From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Flying Sailplanes, "It's Time to Rock and Roll"
Date: Sat, 15 Aug 1998 19:13:33 GMT
I find it interesting that many people have emailed me concerning the
sailplanes on my webpage and don't seem to understand the meaning of
the title, "It's Time to Rock and Roll." Well, you see, flying
sailplanes is not normally a laid back thing like people might think.
Whenever I was ready to launch, I'd had spent some good time watching
others fly in that day's conditions, I was reading the lift by
watching cloud development or I was running programs on my computer
feeding in the weather services data for the day. From all of this I
knew the thermal triggering temperature, about how good the day would
be once it developed and how long it would last. From all of this
plus watching the towplane drag one after another up and have them
fall out back to Earth I'd be cagey and simply wait for the right
Of course I had another edge too. I flew the towplane myself many
times. In the club, I was supposed to do about 5 to 10 tows on a good
busy day. I'd get to the airport early and set my glider up then tie
it down. I'd volunteer to fly the morning tows when there was no
lift. I'd keep flying until the day began to pop. Then I'd get in my
glider when all hell was starting to break loose and launch. If I did
it right this is about how it would go.
I'd take off on tow behind the Scout. At about 1000 feet we'd start
to hit lift. If it was good, all the tow pilot had to do is start a
180 and take me back to it. Once we straightened out heading back
we'd be at 1500 to 1800, we'd hit it, I'd punch off, pull the nose up
30 degrees and bank 60 degrees to the right. If I did it right, I'd
be close to the center of the thermal. Of course you always needed to
correct a bit. I had an energy compensated variometer. In fact I had
three of them. One electronic computer controlled one, a passive
mechanical one and another one that produced and audio signal that
sounded like a siren if you were losing energy and beeped if you were
For those of you who don't know what an energy compensated variometer
is, it's a vertical speed indicator that subtracts the glider from the
equation. If you are in smooth air doing 100 knots and pull the stick
back, gain 500 feet and end up at 50 knots at the top of that, the
variometer won't even move. You traded speed for altitude so your
energy remained constant (of course there are loses but the energy
remained close). Same thing if you punch the nose over while doing 50
knots and speed up to 100 kt by losing 500 feet. The variometers
won't move. In the computer controlled one, it knew the performance
curve of my glider. It knew the sink rate for the airspeed and the
temperature of the outside air etc. So, you could literally put it in
that mode and it would tell you what the molecules of air outside are
doing vertically. That was the one I watched the most.
The key to getting up fast is to core the thermal. And, you want to
get it up fast so you can leave and make speed across the ground.
Coring the thermal means "Get in the center of it and stay there."
Well, you can't see it so all you can do is make many adjustments as
you turn around in or on the edge of the thing. What you want to do
is stay in the middle of this rising column of air with the minimum
bank angle so you aren't losing energy from induced drag due to a high
angle of attack and higher g loading. If the core is wide enough, a
good 20 to 30 degree bank is best. Unfortunately most thermals don't
widen out enough for that until you get up in them 5 to 6 thousand
feet. So down low, you usually crank up to 60 or 70 degrees, pull 2
to 3 g's and stay in a tight turn. You may stay in this configuration
for hours if things are marginal. It's a fight sometimes for many
hours until either you beat it or it beats you.
The thermal is always trying to throw you out of it too. Think of a
thermal like a water fountain. The water in the center of the
fountain is moving up the fastest. As you move away from the very
center of the column of water the speeds go down and finally on the
outside, the water is falling down. A thermal is the same way. The
wing inboard to the turn is in the highest vertical velocity air. The
wing outboard of the turn is in less ascending or even descending air.
The column is not straight up and down either. You've all seen dust
devils. They are jagged as they ascend. Now, you need to fly this
baby about 2 knots above stall too. That turns out to be the minimum
sink airspeed for almost all gliders. If you fly at minimum sink, you
will climb the fastest. Oh, and did I mention that it's turbulent in
there too? Well, it is. It's about the most gnarly air you could
ever find on a 110 degree day in the desert. So, you might get
partial stalls 2 or three times in each 360 degree turn if you are
doing things right. Now when you really get a deep gust stall since
the inboard wing is in air moving up faster than the outboard wing,
the air will pick up that wing violently and throw you the other way
out of the turn. You can get bucked out of the thermal completely and
start falling like a brick in the downwashing air outside the thermal.
The first thing you have to do when you get bucked out is immediately
jam the nose down, get about 5 knots and re- attack. Many times, this
takes a full control deflection of ailerons and the rudder to get
things turned around. Your goal is to re-establish yourself in the
core for another ride on the bucking bull's back. In fact what it
reminds me of more than anything is hanging on to the tail of a horse
in a full gallop. Yes, I think that's it. What do you think Bill
One more thing you all need to know. In some of the old clunkers that
I instructed in you are always cross controlled in a thermal to remain
coordinated. Gliders like that old piece of shit Schwitzer 233 for
instance. What happens is that you fly so slow (40 knots) in a
thermal and the wings are so long, the outer wing has a lot more lift
than the inner wing because it's just simply going faster and by a
large percentage at these slow speeds. I causes a big over-banking
tendency into the turn. That is sort of compensated somewhat by the
fact that the inboard wing in the turn is in stronger upward moving
air. But most of the time, especially in marginal conditions you sit
there with the stick about half deflected in the opposite direction to
the turn. Now, in addition to that, since the outer wing in the turn
is moving faster, it also has more drag, so you need about half rudder
in the direction of the turn to keep it coming around and everything
If you do it right, you sit there with a wing down about 45 to 60
degrees with your foot holding lots of pressure in the direction of
the turn and the stick deflected about half of it's throw in the
direction opposite to the turn. This coupled with the fact that you
could stall and spin anytime because you are in severe turbulence with
half rudder deflection and only 2 knots above the indicated stall
speed, makes for some great fun!! Oh, and don't ever thermal below a
student in the same thermal. He could come spinning down on you at
This is just a glimpse of what it's all about. I never in my life did
anything more cerebral in flight than fly gliders. And, that includes
flying instruments too. Instruments is a piece of cake compared to
flying gliders correctly. You go fly a glider for a few hours and do
it right like you were competing and you're ragged out for the rest of
the day. There's a lot more to it than just floating around in the
sky in La-La land. Flying gliders is an ass kicking, stomping,
crankin and bankin game. No one could ride with me when I went out
and flew races. I took a few people with me in the 2-place Lark a
couple times. To be good you have to man handle that baby and put
your brain in the attack mode. Every time some hot-shot fighter jock
from Nellis AFB wanted to go with me in a contest, I either puked him
or turned him green. It got to the point that it was a waste for me
to have 2 seats. I just couldn't fly as aggressively as I needed to
fly without making someone else miserable. So, I sold the Lark and
bought the 15 meter Jantar. ONE SEAT! That was the solution. I did
things in that baby only God knows about. I flew it like an F-16 all
the time. I remember one day I was about 70 miles out, late in the
day and things were petering out as the sun got lower on the horizon.
I was banked over working a crummy piece of 4 knot air (with a 2 knot
sink rate) at 3 g's for over an hour before I made it up high enough I
could break out and head for home at best L/D. I just sat there and
watched the accelerometer pointing between 2.5 and 3.5 g's thinking,
holy cow, I hope I can work this damn narrow thing high enough to get
home on a little bit of energy.
So, that's what I mean when I say, "It's Time to Rock and Roll."
Now, you think this is hairy, try it in a hang glider with about 1
pound/sq. ft wing loading. I've been bucked out of thermals so
violently I thought I'd never regain control. In fact, one time I
didn't. I was rolled 360 in an old Comet hang glider. I had my hand
on my pocket rocket parachute because I knew I was dead or going to
break up, hit my head on the keel tube and probably go unconscious
before I could deploy it. I popped the rocket which intern deployed
the chute. Then I was in deep (to use a medical term) number 2. I
rode it down as I swung back and forth hanging on one line leading up
to the 28 foot conical chute. The chute would spill air as I
pendulously came to the high part of the swinging arch and I'd drop
about 30 feet at each ebb. Then I'd swing back the other way about 30
mph across the bottom then up and slow down until the chute spilled
air the other way, then back across. I was coming down on the side of
a mountain with about a 30 degree slope too. All I could think of was
slamming into that slope while traversing the bottom of the swinging
arch. What happened is that one of those little angels that seems to
be following me through life took control I guess. Out of altitude I
was in my next to last swinging cycles toward the mountain thinking
well, goodby world I'm going to become a grease spot on the side of
this mountain in the middle of this next swing. I watched for what
seemed like an eternity as I went through the next cycle. I swung out
away from the mountain, came to the top of the arch, air spilled out
of the chute way above me then I started to accelerate toward the
mountain, my glider and body just missed the ground by about 2 feet as
I came up to the ebb on the mountain side of the swing, stopped, then
simply stuck out my legs and landed almost perfectly still on the
slope. You couldn't have worked it out better if you were controlling
it yourself and it was all by chance!
I hope this gives you a little idea of the peacefulness and
tranquility plus solitude of sailplane flying. What a bunch of bunk
that is. Hey Bill Berle, chime in here old buddy I'd love to hear
what you have to say, you and I both have a couple thousand hours
between us in this stuff. How to you view it?
From: "Alan Dempster" <Alan.Dempster@actrix.gen.nz>
Subject: Re: Flying Sailplanes, "It's Time to Rock and Roll"
Date: Mon, 17 Aug 1998 22:44:09 +1200
Badwater Bill wrote in message <firstname.lastname@example.org>...
>I find it interesting that many people have emailed me concerning the
>sailplanes on my webpage and don't seem to understand the meaning of
>the title, "It's Time to Rock and Roll." Well, you see, flying
>sailplanes is not normally a laid back thing like people might think.
snippity snip a little bit
This tale has so evoked my own love of the air that I have to chime in and
add my tuppence-worth.
There are parts of New Zealand that generate something like those strong
turbulent thermals you describe BWB, but mainly they are tame in comparison.
Quite enough though for the experienced to travel 2000km in well-planed dawn
to dusk flights over much of the length of the country.
But... You have to experience the mountain lee wave here to really enjoy
the rock and roll - including the sex and drugs!!
Imagine a strong nor' wester blowing 30kts on the field, sitting right at
the base of a lee wave pattern that you just know climbs 40-50,000 feet
within 20 miles upwind. The other name for New Zealand is Aotearoa. It
means the land of the long white cloud and refers to the cap cloud -
lenticular - that sits stationary on the peaks of the waves.
The wind can bite raw as it is often bone dry having lost its moisture on
the upwind western slopes. You need clothes that can cope with real cold,
oxygen that can cope with real cold and nothing in the cockpit that will
move. The tow starts ok - off in a few hundred feet into a strong headwind.
Climb a thousand or so and move out from the descending air over the field
into the space under the peak of the standing lee wave.
Then you hit the rotor. Remember the advice about nothing moving in the
cockpit. As the tow plane dives left, you climb right in an instant and
neither of you touched the controls. It is a rollercoaster bigger than
Disneyland. If you can see the rotor cloud, it rotates around an imaginary
horizontal cylinder in front of your eyes. If you can keep behind the
towplane - and he can keep in front of you - without passing - you release
and find a place to climb. It takes two hands to control - one to move the
stick from stop to stop and the other to hang on to the first.
You battle this for 10 minutes and eventually and quite suddenly, the
cockpit goes eerily silent. The rollercoaster ride stops and the vario
starts to settle on 2, then 3, then 4, then 5 knots of climb and ultimately
comes to rest on the positive stop. You trim to best l/d, settle the
nerves, rescue anything that escaped earlier on and fish out the oxygen.
From here 2 things happen. You truly escape the bonds of earth and it gets
very cold. (So all you budding pilots - what would the lapse rate be?)
You need traffic clearance - this is commercial jet territory. And the
vehicles on the ground look just as small as when you are coming home from a
business trip on the aluminium cigar tube you sometimes have to use for
Like all sailplane flying, the pleasure exceeds the pain, sometimes by an
extremely small margin, but always positive. In this case the word soaring
is the only one that applies. The spirit truly soars as the ground receeds.
Eventually the oxygen gives out or the canopy ices over, but usually the
cold gets into the system and damps the soaring spirit. You pull out the
airbrakes, drop to lower altitude and revel in the fact that you have used
nature to take you to new heights and back. Back through the rotor and
land, always remebering that the wave system could have moved to place the
field under the trough (30-50kts) the peak (calm) or the rotor (any way, any
speed and rough).
Wave flying is a real buzz and it does take some real dedication to wait for
the right conditions and persevere on cold days through rough conditions.
But the rewards are worth a lifetime of fast cars and slow sex (have I got
that the right way round?)
And then there is 100kts along the ridge face in a light westerly at treetop
height, skipping lightly over ridges and dropping at speed down the other
side... But that is another story.
Love the stories on this group.
New Zealand glider pilot (ASW15)
Tow Pilot (Pa18) and
Europa builder (Kit 1 in the garage in boxes, but it only just arrived,
From: email@example.com (Badwater Bill)
Subject: Re: Flying Sailplanes, "It's Time to Rock and Roll"
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 1998 14:44:07 GMT
>But... You have to experience the mountain lee wave here to really enjoy
>the rock and roll - including the sex and drugs!!
Snip a lot of good stuff.
> It takes two hands to control - one to move the
>stick from stop to stop and the other to hang on to the first.
The weenies have no idea. They see a floating glider up there and
think, "Oh how peaceful."
>Like all sailplane flying, the pleasure exceeds the pain, sometimes by an
>extremely small margin, but always positive. In this case the word soaring
>is the only one that applies. The spirit truly soars as the ground receeds.
Only someone who's been there can know this! I always does exceed the
pain. I'm in that wave with you brother. Great story!