The CAS Cross-country Clinic at the SOSA Gliding Club, Rockton, Ontario, for 1999: observations by Ray Wood, Andrea Kuciak, Eric Gillespie, The Eagle and Terry Mc Elligott
(Reprinted from free flight magazine)
To read an article on the Montreal Soaring Council's 1999 CAS Clinic, link here.
Theres no big secret to cross country flying. Instead, you have to consider a lot of small ones. Holding a cross-country clinic at your club is a great way to decipher those little gems of knowledge. In keeping with the CAS philosophy of cross-country for everyone, there were students of all skill levels at the clinic.
The 1999 event was held August 16th through 20th. Sunday the fifteenth was a day of high cloudbases, light winds and wide thermals. Tuesday and Wednesday, August 17th and 18th, were interesting flying days, as was the following Sunday, when an informal post-clinic contest was held.
Monday, Thursday and Friday were bad weather days but they were spent profitably in lectures. The instructors and shepherds included Dugald Stewart, Dave Springford, Joerg Stieber, Scott McMaster, Tim OHanlon and Tony Rywak. A good technical manual covering cross country tactics and soaring weather was supplied.
Andrew Parker (1 Mike, Standard Jantar) ready for hookup by Stephanie Wood. Joerg Stieber (Juliet Sierra, LS 4) is next to go.
So. Four out of 8 days flyable, counting from Sunday to Sunday. Shepherded cross country flights were accomplished, ranging from 100 km to more than 300, depending on conditions, time and comfort levels. Talk about learning curves! There was something for everyone. What did the students have to say?
Ray Wood, a relative newcomer to soaring, has done duration flights and 50k attempts. He did not fly in this years clinic, but participated as a very interested observer who looks forward to flying next year. Rays thoughts:
I think the CAS clinic is probably the best stick to beat the 1-26 habits out of a budding X-C pilot. The insights into making a sailplane go fast over the anticipated route have moved me forward a long way (pun intended!) If it could be arranged for more two seat training at such events, I'm certain the experience would be of great value. As it stands, with the knowledge gained last week I am a better, more confident pilot now. And Ray was only there to watch.
Dugald Stewart, one of the shepherds in the CAS Clinic, seen here astride Hotel Golf (Cirrus 75).
Andrea Kuciak, also relatively new to cross-country:
...the one thing I really hadn't been taught before was the whole statistical concept of being able to find more thermals the farther you go ... it sounds obvious when written like that but Joerg Stiebers presentation on the subject of when it pays off to get as far as you can, really drove the idea home. Enough so that I am starting to get over my 1 26 tendencies of staying in one spot.
My big lesson was to keep moving, so as not to get fixated on lift that was sub-standard for the day, unless I was under my working band (the altitude band in which you stop to climb in only the best lift). In correlation to that, I had it pounded into my head that I should always be looking for lift in the direction I want to be going - in other words, toward the next turnpoint.
I would also like to mention final glide exercises ... (they) taught me a lot about what a final glide looks and feels like, not to mention how to properly use the Varicalc (a Canadian made variometer and final glide calculator). We did a final glide from Reids Field, a strip about 14 km away from SOSA, from 2000' AGL and still did a contest finish.
Andrea and instructor Scott McMaster did this and some respectable cross-country distances in a Grob 103, a two seat glider many people think of as a ship you use for intro flying, not take cross-country or use for final glide practice.
Jim Kayer was the lone participant from outside SOSA at this years clinic. He came to SOSA from Toronto Soaring with his PW5.
For me, the high point of the clinic was meeting all the other students. There are people out there who struggle with the same things I do. I was disappointed that there was no-one there from any other club. I believe that the cross-pollination that results from bringing together people from different clubs helps everyone involved, and helps the sport of gliding. Any article (on this subject) in Free Flight should encourage participation by members of other clubs. I will be back next year and I will campaign to get other members of Toronto Soaring to join me. I was also inspired to obtain a flight computer such as a Varicalc. These things are not a high priority at Toronto Soaring and I need an outside influence to show me what I am missing. Sounds like Toronto Soaring might be signing people up to its own cross country clinics in coming years.
Lima Victor (AS W20, left, flown by Tony Rywak) and Tango 2 (LS 4, right, flown by Dan Bush) back home after a great flight at the 1999 CAS SOSA Cross country clinic. Dan (facing camera in blue shirt) didn't stop grinning for days.
Eric Gillespie, who wrote about an interesting 50k attempt in a previous issue of Free Flight, flew his Silver Badge and shortly thereafter a Diamond Goal flight - all in his second year of flying. He said:
In terms of the clinic, given that the opportunities to fly were somewhat limited by the weather this year, I believe that the biggest benefit came from the fact that a number of experienced pilots were available to ask and respond to all those questions that rarely can be answered while rigging or waiting on the flight line. Once a person can say that they find the basic idea of cross-country soaring appealing, then the quicker one acquires knowledge the better.
The clinic provides an ideal forum for gaining information quickly on just about every aspect of the cross-country experience. Because a number of instructors are involved, people can benefit from general sessions, and at the same time receive individual attention to address their own specific needs and concerns. I would say that I learned at least as much in one week as I had in the rest of the season about the theory, as well as many of the practical aspects involved in cross-country flight. Some of the members of our class this year had also participated last year. After attending the clinic, I can understand why they returned for a second session. I know I will be doing the same next year.
Tony Rywak and Lima Victor, his AS W20, photographed during a rare moment on the ground.
During the CAS clinic, students tagged along behind more experienced instructors, each in their single seat sailplanes except Scott McMaster, who flew back seat in the Grob 103 with a student in front. It was always encouraging to spot the shepherds glider nearby, like a guardian angel with a good vario. A participant (who has asked we use the nom-de-plume The Eagle) wrote: I had tried, on my own, to fly out of gliding range from the field and had landed out twice during both days of the SOSA Mud Bowl contest in August. I had become apprehensive about setting out alone, and therefore really enjoyed the encouragement and perceived safety of flying with a shepherd. In this case, the shepherd was Tony Rywak.
This is one of the few known photographs of the man... er, person writing in free flight under the nom de plume "The Bald Eagle", seen here about to leave SOSA in Hotel Tango, the club's Astir CS 77. Regular free flight readers will recall that B.E has spent some considerable time discovering the local flavour and the rustic charm of various farmers' fields while winding up "aux vaches" in Ontario and Québec. Photo has been edited and a hat has been added to protect the identity and hairline of the Bald Eagle.
Terry Mc Elligott had not done cross country flying for some time and wanted to review some skills.
"It was fascinating to observe a dry cold front by flying through it. On the Wednesday of the clinic, a dry cold front was forecast to pass by the area mid-afternoon and we discussed it. The cooler air resulted in lower cloudbases and there was a wind shift. That can affect final glide and the days working height band. I had flown in this type of condition before but had not given it much thought. This time I was able to identify it as it was occurring.
"Sometimes lift weakens as it nears cloudbase. Why waste time in it? Move on toward the goal. Sometimes we stop and circle in weak lift without considering there may be better lift farther on. Again, why bother? Its counterproductive. Move on toward the goal and seek the stronger thermal you know must be ahead. In the clinic, we explored an extra dimension of climbing without circling, by weaving around in the bands of energy under the clouds and Dolphin flying. I flew a lot farther seeking lift that way than I would have by stopping to circle. Yes, there is an art to it. It very nearly requires a sixth sense, but it can be done with practice.
So, there you have it. If youve been thinking of starting a safe cross country flying program at your club, the knowledge base in Canadian Advanced Soaring could be very helpful.
There is one postscript worth mentioning. A pilot not involved with the clinic arrived at SOSA at the end of a cross country attempt from another airport. The aircraft arrived at a very low altitude and, after an abbreviated circuit down the wrong side of the runway, turned just over the trees and landed in the middle of the runway. At the very least, two topics covered in the clinic would have been helpful to lower this pilots stress level: final glides and safety margins, and proper use of the radio.
CAS is there for everyone. E-mail Dave Springford for details at contactCAS@netscape.net.
Scott McMaster about to launch in XR, a Glasflugel 205, at the informal contest held at the end of the 1999 CAS clinic at SOSA, Rockton Ontario. The blue-nosed wing runner is Emil "E-mail" Kaminski.