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, plus additional drag from corrective inputs.  Meanwhile each fluctuation in ambient air will push you further off course unless you respond 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 these 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 Devils Punchbowl here at Crystal downwind toward the Sierras.  When they arrived at Owens Peak 85 miles north, the one who flew a teeensy bit more carefully had 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-thousandths!  A very small difference, but impossible to recover once that energy’s been wasted.  To get the very most out of every glide, carefully manicure your bird’s attitude in all dimensions, each moment, with utmost thoughtfulness.  There is no other way!