin and fell like a wounded bird into my lap. It was that keepsake from the pilot’s funeral twenty months before – perfectly clean and uncreased.

After a long double take, the first thing that came to mind was, Dad never understood why soaring is so important to me and thought my career in it a silly waste of time. I believed that when he finally saw the point he’d have to approve, and always hoped for that day. But it never came. Now I had this image of him perched up there at the Pearly Gates, having met the pilot we buried earlier and who knows how many other disembodied aviators. Maybe they’ve explained things in a way I was unable to and Dad finally understood. Was this piece of paper, so pristine after long neglect, a kind of sign?

Easy to poo-poo such an idea, but as traffic wound through the city I could not stop thinking about it. Half an hour later, just before my exit, rush hour ground to a complete halt. I’d been listening to an Al Stewart album, sentimental vignettes of history and travel that somehow fit the mood, and the song right then was Lord Grenville, a wistful ballad about the early days of ocean sailing.

Precisely as traffic stopped, the lyric was:

Tell the ones we left home not to wait, we won’t be back again.

At that point, directly across the road ninety degrees out my window stood the hospital where Dad passed! Sitting in gridlock staring there and at the car ahead, I had time to ponder this.
When eventually traffic moved, that car ahead left the freeway at my exit. Entering the street grid it turned where I was going to, then did so again, and again. I began to wonder if whomever it was thought they were being tailed. Then they pulled over and parked exactly where I intended to, in front of my parents’ house.

It was a cousin I’d not seen in more than thirty years, far and away Dad’s favorite nephew. I drove four hundred miles, he came twice as far, and we arrived simultaneously — meeting up right where Dad left us.

You can dismiss all this as a goofy coincidence, but not me. We may never comprehend the unifying principle in this funhouse of a world, but that don’t mean there ain’t one.
The next verse of Lord Grenville begins,

Our time is just a point along a line that runs forever with no end.


First, last Monday Lulu Ito passed her check ride for a Private Glider certificate. So happy for you, Lulu! We hope you’ve enjoyed being here as much as we loved having you.

This particular month of May may come and go without anything close to hot weather here in the Mojave Desert, even as the overall planet and its oceans continue warming at record rates. For now though, our near future will include lots of partly to mostly with moderate thermal activity— and even a good chance of wave if southerly winds pick up.