AAAAAAAAH!!!!... Wait a minute!! I know what to do By: Kevin Taylor Posted: December 5 2001
This summer I learned to glide at the Central Region Gliding School. It is the gliding school for all of the Canadian Air Cadet gliding scholarship winners.
During the six weeks in which I learned to fly I had a few nervous moments. The one that stands out the most (excluding my first solo) however happened on my 17th solo on July 30th, 2001.
On this flight I was supposed to tow to 1500'AGL and practice slipping (forward, side and turning). A good friend from the course hooked up the rope to my old sgs2-33A. The take-off and start of climb were uneventful. I was taking off with a warm 15mph breeze that was straight down the pipe and climbing into some bumpy air. This breeze would make things interesting later.
At about 300'AGL the tug (a Bellanca Scout) hit some strong sink and dropped down quickly. I waited for myself to hit the sink but it never came. Because I was still quite high on the tug I increased forward pressure on the stick and dropped down to him. Once back in position he began to climb. I naturally eased off the forward pressure and tried to climb with him. It was at this point when I saw a silver and yellow flash out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and realized that it was the silver tow ring and yellow rope that were quickly getting away from me.
I was shocked!! I was at 300' and what looked like light years away from the airport!! At this point I let out a loud four letter expletive that probably turned the tow pilot's head!! This was not the time to panic and I was PANICKING!!
After the initial shock and panic a little rhyme popped into my head that I had made up to memorize our emergency landing heights.
"0 to 2, ahead for you. 250 to 5, about face and dive. 550-8 land crosswind post haste".
It sounds stupid but it quite possibly saved my life because the only areas besides the airport that I could make were either full of fences, corn (aka brick weed because of what the cobs are like at 50mph) or trees. I regained my composure, did a 180 and headed home. I even informed the other traffic in the area of my situation with the radio.
At about 50', as I was just crossing the threshold, I took a look at the windsock to my left, it was almost straight out, and from my seat, facing the wrong way. A 15-20mph tailwind. I saw this and immediately slowed to 35mph and applied full spoilers.
I realized that the people and other gliders were starting to get big in my canopy so I applied a little rudder and slipped it down. Now, the glider I was in had terrible brakes, The worst in the fleet. It was like trying to stop a car with a stick of butter. I dropped the skid and finally came to a stop about 50' from the windy-end (for those who don't know it is a second signal person up near the tug). Those who were manning the post had fled long before my speedy arrival. I unstrapped, popped the canopy and took a breath. I was safe.
Upon returning to the group a friend, who was yet to do rope breaks, held out his hand to shake. I reached out and saw my hand trembling. I stepped forward and told him that I hoped no one would ever have to do that. He replied "Why not? It looked easy enough". I just chuckled and walked away and said "Only if you stay calm".