Valuable Tips for (New) Members
Welcome to Owl Canyon Gliderport, home to the Colorado Soaring Association (CSA). The most important tip for a new member is to make yourself at home and enjoy Owl Canyon Gliderport. At first, you may find the procedures, aircraft, facilities and people unfamiliar. Hopefully, these tips will help you to quickly familiarize yourself with CSA and the gliderport.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions of other members. It’s the easiest and safest way to learn.
Ask for Help:
Feel free to ask any member for help. Chances are they will soon be asking you to return the favor. It is nearly impossible to get a glider into or out of a hangar by yourself. It is nearly impossible to get a glider to the flight-line by yourself. You can’t rig or de-rig a glider by yourself. If you ever land-out in a field, you can’t retrieve the glider by yourself. So, if you need help, ask for it!
Just remember to say thanks, and repay the favor.
Wear Your Name Badge:
Wearing your name badge helps new members figure out who you are and will helps all members get to know everyone else better. If you are a new member, introduce yourself as a new member. It takes a while for everyone get to know you, and for you to get to know all the other members.
Learning to Fly Sailplanes
Scheduling Glider Time:
When you are training, you might want to try and schedule early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The wind and turbulence are usually lighter at these times, and there is less demand on the tow plane. Arrive a minimum of 30 minutes prior to your reservation. If you are the first to fly a glider in the morning, it will take at least 30 minutes to prepare to fly. If you want to fly on a particular day, schedule in advance. If you can’t make your reservation, please call and cancel. Without a reservation, sometimes you can squeeze in during the day, other times not. In any event, hanging out at the gliderport is time well spent.
Student Pilot Board:
It is very important to keep the Student Pilot Board in the flight office up to date. It helps club instructors and other members follow your progress.
Spend Some Time at Owl Canyon:
There are many aspects of soaring you can’t learn from flying a glider. To become a well-rounded glider pilot you must spend time at the gliderport conversing with other members, helping out when possible, observing gliderport operations, and watching how the weather changes throughout the day and throughout the seasons.
Most people find their time spent on the ground to be good outdoor exercise and part of the fun of soaring.
Lend a Hand:
No member, regardless of their experience, can participate in the sport of soaring alone. We all need help moving aircraft, rigging and de-rigging aircraft, launching aircraft and keeping our club facilities and equipment in good working order. The more you help others, the more they will help you. On average, you should help to launch at least one glider for each launch you take. When you see someone who needs help getting their glider to the flight-line, give them a hand. When a glider lands, hustle over and help the pilot push or tow their glider to the flight-line, the hangar or their trailer. At the beginning of the day, help get ready for operations. At the end of the day, help lock-up the gliderport.
Efficient Launching Operations:
At Owl Canyon we strive for efficient ground operations. If you are staged on the runway, you should be as ready as possible to launch when the tow plane is in position. The longer it takes you to launch, the longer it takes those behind you to get in the air. Don’t assume that because no other gliders are staged that you are not causing a delay. Although there may be no sailplane physically behind you when you launch, sailplanes may be staged to the side waiting for a position ahead of you or another sailplane may soon land and need a tow. Delays cause the tow plane sit and idle, or even worse, to have to shut down. Having the tow plane shut down due to your delay is very bad form. Idling, or having to restart, burns fuel and wears out the engine. A replacement engine costs $20,000 to $30,000 and this has to be done every 2,000 hours or so of engine operation. Delays also result in the club making fewer tows in a day. Launching delays upset your fellow pilots, increase our tow plane expenses, and decrease our tow revenues. Be Ready to Launch!
Safe Launching Operations:
While we strive to launch gliders without delay, don’t let anyone rush your takeoff. Use your checklist. Take all the time you need before giving a thumb’s up or wagging your rudder. A large portion of takeoff related accidents can be avoided by making sure you have your dive brakes closed and your canopy latched.
We get high winds at Owl Canyon, sometimes unexpectedly. Often they are out of the west at 30kts to 50kts. If you land in high winds, remain in the glider, keep the dive brakes out and fly the plane on the ground until help arrives. In extreme conditions, we will tow the glider back to the hangar and push it inside with the pilot still in the plane.
Tow Rope Awareness:
The tow rope is about 200ft long. When the tow plane is aloft and there is no glider attached, the tope rope hangs down from the tow plane at about a 45 degree angle. You definitely don’t want to be hit by the end of this rope. Watch Out!
We have two types of weak links which are used to attach a sailplane to the tow rope. Schweizer links are about 2 inches in diameter, and are used on the club’s Solitaire. Most other sailplanes use a Tost link which is made up of two smaller links. Weak links are attached to the tow rope using a carabiner. Make sure the carabiner locking sleeve is snug on each two. Don’t over-tighten the locking sleeve or you will need pliers to loosen it later. A Leatherman tool is useful for this and other problems on the flight-line. Slightly finger tight is enough. Weak links are kept in the south hangar on the southeast wall. The tow pilot usually carries a spare in the towplane to minimize launch delays.
Running a Wing:
Running a wing is easy. Have your instructor or another member show you how. A common mistake is running too far. Four or five steps will usually give the pilot aileron control. It is very important to not hold back on the wing tip, which will turn the glider. It is best to loosely hold the trailing edge. Another mistake is holding up or down pressure on the wing in a cross-wind. In this situation, when you release the wing, it will either pop up or down. To avoid this, try to let the pilot balance the controls as best as is possible. The upwind wing should be lower than the downwind wing in a cross-wind.
Do not launch if you notice a pilot has neglected to retract the dive brakes or remove a tail dolly. Occasionally, a pilot may purposely keep their dive brakes open in order to keep the glider from rolling forward as the slack comes out of the tow rope. Some very experienced pilots may also sometimes use dive brakes to improve takeoff control in a cross-wind or when carrying a heavy load of water ballast.
Clearing an Active Runway:
We always need to keep the runways cleared, except at the launch point. Most of our runways have both a Left and a Right runway. In the case of the grass runways, Left and Right are not well defined. We usually stage for takeoff on 19R, 27L or 01L. You will often land on 19L, 27R or 01R. Another sailplane may also be expecting to land quickly behind you. Unless the wind is howling, making it unsafe to leave the cockpit and controls, it is good form to quickly exit your glider and push it off the runway. Usually, you can push the glider off by yourself. Don’t wait for assistance to clear an active runway unless you absolutely need help.
When walking about the gliderport, you should always be aware of where you are in relation to aircraft traffic. We have many runways, and just because one runway is most active doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to land on the runway you may be walking across. Sailplanes don’t make a lot of noise. Look twice before you cross any runway. Make sure visitors do likewise. Having a glider hit you at 50kts can ruin your day.
We are fortunate at Owl Canyon that most of our 250 acres are landable. However, there are several exceptions you should familiarize yourself with. Do not land on the old roadbed that cuts across our property from the northwest to southeast. It is very rough in places. You should walk the length of it. There is an old house foundation to the east of 19R across from the orange cone at the 19L flight-line. You should walk over and inspect it. Also, take a look at the the land south of the gliderport. There are several barbed wire feces crossing it. Make sure you talk to your instructor about safe landing options if your weak link breaks below 200ft when taking off on runway 19R.
Every club member is expected to serve two days of Ground Operations Duty (G.O.D.) each year. This is easy duty and nothing to worry about. Just about everything you will need to know is covered in the G.O.D. manual. If you have questions, there is usually someone around to answer them. There are rewards for extra duty and penalties for failure to put in the required time.
When moving a glider, let the pilot instruct you on exactly what they want you to do. If the pilot’s instructions are not clear, ask for clarification. Pushing on a glider in some spots can damage it. Generally, you can push a glider backward by pushing on the leading edge of the wing near the fuselage. To push a glider forward, you can lay your hands flat on the top a wing close to where the trailing spar attaches to the fuselage. Never push on the trailing edge. Without a tail dolly, to pivot a glider on it’s main wheel you must first lift the tail. Generally, you can lift the tail by pushing down on the nose of the glider, by lifting the fuselage close to the tail wheel or by lifting on the horizontal stabilizer very near the fuselage. Never lift on the outside portion of a horizontal stabilizer. Unless you know for sure, ask! Be careful so that your belt buckle and watch don’t scratch a glider.
Unfortunately, on rare occasions, a pilot-in-charge may get overly critical of someone helping to move their glider. This is a sure sign that the pilot has failed to clearly and properly instruct those assisting him. If this happens to you, don’t take it personally. Just promise yourself that you will do a better job of instruction than this pilot when it comes your turn.
When flying club aircraft, the responsibility for the aircraft is yours until you hand-off that responsibility to another member. That means, making sure the glider is properly secured on the ground, and getting the glider in and out of the hangar without damage. Clearly instruct anyone helping you move a glider. Don’t assume that they know what to do. After someone helps you, make sure you acknowledge their help by saying thanks!
Securing Aircraft on the Ground:
The wind is usually blowing at Owl Canyon. On light wind days, if you remain close by your sailplane, you don’t need to tie it down. But it never hurts. It is best to position your sailplane so that the fuselage is perpendicular to the wind. Open the dive brakes and make sure the canopy is closed and locked. The upwind wing should be down. Either hold it down while you sit next to it, or tie it down. When leaving a glider unattended, tie both wings down, the tail if possible, and extend the dive brakes. Ask an instructor to show you where to attach the tie-down ropes to the glider. Never leave a sailplane unattended, regardless of whether or not it is tied down.
We are not a commercial operation. There is not anyone paid to take daily care of CSA's aircraft. If you are the last one to fly a glider for the day, it is your responsibility to get it back in the hangar, wash the bugs off the leading edges, remove the battery, and close the hangar doors. If the glider is dirty, clean it. The best way is to "flood" the dirt off with a very wet sponge to avoid scratching the surface. Then wipe dry carefully with a clean, damp chamois.
If you want to raise the blood pressure of a sailplane pilot, touch his canopy. Canopies are extremely expensive. They scratch and break easily. Never touch a canopy unless you are cleaning it. If a canopy is smudged (without dirt) use the Briallianaze plastic cleaner and a clean soft cloth to clean it. If it has dirt on it you need to douse it with water first to avoid scratching it. After dousing, pat it dry with a clean dry cotton cloth, Once the canopy finishes drying by air, clean and polish as above. Make sure the canopy cover is on when the sailplane is in the hangar.
Do not wear baseball or other type caps with a button on top. The button can crack a canopy if your head hits against it in turbulence. This has happened more than once. Make sure visitors, especially kids, know not to touch a canopy. Never leave a canopy unlatched. An unlatched canopy can blow off in the wind. Latching your canopy is a good habit to have. Never move a sailplane with the canopy open or unlocked. Never leave an unattended canopy open or unlocked.
There are a dozen or so privately owned sailplanes at Owl Canyon. Most all are owned by club members. Sailplane pilots tend to be very careful when it comes to their sailplanes. Never touch a private sailplane without prior instruction from the owner, but don’t hesitate to talk to a pilot about their sailplane. You will find them more than willing to chat. One way to learn about sailplanes and meet members is to offer help when you see a pilot readying to rig or de-rig their ship. As always, let the pilot instruct you on exactly what they want you to do. If the pilot’s instructions are not clear, ask for clarification. An experienced pilot will make rigging or de-rigging a straight-forward and simple task. One Warning: Sailplane wings are very heavy.
At Owl Canyon, safety is our first concern. Don’t do anything you think may be unsafe. If another member sees you doing something that they believe is questionable, they should kindly bring it to your attention. That’s part of the learning process. If you see something you do not believe is safe please let an instructor, board member or safety committee member know about it.
It is often dry and hot at Owl Canyon Gliderport. Make sure you drink plenty of water. If you are dehydrated, your flying skills will markedly decrease. Don’t forget the sunscreen either.
Feel free to bring visitors to Owl Canyon Gliderport, but make sure they remain a safe distance from our operations. Keep them well clear of the runways. Also, politely instruct any unknown visitors you might find wandering too close to runways, etc., how to remain a safe distance from our operations.
Members are welcome to use the clubhouse at any time. Please try to keep it neat. If the trash is overflowing, take it to the dumpster. If the aluminum cans are overflowing, bundle them in trash bags and put them in the hangar. If dishes need washing, wash them. If dishes need to be put away, do that as well. If towels need laundering, take them home and wash them. None of these things happen by themselves. Please do your share to keep your clubhouse clean.
Don’t count out any time of the year. While summer is generally considered best for soaring, spring and fall can be excellent. Winter days can also be good, especially for wave soaring, but make sure you wear your heated socks.
Your SSA Soaring magazine will eventually find you. It often takes up to three months.
It may take some time and experience for all of the tips presented here to make sense. If any of these tips are unclear to you, follow the first tip and ask a member. We are happy to have you as a new member, and hope you will enjoy learning to soar at Owl Canyon Gliderport!