Friday, December 30, 2011

31st Australian Club Class Nationals

Two very serious competition pilots are ready to go again. We are heading to Benalla for the 31st Australian Club Class Nationals tomorrow morning. The actual comp starts January 3rd after two preceding official practice days. We will stay in Benalla till Jan 14th.
Everything is ready to go and all we have to do in the morning is hook up the trailer and hit the road. We are planning on doing it fairly early to beat the heat. The temps are heading towards high 30's and maybe even low 40's in the next few days. There is also a big New Years Eve party starting tomorrow evening at the field and we don't wanna be late.
It looks like it's gonna be one of the biggest competitions in Australia. The entry list (confirmed and payed entries) is just huge and consists of top-names only:

Looks like a big challenge.

Benalla - we're coming!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Celebrations

We are not really into big Christmas celebrations with all the surrounding chaos so we used the days in a more useful way.

The glider and trailer are now professionally prepared for the Club Class Nationals in Benalla where we'll be heading in 3 days. We even managed to replace the trailer lights. The original wiring was a mess but after few hours of brain storming we sorted it all out and installed brand new combined LED lights.

has anyone seen a better looking workshop before?

trailer getting in & out pressure wash

Days were extremely hot and humid and I deserved a bit of in & out cool down in the evening.

"fourfeeter szwagier, at least four feet"


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Flying Video by Ladies Love Taildraggers

This one is just so true. I love dragging the tail. What about you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Flight Tests

The Christmas tree is up and we are equipped to survive the festive season. This is our way of celebrating white Christmas by some +35°C as they predict for the next days.

Hopefully there will be a lot to celebrate and I'm not talking about all the Christmas chaos in front of us. Having few days off brings us closer to testing MOM's tug abilities. The hook has been installed some time ago, the paperwork is sort of completed and all there is left is towing. We decided to hook up the Pegase first, see how it goes and we'll do it over the Christmas break before heading to Benalla for the Nationals. Hopefully MOM will not disappoint us and we will all have a Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

summer is here

There are two definite signs proving the fact that summer has finally arrived. Violent and at the same time magnificent thunderstorms and ... spiders.
The country people spent their weekend in the Big Smoke and just couldn't get enough of the beautiful Cumulonimbus clouds on their way back home.

nature spectacle

Melbourne was fun, as always, but it's good to be back home.

hotel window view

We checked in the hotel and boarded the elevator to bring us to the 18th floor. There were some people riding with us and suddenly one lady goes: "Are you Ziggy from Horsham?". We just couldn't believe it. Huge hotel, 33 floors, few hundred rooms and this lady knows Ziggy. It turned out that one of her family members is working in the Horsham hospital. Apparently there were some talks ...

I was about to take the garbage out for collection today and met her:

female Redback spider

First I decided to leave her alone and let her stay where she was. Knowing she's somewhere around the garbage bins makes me feel sort of uncomfortable though and I'll have to get rid of her company somehow. It looks like she figured what I'm up to and is hiding somewhere ... I'll wait till it gets dark!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Competition flying in Australia

I just completed my second gliding competition in Australia. Before that I have flown several comps in Europe (Poland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden). There are some significant differences between these two continents. I mentioned few of them almost a year ago when I decided to summarize my experience during the Club Class Nationals in Benalla. The recent competition made me think about them again. I'm aware there is no perfect recipe for a gliding competition and there are positives and negatives everywhere. To organize a perfect comp one should take the positives from each side and combine them in a smart way. This is not meant to criticize anyone and shouldn't be taken personally. I'm just trying to think of ways of organizing the perfect gliding competition.

Safety issues are always discussed big in briefings and there is more to it than just our meanwhile famous "wash your hands!" saying. We had a 2 km finish circle based on the ARP (Airport Reference Point) in Ararat. Blue days somehow magically weld groups of gliders together and cause, more often than on Cu days, multiple gliders to finish at virtually the same moment. So was the first day in Ararat. To make my point more visible I have to add that the direction we were finishing from was perpendicular to the landing direction. After hitting an unexpected good climb on final glide most of us had spare altitude to convert it into speed. So there we were, racing at 110 kts to ... the base leg of traffic pattern (or circuit ;-). Putting the 2 km radius circle places the finish more less on the base leg. Not hard to imagine how this can look like and, in worst case, end. I know that we all are responsible for our own safety but ... Wouldn't it be easier to extend the circle by just one 1 km and give everyone time to slow down and set up for landing? I mentioned this issue on the next days briefing and after a while felt like I said something really stupid. Someone said that extending the circle by this 1 km could cause an outlanding short of the runway. I don't know about others but I always calculate my final glide to the airfield and not just finish line (or circle) because of SAFETY. And even if ... it's safer to land short than to have a midair at low altitude and high speed. Maybe my feminine perception is much more limited but I find it really challenging to find spare mental capacities racing for the finish line staring at the airspeed and the screen to show me when I cross the line and at the same time carefully observe other gliders doing exactly the same thing trying to figure out if they are just gonna pull up or maybe also make a sharp turn and, if yes, which way. Sorting out the landing sequence and space available having lets say 5 gliders doing their best to slow down on base is not easy either. Extending the circle was not an issue so I asked for making us finish more less aligned with the runway. It's easy done by wisely choosing the last turn point or just including a control point few km's short to redirect the traffic. Wasn't possible either and again I really felt like an alien with my thoughts. All there was left for me was to watch that I had my hands properly washed ;-)

I already discussed using alternate start points to prevent people from team flying. I think a 10 km long start line does the job plenty good and doesn't make a mess with the results. It just looks funny when there is a racing task of lets say 250 km and everyone gets a different distance depending on the start point choice. WinPilot doesn't support alternate start points and I decided to use a second PDA with XCSoar just for the start purpose. There is a thing that I really like about this form of starting a task. One of the 3 assigned start points for the day usually has better conditions than the others for perfect start. Very useful feature.

There is one more thing I'd like to mention. Handicaps. No, I won't be talking about the numbers but the way handicaps are being applied. The way it's done here is very confusing. The handicap is applied to the distance therefore also to the speed and in the end to the points. In the end nothing is real in the scores. You don't see the real distance somebody has flown, nor speed. The aim is to have the one with the "best" speed win. For example you have a racing task, the distance in the scores differs by 40-50 km between different gliders and it looks like a Ka-6 has flown 400 km with 120 km/h average and a guy in a Discus only managed 350 km with 70 km/h. Doesn't look real and is not real. Not mentioning how hard it is to verify if there are any errors in the results - almost impossible. The way I know it from Europe is easy. The real distance flown, the real achieved average speed and handicapped points based on the glider flown. Not always the guy with the best speed wins but the one who does get more points because it was harder for him to achieve whatever he has achieved in the given glider. Simple, clear, easy to follow and fair. Everyone seems to understand this issue but they say that's how the script they have calculates the points. It shouldn't be a problem to modify the script or I can volunteer to organize a ready one. How about that? The simplest solutions are usually the best ones.

What I truly loved about Ararat competition was the always friendly people, nice easy going atmosphere, great weather and best pilots to compete with. If there is gonna be another competition I'll be there for sure.

for insiders only

Monday, December 12, 2011

TV and newspaper again

Being one of two flying girls in a comp makes it really easy to get into the news. The press is just chasing you if you want it or not. I had a little interview for the evening news and one for a newspaper. The TV news made a really nice footage promoting gliding and also the newspaper article turned out nice.

where weather is good, flying is fun and people are cool

We just came back from the first competition this season. It was only a 1 week comp, we managed to fly 6 days in a row and experienced all sorts of weather. First day in the blue, then 3 days of nice Cu's and showers and strong winds the last 2 days.
We are back in Horsham with the gliders but have to go back to Ararat tonight and bring the caravan so there are only some pics today:

The Team ready to hit the road

our home for the week

all ready


ok sheep! move to the side for landing traffic!

Swaantje didn't fly but came to visit for couple of days

Ararat atmosphere

fully concentrated in the morning

Zig is well known as the "talker". For some reason though people are still listening to him ...

"I'm not 100% happy with your results today guys..."

time to get some rest before the next challenging day


hard to decide which one of them is more full of it ;-)

Bernie brought a car full of models and provided some after flying activities:

he looks like he wants to go back

winch launch

yes, he definitely wants to go back

Mac's trailer

derigging Mac's LS8

Dave loves being on the safe side and backs up his back ups

Craig and Mac - the speedy guys

Mike, Craig, Andy and Tony - this years winners

Sunday, December 4, 2011

no internet

Unfortunally this is the first comp we've been to where there is no internet access. Yesterday was a practice day and we were messing with the XCSoar again. Today was supposed to be the first comp day but they called it off because of the wind. It's gusting up to 30 kts on the ground and about the same aloft. Even if it might be soarable we would end up in Mildura before reaching cloud base - as Dave Wilson said this morning. We'll see what tomorrow brings ...

Friday, December 2, 2011

first competition of the season

So here we go again. Victorian State Competition in Ararat starts with a practice day tomorrow.

We already drove the caravan to Ararat yesterday afternoon. Gliders together with us and tons of more or less necessary crap are following today. Thanks to Phil and Debbie we have the best accommodation on the field and the biggest and strongest ride :-).
Hopefully internet will be working over there and we'll be able to post some pics today and then write daily updates.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Article in the November issue

My article about the Women's World Championships in Sweden has been published in the November issue of a Polish aviation magazine.

Unfortunately I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed with the modifications made to my text without any consultation and authorization. I know it happens all the time and I should probably get used to it or just stop writing.

Writing an article about a gliding competition I am intentionally avoiding long descriptions of the weather situation and flights. It is hard to picture for someone who was not there and makes the text not as interesting as it could be. I prefer useful information mixed up with interesting or funny stories instead of detailed flight descriptions including numbers, kts, m/s ... etc. I did so this time as well. I knew it can be hard to get just the funny parts through and therefore decided to describe two of the most interesting flights inbetween. And what happened? Somebody wanting to make my text more "academic" and sophisticated just removed the whole soul leaving plain and dry data no reader cares about. Pity that I wasn't asked or even informed about this fact. Luckily it's all in polish and the pictures are nice :-)

Of course Ziggy managed to get some more publicity in the old country posing seriously while performing coaching activities:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bush walking on Sunday

Yesterday in Halls Gap:

what are you doing here people?

"You woman stay here. I'll check if it's safe to cross."
most of the official walks were closed

lunch with The View

not sure if I like the way this huge Emu is looking at me

quick stop to have a chat with Cocky

and the sleepy friend

Gliding Coaches Meeting wakening experience

We were planning on flying to Bacchus Marsh for the weekend to attend Glider Coaches Meeting but had to modify the plan due to weather. Driving down we figured we would have made it only to Ararat. Passed that clouds were lying on the ground and it was just bucketing. Walking from the car park to club building tuned out to be a complicated logistic task.

Bernard's lecture

tea break discussions

We talked about many different topics of instructing and coaching glider flying, shared our experience and tried to work out ways of improvement. It was very interesting to experience how different views of the same subject every individual has.

Ailsa and Jarek presenting safe ways of entering and leaving a thermal

A very dynamic discussion on "instructing the basics" subject developed. The Australian way of doing things differs a lot from the European one. Our group consisted of people from different origins and backgrounds. We had people who learned to fly in Germany, UK, Poland and of course the land of OZ. The basic attitude in this country is to keep things easy and simple to attract more interest in gliding. Learning by doing is the preferred way. It works in most cases but in my humble opinion aviation doesn't always tolerate shortcuts.

I was trying to make a point on the importance of some basic theoretical preparation prior to the practical part and was really amazed by the resistance I encountered. Our group of about 20 clearly split into 2 parties: the "you gotta do some studying" and the "you'll figure it out as you go" group. To clarify again, I'm not talking about spending weeks and months over books with no reference to the practice. All I want to say is that there has to be some homework done up front to ensure better understanding and therefore a quicker and safer learning process.

The student learns in his first flight to keep up the speed and not go to slow. Why? The answer: "because you'll get killed" is not an answer. He also gets to know not to go to fast. Why? Does the same silly answer apply? To recover from a spin he is told among other things to push the stick forward. Why when the nose is all the way down and the glider is approaching the ground quickly? Wasn't it the other way around: stick forward houses get bigger, stick back they get smaller? Why is it different this time? What about the weather, airspace, instruments ... I could multiply examples like that for hours but this is not the point. The perception of a student in flight is very limited and in the early stages sometimes close to or even exhausted.

Saying that making a student read a book or attend a lecture could scare him off gliding is the silliest explanation one can come up with. Maybe a person who is not able to read or listen and understand shouldn't be learning to fly in the first place? There will be more much serious challenges up there anyways. Maybe it's not the books or lectures but us, ignorant instructors, who scare people off this beautiful sport?

You can teach a monkey how to move stick back and forth to make a glider take off and landing in ideal conditions. What you can't teach it though, is to quickly find an appropriate and knowledge based solution in an unexpected situation. Giving your student a package of good presented theoretical knowledge is giving him a chance to safely enjoy the sport for years to come. I wouldn't want to be in a situation where I would think: "maybe if I had explained that to him, he would be able to get out or even stay out of that trouble".

There is this famous saying:

"The emergencies you train for almost never happen. It's the one you can't train for that kills you"

Having the knowledge and understanding can help you figure something out to save your precious butt should an emergency occur... It's no warrant of course but a chance.

There is one last thing I'd like to point out and I will probably gain few new enemies.
Having a closer look at the IGC pilot ranking and several world championships results makes me think. The top pilots are usually originating from countries where theory courses have to be absolved prior to the practical part. It might be a part of the process of reaching the top levels.

In the end it's not that complicated at all :-)