ENERGY MANAGEMENT

Much of any soaring pilot’s time aloft is spent gliding more or less in a straight line, patiently waiting to arrive at the next usable lift.   This time is a valuable resource and should not be thought of as idle or wasted.   During a glide there are plenty of things to do and to think about that one hardly has time for while climbing.   Whenever nothing physical needs to be done mental tasks await, such as reviewing what has already happened and planning what comes next.   It’s all more fun when you think of every climb as a race to the top and every glide as a race to the next climb.   Even if competition is the farthest thing from your mind, you are always racing sundown!

Before committing yourself to a lengthy glide consider the immediate objective, or short-term goal, and its influence on priorities.    What is most important at the moment: altitude, ground speed, remaining daylight?    Are you limping across a gap between two peaks and needing maximum height upon arrival, are you trying to hurry to the next cumulus before it collapses, or is this a marginal final glide into the sunset?   An additional point here is: short-term priorities can change as you encounter unexpected conditions en route.

And whether you’re on a long cross-country or merely rambling around the neighborhood, the actual stick-and-rudder technique of an extended glide is always supremely important.  Even when temporarily committed to a steady loss of altitude, actively minimizing that loss while also maximizing achieved ground speed can demand judgment and skill as much as the various arts of going up.