TRIMMING SAIL

Whatever the strategy of any long descending glide, degree of success depends in great part on effective, efficient technique. Of course it’s imperative to always fly exactly the appropriate speed for each individual moment, but there’s more to it than that. Every little deviation from absolutely straight and level means a longer flight path and more altitude lost. And every fluxuation in ambient air will push you further off course unless you correct for it immediately. When a wing rises by itself and you level it, that causes adverse yaw and instantly puts you off course – unless you use rudder too while leveling that wing. The longer your glide goes on the more those little things add up, costing precious altitude upon arrival at your destination.

Here’s an example from a prior era of the Crystal Squadron. Two soaring pals left wave at 17,000 feet, gliding in identical sailplanes from the Punchpowl here at Crystal downwind toward the Sierras. When they arrived at Owens Peak 85 miles north, one had flown a teeensy bit more carefully and lost three hundred feet less altitude than his buddy. This enabled him to fly straight on up the range without pause, while the other pilot had to stop and climb. It separated them by miles and they never saw each other again that day.

The disparity in altitude lost compared to the great distance flown on that one glide was 0.067 percent, or less than seven ten-thousanths! A very small difference, but impossible to recover once that energy’s been wasted. To get the very most out of every glide manicure your attitude in all dimensions, each moment – including this moment now – with utmost thoughtfulness and care. There is no other way.