Throttle-Bender's Delight By: Tom Coussens Posted: August 11 2003
Last year this Pawnee tow pilot wrote about a long flight in a 1-26, ditty-bopping about the Mojave Desert near El Mirage. That was pretty cool, until it was eclipsed last weekend. Some time ago, Sean Eckstein invited me to fly his Std Libelle. I had to ask him to repeat it, as I felt he was asking me to date his wife. With a whole 30 hours glider time to my name, with a few in Grob and ASK two-seaters, I was amazed that he would entrust me with his spritely ship.
So last Friday he called me and said the good part of the season was going to blow out soon and would I like to fly it this weekend? Didn't have to ask me twice; I met him at Krey on Sunday.
Pull on a chute, quick cockpit check, how to use the electric vario, landing gear, trim button, speeds and suddenly I am being wheeled into position! It's always a thrill when you solo a single-seat aircraft. I'd had that privilege a couple years back with the Pawnee; there's no one there to take over, and no way to know how the ship is going to handle, especially in the first moments of the flight a few feet off the ground while on tow, waiting for the towplane to lift off. But all goes well, I'm maintaining a fairly level flight and hanging in there behind the Pawnee. At about 1700 feet we hit this monster so off tow and here we go! I'm madly trying to stay in the thermal and after about 5 minutes, oh yeah, the landing gear! Hmm, a little easier to climb now.
Oh yeah, trim! I get the airspeed down from 55 kts to @40 kts. Much easier to climb! Oh yeah, yaw string! And so on and so on, till I luckily make my way up to about 10, then a bee-line to some puffy clouds to the south to join other ships up to over 13. The next 3 1/2 hours were a true delight, with forays to Mt Baldy and Crystalaire, then back to the elevator to 13.5. Thought about trying for 5 hours, but I was running out of water and starting to get a little hypoxic, so I cruised north of El Mirage and then back, allowing the altitude to gradually decrease. Not a lot of lift out there, but gave it a go to stay in what was there. OK, time to head back to Krey, and all I'm thinking about is the landing gear. Having owned a Globe Swift and having yet not committing the unthinkable, I popped the gear at 1300 agl. Here's where it gets tense again as turbulence and a headwind make final approach interesting. But I do what Sean said, use 1/3 to 1/2 spoiler and fly her on and come to a stop abeam his trailer.