Thursday, July 04, 2013
Memphis Soaring - Glider Ride
Memphis Soaring located at Lawrence Field, in Cherry Valley, just north of Wynn, Arkansas was the location for this outing. The glider club is located about one and a half hours WNW of Memphis and the Mississippi River near the highest physical feature in Eastern Arkansas, Crawley's Ridge. I had called in advance and made arrangements to take a flight in one of their tandem gliders. The pilot Ed had been flying for several hours that day and warned me that the conditions were not good for an extended flight in the heavy tandem seat trainer gliders. Having driven the distance, I was willing to take a chance in hopes of finding lift once airborne.
The glider plane sat on the grass runway tilted to one side with its albatross like wings juxtaposed -- one tip on the ground and the other sticking in the air. Ed had me sit on the side of the cockpit and lower myself into it as one would entering a narrow bathtub. He explained the cockpit configuration consisting of rudders, a control stick, cable release, flap controls, trim lever, air break, instrument panel, and radio, and showed how they were operated. After ensuring my shoulder and lap harness was securely in-place, he eased into the rear seat of the glider, positioned himself and closed the bubble canopy.
A ground-crewman secured the tow rope to the nose of the glider as Ed went through his preflight checks. Once all was deemed to be in order, he gave the thumbs up and the tow pilot slowly taxied forward, eliminating the slack in the tow rope. With a taught line the tow pilot revved the engine, released the brake and roared down the 3,600-ft grass runway. The glider was airborne instantly and floated behind the tow plane as it cleared the ground and rapidly gained elevation.
With the surface temperature over 90-degrees and the sky full of cumulus clouds it looked like an ideal day for soaring; in this case it was a deception, for Ed was unable to find a thermal for additional lift. A thermal is basically a column of rising air formed when the sun heats the ground. Ed went as far as to pilot us over a burning wheat field in an attempt to achieve lift, without success.
I watched the tow plane descend and took in a bird’s eye view of Crawley’s Ridge. The landscape was gridded by fields of wheat and corn to the west, and the ridge to the east. Ed search for lift as we descended, but the variometer remained silent, indicating no rising air.
Approximately 15-minutes after release from the tow plane, the pilot began his approach to Lawrence Airfield. Ed touched down in a controlled, smooth manner and taxied the glider all the way up to its hanger before applying the brake.
Ed stated that normally a check flight last closer to an hour than our 15-minute of soaring.
From the conversation of the pilots present and my short check flight, gliding looks like a hobby that could be both challenging and rewarding.