Most glider training is conducted by individual flight instructors through membership in a glider club, but there are several commercial glider companies offering flight training, sightseeing glider rides, and glider towing services. In addition, some colleges and universities offer glider pilot training as a part of their overall pilot training curricula. To learn more about the pros and cons of club vs. commercial flight training, go to http://www.soargbsc.com/inststud/student/clubvscomml.htm.
Check3GPS Readiness Quotient
Your supervisor may use the following checklist to determine if you have adequately addressed the risk factors for soaring. If you can answer “yes” to all the questions below, you should be good to go!
1. Are you Federal Administration Association (FAA)-certified to fly sailplanes and are you current? Or, are you flying with someone who is certified and current?
2. If necessary, are you going to take a refresher flight with a certified flight instructor glider (CFIG)?
3. Are you familiar with the local type of soaring conditions and procedures (wave, ridge, thermal)?
4. Are you familiar with the local method of launching (aerotow vs. winch, etc.)?
5. If you plan on carrying passengers, will you give them a thorough pre-flight briefing?
6. Are you properly insured for soaring flying activity?
7. Do you perform routine maintenance checks on the sailplane?
8. Do you have current charts (e.g., visual flight rules (VFR) sectional) and use a radio?
9. Have you considered weight and balance, density altitude, and performance for this sailplane?
10. Do you have an emergency number on file with the airport?
11. Are you current in the type of sailplane you plan to fly and is it mechanically sound (up-to-date inspections)?
12. Are you adept at and aware of see-and-avoid requirements to avoid midair collision?
This checklist has been adapted from the Pacific Air Forces High Risk Activities Guide.
Top Hazards And How To Mitigate Them
1. LACK OF PROFICIENCY/TRAINING
Mitigate: Soaring is a well-regulated sport, and the FAA will not let you fly solo or earn a license until you have completed a FAA-certified training program and passed both the relevant written test and combined oral and flight exam known as a checkride. Nevertheless, the vast majority of soaring accidents are caused by pilot failure to maintain control of the aircraft. Given the complex set of knowledge and skills for soaring and ongoing advances in sailplane design and technology, pilot proficiency deteriorates very quickly if basic and emergency procedures are not practiced regularly. The FAA mandates a minimum of three takeoffs and three landings every 90 days and completion of a flight review every 24 months for all licensed glider pilots. Advanced forms of the sport, including cross-country, aerobatics and mountain soaring, require many additional hours of ground and flight training.
2. PASSENGERS UNFAMILIAR WITH SAFE FLIGHT OPERATING PROCEDURES
Mitigate: In the interest of comfort and safety, you should always provide a basic briefing before takeoff if carrying a passenger. Topics to cover include what to expect in flight; instrumentation and controls; what can and cannot be touched; how to communicate during the flight; when and how to attach seat belts; what to do if feeling ill; egress procedures; and any remaining questions. As a pilot, you not only want your passengers to enjoy the ride, but you also want to make sure they don’t touch the controls without your knowledge or permission, put their hands or feet in the wrong place, or panic if air sickness strikes. Taking ten minutes before takeoff to put your passenger at ease can go a long way toward making the flight a better experience for both of you.
3. SOARING IN UNFAMILIAR TERRAIN/AIRSPACE
Mitigate: When soaring in a new airspace, it is essential to review appropriate meteorological information, regulatory issues pertinent to the particular airspace through which you will be flying, and photos and maps of the airfield and surrounding areas, including nearby emergency landing spots. On landing at a strange location, be sure to execute a complete 360-degree pattern—one comprising upwind, crosswind, downwind, and base legs, before entering the final approach. Flying a full landing pattern when you are unfamiliar with the terrain will allow you to see possible landing hazards such as wires, poles, slopes, and animal holes, to name a few.
4. UNFAMILIAR LAUNCH/TOW METHODS
Mitigate: Prior to takeoff, communicate with your tow pilot to go over the following details: wind conditions; glider weight (water ballast, passengers); tow rope length and condition; tow plane power; direction of turn immediately after takeoff; location and conditions of emergency landing fields; expected location of release; release height; towing speed; any special circumstances of the tow or airfield. Pilots should also be briefed on procedures for emergencies, including aborted takeoffs. If you are launching via winch tow for the first time, prepare yourself for a quicker acceleration and steeper climb than you are used to with aerotows. Download and read the British Gliding Association’s excellent guidance on Safe Winch Launching.
5. MIDAIR COLLISIONS
Mitigate: To avoid collisions in the increasingly complex national airspace, pilots need to be familiar with proper pattern procedures at non-towered airports, the use of common traffic advisory frequencies, and proper scanning techniques and clearing procedures. If soaring in the same thermal with other pilots, follow the rules laid out in Chapter 10 of the FAA Glider Handbook: Circle in the same direction as the other pilots, with the direction of the turn established by the first glider in the thermal; announce over your radio to the other glider(s) that you are entering the thermal; and avoid flying directly above or below another glider as differences in performance or even minor changes in speed can lead to larger-than-expected altitude changes. Finally, follow the FAA’s right-of-way rules. When the rules give the right-of-way to another aircraft, you must give way to that aircraft and not pass over, under or ahead of it until well clear.
Combatting Air Sickness
Air sickness can be highly debilitating to pilots and passengers alike, seriously impairing their physical, cognitive and emotional abilities. If a pilot succumbs to a particularly severe bout of air sickness, flight safety may be in jeopardy.
According to Gareth Iremonger, aerospace physiologist at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Aviation Medicine Unit, the best way to fend off air sickness is to fly frequently and expose yourself gradually to the continual ups and downs, high G forces and multi-axial accelerations of the soaring environment. In addition, proper pre-flight preparation will decrease anxiety, which is known to exacerbate air sickness symptoms.
If you still find yourself battling air sickness in flight, Iremonger suggests trying the following strategies to alleviate your symptoms:
Take deep, slow breaths from the diaphragm
Maintain visual focus on a static point on the horizon
Aim the air vents at your neck and wrists
Avoid fast head turns
Maintain situational awareness and don’t let rapid turns of the plane catch you by surprise
Eat properly (i.e., lots of complex carbs for long-term energy and little to no greasy, fatty and acidic foods)
Get adequate rest, preferably seven to nine hours of peaceful sleep
While qualified aviation physicians have the option to prescribe air sickness medication, they may be reluctant to do so due to the sedating properties of such drugs. Alternative treatments include ginger root in various forms, various homeopathic preparations, and acupuncture/acupressure. However, evidence of the effectiveness of such “natural” remedies is strictly anecdotal.
For more information, read Iremonger’s full article in Soaring Magazine.
Associations & Websites
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