Learning to Aero Tow
Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:45 pm
[ Mood: Happy ][ Currently: Listening to my wife sleeping ]
Learning to tow took me by surprise. I read the starter books, the one for the beginner and the one for performance flying, before heading to Wallaby to try towing for the first time. The books were helpful, particularly with the concept of the coordinated turn, but I did not expect towing to require the skills it did, and neither book focused upon the towing issues sufficiently to place me ahead of the curve.
My biggest problem was pilot induced oscillation. In other words, as we were towed I tended to move back and forth because of over corrections. Malcolm told me to loosen up, but it was Mike Barber (he of the distance record fame) who, one morning at breakfast, really cured me of my rigidity, and thus my PIO.
Mike had me grip a couple of salt shakers very tightly, and then asked me to identify which was heavier. I could not tell which shaker was the full one when I was holding the shakers tightly. He then told me to hold them in a relaxed grip. The difference in their weight was immediatly apparent when I relaxed my grip.
It probably seems ridiculous and self evident that too much tension interferes with your ability to distinguish subtleties, but it was a very helpful lesson for me. Once I loosened up I was able to feel the glider's inputs and respond both more quickly and more appropriately, avoiding the oscillations.
For those who have not towed, being towed is a great experience. I loved various parts of it, and genuinely liked the rest. Taking off on the wheels was just plain satisfying. The feeling of the glider gaining lift, and the flying of the glider even prior to lift off was a stone gas.
I also loved it when the tug pilot would give the release signal, the series of events thereafter were gratifying to all the senses. First, just after release you hit the tugs wake. Not always, but almost so. It is necessary to increase the glider's speed by pulling the nose down a little to meet the wake correctly. The wake is akin to the wake of a boat, and it was possible to visualize it while bumpily passing through it.
As part of the post release sequence the tug dives out of the sky, while you hang there. That visual was always fantastic. The sight of the tug spiralling down, followed by the tow rope gave a visual reference of heighth and depth, and just looked way cool. I never tired of the sight.
The flight down was unfailingly fun, but I will not rhapsodise about that, I guess it is kind of a given.
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