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My Journey to Private Glider Pilot

#1
It's been about a year now since I had my first glider flight.

My interest in aviation started with Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 in, well, 1998. My dad brought that sim home with the joystick, and I thought that sim was the coolest, most realistic professional thing ever. My dad was a private pilot for a number of years, and I thought it was cool I could be just like him flying - though be it on a computer. I could land a plane on the aircraft carrier in that sim at 8yrs old :cool:

Then flash forward to my teens I got into R/C parkflyers and all sorts of other R/C's. In the past 8 years or so I've been dabbling with home-build r/c planes and multicopters. I dont have stacks of em, just a few I fly and mod/ maintain.

But...thought great as it was, I just wanted to get my feet off the ground.

I looked into everything from getting a general private pilot license, to para-motors, light-sport, and even skydiving. That is when I remembered the glider club I always pass when headed out toward Cedar Point amusement park every summer. I've known it was there for a long time, but just never really considered it. I guess gliders always seemed kinda boring to me. I mean, you just glider...what's the point? Seemed kinda limited at the time.

Well after looking at the clubs website and learning a bit more about what gliders are capable of and how affordable they are to fly, I took a side-trip out to the club on fathers day 2014 after visiting a nearby flea market. At 11am nobody was flying, but someone was mowing the grass. Just as I was about to leave the man mowing the grass called me over. He gave me info on the club and showed me around. As it would turn out, I'd spend many hours with him, as he became one of my instructors. I told him I would come back next week and I did. (Had fathers day stuff to attend to)

So the next week I head out for my first glider ride. I went up with another instructor I had not met. He later became my second instructor. It was a good day for soaring, but a bad day for a newbie. Despite being a hardcore roller-coaster fanatic I got motion sick for the first time in my life. Nope, didnt puke, just felt disoriented for a day. I'm not sure if it was really the constant circling, or the heat, or a partially blocked ear, but it was not love at first flight :(
Anyways, that flight was mostly spend me just looking around and trying to enjoy the view.

But undeterred I went back the following week. After my second flight and being able to take the controls for about half the flight I felt more confident it was a fluke the first time. I did feel a bit funny, but after my 3rd flight, these feelings of unease went away, and I felt just as good after a flight as I did before. After my 3rd flight, I joined the club, and told my instructor I was in it for the long haul.

After spending a fun summer at the airport meeting new people and learning to fly, I was ready to solo in the fall.
My instructor brought me to the clubhouse and talked to me for atleast 3 hours and gave me a test to take. After being also hit with the final requirement before solo - a 200ft "rope break" drill (180 turn and back to airport) I knew that was the day for my solo.
My instructor tried to play it off as another flight, but I knew better. I asked if I was going to solo, and he said "what do you think?". Flight #33 - Solo

My solo flight video - thanks to a gopro zip-tied to a baseball hat

The glider popped into the air a bit quicker without my instructor in the back, and I was quick to correct.
It was a surreal feeling on solo. Gliding/ soaring is nice and quiet, but this flight was much more quiet that normal.
Where my chatty instructor usually sat, was just the empty seat cushion tied up with the restraints. Though my instructor was not there, It was a rather ordinary flight - I was well prepared.

I arrived on the ground to a nice welcoming. Got the traditional shirt tail cut (which now hangs on my bedroom wall) and a bit of a soaking.







Blanik L-23...
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It was dead calm for my solo, but on my 3rd solo, I had a 1-3/4 hour flight - the longest flight anyone got all day with the second longest coming in at 45min, and my longest flight period. Climbed back to my 3,000ft tow altitude 4 times. Only left the tiny thermals I was picking up to land because I had to go to the bathroom :lol:

These aircraft are amazing :eek:
Anther member with a fancy carbon fiber glider was telling a guest that he basically flys 3-4 hours at a time - that's just 5-7 bucks an hour! (tow fees range from $15/1500ft to $29/3000ft)

To be continued....
 
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#2
Sooo...a year later, where am I?

If the weather co-operated last year AND I was a book worm (which I'm not) I could have probably gotten my private glider pilots license last year...but, I'm not in this to set record times. I'm in it to have fun. Having had a busy winter I got started with my studying late winter, and just recently passed my written exam. I have one or two more practice check rides with my instructor before I can schedule my check-ride/ oral exam.

I'm hoping by the end of august, I will be a licensed glider pilot.

So that's my story as of the moment :)

11242065_10204728150950457_3783400515038173499_n.jpg 11709552_10204728153510521_2420348743481510195_n.jpg
 
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mjcp

Senior Member
#3
Hello, My name is Marc and I love gliding.


I learned with the Air cadets at school (In the UK, the Airforce run week long glider camps in the summer for cadets). 3.5 days to solo :)

I soloed on a Grob-103 (plastic) learning on winch launches.

I then joined my local club who had an older Blanik than you fly and a K-8 for club use. They used aero tow as the launch method so that was something new to learn!

A few weeks and flights later I was solo again in the Blanik. My second Blanik solo was a soaring flight of 55 mins... I was having so much fun that I'd "forgotten" the instructor's hints that I should aim for 20-30 min flight. There was no issue when I landed, he said I should have stayed another 10 mins to get my first bronze leg and he didn't think the conditions were right for an 1hr flight! Doh!

10 solo Blank flights later and the club rules allowed you to convert to the K-8 (which then freed up the Blanik for other newcomers)

It was great! Single seat, solo, sun out!

Most summers the club did a trip to an airfield near the middle of France where the weather was better/more predictable. I had just converted to the K-8 (which the took with them, the Blanik stayed home) and they asked if I wanted to come too! Err, YES!

I was 18, just finished school and waiting for exam results before going to University. I didn't have a job that summer but had some savings from the previous year so it was a no brainer!

I went off to Uni in September and didn't have a local club...

Fast forward 20+ years, 2 houses, 2 kids, 1 marriage, 2 jobs, 2 businesses and haven't flown a glider since :(

BUT... I am changing jobs shortly and plan to restart :cool:

Have you seen how cheap gliders are to buy!?! You can pick up a glass/plastic one with trailer in fair condition for the price of a new family runaround here (Europe). I saw an airworthy K-8 on a glider for sale page for $5K !

I assume you have looked on YouTube for Bruno Vassel and Balleka?

enjoy!

mjcp
 
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ZoomNBoom

Senior Member
#4
Nice read that brings back memories :)

Let me just say its completely normal to get sick if you're not allowed to fly. I know 30+ year veterans who occasionally still get sick if they are not flying, and when I took passengers, I found giving them control was the best way to cure any upcoming ahm.. well, you know ;).

I'll also say you got off easily for your baptism. Clean water? Ha! We used to get showered with the most disgusting mixes they could come up with that where deemed not too toxic. I dont even want to know what was in mine but I can still smell it today :)

Anyway, I gave up on gliding because airspace limitations make it almost impossible for us to fly cross country here, but your story does bring back good memories.
 
#5
And....Done!

This past Friday I took my oral exam and check-ride. I actually enjoyed the oral talking with the examiner, and learned a few new things.

The actual check-ride was a bit different though. Other than saying what he wanted me to do, that was all the talking he did. Or course, I may have not let him talk since I was vocalizing everything I was doing, haha. No casual conversation at all, which I was surprised by since my instructor said that was a known distraction tactic he used. Maybe he took it a bit easier on me since I'm a young guy getting into aviation.

First flight he gave me a simulated rope-break at 800ft. A non-event since I had my tow pilot running me parallel to the runway. Just continued on around and landed on the runway.

Second flight was all the basics. Box the wake on tow, clearing turns, turning stall, turns at low airspeed, turns to headings, and steep bank turns. Dead day, so no thermaling. Due to the wind I landed 18 which we usually dont do unless the wind is over 10mph or so. It takes us over a busy road and houses with no landouts if you misjudge. But it went well. I did a forward slip to get to my touchdown spot, and stopped at the exact spot I said I would. Literally within a foot :cool:

On Saturday I flew both my parents. Was the first time either have been up in a glider. On Sunday I took the backseat for the first time to get used to it, and had a nice 45min flight. Though reduced visibility, it was not nearly bad as I thought! Even ran into (almost literally) some buzzards up at 3,000agl. Closest one was about 5ft from the middle of my wing. We were soaring the same direction, so I just bumped the nose down a bit to keep them away from us. Very cool moment.

Now it's on to the remaining two club gliders. I flew my first single seater the flight before my check-ride. The other two gliders are higher performance gliders that will take some getting used to.

Pictures
- Take off
- Landing (note dive brakes)
- Examiner, Me, and one of my instructors. The other could not make it.
 

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earthsciteach

Moderator
Moderator
#8
Congratulations and thanks for sharing your journey! I got my first sailplane ride back in the fall and loved it! Can't wait to go back up again.
 
#10
My Dad and brother are both fixed wing pilots. I never had a lot of interest in it but I've long wanted to try a sailplane. There's a club not far from here, I might have to give them a call.
 
#11
My Dad and brother are both fixed wing pilots. I never had a lot of interest in it but I've long wanted to try a sailplane. There's a club not far from here, I might have to give them a call.
Do it! The cool thing about soaring is that while powered aircraft are initially a challenge as your learn, soaring is a constant challenge to push your skills and work with what the environment gives you.
If you want to go somewhere or stay up for a long time, you earn every little bit of it. It's a great feeling knowing you just flew X- amount of hours using your knowledge and skill, vs. just fueling up and being pulled by an engine from point A-B.
 
#12
Do it! The cool thing about soaring is that while powered aircraft are initially a challenge as your learn, soaring is a constant challenge to push your skills and work with what the environment gives you...
I have to admit I hadn't given much thought to that part of it. It's the near silence that attracts me. Power parachutes are popular around here and I have no doubt they'd be fun, but just too loud for me.
 
#13
I learned with the Air cadets at school (In the UK, the Airforce run week long glider camps in the summer for cadets). 3.5 days to solo :)
Hi Marc, I've learned to fly too with gliders at the Belgian Air Cadets (Belgian air force) at the age of 15/16 till I became 21. I did my training and first solo-flight with an ASK13, later I was flying the K8 too and the Twin Astir

VLIEG.JPG
 
#14
I have to admit I hadn't given much thought to that part of it. It's the near silence that attracts me. Power parachutes are popular around here and I have no doubt they'd be fun, but just too loud for me.
One of my instructors has one he took me for a ride on. When flying I went to say somthing expecting to hear my voice, or atleast my voice back in the headset, but didnt hear myself at all. Was a major ???? moment, lol. Must have been a headset setting or model specific to be able to hear yourself Iin the headphones as you speak.
Anyways, being able to talk at a normal indoor voice is nice in a glider. Especially 2-place gliders.
 

thosq

Junior Member
#15
Then flash forward to my teens I got into R/C parkflyers and all sorts of other R/C's. In the past 8 years or so I've been dabbling with home-build r/c planes and multicopters. I dont have stacks of em, just a few I fly and mod/ maintain.
 

NitroRoo

Junior Member
#16
Just wanted to pop in and say great thread! I have had a burning desire to fly since I was a little kid. My parents got me an intro flight for my 16th birthday - which I loved - but we couldn't afford lessons. I went up again a few more times in single engine aircraft, and even a glider once when I was around 21 but it wasn't until I was 29 that I could actually afford to fly. I did ground school and about 5 hours in a 172 and then the bottom fell out on the economy and I had to put away the log book for a while. That was 6 years ago...

I just hit 35 and while I've been busy raising kids and working I'm realizing that if I want to meet my goal of flying I have to make it happen. Freed up all the extra finances I could last year in the hopes that this year I can start up again. My wife is a full time nursing student and we have 2 kids so it's not like I have a lot of extra money.. that's where gliders come in. Looking to start off that way and become the best pilot I can while building some hours. Plus the more I learn about how capable gliders are the more excited I get to fly them! Last night I downloaded the Condor flight sim and that is awesome. Supposed to go up for my first real lesson next weekend! Can't wait!
 

HilldaFlyer

Well-known member
#18
So totally cool. Thanks for sharing.

Earlier this year I thought about trying it out. So last weekend I visited the airfield near where I live that hosts the Greater Boston Soaring Club to check it out. The wind was too high so they called the day, but I met a few great fellows at the clubhouse, sat in a full-scale simulator hooked up to Condor and I actually flew down from 3k and landed. I even pulled off a side slip at the end to loose altitude before landing. I'm still alive and hoping to continue. The greatest compliment was after finishing the instructor saying "are you sure you haven't done this before?" Love it and will likely continue.
 
#19
The greatest compliment was after finishing the instructor saying "are you sure you haven't done this before?" Love it and will likely continue.
haha, on my second ever flight I was asked by the member flying me

"have you done this before? It kinda seems like you know what you're doing".

Nope, only one prior flight, 13 years of r/c, and years of simulator/ video game flying :D
 

Dannyb

Junior Member
#20
I have been into rc for a few years, but I am hoping to take full scale glider lessons next year, because I thought the intro flights were awesome. I will be old enough to solo next year, so hopefully I will be able to take part in the club's summer program. I also have been building a two meter rc model from great planes called the Spirit, which should be completed sometime this fall. I am hoping to learn about full-scale gliders through building and flying my model.
 
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